This feels like a spy movie cliche,
Juliette told herself as she rolled her eyes.
She stood at the back of the group watching Ilima try to figure out which key would open the school’s gate. Jimmy urged his teacher to hurry up because he wanted to get that out of the way as soon as possible.
The group spent the hours before their incursion at Luana’s house. They worked hard on designing a plan they deemed foolproof. All they needed to do was split up, much like they did back at the shopping mall. The Pokémon accompanied by their respective trainers were all raring to go.
After messing around with the keys for five solid minutes, the gate finally creaked open. "This is one of the perks of being a teacher," Ilima turned around and faced his companions, "I get to keep a copy of the school gate's key. Good thing I didn't forget to pick it up on the way here!"
"Yeah, but you took your sweet time to figure out which one was the exact key." Lana pointed out with a mocking smile.
"That's not important right now. Let's get going!" Jimmy and his Rockruff ran into the campus and left everyone surprised.
Hau laughed and put his arms behind his head. "He sure is eager for someone going into a haunted school."
"Don't say that!
" Kiawe and Mallow shuddered and avoided eyeing the building.
Lana turned towards the duo. "Say what, 'haunted school'?" The serious look the duo gave her made Lana change her mind. "Okay okay, I was joking!"
Ilima cleared his throat and gave everyone a stern look. "It's time to stop bickering. We need to give our plan a recap. Luana," he eyed the girl, "you and Jimmy will stay with me on the ground floor. Hau, Juliette, and Sophocles will spread across the courtyard. Then you'll go to the first floor."
"What about me and the two scaredy Meowth?" Lana asked.
"You lot will inspect the top floor. I'm sure this won't take long," Ilima answered her question as he smiled with confidence. “Everyone knows there's no such thing as haunted buildings."
"I hope so..." Mallow hugged herself in an attempt to hide her shivering.
The crew walked through the gate. Every light within the building were out. Only some nearby streetlights and Kiawe's Marowak helped light up the place. Soon after everyone accessed the courtyard, Jimmy and his Rockruff appeared. The boy frowned as he approached his teacher.
"There's a little girl in here." He pointed at a sign standing in the middle of the campus. "I'm pretty sure she's one of my classmates trying to prank us."
"Really now?" Ilima craned his neck and took a good look in the direction Jimmy pointed at. "I'm afraid I don't see anyone."
"What do you mean you don't see anyone?"
Jimmy turned around and looked at the sign. Sure enough, nobody was there.
Sophocles yawned. "What is this, a horror B-movie?"
"No," Jimmy shouted and held up his hands, "I swear she was there! She was with a Drifloon and all. Right, Rockruff?"
The Pokémon nodded and barked in response. Ilima walked a couple of meters away from the group and looked around. "I don't mind helping you disprove these rumors, but I hope this won't end up being a futile effort. I need to wake up early tomorrow, for that I have some exams to correct."
"Good, now we can go home." Kiawe tried to walk away, but Luana stopped him.
"No one is going home yet. We need to inspect this place first." She smiled slyly.
"If we are going to check what's going on," Juliette spoke so lowly her voice was almost inaudible, "we should start now. I'm sure most of us would rather be home now."
Since her voice was so small, no one heard her. Not even Hau, who was near her all the time. Instead, he approached Ilima and said something in his ear.
"Fine, we will do that." Ilima cleared his throat to get the groups attention. "Alright friends, Hau told me he should be going home soon but he doesn't want to miss this. It's time to stop chatting, let's go!"
Jimmy and Luana soon followed after Ilima. The rest stood in the courtyard not too sure about what to do next.
"I'm not doing this," Mallow told Kiawe. "We must try leaving when everyone is distracted."
"Remember what Luana said earlier?" Lana grabbed Mallow and Kiawe by their wrists and dragged the two with her. "No one is leaving until we solve this mystery. This is not the time to Torchic out."
Juliette, Hau, and Sophocles were then left alone outside the school. They watched the building’s lights light up floor by floor. An awkward silence had settled among them.
"Uh," Sophocles tapped his foot on the ground, "what should we do next? Do you guys have any idea?"
Juliette gave him a fleeting look and shrugged. Hau closed his eyes and meditated. After a few seconds, he exclaimed and slammed his fist against his palm in triumph.
"How about we split up ourselves?"
Sophocles sighed and rolled his eyes. "That's a very simple idea for your reaction, but it works."
"I’m sorry it's not that impressive." Hau joked, adopting a more serious attitude afterward. "Sophocles, you watch on the right side of the campus. I'll keep an eye on the tennis courts. Juliette," he turned towards the girl, "you stay on the left side, okay? There's an incinerator, so be careful."
"Don't worry Hau." I'm not that dumb.
"Alright, Sophocles and I won't be too far away. We can call for each other if we need help." Hau picked up his Alolan Raichu and let him climb on his shoulder. "Now, let's go!"
Sophocles and Hau left with their Pokémon to their designated spots. That left Juliette alone with Halbert and Poppy. She ambled towards the western side of the yard followed by her Pokémon. Once she spotted the famous incinerator, Juliette decided to stay behind a shrub of pink flowers. It wasn't too far from it. She and her Pokémon had a clear view of their surroundings from where they hid.
Although she was crouching, Juliette still managed to get comfortable. While Hau and Sophocles weren't too far away, she felt alone for the first time in nearly two days. Being able to spend some time alone with my Pokémon is great. The sky looks amazing tonight.
Soon Juliette forgot she was supposed to pay attention to what happened around her. She distracted herself gazing at the starry sky and trying to identify the different constellations. Halbert and Poppy accompanied her and stared up at the sky in silence. After a bit, Juliette directed her attention to the pink flowers before her. Rhododendron to be exact. She took one of the flowers in her hands and smelled it. Its scent was of honey and pollen. Poppy soon joined her Trainer in sniffing the flowers. Halbert crouched beside his Trainer and limited himself to observe the flowerets.
A sudden noise broke the night's silence and interrupted Juliette and her Pokémon. It sounded like someone was sniffing. Slow but determined steps accompanied the sound. Juliette and her Pokémon perked up. The teen peered through the shrub's branches. A young girl clad in green and white tennis apparel walked right past her. What she said next froze Juliette's blood.
"I should...I should...burn."
Juliette rubbed her temples. What should I do? How come Hau nor Sophocles saw her first? I'm sure she's headed for the incinerator and I'm too scared to look...
She took a hold of her Pokémon and shifted her position to be able to peek from behind the wall. The girl in green and white started the incinerator, still crying. Juliette hugged her Pokémon tightly for comfort. Although she was afraid of witnessing whatever would happen next, she couldn't take her eyes away from the girl.
The girl in front of the incinerator opened the machine's door. Juliette could see small flames starting to rise within the incinerator. At that point, she covered Halbert and Poppy's eyes.
"I guess this is goodbye..." The girl sobbed.
Juliette let out a loud gasp and squeezed her eyes shut. She braced herself to start hearing agonizing screams like in horror movies. However, all she heard was a girly shriek close to her. Juliette opened her eyes with hesitation and looked up slowly.
"Who the heck are you?" The girl she and her Pokémon were observing was now in front of them and she didn't look happy.
Juliette stammered not knowing what to say. She thought the young girl was about to do something foolish. She didn't know how to tell her without sounding overdramatic. That was until a realization hit her: could that be related to the rumors surrounding the school?
She avoided eye contact with the girl. Instead, Juliette looked at her red flower hair clip. "You s-see...I have a question. I've been hearing rumors about this school. Apparently, some weird things have been happening at night and—"
The young athlete raised her voice. “Are you soft in the head? What rumors are you talking about? I'm here to burn some letters from my ex. Can't a girl burn a package of letters in the middle of the night without having a weirdo spy her?”
Juliette shrunk back and directed her gaze at the floor. Talking to her was a bad idea.
Knowing that, she still tried one last time. "Uh... Won't you regret burning these letters?"
"Why are you asking?
?" The young teen yelled at Juliette and made her flinch. "Didn't your parents teach you not to put your nose into people's business?"
Juliette held up her hands. "I was worried because I thought you were about to—"
"Blessed Tapu, shut up already! You are about to witness the power of a girl with a fragile heart!" In the blink of an eye, she sent out a Growlithe that seemed confused about what was going on around it.
"I can’t believe we are doing this…” Juliette turned her face away from the girl and looked at her Pokémon, who were not too far behind her. She knew who to turn to. "Halbert, I need your help."
Meanwhile in the school's top floor Mallow, Lana, and Kiawe patrolled the area. Mallow and Kiawe avoided straying from the stairs in case something strange happened and stuck close to their respective Pokémon. Meanwhile, Lana sat on a bean bag chair close to a bookshelf and yawned from time to time.
"It's a shame nothing extraordinary happened so far. If this doesn't change soon, I will end up falling asleep."
Mallow shook her head. "It better
stay this way."
"You might be too afraid of the possibility of facing a ghost, but I'm not." Lana got up and approached Mallow. "Don't you think it would make a good anecdote to tell others?"
"But Lana," Kiawe sighed, "people wouldn't believe us if we told them about us encountering a ghost."
"Don't worry, I know plenty of people who would believe u—"
A gross sound coming from the stairs interrupted Lana. It sounded like something slimy in nature slithered up the stairs. Mallow and Kiawe froze in place and shot a disgusted glance in the sound's direction.
"W-well," Kiawe stuttered, "maybe it's j-just Luana dragging something around the s-stairs to scare us."
"No, I don't think it's that." Lana got up and walked towards the railing, looking over it. There was nothing strange to see. She turned around to face Mallow and Kiawe. "There's nothing. Now stop being paranoid. This is supposed to be entertaining."
"Entertaining?" Mallow's eyes went wide. "Sorry, but I don't agree. I can't say I'm having fun."
"Me neither. I'd prefer being home now. They, on the other hand," Kiawe said, looking first at his Marowak and then at Mallow’s Phantump, "don't look too fazed."
"Of course not, they’re part Ghost type." After a few seconds of silence, Lana continued. "It's ironic. You two are afraid of hauntings, yet you own Ghost type Pokémon!"
"That has nothing to do with anything," Kiawe protested. "Besides, a Pokémon is not the same as an actual ghost."
Lana and her Araquanid drew closer. "Why not? Explain the difference."
"I can't explain why. I simply don't think one thing can be compared to the other." Kiawe walked away from Lana. "Now, let's resume—"
Before Kiawe could finish his sentence, all three—and their Pokémon—heard the same noise from before. Their silence allowed the trio to hear whatever made the mysterious sound get closer. The gross sound became louder with each passing second. Mallow looked towards the stairs and then turned her face towards her friends.
"We need to find somewhere to hide. Quick!" Mallow clutched her Phantump. The Pokémon flailed her tiny arms in protest. "The lockers could be a good hiding place."
"I agree. I'm not staying here to get caught by whatever is climbing the stairs. Let's go, Marowak." Kiawe followed his friend who had already opened the door to one of the lockers.
Lana and her Araquanid preferred to stay behind. Not only was she willing to be alone, but she also leaned against the rail to wait for the supposed monster coming their way. Kiawe had enough and went back to Lana, grabbed her by the wrist, and guided her towards the lockers.
"Hey! I want to see who our slimy friend is and so does Araquanid, Right, Araquanid?" The Water Bubble Pokémon simply gave her a quizzical look.
"We can't stay there. We don't know what's coming our way. Now, hide in the locker." Kiawe said as he let go of Lana's wrist.
"What if Araquanid doesn't fit inside?" Lana looked at the doors.
"Return her to her Poké Ball then." While they talked, the sound grew closer. Kiawe opened the locker and carefully pushed Lana inside. "We don't have much time left. Call her back!"
"Alright, alright. I got it." Lana took out her Araquanid’s Poké Ball and returned her. She then closed the door only to peer through its ventilation.
Kiawe and his Marowak walked into the locker next to Mallow's. Saying an eerie silence fell on them wouldn't be accurate. Their breathing and the perplexing slimy sound approaching them filled their ears.
"It's too dark in there," Mallow's voice trembled. "Kiawe at least has his Marowak to light up the locker."
"I beg to differ," Lana answered. "Darkness makes this situation all the more exciting. I bet my sisters will love thi—"
A loud bang on Lana's door interrupted her. Whoever knocked was either impatient or angry. Mallow and Kiawe prayed Lana wasn't foolish enough to answers the knocks, but a terrified scream escaped them when they heard her locker's door opening.
"Hello, hello!" A cheery voice spoke. "May I know what are you doing there at this time?"
Mallow and Kiawe opened their lockers enough to take a peek. The owner of the voice was a tall and muscular blond man. An Alolan Grimer stood next to him.
"It's...a long story," Lana answered.
Mallow, Kiawe, and their Pokémon got out of the lockers. Kiawe approached the man. "Who are you?"
"Oh, me? I'm the janitor's grandson." he pointed at Grimer. "This is my buddy, Grimo. We came to clean the lockers so students find them clean when they come back on Monday. Isn't it a nice gesture?"
"Yes, you can say that..." Mallow murmured.
"Anyways," the janitor's grandson continued, "the real question here is, who are you guys?"
Lana cleared her throat loudly. "We came here with some friends because a student in this school told us it was haunted."
"No, no!" Mallow wagged her index finger from left to right.
"It's a misunderstanding," Kiawe said, "we came to help a friend of ours that works here as a teacher. We were about to leave."
"I see." The blond man nodded, giving them a skeptical look. "Grimo and I will continue with our duty. Please avoid hiding in the lockers from now on, 'kay?"
"We promise we won't do it again. We are sorry." Mallow bowed her head and her Phantump mimicked her gesture.
"No worries, it's alright! We'll check the lockers at the end of the hallway. Let's hope they're empty." The janitor's grandson and his Alolan Grimer walked away from the trio.
When the man and his Pokémon were far enough, Lana spoke. "See, wasn't that exciting?"
Mallow shook her head. "I can't say this is my idea of a good time."
Kiawe plopped down on a bean bag chair and sighed. "I'm hoping whatever happens next is not as unnerving."
On the ground floor, Jimmy paced across the hall trying to find an answer to what he saw on the campus. "I bet they're hiding somewhere," he thought out loud. "She must be waiting to give us all a fright."
Ilima approached the little boy. "This girl you speak of and her Drifloon might be hiding in one of the classrooms on this floor."
"How do you know?"
"They disappeared soon after you told us about her presence. I'm thinking the little girl ran into the building and chose to hide here on the ground floor. They needed to hide pronto, after all."
Luana clapped her hands. "Ilima, you sound like a detective right now!"
The young man smiled at her comment. "It's what I believe, but I could be wrong in the end."
"This is enough. Follow me, Rockruff," Jimmy said as he started to walk away. "Rockruff and I are going to look for that girl and her Drifloon."
"Wait," Luana called for them, "before we do that, I want to see how Kiawe and the others are doing. I promise I'll be back soon!"
"Come on!" Jimmy sighed harshly and crossed his arms.
"Alright then, but please be quick," Ilima said.
"Don't worry guys, me and Anu will be back soon." Luana headed for the stairs and Anu followed her with his tail raised upward.
Both walked up the stairs at a fast pace and quickly reached the second floor. They were about to head for the following set of stairs but were interrupted when Luana felt a strong current of cold air coming from behind her. Anu's hair stood on end and he scooted closer to his owner. Startled, Luana turned around. There was nothing at the end of the stairs.
"There’s probably an open window somewhere on this floor," she thought out loud. Luana tried to continue, but deep down she knew that current wasn't normal. The air felt way too cold for an Alolan spring night. "I should tell Jimmy and Ilima about this. Let's go, Anu."
The girl and her Alolan Persian walked down the stairs only focusing on the steps. When they made it to the ground floor, Luana lifted up her eyes expecting to see Jimmy and Ilima but...no one was there.
As a matter of fact, Luana and Anu weren't even on the ground floor. With stupefaction, Luana realized they were still on the second floor. The environment was still cold.
"Jimmy? Ilima? Can you guys hear me?" Luana let a few seconds go by, but she obtained no answer. "Guys?"
Again, she was met with nothing but silence. Only the pounding of her heart inside her chest reached her ears. She crouched next to Anu—who was shaking—and petted his head. "We're both worried, but we need to try walking down the stairs again. If we try enough, we should be able to reach the ground floor."
Anu nodded his head. He followed his Trainer down the stairs one more time. Unfortunately for them, they were still trapped on the second floor and the air was even colder than before. Luana braced herself and shivered in place. "This is getting too weird for my taste..."
In the meantime, Jimmy and Ilima still waited for them on the ground floor. They couldn’t imagine what was going down two floors above them.
Jimmy had his arms crossed. "What's taking her so long?"
"You see," Ilima answered softly, "Luana is a conversational individual. She’s probably having a nice talk with our friends now."
Jimmy sighed and shook his head, keeping his eyes fixated on the stairs.
Far from what Jimmy and Ilima imagined, Luana and Anu were still having a hard time. They tried going down the stairs one, two, three more times, but to no avail. Desperation began to take over Luana. Refusing to walk down the stairs only to get the same result again, she plodded across the corridor.
"I need to clear my mind and try to make sense of what's happening."
For that purpose, Luana and her Pokémon stopped in front of a bulletin board. The girl eyed the papers pinned on it. Nothing there was out of the ordinary, only typical school stuff. After a brief moment, however, one of them caught her attention. It was a piece of paper with four numbered black stains, one on each corner.
"Oh," Luana thought out loud, "this has to be nothing but someone being exposed for cheating on a test." She looked down at Anu. "Let's try going down the stairs again."
When Luana turned around, she noticed something strange about the corridor. The corners were sparkling in an odd way. She looks at the other direction, the corners of the opposite end were sparkling as well.
Luana crossed her arms and directed her gaze to the floor. What is this all about?
She didn't notice the sparkles when she decided to walk across the corridor. It looked like they appeared only recently. But when?
She paced in front of the bulletin board when an idea hatched in her mind. Could it be...?
"Those ink blots are on either corner of the paper just like the sparkles. What if they’re connected? Anu," she called, "let's take a look at that paper again."
Luana stared at the paper to make sure the order of the black dots stuck in her mind. The first two were on the leftmost side of the corridor. The first one was in the left corner and the second, to its right. On the right side, the order was the opposite. The blot marked as number three was on Luana's right. The fourth and last, on the left corner.
“Okay, Anu…see these shiny spots?” Luana pointed at them. “We need to step on them both at the same time and in the same order.”
Obeying his Trainer, Anu followed Luana. Both stepped on three of the four sparkling corners at the same time. As they did, the cold air flowing from the stairs started to calm. Luana’s body recovered some of its warmth. I might end up catching a cold with these sudden temperature changes.
They stepped on the fourth spot. The cold had subsided at last and the sparkles disappeared.
“We might be able to go down the stairs now!” Luana rushed towards the stairs with Anu hot on her heels.
Everything was back to normal…or so it seemed. As soon as Luana put her foot on the fourth step, something cold hit the back of her neck. Her whole body went stiff.
Several seconds went by until she could articulate a word. “Ilima! Jimmy!
” Hearing his Trainer yell made Anu jump a few meters back.
A gust of cold air circled around Luana. She could tell the rest of the room was at an usual temperature except for whatever surrounded her. She could feel it orbit around her head.
That gust soon materialized into a dark ball of gas, finally revealing who was behind the second floor’s strange temperature. At that moment Jimmy, Ilima, and their respective Pokémon ran their way upstairs.
“A Gastly!” Jimmy raised his eyebrows.
Ilima eyed the Pokémon surrounding Luana. “So this is why you didn’t come back right away…”
“Please help me! Anu has never battled before and I don’t want him to get hurt.”
“Don’t worry Luana, Smeargle and I will take care o—”
“No,” Jimmy interrupted his teacher, “I want to battle that Gastly myself.”
“Are you sure?” Ilima’s tone became a bit stern.
“Yes, I am. This should be easy. Now Rockruff,” Jimmy stood next to his Pokémon, “use Rock Throw!”
Rockruff threw several pointed rocks at Gastly, but the Ghost type dodged them. Now that Luana was finally free from Gastly, she ran back to Anu and picked him up. She rushed towards the stairs and asked Jimmy to be careful, following Ilima down the stairs afterward.
Angered by Rockruff's attack, Gastly charged for the small Pokémon and attacked him using Lick. Rockruff flinched at the attack in disgust but luckily for Jimmy, he didn't get paralyzed. In the middle of this Lana and the others, who still were on the top floor, peeked out of the railing.
"Is everything alright?" Mallow eyed Jimmy with concern.
"Yeah," the little boy responded. "It's just that Luana got scared by this Gastly here."
Lana leaned on the railing, willing to watch the battle. "Poor girl. She probably didn't see it coming."
During the whole commotion Juliette, Hau, Sophocles, and their respective Pokémon entered the school. They did so through the entrance on the opposite side of the school, which was further away from the rest of the group. As they walked up the stairs, Juliette told them about what she saw on the campus.
Hau and his Alolan Raichu walked a few steps ahead of their companions. "Good thing you had Halbert with you! That girl sure was weird."
weird is how neither of you saw her before I did,” Juliette said.
"I swear I didn't see anyone and neither did Togedemaru. If so, we would have dealt with her ourselves."
The trio reached the first floor. Hau sighed. "I hope this investigation doesn't take much longer. Tomorrow my Tutu and I are visiting the Ruins of Conflict and we should head to bed soon."
"That sounds like a good plan." Sophocles nodded. "I'm hoping we can go back home soon too. I'm feeling a bit tired."
Not even a second after Sophocles finished his sentence, a static sound erupted from the speakers. Juliette flinched at the unexpected noise.
"That's strange..." Sophocles looked at the ceiling, trying to locate the speakers. "Could someone have left the microphone on?"
"To me, it sounds more like someone just turned it on. Should we check the teacher's lounge?" Hau suggested.
"The PA system is usually in a different room, but it wouldn’t hurt to check."
"Yeah, we should cover all the possibilities," Juliette said, leaning against a wall.
Sophocles gestured for them to follow him. The trio and their Pokémon walked across the hallway until they found the teacher's lounge. Strangely enough, the door wasn't locked.
Sophocles opened the door. The same sound from before could be heard, but it didn't faze them. No one was in the room. They walked around in search of the PA system, but it was nowhere to be seen.
"I already said it would be in a different room." The blond boy sighed.
Ignoring what Sophocles said, Hau sat down in one of the room's various office chairs. Not content with sitting still, he made the chair spin. His Alolan Raichu hopped onto the chair next to him and imitated his Trainer with a squeal of joy.
"Hey! This is not the time to play around," Sophocles scolded them. "We should be looking for a broadcast room."
"Sorry, I spent so much time standing up outside that I couldn't help it."
"Okay, but don—"
Before Sophocles could continue, the static noise from the speakers interrupted him. This time it was a bit louder. The previous two times it stopped after a couple of seconds, but now it lasted longer. When Juliette and her partners thought things couldn't get stranger, a voice emerged among the static.”You...you...can’t...get out.”
“Uh...no, I’m not staying here!” Hau jumped to his feet and rushed towards the door.
Followed by the others, Hau opened the door with a swift movement, but all his hopes of leaving that room behind disappeared as he bumped into an unknown figure. The boy looked up slowly without knowing what to expect.
“What are you kids doing here at night on a Saturday?” A tall man stood in front of them and a Slowpoke was just catching up to him.
Hau was quick to answer. “My friends and I saw the school open and we wanted to see why.”
“Yeah, we were about to leave,” Sophocles added.
The man shook his head. “You three are quite curious, aren’t you? I’m assuming you heard the broadcast then.”
"You see, the speaker has been acting weird lately, so I went to the broadcast room to fix it. When I finished I tried to leave, but this guy here," the man said, gesturing towards his Slowpoke, "fell asleep and blocked the door. I was having a hard time waking him up and I couldn't open the door."
Hau snorted and turned his head to look at Sophocles and Juliette. "So that's why we heard that."
"Slowpoke and I are leaving now. Goodnight and be careful on the way home!" The repairman and his Slowpoke walked away down the hall.
Once he left, the trio exited the teacher's lounge. Sophocles closed the door and they walked away from it for a bit before the boy spoke. "Should we go to a different floor and see what the others are up to?"
"Yeah. Besides, I don't think we have much left to do here," Hau agreed.
The trio and their respective Pokémon walked up the stairs. On the next floor, they found Jimmy accompanied by Ilima and Luana. The girl approached them with a smile across her face.
"It's nice to see everything is back to normal."
"What do you mean?" Sophocles asked.
Ilima cleared his throat. "A wild Gastly was causing an illusion which made Luana stuck here on the second floor, but—"
Jimmy interrupted the teacher. "My Rockruff dealt with him and we taught em’ a lesson!"
"That's a naughty Gastly," Hau laughed. "We just came from the first floor and we experienced our fair share of weirdness."
"Really? How?" Luana approached him.
"It's easy to explain," Sophocles started. "We were in the teacher's lounge and there was a repairman fiddling with the speaker on the broadcast room."
"Then his Slowpoke fell asleep in front of the door and he couldn't get out, but from what we heard it sounded like someone was telling us we couldn't leave."
"Wow, that's freaky!" Luana's eyes went wide.
Juliette didn't take part in the conversation. Instead, she had her back leaned against the wall with Halbert and Poppy by her side. She observed as Jimmy proclaimed they were done with the investigation. They proved the rumors of a haunted school to be fake.
Ilima called for Lana, Mallow, and Kiawe to join them. "We’re finally done here. It's time to go home."
The three teens and their Pokémon appeared in the blink of an eye. Mallow and Kiawe were half running down the stairs while Lana walked at a calmer pace.
"Had I spent another minute here, I would have lost my mind!” Mallow said with a huff.
The group headed for the stairs among lively chatter, but something interrupted them. It was the sound of childish laughter coming from one of the classrooms. They all stared at each other in silence, surprise and confusion etched on their faces.
"I'll check what's happening." Ilima turned away from the group. "Please, wait for me downstairs."
Jimmy sprinted towards him. "I'm not staying downstairs. I want to see what's going on too. Maybe that little girl I saw before is the one laughing."
Ilima rested his chin on his hand in thought. He remained silent for a few seconds. "You may be right. Come with me."
Jimmy picked up his Rockruff and followed Ilima. When the two were at a considerable distance, Luana turned around to the group and spoke, "We should go and see what happens after they open the door."
Hau leaned closer to the girl. "Did you pull a prank on them?"
"No! You know I don't like doing those kind of things. I want to see what's going on, that’s all."
"Okay. Let's go, then!" Hau marched ahead of the group.
The teens and their Pokémon walked across the corridor until reaching the classroom Jimmy and Ilima were in. The door was open and the two males stood in the doorway.
"What's the matter?" Lana stood behind Jimmy. "Oh..."
Nobody knew what to say about the scene in front of them. In this classroom and in the middle of the night, a class was in progress. A young woman with short, black hair and glasses led the class.
"Good morning, kids!" she greeted. "Let's have an amazing and productive day." A wide smile crossed her face as the children greeted her back.
Ilima walked towards the teacher. “Hello, may I know what's going on?”
The teacher looked at him from head to toe and smiled. She turned to look at Juliette and the others. ”I see we have lots of new faces today! Why don’t you introduce yourselves to the class?”
“But the students are little children,” Mallow said, her eyes darting around the room. “We’re too old to study here.”
A little boy sitting in the last row revolved in his chair and stared at Mallow dead in the eye. “A person is never too old to make new friends. You’ll join us, right?”
Another kid looked at Luana blankly. “Hi!” she greeted him, but the boy kept his eyes fixed on her without a word.
The teacher gestured for them to come to the front of the class. "Please, introduce yourselves to the class."
The group and their Pokémon headed for the desk in silence as the children scrutinized them. They all stood next to each other, forming a line. Juliette stood at the leftmost end of it, hoping to be the last one to introduce herself.
"Very well, let's start from the left!" The teacher grinned widely, pointing at Juliette.Bon sang!
Juliette blinked rapidly and forced a smile to grace her lips. "My name is Juliette and I was born in the Kalos region. I moved to Alola recently and I, uh..." she looked over at her friends. Only Luana returned the glance. "...I hope we can become friends. That's all."
"Well said, Juliette. Your turn!" The teacher pointed at Sophocles.
"Good night...or morning." The boy looked at the teacher. She smiled and nodded, encouraging him to continue. "My name is Sophocles and I live with my family in Ula'ula island." He then lowered his voice so nobody could hear him. "This isn't my school..."
The teacher nodded. "That was short but to the point. Let's continue!" It was Hau's turn.
"Hi!" He waved at the class. "My name is Hau and I live here, in Melemele Island. My grandfather is this island Kahuna and other than that, I don't know what else to say."
The teacher giggled at Hau's comment. After that, she gave the floor to Kiawe, then to Mallow, and so on until she reached Ilima. "Well, what would you like to tell your new friends?"
Ilima's eyes went from one kid to another. What was he going to say? He couldn't tell them he was a teacher. That would confuse them. These children thought the people in front of them would join their class as fellow students. Ilima hesitated a few seconds until he found the right answer in his mind.
"Hello all, my name is Ilima and I'm a very experienced student. I'm looking forward to helping everyone in this class with any doubt you may have."
"Huh, that's nice." The teacher smiled and looked at her students. "Now that we know more about our new friends, please be nice to them!"
All the children cheered and clapped with their tiny hands. They talked to each other about how they wanted to play with "the new kids."
In the middle of the revelry, Ilima walked over to the teacher with his arms crossed. "I'm well acquainted with this school but I’ve never seen you. May I ask who you are?"
The teacher's cheery smile disappeared to give way to a poker face. That sudden change managed to make Ilima shudder. Her face wasn't the only thing that changed. The woman's mouth opened and a guttural noise escaped her throat.
"What?!" Jimmy sprinted towards where Ilima and the teacher stood.
Immediately after those words the woman shrunk in size, adopting a grotesque body shape. In the blink of an eye, the teacher was no longer there. A Hypno took her place. The Pokémon looked at Ilima and sniggered.
Mallow jumped a few steps back and screamed. Kiawe threw his hands up and proclaimed he had enough. The classroom was absolute chaos. Everyone had moved away from the desk and the Hypno stood there laughing at their reaction. Juliette looked at the door thinking of how she would cross it running at any moment. The children, on their part, observed the scene like it was just another school lesson.
Mallow grabbed Lana by her shoulders. "We need to go!"
"No." Lana shook her head. "This is too much fun."
Because of the commotion, nobody noticed one of the kids in the last row get up and walk towards them. They didn't notice him until he snatched Luana's Shiny Charm from her right wrist.
Luana gasped loudly. "Hey, give it back! It's mine!"
The thief happened to be the same kid that had been looking at her moments before. The boy smirked and headed for the window.
"What is he doing?" Sophocles started sweating.
The kid climbed to the window sill among screams of horror. His companions were still staring at the blackboard ahead of them. Kiawe ran towards the kid and tried to grab him but before he could, the kid was no longer a kid. He transformed into a Zorua and leaped out of the window.
Kiawe rubbed his eyes vigorously. "You’ve seen the same as me, right?"
He got no answer. Luana crossed the door like a Zubat out of a cave. Anu tried his best to follow her running at least a meter behind Luana. Her friends and their Pokémon left the classroom, also running behind her.
"What will my dad say if I tell him I lost his Shiny Charm?" Tears were starting to cloud Luana's vision.
"You need to recover it! We'll find that Zorua," Hau breathed as he finally caught up to Luana.
The girl wiped her tears with the back of her hand as she ran. "I have
to battle it. But Anu can't do that..."
“Don’t worry.” Ilima sprinted next to the girl. “I will lend you my Smeargle. You will
get your Shiny Charm back.”
Luana stopped dead in her tracks. She looked at Ilima in silence for a couple of seconds and then pulled him in for a tight hug. “Thank you so much for offering your help. It means a lot to me.”
“It’s not a problem,” the boy smiled. “I’m always willing to help out a friend.”
The group left the building shortly after. They scattered across the campus and began calling for the stealing Zorua.
Luana stood in the middle of one of the tennis courts. “Zorua, give me back my Shiny Charm!”
Meanwhile, Lana searched by looking inside every single trash can on the campus.
“Why are you looking in the trash?” Sophocles peeked into one of the trash cans.
“Because it never hurts to consider all the possibilities,” Lana said.
Everyone spent a few more minutes walking around the campus. There was no sign of the Pokémon anywhere and Luana felt a hint of desperation. Her friends tried to comfort her and reassured they would stumble across the problematic creature sooner or later.
Luckily for Luana, they were right. Over twenty minutes after starting the search, Hau alerted the group. "It's here!"
Luana ran to where Hau was. He was standing by the shed on the right side of the campus and, sure enough, Zorua was there. The Pokémon snickered at Luana as it waved its tail. The girl's Shiny Charm hung there, secured, but that's not the only thing Luana noticed.
"Wait a second..." Luana approached the Pokémon with a couple of careful steps. "Zouras aren’t normally blue. It's shiny!"
"Wow!" Lana exclaimed. "You noticed that now?"
"You knew it was shiny?" Mallow asked.
"No," Lana shook her head. "I'm only surprised she didn't notice something like that until now, knowing her."
"Luana," Kiawe called to her, "you should try to catch it, then. You will also retrieve your Shiny Charm if you do."
Luana looked over at him and nodded vigorously. Then she turned her attention to Ilima. "I need Smeargle now. I have to weaken Zorua beforehand."
"Sure." Ilima crouched beside his Pokémon. "Smeargle, I need you to help Luana for a bit."
The Pokémon nodded and walked over to Luana. Meanwhile, Anu observed his Trainer at a safe distance. Luana stared at the wild Zorua trying to guess what it would do next. Should we attack first? Should I wait until it does?
Zorua answered her thoughts by sneaking behind Smeargle and attacking him when his guard was down.
"Feint Attack, huh?" Luana placed her hand on her chin in thought. She knew the attacks Ilima's Smeargle knew and they were powerful. She had to be careful. "Alright Smeargle, since I'm trying to catch this Pokémon, you'll have to try not to get too carried away when you attack, okay? Now, use Flamethrower!"
Smeargle released a stream of flames aimed at the wild Zorua, making a direct hit on it. The attack sent Zorua a few meters back but it immediately stood up again, coughing. Zorua stared at Smeargle while pouting and, to everyone's surprise, it began crying as loud as it could.
Luana lowered her head. I hate that it's using Fake Tears...but I must understand it's only a strategy to trick us.
The girl directed her gaze at Smeargle again. "Smeargle, use Extreme Speed this time."
The Pokémon charged towards Zorua surrounded by a transparent aura. When Smeargle reached Zorua, he was a little more than a blur. The Zorua cried out upon being hit and struggled to get up.
Luana thought that was the perfect time to toss a Poké Ball. Seeing the state Zorua was in, maybe she would get lucky and a single try would suffice. She reached for one of the Poké Balls in her bag and threw it at the wild Pokémon with determination. The device engulfed the Pokémon and hit the ground, but it didn't have time to rock. Not even once. The Zorua broke free in the blink of an eye.
"No matter, it's just the first try..." Luana sighed.
Zorua let out a high pitched cry, leaped at Smeargle, and raked at him over three times before finally leaving him alone. It was hard to believe that Zorua had trouble standing up not even a minute ago. Smeargle rubbed his face to try to soothe the pain.
"Smeargle, try using Extreme Speed again!"
Smeargle attacked his opponent again, but this time the hit didn't affect Zorua as much. Luana threw another Poké Ball and a glimmer of hope shone through as she watched it rock once and then twice, but Zorua broke free again. She retrieved a third Poké Ball from her bag.
"I'm not giving up!" She threw the Poké Ball at the shiny rascal.
Her friends and their Pokémon watched not too far away. They held their breath every time Luana tossed a Poké Ball as if that could help the Zorua to be caught. Sadly, this time that didn't work either.
"Okay Smeargle, go with Flamethrower again," Luana commanded.
Smeargle released a new stream of flames but Zorua ran towards him. The fire touched it and Zorua whined, but that wasn't enough to stop it. Confused by the wild Pokémon's actions, Smeargle stopped the attack only to be met by a headbutt delivered by Zorua itself. The two Pokémon fell back, dizzy from the clash.
"That's enough Smeargle. Thanks for your help." Luana walked over to Smeargle and sprayed a Super Potion on him. Next, she addressed Ilima. "Thanks again for lending me your Smeargle."
"Again, it's not a problem." Ilima bowed his head. "I'm glad to be of aid."
"So, are you going to focus on throwing Poké Balls now?" Hau asked.
"Yes. I fear that if Smeargle hits it again, Zorua will faint." Luana turned her attention towards Zorua and cleared her throat.
Despite being injured, the Pokémon still stood its ground. Luana's Shiny Charm hung from its tail even after all the hits its body took.
Luana threw a fourth Poké Ball. Much to her disappointment, it only rocked once. Mallow and Hau shouted words of encouragement for her to continue. She threw another Poké Ball and Luana's heart almost stopped when she saw it rock more than two times. The device rocked a third time, but Zorua released himself from it shortly after.
"At least it looks like I'm getting closer..." Luana told herself.
The girl got ready to throw the sixth Poké Ball. The spherical device sucked Zorua into it yet again and dropped to the floor. This time, it only moved two times before the wild Pokémon escaped.
Trying to think what to do, Luana looked inside her bag. "Since it's night time," she thought out loud, "maybe I should use a Dusk Ball."
She made the switch and grabbed a Dusk Ball from her bag. Luana threw it at Zorua hoping for a different result, but it rocked twice like the previous time. Zorua broke free and adopted a defensive stance, staring at the girl.
"I'm gonna catch you no matter how long it takes!" Luana sent another Dusk Ball towards Zorua only to get an identical result.
Luana took a deep breath and let out the air in her lungs with a sigh. Her friends held their breath as she retrieved a new Dusk Ball from her bag. She repeated the throwing motion for what felt like the millionth time hoping things would turn out different.
It all seemed to happen in slow motion. The Dusk Ball trapped the wild Zorua inside and dropped to the floor. After reaching the ground, the device began rocking. Everyone stared at it intently watching how it rocked once, twice, then a third time. Nobody dared to make a sound.
A heartbeat later, a clicking sound coming from the Dusk Ball broke the silence. Luana and her friends stood still. The expectant silence lasted for mere seconds until finally, everyone broke into cheers and excited clapping. Even Juliette, who hates making herself heard, let out a joyous scream.
Luana ran towards the Ball and held it up triumphantly. "My first caught shiny!"
Hau approached his friend and hugged her. "Congratulations on the feat!" He made a little pause before continuing. "If it wasn't because most of tonight's events had a rational explanation, I would say everything was Zorua's doing."
"I wouldn't be surprised," Juliette joined in on the conversation. "Zorua is known for being highly mischievous."
Luana smiled. "We all can confirm that’s
"Tonight sure was eventful." Ilima wiped the sweat off his forehead with a handkerchief. "Now that we refuted the rumors of the school being haunted, we can go home."
"Yeah," Jimmy said. "My parents said they would be waiting for me. I don't want to keep them up late."
"I want to give my dad his new fishing rod before he goes to sleep." Lana looked at her dad's gift.
"Given that we all have something to do, I think this is goodbye. I hope everyone has a good night." Ilima smiled.
Everyone wished each other a good night. Soon, everybody headed in different directions. They all had the certainty everything had been solved at the school. The strange events were surely Zorua's doing, but...their minds would have changed if they saw the little girl and her Drifloon observing them in the distance.
Juliette and Luana walked back home together. At this time of night, there was next to no one on the streets. The girls had their respective Pokémon accompanying them. However, Juliette withdrew Poppy because the Bulbasaur was exhausted from the day's events.
"Today sure was a handful, huh?" Luana asked out loud with a smile.
"Yes, it was way more eventful than I thought it would be." Juliette paused for a moment. "By the way...I want to congratulate you on catching your first wild shiny."
Luana's smile grew wider. "Thank you so much, Juliette! Now I can't wait to tell my parents all about it!”
Juliette nodded. "I'm sure they will be proud. Did you think of a name yet?"
"Yes, I'm going to name him Lukela. It means 'like a fox' in Alolan."
"That's a very fitting name." Juliette gave her a small smile.
Less than half an hour went by until the girls reached Luana's house. It turned out her parents were already asleep.
"We will have to wait until tomorrow to show them Lukela." Luana shrugged.
The duo put on their pajamas and withdrew their Pokémon for the night. Juliette was already in her room. She answered some messages her family sent her, including her mother. I can't believe I got mad at Mom earlier for not messaging me when I expected her to.
Not long after Juliette sent a goodnight message to her grandmother, someone knocked on the door. Juliette knew the person knocking would be Luana. "Come in!"
Sure enough, Luana opened the door. "I came to say that I'm going to bed."
Juliette was about to say something in response, but a different idea crossed her mind out of nowhere. "Luana?"
"Yes?" the other girl answered.
"Yesterday you said you wanted to see my drawings." Juliette stood up and walked towards the closet. "I'm ready to let you see them."
"That's awesome!" Luana's eyes sparkled.
Juliette retrieved her bag from the closet and sat on the edge of the bed. Luana sat beside her as the girl took out the sketchbook. Juliette handed it to her with a nervous smile.
"You're free to look through it. My most recent drawings are in the middle."
Luana opened the sketchbook in the middle as Juliette instructed. The pictures were entirely drawn with graphite pencils and her most recent drawings depicted various landscapes from Paniola Town. Juliette explained said landscapes were seen from various windows in her house.
"You're so good at drawing!" Luana eyed the drawings in awe. "Look at the way you drew these leaves, it's so detailed."
"Thank you." Juliette's cheeks turned pink. "Although I wish I was better at drawing buildings."
"I think your buildings are good." Luana smiled before turning her attention back to the drawings.
She flipped the pages backward encountering some more drawings of similar thematic. Luana dropped a compliment every now and then which made Juliette want to disappear.
Luana came across a drawing Juliette had been working on before her first day of school. The one where she compared school to jail. Luana raised an eyebrow at it and before she could take a better look, Juliette covered it with her hand. "Let's pretend you didn't see that, heh."
As Juliette said, Luana continued examining the sketchbook as if she saw nothing. Most of the pictures depicted various plants and flowers, from ferns to orchids. "You sure like nature," Luana commented. "Most of your drawings include plants."
"Yes, I've been fascinated with plant life since I was little."
Luana nodded and smiled at Juliette's statement. She kept looking through the drawings. There was a whole page filled with sketches of Halbert and Poppy. One of them depicted the two playing together. Before Luana could comment on it, Juliette took the notebook away from her with trembling hands.
"Uh...want to see my...favorite drawing subject?"
"Sure thing!" Luana didn't catch on Juliette's difficulty to complete a sentence, but she did notice her constant shaking. "Are you alright? Is it that you're embarrassed to show me?"
Juliette remained silent for a moment. “Yes and no.” She fiddled with the corner of one of the pages. “Well, I’ll admit I’m kind of shy about it.”
“Don’t worry, just show me!” Luana extended a hand towards the girl.
Juliette took a deep breath as she turned several pages of the sketchbook. She handed it back to Luana, lowered her gaze to the floor, and waited for her to say something.
It wasn't long until Luana spoke. “This is—”
“Yes.” Juliette nodded. A smile formed in her lips. “That’s Zygarde.”
The drawing took up the whole page. It showed Zygarde coiled around Anistar City’s sundial. The monument was falling to pieces.
“This is so well done…” Luana’s eyes examined the picture. “You probably spent hours working on this.”
“I did. It’s one of the last things I drew while living in Kalos.” Juliette went silent again, but she soon found the courage to continue speaking. “Since I was little, I’ve been dreaming of seeing this Pokémon by myself. All the tales my Father and Grandmother told me about him made me see him as a protector of sorts. I wished he would protect me too.
"When I lived in Kalos, I was bullied at school. I'm always absent and distracted and that somehow made me a target. Almost everyone in my class called me a weirdo and those who didn't ended up doing it at some point to fit in, I guess."
Luana put aside the sketchbook. She gasped and said, "Really?"
"I wish I was joking." Juliette gave her a sad smile. "My interests didn't help. I always loved my region's mythology, especially if it involved Zygarde. Sometimes if they noticed I was daydreaming someone said, 'Oh, you're thinking about your imaginary friend again' and that took me back to reality."
Not even a second after Juliette finished speaking, Luana pulled her in for a hug. "I never imagined you were treated like that." After a brief moment, she undid the hug. "Is that why you said you never had any friends?"
"Yes." Juliette nodded. "The reason I said I sort of had someone back in Kalos is, well...Zygarde, as weird as it sounds. Now that I'm in a different region, I'm never seeing it." Or so I think
, Juliette kept in mind that magazine her grandmother showed her on their first day in Alola.
"Oh, don't write it off yet. Everything is possible in Alola." Luana winked. "By the way," she lowered her voice, "don't hesitate to talk to me about anything you want. I won't shame you for your interests or your way of being. I know the others won't either."
Juliette blinked a few times in bewilderment. She could not find any coherent words in her mind. "T-thank you." Juliette stared at the wall ahead of her. The two remained silent for a short span of time until Juliette turned her head towards Luana again. "You...you might be the first real friend I’ve ever had. Nobody outside of my family has ever told me that."
Without a word, Luana hugged her again. This time the embrace was tighter and Juliette didn't hesitate to reciprocate it. "I'm glad to call you my friend," Luana said, ending the hug. "I hope you hang out with me and others more outside of school from now on."
"If I'm available, sure," Juliette smiled.
"Oh, one more thing! I'd like you to bring your family over to the Café. They'll always be welcome."
"I will. I'm sure my Grandmother will love to go." Juliette looked at the clock. It was two o'clock in the morning. "It's pretty late. I don't mean to keep you awake."
"No worries, I don't mind," Luana reassured her with a yawn. "Although you're right. I didn't realize it was this late. I'm going to bed for good now. Goodnight!"
"Goodnight." Juliette waved her hand briefly at Luana as she watched her do the same from the doorway before closing it.
Juliette got up with her sketchbook at hand. She stared at the Zygarde picture she drew not so long ago. I always wondered if he watched over me in some way and I wished so hard he would free me from those kids. Maybe, just maybe, me moving to this region can be seen like that. Being fred from what damaged me.
After putting her sketchbook and bag back in the closet, Juliette settled herself into bed. The floral fan hung above her one more night. What if all I experienced today was a dream and not reality? It's been such a great day. It would be a shame if it turned out to be just a dream...
Her eyelids started to become heavier to the point where it was hard to keep her eyes open. Juliette accepted it was time to rest and allowed herself to drift off to sleep. Whatever was in store for her, it would have to wait until she recharged her batteries.