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Milk Run

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“Are we out of fucking milk again?!”

Every Skull Grunt in Po Town winced at the loud exclamation coming from the hole in the upper floor of the Shady House, all too familiar with just what that yelling entailed and who it was coming from. Even the Grunts on other islands, far out of earshot of the voice, felt a chill run up their back, and all of them were fairly certain of why.

Inside the house itself, Guzma stared into the fridge like he was trying to emulate a Pokemon and use Laser Focus, and it was almost certain that if he lashed out afterwards, it would in fact be a critical hit. Despite that, however, Plumeria stood nonplussed next to him, arms crossed over her chest and head tilted, clearly unimpressed with the display. 

“That’s kinda what you get when you tell everyone to up and leave, dummy,” she commented sardonically. 

Guzma whirled around, slamming the fridge door shut. “There’s still some living here, Plumes. They gotta know that when they use up all the milk, they gotta keep it restocked. This is still my house too, and no one uses up big bad Guzma’s fucking milk! What else am I gonna put in my Cheerios?” He strode past her, throwing his hands up in the air as he looked at the bowl of cereal sitting on the countertop, bone dry and now, as far as Guzma was concerned, completely inedible.

Plumeria raised an eyebrow. “You can still eat them without the milk.” At Guzma’s glare, she rolled her eyes. “Fine, fine, you big baby. If you’re so big and bad and can beat down so many Trainers, why don’t you go the store yourself with your own money, and buy some more milk?”

“Because,” and Guzma stressed that word as much as physically possible, “I wasn’t the last one to use it. These Grunts really gotta start paying up, you know? Team Skull ain’t a charity case.” Despite himself, he reached for his bowl of cereal and a spoon, dipping it in before sticking the Cheerios into his mouth. Ugh. Super dry and bland.

“I’m...pretty sure that’s actually what this team is,” Plumeria scoffed. “You know, takin’ in the malcontents of Alola, giving ‘em a home away from the Tapu and the Trials? Or did you forget your friggin’ morality just over a carton of milk.” Showing that she was teasing, she lightly punched Guzma’s arm. Still enough to make the tall man wince, but not so as to drop his terrible cereal.

Guzma grunted over yet another mouthful, still eating despite his complaints and only serving to prove Plumeria right that he was, in fact, a big ol’ baby. He swallowed, ignoring the itchiness of dry Cheerios sliding down his throat, before making a thoughtful noise. “You know what, Plumes?” he said, eyes lighting up. “You got a point. If we’re really gonna give back to what’s left of Team Skull, we oughta teach ‘em to make money.”

“What, like a get-rich-quick scheme? ‘Cuz we try those regularly,” Plumeria replied, not getting where Guzma was going with this. 

“Nah, nah, nothing like that,” Guzma replied, setting his bowl back down on the counter. He retained the spoon, waving it in the air a bit as he outlined his idea. “Hear me out. The trials, right? They teach kids about Alola itself, and it’s pretty good that some of our Grunts have gone to do them, especially with the way that short girl is running things now. But! There’s something that comes before the trials for a lot of kids in Alola, at least over on Melemele. The trainer’s school.”

Plumeria considered it for a second. “So you’re saying you wanna teach the Grunts how to actually battle, so they can make their own money and not get their butts whooped and have us swoop in and save ‘em?”

“Precisely.”

Despite herself, Plumeria guffawed quite suddenly, much to Guzma’s consternation. He’d thought it was a pretty good idea, himself. She shook her head, finally ceasing laughing. “Boss, those kids don’t know a Z-Move from the tail end of a Rattatta. I love my little siblings, but man, if they could battle worth anything we wouldn’t even need Team Skull. Strength in numbers.”

Guzma shrugged. “Worth a shot. And could be a little funny, at the very least.”

“I’ll give you that,” Plumeria replied, nodding. “Alright, I’ll round up whoever’s in town and we can head out somewhere.”

Within a relatively short amount of time, Plumeria had put out the word and gathered up as many Skull Grunts that were still hanging around Po Town as she could find. With Guzma leading them, they marched out of the town’s walls and into the surrounding area of Route 17, and with the immediate chaos that encapsulated everything Team Skull inherently was, set about trying to improve their battling skills, much to the shock of the trainers on the route.

Guzma and Plumeria, for their parts, strode about, trying to direct and advise the less-powerful members of Team Skull on type matchups, abilities, and proper leveling techniques. Sure, as strong as they were, they couldn’t properly articulate everything they knew about battling and raising Pokemon (Plumeria having tried to explain Effort Values for a solid ten minutes to one Grunt who just was not getting it at all), but there was a clear effort being made by the boss and admin of Team Skull. The duo watched proudly as one Grunt used her Bisharp to catch a Fearow, cheered as another Grunt went toe-to-toe with a trainer’s Oricorio, and consoled yet a third Grunt as he lost to a Pangoro summoned by a Pancham. All in all, the entire group got a heavy workout, one they hadn’t gotten since the now-champion Moon had rolled into town and laid Team Skull flat.

It was hours into the day, as Plumeria was explaining to one Grunt that his Grimer wouldn’t be weak to Crabrawler’s Fighting-type attacks due to its part-Poison nature, that the aforementioned Champion came swooping in on a Ride Charizard. Plumeria and Guzma watched her come in, each raising their eyebrow in mild questioning. The young girl ably hopped off her steed, gave it a quick pat on the snout, and let it go as she turned to the members of Team Skull who were now looking at her, more than a few with mild apprehension. “What’s going on here?” Moon asked, turning to look at Guzma, who snorted in response.

“None of your business, brat. Beat it.”

“No, I don’t think I will,” Moon answered with her smuggest smile. “I got reports of Team Skull activity over here, and Nanu’s over on Poni. My job as Champion is to deal with the problems that the Kahunas are too busy to do.” She pulled out a spherical object from her bag, and Plumeria suppressed a hiss at noticing it was a Master Ball, the one pretty much everyone in the region knew contained Moon’s pet Solgaleo. “That is,” the young girl said in a singsong tone, “if you don’t want me to beat you down, ‘big bad’ Guzma.”

Guzma stepped forward aggressively, and it was only fast movement on Plumeria’s part that intercepted him and prevented the team’s leader from getting them in way, way over their heads. “Cool it,” she warned him with a hand over his chest, blocking him from approaching any further. He glared down at her, but she paid him no mind, focusing her attention on Moon. “Listen, kid, we’re just doing some training. Figured it was time to get these kids used to battling like the pros.”

“That and the boss wanted us to raise milk money!” one daring Grunt called from the crowd, before shrinking into the back of the group when Guzma’s head whipped around to glare at them as well. Maybe he wasn’t so good at putting the fear of Arceus into the twerp annoying them, but he could still exercise some power over the dorks he called a team. 

“Is that so?” Moon looked inquisitive for a second, before tucking the Master Ball back into her bag. Still, however, she pulled out another two PokeBalls, one the base variant and the other a Great Ball. She gave a look, sizing up Guzma and Plumeria. “In that case, why don’t we show these chumps how it’s done? Heck, you beat me for once, and I’ll give you enough cash to give everyone in Po Town their own jug of milk.” She smirked confidently. 

Plumeria and Guzma glanced at each other cautiously, locking eyes before turning their gazes back to Moon. “And if we lose?” Plumeria asked, Guzma too prideful to.

“Eh, just get back in Po Town if you do,” Moon replied. “Wait’ll Nanu gives you permission to come out, I guess.” 

“Fuck that,” Guzma replied sharply, before Plumeria gave him a sharp elbow to the gut for swearing in front of a kid. Like he hadn’t heard worse from said kid’s mouth! Regardless, he pulled out a ball of his own, summoning Golisopod, Plumeria following with Salazzle. Moon grinned, responding by calling out two Pokemon of her own: Decidueye and Golem.

From there, all bets were off, as passing trainer and Skull Grunt alike watched the professionals at work. Golisopod, as was its nature, immediately blasted into battle with its First Impression attack. Moon watched carefully, timing it perfectly so that Decidueye would use Sucker Punch to get out of the way, targeting Salazzle instead. The Toxic Lizard Pokemon took the blow, but breathed flames into Decidueye’s face, causing it to stumble back. Behind the two dueling Pokemon, Golem finally took action, Moon calling for a Thunder Punch. To Guzma and Plumeria’s surprise, however, Golem did not target the Electric-weak Golisopod, instead opting to land a solid blow on Salazzle. Decidueye, for its part, recovered from its stumble and adeptly vaulted over the rotund Rock-type Pokemon to cover its back.

Even though Moon had taken the early lead, however, Guzma and Plumeria were not ones to back down easily. They saw through her attempts to corner Salazzle and eliminate it first. The former of the duo called for his Golisopod’s Sucker Punch attack, while the latter had her Pokemon guard itself with Protect. Moon decided not to match Golisopod’s Sucker Punch with Decidueye’s own, opting instead for the Grass-type to draw a Spirit Shackle arrow, sending the projectile flying into the charging Golisopod’s face. It did decent damage, but the super-effective Dark-type attack did more right back to Decidueye.

“You have been practicing,” Moon admitted, giving her opponents credit. Their counterplay was something to be admired, and she could understand just why so many impressionable youths were inspired by Guzma and Plumeria. That said, it wasn’t like she didn’t have her strategies and backup strategies all in mind, with the Z-Crystal she had in mind for this battle already in one palm. She directed Golem to risk the Stone Edge against Golisopod, carefully aiming its cannon to arc over Decidueye, using its back to protect its partner from any incoming moves from Salazzle.

Unfortunately for Moon, however, the Rock-type attack missed, and Plumeria directed Salazzle to use Dragon Pulse against Golem. Not super-effective, but certainly more dangerous to the Alolan Megaton Pokemon. Guzma’s Golisopod tried to follow up the pressure on Golem with a Waterfall, but the blow was blocked by Decidueye’s Leaf Blade. The two held their position for a second, one armor-plated claw against the blade-like feathers lining Decidueye’s arm, before breaking apart. Moon’s starter deftly dashed over Guzma’s, and held in the air for a moment. Almost instinctively, Golem tucked into itself, and instantly Plumeria saw what Moon was going for, eyes widening and arms leaping into action. The two girls’ motions mirrored each other, with some small differences, before ending on a definitive pose.

A Z-Pose for each: one for the Decidium-Z, and the other for the Poisonium-Z.

A huge wave of acid flooded out of Salazzle, defying gravity as it made its way towards Decidueye. Bound to its own Z-Move, Decidueye summoned arrows to ring around its body, before it dove towards Salazzle. It flew through the acid, weathering the extreme blow on its body, and with its projectiles crashed into the Fire and Poison-type. When the sky cleared, neither could stand.

Moon and Plumeria recalled their fainted Pokemon with individual words of thanks, even as the Grunts booed and the passing trainers cheered. Plumeria graciously stepped aside, as Guzma and Moon refocused on each other. It was a dangerous game, now: Moon’s Golem and Guzma’s Golisopod both had type advantages against one another.

Luckily for the former, however, she’d planned it out. After all, a Z-Move like Sinister Arrow Raid still wasn’t technically as powerful as her last move on Golem, though it was as equally limited in usage. She also realized that Golisopod was getting close to Emergency Exit’s range, and she didn’t want any awkward interruptions to her fun. With a wave of her arm, Moon cried for Golem to use Explosion, even as Golisopod brought down a Brick Break on its head.

The crowd erupted into applause, and as Guzma recalled his Golisopod, more than slightly fuming, he and Plumeria were rushed by Grunts clambering to offer affection. “Hey, what gives? We lost, you dummies,” he chastised the crowd swarming him, but even he couldn’t resist the sheer swarms of hugs and cries of praise. He glanced at Moon, who was smiling, softer than earlier but still entirely unhelpful.

“You still managed to get the champ to KO her own Pokemon!” one Grunt said jubilantly. “And that battle was tight, yo!”

Guzma blinked, before grinning. “I suppose it was!” He basked in the adulation. “Come on, who wants to learn about which Pokemon use Sucker Punch?!” He led the Grunts back into Po Town’s walls, a mass of them following him like Rockruffs to their mother Lycanroc, leaving behind Moon and Plumeria.

The latter was about to shoot the younger girl a glare, but paused when Moon approached her, pulling out some bills. Not even a lot out of Moon’s wallet, but enough to last a while if used right. The Team Skull Admin raised an eye. “You won.”

Moon shrugged. “Yeah, but I do think you guys were doing good for once, and if it wasn’t entirely official, it would’ve been a draw.” She chuckled. “Maybe you’re not so bad when you’re not working for a piece of shit like Lusamine.”

Plumeria took the money and counted it, before tucking it away herself. She’d head out to the store, rather than back into town. “Didn’t your mother ever tell you to watch your language?”

“Plenty of times,” Moon grinned, pulling out her Ride Pager next and summoning yet another Charizard. As she boarded it, she spoke. “Come up to Lanakila sometime, okay? That was the most interesting battle I’ve had in ages.”

Plumeria nodded, and the two powerful trainers went their separate ways from the walls outside Po Town, each smiling at the raucous party they could already hear starting up again. Team Skull may have been a nuisance at times, but it wouldn’t be Alola without them.