“Kahuna Hala’s and Brawly’s Hariyama seem incredibly evenly matched as they grapple fiercely with one anoth- oh?! OH?! Is the Alolan Haryiama LIFTING ITS OPPONENT UP?! LADIES AND GENT-”
The room went silent as Artur closed the tab. His hand tousled his hair as he constantly refreshed his email. Nothing.
He pulled his phone from his pocket, his sweaty grip almost letting it fall to the floor. Again, nothing, as if checking his phone would make the wait any less shorter.
His feet maneuvered dexterously across the clothes, books, and notebooks scattered haphazardly on the floor. The teen sprung onto his bed, exhaling deeply into his Pyukumuku pillow. He lay there, his heart desperately flopping in his chest like one of the many, many harmed Magikarp his parents routinely nursed back to health.
A notification buzz awoke him from his reverie.
His fingers danced across his phone, opening an email that just popped up in the notifications bar. Its topic read plainly yet foreboding: “Your Ever Grande University decision is enclosed within.”
His heart pounded incessantly, trying to burst its way out of his chest. He clicked the link in the body of the email.
“I am very sorry to let you know that we are currently unable to offer you admission to Ever Grande University. Please know this does not reflect on the quality of your application or you as a student. Thank you for applying to our institution, and we wish you the best in all your future endeavors.”
His heart sank into the depths of the globe. Breathing deeply, he restrained himself from throwing his phone and placed it on his dresser.
Perry, Artur’s older brother, knocked twice on the door, poking his head in cautiously. He was taller than his sibling and had a harsher face, with thicker eyebrows and sharper cheek and chin bones. “Hey, I heard EGU came out… You ok, Art?”
Perry got a faceful of Totodile plush.
"Please, go away." A frown scrawled itself across his face.
"All right. If you're hungry, dinner's in a bit. Come down if you want."
Perry walked up to his younger brother, having a bit more trouble traversing the mess, comforting him with a hug. Art recoiled. "You'll go where you need to be."
Art pushed his brother away. "Easy for you to say," he scoffed between tears.
Perry abruptly crossed his arms over his chest, trying his best to obscure the Ever Grande U logo on his shirt.
"Ah, sorry about that. I expected... happier news." He took off his shirt and threw it into the mess. "Better?"
"Uh. Kinda? I dunno." He laughed awkwardly, thumbing his eyes to wipe the tears away.
"Come on. You better eat something. Mom made a kickass Berry fricassee tonight."
With a reluctant nod and a pat on the back, the duo walked past framed pictures of a beaming family posing with a variety of aquatic Pokemon on their way to the dining room.
The circle dinner table was stacked high with files and books, as usual. The two began clearing it a little, revealing the its light brown surface.
"Clear the table, guys! Dinner's coming in piping hot!"
Their mother came in, teeth clenched, wincing while holding the pan with her bare hands. She gingerly placed it in the middle of the table while her husband came in with plates and cups. A Politoed folllowed close behind with a pitcher of Nomelade.
His father thanked the Pokemon without turning around. "Thanks, Rene! A big help, as usual."
"Poli!" he replied.
After the Water type set the pitcher, and all five of them sat down, Art broke the news.
"Oh, honey, you'll be all right," his mom commented. "You applied to another school, though! You'll be fine wherever you go."
"Yeah, but it's Almia. Don't get me wrong, great school in its own regard, but I have issues with it. Almia's a Ranger school, mostly... so I dunno what that'll do to my prospects of being picked up by a pro Trainer team. I think it's everything but a Trainer school." He played with his food as he spoke, lifting Berry chunks and letting them splash back into the sauce.
"Ah, but that's where you're wrong, kiddo!" his father chirped, raising a finger. "Almia's a great place to study! Don't sleep on 'em; just because they're no big shot Ever Grande or Indigo doesn't mean you can't count 'em out. All U-Almians I know became accomplished professionals-"
"Yeah, but how many of those became top-ranked Trainers?" Art retorted.
"Oh. Right. That was what you were talking about."
"Probably not the best of times to sound like a brochure, Santos," suggested Art's mom.
Art got up and picked up his plate. "I'll finish up in my room if you don't mind. I got a bit to mull over."
Once in his room, he sat down heavily on his bed. His slow munching was interrupted by Rene's sudden appearance.
He cracked a smile. "If it isn't the resident troublemaker. What'd you want?"
The Politoed plopped himself down next to him, curling his vibrant green body against the teen. "Agh. Seems I'm trapped." Rene let out a deep, croaky purr, content with his prisoner.
Art played with Rene's hair. "I'll miss you out there, Rene. You're the best 'Toed ever."
A shake awoke him from his slumber. “Hey, kid,” Perry whispered. “We’re here.”
Art shifted in his window seat. A forested expanse stretched before him, suddenly cut off by a harsh outcrop of mountains. Hues of brown, gray, and white washed over the jagged peaks. Towns and winding roads broke up the lush vegetation, but the wilderness was otherwise untouched. He sighed. At the very least, Almia was pretty.
Art glanced cursorily around the plane, taking note of the many other kids his age: some slept as he did, others chatted cheerily with their companions, and a few were engrossed in a book. A peculiar feeling washed over him. Soon, he realized, he’d know a good number of these other people.
They landed in a hangar on the outside of the university grounds. Planes were scattered about its exterior, people and Pokémon alike helping the new students unload. Once the plane stopped on the makeshift tarmac, he eagerly unbuckled himself and jumped up, hitting his head in the process.
“Take it easy, Art, you don’t wanna knock yourself out before even seeing your dorm room,” his dad quipped.
Once off the plane, Art picked up the two ponderous suitcases filled with things his parents insisted he bring. His parents were the paragons of simplicity, though, each with a small duffel bag that carried only a few changes of clothes and the most basic of toiletries. Perry brought even less, just his regular Trainer bag.
An amiable Primeape helped Art with his bags. The five of them climbed up the stairs leading to the main campus on the top of the plateau. Five tall buildings dominated the quad, with the Main Building, the old Ranger School, standing tall at the very end of campus.
“They sure do train these bellhops well around here. Not a whit of complaining from that one…” his mother remarked. “Imagine René doing this work.” Art and Perry snickered; his dad guffawed.
An older student waved them over to the building on the right closest to the stairs. “Dorms are this way!!” she yelled. “Welcome to campus!” she beamed as she held the door open for the Fighting-type.
The lobby teemed with people and Pokémon. New students posed as their parents snapped photos, and more than a few parents and students were teary-eyed. To the left of the entrance were some beanbag chairs; students who’d already settled in sat there, talking of home, some with their own Pokémon out. A Skitty mewled happily, as it swatted an annoyed Azumarill’s tail. One of the students nudged another and pointed to Perry, whispering excitedly. Perry smiled, but Art just gritted his teeth.
To the right of the entrance, a smattering of tables with a few rolling whiteboards. A student had doodled a smiling Wigglytuff in marker on one of them, the balloon Pokémon warmly welcoming all the first year students.
A little behind the tables was a long reception desk, currently staffed by five or six students who helped students check in. A queue stood before each one. Opposite the desk, an enormous flat screen television hung over a dormant fireplace, surrounded with couches.
“I think this is the place. Thank you, Primeape,” Art said. It huffed, putting down the luggage. Art reached into his bag, and offered it a Sitrus Berry. It gladly took it and snacked on it before heading out once more, to assist whatever other newcomers had arrived.
Art and his family took a spot in the shortest queue. It wasn’t long before his turn came.
“Name, please?” the student at the desk asked. His badge had a Chatot cheerily proclaiming, “Hi, my name is Miguel!”
“Artur, A-r-t-u-r,” he began. The student typed in his name as he said it.
“Ah, gotcha. Battle major?” Miguel cut him off.
“Just a second!” he flashed a smile. “Can someone get me the box for the ‘A’s?” he asked one of the others at the desk. Once he received it, he rifled through it until he pulled out a small white envelope no bigger than the palm of Art’s hand. “You’re on the third floor. Your resident assistant is Kiki, she’s over there,” he pointed to a green-haired girl at the right end of the desk, “and I believe your roommate’s already checked in. We have a dinner for the new arrivals at 6, don’t forget! Welcome to Almia University!” He flashed a smile he had certainly smiled a hundred times during the course of the day, yet it seemed no less cheerful.
Art thanked him and headed to the elevators at the far left of the room. Those, too, were very crowded, but the volunteers once again ensured the drop-off process was smooth. He and his family climbed on, telling the girl at the elevator to please press three, thanks.
They stepped out into a hallway that stretched to their left and to their right. A sign noted the rooms numbered 300 through 320 were to the left, while 321 through 340 were to the right. The family headed left, and saw that another hallway ran perpendicular to the one they were now walking down.
A short walk later down that hall and they stood in front of room 314. Two nametags were on the door: his own, adorned with an Araquanid, and his roommate’s, decorated with a Reuniculus. Art knocked, to see if his roommate was there.
“A moment,” a voice said.
A tall bespectacled boy opened the door. His arms were subtly muscled, and the veins in his arm bulged.
“Cyrio, a pleasure,” he said, extending his hand.
“Artur, but you can call me Art.” He shook his hand solidly.
“Pleasure to meet you, Cyrio,” his dad interrupted as he pushed through his family. He extended his hand, and held Cyrio’s in a vice grip.
“Pleasure,” Cyrio blurted out awkwardly.
The family walked into the room. It was sparsely furnished: two beds, on at each wall, a desk at the foot of each bed, a chair for each desk. The bed on the right was full of orderly stacks of clothes and school supplies. Art and his own family helped him lug his own suitcases up to the other bed, making quick work of the luggage.
“So,” Art started nervously, cautiously breaking the ice, “you’re a Genetics major, right?”
“Oh, like Eggs?” his dad piped up.
“Geneggtics…” Santos finished, before Cyrio could answer.
“Santos, please,” Art’s mom said under her breath. She rubbed her forehead exasperatedly.
Cyrio smiled. “Kind of. It’s the theoretical aspect. My younger siblings all love Eggs and babies and all that. I’m not such a big fan myself.”
“I can relate a little,” Perry said through a smirk.
Cyrio adjusted his glasses as he studied Perry. “Sorry for staring, but I feel I’ve seen you before somewhere.”
Perry cleared his throat. “Where ya from?”
“That explains it. I go to EGU.”
“Ah, you’re always in the tournaments. Nice to make your acquaintance, then.”
Art’s brother tensed up, his left eye twitching a little. It was very unusual for Perry to meet someone who didn’t hold him in high regard.
“You got any Pokémon, Cyrio?” Art’s mom asked.
“See for yourself.”
A Duosion burst out in a flash of light. She gurgled happily in her cytoplasm.
“This is Mito,” Cyrio beamed, “I’ve had her since the eighth grade. She’s been my faithful lab assistant ever since.”
Art’s mom squished the Psychic-type’s cheek-adjacent glob excitedly.
“Well, aren’t you just an adorable little lady?”
His dad’s face was scrunched up, clearly put off by the slime.
“L-leave the little blob alone, okay, Marta?”
She rolled her eyes at him and kept playing with Mito. The Duosion bounced at her pokes.
“We should get going, I think. Art needs to settle in, and we need to check into our hotel at Pueltown.”
Art’s parents hugged him for a long while, tears welling in their eyes.
“Be good, okay, sweetie?” his mom said, giving him one last hug.
“Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do, champ.”
Art smiled, holding back his own tears. “Sure will, Dad.”
Perry clamped a hand on his little brother’s shoulder. “This is where you’re supposed to be. Trust me. Knock ‘em dead, kid.”
A little while after they left, someone knocked on the door. Cyrio opened it, and there stood the green-haired girl from the registration desk, now clad in the Rangers’ trademark red jacket and accompanied by a Sawsbuck. The proud green leaves that adorned it during the summer were already drooping, the foliage on its head mottled with shades of orange.
“Hi, Cyrio, Art, I’m Kiki, your RA! This is my partner Serra. We’re right down the hall in 300. Dropping by just to remind you guys again that the Rookie Dinner’s at 6 in the Basement Pavilion! I’m really excited to get to know you over the course of this year.”
Cyrio thanked her and closed the door. No doubt Kiki was going to the next room over to deliver the same speech over to their neighbors.
“Hey, by any chance, do you know who’s in the room next to us?”
Cyrio scribbled something into a planner. “A couple of girls, Bea and Mya.” He glanced at his watch. “Ah, would you look at the time? I better start getting ready for the dinner.”
“What’s your point?"
Cyrio stood impatiently outside of his room. “Artur, we’re going to be late!” he admonished as he tugged at the sleeves of his dark blue sports coat. Under it, he wore a pressed white button-down, cream khakis, and brown loafers.
Art fiddled hastily with his hair as he left the room. He wore a crumpled, untucked sky-blue polo, jeans, and bright red sneakers. Cyrio looked him up and down.
“You know, there’s a laundry room down the hall.” They started to the elevators.
“First off, Art’s fine, only my parents call me Artur. Second, I did not know that. Would’ve preferred a heads-up a little earlier.”
Cyrio shrugged. “My apologies.”
First-years were streaming through the hallways, a few of them alone. A sizeable queue waited by the elevator.
“Ugh, let’s take the stairs,” Art complained.
“Why? It’s just a couple of extra minutes.”
“I’m hungry, Cyrio. The flight in from Alola was a tad too long for my tastes.”
They went down the staircase, Art leading the way.
“So, you said you’re an older brother? How many siblings?”
“Four. They’ve all had summer jobs at the Daycare Center. That’s near Verdanturf, if you’ve ever been to Hoenn. How about you, do you have any other siblings besides Perry?”
“Nope. Just us and my parents. My folks’re marine biologists in Hau’oli. They work at an aquarium there, but they’re called on for investigations all across Alola.”
“Ah, wow! That sounds incredible! I’d love to talk to them, or even just get their cards, or-”
“Chill, Cyrio. We’re roommates, I can give you their contact info whenever.”
They arrived at the bottom of the staircase, opening the double doors and spilling into a hallway overflowing with students. Art recognized the two staff members at the door from the welcome desk earlier in the desk.
Both repeated the same phrase to every other kid who walked past. “Welcome! Please look for the tablecard that indicates your dorm section.”
Eight long tables were laid out in two columns in front of the Pavilion’s stage. A lonely podium sat onstage, emblazoned with Almia U’s logo: the top view of a Ranger’s Capture Disc adorned with a stylized A and U.