"You okay with this?" Ash checked.

"Yes!" Meltan agreed.

"Great," Ash decided.

"What are you talking about, kid?" Guzma demanded. "You know I'm going to beat you, right?"

"I don't know, no," Ash answered. "There's no battle where the result's guaranteed, unless only one trainer is willing to give it their all and the other doesn't care what happens – that's when you can have a battle where one trainer is certain to win! But it's Meltan's first League battle, so I wanted to make sure they were okay with the challenge – they've got someone to back them up, so it's a great way to get an introduction to high stakes battling, but it's still a big step."

"Sure, whatever," Guzma said. "Still going to beat you."

Hapu coughed. "If you're quite ready?"

"Sure!" Ash agreed, recalling Meltan. "I'm ready!"

"Yeah, ready too," Guzma answered, holding up his first Pokéball.

"Then send out your Pokémon," Hapu instructed.

Ash sent Meltan right back out again, and Guzma opened with his Golisopod.

"Golisopod is an interesting Pokémon!" Rotom announced, floating up next to Ash. "It has a shell as hard as a diamond."

The electronic Pokémon then turned to Meltan. "Meltan is also an interesting Pokémon. Their diet is, metals! I do not know very much about them, so I have restricted what I say to avoid giving one person an advantage."

"Thanks!" Ash smiled.

"Begin," Hapu said.

"Gyro Ball, Meltan!" Ash ordered immediately, and Meltan's hex-nut began spinning around rapidly. It made a sort of humming whine that rose quickly in pitch.

"First Impression!" Guzma retorted.

Golisopod hammered into Meltan, bouncing off, and the impact sent Meltan sliding backwards across the arena.

"Remember what we talked about, Meltan!" Ash called. "Metalstorm!"

"What kind of move is that?" Guzma asked.

Meltan's hex nut continued spinning, and a little droplet of their metallic structure went up into it. That whipped it into a cloud of metallic fragments that spun around Meltan's part of the arena, tinted a sort of reddish colour.

"I recognize this!" Rotom said, happily. "This is a Steel typed variant move based on Sandstorm! But I do not know what effects it has."

"Well, normally it's a lot like Sandstorm," Ash told the Electric-type, as Golisopod began firing Pin Missile attacks at Meltan rather than enter the cloud. "So there's no real point learning it instead of Sandstorm."

"Liquidation!" Guzma called, and his Bug-type charged in towards Meltan. The Steel-type briefly liquified itself, meaning that Golisopod didn't actually hit Meltan, and instead Ash's Pokémon was in a kind of puddle of water with a puddle of metal inside it.

Then Meltan reformed, picking up their hex nut again, and the Metalstorm changed again – the whole thing flowing through Meltan's hex nut.

"But it makes metal!" Ash resumed. "And Meltan likes eating metal, especially if it comes for free from using a move… and especially if it's a specific metal!"

"Eat copper!" Meltan cheered, starting to crackle and hum.

Ash pointed at Golisopod. "Thunderbolt!"

"Eat this!" Meltan declared, and shot out a Thunderbolt.

"How does he even come up with all these ideas?" Principal Oak asked, leaning over to Burnet.

"As if I know?" Burnet replied, laughing. "My husband's the one who's closest to getting him, and it's not like living in the same house as Ash for this long has given me much in the way of clues… that being said, I think that Meltan picked this one up from Ash's Salazzle."

Golisopod made himself scarce with U-turn, swapping out for Scizor, and the Metalstorm changed colour. Now it was a kind of shiny greyish colour and lustre, though it didn't stop Scizor from darting in to hit Meltan with a Brick Break.

"And… yep," Burnet said, nodding. "Definitely something Salazzle helped with."

"What do you mean?" Principal Oak asked. "You say you haven't got much in the way of clues, but-"

Meltan used Flamethrower, and Scizor briefly had a very bad experience indeed before using U-Turn himself and getting out of the fight as fast as possible.

"See?" Burnet asked. "Meltan makes different metals, corresponding to the effects that Ash found out from giving the little Pokémon different kinds of metal as a treat. Because it makes metal from nowhere, like Sandstorm makes sand from nowhere, it lets Meltan charge up that effect and then unleash it."

"...Professor Burnet, at this point you might well be one of the planet's foremost experts on Ash Ketchum," Principal Oak decided.

"Finally!" Guzma said, about a minute later, after Golisopod had managed to fling Meltan out of the arena entirely.

Hoopa had caught the Steel-type before they fell in the sea, but it wasn't quite clear where Meltan had gone.

"Sure, they're beaten up, but I've still got two Pokémon," Guzma declared. "It took a lot of switching out to stop that hex nut of yours from powering up the right move… but I've still got two Pokémon! So, how are you going to beat both of mine with one of yours?"

Ash boosted Pikachu off his shoulder.

Golisopod's Emergency Exit activated before Pikachu had even landed, switching in Scizor who didn't seem happy either, but then Arc made a ringing noise.

"Hold on a second, please?" Ash asked, taking Arc out of his pocket. "Hi! Oh, hi Clefable. Is this Ultra Guardians business?"

A pause.

"Oh, yeah, that was probably where Hoopa sent them then… well, take some photos and I'll send Rotom over to document it!"

"Document what?" Rotom asked. "Has something happened?"

"Yeah, it turns out we know how Meltan evolve now!" Ash replied, taking Arc away from his ear. "They combine together to make one Melmetal once one of them is strong enough, and I guess that was my one… hey, Clefable? Just let Melmetal know they did a great job, please? I'll call back as soon as the battle's over!"

Pikachu cracked his knuckles.

"I'm not going to enjoy this, am I?" Scizor asked.

"That's really more of a you thing," Pikachu replied. "Honestly, I'd prefer it if this was a fun bit of battle for both of us, but it's not like I can force you to enjoy it."

"You could try not electrocuting me?" Scizor suggested hopefully.

"Yeah, sure," Pikachu agreed. "I've been meaning to practice Brick Break a bit anyway."

True to his word, Pikachu didn't electrocute Scizor.

It didn't actually change the outcome of the battle, but it was still appreciated.

"Yeah, okay, I give," Kiawe said. "Thanks for coming this far with me, guys."

Turtonator mumbled something dizzy sounding, and Kiawe patted the big Dragon-type on the plastron. "I know. And we made it to the semi finals!"

He looked up at Gladion. "So, you know that means you're facing Ash in the finals, right?"

"It's hard not to," Gladion replied.

There was a wait of several minutes before the final, partly to clear up the mess that Lycanroc, Marowak, Umbreon and Turtonator had made of the arena, and Kiawe recalled Turtonator before heading over to the side where his friends were.

Lillie and her brother had been drawn against one another in the Round of 16. Lana had made it to the quarter finals before being knocked out by Guzma. Mallow's Tsareena had had the bad luck of getting on the wrong side of an extremely determined Ribombee in the Round of 16, and Sophocles' Vikavolt had been unable to overcome Kiawe's Charizard in the quarter finals.

And now Kiawe was out too.

Still, they'd all made it through the battle royale, and that was something to be proud of.

"So, question is… is Mr. Ketchum going to win?" Kiawe asked, taking his seat.

"No, the question is, what kind of nonsense is he going to unleash?" Mallow replied. "Whether he wins or Gladion wins is almost incidental."

"Not to Gladion," Lillie pointed out. "But yes, I'm interested to see as well."

She looked over at Magearna. "I'm sorry you didn't get a chance to battle, if you were looking forward to it."

Magearna began doing sign language.

"That's good to know," Lillie smiled, petting Snowy and making the little Ice-type purr with pleasure.

"What did she say?" Sophocles asked.

"She said she didn't mind battling, but that's not the same as wanting to battle," Lillie provided. "Which is a nice attitude, really."

"Since I'm curious," Kiawe said. "What were everyone's plans for if they got to the finals? It's three Pokémon a side for the finals."

He thumped his chest. "I've got Charizard, Turtonator and Marowak, but nobody else here has a team of three."

"If I was facing Gladion, I'd borrow Nebby," Lillie answered. "While, if I was facing Ash, I'd borrow Lillie."

"That would have been confusing," Sophocles said. "My team for the finals would have been Togedemaru, Vikavolt, and Boltund."

"Boltund – oh, right, magic," Kiawe realized. "Now I think about it, that's an option for Mallow and Lana as well, right?"

"Shaay," Shaymin said, prompting Mallow to give her a hug.

"That was my plan," Mallow agreed. "And I know Lana's been getting some practice in at being Quaxly, so I assume that's her plan too."

"Yep!" Lana confirmed.

Sandy wasn't on her lap, too busy running in circles as part of his semi-permanent case of the zoomies, and Lillie giggled.

"If you got around to it," she said. "Did you get the Eevium Z working?"

"That's for me to know, and you to find out next time we do a practice battle," Lana replied.

"So… what do we think is going to happen in the final?" Lusamine asked. "Is there a third-fourth playoff?"

"There wasn't one planned, but we could do one between the final and the special demonstration match," Kukui replied. "As for what's going to happen, well, it's going to be a fine three-on-three battle between two very talented Pokémon trainers with quite amazing teams."

He frowned. "You know, I'm not actually sure which Pokémon either of them will use. It's been relatively rare so far in this tournament to see a trainer using more than a few Pokémon, and Ash's team is very large while even Gladion has at least five different options that I'm aware of."

"Yes, he does," Lusamine confirmed. "He's also got quite a lot of edge, I'm very proud of him… but we're supposed to be commenting on what's going on, aren't we?"

She checked down at her notes. "Professor, how has what's happened so far fit in with what happens in a typical Pokémon League?"

"The battles have been quite different," Kukui replied. "It's actually going to be very interesting comparing the last couple of battles to the previous ones. If the last couple of battles, which involve three- and then six Pokémon a side are of a more reasonable length, or show a better grasp of tactics, it might be worth thinking about making earlier battles in the competition longer… then again, you've got that desire to keep an Alolan feel, and Alolan teams simply aren't as large as teams in other parts of the world. It's a very hard thing to do, and I'm sure the Masked Royal agrees with me that keeping a six-Pokemon competitive team going is something which requires a lot of enrichment!"

Incineroar slid a colour chart across the table to him.

"Hot Pink, Chocolate?" Kukui asked, then saw Incineroar was holding a mug. "Oh – thank you, that would Refresh me nicely."

"Why is it hot pink?" Lusamine asked.

"Promotional deal, I think," Kukui replied. "Diantha was involved, if I recall correctly. Something to do with her next movie, where she's able to transform into an Alolan Ninetales…"

"Did your mom just say she was proud of how edgy Gladion is?" Sophocles asked, still a bit amazed.

"Oh, no…" Lillie mumbled. "That was on TV, too…"


I think coming out of a battle with Pikachu having not been electrocuted is a pretty good outcome, all things considered.