Misty was feeling…decidedly lost.
Not in the physical sense. She was aware of how far she’d walked along the beach, as well as the distance and direction she’d have to go to make her way back to town. And it was a pleasant-enough evening; the surf was gentle, and the water warmed her toes with all the heat it had absorbed during the day.
No, this feeling came from somewhere deeper.
When they first landed on Pasio, losing their memories of roughly the past year felt like a major deal. The only topic that sparked any recent recognition had been the topic of these Pokémon DNA mergers that Siebold first mentioned. But the trainers who knew about it had been so far and few between, getting any solid information felt like trying to hold water in her hand. And thanks to whatever stranger Brock had spoken to, he was no longer interested in helping her investigate.
Everything had just been about battles and the PML lately. Stagnating. Misty wasn’t against enjoying an easy, straightforward life. But…if there had been more before coming here… More risk? More adventures? More complications? She wanted to know about all those things before making the choice to settle in here. She wasn’t happy with keeping the past a mystery like Brock was. She need to know.
Misty sighed and scanned the beach. A trio of (presumably water-type) trainers had gathered on the shore not far from her–two of them standing out in the water up to their knees while one of them–the youngest, it appeared–watched from the sidelines. The duo in the water consisted of a man with white and black hair wearing a kimono and…
“Siebold!” Misty exclaimed, happy to recognize someone.
Siebold turned and waved at her. She was sort of surprised she had recognized him at all. The man had on a blue-patterned Alolan shirt and khaki shorts, completely in contrast to his formal serving uniform. Unlike with the man in the kimono, this attire let Siebold wade through the water without soaking his clothes.
The trainer who’d been watching from the shore also turned. His eyebrows rose when he saw Misty, then his gaze immediately dropped. He rubbed his hand through his spiky orange-brown hair and called for the third trainer’s attention.
Grimsley turned as well, and while he did stare at Misty for a moment, he didn’t make any visible sign of surprise or recognition. Of course, he could also be one of those people who was really good at hiding his expression. It wasn’t as if Misty would know.
“How is life on Pasio treating you?” Siebold asked eagerly. “You know, I feel like I’ve been seeing you at my restaurant less and less lately.”
Misty laughed awkwardly. “Sorry! It’s not your food, I promise! My team has just been…really busy lately.”
“Indeed,” Siebold said. “You’re on Koko’s team, yes? I hear you’re the favorites to win the PML finals.”
“Whoa, whoa!” Misty said, waving her hands. “We didn’t even qualify for the tournament yet! We still have…” She counted on her fingers. They were up to four badges now, and she couldn’t remember for the life of her how many they needed. Only that the number was more than four but less than eight.
“…Hapu’s badge to go, am I right?” Siebold asked. Then, seeing Misty’s bewildered expression, he added on, “Well, every time Koko’s team gets a new badge, the issuer of that badge seems to join the team. So it does make the rounds of discussion in my dining hall.”
“Fair enough, I guess,” Misty said.
Siebold bowed and wished her team good luck with the final badge before bidding good-bye to both her and his friends. Grimsley walked up alongside the orange-haired trainer, who still had his head down.
“The ground doesn’t chat much,” he told him. “Trust me, I’ve tried.”
The guy didn’t answer, so Misty gave it a try next. “I know this is an awkward question, but do we know each other? I mean, if we had a bad history or something that I’m not remembering, I can leave–“
“No, no,” the guy said, finally looking her in the eye. “We’re fine. We only met, like, once in Kanto when I battled you for the Cascade Badge.”
“Oh, yes!” Misty said. Being in the gym she did remember. Not all the memories were entirely pleasant–her sisters always pushing her aside, telling her she wasn’t ready to take on challengers yet–but it was a step up from drawing a complete blank on the experience. It didn’t, however, explain the guy’s odd behavior around her. “So…no offense, but, why are you acting like you want me to leave?” A bit on the forward side, maybe, but she only had so much politeness in her before impatience and curiosity took over.
“Blue here chatted up your friend Brock the other day,” Grimsley said.
“Wait, what?” Misty pointed at the guy. So Blue was his name. Brock hadn’t even told her that much. “So you’re the one who told Brock to stop asking questions about this whole DNA merging thing and just see Pasio as a fresh start or whatever?”
“I-I…” Blue stammered. “Geez, I didn’t mean for it sound that creepy.”
Misty crossed her arms. “Well, Brock’s taken your advice to heart. He won’t tell me a thing. But I’m not okay with that. I want to know whatever you know.”
Blue turned away again. Which really annoyed her.
“Did…did Brock or I get partially merged with Pokémon?” she asked.
At first, Blue remained silent. Then Grimsley nudged him, and finally blurted out, “Yes, okay? You both did.”
Misty felt a rush of adrenaline. Some real information, after all this time. Even if his reply gave more questions than answers, it felt like surfacing when she’d been holding her breath too long in the pool. “With which Pokémon?”
“Gyarados and Steelix,” he said quickly.
Yeah, that sounds like what Brock and I would pick. “And how do you know about it, if we only met once?”
This time, Blue hesitated a good long while. “It was…hard to live in Kanto and not know. It was all over the news.”
“The news?” Misty frowned. “Why?”
“Because…because word got out that your procedures had been sabotaged.” Blue winced at his words the more he let them out. “That neither of you meant to lose that much of your humanity.”
“H-how much are we talking here?” Misty asked.
An even longer pause. Or maybe no answer at all this time? Blue’s hands balled into fists. A glance at his shoes showed him pushing hard at the sand with his toes. If the guy was an Electrode, he’d be on the verge of using explosion.
“I think that’s all you’re getting out of him,” Grimsley said as he patted Blue on the shoulder.
Blue startled and glared at Grimsley. “You’re really obnoxious, you know?”
“Polteageist, meet kettle,” Grimsley retorted.
Blue shook his head and stomped up towards town. “Whatever. I only come to these things because Siebold asks me to. Smell you later.”
Grimsley waved him a completely pleasant and cheerful good-bye. Misty felt herself grounded in her indecision. On one hand, she could chase after Blue and demand he continue until she had every last drop of information she could wring out of him. On the other, the whole conversation seemed to really bother him. Like he had broken something and kept fuming at himself that he couldn’t put it back together.
In either case, the information he had given her felt like it had unlocked a part of her mind, brushing some of the amnesia away. Maybe, if she gave it time, she could remember more on her own. At least now she had Blue’s name. She could always track him down if she had to. Pasio wasn’t exactly a huge island, after all.
While she stood still in debate, Grimsley lay down on the sand. He sighed and rested his hands behind his head. “I hope you don’t mind if I prattle on a bit,” he told her, his eyes locked on the sky. “A stunning display of celestial bodies sparkling over the ocean…it can’t help but put a guy in a philosophical mood.”
“Um, sure. Do whatever you want,” Misty replied. She sat down nearby and hugged her knees, preferring to watch the churning water over the stars. Why did the water always feel like it was calling her here?
Gee, I don’t know. Maybe because you used to be part Gyarados? It still didn’t seem real. And for all she knew, Blue was completely making stuff up to mess with her. But if he was, it was an awful long effort–talking to Brock first, waiting for her to eventually run into him. If he meant to prank her, wouldn’t it have been easier to seek her out?
“There’s a theory about Pasio,” Grimsley began. “That we all come here from different timelines in the universe. That our realities might be similar to one another’s, but not identical. Follow me?”
“Um, sort of?” Misty said. Well, he did warn her that he would get philosophical. It just wasn’t her thing. Maybe he and that Cyrus guy could get together and chat about the human spirit and alternate realities and whatever other high and mighty stuff they cared to.
“I can’t help but think sometimes what those other worlds might be like,” Grimsley went on. “For example, maybe there’s a world where humans and Pokémon live completely separate lives. And maybe there’s another where we’re basically one in the same.” He tilted his gaze in her direction. “Pasio seems to lean on the latter–treating trainer and Pokémon as a single unit, even if we are separate creatures.”
“I…guess that’s true.”
“But for those of us who were even closer than that–well, I can’t help wondering what it would be like to be one in the same. And I’m happy to chase that mystery until I find out for myself. How about you?”
“Um…” Misty had no clue what to reply to that, and at this point, she really just wanted to exit the conversation altogether. But before she could find a polite way to say as much, a familiar voice echoed across the sand.
“Heeeey! Hey, Misty!”
Barry. Apparently, this section of the beach was very popular with folks who trained water-types. Herself included.
Misty stood and dusted the sand of her legs and lower back as Barry bounded up to her, his scarf almost flapping into his face more than once.
“W-we need to talk,” Barry gasped when he reached her. He sounded painfully winded, bent over and leaning on his knees. But once he regained his breath, he was back to his full Barry-level of energy. And the expression he gave Misty when he faced her was anything but friendly. “I want to know what you were doing talking to Cyrus earlier!”
Grimsley raised an eyebrow but made no comment.
“Cyrus?” Misty asked. “The guy running the Gadgeteering Club?” For a moment, she thought maybe Barry had been with her and she’d ignored him or put him out of her mind.
Then she reminded herself that Barry was nearly impossible to ignore or put out of anyone’s mind. The only team member with her had been Brock.
“It’s not a Gadgeteering Club!” Barry said, stomping the sand. “It’s a cover-up! The guy is trying to resurrect his evil Team Galactic right under our noses!” He pointed in the general direction of town. “If Cyrus has his way, everything we know and love will be destroyed!”
“Oookay,” Misty said. “That sounds a little, um…dramatic.”
Barry shot his arms into the air. “Yes, because erasing the world is dramatic!”
“Where are you even getting this info anyway?” Misty asked. “Specifically, how did you know I even met Cyrus? Brock and Surge were the only other people there.”
At this, Barry slunk back a bit. Or at least stopped flailing his hands around. “I, uh…might have been doing some, erm…stealth scouting,” he said. “Y’know, gathering info on the enemy? I couldn’t give away my position.”
“You were hiding in the forest, weren’t you?” Misty said.
Barry didn’t need to answer this one. The way he hung his head was a solid confession all on its own.
Even Grimsley got a chuckle. “I think I’ll follow Blue’s example and call it a night,” he said, finally getting up himself. Sand clung to the lower part of his kimono, which was still damp from standing in the ocean. “I hang out here pretty much every night,” he said as he walked past Misty. “Come out to chat again some time. I make it a point to get to know as many people on the island as I can.”
“Yeah…maybe,” Misty said.
He waved at her without turning around.
Once he’d gotten out of earshot, Barry started right back up again. “You still didn’t answer my question. What did you and Cyrus talk about?”
“I don’t think that’s any of your business!” Misty said. True, there was no need to be stubborn, especially since she and Cyrus really hadn’t talked about anything. At least, his lack of interest in people pleasing and his desire to speak with Lear didn’t seem like world-threatening topics. But Barry getting so pushy and in her face about it that he made her want to Clamperl up on principle. She shoved her hands in her pockets and started to walked around him.
He countered by running up ahead of her and extending his arms to block her path. “Misty, I consider you my friend,” he said solemnly. “But if you’re cooperating with Team Galactic, it will become my duty to thwart your every intention.”
“You’re standing in my way and not letting me leave this beach,” she said. “You’re thwarting my current intention.”
“So you’re saying you’re guilty?”
“I’m saying move!” She pushed his arm aside with all the force that she could. For the briefest moment, a memory came to her. One where she thrusted her arms forward in a similar manner. Only, instead of getting a busybody teammate to move, she had summoned a burst of water. Strong and powerful, while rage built inside her. Not unlike Gyarados.
She jolted back to reality. Barry had stumbled back in surprise, though she hadn’t shoved him hard enough to fully knock him off balance. “Guess that’s a yes, then?” he muttered.
She turned away, fear and frustration churning inside her. If she and Barry were really friends, he’d been talking this out with her, not treating her like a criminal who had something to hide.
You know what? Misty decided as she walked off the beach. If I do see Lear in town, maybe I will try to set up that meeting with Cyrus.
She smiled to herself as she imagined Barry’s reaction. It might even be worth the general annoyance of tracking Lear down.
“Hey, has anyone seen Barry around?” Koko asked his teammates. They’d gathered for some training at the ruins (Koko’s hope being that it was good practice against ghost types in the PML.) It wasn’t a planned thing, but he was usually able to gather everyone pretty quick when he needed them. “Or Misty, for that matter?”
Rosa shrugged at the question. Erika snoozed through it. Koko was starting to wonder if he was overthinking all this training stuff. Maybe they were strong enough already. The badges were certainly getting easier and easier to obtain. And now only one more remained before he could officially enter the PML tournament. He should have been excited and certainly several of his team members were. Erika (when she was actually awake) was all giggles about the possibility of becoming PML champs. Barry (when he was actually here) had composed a special team victory tune that he hummed to himself after every win. Even Flannery (who had ultimately abandoned her volcano training to join them) was in good spirits.
But Brock and Misty had seemed more and more distant lately and wouldn’t tell him why.
He also kept thinking about Paulo, the only person who had refused to join their team and stuck to his decision. They still saw him on occasion, but usually he was so focused on a battle, there was no time to talk. Koko couldn’t help but feel like the guy was struggling with something, but since they weren’t actually friends, it felt rude to ask.
“Maybe we should regroup tomorrow…” he said, looking over the reduced, only half-awake crew. No one really argued, and Koko decided to use the time going for a light jog with Pikachu and Skwovet instead.
Well, it was more like Pikachu decided they would go for a jog, and Koko followed. The electric rodent perked up at something around the ruins, then did a 180 and took off down the walking path. Koko and Skwovet barely had enough time to keep him in sight. Maybe there were some electrical wires down that attracted it? If so, he’d have to be careful and watch where they were step–
Koko had just rounded a sharp corner on the walking path when he slammed right into a short orange-haired guy and his Togedemaru. Pikachu squealed with delight and ran circles around Togedemaru, chattering away about how nice and strong its electrical field was.
Is that the reason you bolted all the way here? Koko thought, rubbing his head. Making friends was certainly nice, but sometimes he wished Pikachu wouldn’t be so aggressive about it. He apologized profusely as he helped Togedemaru’s trainer to his feet.
“Oh, don’t worry about it!” the guy said. “I mean, if you had to knock me over, better it’s now than at the beginning of the day. I had this huge stack of flyers in my hand this morning, and they would have gone flying everywhere.”
“Everywhere!” Togedemaru chattered in Pokémon speak, stretching its arms to demonstrate how far the papers would have flown. Though since its arms were the length of its small ears, this didn’t look very impressive.
“What kinds of flyers?” Koko asked. “Can I have one?”
The trainer let out a laugh. “That figures! I spend all day handing those things out to people who didn’t really want them. Now I meet someone who does want one, and I’m all out.”
Togedemaru looked confused for a moment, then mimicked its trainers laugh, too.
“Anyway, the flyers were for a gadgeteering club. You know, where we invent stuff.”
“That sounds interesting,” Koko said.
“If you want, I can take you to our next meeting,” the trainer said. “That’s even better than a flyer, because you can chat with everyone. I mean, you can try to chat with the flyer, but I don’t think it’ll say much.” He extended his hand. “Sophocles, by the way.”
“Koko,” Koko replied as they shook hands. The Pokémon all greeted each other as well. Even if the evening’s training had gotten off the rails, they’d at least made some new friends. That had to count for something.