AN: This fic came a bit late considering the episode it's about was over a month or two ago. Let's get cracking.
Guzma smirked swolfishly taking in the heated glares from Kukui and his little band of pre-schoolers. The human embodiment of Destruction turns to leave with his grunts and Plumeria...
"You know that I've actually gotten a fight with you, I think you might be kind of right about the Alola League."
Only to stop and do and turn to give the boy with the Pikachu his Golisopod just went a few rounds with, a befuddled look. The boys classmates and teacher similarly are also looking at him shocked at his words.
Guzma feels a smirk develop, jubilant at how much it says about Kukui's students that roughing up their Pokémon a little gets them to see the reality that he's the strongest in this region.
"I mean, I have taken part in a lot of League Conferences. Amongst a number of constants they shared is that pretty much everyone that took part in those Conferences had to earn the right to take part in the League."
The confusion on his classmates and teacher's face change to a betrayal, not believing these words are coming out of Ash of all people's mouth.
Ash pauses for a moment as he recalls something before grabbing at his hat and pulling it down a little whilst he suddenly finds the ground to be a very interesting. When he speaks again his voice is quieter and he is talking faster as he has a somewhat ashamed look on his face, "Though there was this one guy in Unova who looking back on it all, really didn't deserve to be in the Unova League, or to get as far as he did. Given the fact that if not for me he would be in the Johto region with only 7 badges expecting to take part in the Unova League there. I really don't understand how I could have lost to a clown like that. Maybe the air in Unova made me stupider or something."
To that everyone looks to the Trainer from Kanto stupefied.
Sophocles looks like he's trying to solve a complex mathematical equation as he goes over that bit about trying to take part for a Conference for one region in an entirely different one, "I don't even... How do you even cultivate the thought process that results in that flawed thinking? There's wrong, and then there's being very wrong."
Ash sighs before shaking his head and putting that idiot out of his head along with any other members from that region, "Anyway in the 6 Leagues I took part in, I had to get 8 pre-requisite badges from battling 8 of the region's Gym Leaders. And they certainly made me work my butt off to get those badges. If you don't earn the badges you can't compete. Though there was this Pokémon Institute that I think would let you circumvent having to get badges by taking some tests there, but the questions they gave you required insane troll logic to get figure them out. Like they would show you blacked out pictures of Pokémon and you would have to guess what they are based off their shape, but the way they angled the image of the Pokémon pretty much made it a Pokémon that was entirely different from what you would initially think it was. In retrospect I wonder if that Pokémon I stitute was just some scam some con artists was running."
Kiawe shakes his perplexed trying to figure out how the skills that Institute is testing you for would translate to you deserving to be in the League.
Ash presses on even as his words make his classmates more and more bewildered, "My firsteague Conference ended in disaster for me thanks to Team Rocket kidnapping me and my Pokémon. I almost got disqualified for not making to my match on time if me and my Pokémon didn't push ourselves to near exhaustion trying to get back to the stadium. We didn't even get any time to explain what happened or to be allowed to rest for a bit to regain our strength before they rushed us into our match with my friend Ritchie. So I had to battle him whilst my Pokémon weren't at 100% like his were. We ended up giving it our all, but it sort of felt like the referee was out to get me since he ruled it that my Squirtle was unable to battle due to being put to Sleep due to a status effect move, as if that ref never heard of moves like Sleep Talk or Dream Eater that only work if a Pokémon is asleep. Not that I knew if Sleep Talk was even a thing back then."
Lillie gives Ash a pitying look like seeing the pained expression on his face, finding it somewhat saddening seeing that he's had to deal with that traumatic experience being left unresolved all these years.
"And then my stupid jerk Charizard decided to just lay around, ignore me, and do nothing at the end of the battle so that I ended up losing and looked like a idiot in front of the whole stadium, and the entire region due to the event being televised." Ash sighs and shakes his head recalling how he felt more like a dumb child with no chance trying to take on the world then he ever did before or ever since.
"After locking myself in my room at the hotel we were staying at for the League, I considered releasing Charizard so I wouldn't ever have to worry about him humiliating me like that again, or having him drag the team down, or at least to spite him for doing to me. But that would just make me no different from the dirt bag piece of garbage who left Charizard to die on a rock in the middle of nowhere during a rainstorm back when he was a Charmander." Ash let out a bitter chuckle recalling he still sometimes hesitating to set foot in a stadium arena recalling that day and how much can go wrong.
"Or at least that was the excuse I gave myself. It would take a lot more than just dropping Charizard when I have helped him become strong enough to not have to worry about fending for himself to be as bad as Damien."
Ash raises his head up and settles his hat back to it's proper place before he takes a step towards Guzma who is looking to him now with a bit of respect for a kid who can pull himself back up after getting knocked down like that.
"Getting into a league is tough, and actually staying in the League is even tougher. I can't necessarily approve of a League that just let's anyone in. At the very least you should have to do a few Island Trials and beat 2 Kahunas in a Grand Trial as the bare minimum requires to enter." To that Ash gives his friends a shrug, "It wouldn't be much of a good spectator event if most of the Pokémon and Trainers competing aren't flashy enough to keep them entertained by being strong or skilled enough to keep their attention."
"So that what does mean for us?"
Ash looks at Lana confused for a moment before realization comes and he gives her a doubtful look, "You guys weren't actually planning on competing, were you?"
"Well, yeah. We are actually."
"How exactly would you do that, Mallow? How would any of you? You guys would need a full time of Pokémon once you made to the quarter-final round. Out of all you guys, Kiawe is the closest and he only has half a team, and I can't approve of you guys catching Pokémon purely for the sake of having a full team rather than for wanting them on their team for who they are and what strengths they bring in." To that Ash's classmates collectively cringe having not considered they would need more than the Pokémon they presently have to compete.
Ash sighs, "You guys aren't really doing much to instill confidence that you won't embarrass yourselves at the League."
Guzma grins savagely and mutters a quiet, "Ouch!" Seeing Ash tear at his classmates like this before Kukui. Speaking of Kukui, "Ash, I'm sure it will be fine letting everyone compet-"
Ash gives Kukui a scolding look that seems out of place when the student is giving it to the teacher, "Don't you think the fact the Island Challenge being completely uninvolved with the League due to it not being a requirement to have taken part in said Challenge for some time or have conquered it, kind of spits on Alola's traditions."
Kukui stalls not quite sure how to process that as an uneasy smile develops on his face, "What?"
"The Island Challenge was the old way to determine the strongest Trainer in the region, but this League is a speedier if less-accurate alternative to that. 'So why bother with the Island Challenge when you can just do the League?' That will be the thinking your League is going to make people think, and in time that thinking will cause people to lose interest in the Island Challenge. It will become less popular in time. And soon enough no one will bother taking it, and that aspect of this region's culture that makes it stand out compared to the rest will fade away into obscurity."
"Well I'm sure people will want to do the Island Challenge when they see how incredible Z-Moves ar-"
"Kukui, Z-Moves are boring." In response to Ash saying that, his classmates and teacher recoil as if struck physically by such a blasphemous claim.
"I mean sure they are big and flashy, but everybody here in Alola seems so dependent on a Z-Move knockout happening that they don't put much stock into actually training their Pokêmon or having actual skill. Battles become incredibly predictable when they nearly always end with a Z-Move KO. And it isn't like many people are finding other more roundabout ways to use Z-Moves since there's no point due to how powerful they are."
Kiawe levels a glare at Ash, "How can you say that when you use Z-Moves to win as well?"
"Because it took Guzma nearly winning against me when I had a Z-Move whilst he didn't and the fact Gladion's strategy in my last battle with him was entirely dependant on me using a Z-Move against him, to realize there's something wrong here. I've been slacking off with training my Pokémon during this extended vacation and it's come time for it to bite me in the butt." Soon after saying that, Ash shocks everyone by bringing his hand to his Z-Ring and removing it.
Kiawe stares at Ash fearful of what he is about to do as Ash stares down at the Z-Ring ruefully, "I think part of the reason I first got into this whole Z-Move hype was because in Kalos I never got to experience what Mega Evolution was like from the perspective of someone fighting with a Mega Evolved Pokémon rather than against them. The closest I ever got to that was with Greninja and his Battle Bond Phenomenon, and like with the Z-Moves I let that gimmick be my crutch like Alain is with his Mega Charizard."
Kiawe and Kukui who hadn't realized they had been holding their breathes, let out a sigh as Ash puts the Z-Ring into his backpack instead of throwing it away or smashing it.
"Now I need to actually seriously train my current team and break some bad habits they are developing. Like Rowlet's stupid fixation with that Everstone." Upon stating that Ash turns away fr ol m his classmates and teacher and walks towards Team Skull, Plumeria, and their boss who has found this whole turn of events quite hilarious seeing one Kukui's brats turn on him like this.
Ash stops before Guzma and stares at him critically upon realizing something else off about this whole Z-Move thing, "Here's something else I want everyone to consider: Why does a guy like Guzma whose got strength and his own convictions that he is willing to fight to prove to everyone not have a Z-Ring when those three idiots from Team Rocket do. I mean if it's a worthiness thing then Guzma has got them beat in spades on being worthy. So whose the irresponsible idiot who gave those 3 crooks a Z-Ring to let them better harass people and try to steal other people's Pokémon."
Guzma's laughter stops as that statement sinks in for a moment before an irritated glare settles on his face at the thought some moron Kahuna was really to give those 3 jokes a Z-Ring when he was denied one.
Meanwhile Nanu felt a shudder travel up his spine, whilst suddenly feeling as if his position as a Kahuna and job as a cop might be in jeopardy. Meanwhile Team Rocket contemplated using their Z-Ring to bully some random kids into giving up their Pokémon to them. Team Rocket quickly dismiss that notion since it would be too logical for them to do that as they are criminals. Though they do consider handing the Z-Ring to their boss so the organization can study Z-Moves and see if they can harness and wield that power without needing a Kahuna's approval to get a Z-Ring.
As Kukui considers asking the Kahuna's about who they've given Z-Rings out to and if anybody with a Z-Ring has reported their Z-Ring having gone missing or being stolen, Ash starts walking away, "I'm not necessarily planning on joining Team Skull since I think their outfits wouldn't work for me, but I am going to train my butt off for the League somewhere I can have relative isolation from potential distractions."
Lillie suddenly calls out to Ash not wanting him to go and leave his friends behind, "But what about Pokémon School?"
Ash still facing away from his classmates waves his hand dismissively, "It wasn't like we were really learning much, especially since pretty much everytime class starts Kukui let's us leave 5 minutes later to go on a silly adventure."
To that Kukui cringes as Ash's pretty accurate summation of one of the thing's wrong with their school hits him like a Heavy Slam to the face.
Guzma would have taken another chance to ridicule Kukui for yet another failure of his if he wasn't too busy cursing whoever was the fool that decided to insult him by giving those half wits a Z-Ring.
Ash stops and remains still for a moment, "One last thing guys..."
After waiting a few moments before deciding he has their attention Ash speaks up again, "You guys should ask yourselves about what you are without Z-Moves. At least a as far as being Trainers who battle. I'd reccomend battling for a bit with Z-Moves and seeing just how strong your Pokémon may or may not be when they don't have the assurance of one really powerful attack they can use when pressed into a corner. It's better you guys find out the answer to that question now rather than when you are fighting someone whose Pokémon are either tough enough to tank a Z-Move, or they have a strategy or some sort of method to circumvent or prevent you from using Z-Moves."
Having said his piece Ash leaves his fellow students behind as they go quiet, pondering over that question he left them with, somewhat fearful to not want to arrive at an answer they won't like to acknowledge.
AN: Yeah I really am not a fan of Sun and Moon's formula for conflict resolution where a Z-Move knock out amidst battle ends up tying up all the problems the casts face in an episode with a neat little bow.
I don't care for Team Rocket of all people getting a Z-Ring from Nanu, and I certainly don't care for Lana, Mallow, Lillie, and Sophocles apparently possibly having their character arcs tied to the League as the conclusion for them.
I kind of hope sometime down the line Kukui and the Kahunas actually announce if there is more to do to get in the League than just showing up when it happens. These things are pretty much big sporting events that ramp up the region's economy with bringing in tourists who want to see kid's have their pets beat each other within an inch of their life. You don't let boring weaklings on stage for most of the show if you want to make a big profit as a result of keeping the audience amused.
And I certainly don't care for Rowlet pretty much stagnating his development due to being too stupid to not stop choking on a dumb rock.
If there is anyone I'm rooting for to win this League it's either Guzma or Hau who I'm quite fond of due to Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon giving his character more focus and development. Gladion's too much of an edgy dork for me to not find him winning the League to be hilarious. (Watch the anime make something as ridiculous as that happen.)
Honestly I'm pretty sure if Sinnoh Ash, XY Ash, or even Advanced Ash had to battle SM Ashcs classmates they would wipe the floor with them.
Also Ash's first League Conference apparently left him traumatized and with some angst. Who wouldn't be after the colossal fuck up that happened there. I certainly wouldn't mind a fanfic that deals with the ramifications of Ash being too scared to battle in a stadium again because he's afraid everything will go wrong again, him considering or even going through with dropping Charizard who would not yet 'redeem' himself by starting to listen to Ash, and finally Ash coming to acknowledge the shortcomings he has as a Trainer that Charizard felt were so glaring that he may as well make himself look like a joke on TV in the eyes of countless other strong Pokémon who wouldn't want to fight such an arrogant petulant brat.
So with all that said, Bye-onara!