Ingo had no idea how long he’d been walking. The sun had fully risen, but the sky was overcast, so it could have left the party anywhere between thirty minutes or three hours ago. He’d tried to go to his usual thinking spot in the hidden grove, only to find it occupied by Cynthia. She’d been speaking to a Poké Ball when he’d approached, an unusual type. Most people would not recognize it at all. He certainly hadn’t been able to carve any here without sufficient materials. It was sky-colored, its delicate wing-like pattern painted in a darker blue. A Jet Ball.
Volo’s favorite type to use. The man had often boasted to anyone who would listen (and several who didn’t care to) how strong of a throw he had. Why, he could catch the strongest Pokémon from the farthest distance. Even one as strong as Giratina.
Cynthia could have been keeping any kind of Pokémon in there, of course. But from the way she spoke…
He tried to push the thought out his mind, but recalling other events of his morning gave him little solace. His face still burned at the memory of walking out on the job like that. He’d always taken his pride in his work so seriously. Even too seriously, some would say. Yet when faced with the Striaton triplets socializing and enjoying each other’s company…knowing he could never have that sort of relationship with Emmet again? It had been too much, even for him.
He owed Lear an apology. At the very least, he really should have taken off the maroon butler uniform by now. But then what else was he supposed to wear? He certainly wasn’t in the mood for any PML merchandise, and the idea of wearing his Battle Subway uniform turned him off even more.
Besides, he thought bitterly, if I did wear it and ran into Emmet, how would I explain that I have the same outfit as–
Ingo froze. The voice didn’t seem to come from any one direction–though he would admit he hadn’t been paying much attention to his surroundings. Anyone could have been following him for a while now, and he wouldn’t have noticed. But that tone was so familiar. In part because it was so close to his own.
He turned, and sure enough, there stood Emmet, walking up the path towards him. Ingo threw his gaze to the ground, struggling to contain his emotions. He almost slipped immediately and said Emmet’s name in response. Then he bit his tongue. We aren’t supposed to know each other. We shouldn’t even be talking.
Emmet stepped forward while Ingo nervously lowered the brim of his hat.
“That’s your name, isn’t it?” he said. This time, Ingo realized why he’d been unable to pinpoint the voice’s direction before. It hadn’t come from the sides or behind him. Emmet was speaking telepathically, directly into his mind.
His blood ran cold. “C-can you read my thoughts?” he asked.
“Hmm? Oh, goodness, no!” Emmet replied. “I got your name from my acquaintance Rosa. She asked around after you two met this morning. The mind-speak is a one-way street, I assure you.”
“I-I see,” Ingo managed to mumble. He had heard the island changed people, but he never expected anything like this. Or perhaps this was an Emmet from an entirely different world, one even he never knew? In that case, would it be safe to interact with each other?
“Sorry again if I startled you,” Emmet went on. “When Rosa described you, I really wanted to meet. Snappy outfit, by the way!”
“Th-thank you,” Ingo managed with a modest bow. Some part of him hoped against all logic and reason that this was his Emmet. One who remembered running the subway together. Who had noticed he was gone for so long and had missed him. For whatever amount of time had passed from Emmet’s perspective. But…was that the same as hoping Emmet had been in pain all those years? What kind of brother wished for that?
“I am Emmet,” Emmet announced, extending his hand. “I am new here, and I take it you are…less new?”
Ingo nodded, unsure if he could do anything else without throwing his arms around Emmet and turning into an emotional train wreck.
“Rosa said you two met when she mistook you for me,” Emmet went on. “I can see how she became confused.” Emmet’s warm laugh flooded the darkest parts of Ingo’s mind. His brother always did laugh when he was feeling nervous or uncomfortable. Of course, he laughed when he was feeling the opposite of those things as well, which made reading him tricky even in the best of circumstances.
Ingo raised his head a fraction. He couldn’t hide in his hat’s shadow forever, and after all this time…no one could blame him for wanting to look his brother in the eyes, could they?
Well, maybe they could. “My word,” Emmet said, still without moving his lips. “I truly feel like I’m looking in a mirror. Are we…” He narrowed his eyes, his signature smile fading for the slightest moment. “…related somehow?”
“I, erm…believe so,” Ingo said. While there was a number of lies he might get away with, claiming he was unrelated to his identical twin probably wasn’t one of them. “Forgive me; I don’t recall our exact relation. Distant cousins or some such thing.”
“Ah, that explains it!” Emmet said, his smile returning as he straightened. He’d been bending down, trying to get a better look at Ingo’s face beneath the top hat’s brim. “I do feel bad, though. I didn’t even know I had a cousin, much less one with such a resemblance.”
“Nothing to feel bad about,” Ingo assured him. “I’m actually quite a few years older than you, and you were…very young when we first met. I would be rather shocked if you did remember me.” He finally released the nervous grip on his hat and gave a small bow. “I’m happy to see you’re doing well.” His voice only cracked a bit on the word “happy,” which he counted as win.
“How could I be any less than well?” Emmet asked, then waved around them. “A new stop! So many new trainers and Pokémon. So many possibilities! I hope you and I can battle sometime.”
Ingo’s throat tightened. He struggled to keep his voice steady as he replied, “I would…like that. Very much. Thank you.”
“I’ll warn you, though,” Emmet said, wagging a finger. “I’m ruthless. I like winning more than anything else.”
“I know–” Ingo began, then caught himself. “–how you feel.”
“Excellent,” Emmet said, clapping. An odd sound, since it came from Emmet’s person rather than playing into Ingo’s mind. “You know, I’m the Subway Boss back in Unova. Have you ever been there?”
“A…long time ago,” Ingo said.
“You should visit again! Nimbasa City has all the best tourist spots! You can play games at the Little Court, go ride the Ferris Wheel, and…oh, dear me. I’m boring you to tears, going on about myself, aren’t I? Tell me about yourself! What do you do for a living?”
“I-I…um…” Ingo had to admit, after all of Emmet’s painful and near-impossible-to-answer questions, this last one should have been nothing. He wondered if perhaps all the mental gymnastics had left his brain scrambling for a rest stop. Yet he needed to say something. Anything. Ingo stole a glance down at his tuxedo and said the only words he could think of: “I’m a butler.”
“Ah, of course!” Emmet said, playfully slapping himself in the forehead. “Your attire. Obviously. Did your client arrive on Pasio, too?”
“Erm, yes,” Ingo said. “Just recently. In fact, he’s probably still disoriented from the trip and needs my assistance. I should get going.”
“Okay, see you later, then!” Emmet said with a wave. “Drive safely!”
And follow the rules, Ingo mentally recited as he turned and hurried down the sidewalk. Rule-following had generally been his area of expertise. But seeing Emmet…actually having the chance to speak with him again…Ingo would have to be on his utmost guard against temptation. There was no way to know what level of interaction was safe. A single slip could take his brother away from him. No matter what, he had to stay on track.
Starting, he realized, with finding someone who wouldn’t mind lying about having a butler.
As the thought crossed his mind, his phone buzzed in his coat pocket. He’d gotten away without having one all this time, but at Lear’s insistence, he’d finally caved. He pulled it out, and Cynthia’s name flashed on the screen. Not someone he wanted to speak to, but ignoring her would be rude.
It took Ingo several moments to remember how to get the loud device to connect a call.
“Hello, Ingo,” said Cynthia, patient as ever when he was finally successful.
“Hello, Cynthia,” he replied in a clipped tone. He’d done her the courtesy of answering. The rest was on her.
“I saw you leaving the party. Are you doing all right now?”
“I’m quite fine. Is that all you called about?”
“Actually, no,” Cynthia said, her own tone getting rather short and businesslike as well. “There’s some information I got from…well, something you should be aware of.”
Ingo had two guesses what she might be referring to and chose the lesser of the two evils. “Is it about Emmet being on the island?”
There was a long pause before Cynthia answered. He wondered for a moment if his phone had lost its…magic link power or whatever it was called.
“We need to talk in person,” Cynthia finally said. “Can you come over to my place?”
“I’m a bit busy.”
“I understand, but it’s extremely urgent and absolutely can’t wait another second,” Cynthia pushed.
Ingo sighed. “Fine, I’ll be there shortly,” he said and hung up the phone before she could reply. He hadn’t known Cynthia that long, but he could tell when she had a lecturing tone to her voice. If he listened to it a moment longer, he couldn’t count on himself to hold his temper.
When Ingo arrived, Cynthia shut the door behind him with barely a “hello.” She should have gone to look for him as soon as she’d spoken with Caitlin. Instead, she’d gotten herself distracted having a philosophical debate with Cyrus. A debate she still hadn’t even settled. But that was another matter.
“Did you actually talk to Emmet?” she asked.
“Briefly,” Ingo said, taking a seat on her couch without invitation. “He seemed fine afterwards.”
Cynthia breathed a sigh of relief and sat down herself. “I see. You got lucky, then. At least now you know he’s here, and you can stay away from him.” She read Ingo’s face, which had the same zoned-out expression as a new trainer ignoring any and all advice she tried to give them. “Ingo,” she said seriously. “You can’t possibly be thinking of contacting him again.”
Ingo stiffened. “It’s just…perhaps if I present myself as a stranger, and we don’t talk about anything in the past–”
“It won’t work,” Cynthia said. “If your brother is here, you shouldn’t be seeing him, period. False pretenses or not.”
“Koko warned me to be careful. There was no mention of ‘don’t even speak to people from Unova.'”
“It’s not Unova. It’s Emmet, specifically.” She folded her hands. This had to be delivered in a delicate way. He had to listen. “I’ve been talking to Caitlin, and she’s been able to illuminate the situation a bit more. You and Emmet were close in your reality. Am I right?”
Ingo lowered his head, his voice going quiet. “We were inseparable.”
“With that strong of a bond, he’s at the highest risk for making a mental connection with the Emmet from your world.”
“Holding two realities at once,” Ingo said, repeating Koko’s words.
“Exactly,” Cynthia said. Then she narrowed her eyes. “Ingo, a mental clash like that isn’t just disorienting or confusing. It could kill him.”
Ingo turned away from her. “I appreciate the information. Though I assume this isn’t the only topic you wanted to discuss?”
“No, it wasn’t,” Cynthia sighed. That was not the way she wanted to end the argument, but perhaps backing off for now would make Ingo a bit more receptive. “I wanted to apologize for what I said on your moving day. I know I pushed you too hard. I was hoping we could mend things.”
“I see. How gracious of you.”
Was that sarcasm? He really needed to stop his attempts if it was. “What’s going on with you lately? Why do you keep acting like I’ve got ulterior motives?”
Ingo stood up. “Plenty of reasons. Though I’d say the most obvious is because you’re secretly training Giratina.”
“I–” Cynthia’s jaw went slack. How could he know? Then, against all her better judgment, her fingers went to her belt where she’d secured all her Poké Balls. She ran her fingers over each one of them, feeling the power radiating from inside.
“Yes, I know about the Jet Ball you have,” Ingo continued, even though it was still out of his sight beneath her jacket. “It’s a gift from your precious ancestor, isn’t it? Volo bequeathed Giratina to you.”
Cynthia refused to let her poker face break. “For safekeeping,” she said.
Ingo laughed, harsh and broken. “More like for finishing what he started.”
“What are you talking about?” She’d never seen Ingo so worked up before. He paced around the living room, his speech growing sharper until it bordered on ranting.
“Volo wanted to tame Arceus, and he was using Giratina to do it. Then I appeared from another world, as if sent by Arceus to stop him.”
“Hold on. You can’t be accusing my family of–”
Ingo turned and pointed an accusing finger at her. “I can, and I am. Volo is the reason I was thrown out of Unova. Why I couldn’t remember anything. Why, according to you, I can’t even talk to Emmet.” His voice cracked on his brother’s name, and he dropped his hand. “If you’re going to defend him, train the Pokémon he gave you, then–”
“Then what?” She didn’t mean to sound so harsh. But between Cyrus’s activities, Garchomp’s illness, and her duties as Champion, she had quite enough on her plate already. Now she had to listen to Ingo drag her family’s name through the mud? Unacceptable.
“Then I don’t think this friendship is salvageable,” Ingo finished. The words stabbed into her. Much more than she expected.
“I’m sorry to hear that,” she said curtly. Tension saturated the silence between them. She could offer an olive branch. Take what he said at face value and denounce Volo. But…her history was everything to her. He couldn’t expect her to dump it all at his say-so.
“Giratina is not dangerous in and of itself,” she finally said. “It’s a Pokémon like any other. You’ve got a lot of nerve suggesting otherwise.” She sighed. “I don’t know what’s happened between us, but I still care about your family’s safety.”
Ingo huffed at this response. “The worst part is, I believe you. Even if you can’t believe the truth about your own family.” He swallowed hard. “You wanted to know why I reacted so strangely to seeing Cyrus?”
“I…” The question certainly caught her off guard. But champions didn’t falter. “Why?”
“He’s my descendent.”
Or perhaps they did. “What!?” Cynthia exclaimed, her cool shell shattered.
Ingo looked…well, he wasn’t smirking, but he sure seemed like he enjoyed throwing her off. “Check those historical documents you’re so fond of. I’m sure it’s in there somewhere.”
“Very well, then, I will,” Cynthia said. It should have been the end of the conversation. She more or less had the moral high ground right now. And yet a part of her could not hold back from asserting herself one more time. To defend her family’s legacy.
Which Ingo, with his tainted and broken family tree, was obviously jealous of. An understandable emotion. She could even sympathize. But it still gave him no right to speak to her the way he had.
“You should know I’ve commissioned a new sygna suit,” she said. “One to help me bond with Giratina. I’d like to begin training it more publicly.”
“Do whatever you want,” Ingo said. He sounded exhausted. Cynthia should have felt quite superior about it. Instead she only felt like she’d lost much more than a simple argument. Her mind barely registered as Ingo walked out of her house, likely for the last time. She then collapsed onto the couch.
Something buzzed against her thigh. She pulled up her phone to see an incoming call from Cyrus. Did Lear give him my num–yes, of course he did. Cynthia could feel a headache coming on. If she didn’t watch herself, she might very well strangle Lear with his own promotional clothing one day. She took a deep breath and answered the call.
“My apologies if I’m interrupting,” Cyrus said. “I understand the Champions will gathering tomorrow to discuss my invention. Is there any further information I can provide you before they do so?”
“I…” Cynthia was about to say she was in no mood for speaking with him right now. But it wasn’t exactly Cyrus’s fault that Lear was handing out Cynthia’s number like Poke Puff samples. And what sort of Champion would she be if she attended the meeting tomorrow without all the information she could get? “Only a few, if you don’t mind.”
“Of course not. Go ahead.”
Cynthia leaned against the closed door. “Repeat for me, what motivated you to create this device to begin with?”
Cyrus retold the story of his club member who had been suffering from feelings of remorse after a war he’d participated in. Only this time, with permission, he gave the member’s name. Lt. Surge, the electric-type gym leader from Kanto. Whom Cynthia was welcome to contact if she wanted to corroborate the story. She made a note to herself to do just that.
“And what would you do in the event that someone asked for the process to be reversed?”
“I would do so without hesitation,” Cyrus replied. “As I said the last time we spoke, there is no further interaction to be had between myself and those who understand and yet still my reject my views.”
“And in the event a person asked you to use the machine on someone else?”
“To dampen one’s emotions is a personal decision,” Cyrus said. “I would not use the machine on anyone without their explicit consent.”
Dampened feelings. Cynthia breathed deeply and tried to clear her head. She felt she must be going insane if she now thought Cyrus’s machine sounded like a good thing. But if my emotions hadn’t gotten the better of me, I wouldn’t have bickered with Ingo. I wouldn’t care what he said about my family so much.
Even if she personally didn’t want to go so far to get rid of these feelings, could she hold it against those who did?
“Thank you for your input,” she finally said. “It was enlightening.”
Cyrus thanked her in return–an extremely disorienting phrase to hear–and hung up. Cynthia sighed as she looked up at the ceiling. It still boggled her mind that Cyrus and Ingo could possibly be related. They were so different.
Then again, it wasn’t anything she needed to be dwelling on anymore. Some friendships lasted and others fizzled out quickly. A mature and level-headed Champion would accept that and move on.