Chapter 4: The Masked Royal
"Alright, I've got a confession to make… I kind of need money."
Burnet was unable to stop herself from laughing out loud at Kukui's rather direct words, much to her husband's displeasure. But she couldn't help it. The sheer unexpectedness of the comment caused her to lose control of herself for the briefest of moments. "Really, Kukui? You're in dire need of cash?" she questioned Kukui when she managed to calm herself down. "Well, I'm surprised that it took you this long to figure that out, dear!"
"No, Burnet! I don't mean it that way! What I mean is that we need a lot more money than I'd originally anticipated to press on with the Alolan Pokémon League project," Kukui clarified to his wife, murmuring the admission with an unhappy frown that rarely adjourned the optimistic professor's face.
He then brought his arm up, raising up four fingers as he proceeded to say his trademark catchphrase out loud. "Four trainers! That's what the Alolan League is all about. Sure, I had already made ample preparations for a budget for four, but…"
Burnet had a knowing look in her eye as she grinned vicariously at her husband. "You blew the budget, didn't you, Kukui?"
"No! I didn't!" Kukui denied a little too hastily, prompting Burnet to stare at her husband in the eye until he was all but forced to confess under her watchful, skeptical gaze. "Okay, so maybe I kind of did! Can you blame me? Sure, I'll admit that perhaps my plans were a tad wee-bit ambitious… but still, you've got to cut me some slack here! This is an unprecedented venture!"
Burnet shook her head. "Alright, I understand your plight, dear. So then, how are you going to recover from the shortfall?"
"I have an idea, Burnet…"
"So, uh, I hate to bring something like this up, but do any of you have any cash to spare?"
Almost instantly after those words had left Kukui's mouth, he wished that he could take them back or Skill Swap the Soundproof Ability onto the four others. Kukui knew that he had opened up the meeting on a sour note the moment he saw the blackened faces on most of the others after he said those words.
"Are you kidding me?" Kahili raised an eyebrow, her hand twitching familiarly — her fingers wringing in a manner that made it almost seem as though she was looking for her golf club to whack the professor over the head. "Didn't you say that we would all get a decent salary if we invest in your little idea and join you as Elite Four members?"
"Well, I did say—"
"For your information, in case you didn't know, I actually decided to take a chance and made the choice not to participate in an upcoming tourney because of your offer." Kahili talked over the professor, an enlarged vein forming on her head. "And now you're telling me that you're strapped for cash? Are you out of your mind!?" she yelled.
"Uh…" he started. The very fact that a word had escaped Kukui's mouth caused Kahili to glare at the professor.
"For your sake, you better not finish that sentence." Kahili uttered with disdain, quickly placing her hands firmly over her ears. "Because I don't want to hear it, Kukui. Not even a single syllable."
"Oh, okay…" Kukui would have been more dejected if he hadn't expected such a response from the standoffish Kahili. "What about you, Hala?" he prodded.
"Truth be told, old friend, I've already given most of my money to my grandson to help him out on the island trial challenge." Hala let out a hearty chuckle at his confession. "But I did hear that Hau's been giving Sun a fair bit of items with that money, actually. I sincerely apologize that an old chap like me can't help much with your financial situation."
With half of the Elite Four committee unable to commit, Kukui then gave a fleeting gaze over to the next in line, who rapidly replied when she saw that the professor was eyeing her.
"Trial Captains don't get paid for running the trials, so I'm afraid I don't really have any spare cash for you. I'm so sorry!" Acerola apologized. "Why don't you ask Uncle Nanu to help you with this, Professor Kukui?" she suggested as she twirled around on her heel. "He's gotta have some money after lazing around the outskirts of Po Town. I'm sure Uncle Nanu can spare a couple of dollars if you ask him nicely."
Kukui was immensely skeptical by her words. "Really? You sure about that?"
She had a thoughtful look as she placed a finger to her lip in thought. "I mean, I do that all the time! Uncle Nanu always relents after about the fifth time I repeatedly ask him," she chirped.
Well, that aptly-worded description certainly explained how Acerola was successful in her endeavor for cash. Kukui could imagine an annoyed Nanu snapping and handing Acerola the money that she'd requested after repeatedly nagging him about it non-stop, in the same manner that a Spoink couldn't stop bouncing on its spring-shaped tail.
Although Acerola did bring up a valid point, Kukui was able to vividly recall the grumpy kahuna and how little he actually cared when the professor had recruited Acerola for the Pokémon League once he realized that her going along with him would result in peace of mind on his end. That sobering realization caused Nanu to actively agree to put Acerola in his place as the Elite Four representative instead.
Yeah, Nanu wasn't going to lift a finger. The professor already knew that much. He thus heaved a sigh as he turned towards the final member of the four. Kukui at least knew that Olivia had a shop, so perhaps there was a chance that the Akala Island kahuna could spare a little expense.
Unfortunately for him, his hopes were dashed faster than that of a male Salandit who was trying to evolve. Olivia gently shook her head, much to Kukui's dismay.
"I must apologize, but I have to get some prize money funds ready. There are a couple of challengers who are vying to defeat me in the Akala Grand Trial for their island challenge."
Well, there went that bridge. With a wistful sigh, Kukui slumped his head on his elbows.
The meeting then went on by uneventfully after that and concluded without much fanfare. After it had wrapped up, the only thing that was on Kukui's mind was the funding that he would need, since it was now clear that none of the Elite Four to-be would bail him out of his predicament. With a jolt, Kukui realized that he had to take drastic measures. He refused to have his pet project die from something as preventable as lack of money.
"Woo!" Kukui pumped his fist up into the air with vigor. "Looks like I need to find a way to get some quick money… by myself! Oh yeah! Watch out, Alola, because Kukui's coming for ya!"
A muffled "Oh, shut up Kukui" came from Kahili as the golfer shot an irritated glance back to the professor, who was enthusiastically hollering up to the sky like a madman.
Whoever said that finding a job was easy had never actually actively looked for one themselves.
In a desperate bid to find a job that wouldn't attract attention—being the regional professor of Alola and working a job would seem awfully suspicious to any journalist—he tried to look for a way to earn money incognito. Kukui had scoured the entire of Melemele Island for any job openings, but unfortunately for him, the only openings were for full-time jobs or didn't quite pay enough.
Ironically, after shifting his focus to Akala from Melemele, he found an opening… albeit in a place where he least expected it to be.
While taking the ferry, he had seen the advertisements for the Battle Royal. Intrigued, he then donned up a disguise, one which he made all by himself. Thereafter, he bit the bullet and signed up for the Battle Royal at their facilities in Akala Island with the disguise.
To his relief and surprise, it wasn't all that bad. Kukui had to admit that this part-time jig wasn't as bad as he had originally envisioned it to be. In a single week he had managed to amass a reputation as a fan-favorite rookie newcomer to the ring — the Masked Royal.
With the prize money he was currently earning, it wouldn't be long before his budget deficit was eliminated. In fact, he might even accumulate enough petty cash for there to be a surplus of funds.
By day he was Professor Kukui, and by night he was the Masked Royal. After his initial worry of being found out, it was actually pretty neat. He'd kept the whole thing secret from everyone, even Burnet. At first it was meant as a take-that for her jab at him, but later it was to avoid scandal and embarrassment when she'd told him about how cool the 'Masked Royal' was.
Tonight was just like another other night to Kukui. Armed in his flashy red garb, he coolly strolled into the Battle Royal Dome and prepared himself for another standard Battle Royal brawl.
Too bad it was about to be anything but.
Kukui's eyes widened at the Pop Star Pokémon's cheery cry, especially when his eyes caught sight of a familiar black-capped trainer. "Yo, Sun!" he waved at the boy, "And Brionne too! Over here!" the disguised professor signaled with his hand. "Glad you could make it!"
"Hey…" Sun walked forward, before narrowing his eyes as his lips curled upwards with a small playful smirk. "How do you know my name when I've never met you before?"
"Bri-Brionne!" Brionne did an aerial somersault in agreement with his trainer.
"Uh…" Kukui bit his tongue as he realized that he was dangerously close to being caught out. "You seem just like a ray of bright sunshine to me!" he tried to buy his way out, albeit rather unconvincingly. "Oh yeah!"
Sun rolled his eyes dramatically, with his Brionne following suit by making circular motions with its flippers by the side of his trainer's lower body. "Okay, Professor Kukui. I know that it's really you. You can cut the act now."
Kukui carefully took extreme care in making sure that he did not show the panic he was feeling as he hollered back a response. "What? Who is this Professor Kukui that you talk about?" He continued to play dumb as he pointed his thumb inwardly to himself, flashing a smug grin unlike how he would behave as the Kukui which Alola knew. "I am the Masked Royal!"
His Rockruff proceeded to run out from around the corner to give Kukui his support. "Ruff!"
"See!" Kukui pumped his fist into the air as Rockruff yipped in support. "Rockruff here agrees with me! Woo!"
"Right…" Sun fought the urge to laugh like a maniac, simply keeping his face firmly neutral as he snickered silently. "O-oh, okay…" he finally managed to splutter. Did Kukui not realize that his very own Rockruff had given him away, blowing his cover sky-high?
"Bri!" Brionne clapped his flippers, not even bothering to disguise his laughter. Kukui's terrible disguise wasn't fooling anyone, least of all him. Brionne was able to recognize his former professor and Rockruff instantly, and thus was just happy to see Kukui again… even if he was now wearing this awkward wrestler getup.
"Anyway!" Kukui coughed, hurriedly changing the topic. "I'm here today, yeah, to spread the word, oh yeah, about Battle Royal! As I said, the folks here call me… the Masked Royal! Woo!"
"Yeah… sure." The sarcasm in Sun's voice was so thick that even a Scyther wouldn't be able to slice through it.
A bead of sweat trickled down Kukui's face as he again tried to convince the young trainer that he wasn't the professor who he knew by repeating his alter ego's identity once more for emphasis. "The Masked Royal!"
Another roll of Sun's eyes before his gaze hovered down to Brionne. "But I have to be honest. I don't really know how a Battle Royal works."
"You don't know what a Battle Royal is?" Kukui was shocked at what Sun had admitted, but kept up his jovial smile as he held up four fingers. "Four trainers!" he announced in the same tone in which he made his Pokémon League Elite Four sales pitch — an inside joke between him and Burnet.
It was however, also a habit that Kukui was famous for showing off to Sun whenever the professor ran into him, which just caused the trainer and his Brionne to snicker even further at his blatant display of his true identity and personality shining true despite his feeble attempts at hiding said identity.
"Four trainers!" he repeated for emphasis, leading to even more sniggers from the duo. "The Battle Royal is a battle format that has been passed down in Alola for generation upon generation! Oh yeah! The four trainers each pick a Pokémon and duke them out in a ring, with three opponents at once! It's a four-against-one all out brawl! Woo!"
"Sounds sort of interesting…" Sun commented. He was about to add more to his concrit when another peppy voice beat him to it.
"Dude! It's the Masked Royal!"
An excited cry came from the parapet above, causing Kukui to shift his eyes right to see the one who had shouted, only for his eyes to land on Hala's grandson, of all people. Kukui performed a double-take when he realized that Hau was the one who had been whooping for joy from one floor up. "I wanna battle! I wanna battle!" he excitedly chanted.
"Sure thing, Hau—" Kukui missed the knowing look Sun and Brionne shot at each other upon noticing yet another momentary name lapse on Kukui's end, "—the more the merrier, I say! Oh yeah!"
Hau jumped for joy where he stood. "Sweet! I'm gonna duel with the Masked Royal in a Battle Royal!"
"Yo! How about you participate as well? Join in the fun! Woo!" Kukui waved to a brooding blonde-hair boy dressed entirely in edgy black, who simply glowered at the professor-cum-wrestler that he perceived to be another enthusiastic annoyance much along the lines of Hau.
"Whatever," the boy muttered plainly, a hint of irritation crossing his facial expression for a second.
"Well, looks like we got our four trainers! I'd be in the mix too, of course!" Kukui chirped. "Discovery! New experiences! Adventure! It's all yours if you want it! Ready… set… fight! It's time for Battle Royal!" Kukui hummed a tune as he ran into the arena with the other three trainers following behind him.
Boy, was this going to be a match to remember.
"We're now in the Battle Royal Dome, the arena for Battle Royals! Today's match has the dome packed to the brim. The audience is cheering with eager anticipation!" The emcee varied the tone of his speech to elicit more cheers from an applauding audience. "And here come our contenders! In the green corner, Pokémon Trainer Sun sends out his Brionne!"
Sun's Brionne felt the spotlight on him and let out a delighted squee of joy, the Pop Star Pokémon merrily waving enthusiastically to the crowd. "Bri-Bri!" he squealed.
"In the yellow corner, Pokémon Trainer Hau sends out his Torracat!"
The evolved Litten cautiously gazed about the crowd, before disapprovingly staring at his former Popplio buddy. "Torra…" he muttered as Brionne continued to repeatedly wave to the audience like he was a celebrity.
"In the red corner, the Masked Royal sends out his Rockruff!"
"Ruff!" Rockruff hopped on stage, causing Torracat to shift his piercing gaze onto the Puppy Pokémon when he too realized that he knew this Rockruff.
"And lastly, in the blue corner, Pokémon Trainer Gladion sends out his… uh…" The announcer suddenly cut away as he trailed off, looking again at his cue card before clearing his throat and resuming his announcement. "He sends out Type: Null!"
"Kkkkeeehhhhhh!" the Pokémon screeched inhumanely, causing the Rockruff to stare at it with horror-filled eyes. Brionne and Torracat however, ignored the beast. Kukui pursed his lips at that. It would appear that they'd seen this Pokémon before, as they were otherwise unimpressed by it. How interesting…
"The Battle Royal starts… now!"
"Woo!" Kukui cheered. "Are you guys all ready to rumble?"
"You don't have to tell me twice!" Hau replied, a keen sparkle in his eager eyes. "Of course I'm ready to go, Masked Royal!"
"Alright, that is it!" Gladion snapped, placing a palm to his head. "I have had enough of this insolence. I cannot stand this overzealous torment for a single second longer." The boy raised his arm out, never quite losing his cool demeanor as he calmly gave his Pokémon an order. "Time to end this, Null. Use your Take Down attack on that stupidly optimistic boy's Torracat!"
Null obliged, gearing up for a sprint at Gladion's request. He then slammed his armored body full-force into Torracat, causing the feline to snarl and hiss in anger.
"A stunning hit!"
Torracat redirected his hissing towards the announcer. Sensing that his Pokémon was about to leap out of control, Hau quickly changed tactics by redirecting its move to its former attacker. "Use Fire Fang on that Pokémon, Torracat!" he called, pointed a finger firmly at Type: Null.
Torracat rapidly obliged his trainer's request with a gleeful snarl, the Fire Cat Pokémon leaping forward with a spring from its hind legs and sinking its jaws into the thick helmet that surrounded Gladion's Pokémon.
"Gragghhhh!" Type: Null rapidly shook its head in an attempt to fling Hau's Torracat off. When Torracat was eventually forced to release its tough bite on Null, it had been shaken so much that his fur was frizzled and his mane was standing on end.
"Watch out, Torracat!" Hau yelled.
Before the shaky Torracat could recover, he was immediately slammed into by Brionne's Aqua Jet.
"Great one, Brionne!" Sun cheered as Torracat was flung to the edge of the ring, its hind legs beginning to wobble as his injuries piled up.
"Alright! Now that Torracat's weakened, let's go for the dazzling knockout!" Kukui declared, pumping both fists in the air as the crowd swooned over the Masked Royal. "Let's show them all a thing or two with Rock Slide, Rockruff!"
"Ruff!" Rockruff yipped affirmatively, letting loose a barrage of falling rocks as he gesticulated up to the sky. The falling chunks of rock managed to hit Type: Null and Brionne, but the nimble Torracat somehow managed to skittle around it. It was probably for the best — if the Rock-type move had connected, Torracat would have been down for the count.
Hau shivered at the close call. "Alright, Torracat! New priority! Get the Masked Royal's Rockruff!" he ordered as he placed a finger to his temple. "Fire Fang won't do much against it, so go for Lick instead!"
Torracat strode up to Rockruff and licked him in the face. Surprisingly, Rockruff was frozen stiff from the lick.
"Is Rockruff genuinely paralyzed, or is he paralyzed with joy from the reunion? I wish I knew…" Sun mused with a frown, before analyzing the situation and choosing to take quick advantage of the recent turn of events. "But Hau's right, Brionne. Rock Slide's going to put us in a heap of trouble! We have to stop Rockruff's multi-target moves! Since he's paralyzed now, bring it down with Aqua Jet!"
"Bri!" At his trainer's command, Brionne saluted with his flipper, before charging forward at Rockruff and hitting the Puppy Pokémon with a super-effective move at point-blank range.
"Rufffff!" Rockruff squealed in pain as he tried to shake the excess water off of his now matted fur.
"He-hey!" Kukui grumbled, his eyes darting between Hau and Sun as Rockruff gazed towards his trainer with worried eyes. "Don't target me down!"
"Sorry, Masked Royal!" Hau replied apologetically. "If your Rockruff gets the chance to pull off another Rock Slide attack, my Torracat will be toast! I might enjoy toast with malasadas, but I don't like my Pokémon actually being toast!"
Gladion just glared at the other two trainers before giving in to temptation and ordering his Pokémon to join into the tag-team by attacking Rockruff after Brionne and Torracat's prior attacks — the most viable, though boring strategy. The weakened Rockruff was hence finished off by a Take Down manoeuver from a massive Type: Null, the feline slamming to the arena floor from the brutal melee impact.
"And that's it!" the announcer said into the microphone as a bell dinged. "The Masked Royal's Rockruff is down from Pokémon Trainer Gladion's Type: Null! The Battle Royal is now officially over!"
"Woo! That was fun!" Kukui cheered as he walked out of the arena ring. "Oh yeah!"
Sun placed his hands behind his head as he inquisitively looked up in thought. "I suppose so…"
"Hey, Gladion! You won, congrats! So, did you have fun during the battle?" Hau prodded the unreceptive Gladion, who quickly shot back at Hau with a glare.
"I hate all of you."
"Hey." A serious look crossed Sun's face, a rarity for the laid-back boy. "Hau's right though. Your slow Pokémon managed to lap up the win. You won that match fair and square, so quit being so aloof."
"But we weren't strong enough." Gladion clenched his fist at Sun's observation as he stated the fact. "I only won because you two had weakened that Rockruff before me. That doesn't count as a 'win' in my books." Shaking his head with a scowl, he strolled out of the Battle Royal Dome with one final remark. "Null and I intend to make it on our own. I don't need anyone's help. Not you, not Hau, not some masked wrestler… not Team Skull. I don't need anyone. Never forget that."
As his figure receded from view, Hau folded his arms. "What's his problem?" he grumbled, although the frown was gone quickly and replaced by a jovial smile as he tapped Kukui on his exposed back. "You and your Rockruff put up a great fight, Masked Royal!"
"Yep. Brionne and I enjoyed it. See ya." Sun's knowing grin was back in full force as he locked eyes with Kukui.
Kukui had to shudder at his expression, feeling completely naked despite his wrestler garb. He waved as he made a hasty exit, growing unnerved by Sun's I-know-what's-happening-here smirk. "Yo! I'll be waiting for you too! Woo! The Battle Royal is a place of exciting trials and tribulations! Alola!"
Too close for comfort. All that being said, Kukui did enjoy squaring off against Sun, a trainer who he'd helped groom from the start when he migrated to Alola, even if it was through an alter-ego instead of being a face-to-face battle.
Perhaps one day, they could truly face off in a real no-holds-down battle.
"So how did your little money-making scheme go, Kukui?"
Burnet was surprised when Kukui replied her with a smirk this time round. "I must say, it went surprisingly well. They say that there is a silver lining behind every dark cloud. Well… for once, I've got to concur that the one who said that quote is absolutely one-hundred percent right!"
"That's rather surprising, you know. I never would have pegged you as someone who enjoys the chore of making money. So, what kind of job did you get manage to get that payed off your debts anyway?"
"Well, it's a secret, Burnet," Kukui murmured with a cryptic soft smile. "It's a secret…"
Why exactly is Professor Kukui's alter-ego the Masked Royal? The game never did bother to give a proper explanation for that besides making it a short-lived running gag, did it?
All that said, Kukui doesn't disguise his speech patterns, and the game doesn't try to hide it either. But they really don't do much with this plotline besides having the lost mask subplot in Ula'ula, so eh.