A surprisingly large number of restaurants lined the small streets in town. Brock and Misty both walked with shaky but growing confidence along the sidewalks. At least both their memories had retained the concept of going somewhere on two feet.
As they passed a shop window, Misty fingered the evergreen needles on a length of garland that hadn’t quite been taken down yet. “I’m guessing that’s it,” she said, pointing to a restaurant ahead. It wasn’t the largest on the block, but it had the most elaborately decorated storefront. Bushes shaped like snowmen with twinkling blue lights stood at the entrance, while twists of holly, poinsettias, and snowdrops rose along the sides of the doorframe. A glowing sign in blue script font welcomed them inside. This attention to detail had Seibold written all over it.
Misty gave the door a gentle push and stepped across the threshold. The place smelled heavenly, with the purfumey scent of the flowers mixing with hints and ginger and peppermint.
“Welcome, welcome!” called a friendly voice. “Table for two?”
Brock and Misty turned to see a blond man cross the dining room towards them. His outfit was a formal waiter’s uniform with a blue gem at the collar, the same color as the twinkling lights outside the restaurant. And, as Sawyer and Rachel had suggested, he still wore a holiday vest with a festive pattern of red and green plaid.
“Oh, um…sure,” Misty said. “Two, yes. Thank you.” She looked around the room. Only one or two other people sat in the dining room. She wasn’t sure exactly of the time, but judging by how the sun hadn’t quite reached the horizon, she guessed they were an hour or two shy of dinnertime.
Misty felt her pockets as Seibold ushered them over to a table in the corner, up against a frosted window. Foggy lights and shadows played behind the translucent glass as more people came out to enjoy the town’s nightlife. “Wait. Do we have any money on us?” she muttered to Brock. The decorative metal chair squeaked a bit as she sat down, as if it was just as nervous as she was.
“Ah, you two must be new here,” Seibold said, pouring two glasses of water. “No, no charge. I took over this restaurant just for the holiday season. Lear thought my meals would bring some extra festiveness to the island, and I hope I’m not bragging when I say they’ve done so spectacularly.”
From the fragrant smells floating out of the kitchen, Misty could only conclude he had done exactly that.
“That wouldn’t be Prince Lear, by any chance?” Brock asked.
“Ah, so you’ve heard of him,” Seibold said. “I suppose it’s hard not to in this place. But, yes, I do mean Prince Lear.”
Misty smiled. Well, they had now solved the mystery of the prince’s name, at any rate.
“There are shops you can spend your money on,” Seibold continued with a chuckle. “If you happen to have come here simply loaded with Pokecoins, that is. But there are also plenty of paying jobs you can take up. Or if you’re the adventuring sort, you can try extracting some precious gems out in the mine Roark set up.”
“The rock-type gym leader from Sinnoh?” Brock asked. “He’s here, too?”
Misty hadn’t heard of Roark before, but it didn’t surprise her that Brock had. Rock fanatics loved to chat about their finds.
“Indeed,” Seibold replied, his pen artfully poised over his notepad. “Now may I interest you two in our vegetarian special? It’s a new dish I’ve perfected that utilizes Octillary ink in the glaze. I simply can’t recommend it enough.”
Misty’s eyes glittered, while Brock’s stomach twisted. “Um…you said you’re using Octillary’s…ink?”
“Why, yes!” Seibold said with a grin. “You see, I was walking along the beach one day when an Octillary squirted me in the face and instead of thinking, ‘this is revolting,’ I instead thought, ‘this is delicious!'”
“Sounds like something Misty would do,” Brock muttered.
“We can’t wait to try it!” Misty said with unabashed enthusiasm. But as soon as Seibold left, the smile on her face faded. She swung her legs under the table, her focus away from Brock’s gaze. The patrons at the other tables were locked in their own conversations, paying the newcomers in the corner no mind. Brock leaned forward, glancing to the side, but let her sit in the quiet a while as she tried to organize her thoughts.
“Something wrong?” he eventually asked her.
“Well…” she said, glancing up. “Seibold seems like a pretty normal guy.”
Brock cocked his head. “That’s good, isn’t it?”
“But those two…Sawyer and Rachel? They said the man thinks he used to be part Pokémon. Which is insane.”
“Is it?” Brock asked. “I mean, Bill turned himself into a Pokémon back home.”
“Right. And then he reversed the process immediately with Red’s help and never touched it again.”
“As far as we know.” Brock took a long sip of water while Misty glared daggers at him. “I know it’s uncomfortable,” he said, “but seeing as how both of us have a huge memory gap, there’s not much we can take as fact. Maybe Bill refined the process. Maybe becoming part Pokémon got really popular in the past–what? Two months we seem to be forgetting? Maybe more?”
“That’s ridiculous,” Misty asked. “Are you even listening to yourself?”
“Yes. Are you?”
“Ugh!” Misty threw up her hands, drawing the attention of the other diners. She slumped down and waited until their gazes returned to their own tables. “I don’t want to talk about this anymore,” she muttered. “Let’s just start with where we’re going to sleep tonight, and we can untangle more of this mess tomorrow.”
Brock gave a chuckle. “Well, seeing as how we’re both definitely human, I guess we can’t very well spend the night in a Pokéball.”
Seibold approached the table right towards the end of Brock’s sentence. “Spending time in a Pokéball? My, my. Is that a voice of experience I’m hearing?” he said, placing a plate of grilled root vegetables with a glistening dark sauce atop Brock’s table setting. Brock hated to admit, it smelled delicious, even if he wasn’t thrilled with being listened in on.
“Someone…mentioned your claim that you used to be part Pokémon,” Misty said in a voice that sounded like she was trying far too hard to be casual. “Part Blastoise, specifically?”
“‘Someone’ told you that, did they?” Seibold said, placing down her plate and raising an eyebrow. “I can only presume it was two specific someones in Lear’s employ?”
“It’s quite all right,” Seibold assured her. “It was something I mentioned in passing to Rachel, and frankly, I didn’t think she listening at the time. That’ll show me to make assumptions.” He refilled their water glasses and watched with pride as they sampled his delectable food. Misty sighed with delight while Brock was more cautious. Eventually, though, he was enjoying the food as much as she was.
“If you’re curious to know, yes, I did have my DNA slightly altered to make myself eight percent Blastoise,” Seibold said. “I learned to pull off a Scald attack. I hear it’s unusual to be able to do actual attacks with that low a percentage, but cooking is my passion, and you can imagine how helpful Scald is in the kitchen…”
He paused to glance at Brock and Misty’s bewildered faces. Brock tried his best to feign a no-no-I-don’t-think-you’re-crazy expression, but Seibold just laughed.
“My apologies. I know you’ve had Pokémon DNA mergers in Kanto for some time, but in Kalos, the procedure is a bit more rare, so I’m used to having to explain it more. What were you merged with, if you don’t mind me asking?”
“We were…um…” Brock looked desperately at Misty. On one hand, Seibold seemed to opening up to them quite well, thinking they had a shared experience. And given how messed up their memories were now, he could have been previously merged with a Beedrill for all he knew.
On the other hand, it was a pretty extreme thing to lie about.
Misty simply shoved a forkful of vegetables into her mouth.
“I’m sorry,” Brock said, with as much honesty as he could muster. “Arriving here seems to have messed with our memories, so I really couldn’t say.”
“A memory wipe, hmm? Interesting. This place does seem to change people.”
Misty and Brock nodded with their mouths full, so Seibold continued. “When I arrived in Pasio…” He looked thoughtfully down at his hand. “I should have been frightened, but I wasn’t. I should be worried about what’s happening at home, and yet I’m not. It’s strange that my powers are gone, but they don’t even feel fully gone, only suppressed. It’s almost as if…the island itself is trying to point me down a new path…” He closed his hand and sighed, looking around at the other patrons before returning his gaze to the table. “But enough of my philosophizing. Can I get you seconds?” he asked, probably in an attempt to lighten the mood.
“No, thanks, ” Misty said, dabbing her chin with a cranberry red napkin. “I couldn’t eat another bite.”
“I could,” Brock said with a grin.
Seibold looked thrilled. “I’ll bring out another serving right away then,” he said as he turned and hurried back to the kitchen.
Misty shook her head but couldn’t keep the smile off her own face. Brock might not have had her passion for the delectable, subtle flavors of the ocean, but at least he knew enough to admit when he was wrong.
Misty was almost enjoying herself when they exited the restaurant. Almost being the key word. Any chance of fully enjoying herself faded when a voice rang out from down the street behind her. “Heeeey, Misty? Brock? Can we, like, borrow you two for a minute?” Two sets of hurried footsteps grew louder and louder.
Although they’d been on Pasio for mere hours, Misty knew that tone in the flick of a Magikarp’s tail. She braced herself and turned to face Rachel with a smile. “Borrow us for what?”
Sawyer hurried up beside Rachel as before, panting a bit, to Misty’s surprise. Apparently Rachel could go pretty fast when she wanted to.
“Well, see, we had another arrival, and he’s…well…” Rachel said.
“…and he seems pretty disoriented,” Sawyer finished. He straightened and coughed lightly, the fatigue in his voice clearing with the phlegm. “We were wondering if you might take him and maybe a couple other new trainers under your wing.”
“Um…” Brock began, but Sawyer held up a hand.
“This would be a paid position, of course. A modest fee, but we would also set you up with accommodations in Pasio’s luxury apartments free of charge.”
“Oh, and maybe if you have extra time, you can help with the war we’re setting up for later,” Rachel added.
“Wait, what war?” Misty asked.
“Nothing, never mind. Don’t want to spoil it!” Rachel replied in a singsong voice. Then she began skipping off the way she had come before Brock or Misty could give a reply.
Sawyer sighed and handed them a business card. “Just think about it,” he said. “Give me a call when you’ve made up your mind. Hey, Rachel!” He turned and called down the street after her. “Wait up, would you?”
And with that, the two of them were gone once again. A few pedestrians gave the pair some strange looks as they rushed by, but otherwise, everyone went about their business. Misty wondered if seeing those two rush around everywhere was simply an every day occurrence here.
Brock weighed the card skeptically in his hand, and Misty peered over to get a better look. It was made of black cardstock with a gold-tinted trim. Somebody clearly had too much in their stationary budget.
“Well, we were saying that we’d need some money while we’re staying here,” Brock pointed out.
“So what?” Misty asked. “We should take a baby-sitting job?”
He shrugged. “Maybe we’re making too many assumptions. Maybe this newly arrived trainer is actually good.”
Misty doubted that, but it wouldn’t be fair to judge another trainer harshly just because she was in a skeptical mood. She took the card, flipping it from one side to the other. Then she looked up at the foliage snowman outside the restaurant. If it had any advice as to what they should do, it wasn’t sharing.
Misty let out a long sigh. “Well…let’s see if Seibold has a phone we can use.”