Rosa crossed her arms as she, N, Emmet, and Lear stood in a misshaped square with Lear looking up and down at the standout attire of Pasio’s newest visitor.
“So…” he said slowly. “This man is, um…”
“This is Emmet, the Subway Boss!” Rosa said for at least the third time, motioning at Emmet’s obvious subway uniform. Lear remained quiet as he locked a fierce gaze on Emmet, and Rosa couldn’t figure out for the life of her what his issue was. If nothing else, he was making introductions very awkward.
“You look familiar,” Lear finally said. Rosa rolled her eyes. Somehow the man recognized who ran the Unovan battle facility, but ten minutes ago, he’d blanked on which evil team built an underground castle beneath their Pokémon League?
“What I mean to say,” Lear added after a moment. “Is that even though I’ve never seen you or anyone who looks like you, I can tell you’re a great trainer! I’d be happy to give you a place to stay for a while as you get settled here in Pasio.”
Emmet nodded, still keeping his signature smile, and made a kind of flourish with his hand. “You certainly have a unique way of greeting people. But I’d be a hypocrite to complain, I suppose.”
Rosa gasped and held her hands up to her ears. Emmet’s voice didn’t sound like it came from his vocal chords. She could feel it echoing directly into her head. From the way Lear staggered back, she could only guess he had experienced the same sensation. N remained relatively unfazed. Probably because he heard Pokémon voices in his head all the time. For Rosa and Lear, however, the experience was both new and uncomfortable.
“You didn’t mention this guy’s a telepath,” Lear hissed to Rosa, leaning in towards her once he’d composed himself.
“He isn’t!” Rosa said. Not very quietly, which sort of undermined Lear’s approach, but she had other concerns at the moment. She turned to Emmet. “At least, I don’t remember you having telepathy in Unova. Did you?”
“Definitely not,” Emmet replied, using the same method as before.
Confident her ears weren’t playing tricks on her, Rosa dropped her hands to her sides.
N stepped forward. “Interesting. So this is something that happened when you arrived on Pasio?”
“And…are you able to speak normally?” N asked.
Emmet shook his head. “It appears not. As far as I can tell, any words I run through my head with the intent of speaking aloud simply enter the thoughts of whoever I meant to speak to.”
“Oh, dear,” Rosa said. It sounded a bit on the scary side to her, but Emmet’s voice chuckled in her mind.
“I don’t believe it’s any cause for concern. This method doesn’t seem limited in who I can use it on. So aside from getting used to it–and others getting used to me, I suppose–I’m at no disadvantage here.”
Rosa remained unconvinced. She looked rapidly between Emmet, N, and Lear, hoping to get some sort of clue as to how she should react to this. It was great that Emmet wasn’t upset or anything, but he was so calm, it unnerved her. She would be pretty freaked out in his shoes. N was stroking his chin, his eyes glazed over like his thoughts were a million miles away. And all Lear seemed to care about was whether or not Rosa made him look bad.
“Seems this island can change people on their arrival quite a bit,” N finally said, putting an end to the awkward silence.
“Did Hoopa tell you that?” Rosa asked.
N startled and pulled down the brim of his hat while Hoopa tilted its head in confusion. “Hoopa, erm…mentioned the scope of his powers,” N said. “So, logically, it followed that those powers must have caused this change.”
“I…guess so,” Rosa said.
N made a quick, haphazard bow. “I’ll talk to some of the Pokémon around town. See if they know anyone else who’s had a similar experience. Sorry for walking out so suddenly, but if you’ll please excuse me.” With that, he hurried alongside the shore, roughly in the direction he’d indicated he was staying on Pasio, though Rosa couldn’t remember for sure. She watched him for a while, and she could have sworn he kept glancing over his shoulder. Why? To make sure he wasn’t being followed? Was there something at his home he didn’t want others to see? Or maybe he was heading somewhere entirely different…
Rosa shook her head. There were enough odd things happening right in her face. She didn’t need to let her imagination run wild and make up new ones.
While she reigned in the conspiracy theories, Emmet turned to Lear. “If you’re sincere in your offer of hospitality, I certainly don’t have anywhere else to go at the moment,” he said. Or…thought? Thought-said? Rosa still wasn’t used to this.
“Of course, of course,” Lear said quickly. He dipped into his pocket and pulled out a pen, along with one of those black, fancy-looking business cards of his. He wrote an address on the back and handed it over to Emmet. “I can put you in one of our apartments for now. Do you need a guide to the address?”
“That might be helpful,” Emmet said, looking over the back of the card before tucking it into his own pocket. “Though I certainly don’t want to impose.”
“You’re not imposing!” Rosa cut in. “And I’d be happy to show you the way!” She stepped up alongside him, determined to put her mind at ease. Emmet was one of the friendliest people she knew in Unova, and if he could be calm about his sudden new ability, so could she. All she needed was a good long chat to get herself feeling at ease. Rosa tugged on Emmet’s arm and pointed up the beach in the direction of the road, reassuring Lear that she absolutely, one-hundred percent had everything under control here. She might not have been a skilled engineer like Emmet or a mathematical genius like N, but a friendly chat she could always handle.
Lear watched as Emmet and Rosa walked off, the latter peppering the former with questions the whole way. Then again, she’d been like that since the moment she’d arrived on the island. Always something to talk about. There was no reason to expect her to change. How long had she been here, anyway? Eight months? A year?
I suppose not much longer than I’ve been here, Lear realized. Of course, he couldn’t recall that exact number, either. Rosa had been one of the very first arrivals on Pasio, and she’d appeared with some interesting company. Lear had been pretty distracted at the time, more focused on where he was than who he was there with. His father’s details on Pasio had been vaguer than a Slowpoke’s countenance–in fact, the only detail Lear got was that the island had been prepared as a getaway for him to reside at as long as he liked. There was no mention of the island being manmade…or that “stay as long as you like” was better translated as “you’ll return when I’m ready.”
Lear closed his eyes and exhaled slowly. Some old memories were coming back to him, and he wasn’t too happy about it…
“What do you mean you don’t know where we are?” Lear snapped at Sawyer. “You’re the one who drove us here!” The man didn’t flinch or even lean back in the face of his charge’s ranting. Which said something about the frequency of Lear’s outbursts. They simply weren’t an unusual part of his routine anymore.
It had been two days on the island so far. When Lear and his retainers first stepped out onto the sand, they found no lifeguards, no beachgoers, no sign of inhabitants whatsoever. Lear’s first fear was that Sawyer had epically failed in his duties as navigator.
“I engaged the auto pilot program your father installed on the boat and made sure everything ran smoothly during our journey,” Sawyer said with forced patience. “As far as I can tell, we are exactly where he meant for us to go–an artificial island known as Pasio. But as to where Pasio actually is in relation to any other lands I know about? There I’m clueless.” He took out his phone and made a few taps. “Even consulting a GPS does nothing.”
“Well, obviously!” Lear snapped, throwing his hands up. “If the island was only recently created, it wouldn’t be on any maps yet.”
“I agree, sir, but the body of water the island sits in should be.”
Lear’s stomach sank as he looked at the screen Sawyer held out. No sign of coordinates, nor the endless blue typically displayed when he was out on a cruise miles from shore.
“Maybe it’s broken,” Lear said.
“Uhhh…unlikely,” Rachel said. Her Umbreon did a nose-curl to mirror her disapproval. “I checked it myself. I do not leave phones or even phone-like devices busted. You know this.”
Lear did know that. Rachel could be clueless about a great number of things, but her expertise when it came to fixing her valued tech was second to none. And ever since they’d arrived on the island, her skill only seemed to have increased. Case in point, she’d fixed the motor on the boat they’d circled the island with. She’d never been near motors of any sort before yesterday.
He turned and looked at the scenery. While the beach may have been devoid of civilization, the island itself was not. Where the sand ended and the grass filled in, a walking path led up to a little beachside house. A modest place by Lear’s standards, but it suited their needs for now. Beyond the beachhouse, the walking path continued into the woods. Lear had sent Hoopa to check it out last night. The Pokémon had not yet returned. If Lear turned his back to the beach and squinted at the horizon, he could just make out what looked like a series of buildings peaking out here and there beyond the forest’s tallest trees. The beachhouse could be one of many houses on this island. His father did say the place was designed as a getaway. Lear could be behaving like a downright idiot right now, spending forty-eight plus hours roughing it on the beach when there were servants and visitors all waiting to welcome their island VIP in a vacation town designed exclusively for him.
Lear shoved his hands in his pockets and stomped back to the beach house. Sawyer and Rachel hurried after him. Umbreon skipped in front to open the screen door before Lear attempted to kick it open.
The scent of the ocean swept in through the wide bay windows, accenting the beach-themed decor: paintings of Krabbies, lamps with bases shaped like Omanyte shells, and a sand-colored low pile carpet. The place had two bedrooms, a living room with a futon, and a pantry with basic cooking supplies–flour, oil, shelf-stable milk, and sugar, not to mention an impressive variety of seasonings. Sawyer had whipped up some pancakes on the fire pit outside this morning, and the boat they’d traveled in on had plenty more food they hadn’t eaten yet, but long term, they needed something more sustainable. Lear knew this. So why was he so terrified to leave? Because Hoopa hadn’t returned yet? That little nuisance disappeared for days at a time at home, so its mischief here shouldn’t have been any different.
He walked to the larger bedroom he’d claimed for himself, closing the door behind him without a word. The bed’s mattress had just enough give to ensure he neither injured nor suffocated himself when he fell face-first on top of it. He moaned into a Magikarp-shaped pillow, but the door stayed shut. Rachel and Sawyer knew enough to not be concerned or insulted. He just…had to be alone sometimes. He thrived alone. Felt strongest alone.
Lear rotated to stare at the spackled white ceiling. Hoopa’s absence did worry him. Almost as much as the realization that his father didn’t send the three of them here on a vacation. If he had, they could leave at anytime. But no matter how many times they tried it, the boat would not travel far from the shore if Lear was on it. It was like the entire place had a barrier around it that applied only to him. Feasible, yes, with the right Pokémon’s power. But why would his father build such a barrier at all?
Unless this wasn’t a vacation but a grounding? It was the only explanation to fit. Which meant whatever lay beyond the woods had been designed to distract him, keep him engaged here, and make him forget about coming home anytime soon.
He gripped the Magikarp pillow tighter and tighter, stretching its seams. He’d show his father he knew what was up. The details on how he’d do this remained uncertain, but Lear was nothing if not painfully determined. He wracked his brain, focused on what the island was supposed to be and how best to turn it into the complete opposite.
Well, if it was designed as an isolated place…a place to keep Lear quiet where no one else would notice him…he’d just have to put Pasio on the map, then. Literally as well as figuratively. Perhaps he could make it into some sort of hub of exciting Pokémon battles, the likes of which could not be seen anywhere else. Not the easiest thing when everyone seemed to have come here with no more than a few of their Pokémon, but…
That was when the idea came to him. Plenty of huge cities held battles for trainers with had a wide variety of Pokémon at their command. To stand out, he needed to be different. The trainers on his island should be much more limited with their teams. In fact, the ideal situation would be to have one Pokémon per person, forging a bond stronger than they could anywhere else, perfectly in sync. Not a separate Pokémon and human, but a single unit. A sync pair.
Lear grinned as he sat up on the bed. Perhaps he would take a stroll through the woods after all.