On the opposite end of the island, another resident of Alola was having bigger problems than awkward restaurant encounters. Alolan Kahuna Nanu woke to find himself laying face-down in the sand. Not something he made a habit of.
Ugh. What happened this time? He let out a groan and got to his feet. He didn’t remember how he got off his feet in the first place, so he also gripped Persian’s Poké Ball, ready to counter someone who might shove him back down again. Then, as he scanned and re-scanned the shoreline, he came to a rather uncomfortable conclusion.
This wasn’t the beach he’d been standing on a moment ago. For one thing, that beach had been filled with people at an evening barbecue. Now it was midday, and there was no one else here except Kukui. If the eccentric professor had been laying in the sand, he’d already gotten up and was looking around, too. Probably had shouted “woo!” several times before Nanu woke up.
“You okay there, Nanu?” Kukui asked.
“Been worse,” Nanu muttered in reply.
“Oh, good,” Kukui said, rubbing his head. He stared all around them once more. The surf was gentle, the ripples of water adding no more than a shush of background noise. Not so much as a Krabby scuttled across the shore. Strange. “This is gonna sound like a dumb question…but where are we and what did we do to get here?”
Nanu raised one of his thick eyebrows. Unless this was all a hallucination from someone’s off-color potato salad, they hadn’t ‘done’ anything to get here. Furthermore, if Kukui would have been thinking straight, he would have remembered that Nanu rarely made any effort to go anywhere. “No clue,” Nanu answered simply.
“Huh.” Kukui kept up with the head-rubbing and began to pace across the sand.
Nanu followed behind. They weren’t in Alola, that much he knew. Sure, there was sand and an ocean, but Alola had that smell and feel of home. And this wasn’t it. “Took a little trip, it seems.”
“Some trip,” Kukui whistled. “Any recollection on what we were doing before we got here? Because I’m drawing a total blank.”
Now there was odd question. “Barbecue?” he said. “Celebrating the 1,000th competition at the Battle Royal Dome?”
Kukui looked at him blankly.
“You were telling everyone how you wished the Masked Royal could have made it?” Nanu prompted.
Kukui continued to stare like Nanu had slipped into Pokémon language. Nanu groaned. In addition to dealing with being teleported to a completely foreign island, now he also had to deal with Kukui’s foggy memory.
Oddly enough, Kukui didn’t seem the least bit upset about his apparent amnesia. He shrugged off Nanu’s prompts and hiked up the beach towards a grassy area with a dirt walking path. “Let’s keep looking around. You think anyone else made it here from Alola?”
“Dunno,” Nanu mumbled as he followed. Just because he remembered what they were doing ten minutes ago didn’t mean he had any additional insights on their predicament.
Kukui stopped short, almost causing Nanu to bump into him. “Oh, no! What if some of the trial goers or trial captains are here? Those poor kids! They must be terrified!”
”What trial goers? You mean like Selene or Elio? Those kids faced down a madwoman tearing the fabric of space apart at her leisure. Pretty sure they can handle a situation like this.” Bringing up Lusamine made Nanu wonder…was she responsible for warping them here? He was pretty sure the lady had changed her ways, but who could say for sure?
In either case, Kukui had stopped listening. He seemed far too involved in shedding tears for the hypothetical disaster in his head. “Well, if we find them, we’ll have to do everything we can to make them feel like they’re back home until we can figure this thing out.”
“How would you do that?” Nanu asked, really wishing he’d kept his mouth shut. “You gonna put a mask on so we can all pretend we don’t recognize you?”
“Ha! Good one there, Nanu. Nah. But maybe we can do something else equally Alolan. Oo, I know! There’s clearly lots of beaches and forests here–” He motioned to the sand behind them and the trees lining the path up ahead. “All we need is a volcano or two, and we could recreate the island trials from back home!”
“Those trials are tedious enough the first time around,” Nanu argued. “Why would they want to do them again?”
“Quit being so negative!” Kukui said, slapping Nanu way too hard on the back. Nanu coughed as he tried to regain his breath. “It’s the perfect plan! Let’s find those kids and talk it out.” He started marching forward just as a cold breeze blew across the sand. Kukui shivered and hugged himself. Nanu rather enjoyed the chill. “M-maybe when the weather gets a bit warmer,” Kukui said.
Nanu just shrugged again. When Kukui was having a brainstorm, it was usually best to respond neutrally to everything he said. Set back but not deterred, Kukui headed farther down the path, towards the lights of a small town on the horizon. Nanu kept himself a good distance behind. Whatever had happened to get them here, he wanted to soak the place in his own way. The slower way. He hadn’t gone far when he heard a voice behind him.
“Well, look who it is.” The voice was a bit scratchy, the tone overconfident, and Nanu would know it anywhere.
“Grimsley,” he said, without bothering to turn around. “Looks like you’re here, too.”
“Yep,” Grimsley chuckled, and Nanu heard the distinct sound of his fancy shoes scrapping across the sand as he approached. “Standing on my own two feet and everything.”
“Now that is interesting,” Nanu agreed. The two old friends finally turned to face each other. Maybe Kukui planning out this island trial recreation wouldn’t be the worst thing. It might even keep the man distracted while Nanu and Grimsley dealt with more important matters. Like what reality-bending Pokémon had brought them here, for starters.
Nanu sighed. As always, everything was a hassle.
“So,” said Paulo as their group walked into the sunlight, leaving the cave behind. “Are the bunch of you a team for the PML?”
“PML?” Koko asked.
“Pokémon Master League. It’s Pasio’s main Pokémon battle tournament,” said Barry. His eyes lit up as he turned to Paulo. “So you’re thinking of competing, too?”
“More than thinking,” Paulo said. “I’ve already got the Tranquility Badge.” He reached into his pocket and fished out a gleaming piece of metal. It was a skinny, four-pointed brown and gold star, its topmost point enclosed by a rounded green hexagon.
Koko’s Pikachu starred at it with glittering eyes. “Pretty…” he said. Then, seeming to catch himself, he added on, “So there’s badges here, too?”
Paulo frowned. “You must really be new. Sure, there’s badges. You need five of them to compete in the PML, and each badge has a couple different leaders who can hand them out. I got my badge from a green-haired waiter-looking guy who used a Simisage,” Paulo said. “But…I only met him by accident, and I haven’t seen him since.”
“Drat,” Koko muttered, while Brock inspected the badge a bit more closely. The brown part of the badge looked like it could be a tree trunk, with the green section representing the lush foliage.
“Hey, why don’t you join our team for the PML, Paulo?” Barry offered. “You seem pretty cool, and I’d bet you’d be an awesome teammate!”
“Because I have a badge?” Paulo asked.
“It doesn’t hurt,” Barry admitted, leaning squarely into Paulo’s personal bubble.
Paulo stepped back. “That’s a nice offer. But I’m…uh, going to look for some of my own team members, actually. Near the, um…” He scanned the area quickly as Barry bounced on his toes, waiting for an answer. “…the volcanoes. Yep. You can always find great trainers near volcanoes! I bet some of them even give out badges, too!”
Misty and Rosa glanced skeptically at the rocky, smoke-spewing peaks.
Barry’s face fell, and he gave a dramatic sigh as he backed off. “Well, I guess we can’t force you to join us,” he said, with a tone that suggested it was an awful shame people couldn’t kidnap their teammates these days.
Relief washed over Paulo’s face. He even walked with them a bit longer until they reached the outskirts of Centra City. Then he pointed towards a towering apartment building in the distance. “I’m headed this way,” he said. “But, yeah…good luck to all of you. I’m sure I’ll see your team around.”
Quartz the Rockruff yipped and followed his trainer, who was moving rather quickly down the street. Brock had to admit, he was a bit disappointed Barry had deterred another rock-type trainer from joining their team. But…were they a PML team? The card Lear gave them had said so, but Brock assumed that was just part of the script. Should they move onto another newcomer? Was Lear even keeping track of anything they did after they agreed to the first task?
Well, Brock supposed, the only way to really find out is to do whatever we feel like and see if Lear argues. It had been a while since he’d competed in a serious tournament, and he had to admit, the concept was appealing. Five people wasn’t a bad start, but they only had four Pokémon types covered. It sure wouldn’t hurt to get a few more people on their side. Preferably people from Kanto who hadn’t lost their memories on the trip here. He couldn’t lose sight of that objective, either. He pulled out the map of Pasio. It showed several habitats, the neatest of which was a lush, green area. He gathered the others and pointed it out. “If the badge is plant-themed somehow, I’m betting this is a good area to look for one of the leaders giving it out.”
“Good idea,” Rosa said. She grinned and pointed upwards. “We’ll be the number one team in no time! Let’s get training, and then…to the forest!”
Brock sighed and put the map away. This was why it was way better for starting gyms to be run by rock-type specialists. Grass-type users had way too much energy.
Despite Ingo’s resolve to help in her search for Lear, Cynthia had not made much progress. Two days of nothing, and today was shaping out to be more of the same. The rising sun warmed the back of her neck as she stared at the expansive bridge in front of her. It reminded her of the Skyarrow Bridge she’d seen on one of her visits to Unova. The walkway extended across sapphire blue waters toward the horizon, leading from the bustle of Centra City to the quiet of the mountain and glacier environments Lear had constructed. She highly doubted she would find the man in such a place, but she was running out of ideas. At least she had worn some comfortable shoes today.
Maybe I should just take the bus to the glaciers, she thought, looking back the way she had come. It’s not as if Lear would stoop to walking across the bridge like a commoner.
As the thought crossed her mind, Cynthia froze. Someone was exiting from the forest, walking back up the road towards town. Someone hauntingly familiar. His Team Galactic uniform certainly stood out, but after all the damage he’d done in Sinnoh, she’d catch his face anywhere.
Cyrus seemed to sense her gaze as he paused and turned towards her. Cynthia’s hand flew to the Poke Ball at her belt. Her finger hovered above the release, ready to send Kommo-o into action the second Cyrus got aggressive. Or perhaps a stronger Pokemon, if it came to that. Her whole body tensed, and her eyes narrowed as she stared him down.
He didn’t call a Pokemon out to battle. Nor did he try to explain himself. Or say anything, really. From the blank look he was giving her, someone walking into the scene might have thought that Cynthia, not Cyrus, was the one looking for a fight in this encounter. Which was simply ridiculous.
“Cyrus,” she said through clenched teeth.
“Cynthia,” he replied. The man actually sounded polite. What was his end game here? Unless…coming to Pasio had changed him somehow? Perhaps made him forget all his plans to destroy the world?
“When did you get here?” she finally asked, relaxing her stance but keeping her senses alert.
“Let me think…a month or so, I believe. Difficult to tell time here.”
She couldn’t disagree with that. His statement might even be accurate. Cyrus did plenty of horrible things, but oddly enough, he rarely lied. “Interesting. And what are you planning to do now that you’re here?”
“Well, let’s see…” He raised his hand and Cynthia almost threw her Poke Ball before she realized that Cyrus was only rubbing his chin in thought. “Without the support of Team Galactic, I can’t make much progress on my goals to create a better world.”
“So you’re still on that,” Cynthia said. When Cyrus didn’t answer, she continued, “You should know that there’s no way I’ll let you carry out any of your plans while you’re here.”
At this, Cyrus smiled, which was more than a little uncomfortable. “I say ‘make a better world,’ you vow to interfere with me at all costs, and yet somehow, I’m the villain? Your mind must be a remarkably contradictory place.” His face returned to its normally stoic expression. “I’ll remind you that I’m not actually doing anything wrong.” His eyes flicked to her belt. Her hand had drifted away from Kommo-o’s Poke Ball and to another one that no doubt looked strange to him. The aqua-green balls were not that common, even among Champions.
“And what Pokemon do you have there?” Cyrus asked, nodding towards it.
Cynthia crossed her arms. A little childish perhaps, but it got her point across. “I left Garchomp at home today,” she said. “My plan is to train a few of my other partners who haven’t had much practice lately.”
“That did not answer my question.”
“I’ve also been on the lookout for Lear,” Cynthia said, ignoring him. “Have you seen him around lately?”
Cyrus lowered his gaze. “I have not. But I wish you luck and a pleasant rest of your day.”
And before she could ask anymore questions, Cyrus put his hands behind his back and marched toward Centra City with the unhindered focus of a Rampardos. Cynthia rested her hand on the aqua-green ball once again. She hadn’t shown this Pokemon to anyone yet, not even Ingo. But perhaps she should get on with training it sooner rather than later.