Flint and Lucian had moved out of Cynthia’s home within a few days of landing in her yard. With such well-known members of the Sinnoh Elite Four, Lear quickly arranged some fine accommodations. Aaron had to wait a bit longer to receive his own invitation. It came only after Rachel and Sawyer confirmed with Cynthia, that yes, her region’s Elite Four did consist of “a scrawny kid” along with “the smart one and the loud one.” Aaron didn’t complain, however. In fact, he still visited on a regular basis after moving out. He often came at the crack of dawn to gather nectar for his Vespiquen–Cynthia had a perfect grove on her property–but he’d stay for hours chatting with Ingo.
Of course, with the advance paycheck from this upcoming tea party event, Ingo was now moving out as well. Cynthia wondered if he would still visit as often. Her two busy little houses were going quiet so quickly.
Ugh. What am I, a mother with empty nest syndrome? She shuddered at the idea.
There was one matter she wanted to settle with Ingo before he left but after Aaron had gone for the day. She approached as Ingo was lining a duffel bag with a couple sweatshirts to better cushion his crafting supplies. He looked a little sad as he did so, though with Ingo, it was hard to tell.
“Is everything okay?” Cynthia asked.
He shrugged as he folded up the last of his clothes and tucked them gently on top of the crafting box. They still mostly consisted of promotional attire for the PML, but it was more than what he’d arrived on this island with. “A little guilty, I suppose,” he said.
“Guilty?” That piqued Cynthia’s interest. Lucian had mentioned he had an odd reaction to seeing Cyrus’s photo, and pressing him for more information was Cynthia’s top priority. But perhaps he’d reveal the connection on his own? It would certainly make things less awkward for her.
When Ingo didn’t continue the conversation, she prodded him further. “What do you have to feel guilty for?”
He zipped up the bag. “It’s silly, I suppose. Everyone I knew from Hisui is long dead by now. But the way I jumped to telling Hoopa I didn’t want to go back there–as if none of their lives mattered to me…” He shook his head. “…I feel as if I did them a disservice, is all.”
“I see.” Of course it wouldn’t go quite so easy. His reasons made sense, and yet Cynthia wondered if he was being completely forthright with her. If whatever had made him react to seeing Cyrus caused some deep shame, he might tell some half-truths to put her off.
Better to be forthright herself and stop dancing around the subject. “I don’t mean to pry, but…Lucian thinks you might know Cyrus somehow?”
He stiffened. “How would I? I’ve either been living in Unova or living in a version of Sinnoh that’s over a century before his time.”
“But he does run Team Galactic,” she pressed. “My research says the team has its origins in a group called the Galaxy Team from Hisui. Anyone you know from that organization?”
Ingo’s fists tightened. “The Galaxy Team had a good and noble objective–to grow humanity’s knowledge of Pokémon and help us not to be so afraid of them. Whatever Cyrus twisted it into is unrelated.” His voice came out clipped and sharp. She’d hit a nerve. It felt a bit rotten, pushing him so much, but if that’s what it took to get to the bottom of this…
“Maybe you saw the seeds of something sinister beginning there?” Cynthia pressed. “Or you did something to unintentionally push it in the direction it went?” She tried to keep her tone gentle, without judgment. Did he think she would be angry with him if he did somehow set the Galaxy Team on the wrong path? Of course she wouldn’t. How could anyone know the far-reaching effects of their actions in the moment?
Her tone had no effect on Ingo’s stubbornness. In fact, she seemed to ignite it. “Forgive my bluntness, but for a person of scientific study, you’re coming at me with a lot of preconceived ideas.” He pulled on his jacket and adjusted his hat. “I’ve already told you, I spent much of my time in the Galaxy Team’s base location, but I was never actually a member. It would have interfered with my duties as a warden. Perhaps instead of concocting your fantasies, you’d be better off studying whatever nonsense the Ginkgo Guild got up to in the past century.”
Cynthia’s eyebrows rose. Ingo had never brought up the Ginkgo Guild before. “I’ll have you know I have studied them. They’re a favorite research subject of mine, given that one of my ancestors was a member.”
“Trust me. I’m aware.”
Cynthia scowled. Her suspicions about Ingo’s relationship to the Galaxy Team were fizzling out, only to be replaced with an insatiable curiosity about his latest reveal. If he knew her ancestor, had met him directly, why had he never brought it up before? “You’re familiar with Volo, then?”
“Another topic I don’t want to discuss.”
“Seems there’s a lot you don’t want to discuss. What are you hiding from me?”
He was shaking now. She waited for him to snap or tear up or maybe both. Instead he took a sharp breath through his teeth, closed his eyes and exhaled, slow and precise. He then made a deep bow, conveniently perfect for avoiding eye contact. “My apologies, but I must call the subject closed.” His tone had gone from agitated to near monotone in a heartbeat. He slipped into it every now and again…this formal voice where he couldn’t be phased. She suspected he reserved it for the more difficult riders on the Battle Subway. It was the closest she’d heard him get to being well and truly hacked off.
“I won’t let this drop, you know,” she said as he reached for the doorknob.
“Sadly, yes,” he said. “I know.” He bowed once again, though not as deep as before. “It was a pleasure getting to know you, Cynthia. And you have my sincere gratitude for your hospitality. Good day.” He pulled open the door on to find Aaron standing there, frozen with his hand ready to knock. From the look on his face, Cynthia could only guess he’d heard everything.
“I…uh, think I left some nectar jars in the fridge,” Aaron squeaked.
Ingo walked past him with only a nod of acknowledgment. Cynthia almost called after him but held herself back. Maybe it was stubbornness or maybe it was a sheer lack of energy to jump into another argument.
Everyone on Pasio seems to get along so well, she thought miserably. Am I the one who can’t even have an honest conversation with a friend?
She motioned Aaron through to the kitchen. For now, she could only stick to her duties and wait for Ingo to cool down. No need to dwell on her personal failings. Besides, if there were others with friendship communication issues on the island, she would hardly be privy to the matter.
Sixteen-year-old Tina walked along the forest path, fiddling with her black headband. If she pushed it into her thick red hair just the right way, it made some of the locks spike up a bit, giving her look an extra confident vibe. The picture of a promising young trainer, if she said so herself. Now all she needed to do was start training.
As a new arrival on Pasio, Tina accepted there would be a lot to learn. And she counted herself lucky in a lot of ways. Within a few hours of her arrival, she’d run straight into her old friend Paulo and his Rockruff. His face had simply lit up when they’d met each other in town.
“I can’t believe this! How come I haven’t seen in you in any of the PML prelims?” he’d asked her, barely exchanging greetings.
“Sorry, the PM what?”
Paulo had grinned like a maniac at this and suggested they go for a walk while he explained everything. Tina had agreed, eager to learn.
The trouble was, she’d been “learning” for the past two hours, and it was well past lunchtime.
“…mony Badge is shaped like a snowflake, so I knew to expect some cold,” Paulo was going on. “But that Pride Badge! Ugh!”
Tina almost tripped over a tree root growing into the forest path. Her Flareon helped her regain her balance. Then it rubbed up against her hand, eager for a rewarding head-pat. Tina put her headband back on and obliged. How much longer is he going to talk? she thought as her stomach gurgled. Paulo always did love when he could be source of knowledge for people. And it sounded like he wasn’t close to anyone on this island besides her. It would be rude to interrupt, right?
Plus, she would admit, the info he’d given her so far was useful. She needed to get badges to compete in this PM thingy. Five badges within the next few weeks, if she wanted to compete this round. But the topic had sent Paulo on a bit of pity party. He had started off quite strong, according to him, getting badges much quicker than other PML hopefuls. Then his progress had ground to a halt, and he couldn’t figure out why. His rise in fame was being overshadowed by a guy named Koko who’d formed a team with two Kanto gym leaders.
In fact, in his quest for the Pride badge, he’d failed to defeat badge-giver Hapu twice.
“…and then she says to me, ‘no use crying over spilled milk. You have some real strength! I can feel it in my bones.'”
“Wow,” Tina replied, unsure which part she was supposed to find shocking. It seemed like pretty standard encouragement to her, if a bit outdated in the phrasing. “So is she, um…really old or something?”
“No. She’s, like, in her late teens at most! Anyway, then she tells me I need to believe in my confidence or something. I sort of stopped listening to her.”
“Oh…I see,” Tina said, trying not to give the impression she was doing the same to Paulo right now. Had he always been this melancholy? If so, it made sense why they’d fallen out of touch. Tina had always been an optimist.
“Then later I fought these Team Break guys,” Paulo went on, taking the wider, rightmost path at a fork in the road. “And I lost to them, too. Then they called me a weakling and shoved me away.”
“Aww, that stinks,” Tina said in her most apologetic tone. She discreetly pulled out her Poryphone to look for some nearby fast food places. Just to be ready with suggestions when he got tired of bemoaning his losses.
“It’s just…I thought I’d grown so much stronger, but I still keep losing. It feels like I’ve reached the limits of what I can do on my own…”
“Uh-huh,” Tina said, still scrolling. Some fancy Kalos-themed place had the highest ratings, but there might be a long line there. A nearby malasada shop had a short wait time. Maybe they could grab a quick treat there to fill their stomachs, then nab a fuller meal afterwards?
“…just aiming too high?” Paulo looked at her.
Shoot. She had asked him a question. Which meant she had to give an answer after only following half of what he’d said. She almost tripped over another tree root but caught herself this time before Flareon had to step in. “Erm, I don’t think so. If anything, I’d say…” She searched for some clever or insightful words but all she got out was, “…you’re not aiming high enough.”
“Y-yeah. If you feel like you’ve, um…reached your own limits or whatever, then you should find someone to teach you some, uh, some higher limits.”
“Higher limits, huh?” Paulo said, as if her words had any level of coherence. He rubbed his chin, deep in thought. “There are rumors of a great master who arrived on Pasio recently. I wonder if he would teach me.”
“Couldn’t hurt to check,” Tina agreed, relieved he’d stopped asking her questions. She scrolled through the next few restaurants, but the walking distance only lengthened the farther down the list she got. She wasn’t sure how steady on her feet she’d be after a dozen blocks or more.
“The trick would be finding him. They say he trains in secret in these woods,” Paulo went on, indicating around them. “His accomplishments are legendary, even though he’s still just a kid. He’s not from any big city, either. Started from this tiny place called Pallet Town.”
“No kidding,” Tina said, scrolling back up to the malasada shop. Only two blocks once they got out of the forest. She could handle two blocks. “What kind of Pokémon does this master have?”
“He’s most famous for his Pikachu and Charizard,” Paulo said. “Though I’ve heard he’s trained plenty of others. Including a Snorlax.”
“Uh-huh. And his name?” Tina set the phone to generate some walking directions. Her GPS did not have their walking path on its map and first instructed her to find an actual road.
“It was an unusual name,” Paulo mused. “Some kind of noun. Apple? No, wait. I think it was Red.”
“Red?” Tina asked with a chuckle. “What’s his family name? Sauce? Pepper?”
“Hey, lay off,” Paulo said, rubbing the back of his head. “I just said his name was unusual!”
Tina sighed. Clearly she had food on the brain. “Listen, Paulo, I need to find something to eat,” she said. “If you want to search the woods for this Red Apple guy, go for it. We can meet up later, okay?”
Paulo looked surprised at her sudden need for nourishment, but he agreed and continued deeper into the woods while she retraced their path towards town. At least, she was pretty sure she retraced it. She reached the fork they’d come across, trying to recall which direction they’d taken. She had in her mind she should turn right. Or was that because they’d turned right coming this way, meaning she should now turn left?
She glanced down her two options. Neither path looked too familiar, but between taking her best guess and asking for Paulo for more advice…
She turned right and didn’t look back.
The afternoon sun hit the back of Ingo’s neck. The brisk walk away from Cynthia’s abode felt like it built his anger rather than dissipated it. The nerve of her. The sheer and absolute nerve. He’d met plenty of rude and inconsiderate riders on the subway, but he never expected such juvenile behavior from a champion.
It was her own family you wouldn’t talk about, Ingo reminded himself. But what was there to say on the topic? Did she want to hear what a horrible person Volo had been? What he’d almost done to Hisui and the larger world? What he’d done to Ingo in particular?
Ingo still had strong suspicions that Arceus never would have pulled him out of Unova had it not been for Volo’s shenanigans. He surely would have been dead by Volo’s hand if not for the Pearl Clan stumbling upon his unconscious body in the snow. And as for his memories…
He’d been so disoriented when Volo attacked him, even his restored recollections of the event were hazy. But Volo had been hurting a Pokémon…a special guardian…agitating it before releasing it right into Ingo’s face. He’d felt its fury, its search for the guilty party, and it had opened its eyes on him, eyes that humans weren’t meant to see.
Everything had gone blank then. The next thing Ingo remembered, he’d awoken in a tent in the Pearl Clan settlement, knowing only his name, unable to answer any questions the understandably suspicious members of the clan put to him.
Not that Cynthia would have listened to any of his story. She had many wonderful qualities, but her pride was a gaping weak point. If Ingo had suggested Volo would hurt a Cutiefly, Cynthia would have shut him down. Or called his memory faulty. Or say he must have mistaken Volo for some other blond, relic-loving merchant.
Then there was the matter of Cyrus. Ingo remembered well how fondly Captain Cyllene spoke about the Galaxy Team. How she would pass on its name and history to her descendants. She didn’t have any direct descendants at the time, at least none that Ingo knew of, though she did speak briefly about her late parents and growing up as an only child.
Which was exactly what made Ingo so uncomfortable looking at the photo of Cyrus. The resemblance was uncanny. There was no conceivable way Cyllene wasn’t a part of his family tree. That meant she did have a child at some point. The only question remained: who had been the child’s father?
Ingo shook his head. You disappeared from Hisui when you showed up here. Who knows what else she did with her life–who else she met or had a relationship with? And if she had been expecting a child before you vanished, she surely would have told you.
He caught himself. Cyllene spoke with relative openness about her life growing up in Hoenn, at least once she and Ingo had gotten to know each other. Few others in Jubilife Village worked late into the night like the two of them did, so conversations naturally happened. What Cyllene stayed rather tight-lipped about, however, was her present job and personal life. She told Ingo once that the good memories of the past were locked in place and thus could be shared freely without fear of tainting them. The present was still forming. And it was hers to form with independence and pride. When something new happened in her life, she would share it eventually, but only after she gotten the chance to process it for herself–to plan, analyze, and make decisions without anyone else mucking up her views with their own.
She wouldn’t have told me, Ingo realized, his heart sinking in his chest. With that thought, the anger finally faded only for an aching loneliness to settle in its place.
More than in any other moment on Pasio, he wished he could talk to Emmet.