Duty Guardian 04

Ash Ketchum.

Right in front of him, stood the famous Ash "Unpredictable" Ketchum; the Pokemon Trainer that seemed to find joy in shattering common tactics and winning his battles in the most absurd way possible. Kukui wasn't a believer in fate or destiny, but damn it seemed that life was keen on changing that about him.

The "professor" wondered what sort of lucky star had brought the Kanto-born teen here. He hadn't sent him a letter inviting him here, and he was sure that the Kahunas weren't keen on having someone like Ash in Melemele by their own wishes. Whatever the case may be, Kukui found himself with a golden opportunity.

All that he had to do was manage to talk with the teen and not stare at him like a Magikarp out of water. It wasn't hard, right? Flap your lips and push wind out, make the proper sounds and talk.

"Huh?" Kukui wanted to bury himself in the sandy beach close by due to his performance, only managing to release a dumb sound.

Ketchum smiled awkwardly, surely trying to understand what he had done to warrant such a reaction from the dark-skinned man.

Kukui coughed, dry swallowing an imaginary lump in his throat and finally managing to push out a few words. "A-Aloha! I wasn't expecting visits so soon, so this is a surprise." Okay, he didn't entirely mess up introductions, so he might still manage to save this! Yeah, he was still in the clean!

Ash's expression loosened, the awkward smile exchanged for a genuine one. "Sorry about interrupting your work, professor. I can come back later if you want to…" The trainer suggested, pointing with his right thumb backwards to the wrought iron gates.

"NO!" Kukui hurriedly interjected, his two hands grasping at the trainer's shoulders and trying to still the teen in place. He was successful in his endeavor of stopping Ash in place; the man quickly released his grasp over the teen's shoulders once he realized what he had done. He scratched awkwardly his cheek, noticing the annoyed glance of the Pikachu hanging from the trainer's shoulder, the Pokemon having had to cling to the back of Ash's hair and shirt to avoid being thrown out by sudden act of the man.

Sparks built up around the rodent's red cheeks, Kukui being saved from a shocking punishment by Ash's hand massaging the electric powerhouse under his chin, the sparkling static dying down as the 'mon cooed under the experienced touch of his trainer.

"Sorry about that, Pi has been frisky these days for some reason." The trainer played off the situation with a cool attitude, Kukui's shame at acting the fool in front of a fellow trainer almost making the man curl in the spot.

Kukui made a measured motion this time, aware that the yellow rodent had his black orbs trailed on him. He motioned for the trainer to enter the house, the living room visible from their position at the door.

"Would you like to have something to drink and make yourself comfortable? I know that the heat can be overwhelming for someone not used to." Kukui offered, glad when Ash followed in without missing a beat; the trainer took his sneakers and socks off - the professor wondering if that was a Kantonian manner – and left his sandy footwear by the door entrance.

The trio headed for the couches, Ash and his partner sitting while Kukui rushed to the kitchen to fetch drinks. Unsure what the trainer would want, the adult grabbed a tray and headed to his fridge; it didn't have a variety of refreshments, he had forgotten grocery shopping again, but he quickly grabbed whatever was inside and placed them atop the tray together with two glasses and one bowl. He rushed back to the living room, finding the trainer to be talking with his Pokemon, stroking Pikachu's back while he waited for the man to return.

Setting the drinks down on the small coffee table at the center of the room, Kukui gestured to the beverages. "Anything you want?"

Ash nodded, settling for some cold water for now. It was too early to be having a drink (even if he was here in Alola to play about), so the trainer ignored the beer can atop the tray and helped himself to some water, placing some for Pikachu on the bowl and letting his partner quench his thirst too.

Kukui sat down on the close couch to their left, maintaining some small distance away from Pikachu, just in case the rodent decided that the earlier threat wasn't enough. Ash mentally shrugged, setting his glass down and focusing on the man.

"I wasn't aware that Alola had two professors." He stated, noting that Kukui stared at him with a confused expression. The trainer took off his hat to run his hand through his hair before placing the hat down once more. "I met earlier this week someone called Professor Samson, so I was wondering about that; normally it is pretty standard for a region to have a centralized, League-sponsored professor to run most things through, but then I talked with a few kids the other day and they told me you were running a school of sorts, so I was curious." Ash's explanation was half-assed, the teen probing lightly for a few answers. He was aware that Alola was outside of the League's jurisdiction, else he'd already have Lance breathing down his neck with insistent and bothersome requests, but even so; even far-away lands tended to stick to the League's mode of running things, as it was the most efficient thing so far

Kukui shook his head in denial. "I guess it might seem like that, but I'm not a true professor. Well, enthusiast might be a more suitable label for me; I want to implement and connect the Alola Islands to the League, but our locals haven't been the most supportive of my ideas. The League has made a few offers, but so far our leading powers – the Kahunas – have denied anything to do with the government." The dark skinned man explained. Ash nodded along, keeping his thoughts personal for now. He was not the greatest fan of the League after having to clear up quite a few of their screw-ups, but Ash couldn't entirely reject them. It was through their initial program that he had become a Pokemon Trainer after all.

The trainer noticed a hall leading to another room, his curious glance not being missed by the older man.

"That is just a humble open-air classroom. Alola doesn't have many teens truly interested in becoming Pokemon Trainers and few truly want to stay stuck indoors learning while they can be out there playing about or learning their family's trade. I can't force children to become students and I don't have money or fame enough to get Poketech to open a facility here." Kukui continued explaining, Ash listening more out of kindness than true interest. Don't get him wrong, he would help out people whenever he could, but the extent of his help varied; it was one thing to help out a Pokemon in danger or a child in a tough spot; it was an entirely different matter to financially support such ambitions as the ones Kukui was dreaming off. Alola – as things were – was quite perfect for the trainer, considering the minimal interference of the League here.

At most there were a few officers from the Jenny clan and nurses from the clan Joy operating as law enforcement and healthcare service; that level was enough for Ash, but for someone with such dreams as Kukui, integration with the League must be primordial.

The trainer stood up from his seat, his partner following him as the teen pointed towards the room.

"Would you mind if I took a look? I'm a bit curious." Ash stated. It was true, after all he had never truly gone to a defacto-school. To become a trainer his studies had to be brought up to speed and the only place that offered advanced classes on Pallet was Professor Oak's lab. He had visited a few places that could be called school-like such as one of the Poke-Tech facilities, but that was it.

Kukui nodded in agreement, rapidly standing from his seat on the couch and guiding Ash towards the other room. It was one of the bigger rooms of the house, with big windows that brought fresh wind coming from the coast; a few chairs were placed on the room and were pointed towards one blackboard that had a few written lines in Kalosian and were translated to Kantonian.

There was a shelf stuffed with many books about Pokemon, but Ash's attentive gaze managed to spot a few about outdoors survival and some about League-related rules regarding tournaments and championships. It seemed that Kukui was rather serious in his ambition to bring a serious change to the Alola Islands. The trainer wondered what it was to experience a school life, but soon he cut the idea off his mind; not because he wasn't willing to learn, however he was sure that he already knew whatever Kukui would teach here. Unless the dark skinned man was bringing some esoteric knowledge or some hidden lore from the islands around, Ash was sure he was in the know.

"So, what do you think?" Kukui asked, clearly anxious about Ash's answer.

The teen mused what to answer. It was simple, and while simple wasn't bad…it was simple. The trainer opted to give Kukui a half-smile, leaning on one of the school chairs and almost pulling out the cigarette pack in his pocket.

"It attends the basic needs, and that it what is important. There is no need for fancy tech or whatnot if you can teach what is needed." Ash spoke, pointing towards the blackboard.

Kukui nodded, somewhat relieved that he hadn't received any negative response from the famous trainer. Should he push a bit and ask for some funding? A man could dream, couldn't he?

"So…" Kukui tentatively called out, trying to not demonstrate his nervousness. "Would you be willing to sponsor my classes? I'm not asking for much, anything would be highly appreciated." He decided to cut the chase, as he realized that Ash was a person that did not beat around the bush when it came to business

Ash let the request hang in the air, not shooting it down nor embracing the idea. He could sympathize with Kukui and his dreams, but the trainer had other objectives here. Relaxation had been the priority, but the investigation of the islands was a need that as an Aura Guardian blessed with control over nature's aura, Ash needed to stay here for quite a while.

He could stay in Kukui's house and use it as a base camp for his operations while also remaining incognito from the League (he wouldn't be paying hotel fees all his stay here even if he had the money for it) and getting to know the local population. His investigation would require extensive snooping around and being accepted as a local or somewhat known figure in Alola would do wonders, as opposed to if he was still considered an outsiders. Kukui seemed to be a known figure here and not disliked at all, thus Ash figured he could advantage of the dark skinned man's status and avoid having to spend time needlessly buttering up people.

The trainer let Kukui stew in uncertainty for a while, assuming a thinking man's pose and letting silence remain in the class between the two of them.

"…I won't promise anything now. I need to think on it, as your idea isn't bad, but it still is too green." The trainer stated, stunning the older man. "How would bringing the League here would truly help the people? Money? Status? Recognition? Fame? Think on those topics and when I come back, we can talk some more." Ash said, Kukui's shoulders slumping down a bit and causing the trainer to release a loud chuckle.

"Is your funding problem that bad?" Ash couldn't help asking the question, since the professor seemed to be almost desperate for funds.

Kukui nodded, head hanging down. "To be completely honest, this entire area belongs to the Aether Institute. I managed to rent it from them and built this house/study school with some loans, but the main reason is due to the chairwoman's daughter; she had an accident with Pokemon when young and has developed an issue with them. Her mother was willing to fund my idea and gave me plenty of resources in the beginning, but now things have sort of dried up."

"You haven't had progress with the girl's situation? I don't think funding would be cut so suddenly." The trainer commented.

Kukui shook his head. "Lill– I mean, the chairwoman's daughter is naturally a shy child, and the incident did not help matters." The dark-skinned professor covered his blunder, and the Kanto-born decided to not prod around too much.

They left the classroom and returned to the living room, Ash finishing his offered drink and heading to the exit. "Oh, now that I remember," He said while putting on his shoes. "I stopped a few thugs from harassing your students yesterday, so I was wondering if you were having problems with security or something like that."

Kukui took a moment to digest the idea. "Wait, you were the one that dealt with the Team Skull grunts?"

Ash managed to keep himself from groaning at the uttered name. Team Rocket? A bit ambitious, but he could see where Giovanni had gotten the idea; Team Magma and Aqua? Elements that dealt with the Legendaries they (bothered) worshiped; all the lunatics that he had encountered during his travels had a somewhat understandable motif, even if they were off their clock with that stuff. However, even the Aura Guardian had to begin questioning people's intelligence when even in the far distant lands of Alola, there was a bloody team of people willing to harass others or do stupid stuff.

Team Skull? What is this, a club of Ghost-type and Dark-type lovers? Weren't they called Hex maniacs back in Johto? Distortion-be-dammed, even people in Sinnoh aren't so troublesome. Ash mused, waiting for the professor to fill in the blanks.

"They aren't a threat most of the time; a bit bothersome for sure, they aren't really the sort to cause danger. Their leader was recently contracted by the chairwoman of the Aether Institute, so most of them do patrols and security. Once or twice you will see one of them zoning off an area for the researchers to poke around a bit, but nothing too wild happens due to them." Kukui explained, but Ash didn't buy it as the full truth of the situation.

The Trainer nodded to the Professor, taking his leave with relaxed steps. His pupils glowed with a teal nuance, Aura Sight activated to take in the cracks that remained in the sky.

"Aether Institute, huh?" He muttered to himself, scratching Pikachu's chin with one hand while he procured himself another smoke. He lit it with practiced ease, taking in the smoke and exhaling it out. "I guess it is time for us to pay these guys a visit, they seem to be the famous ones around here, Pi." Ash commented with his partner, the rodent agreeing with a squeak.

Although…He felt a pair of eyes observe him from around the bushes. He lightly pulsed some aura around his body, his immediate surroundings clear of any threats to him. He took a hold of the cancer stick and flicked off the ash at the tip, bringing it once more to his lips. I'd better take care of this first. He made his way to one of the many trails of the area, this one particularly dense and jungle-like, which meant that whoever was following him would either have to get closer to keep up or risk losing sight of him.

He turned around a particularly thick tree and bent his knees, summersaulting backwards onto one of the branches that could handle his weight. It wasn't exactly stealthy or quiet (he was no Koga after all), but it suited his needs right now.

A small figure rushed to where he previously was, the small body of the creature covered by some sort of cheap disguise that apparently was supposed to be similar to Pikachu. It was made with a rough paper bag, the signature lightning-shape tail being simulated by a carved wooden branch. The neck of this Pokemon (or the disguise, Ash was still unsure) twisted and turned all around, almost as if desperately trying to find the trainer and his partner.

He was unsure if it was a friendly 'mon or if it was merely trying to fool others (Teddyursa – a mighty Ursaring these days – was an experience he wouldn't forget anytime soon) with the dorky, childish design of its costume. Anyway, he couldn't sense too strong of an Aura coming from the small Pokemon, so it would be no threat to him. He gathered some aura in his hand just in case he might need to deflect some attack, but the slight sparkle of Pikachu's red cheeks told him his precautions were unneeded. He still did it anyway.

He jumped from the branch and landed right behind the disguised 'mon, the creature squeaking in fright and quickly turning to face the trainer and his partner. Now that Ash had a better image of his sudden follower, the Kanto-born raised a brow at it. It certainly was cute, in that uncanny way, as the front part of the disguise was drawn like it came straight out of a Hex lover's dream of what a haunted Pikachu would like, except that it was drawn by a child after hearing the description of the image.

The bottom part of the disguise lifted, a shadowy claw peeking as the frightened Pokemon tried to defend itself, but Ash's aura-covered hand was faster and grabbed the attack before it could do anything.

"Now, now, little buddy, that was a tad bit dangerous." He tried to speak with as much candor and tenderness as possible, putting everything he had learned from Brock about Pokemon Care into use. He slowly released the shadowy limb, watching it return to the hidden confines of the Pokemon's disguise, the trio watching each other for a moment. "You were following us, right little guy?"

The neck tilted, nodding the head of the precarious costume in a manner that made the trainer wonder if the whole ensemble would crumble.

"May I ask why? You don't seem to be hungry, or hurt." He pointed out. The Pokemon shook and the costume followed, giving him a negative to the presented options. It used the carved wooden "tail" to point to both Trainer and Pokemon.

"You like us?" A positive nod. "Well, that's…nice, I guess." The creature let the eyes of its costume move in a manner that it constantly stared at Ash, or more accurately, the spot where Pikachu was comfortably placed at. It glanced at the empty spot on the other side, the wooden "tail" tapping the ground.

Ash glanced around, concluding that no one was around them. "You don't have a trainer, little guy?" The pokemon nodded, but then it also shook its head negatively. It took a few moments for the trainer to get the message, but understanding soon dawned in his eyes. "Oh, I get it. You aren't a guy, but a little lady, right?" His statement was followed by vigorous nodding by the pokemon, Ash smiling in amusement.

"So, little lady. If I'm getting things right, you want to follow us?" The disguised pokemon continued with the energetic nodding, making Ash's left hand raise to stop the costume still, else the head might fall off. His right took a hold of his cigarette and he tapped the ash off. Blowing a small pillow of smoke to the side, the trainer offered his now free right hand. "Climb on then, little lady. Hold on tight, alright? Don't spook Pi too, he can be quite…shocking when suddenly surprised." Ash off-handedly commented, his partner smacking the back of his head with his tail.

Ash laughed at his partner's behavior while the yellow rodent squeaked his indignation at his trainer, the new addition to their little party tightly holding on the trainer's shirt, the tilting head of the costume bobbing up and down while Ash walked back to his hotel.