Misty’s musings were soon interrupted when a man in a waiter’s uniform stood beside their table and cleared his throat for their attention. He held a silver tray aloft while a Simipour stood at his side and waved at the guests. Both Pokémon and trainer had remarkably similar hairstyles.
“Hey there, um…blue-haired Cilan?” Ash said with a weak laugh.
The server did not look amused. “It’s Cress,” he said and lowered the platter in his hand so the diners at the table could get a better look. “Care for a cookie? Or a ‘biscuit’ if you’re from Galar?”
“We’re not,” Brock said. “And I don’t care what you call them, but I’d love some.”
Cress smiled and used a tiny pair of tongs to place two cookies on each person’s plate. “I hope you’ll join us for a game of riddles afterwards,” he said. “Ingo will be along with the tea shortly.” He glanced over his shoulder. “Ah, here he is now. Please enjoy.”
Cress slipped away and moved onto the next table. Ingo approached and gave a meek bow. He did not have the smoothness or poise that Cress had. In fact, his hands were shaking so much, he barely seemed capable of holding the teapot in his hands steady.
“Your cup, if you please?” he asked, holding out a gloved hand. Misty carefully handed it over. She winced at the tiny clattering of the cup’s base against the saucer as Ingo’s unsteady hand raised it to teapot’s spout.
“Hey, are you all right?” Ash asked.
Ingo nodded and began to pour. The stream of tea was shaky but fell into the cup with only a little spillage onto the saucer. Ingo seemed relieved and motioned for Brock’s cup next. Again, he poured the tea successfully, despite the uncomfortable clattering of porcelain in between.
He did the same with Ash’s cup, but before he could return it, something dripped into the tea. Misty’s first thought was that maybe Ingo was squeezing a few drops of lemon juice into the cup. Then she realized both his hands were already occupied–one with the saucer and one with the teapot. His face pointed towards the ground, but it didn’t hide the line of tears dripping down the side of his face.
“I-I am so sorry,” he said, his voice cracking. “I seemed to have ruined your tea, sir. I’ll fetch you a new cup straight away.”
“It’s fine!” Ash said. “Don’t worry about it. Are you okay?”
Misty winced again. Maybe Ash didn’t say much in his Red persona, but he’d spoken rather loudly just now, drawing the gaze of several other diners. Including Lear at the frontmost table. Misty couldn’t speak for anyone else, but anytime she felt her emotions overwhelming her, the last thing she wanted was for people to notice.
Doing it when she was supposed to be working a job was the worst.
Ash stood up and tried to rub Ingo’s back, though it didn’t seem to help much. If anything, it only helped draw Lear’s attention. The man marched over to the table, with Ingo still shaking like a leaf.
“What’s going on here?” he asked. “Are you bothering the diners?” Without waiting for Ingo’s reply, he turned to Misty and said. “Diners, are you bothered?”
“No, we’re not,” Misty said. “But–” She bit back her next words. Ingo had given no indication he wanted any help, but someone needed to get Lear to back off and give him some space. The only thing Misty could ever seem to get from him was more jobs showing visitors around. Brock had his hands on the table, like he was prepared to stand but had no idea if he should or not.
“If I may,” said a voice.
The entire group turned to see Caitlin standing behind Lear. Not hidden, exactly. Her stature might have been short, but her hairstyle stood out from a mile away. Her only element of surprise was the pure silence with which she approached the table. Her butler walked up alongside her with equally quiet speed.
“I had a vision you might need some additional assistance,” Caitlin said to Lear. “Darach here positively adores butlering. He shall take over tea service from here on out.” She motioned to Ingo. “You are dismissed from your duties for the remainder of this event. But do not worry. Your wages will still be paid in full.”
“I-I–” Lear stuttered. “Hold on, I didn’t agree to this.”
“You have now,” Caitlin assured him.
Ingo looked as perplexed as Lear did but gave a deep bow and saw himself out. Caitlin waved Lear back to his own table as if dismissing a performer she’d grown bored with. Lear grumbled the whole way, though it seemed as long as the event ran uninterrupted, he had no complaints.
Before returning to her own table, Caitlin paused and glanced over the group. She locked eyes with Ash first but quickly turned her gaze to Brock and Misty, staring at them long enough to make Misty a tad uncomfortable. “How…curious,” she finally said, then turned to leave.
Brock opened his mouth, presumably to ask what she meant by that. Before he could get in a word in, however, she added on, “Yes, I think the three of you will be just fine.”
Cynthia watched in shock as Caitlin dealt with the situation at the table Ingo had been serving. She had an uncomfortable feeling when she saw the Striaton triplets that Ingo wouldn’t deal with it well. She also suspected Lear hadn’t told any of the people he hired for this event who they would be working with ahead of time. But the way Caitlin had put the man in his place and given Ingo an out was quite a marvel. She might even take notes for the next time Lear got pushy with her.
“That was impressive,” she told Caitlin as the young woman retook her seat.
“I suppose,” Caitlin sighed as she took a sugar cube from the dish at the table and dropped it into her floral-patterned cup. Naturally, their table had been served right after Lear’s.
“I have to confess,” Cynthia continued. “When Darach suggested talking over tea, I didn’t think he meant the actual tea party.”
Caitlin took a long, deliberate sip from her cup. “I thought it obvious,” she said. “Why set up a separate event when this one has already been prepared and promoted for weeks?”
“You should visit the caves for the riddles event next,” Darach suggested, offering Cynthia more tea as he began to remake Ingo’s rounds.
She held up her hand to decline. Both the riddles and the refill.
“It is nice to sit down like this,” she admitted. “It feels like all my time belongs to everyone else nowadays. Although…I do feel bad about Darach being roped into helping at the last moment.”
“Well, his attire is suited for it,” Caitlin said. “By the way, who was that man who left his duties? The one who looks so much like the Subway Boss of Unova? You were dining with him right before Palentine’s Day, as I recall.”
“That was my fr–acquaintance, Ingo,” Cynthia said, surprised Caitlin remembered the incident.
“I didn’t mean his name,” Caitlin pressed. “I mean, who is he in relation to Emmet? Their resemblance is too much to be coincidence.”
I suppose it would be, Cynthia thought. Then she recalled Koko’s words to Ingo: “Be careful about interacting with people you knew from Unova.” Did that extend to speaking about him as well?
“I sense you’re worried that giving me more information will harm me,” Caitlin said. “But I do not see such an outcome in my own future. I assure you I am quite safe.”
Cynthia pondered how nice it must be to know one’s outcome from a risky activity ahead of time. Then she explained Ingo’s predicament, as best as she’d understood it.
Caitlin frowned more and more throughout the explanation. “I was afraid so,” she sighed when Cynthia had finished. “And my understanding is that Emmet himself is on the island now, too. This is worrisome.”
Emmet’s here? Does Ingo know yet? Cynthia shook her head and willed herself to keep her questions focused. Given how emotionally disconnected Caitlin could be, a warning from her was not to be taken lightly. “Worrisome how?” she asked.
“How do I put this?” Caitlin said. “When someone like me looks into the future, we do not see singular, concrete events. There are many paths our choices can take–many versions of our lives that are generated in response. And the curtain between them is thinner than you might think.” She learned into the table. “Do you understand the implications here?”
Cynthia confessed that she did not.
Caitlin shook her head at this sad lack of telepathy. “I will be blunt, then. For his own safety, Emmet mustn’t know he ever had a twin. In any reality.”
“Koko gave Ingo a similar warning,” Cynthia said. “What exactly happens if he finds out?”
Caitlin took a sip of her tea and sighed. “For most people, it would not be an issue. A simple awareness that another ‘you’ existed does no harm. What does cause harm is the desire to make one reality exist in a space that another already occupies.”
“And this is a problem for Emmet, specifically?” Cynthia asked.
Caitlin nodded. “According to my visions, if he becomes aware of Ingo’s existence, Emmet will desperately want a reality where they grew up together. Worked together. And given the nature of the island, is it likely he will form a psychic connection with the version of himself where those things did happen.”
“So what does that mean?” Cynthia asked, getting more than a little annoyed that she had to keep prodding Caitlin to continue.
Caitlin didn’t answer her directly and she reached for the teapot. Instead of pouring directly into the cup, she poured some into the saucer first. “Our minds can handle quite a bit of knowledge,” she said. “Let’s say this saucer is a single version of you, in a single version of reality.”
Cynthia nodded, and Caitlin began filling the teacup. “Let’s say this cup is another. Both your minds can hold an impressive amount of knowledge. But if some spills where there’s no room to hold it, you can have quite a mess.”
The tea reached the brim of the cup, and Caitlin continued pouring. It ran in rivulets down the cup’s side. Reaching the full saucer, the tea began to drip over the edge and onto the tablecloth, creating an ugly brown stain.
Cynthia gasped at the revelation.
From the nearest table, Darach gasped as well. Mostly, she suspected, at how much work it would take on his part to get the stain out.
Thankfully, no one at the other tables seemed to notice, as Lear chose the same moment to stand at his table for an announcement.
“Hear my words!” he said, throwing his arms out and almost knocking off Burgh’s top hat as he did so. The guests’ conversations went quiet as they all watched the leader of Pasio.
“Today is a wonderful day to celebrate the turn of the season!” Lear went on. “As we enjoy more and more warmer days here on Pasio, we also look forward to a larger variety of activities we can enjoy in the great outdoors. And it is in that spirit that I would like to start promoting the various social groups on the island.” He extended his hand towards the entrance, where the welcome banner flapped gently in the breeze. “As you know, there is much more to Pasio than simply battling!”
Sure could have fooled me, Cynthia thought.
“Ah, but maybe you don’t know what non-battling activities are available? Well, fear no more! From now on, at each of our events, I will be giving the club leaders of Pasio a chance to promote their groups by telling you, our captive audience, what they’re all about. And today, we’ll be starting that tradition with Pasio’s own Gadgeteering Club!”
This was clearly a cue for someone to enter, so when the entrance remained empty for several moments, it left Lear in the awkward position of holding out his hand while the seconds dragged on.
When Lear’s guest did make their appearance, it was the last person Cynthia expected or wanted to see. She covered her mouth as the man she’d had so many clashes with, decked out in some tacky purple and black formalwear, stepped up and took the microphone from Lear. Cyrus!