Living with Cynthia proved to be a mostly pleasant experience. The champion’s home was snug but luxurious. Her property on Pasio actually consisted of two micro homes, linked by a single walkway that could be closed off and locked if needed. The outside had a white stucco siding with slate blue French style tiles on the gabled roofs. The interior designer clearly thought this was a brilliant color scheme and carried the design throughout the inner rooms. Blue kitchen cabinets? White granite countertops. White pedestal bathtub? Sparkling blue bath curtains. Ingo quickly came to learn that if anything wasn’t white or blue, it was likely because Cynthia herself had remodeled it.
Being the only person on the grounds, she’d converted one of the tiny homes to her bedroom/living area, and the other to her kitchen and dining space. The second house did have a loft bed she’d never gotten around to moving out, and she assured Ingo that it was his for as long as he needed. He thanked her profusely many times over. Maybe this place wasn’t Unova, but to be found in the company of such a kind person upon his arrival…well, he would cherish what blessings he had.
Cynthia explained that the island (the entire island, apparently) was owned by a man named Lear who was notoriously hard to find and hold a conversation with. But if they did manage to run into him, he’d be Ingo’s best bet of getting home to Unova and reuniting with Emmet. He’d tried searching the island for Emmet first, asking everyone he could, but that hadn’t ended well. People naturally wanted some background. By Ingo’s story, he and his brother had grown up and taken jobs together, been separated for decades, and yet somehow they were still both in their mid-twenties. He’d stopped asking around after that. Cynthia, at least, seemed to believe he was confused without being insane. She’d even promised to help him track down Lear and get him home. A generous offer, considering the hoards of obsessed fans who followed her everywhere.
In the meantime, Ingo focused on re-learning the modern world. He would not look like a fool as he had that first night. When it came to food, he found a store that sold the ingredients for a simple potato mochi. (It wasn’t as good at the Wallflower’s, but then…what was?) Across from the grocer stood a little gift shop whose owner adored Ingo’s hand-made Poke Balls. This time, Ingo showed them off on purpose, noting the fine craftsmanship and asking if the shopkeeper would be willing to stock them. He’d gone home that evening feeling rather confident. Food and a modest income all in one night.
The crafting business had its limits, of course. Poke Balls needed two ingredients to be functional. And although Apricorn trees seemed plentiful in this place, the only Tumblestones in Ingo’s possession were from Hisui. It would take a month, maybe, before he’d have to find a more steady line of work.
And now that month was halfway gone.
It was nearing lunchtime on a cloud-covered Monday when Cynthia arrived home, shaking her umbrella out on a doormat that read, “Wipe Your Claws!”
Ingo looked up from the dining-table-turned-woodworking-space where he’d been polishing a freshly carved Feather Ball. “Back already?” he asked with a nod. Usually when she left the house, she didn’t return until late afternoon. Not that Ingo minded the quiet. Less chances to embarrass himself that way.
“Team Break run-in,” Cynthia mumbled. “Some kids chased them off, though.”
“Perhaps. But all the grunts wanted was a battle with Garchomp. I truly felt bad I couldn’t indulge them. She’s just been so tired lately…” Cynthia removed her Pokemon’s Ultra Ball from her belt, looking it over with furrowed eyebrows. As if it suddenly occurred to her she had an audience (to whatever extent her roommate qualified), she plastered on a smile and returned Garchomp’s Ultra Ball to its usual place. She then picked up her laptop from its resting spot on a plush blue chair, opened it up, and began tapping away. The sound unnerved Ingo, so he set his handiwork aside and cleared the table of the cereal bowl he’d left out that morning. He wasn’t sure at first how his stomach would handle modern foods, but bran flakes and some old-fashioned Moo Moo Milk couldn’t be that devastating. He’d been glad to learn he wasn’t wrong.
He passed Cynthia’s room on the way to the kitchen area and heard the whir and buzz of her printer going off. He barely had time to step aside as she squeezed past him to retrieve the paper and plug the laptop in to charge.
Why doesn’t she put it there to begin with instead of leaving it on a chair? Ingo wondered as he washed and rinsed the bowl. A question for another time.
“Do you have a moment?” Cynthia asked when Ingo re-entered the dining space. “I could use an opinion on this article I’m drafting.”
“Sure,” Ingo said, turning a dining chair to face her. His half-polished Feather Ball sat lopsided behind him, like it was sulking at being ignored. “What’s the topic?”
“Hisui’s Diamond and Pearl clans,” she replied. “It’s for the Sinnoh Historical Society.”
Ingo suddenly wished he had asked about the topic before he agreed to listen. As it was, he straightened and gripped his knees, doing his best to keep a neutral expression. He stole a glance out the window, hoping some rare Pokemon might give him an excuse to bolt from this conversation. Then he remembered this was Pasio–no wild Pokemon existed. He breathed deeply, trying instead to focus on the scent of the Feather Ball’s freshly-carved wood.
Cynthia held out the printer paper and cleared her throat. “The two native clans of Hisui were known as the Diamond and Pearl clans,” she began. “Living in harmony with the land and one another, they–”
Ingo covered his mouth as quickly as possible, but a laugh burst out anyway. It might have sounded like he sneezed into his palm, but from the way Cynthia narrowed her eyes at him, that explanation probably wouldn’t pass.
“Well, if my writing is that bad…” she muttered as she folded the paper in half.
“No, no!” he said. “The writing was fine! It was just…um…”
“Just what?” Cynthia asked.
Ingo pressed his lips together in debate. It couldn’t do much harm to simply correct some of Cynthia’s misinformation. She already thought he was quite the history enthusiast. “Your…facts weren’t wholly accurate,” he finally said.
“And that’s amusing to you?” she asked. Then she unfolded the paper and reread her words. “Wait, what’s inaccurate? I only read a sentence and a half.”
“Um, well…the part about the Diamond and Pearl clans living in harmony, for one–”
“And the part about the clans being native to Hisui. They came there because of their admiration of Palkia and…uh–” What was its new name, again? “Dialga. Which they both called ‘Sinnoh’ at the time.”
“I’m aware of where my region’s own name came from, thank you,” Cynthia said. She made a couple notes on her paper–probably more to double check her sources than to take the word of a random man she’d found at a rainy bus stop two weeks prior. But even after the pen stopped moving, Cynthia stared at the paper. Her fierce gaze darted over her own words, then back to Ingo, then back to the paper once again.
“I don’t understand,” she said. “You haven’t smiled once since you got here. But some error about the Diamond and Pearl clans makes you laugh aloud?”
Oh, no. “I’m, uh…extremely arrogant about my historical knowledge,” Ingo said. “Yes, that’s it. I crack up whenever anyone gets an obscure detail wrong. Ha-ha!” His fake laugh left the room in painfully awkward silence.
“Please tell me acting isn’t part of your regular occupation,” Cynthia said, crossing her arms with a pitying look.
He lowered the brim of his hat. “I-it is not.”
“There’s a relief. So, if you’re not a history snob, what are you? And how do you know so much about Hisui?” Cynthia’s questions pressed into his mind, clouding his search for more excuses. Exactly as he should have expected. She was a researcher, after all.
Ingo kept his grip on his hat, his hand hiding his face as his fingers trembled. Cynthia didn’t push him for answers or even tell him to put his hand down. Which meant she was analyzing, and that was far worse.
“Now that I think about it, you seem to have a flat-out aversion to modern devices,” she went on. “You won’t go near a computer, you retreat to your room when I turn the TV on. You won’t touch anything except the simplest foods, and you even look uncomfortable around a phone.” She held up her own Poryphone as an example.
“But…that’s a camera,” Ingo said before his brain registered that it was, in fact, also a phone.
“Indeed. And do they have cameras ‘where you come from’?” Cynthia asked.
“Yes,” Ingo answered with renewed confidence, since he could be truthful this time.
“But not in phones?”
Ingo’s confidence deflated. “N-no. I mean, yes, sometimes. But my vill–erm, hometown was, uh…very fond of cameras. As separate items from phones.”
“I see. And does this ‘village-erm-hometown’ of yours have an actual name?”
Ingo groaned at being trapped by his own words yet again. Did it really matter what he revealed, if she’d figured him out already? She’d been kind to him when it gained her nothing, and he was still lying about where he’d come from. A tinge of guilt in his chest burned off the last of his reservations.
He pulled off his hat, took a deep breath, and said, “Jubilife Village. I spent most of my time in Jubilife Village.” His fingers worked their way around the hat’s rim. With the hardest words out of the way, the rest came easier. “It was the biggest hub of activity for miles around. But my home was the Pearl Settlement in…you’ll have to forgive me, but I don’t know what the modern equivalent of the Alabaster Icelands is.”
Cynthia’s eyes widened, and her face paled. “S-snowpoint City,” she said. “It hasn’t been called the Alabaster Icelands for at least a hundred years.” Her shaking hands dropped the printout of her article on the floor. Not that Cynthia never dropped things, but she certainly never left them sitting under her feet afterwards. This was decidedly not the reaction of someone who’d been told what they already knew.
What did I just do?
“I-I thought you were going to tell me that you’d spent the past decade marooned on a deserted island or something,” Cynthia said. “Or that you were part of some secret society that shunned modern technology! Now you’re telling me, you’re…what? A centuries-old vampire or something?”
“What?” Ingo’s hat fell to the floor. Seemed both of them were dropping things now. “Don’t be ridiculous! I time-traveled.”
“Vampires are ridiculous, but time-travel is normal?”
“Considering Diamond’s Sinnoh purportedly invented time, yes!”
She stared at him a good long while. “You really do call Dialga ‘Sinnoh’, don’t you?”
“I call Palkia ‘Sinnoh’ if I don’t watch myself,” he said as he bent to pick his hat up. “Pearl Clan. Remember?”
She nodded solemnly, which almost had Ingo breaking into awkward laughter again. All his other strange behavior she could somehow pass off or explain away. But the way he defaulted to “Sinnoh” rather than “Palkia” or “Dialga” for the two Primordial Chaos members? That was the oddity that convinced her of his story?
“I’m…sorry if I made you uncomfortable,” Ingo said. He wasn’t sure what he’d done exactly, but Cynthia still looked pale and shaky from speaking with him, so surely that warranted an apology of some kind.
“I can’t believe that going to your room is all you did when I turned the TV on,” Cynthia said, lost in her thoughts and likely not hearing him. “Seeing something like that all of a sudden…must have terrified you.”
“Not so much. I had a home in Unova before I came to Hisui,” Ingo said. “A modern home, I mean. I lost my memories of it when I woke up in the Pearl Clan settlement, but I seemed to have regained all those by coming here.”
“Hold on. You’ve time-traveled twice?”
Ingo returned his hat to his head. “I’ve had a rough couple of decades, all right?”
“Clearly.” Cynthia seemed to finally remember her paper and scooped it up from the floor. She stared absently at it a moment before she made eye contact again. “I…gather you don’t freely share this information.”
“That is my preference. I’m hoping for your discretion here.”
“I see. Well, your secret’s safe with me. But if you don’t mind…” Cynthia rose in a flurry of movement. In mere seconds, she reopened the paper, rested it on a random book from the mounted shelf behind her, and yanked a pen from her pocket. She plopped back down, leaning forward with pen poised. “….tell me about this bickering between the clans. I want all the juicy details!”
Ingo chucked and didn’t even hide it this time. Someone was asking him to discuss all the lost figures of Hisui with no counterpoint? Melli would have fainted at the thought.