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Pokémon 26 years

Intro

bluesidra

Mood
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. custom/hoppip-bluesidra-reup
  2. custom/hoppip-bluesidra-pink
  3. custom/hoppip-bluesidra3
TR_Signature.png
Right before the Championship Match, the advent of the Darkest Day pulls Leon and challenger Hanako back in time and halfway across the world. As they struggle to get back home, they'll have to learn to open up and live with each other and their own history.

After all, no man is an island.



Content Warning:
  • Grief and Loss: The first part focuses on the sudden death of loved ones and how people cope with it. It remains a big theme over the entire fic.
  • Death: Never on screen and no major character death. But a fic centering around grieving for and losing people and opportunities involves death.
  • Specific CWs are at the top of each chapter. If you feel like something should be CWed, feel free to bring it up to me via DM, forum post or discord. There are no stupid CWs
Rated: General Audiences
Topics: internal and external pressure, grief and loss, responsibility, divorce, growing up, friendship, time-travel
Genre: Slice of Life, Adventure
Characters: Leon, Morty, Hana (OC), Hop
Relationships: Leon & Morty & Hana. Romance will become a thing eventually, but never between the three leads.
Level of Blood and Violence: There are a few instances of blood, but they result from "normal" wounds and are never life-threatening (eg. scratches and nail-biting). People and pokemon get injured, but it's never described in graphic detail. There is violence between pokemon in the form of potentially lethal fights, but the focus is never on the suffering or the violence itself. No physical violence between human characters.
General rule of thumb: If an injury is described, it's guaranteed to be not lethal and will pass. If something results in death or prolonged physical pain, it's never described.

Hello and welcome to my first fic! I'm glad you're here! I hope you enjoy your journey through this brainchild of mine. Please be sure to tell me all your thoughts, I love hearing people's opinions. And even if you have no opinions, let me know you're reading it. It means a lot to me!

At its core is a slow moving adventure, with a lot of slice-of-life stuff in there. Some parts will lean into on shojo, coming of age and domestic stuff more, while others are about traveling, adventure and action. My goal is to look at how people deal with death, or in general change, through a child-friendly, safe lens and to give everyone involved the time to process. A big inspiration of mine are Ghibli movies. If I can live up to them is another question, but that is the level of tone and pacing I'm trying to emulate. If any of you watched "Children Who Chase Lost Voices" (which is not a ghibli movie) -- this is the spiritual parent of this fic.

Feedback wise, I'm looking for everything you can throw at me. I'm especially interested in how the characters come off, and if you can understand why they are doing the things they do.
I've gotten the feedback that my pacing is very fast and events don't get their time to sink in. If you feel any issues with pacing, please feel free to point them out (maybe even with an idea what would work better?). I also struggle to convey the emotional state of a character, especially Hana's. If you find something that you feel is too short or too long or doesn't make sense, please point it out.
And if there are typos, hand those bastards over. I spend a lot of time spellchecking, and I want to eradicate any and all spelling and grammar errors in there.

AO3 and TR are now caught up and are updating simultaneously. Still, it would be really rad if you pay the archive a visit and leave a kudo. I live for the numbers. 26 Years Ago on AO3
I kinda didn't want to put it in the content warning section, because that would do the topic no justice. But, well, there are very heavy topics ahead on the road for my cast. I can't and don't want to diagnose any one of them, mainly because there is a fine line to be walked between a rather extreme character trait and an what is currently considered an illness. But there will be instances of what could be labeled depression, suicidal ideation, depersonalisation, overdependency and self-esteem issues, as well as reckless behaviour with the (un)conscious intent to self-harm and the behaviour patterns usually found in borderline personalities.
Those will not be CWed. An exception is suicide and self-harming behaviour. There will never be unchallenged talk about any of the two, and if they become a topic in a chapter, it will be CWed.

Mind you, the more extreme things are filtered through Hana's lens and get called out by the characters. The intention of this fic is for them to get better, after all. It's not meant to be wallowing in despair and negative emotions. On the other side, depression and its friends are conditions that are to be taken serious and take a lot of time and effort to get better. And I want to do them and the people struggling with them justice.

I'm taking a lot of it from my real-life experiences and of course will try to handle them as tactfully as I can. As in, it is always this specific character reacting to what their brain-chemistry is up to today. What I write is never a generalised picture of any condition, but one instance and does not invalidate any other experiences with said condition.
The story uses the game canon of SwSh and GSC/HGSS. Knowledge of the SwSh plot is beneficial, but not necessary.
Age at the start of the story: Leon (20), Hana (17), Hop (17), Morty (23)
Hana is an OC stand-in for Gloria. But Hop and her have never made the discovery about the Sword and the Shield in this story.

Vol1: The Distance Between Us small.pngVol 1: Distances Unfathomable

Leon and Hana are stranded in time. With nothing but their own mental baggage, they try to continue, but eventually, it becomes too much. Both have lost everything and more, and at the end, they even lose themselves and their fragile friendship.

100k words, 30 chapters, finished (but not yet uploaded in full)
Vol2: A Year In Autumn small.pngVol 2: A Year In Autumn

Coming soon to a forum near you
 
Last edited:
Chapter 1: Lost

bluesidra

Mood
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. custom/hoppip-bluesidra-reup
  2. custom/hoppip-bluesidra-pink
  3. custom/hoppip-bluesidra3


Chapter 1: Lost​


Everything went by so fast. Eternatus’s unending body raced upwards, squirming as it was devoured by this abyss of light.

As did I.

A hand was holding me tight. But even this hand couldn’t protect me from the gravity, magnified tenfold here in this space between dimensions. Its force was all-consuming. It had already erased any and all sounds and now even threatened to pull in the light that seeped out of the cracks in reality.

And then I collided with its centre. I could feel every bone, every muscle, every cell of my body scream when the force suddenly reversed — and then vanished. In its place were fragments of a blue sky, clouds and sound.

Eternatus didn’t escape it. Its body, its thousands upon thousands of black links over the red stream of pure energy, reaching from here to eternity, had come to an end. Once more it reached out for me, its five fingered claw so close I could almost touch it. For a moment, I saw the true potential of this destructive force flash before me.

Another arm closing around my waist, pressing my back against a warm chest. Eternatus’s hand snapping closed, vanishing into the rift. The sound. The overwhelming sound of air rushing past my ears. A body curling itself around me like a protective shell. Purple strands of hair in the corner of my eyes.

Then we hit the ground.

«Hop!»

* * *​

Somehow, I managed to stay awake after the impact.

Leon lay next to me on the ground, his arm still around my ribcage. He was breathing, and that had to suffice for now. I mustered up my last strength to roll over, away from him and his warmth, into the cold, wet grass.

«Why did he have to go back? He had almost made it to safety. Why?»

A Skwovet was trying to pull something out of his pockets, but I couldn’t shoo it away anymore. A coppery taste spread from somewhere between my tongue and my nose.

Above us, the rift in the blue sky was only a faint scar, the stream of light pouring out of it growing smaller and smaller while my world faded into darkness.

* * *​

The next time I woke up, the grass had dried, and the haulms swayed on a chill breeze, creating a rustling melody. The pain that had surged through me had died down to dull pulses. Something heavy covered my entire body, keeping me safe.

It was quiet around me, and the air smelled of summer ferns and an impending break in the weather. No Darkest Day, no destroyed Hammerlocke. We were in a forest, Whimsicott and the team probably had fun somewhere, warming their leaves in the sun.

Something heavy covered me…

Within one second, I was wide awake. I shot up, tumbling a few feet away from the foreign feeling before my brain kicked in.

I stared at the fleecy thing while my eyes still fought against the dizziness. This was Leon’s coat, right? There could only be so many ugly capes around.

When I reached out to check, the sharp pain around my ribcage flared up again. I took a conscious, deep breath while I turned the coat around. No broken ribs. And this was definitely the Champion’s coat, with all his sponsors and whatnot.

But where was he? Or where was I, for that matter? How did I end up in a clearing in the middle of a forest?

Cautiously, I stood up and twisted my ankles and joints. My back protested every move and the scrapes on my arms and legs burned under my torn clothes, but nothing seemed to be broken.

Chairman Rose. Darkest Day. Hammerlocke. The falling sky. Hop!

«Okay. Okay. Everything’s alright. Deep breath in, count to ten. There’s nothing that can’t be solved. You just need to keep cool.»

Even though the wave of panic subsided at the count of seven, I continued up to ten and finished the exercise with a deep breath out. I needed a plan.

Hop was in Hammerlocke. To get to Hammerlocke, I needed to get out of this forest first. And before I could get out of this forest, I’d have to find Leon. Hop would have me if I left him here. So, best to call him. Hop gave me his number for emergencies, after all.

Without even opening my eyes, I reached for the back pocket of my pants to my Rotom-Phone. Another deep breath, then I opened my eyes and — the screen was cracked! Not only that, the entire case was bent. And something else: the lower side of the phone was… petrified? It looked like someone had made a tombstone for my deceased phone and stopped halfway through.

I pressed the on-button and was relieved to see at least a few screen-cells flicker. My relief was short-lived, however, because the next thing I saw was Rotom’s scared face as it tried to get out of the device.

“Hana! It’s got the case too!” Rotom’s distorted voice sounded through the speakers. Now I felt it as well: While in my hand, my phone started turning to stone. Rotom squeezed in a corner as, along the cracks, the display turned to solid granite.

“Ah! Don’t worry, I’m here!” I fidgeted the phone around until I found a little slit. Jamming my fingernails between the casing and the back-cover, I pulled as hard as I could, trying to remove it.

«Damn Macro Cosmos and their quality control,» I thought as I struggled against the strong glue. Rotom wailed on the inside, panicking. I had to press it to the ground with one foot and pull with both arms, but finally, the back cover cracked open.

I fell over backwards into the grass and now the sores on my chest screamed at me, but I held a shaking Rotom in my arms. Its body, covered in ectoplasm, felt weirdly cold and gave me slight shocks as it pressed against my chest.

“What was that?!” Rotom’s own voice was even higher than what I usually heard through the speakers.

“I— I don’t know. I wanted to ask you,” I replied.

“That grey… thing… mess… consumed my circuits. The motherboard — gone, just like that! And then it wanted to eat me! It was so scary!” Rotom hugged my face, sending electricity down my entire body.

“It’s okay. You didn’t die!” I struggled to get the tiny ghost away from me. “Now calm down, please!” One last shock made my hair stand up, then Rotom let go of me.

“Right! What’s the thing you always say? One deep breath?” The small pokemon closed its eyes and imitated breathing in.

“Yes. And count to ten.”

While Rotom counted, I got to my feet and picked up the phone. By now it had fully turned into stone and weighed heavy in my hand. So much for calling for help.

The surrounding woods were thick and didn’t show signs of much human interference. The grass in this tiny clearing was almost knee high, except where our bodies had lain. Deeper into the forest, the grass gave way to sparse undergrowth, which itself gave way to nothing but moss covering the roots of the gigantic trees. Sunlight broke through the canopy and formed spears of light piercing the humid air. There was the bitter smell of late summer on the wind, mixed in with the sweet scent of cypresses as a gust blew the last lingering warmth away.

«Deep breath in. Find Leon. Then find your way home.»

“You don’t know by chance where we are, do you?” I asked, looking around.

“Nine. Ten. No, sorry. All my map material is in there.” Rotom pointed at the petrified phone.

“That’s what I feared,” I sighed and picked up the coat. “Come on, looks like we have to find our way ourselves then.” Rotom gave an approving jingle as I followed the track of flattened grass and undergrowth deeper into the forest.

“You know what’s strange?” Rotom mused after a while.

“Hm?”

“I can’t pick up any mobile signal here.”

* * *​

“Leon! Over here!” I yelled.

Leon stood on top of a small height, trying to orient himself. A fruitless task, as proven by the many circles I had followed to find him. As soon as he heard his name, he waved at me and then half ran, half jumped down the root-streaked, mossy ground. «Watch out!» I wanted to shout, but somehow he managed to land every jump perfectly.

“Hey Hana! Sorry, I didn’t mean to go out that far,” he said, giving me an apologetic smile. Then, without even standing still for a single breath, he turned around, ran a few steps, and once again looked around the forest. “I think you’re better than me at doing this… How do we get out of here?”

Unsure how to respond, I could only get out a weak “Ahm” before he continued.

“Hop told me you’re always the one with the plans.” He spun around and gave me another wide smile. “Don’t let me down here, okay?” I watched him as he randomly decided on a route he had not yet tried.

“Is everything okay?” I asked, looking at his torn leggings and the scrapes on his arm.

“Everything’s fine.”

I took another long look at him. He held his right arm in a slightly more protective position than his left. And he had appeared to be a bit paler than usual. Maybe the fall hadn’t been so gentle on him after all. The fall and, well—

“Are you sure?”

Leon spun around with an intensity that made me jump half a step back. “Yes I am!” he screamed, his golden eyes glinting dangerously.

For a moment, the forest fell silent.

“Yes I am! You know what’s not? Everything else! Somewhere out there something’s wrecking Hammerlocke! I should be there, fightin’ it. But I’m in the middle of goddamn nowhere! Somethin’ about Dynamax I don’t even understand!” Leon was furious in a way I’ve never seen or imagined him. “Can’t even call a cab ‘cause my phone’s broken. And worst of all—” He reached for his waist bag and I instinctively took a step back. “This!”

I gasped. In Leon’s outstretched hand was a pokeball, often used and now turned solid grey, petrified like my phone.

«I am so sorry,» was the first thought shooting through my head, but Leon’s shaking anger had me fall silent. I watched him press the ball’s middle button over and over again, to no avail. Finally, he clenched his hand around it until his knuckles appeared white under his bronze skin.

“Know what? Wait here, if you want. I’m gonna find a solution for this.” With this, he turned around and sprinted off. A moment later, he was gone.

I had stared into the woods for a good while, when I felt my hands tremble. Absent-mindedly, I began twisting my ankle. An old stretching pattern that was firmly rooted in my memory. Deep breath in.

“That… that was scary,” Rotom mumbled.

«Could I have handled that better somehow? Deep breath out. Probably. But how? Deep breath in. How…»

Cold drops of rain fell heavy to the ground and onto my back and finally broke my wandering thoughts. No matter the state he was in, Leon would get lost. I needed to find him. That was the least I could do now.

I counted to ten, just so I knew I wasn’t rushing things. Then I ran in the direction he went.

* * *​

The rain had turned the moss into slippery sponges and the canopy of trees into a torn umbrella, regularly showering me in cold rain water while my shoes struggled to keep their grip.

Thankfully, the torn moss on the wet rocks made it easier to follow Leon’s traces. I almost expected to find him in a fissure between the boulders and giant roots that now made up most of the uphill track. But despite a few places where a long streak of moss had been torn from its footing, he seemed to have made it through this treacherous part just fine.

After falling once and slipping countless other times myself, I finally made it to the top of the hill, where a small, man-made path ran along the crest’s ridge.

The footprints were harder to follow on the gravel, but I didn’t have to search any further. Huddled up against a tree, his feet tucked up to his chest and his head resting on his knees, was Galar’s Champion. He didn’t seem to have noticed me. A fresh streak of grass and blood ran along the side of his white pants. His snapback rested by his side. By now his hair was soaked, turning its usual purple colour almost to black. Cautiously, I took a step forward.

“Hey,” I whispered. He looked up, still pale. “I’m sorry.”

Our eyes met briefly before he averted his gaze. His golden eyes still had their glow, but his radiance was missing. He motioned me to sit next to him.

“Here!” I held his cloak in front of his face and for the first time, he looked at it. He hesitated for a heartbeat before taking it.

“Thanks.” He struggled to unfold the bulky thing with one hand, and the sudden activity seemed to have broken his apathy. I was relieved to see some energy coming back into him. After all, that was the Leon I knew from back when Hop and I used to have our re-watch marathons of his brother’s old matches.

“Here, let me help you,” I gave in. “How do you want it?” It took us a while, but we finally had it over his head.

“You don’t have to apologise to me,” he said, holding the cape up with his wounded arm, again motioning me to sit next to him. I recognised his blatant attempt at blackmailing, but gave in. For the next few seconds, I endured his struggle to cover me with his cloak until it surrounded us both like a blanket.

“There was no reason for me to yell at you,” he said. Now that he had nothing to do, he kept himself busy by looking everywhere else — the cloak, his shoes, the path — but me.

“It’s okay.”

“No, it’s not,” Leon sighed. His voice sounded exhausted yet stern. “I messed up, I really did. As Champ and… and, well, as Leon. That’s all there is to it.” He turned his head, looking me straight in the eyes. “I hope you can accept my apology. I’ll make sure it never happens again.”

“O— Of course,” I stumbled. The sudden intensity of his expression caught me off guard.

“Thank you.” He turned back, relaxing a bit.

We watched the rain pour down for a while. Rotom had by now left my waist bag and enjoyed being massaged by Leon.

I tucked my legs under my body, getting a bit of distance between him and me, and started picking at my torn tights. For a moment, all the racing thoughts of the last hour were gone, and only the sound of the rain hitting the ground and leaves around us remained.

Turned out, Leon’s cloak was an excellent raincoat.

After a while, I looked over at him. He was ruffling Rotom’s plasmatic mantle, his thoughts who-knows-where. Still in his lap was that petrified pokeball.

“Charizard?” I asked.

Leon just nodded. He handed me the ball. It lay heavy in my hand; cold, even though his body should have kept it warm.

“It’s the same with Aegislash and the others,” he said, his voice hollow. I was by far not an expert on pokeballs, but judging from what Rotom told me, this looked grim. “What about yours?”

“I’ve left them with Hop, before you… you know.” Silence.

“I’m so sorry,” I finally whispered. For a moment Leon didn’t react at all, then he shrugged.

Now I understood how utterly useless any ‘sorry’ sounded. Leon had been with these pokemon for over a decade and stood undefeated with them for almost as long. I had only started training pokemon roughly a year ago and couldn’t imagine a world without my team. To lose friends of such a long time… At least I knew mine were safe back in Hammerlocke. Or—

«No, no. Deep breath in. Count to ten. I’ve found Leon. Now the next step is to get out of here.»

I looked at Charizard’s pokeball before handing it back. “I’m sure someone knows what to do about that. If not the Nurses Joy, then Professor Magnolia.”

Leon sighed. “How do you do that?” He was still staring at the path. “How can you stay this calm?” He paused for a moment, then suddenly jolted back into an upright position. “I could scream right now if I wasn’t actively calming myself down! Argh!” He gave a frustrated groan, then slumped back against the tree.

Carefully, I extended my legs again. They hurt from the scrapes and bruises, and I focused on the movements of my toes when I wiggled my feet. The ridiculousness of the situation forced a smile onto my face.

“When things get too overwhelming, try to focus on the next step. Then it’s not so much you have to deal with at once,” I finally recited. Leon thought about it for a moment.

“And what is the next step?” My smile vanished the second I heard the desperation in his voice. “There are, like, so many things to do now. Do something about my team. Find out what’s going on in Hammerlocke. Seal Eternatus back to where it came from. Make sure everyone’s safe. Y’know? Champ stuff. And I don’t even know where to start. Or how to get there, for that matter.” He sighed. “Normally I just go somewhere and things sort themselves out. But now? I am completely lost.”

I took a moment to think about my response and how to calm him down. I had a plan after all, right?

“We have to get out of this forest. My phone is broken too, so we’ll have to find a place where we can call someone.”

Desperate to have something to latch on to, Leon followed the thought and his eyes became focused again. “Good idea. We could call Sonia. She knows a lot about the Darkest Day.” He paused for a moment. “Catching up with Raihan is probably also a good idea. He stayed behind in Hammerlocke for the evacuation. He should know what’s going on there.”

I nodded and forced a weak smile. “See? And just like that, you’ve got a plan.”

Leon nodded, his eyes focused again. He gave it a few more thoughts, then got up with a determined “Right.” As soon as he put weight on his right arm though, he flinched. It was only a bit, and he was up before I could object.

“Wait, let me fix that,” I said when he was about to collect his cape. He sent me a questioning look, and I pointed at his arm. “Come on, sit down again!”

“Can you do something about that?” he asked, reluctantly following my order.

I nodded while I took off my scarf. There was a reason I was my term’s appointed first-aider.

Leon sent my scarf a wary look, but let me get to work. He didn’t get to decide what suited him and what not. His entire career had been a disaster fashion-wise, at least as far back as I had followed it.

The moment I took my eyes off him and he couldn’t follow my movements any longer, he sighed.

“What if there’s no Hammerlocke or Raihan that I can catch up with?”

“Stop that!” I whispered, but Leon didn’t even register.

“I messed up! I messed the f—” He bit his lip. His words sounded strained. He was on the verge of collapse.

“Leon…” I said. Mostly because I needed to think. “Just breathe! Please. It’s going to be alright.”

To my surprise, it worked. Leon took a few deep breaths in and then slowly unfurled himself. He had his eyes closed and his lips moved in a silent whisper. Whatever he told himself, it did wonders.

When he opened his eyes again, he was almost back to normal — smiling, radiating warm confidence and making stupid remarks on whatever came across his mind. This time it was my scarf. That I subsequently squeezed his arm a bit too much, may or may not have been on purpose.

I watched him closely while I patched him up, but he seemed stable. Not even Raihan could change the weather as fast as this guy.

“Hey, if you go on like this for a bit longer, the rain will actually stop.” I turned around. He was right. The rain had turned into a mere drizzle. Finally! “You know, I wasn’t exaggerating when I said I was lost.”

I shrugged and motioned up and down the plain gravel path. “One of those two directions will lead us somewhere.”

“The other one is a dead end at a railway crossing.” I looked at him. “I’ve been there today already…”

“Which one is it?”

“… I don’t know…”

* * *​

It took us quite a while to get up. We were both stiff from sitting on the ground for way too long. Now that my leg warmers were fastened around Leon’s chest to keep him from moving his arm, my legs felt icy in their torn leggings. I carefully rubbed and stretched them when I heard Leon call my name.

“Hey Hana, look at that! Have you ever seen a pokemon like that?” I looked up to see a small brown ball of fur on two short legs. Its body was almost completely round, with a long, bushy, striped tail. Its tall ears pointed to a very perceptive and cautious pokemon, but this one in particular didn’t look scared at all. If anything, those small black eyes looked rather demanding.

I shook my head. “Never…” I gave it a closer glance. It carried something in its paws. A shred of paper? “Wait, yes! You were unconscious. I think it tried to steal something”

“Hm. What do you have there?” Leon squatted down and reached out for the shred. As soon as he got too close, the little critter struck at his outstretched hand, jumped onto his head and from there made its way to his waist bag.

With one determined grasp, I grabbed it by the back of its neck and pulled it away. Its initial resistance faded under a single stern stare.

It was strange. Leon and I were Galar’s two most powerful trainers. But, as we were currently without our teams, we were just regular people. Still, there was a part in me that refused to show this little guy the same respect I would have had a year ago, when Mum warned me not to venture into the high grass. And it seemed to understand that.

“MCL Cherry Drops?” Leon asked. Both I and the furball in my hand turned to him. Leon looked at the scrap of paper in his hands. A sweet-wrapper for Macro Cosmos Living’s disgustingly artificial bonbons. “That’s all?”

The pokemon struggled in my hands to get the wrapper back. It braced its powerful tail against my body to get closer to the highly valued rubbish, sending spikes of pain through my ribcage. It became, however, completely limp at the marvellous sight of a handful of sweets that Leon pulled out of his pocket. He dangled them in front of the pokemon’s face, who turned into the tamest pup ever imaginable. I sat it down. It was still transfixed on the bonbons.

“Okay, little guy. You can have these,” Leon said in a serious tone, while I rubbed my aching bruises. The pokemon immediately snatched at his hand, but he was faster. “Under one condition: You’ve got to behave!” he added, his hand still over the pokemon’s head that now stood still, albeit begrudgingly. He handed it the precious sweets and I could almost watch the sugar addiction getting a hold of the little guy.

Leon got up. “And now be a good boy and bugger off!”

It took a moment for the pokemon to understand that no more treats were coming its way. When it saw that neither of us would move a muscle, it finally turned tail and vanished down the slope.

When he was sure it was out of sight, Leon popped one of the red drops of solidified carbohydrate into his mouth. He offered me one too. I declined. It went to Rotom instead.

“Oleana always has a few for me,” he said. “Guess she knows how to keep me in line. Now which direction did you say?”

At this point, tossing a coin was as good as it got.

* * *​

Fifteen minutes later we stood in front of a railway track, secured with fences and even some cameras. Leon gave a short, frustrated grumble as he turned around and walked the other direction.

We were already a good distance away from the tracks when a sharp sound, like a jet cutting through the air, echoed through the forest. It got louder and louder until the volume was physically hurting my ears. Then a white and blue arrow shot down the tracks, its velocity making it hard to discern anything but the colours. And within a mere heartbeat, it had vanished again into the woods, taking the noise with it, leaving only a cloud of mist behind.

“Was… was that a train?” Leon yelled. I shrugged. There was still a painful ringing sound in my ears, so I could barely understand him. I struggled to get up and then pulled Leon up as well. Without me even realising, we had both sought shelter from the unbearable noise cowering on the ground. Leon was still fighting with the tinnitus he certainly experienced, so when I turned around I was the first one to see it.

“Look!”

When that train had shot across the tracks, it had also dispersed the water on the rails, creating a veil of mist over the crossing. Now that the sun had finally fought its way through the heavy rain clouds, it was sending its rays directly to us. And in their wake they left — a rainbow: Bright, broad, hopeful.

There was something encouraging in this amalgamation of light and colours. Something telling me that, even though the Darkest Day was somewhere, consuming all the light, here the sun was still bright and powerful and the sky still intact.

We could beat Eternatus and seal it away. There was no doubt in my mind. A smile came across my face and for the first time in what seemed like an eternity, it felt sincere.

A moment later a majestic cry echoed from the treetops as a huge pokemon soared through the air, its powerful wings parting the clouds and painting the sky blue again. As I squinted my eyes to peek at it against the blinding light of the sun, I was sure that it itself drew the rainbow across the firmament with its feathers of pure colour.

I was cold… cold and… wet. Except for my back. Somehow, my back was warm and dry. Strange. Why was that? It also hurt. But the pain faded. Just like the wet and the cold and the warm and the dry. It all faded, came undone in the light.

Not the light! I forced my eyes open. A blurry canopy of trees slowly came back into focus. So did the pain. For a moment I allowed myself to enjoy feeling the dull pulses throughout my rib cage. After all, they meant I was still alive. Sparking new flashes of pain, I closed my eyes and took a deep breath in: cold soil and grass, still wet from the rain. Wonderful.

I let gravity roll my head to my side and opened my eyes again. Now I saw the reason my back was dry: In the grass next to me was Leon, his arm still around my ribs. He looked so peaceful as he laid there on his side, his eyes closed and his hair wet from the dew.

I reached over to him and had to slide his coat aside as I felt for his neck. Pulse. Good. His breathing was cool and regular on my wet skin, making my hair stand up. Very good.

A Skwovet was trying to pull something out of his pockets. I shooed it away, then my eyes fell close again. This time it wasn’t dangerous. The all-consuming light was no longer around.

* * *​

The next time I woke up, the grass had dried and a chill breeze carried the smell of an impending break in the weather on it. Leon’s coat covered me, but he was nowhere to be seen. Cautiously, I stood up. My back was still aching. My thighs and knees were scraped, as well as my elbow, blood staining the torn fabric of my clothes. I tried twisting my ankles and my arms, but only what felt like sores for a week revealed themselves.

I reached for my waist bag, but my hands only found air where my pokeballs usually were. Oh, right, I had left them with Guardevoir in Hammerlocke when President Rose released Eternatus. This place looked nothing like the old city, and this was just the start of the problems. I was in deep trouble. I took a deep breath and counted to ten. Nothing that couldn’t be solved, you only needed to keep cool. Right. Another deep breath. Another count to ten.

Without even opening my eyes, I reached for the back pocket of my pants to my Rotom-Phone. I needed to find out where I was before I could plan anything else. Another deep breath and I opened my eyes and – oh no! - the screen was cracked! Not only that, the entire case was bent. And something else: the lower side of the phone was… petrified? It looked like someone started making a tombstone for my deceased phone and stopped halfway through. I pressed the on-button and was relieved to see at least a few screen-cells flicker. My relief was short-lived however, as the next thing I saw on the screen was Rotom’s scared face as it tried to get out of the device.

“Hana! It’s got the case too!” Rotom’s distorted voice sounded through the speakers. And now I felt it as well: While in my hand, my phone started turning to stone. Rotom squeezed in a corner as, along the cracks, the display turned to solid granite.

“Ah! Don’t worry, I got you!” I yelled back. I fidgeted the phone around a bit until I found a little slit. Jamming my fingernails between the casing and the back-cover, I pulled as hard as I could, trying to remove it. ‘Damn Macro Cosmos and their quality control’, I thought as I pulled against the strong glue. Rotom wailed on the inside, panicked. I had to press it to the ground with one foot and pull with both arms, but finally, the back cover cracked open.

I fell over backwards into the grass, but I held a shaking Rotom in my arms. Its body, covered in ectoplasm, felt weirdly cold and gave me slight shocks as it pressed against my chest.

“What was that?!” Rotom’s own voice was even higher than what I usually heard through the speakers.

“I don’t know. I wanted to ask you,” I replied.

“That grey… thing… mess… consumed my circuits. The motherboard – gone, just like that! And then it wanted to eat me! It was so scary!!!” Rotom hugged my face in a panicked frenzy, sending electricity down my entire body.

“It’s ok. You didn’t die!” I struggled to get the tiny body away from me. “Now calm down, please!” One last shock made my hair stand up, then Rotom let go of me.

“Right! What’s the thing you always say? One deep breath?” The small ghost pokemon closed its eyes and imitated breathing in.

“Yes. And count to ten.”

While Rotom counted, I got to my feet and picked up the phone. By now it had fully turned into stone and weighed heavy in my hand. The surrounding woods were thick and didn’t show signs of much human interference. Like a miracle, we seemed to have landed in a tiny clearing. The grass here was almost knee high, except where our bodies had laid. Deeper into the forest, the grass gave way to sparse undergrowth, which itself gave way to nothing but moss covering the roots of the gigantic trees. Sunlight broke through the canopy and formed spears of light piercing the humid air. There was the bitter smell of late summer on the wind, mixed in with the sweet scent of cypresses as a gust blew the last lingering warmth away.

“You don’t know by chance where we are, do you?” I asked, looking around.

“Nine. Ten. No, sorry. All my map material is in there.” Rotom pointed at the petrified phone.

“That’s what I feared,” I sighed as I picked up the coat. It was surprisingly heavy, even though it was almost dry now. “Come on, first we’ll look for Leon, then we’ll look for a way out.” Rotom gave an approving jingle as I followed the track of flattened grass and undergrowth deeper into the forest.

“You know what’s strange?” Rotom mused after a while.

“Hm?”

“I can’t pick up any mobile signal here...”

* * *​

“Leon! I’m over here!” I yelled. Leon stood on top of a small height, trying to orient himself. A fruitless task, as proven by the many circles I had followed to find him. As soon as he heard me, he waved at me and then half ran, half jumped down the root-streaked, mossy ground. ‘Watch out!’, I wanted to shout, but somehow he managed to land every jump perfectly.

“Hey Hana! Sorry, I didn’t mean to go out that far,” he said, giving me an apologetic smile. Then, without even standing still for a single breath, he turned around, ran a few steps, and once again looked around the forest. “I think you’re better than me at doing this… How do we get out of here?”

“Ah…,” I started, unsure how to respond.

“Hm? Come on, you’re always the one with the plans, aren’t you?” He spun around and gave me another wide smile. “Don’t let me down, ok?” I watched him closely as he randomly decided on a route he had not yet tried.

“Is everything ok?” I asked, looking at his torn leggings and the scrapes on his arm.

“Everything’s fine.”

I took another long look at him. He held his right arm in a slightly more protective position than his left. And he had appeared to be a bit paler than usual. Maybe the fall hadn’t been as gentle on him after all. “Are you sure?”

Leon spun around with an intensity that made me jump half a step back. “Yes I am!” he screamed, his golden eyes glinting dangerously.

For a moment, the forest fell silent.

“Yes I am! You know what’s not? Everything else! Somewhere out there something’s wrecking Hammerlocke! I should be there, fightin’ it. But I’m in the middle of goddamn nowhere! Somethin’ about Dynamax I don’t even understand!” Leon was furious in a way I’ve never seen or imagined him before. “Can’t even call a cab ‘cause my phone’s broken. And worst of all-” He reached for his waist bag and I instinctively took a step back. “This!”

I gasped. In Leon’s outstretched hand was a pokeball, often used and now turned solid grey, petrified like my phone. ‘I am so sorry’, was the first thought shooting through my head, but Leon’s shaking anger had me fall silent. I watched him press the ball’s middle button over and over again, but nothing happened. Finally, he clenched his hand around it until his knuckles appeared white under his bronze skin. “Know what? You can wait here, if you want. I’m now going to find a solution for this.” With this, he turned around and sprinted off. A moment later, he was gone.

I stared into the woods for a good while, when I felt my hands tremble. Absent-mindedly, I began twisting my ankle. An old stretching pattern that was firmly rooted in my memory. Deep breath in.

“That… that was scary,” Rotom mumbled. I put the heavy cloak down as I began stretching my front and back thighs. Could I have handled that better somehow? Deep breath out. Probably. But how? Deep breath in. How…

Cold drops of rain fell heavy to the ground and onto my back and finally broke my wandering thoughts. No matter the state he was in, Leon would get lost. I needed to help him. That was the least I could do now. I picked up the cloak again and counted to ten, just so I knew I wasn’t rushing things. Then I ran in the direction he went.

* * *​

The rain had turned the moss into slippery sponges and the canopy of trees into a torn umbrella, regularly showering me in cold rain water while my trainers struggled to keep their grip. Thankfully, the torn moss on the wet rocks made it easier to follow Leon’s traces. I almost expected to find him in a fissure between the boulders and giant roots that now made up most of the uphill track. But despite a few places where a long streak of moss had been torn from its footing, he seemed to have made it through this treacherous part just fine. After falling once and slipping countless other times myself, I finally made it to the top of the hill, where a small, man-made path ran along the crest’s ridge.

The footprints were harder to follow on the gravel, but I didn’t have to search any further. Huddled up against a tree, his feet tucked up to his chest and his head resting on his knees, was Leon. He didn’t seem to have noticed me. A fresh streak of grass and blood ran along the side of his white pants. His snapback was resting by his side. By now his hair was soaked, turning its usual purple colour almost to black. Cautiously, I took a step forward.

“Hey,” I whispered. He looked up, still pale. “I’m sorry.” Our eyes met briefly before he averted his gaze. His golden eyes still had their glow, but his radiance was missing. He motioned me to sit next to him. I took a step forward. “Here!” I held his cloak in front of his face and for the first time, he looked at it. He hesitated for a heartbeat before taking it.

“Thanks.” He struggled to unfold the bulky thing with one hand, but the sudden activity seemed to have broken his apathy. I was relieved to see some energy coming back into him. After all, that was what had drawn me to him in the first place, back when Hop invited me to his re-watch marathons of Leon’s old matches.

“Here, let me help you,” I gave in. “How do you want it?” It took us a while, but we finally had it over his head.

“You don’t have to apologise to me,” he said, holding the cape up with his wounded arm, again motioning me to sit next to him. I recognised his blatant attempt at blackmailing, but gave in. For the next few seconds, I endured his struggle to cover me with his cloak until it surrounded us both like a blanket. “There was no reason for me to yell at you,” he added. Now that he had nothing to do, he kept himself busy by looking everywhere else – the cloak, his shoes, the path – but me.

“It’s ok-”

“No, it’s not,” Leon sighed. His voice sounded exhausted yet stern. “I messed up. As champ and… and as Leon. That’s all there is to it.” He turned his head, looking me straight in the eyes. “I hope you can accept my apology. I’ll make sure it never happens again.”

“O- Of course,” I stumbled. The sudden intensity of his expression caught me off guard.

“Thank you.” He turned back, relaxing a bit. We watched the rain pour down for a while. Rotom had by now left my waist bag and enjoyed being massaged by Leon. I tucked my legs under my body and started picking at my torn tights. For a moment, all the racing thoughts of the last hour were gone, and only the sound of the rain hitting the ground and leaves around us remained. Turned out, Leon’s cloak was an excellent raincoat.

I looked over at him. He was absent-mindedly ruffling Rotom’s plasmatic mantle, his thoughts who-knows-where. Still in his lap was that petrified pokeball.

“Charizard?” I asked.

Leon just nodded. He handed me the ball. It laid heavy in my hand; cold, even though his body should have kept it warm. “It’s the same with Aegislash and the others.” I was by far not an expert on pokeballs, but judging from what Rotom told me, this looked grim. “What about yours?”

“I’ve left them back in Hammerlocke.” Silence. “I’m so sorry,” I finally uttered. For a moment Leon didn’t react at all, then he shrugged. Now I understood how utterly useless any ‘sorry’ sounded. Leon had been with these pokemon for over a decade and stood undefeated with his team for almost as long. I’ve only started training pokemon roughly a year ago and couldn’t imagine a world without my team. To lose friends of such a long time… At least I knew my team was safe back in Hammerlocke. Or…? I tried to block out the unnerving question creeping back into my consciousness.

“I’m sure someone knows what to do about that. If not the nurses Joy then surely Professor Magnolia.” I handed him back Charizard.

Leon sighed. “How do you do that?” I looked at him, utterly befuddled. He was still staring at the path. “How do you always stay this calm?” He paused for a moment, then suddenly jolted back into an upright position. “I could scream right now if I wasn’t actively calming myself down! Argh!” He gave a frustrated groan, then slumped back against the tree. I couldn’t stop myself from smiling.

“When things get too overwhelming, I just try to concentrate on the next step. Then it’s not so much you have to deal with at once,” I finally said. Leon thought about it for a moment.

“And what is the next step?” My smile vanished the second I heard the desperation in his voice. “There are, like, so many things to do now. Do something about my team. Find out what’s going on in Hammerlocke. Seal Eternatus back where it came from. Make sure the people of Galar are safe. You know? Champ stuff. And I don’t even know where to start. Or how to get there, for that matter.” He sighed. “Normally I just go somewhere and things sort themselves out. But now? I am completely lost.”

I took a moment to think about my response and how to calm him down. “We have to get out of this forest. To somewhere where we can call… Sonia?”

Latching on to this thought like a drowning man to a rope, Leon followed it. His eyes suddenly became focused again. “Good idea. She knows a lot about the Darkest Day.” He paused for a moment. “Catching up with Raihan is probably also a good idea. He stayed behind in Hammerlocke for the evacuation. He should know what’s going on there.”

I nodded. “See? And just like that, you’ve got a plan. But before we do all of that…” Now it was Leon’s turn to look befuddled. I poked his arm. He flinched. I looked at him sternly. He gave in.

“You know, there are more important things right now,” he bickered while I used my scarf to stabilise his arm. As much as I liked him planning, I didn’t want to let his thoughts go too far. One: it defeated the purpose of the exercise and two: overthinking was my strategy.

“Not when you’re talking to the appointed first-aider of Circhester’s fifth form. Also, it suits you.” Wasn’t my fault that my feathery scarf had just the right shape for a triangular bandage. And as long as it took his mind off of things and my mind of those nasty last bits of remaining tension, I would continue pointing it out.

Leon sighed, and his eyes lost focus again. “What if there’s no Hammerlocke or Raihan that I can catch up with?”

“Stop that!” I whispered, but Leon didn’t even register.

“I messed up! I messed the f-” He bit his lip. His words sounded strained. He was on the verge of collapse.

“Leon…”, I said gently. Mostly because I needed to think. “Just breathe! Please. It’s going to be alright.”

And to my surprise, it worked. Leon took a few deep breaths in and then slowly unfurled himself. He had his eyes closed and his lips moved in a silent whisper. Whatever he told himself, it did wonders.

When he opened his eyes again, he was almost back to normal – smiling, radiating warm confidence and making stupid remarks on whatever came across his mind. This time it was my scarf. That I subsequently squeezed his arm a bit too much, may or may not have been on purpose. I watched him closely while I patched him up, but he seemed stable. Not even Raihan could change the weather as fast as this guy.

“Hey, if you go on like this for a bit longer, the rain will actually stop.” I turned around. He was right. The rain had turned into a mere drizzle. Finally! “You know, I wasn’t exaggerating when I said I was lost.”

“Don’t worry about it.” I quickly motioned up and down the plain gravel path. “One of those two directions will lead us somewhere.”

“The other one is a dead end at a railway crossing.” I looked at him. “I’ve been there today already…”

“Which one is it?”

“… I don’t know…”

* * *​

It took us quite a while to get up. We were both stiff from sitting on the ground for way too long and now that my leg warmers were firmly fastened around Leon’s chest to keep him from moving his arm, my legs felt icy in their torn leggings. I carefully rubbed and stretched them when I heard Leon call my name.

“Hey Hana, look at that! Have you ever seen a pokemon like that?” I looked up to see a small brown ball of fur on two short legs. Its body was almost completely round, with a long, bushy, striped tail. Its tall ears pointed to a very perceptive and cautious pokemon, but that one in particular didn’t look scared at all. If anything, those small black eyes looked rather demanding.

I shook my head. “Never…” I gave it a closer glance. It carried something in its paws. A shred of paper? “Wait, yes! When you were still unconscious. I think it tried to steal something”

“Hm. What do you have there?” Leon squatted down and reached out for the shred. In that moment the little critter struck at Leon’s outstretched hand, jumped onto his head and from there made its way to his waist bag. With one determined grasp, I grabbed it by the back of its neck and pulled it away. Its initial resistance faded under a single stern stare. It was strange. Leon and I were Galar’s two most powerful trainers. But, as we were currently without our teams, we were just regular people. Still, there was a part in me that refused to show this little guy the same respect I would have had a year ago, when Mum warned me not to venture into the high grass. And it seemed to understand that.

“MCL Cherry Drops?” Leon asked. Both I and the furball in my hand turned to him. Leon looked at the scrap of paper in his hands. A sweets wrapper for Macro Cosmos Living’s disgustingly artificial bonbons. “That’s all?”

The pokemon struggled in my hands to get the wrapper back. It braced its surprisingly powerful tail against my body to get closer to the highly valued detritus. It became, however, completely limp at the marvellous sight of a handful of sweets that Leon pulled out of his pocket. He dangled them in front of the pokemon’s face as it turned into the tamest pup ever imaginable. I sat it down. It was still transfixed on the bonbons.

“Ok, little guy. You can have these,” Leon said in a serious tone. The pokemon immediately snatched at his hand, but he was faster. “Under one condition: You’ve got to behave!” he added, his hand still over the pokemon’s head, that now stood still, albeit begrudgingly. Slowly he handed it the precious sweets and I could almost watch the sugar addiction getting a hold of the little guy.

Leon got up. “And now be a good boy and bugger off!” It took a moment for the pokemon to understand that no more treats were coming its way. When it saw that neither of us would move a muscle, it finally turned tail and vanished down the slope.

When he was sure it was out of sight, Leon popped one of the red drops of solidified carbohydrate into his mouth. He offered me one too. I declined. It went to Rotom instead. “Oleana always has a few for me,” he said. “Guess she knows how to keep me in line. Now which direction did you say?” At this point, tossing a coin was as good as it got.

* * *​

Fifteen minutes later we stood in front of a railway track, highly secured with fences and even some cameras. Leon just gave a short, frustrated grumble as he turned around and walked the other direction. We were already a good distance away from the tracks when a sharp sound, like a jet cutting through the air, echoed through the forest. It got louder and louder until the volume was physically hurting my ears. Then a white and blue arrow shot down the tracks, its velocity making it hard to discern anything but the colours. And within a mere heartbeat, it had vanished again into the woods, taking the noise with it, leaving only a cloud of mist behind.

“Was… was that a train?” Leon yelled. I nod-shrugged. There was still a painful ringing sound in my ears, so I could barely understand him. I struggled to get up and then pulled Leon up as well. Without me even realising, we had both sought shelter from the unbearable noise cowering on the ground. Leon was still fighting with the tinnitus he certainly experienced, so when I turned around I was the first one to see it.

“Look!” When that train shot across the tracks with a speed I had never seen before, it also dispersed the water on the rails, creating a veil of mist over the crossing. Now that the sun had finally fought its way through the heavy rain clouds, it was sending its rays directly to us. And in their wake they left – a rainbow: Bright, broad, hopeful.

There was something encouraging in this amalgamation of light and colours, something telling me that, even though the Darkest Day was somewhere, consuming all the light in the skies, here the sun was still bright and powerful. We could beat Eternatus and seal it away. There was no doubt in my mind. A smile came across my face and for the first time in what seemed like an eternity, it felt sincere.

A moment later a majestic cry echoed from the treetops as a huge pokemon soared through the air, its powerful wings seemingly parting the clouds and painting the skies blue again. As I squinted my eyes to peek at it against the blinding light of the sun, I was sure that it itself drew the rainbow across the firmament with its feathers of pure colour.
 
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Chapter 2: Intermission and Chapter 3: Some That Don't Belong

bluesidra

Mood
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. custom/hoppip-bluesidra-reup
  2. custom/hoppip-bluesidra-pink
  3. custom/hoppip-bluesidra3

Chapter 2: Intermission​


Challenger No. 634 – Hanako

Originally from Kanto, her family moved to Postwick just a few years ago. Nonetheless, she considers herself a true Galarian. With her fairy-type team based around her Whimsicott, she took the Gym Challenge in stride. Victorious in the finals of the Champion Cup, she now anticipates the ultimate showdown in the match for Galar’s Championship.

Hanako is known to be a level-headed trainer, always in control of her emotions. Though her journeys with her rival Hop had made her more open and outgoing, she is still quite camera-shy. Rumours say she used to be a competitive dancer, but lately she’s mostly seen working at her mother’s gardening shop.

Printed: August 12th 2019


The rescue worker turned the card around. It showed a tanned, slender young woman with long, straight black hair neatly pinned into an elaborate bun. She was still wearing her challenger uniform, but her trademark rose singlet and her frilly scarf, in which she usually appeared on telly were visible underneath. The pose she struck was cool and provoking at the same time, with her arms crossed and her straight back cutting a sharp line against the skies over Wyndon Stadium. Only her icy blue eyes betrayed her discomfort with the photo shoot.

He sighed. This was the Champion Cup card, freshly printed in anticipation for Leon’s and Hanako’s match. Under other circumstances, his daughter, self-declared leader of team Hanako would be overjoyed. But so far, they still hadn’t recovered either of the competitors.



Chapter 3: Some That Don't Belong​



For the first hour we speculated about the nature of Eternatus and the Darkest Day, but after a while our conversation died down. I was getting tired and the bruise around my ribcage slowly but steadily made itself more known with every step that I took. Leon was now noticeably limping, and his remarks became less and less frequent. I tried distracting myself with the surrounding flora, but the fact that this entire forest was composed of cypresses and firs, in particular types I’ve never seen before, as well as the occasional wild apricorn tree, did nothing to lessen my worries.

Dusk was already settling in when — finally — at the end of our small maintenance path — the lights of a town appeared. They were a godsend. We actually managed to speed up. Pretty sure the rush of victory in the semifinals was nothing against the overwhelming joy when I had a paved road under my feet.

We made our way around some old-looking cars and onto what I presumed to be the main road. Street lights were illuminating this small town with its mixture of contemporary houses and what I could only describe as odd little stores along the road. Between the few old, wooden houses, clothing lines were hanging low over the street, slightly waving in the wind. A few people were still outside, and I didn’t hesitate to approach an elderly couple.

“Excuse me, can you point me the way to the Pokemon Center?”

The elderly couple looked at each other with an expression that made my heart sink to my by now pretty worn-out shoes. Then, much to my shock, the lady explained to me, very slowly and articulately, where I could find the Pokemon Center. The description wasn’t the shocking part, though. Rather the fact that she spoke flawless Kantonian, even with a little accent.

My first reaction was to respond in Galarian. Because of my black hair and olive tan people of Wyndon and other big cities had often confused me for a tourist in the past, and I enjoyed their expression when I responded in my deepest Galarian accent. But this lady seemed genuinely taken aback. I switched to my Kantonian vocabulary when I thanked her and asked where exactly we were. Her expression became even more worried. She gave me a name I’d never heard before.

“Should we accompany you to the Center, my dear? You seem lost,” the elderly lady offered. I shot a glance over my shoulder to find Leon missing.

“No, thank you. I think I’ll be fine,” I said with an expression that must have looked incredibly unconvincing. “Have a nice evening!”

I sprinted off, my worries growing into a slight panic. I hadn’t heard such fluent Kantonian in over two years. Last time I heard something remotely like this was when I called my aunty in Lavender Town for Christmas.

I found Leon and Rotom not too far, both transfixed on the tellies in the display window of an outdated electrical store. The sports program was on. I tried to pull him away, but he wouldn’t budge. In fact, he silently pointed to the TV and squinted his eyes again in a mixture of focus and fatigue. Now it hit me! This might be a soccer broadcast, but every single word on screen was in Kantonian. They even pointed out how this was a rare full-length rerun of the Galarian Football League finals. I took a step back and looked at the store-front. My concern grew into immeasurable dimensions.

“The finals should never be a rare rerun,” concluded Leon rather factually, stroking the hairs on his chin as I read ‘Cliff’s home electronics’ on a neon sign in big, bold Kantonian letters.

* * *​

The expression on Nurse Joy’s face when we almost kicked in the door to the Pokemon Center (the door wasn’t as sturdy as one would expect) was one of pure horror. Within the same second that the sliding door bounced back shut, we simultaneously asked a) where exactly we were and b) to please do something about Leon’s pokemon. If she had called the police at this moment, I would not have blamed her. Instead, she just asked us to calmly explain what had happened.

Despite her best efforts, it wasn’t calm.

It took about ten minutes to cool Leon down. He had absolutely no understanding for why Nurse Joy was more concerned about him than about the state of his team. Only when she finally put the pokeballs into her healing station and switched it on, he agreed to follow her to the back room where she could take a look at his arm.

In the meantime, I was going through the registration process with Nurse Joy’s husband. After all, we would likely stay the night here, and if Leon’s arm was any worse than we thought, his insurance would have to step in. I gave him my details and my Trainer Card. He had acted reserved before, but the look he gave my card and a moment later me was one I didn’t like at all.

“Do you have a valid one?” he said, handing me back my card. He had the no-nonsense demeanour of a police officer who had seen this all too often.

“This is a valid card. It’s a Galarian. I know we’re in Kanto here, but—”

“Johto,” he interrupted.

“Johto,” I repeated. Didn’t make much of a difference, both regions were at the opposite side of the globe from where we should be.

“Look, if you don’t accept Galarian cards, can we just stay here and pay the extra fees? I’ve got the international banking on it activated.” I pushed my card over the counter again.

He gave me another long glance over the rim of his glasses, almost as if he was asking if I was joking. The man slowly opened a drawer on the front desk, pulled out an antiquated card reader, and swiped my card. He wouldn’t move his eyes from the display until the device beeped unpleasantly, then turned it so I could see what it read.

“Not covered.”

“What?” Now the panic in my voice was really picking up.

“I’ve got a credit card,” I heard Leon’s voice from the back room. “Here, catch!”

He tossed his wallet in my direction, but I was too shocked to react in time. It bounced off my shoulder and onto the floor, snapping me out of my daze.

As I crouched down and flipped through Leon’s cards, I tried to get my thoughts in order. Deep breath in.

Okay, so we were in Johto. No problem. I could still call my dad in Saffron City and ask him for help. No problem at all. One. Two.

“Miss?”

“Yes!” I jolted up. “Here!” I handed him the credit card with the Macro Cosmos logo on it. He didn’t even take it, just gave it one quick glance and looked at me again like I was joking.

And like he was about done with my jokes.

“Miss, the year is 1993. According to your card, you aren’t born for another nine years.”

Silence. Silence as my world faded to white once again, just for a second. I heard Leon’s voice. And Nurse Joy.

“Owen, that’s enough now,” she said. “Be a bit more sensitive! Look at them!”

Were those tears in my eyes? Oh, yeah.

«No crying, Hanako, you aren’t a baby.»

I quietly apologised myself outside, but no one was paying attention anyway.
 
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Chapter 4: Cracks In The Porcelain

bluesidra

Mood
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. custom/hoppip-bluesidra-reup
  2. custom/hoppip-bluesidra-pink
  3. custom/hoppip-bluesidra3

Chapter 4: Cracks In The Porcelain​


The rest of the evening went by in a daze.

Nurse Joy, who later introduced herself as Lucy, checked in on me and assured me that everything would be okay. While Owen somehow managed to talk down Leon, Lucy took care of the scrapes on my arm and leg. She gave me a change of clothes and drew up a guest-bed, then went down to take care of Leon. It wasn’t until much later that she checked in on me again and, seeing how I was still awake, offered to share the room with me. I wanted to decline, but after a brief hesitation I realised how soothing it would be to not be alone this night.

Now I was standing in the small kitchen, doing the dishes. Lucy didn’t want me to, but I had insisted. After all, we were eating and living here at their expense. Also, I was tired and nervous at the same time and there was something relaxing about cleaning and stacking perfectly white plates.

Nice and simple.

Unlike the knots my brain did, when I was even trying to think about the concept of living before I was born. Or the fact that Mum and Dad hadn’t met yet. Both were probably still going to school and didn’t even imagine that, in six years from now, Mum would travel to Kanto with an exchange programme and meet my dad in a bar in Saffron City. I wondered if this bar had even opened yet. Or what would happen if I jetted over to Lavender Town, looked for my dad, told him that in six years from now he’d fall in love in a bar in Saffron City, only to be divorced 18 years later and that I’m the result of this relationship? And also broke. Would I then fade from existence as I was talking?

No, better stick to cleaning plates.

Something frigid brushed my ankle. I looked down. Rotom dragged itself across the floor, then hovered on the counter and into the microwave.

“Taking a break?” The microwave gave an affirmative groan. “You know, I don’t think possessing someone else’s electronics is considered good behaviour.”.

“I’d rather play around with those simple relays than with that fossil of a computer over there. Here, look: on, off, on—”

“Stop that! We are guests here. Behave!” I looked around to see if anyone had noticed the poltergeist switching on the microwave a couple of times, but the house was quiet. I sighed. Rotom was overjoyed yesterday when it could at last slip back into a device and spend the night in the circuits. But now it seemed a bit overwhelmed with the task at hand.

“What on earth are these protocols? And why is everything so slow? If a Goomy would deliver the packets, they’d be faster.” I gave some half-hearted sounds of attentiveness as I scuffed across the room to slide open a window. Then I leaned back against the kitchen-counter and picked up another plate. “At least the boss is well asleep!” Rotom’s voice had a sarky undertone.

“Leave him.” I looked over at the couch.

Leon had had his breakdown midway through the morning. At first we learned that the internet did not quite work as we were used to. In fact, this was totally different. And neither of us — Leon, Lucy nor me — knew exactly what to do. The next step was the newspaper. It confirmed the date as September 7th 1993, but was otherwise mostly filled with articles about the newly elected government coming to grips, the catastrophic rainfall in Hoenn and the ongoing effects of the devastating tsunami that hit Sinnoh at the start of the year. We spent the next hour and a half in the small backyard, trying to make sense of the situation. But that conversation went around in circles, so we finally decided to switch through the telly a bit. Then Lucy came back from the shops and needed some help with the purchases and next time I checked on Leon, he was fast asleep on the couch. And that’s where he’d been for the past five hours, unmoving. Even the family’s Meowth had by now accepted him as part of the furnishing and laid on top of him, curled into its tail.

I put the clean plate on the stack and took another one. Rotom had now contented itself with switching green and red lights on and off. The warm afternoon sun tinted the room in a mild orange and made me even more drowsy. This Pokemon Center was so small, I mused. Nothing compared to the ones back at home. It was more like a small house with a store-front and a guest room.

And even as far as houses went, it was small. From the kitchen I could see the eating and living area, as well as the tiny garden and the shed, where the outline of an old motorcycle loomed in front of a crammed hobby workshop. Yet everything here seemed so neat and tidy. The garden was well maintained, and the few potted plants on the windowsills basked in the sunlight. I put the plate on the stack and took the next one.

“Hana…” Rotom slowly began, its voice whimpering, “are we ever going to get back?” I had no answer. Just the regular squeaking sound as I rubbed the tea cloth over the porcelain. After some time, the blinking red and green lights resumed. We stood there for a while. As the dishes came to an end, I had to consider what I would do next to keep myself busy.

Suddenly, I heard a loud hiss. I looked over at the couch. Meowth had arched her back and scratched at something under the coffee table that stubbornly tried to get its tiny brown paws onto the couch. I ran over as quietly as I could.

“Stop that!” I whispered, picking up the little intruder while simultaneously trying to calm down Meowth. “You again.” My eyes narrowed and the little long-tailed pokemon in my hands slumped with guilt. I took a quick glance at Leon. He was still fast asleep. Meowth gave one last growl before abandoning her sleeping place and venturing into the garden through the open door.

“Cherry Drops aren’t even that good,” I scolded it, my voice still low, while I carried the round little pokemon to the kitchen and sat it down on the table. It looked at me with a calm, almost expecting expression as it began to play with its fluffy tail.

I sighed and turned to the fridge. “Why don’t you eat something healthy, like carrots or…” My voice slowed down as I saw them. “Or like real cherries?”

Lucy had bought a small bag full of ripe, delicious cherries. Could I just take a few? It felt like stealing. I bit my lip for a moment, considering it, while I heard the bushy tail flap on the table. Just two. Two less certainly wouldn’t be noticed. Right!

I closed the fridge with determination and quickly handed the dark red fruits to the pokemon.

At first it was hesitant, but after the first bite it seemed to approve of the fruits. Within a few seconds, no evidence of the cherries — not even the pip — was left behind, safe for a few red stains on the pokemon’s fur. I felt strangely proud of my victory over MCL’s artificial sweeteners.

Now that it sat there, trying to clean its paws, I noticed the round spot of lighter coloured fur on its belly. Almost as perfectly round as the rest of its body. Careful not to spook it, I petted the white spot. The pokemon didn’t seem to mind.

“What are you doing in here?” Lucy’s voice made me spin around. She certainly didn’t seem too happy about the stranger on her kitchen table.

Waving one hand, she came over and shooed the little pokemon outside. The furball squeaked, then it turned tail and vanished out the sliding door.

“Sentrets…,” she sighed. Lucy turned to me. “They are too trusting for their own good. After all, they are wild pokemon and should stay fearful of humans.”

I shrunk a few inches. Lucy must have noticed it, because her tone suddenly got a lot more cheerful. “But they are just too cute, don’t you think?” I nodded, still ashamed. With the routine that came from years of working in this kitchen, Lucy grabbed a tea cloth and a cup from the sink and started drying it.

“No, it’s ok, let me do it,” I objected. “It’s the least I can do.”

“Listen.” Lucy’s voice was soft but firm. “You are our guests. If anything, you should focus on recovering.” She pointed over to the couch. “He’s doing quite a good job. Maybe you should take a leaf out of his book.”

I sighed. “I know. It’s just…”

I had no words to describe it. That feeling between wanting to sleep for years and not knowing how to.

Lucy took the next cup. “I get what you’re saying.”

Silence fell over the kitchen. Only the sound of the wind and the faint noises of the town and the clacking sound of the dishes filled the house. It was strange seeing the private life of a Nurse Joy.

Of course I knew they existed not only in the space behind their counter in the Pokemon Center. But I only ever saw them when I had sprained an ankle, never when they were doing the dishes or wishing their husbands a nice day at work or joking about Nanab berries during lunch.

Now Lucy was standing next to me, her hair still in the traditional style of her congregation, but rather than in the nurses’ uniform in a casual tee and jeans, looking out into her neatly kept garden.

“This is crazy,” she sighed after a while. “How does one get—” She paused, overthinking her question.

“Owen gave me a recap of what Leon told him yesterday.” She shook her head. “I just can’t believe it. I mean, I do believe you, but still. Why here? Why now?”

All I could do was to shake my head, tired of thinking. I’ve asked myself these questions over and over again today and haven’t found an answer. Lucy seemed to pick up on that.

“I’ve looked up Hammerlocke in the atlas earlier,” she resumed, her tone way more casual. “It’s a pretty big city. Are you from there?”

To say that Hammerlocke was anything but a big city would be a grave understatement. For a split second I was taken aback that someone would not know of Galar’s oldest and most historically relevant city. But then I remembered that I too didn’t know any other cities on the island we were on right now, safe for Lavender Town and the country’s capital Saffron City.

“No, no. Mum and I live in Postwick. That’s a small village in the south. Don’t worry if you’ve never heard of it. Do you know Circhester?”

Lucy gave me a vague shrug, which most likely meant ‘no.’

“That’s where I’m originally from. It’s an old spa town, up north where the weather is whacky and it’s snowing most of the year. If you ever visit Galar, you should stay there. I think little has changed there between… between now and when I was there.”

“Brrr!” Lucy shivered. “Sounds inviting, but I don’t think a trip halfway across the planet is in our budget right now. Getting over the silver mountains is difficult enough already. But speaking of snow: Is it true that you guys have unpredictable weather all year round and if it’s not it’s raining?”

“Well, for the most part. In the south it’s pretty constant. Nevertheless, you should always leave the house with an umbrella. There’s… The south gets a lot of sun and warm winds from the sea, so it’s ideal for our plants…” I had to blink a few times to push back against the tears, now that I thought of our greenhouse and my plants and how Mum and Poliwhirl had taken meticulous care of them while I was away.

Lucy leaned over and hugged me with one arm. “That sounds lovely. I’d be homesick too.” She put her cup away and took another one from the sink while I was still focusing on the dishes to keep my composure. “So, what happened in Hammerlocke? What Owen told me this morning was… more than confusing.”

I took a deep breath in, hoping to cover up the light snivel. “It is. I don’t really know either. League Chairman Rose — he’s a pretty big name, runs a lot of companies and who knows what else — let loose a… a very powerful pokemon. There are some special power sources in Galar. They all started overreacting and—”

I sighed and put my still wet plate to the side. I felt like my head was spinning.

“Then Leon, for whatever reason, took the responsibility and went to fix things. A lot of fighting happened, and we tried our best to contain Eternatus, but then there was this light and… and that’s how we got there, I guess.”

Lucy shook her head. “But what got you caught up in all of this?”

I looked over to the couch where Leon had moved for the first time since the morning. “He’s my best friend’s brother. If anything happened to him, Hop would be devastated. I had to help him.”

“Oh, so you’re—” The ringing sound of a small bell interrupted her. Customers. She excused herself and hurried to the front, taking her white apron from a peg as she went by.

I swallowed hard to contain my panic. What if I never saw Hop again? No, no, those were thoughts I wouldn’t allow myself. Deep breath in. I picked up the plate again and purposefully rubbed the cloth over the porcelain as hard as I could. Next to me, the lights on the microwave flickered.

Ok, I got this.

Still holding my breath, I got up into a straight position, aligning my spine in a perfectly straight line and pointing my chin precisely forward. Then I let out my breath. I consciously sensed my stomach pull in while straightening my chest and pressing out the last bits of air that were in my lungs. Then I opened my eyes again. I needed to focus on the next step. And that was the half finished plate.

The flickering next to me got faster. “It’s ok, Rotom,” I said, my voice still forced calm. The flickering died down, slowly. I focused on the dishes and after a while, my grip got softer and my chest less tight.

That stance was something I hadn’t done in a long time, I mused. I tried it again. A simple first position. Then a Demi Plié and a little jump. Straight away, I could hear my muscles complaining. Wow. Even though I now competed in the Gym Challenge, I made sure to not let my form slide completely — or at least that’s what I had thought. But it also felt relieving to work my muscles in those poses I’ve trained thousands and millions of times over. I did some more, using the counter as a barre, until I was out of breath.

When I picked up the dishes again, things were a lot smoother. I let my gaze wander out the sliding door, over the terrace, and into the little garden. The wind had now picked up and carried with it some cries of wild pokemon living in the forest just outside the fence. A bicycle’s bell rang out as someone passed by and greeted a friend. Lucy was chatting with the customers in the front. The cup in my hands was pristinely dry and clean, just like the rest of the dishes, neatly stacked together. The world’s turns got slower.

Some strands of my hair had come loose during the exercise and were now tingling my nose. I put the last cup onto the pile and removed a few pins from my hair, letting it partially come loose in all its length. Using the microwave as a mirror, I tried pinning up the renegade strands again when something tugged on the leg of my jeans. Looking down, I saw a by now familiar round face.

“Haven’t you listened, huh? Hush!” Trying to ignore it, I turned back and tried to put my last three pins to good use. Nevertheless, the tugging continued. I shoved the Sentret away with my foot and judging from the resistance, it didn’t like that.

“Here, these are my last ones,” I heard a tired voice behind me. “Now get lost.”

The crackling sound of sweets wrappers accompanied me as I turned around to the sight of a barely awake Leon. Tiny taps skittered across the wooden floor as Sentret made its way out the door. “Good morning,” I muttered.

“Hey.”

He looked terrible. Earlier I was convinced Leon didn’t need to brush his hair, but that ruffled mane proofed this theory to be wrong. The colour still hadn’t quite returned to his face, and the cast around his arm looked as uncomfortable as sleeping on a couch for five hours straight.

He shuffled past me to the fridge and helped himself to a bottle of cooled water. As he leaned back against the fridge’s closed door, the jacket Owen lent him rustled. That blue tracksuit must have been out of style even 26 years ago.

“You by chance got a bite to eat for me?”

His voice was still matt, but it sprung me back into action. I handed him the plate of fried Nanab berries we’ve put aside for him.

The next few minutes passed in silence, with me cleaning the sink and Leon attempting to eat with his dominant hand constrained by a cast.

“Why don’t you just sit down?” I finally asked, looking at the trail of crumbs he left around him on the floor and on the fridge. Leon looked at me and I could see that processing words still took some time. Then he shook his head. Well, at least I’d have something to do now.

“You look different,” he remarked, taking me by surprise. I looked down. It was the overall. It was way too large. I normally wore skintight apparel and was proud that I could still wear child-sizes even at seventeen. But that was rather counterproductive this morning, when Lucy looked for something in her closet that I could put on. I sheepishly tucked on a fold in the jeans that were two sizes too big.

“What a stupid thing to say. Sorry, I think the painkillers are kicking in.” Leon tried to rub his temples when he again was confronted with only having one hand. It was evident that those painkillers weren’t kicking in just now.

Leon hadn’t exactly hit the jackpot, either. While he was usually in shirts that highlighted his muscles, Owen’s clothes were tight around his shoulders and baggy around the waist.

“We’re going for an 80s look today,” I tried to joke.

After a second of processing, Leon actually laughed. “Man, I wish this was a bad sitcom.” He stuffed the last berry into his mouth. “At least we look the like.”

I chuckled in the ensuing silence. “If things continue, we’ll live through the distressed low-rise jeans, crop tops and the crossover fanny pack again—” The last word almost got stuck in my throat, when the tears came back.

“What’s wrong with that?” Leon asked, still chewing. Then he must have seen my clenched fist, and his tone immediately got more serious. “What’s wrong? I’m not that fashion savvy, but those don’t sound like a reason to—”

“Bit my tongue!” I quickly lied. Deep breath in. I could feel Leon’s eyes lingering on me, piercing through my oversized sweater, my tucked up shoulders and through my eyelids, doing their best to contain those burning tears.

With a loud ring the microwave’s door sprung open and Leon's attention shifted away from me. Thank you, Rotom, thank you so much!

“Hey buddy, how are things going?” Leon asked in a cheerful tone.

“Leon, it’s horrible! Do you have any idea how different things are here? The Galarian Post does not exist yet — at least not online! Don’t look at me like this, it’s the truth!” Rotom went on, explaining why finding a webpage in the early 90s was an impossible task.

I took the plate out of Leon’s hand, swilled it down, swept the crumbs from the floor, all within a few seconds.

When Leon agreed to check out the unbeatable computer again and greeted Lucy on the way there, I was already rushing past them.

“I’ll go for a walk!” I exclaimed and was out the door before anyone could respond.

* * *​

«Stupid fanny bags!» I thought as I ran through the streets, lights and windows passing me by. A turn left, then a turn right. Wherever, just to avoid people staring at me.

«Stupid crop tops!» The wind howled in my ears. My steps grew wider and faster than ever before. One jump down the footpath. Squeaking of tires. Another to get up on the other side again. My lungs started burning. A bicycle bell’s ringing. An angry voice.

“Excuse me, Miss!”

“I’m sorry!” I screamed, running past him, half turning towards the man who had just jumped off his bike. «I’m sorry!» I had to get away. Here were too many people. They all could see… damn… they all could see the tears in my eyes.

«I’m sorry!»

There were fewer lights over there. Finally! Trees were getting thicker again. Tall grass bent underneath my shoes. And straight ahead was a small path. Exactly what I needed. I’d just power myself—

The ground underneath my feet disappeared. I could feel my heels sliding down the small ledge, but it was too late to catch any semblance of balance. With a shriek and a loud “thud” I landed on my butt.

I panted, listening to the sound of my breath as I sat there in the grass. «Stupid low-rise jeans.»

A meter above me I could hear two girls chatting about what’s for dinner. I held my breath, pushing my back closer to the ledge. They couldn’t see me like this. Every muscle tensed, I sat there and listened. The voices passed. When I was sure they were out of earshot, I finally exhaled.

As if I was scared of fashion trends. I didn’t want to go through them. 26 years. Not like this.

Instead of slower, my breathing became faster, deeper. Tears were now freely dripping from my cheeks into my lap, getting soaked up by Lucy’s overall.

«No crying, Hanako, you are not a baby!»

Angrily I swiped my tears away with my sleeve, just for them to resume a moment later.

«Using your sleeve? Behave yourself!»

What did it matter? No one could see me anyway. So no one could take offence. And what had being well mannered ever done for me?

I wanted to go home. I wanted to be with Hop. He wouldn’t take offence when he saw me like this. He wasn’t angry when I had lost my temper with Bede, I’m sure he could handle this. I just wanted to go home. I just wanted to cry.

I pulled my legs close and sobbed. It felt so wrong. My breath became faster and faster, to a point where I was almost gasping for air. I brushed through my hair to calm myself, but it only loosened some pins.

«Come on, pull yourself together!»

Now loose strands of hair fell into my face and every time I tried to wipe away the tears, they just got wet and stuck to my forehead. My crying got even more desperate. Mere moments ago, at least the Noctowls had made some noise that covered my cries, but now it was just me and my uncontrollable sobbing.

My gasping for air got worse and worse. I got the feeling I was suffocating. It took an immense amount of effort to push my feet away just a little and lay my head back against the ledge. Okay. My lungs could catch a bit more air. I slowly opened my eyes and looked into the darkening sky above. Not for long, then a new wave of tears forced them shut.

I wiped them away with the sleeve that was by now sticking wet to my forearm. My eyes opened again. There was something in front of me, but my vision was so blurry that I couldn’t make out what. Another wave of sobbing shook me. I forced myself to look, to concentrate, even though it seemed impossible.

In front of me was a pokemon, shaped like a bird but as tall as a person. Its wings were jagged and its feathers a radiant yellow and black. I sobbed again, but this time I wiped the tears away immediately.

«There’s something—» a still somewhat clear thinking part of my brain yelled through all the frantic and chaotic thoughts and memories of home. Something dangerous. I had to focus. I really had to.

I squinted my eyes, only to have my vision immediately go blurry again.

Its beak. Its beak was enormous. And those legs. A single leg’s muscles were easily the size of my hips. A predator.

I couldn’t run. I couldn’t think. Just sob and sob and try to keep my eyes open. But even that failed on me after a while. I let my head fall back and just felt the tears running down my cheeks. I knew something was about to happen, but I couldn’t… I just couldn’t.

* * *​

I didn’t know how long I had laid there, sobbing and waiting. It was the cry of a Noctowl that pulled me back into reality again. I wasn’t gasping for air. My breath was slow and shaking with exhaustion, but I wasn’t suffocating any more. Tears were running down my cheeks only now and then.

But most importantly: The storm in my head had abated.

I laid there for a while, watching the evening sky darken. No thoughts about home or Hop or the pokemon or why it had left. My head was empty.
 
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Chapter 5: Unix User Network

bluesidra

Mood
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. custom/hoppip-bluesidra-reup
  2. custom/hoppip-bluesidra-pink
  3. custom/hoppip-bluesidra3


Chapter 5: Unix User Network​


September 7th 1993, 7pm.

When I sneaked back into the Pokemon Center, the gust of wind that blew in with me interrupted a lively discussion in front of the computer. Owen and Leon soon continued their studies, only Lucy seemed to give me a longer look while I struggled to close the front door against the strong gale outside.

“What happened?” Lucy asked, trying to mask the concern in her voice.

“I missed a ledge when I was walking,” I said as I approached the group. I had put my best efforts into making myself look presentable on the way, but there were grass-stains on the jeans that I couldn’t get out completely.

Leon turned his head to look at me, and his gaze lingered for longer than necessary.

“It’s nothing serious,” I assured them, avoiding anyone's eyes. Instead, I focused on the screen. I would just hang around here for a while until I could excuse myself to go to bed early.

Owen was sitting in front of the computer. He seemed to be much more tech-savvy than the rest of us combined and currently navigated something called ‘Usenet.’ On screen, a little Rotom-shaped icon followed his every courser movement over the plain grey interface in amazement.

“Ok, I think I’ve found the Galarian groups now.” Owen’s tone betrayed a genuine interest in what he was doing there. “What exactly do you want?”

Leon turned back to the screen. “Are there any news on what happened in Hammerlocke?”

“Hammerlocke…” Owen mumbled away as the two men combed through the groups and threads, eagle-eyed.

Lucy leaned over and gave me a hug. It was an unexpected embrace, but one I needed right now. The warmth of her arms almost offset the cold that the exhaustion and the growing winds outside had brought with them. Without a word, we both turned back to the screen, but Lucy’s hand remained on my arm. It was an almost insignificant gesture of solace, but I appreciated every moment of it.

It was fun to watch Leon and Owen go through the news, with Leon jumping from topic to topic while Owen was trying to keep up.

Turned out, 1993 was a slow year in Hammerlocke. Most discussions were around the newly structured park and students petitioning for healthy meal options in the campus canteen. The railway station was the city’s eyesore even back then, and another measure to make it cleaner and safer had just proven to be a failure.

After the fifth article my attention wore off and tiredness overtook me. Leon was back to his old, energetic self, skimming every article and then dismissing it, but there was something strange about him. It took me a while to pin it down, but it was his language. Leon spoke Kantonian. I didn’t notice it yesterday in all the chaos and earlier in the day we chatted away in Galarian without a second thought. But now I realised that his Kantonian was quite good. A bit stilted, yes, but as far as I remembered, Hop never told me of any family connection to the far eastern regions.

I puzzled over this for quite a while, until Owen’s voice interrupted my thoughts, sounding impatient: “What are you even looking for at this point?”

Leon opened his mouth to answer, but then stopped himself halfway through.

Owen continued: “If there had been a catastrophic, world ending event a few days ago, do you think people would still discuss your park?”

“I just want to be one-hundred per cent sure.”

“It wasn’t on the news. People aren’t talking about it. You’re looking for something that doesn’t exist.” This was the first time Owen took some wind out of Leon’s sails. “Do you know how much time some people spend doing that? We’re calling them conspiracy theorists.”

“What are you looking for?” I interjected.

Leon was looking at the screen again, his shoulders slumped forward. “The Darkest Day,” he sighed.

“Why?” My voice sounded as bewildered as I was, and I was too tired to mask it.

With a sudden determination, Leon turned his chair around and faced me, his eyes betraying concern and stubbornness combined. “We’ve fought it just yesterday! If it’s still out there, wrecking things, it’s my job to stop it!”

“Wait—” I rubbed the ridge of my nose, hoping to get my brain to remember calculus. “We’ll fight it 25 year—”

“Not in my books! And even if, I have to be sure about it.” He turned around to the screen again, staring at it in the hopes it would give him answers.

Owen chimed in again. “Ok, let’s assume for a moment you two fell through time. What makes you think that this ‘Darkest Day’ came with you?”

“It was in the same vortex as we.” Leon picked up the mouse and made some unmotivated movements across the screen. “Also, if we can be in Hammerlocke at one moment and here the next, why wouldn’t it be able to do so too?”

The ensuing silence was only interrupted by Leon clicking on a thread concerning the new mayor’s plans to build a third Pokemon Center.

“Also, I don’t think we are going to be in Hammerlocke 25 years, eleven months and five days from now to fight it. After I just opened the Championship finals.” He navigated back into the main thread. “I have to find it.”

Once again I felt my brain thinking itself into a knot. I knew I should see myself out right now, but something stopped me. Something I knew was ill-advised. “Not again… We went over this already,” I sighed.

Leon turned around again and I could see the sparks in his eyes light up, just like they did yesterday. But this time he kept them under control. “Hana, I envy you if you can believe it stayed in 2019. But as the Champ, I have to make sure that nothing happens over at home.”

“Nothing happened. Believe it already!” Owen had now reached the end of his patience. I couldn’t tell how often they had a similar conversation while I was out.

This was stupid. Those were the exact same talking points as earlier. And they made little sense now, either. All I wanted was to lie down and sleep forever, but now Leon’s anger was standing between me and my bed. Why couldn’t he leave those complicated things alone or not cause a row just for this one evening? I could feel anger rise inside me. But I couldn’t allow myself to lose my countenance again. Not twice a day.

But why couldn’t he just—

“Ok, now everyone calm down!” Lucy’s voice was unexpectedly firm in this three-way stand-off between exhaustion, intransigence, and impatience. “We can’t tell how this works. Nobody of us had ever been in such a situation before. And getting worked up over it won’t help anyone.”

She looked at Owen, then at me, until we both averted our gaze. Then she kneeled down to meet Leon’s eyes.

“Leon, I get that you’re worried. But right now, things seem to be ok. Just yesterday I was concerned that you might have suffered internal bleeding. You still need to take things slow.” Leon still seemed angry, but his silence betrayed an almost childish sulkiness underneath. “I promise you, everyone will watch the news and as soon as something pops up, you’ll be the first to know.”

Nobody dared say anything in the ensuing moments of silence. “Now, Owen, why don’t you shut down that computer already? Hanako, you look like you need a warm bath. The bathroom is yours,” Lucy said in a far more conciliatory voice. The hidden commands underneath escaped no one. “And Leon, you could help me feed Meowth. Come on!”

Lucy turned around to leave and Leon, begrudgingly accepting this draw, complied, leaving Owen and me behind in the Center’s reception. The wind battered the windows in their wooden frames. The argument was avoided. For now. I shot a quick prayer to the heavens for it to stay that way.

Some chill draughts made their way through the planks, reminding my body that it was freezing just a moment ago, before the heat of anger had overtaken me. And just like the room cooled, so did my emotions; drowning in the exhaustion that now reclaimed me.

I observed Owen’s back as he played around the computer. He didn’t look like he intended to shut it down any time soon.

“I’m sorry,” I muttered. He just shrugged and made a forgiving hand-wave.
 
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Chapter 6: Ocean Waves

bluesidra

Mood
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. custom/hoppip-bluesidra-reup
  2. custom/hoppip-bluesidra-pink
  3. custom/hoppip-bluesidra3


Chapter 6: Ocean Waves​


September 10th 1993, 2pm.

“Hey Hanako! This town has a beach.” Leon leaned in through the open terrace door. “Wanna go for a walk?”

I looked up to see what I could only describe as Galar’s Champ, in full tourist mode. He had his hair in a ponytail, wore a bleached shirt, shorts and oversized sunglasses. Somehow he had snatched a new snapback with the town’s cherry blossom logo.

“I still have to re-pot those dahlias,” I replied.

We had been living on Lucy’s and Owen’s expenses for four days now and had slowly adjusted to the situation. I tried my best to help Lucy wherever I could while Leon was out and about most of the time. Somehow, he found his way back every evening. Right now I was preparing an assortment of flowers for next week’s harvest festival.

“Those can wait. It’s Champ Time!” Leon declared. I looked at him, raising one eyebrow. “Come on, it’s an invitation. Don’t stand me up.”

* * *​

“Why so formal?” I asked him when we met up fifteen minutes later in front of the house.

“Huh? Oh, I’ve realised that I’ve never asked you how I should call you. I’ve just called you ‘Hana’ because that’s what Hop does.”

I briefly paused putting on the jacket, my arm half stuck in the sleeve. “It’s ok,” I whispered. Leon didn’t even seem to register.

“You don’t call me ‘Lee’ just because Hop does,” he continued. “So what’s it gonna be?”

“Hana is ok. At school I’ve been Hannah. You can take your pick.”

Leon looked at me through his shaded glasses. “Ok, but what do you prefer?”

I hesitated for a moment. “Actually, would you mind calling me Hannah?”

“Not at all, Hannah.” Leon shrugged his free shoulder and turned around. “So, the beach. Let’s see…”

The Pokemon Center was on the eastern outskirts of town and it took us a while to get to the city proper. While we were walking, the lingering tension I felt growing between the two of us in the past days kept creeping back into my mind. Finally, I worked up the courage to break the silence.

“Hey, Leon?” My voice was more insecure than I wanted it to be. Leon stopped in his tracks and turned around, sending me a questioning look. “Because of what happened three days ago. When you were at the computer, remember?”

“What about that?” Leon asked.

“I… wanted to apologise. Because I got angry with you and that was uncalled for!” I blurted out.

Leon paused for a second. He seemed genuinely taken aback. “That? That’s what you call angry?” A small chuckle escaped him. “Hana- Hannah, I didn’t even register that. No reason to lose any sleep over it.” He turned around and continued walking, shaking his head. “You and your apologies.”

When he realised I wasn’t following him, he turned back around, giving me a long look. Whatever his eyes said, I couldn’t read underneath his glasses.

“I’ve almost lost my temper,” I finally got out.

“And you don’t think I can take that?” Leon asked, his voice plain.

To be honest, I didn’t think he could. Nobody should. I knew myself and how ugly that could get. But that’s something I wouldn’t tell him or admit to. “I just hate it when people yell at each other.” That wasn’t a lie, not at all. It was just not why I felt guilty.

Leon’s lingering gaze was unbroken. I still couldn’t see his eyes, but he looked more serious than I’ve ever seen him before. “In that case, it’s probably me who should apologise. For what happened in the forest. I didn’t know that it was that personal to you. At least I wasn’t imagining stuff.”

I swallowed heavily. He wasn’t moving a single muscle. But it felt good to know that he’d felt the same tension. I knew how overly sensitive I could be with things like this. Leon seemed to be more empathic than I’d given him credit for. I managed to crack a brief smile.

And just like this, he relaxed, and the imposing nature from his pose was gone. Leon closed the distance between us and his usual sunny attitude was back. “Are we good again?” he asked. I nodded, and this time there was conviction in my smile. Leon returned it. He extended his healthy arm over to me and held his fist up. A bit hesitant, I returned the fist-bump. Such a stupid gesture. And so endearing that it forced a chuckle out of me.

Since we were already talking about difficult things, I figured I could as well ask him about the state of his team. I was halfway through wording my question when an elderly woman across the street called my name.

“Hanako! How are the sweet maces doing?” At that moment, I knew I would not get to ask my question.

I waved over at the elderly lady in her flower shop. “They are doing great, thank you!”

She quickly put the arrangement she was working on away and hobbled across the street. “They actually need sandy soil. Sorry for recommending the compost earlier. Oh dear, I don’t know where my mind went…”

“Don’t worry, I’ve taken care of that already,” I reassured her.

“Thank god. I knew you were a good one!” She smiled at me, patting my arm.

She was a nice lady, but when I visited her yesterday, it took me two hours to get out again. I had to find a way out, or this could devolve in either a horticultural discussion or gossip. I would prefer the horticultural discussion, but unless it involved pokemon, Leon would fall asleep where he stood.

“The irises you’ve ordered should arrive tomorrow.” Then her gaze wandered to a point behind me. “Hello Leon!” Gossip it was.

“Hello, Ms Barnes.” Leon closed up to us.

The old lady looked at us with a pitiful expression. “How are the two of you doing? I’ve heard you got stranded here somehow.”

Her intentions were obvious. I shot a glance at Leon, who was standing a respectable distance away from me.

“Oh, we’re doing just fine,” Leon said. “It’s a nice city you have here, after all. Sometimes I still don’t find my way around, but that gets better by the day. Right now we are checking out the beach. Which way was it again?”

Ms Barnes, straight out flattened by this onslaught of words, could only show us the way. Leon took one demonstrative step in that direction. But Ms Barnes was not so quick to give up. “The beach? Oh, you’ll enjoy it. You’ll have to tell me everything about it tomorrow!”

“Yes. But I really have to get working on those arrangements,” I tried to excuse myself.

“Hanako, come! I can already feel myself forgetting the description,” Leon called over. “No offence to you, Ms Barnes.” Ok, that was my second way out, and I was determined not to let it slip. I waved at the old lady as I rushed over to Leon.

“Don’t forget your irises!” she shouted as I turned around again and waved her goodbye. Got away safely!

“Thanks,” I muttered when I was sure we were out of earshot.

“Anytime,” said Leon with a smile on his face as he closed up to me again, back to our old cordial distance. Where had we been before that? Oh, right, the state of his team. That discussion had to wait for another time. I roughly knew what was going on and would not ask him to twist the knife again when he was smiling like that.

I shot a glance back over my shoulder. Leon and I were the talk of the town, so her recognising him came as no surprise. But the other way round? “Do you know her?” I was sure that the sign over her shop didn’t read her name.

“No, but Lucy mentioned her yesterday at breakfast, didn’t she?”

“You were paying attention?” I asked. So far Leon had either been leading the conversations or been lost in thought whenever we were eating.

“Of course I was. Also, names and faces just come naturally to me.”

«As opposed to directions,» I thought as he was passing by and ignoring a sign pointing to the beach.

I tried nudging him in the right direction a few more times, then I gave up. It was actually pretty fun getting lost with Leon. We wandered into streets that I’d probably never visit myself, just because of how remote they were.

This gave us plenty of time to chit-chat about Wedgehurst and Postwick. Leon seemingly wanted to catch up on quite a lot of what’s been going on in his hometown. In exchange I learned that he studied Kantonian on recommendation of Chairman Rose in addition to his career and A-level. Which was quite impressive, seeing as I had treated my Gym Challenge as a convenient gap year away from school.

After quite some time, we made our way back to the main street. Now that we’ve been here for a while, things seemed a lot more welcoming than on this first evening. The traditional building style of this region, reflected in the squeezed wooden houses, was honestly very endearing. And even the modern buildings looked cosy and small-townish compared to back home. There were barely any cars passing by, to the point where people walked on the street without giving it a second thought. In fact, it was so quiet that, even though we were standing in the middle of a paved road, we could still hear the sounds of the surrounding forest.

It was, however, the sound of ocean waves, carried by that very silence, that led us to the beach: a lonely, sandy stretch of land, maybe a few hundred meters at best. The little bay was surrounded by wooded cliffs and the shallow waters were pale, darkening only towards the horizon. But the breeze was carrying the smell of salt water on it.

In the sand, not ten feet away from us, was a familiar brown pokemon taking a sand bath. Leon rushed over to it and knelt down.

“Where were you?” he whispered. “I needed you, like, an hour ago!”

Sentret looked at him with pure innocence, then started reaching for his pockets. When it realised that Leon would not hand out any treats, it came running over to me. Seems I wasn’t the only one who sneaked some food out for the little beggar whenever it showed up. I quickly brushed through its fur and in return was showered in sand as it shook out the rest of its bath.

“Voila, the beach!” said Leon, not without a small amount of pride. I brushed the sand off my clothes and could feel the small grains hitting my legs. It felt so foreign that I had to stop for a moment to think. I usually wore at least tights, if not also my leg-warmers. But today I wore Lucy’s shorts. They were still long enough for me to not be uncomfortable, but it was the first time in forever that my legs weren’t covered. Reluctantly, I also took off my shoes and socks, feeling the soft sand slide between my toes.

“Never been to the beach before?” Leon sounded genuinely interested. I shook my head as I made my first steps on this new, soft ground. “Oh, right, Circhester," he said as I walked over to the water. “You’ve only got that icy bay. I got lost there once.”

“Also, all our family vacations only ever went to Lavender Town. So it’s either hill-walking or sports fishing,” I added, closing up to him.

“Oh, that’s right, you’re from Kanto.”

“No, I’m not,” I said firmly. “I was born there, but we moved to Circhester when I was half a year old. I’m from Galar, just like you.” I was so tired of explaining this over and over again. Leon and Hop clearly didn’t look like stereotypical pasty Galarians either, but they never had to explain their ancestry to anyone.

Leon smiled at me. Once again, his shades prevented me from reading anything more. “See, that’s what happens when you always decline interviews. Even your cards get things wrong.”

“That’s why I don’t like those cards," I sighed as we moved closer to the water’s edge. Leon was about to say something, but was cut short when an exceptionally powerful wave washed over my feet and made me shriek out. Once the initial surprise wore off, we both had to laugh.

“Man, I can barely remember our last family holiday,” Leon said after quite some time. “We’ve been to Winmark Beach in… 2017, I think. But it was during the season, so I only met up with them for a day or so.”

“That’s… actually quite sad.” Our holidays were never the epitome of harmony, but at least I got to spend time together with my parents and they at least had to put up a front.

“Hey, the 2017 season was worth it! It had my first match against Lance.” Within one second Leon had transformed back into the Leon I knew from telly. His enthusiasm inevitably made me laugh, and this made him glow up even more. “Great guy, but his fault he brought an unbalanced team. I’ve struggled more against Raihan and his sandstorms. I wonder what he’s up to now?”

Once let loose, Leon told stories about the 2017 season like a waterfall while we strolled up and down the beach. His passion for pokemon and competitive battle was so infectious that I found myself laughing at stories from a time before I was interested in the hobby myself. I remembered why he was such a star back at home.

Leon was about to explain how Wallace could defeat Milo in the opening charity match, even though his team was at a disadvantage when I flinched. Leon stopped dead in his tracks. Immediately I turned my foot around, just to see that it wasn’t anything serious. No blood.

“There was something sharp," I answered the unspoken question. Balancing myself on one leg, I kneaded the sole of the other just to make sure there were no underlying injuries.

Leon knelt down and searched the sand for a bit. “Just a piece of rock.” He held the culprit between his fingers. “Is it that bad?”

Within one heartbeat, the water on my feet and the little grains of sand didn’t feel that good any more. The excitement was washed away, leaving behind an all too familiar fear.

“No,” I said, but didn’t manage to swallow down all the anxiety that had overcome me out of a sudden. That rock was small, but on any other ground it could have caused some serious injuries. “Here, help me for a moment!”

I awkwardly fumbled my shoes back on while using Leon’s healthy arm as a balance. As soon as I felt the rubber separating my muscles from the ground again, the feeling of safety returned.

“Come on, let’s sit down for a while," Leon said in a much more sombre voice. “I wanted to invite you anyway.” He was about to toss the little rock back into the ocean when he stopped himself. “Would you look at that? That thing isn’t even a rock.” He rubbed it a bit cleaner on his shirt and handed it to me while we were walking back towards the city.

“In fact! Look!” I polished it a bit more and held it towards the sun. The rays broke into thousand different shades of orange as they hit the surprisingly light rock. I could feel Leon smile next to me as he too looked at the play of light in the amber.

While Leon excused himself for a moment, I polished it a bit more. The more residue I removed, the more shades of gold and orange broke free. Sentret had now finished chasing waves and ran over to me, no doubt expecting something edible in my hand. I held the amber against the sunlight again, and this time it shined even brighter. ‘Just like Hop’s eyes’, I thought, entranced by the glint.

Then Leon called my name and waved me over. He was standing in front of a small takeaway with an even smaller terrace on the edge of the beach. And he was smiling brightly like the sun. As soon as we sat down on the airy chairs, the owner came over and asked us what we wanted to drink. After some reassurance that it was on the house, I reluctantly ordered an ice tea.

I sent a questioning look across the table. Instead of an answer, Leon just held up two brand-new books and his smile got even wider.

“Want to take a look?” he asked, and the smugness in his voice was barely concealed. But he had all the rights to be proud. I’ve never been more ecstatic over the sight of a map and a travel guide.

I couldn’t contain my excitement. “Leon, how— How did you do that?” I asked. Besides the fact that that was an incredibly smart move that I almost envied him for, there was still the worrying truth that we didn’t have any money to our names.

“Trade secret," he said casually, clearly enjoying the attention, while also trying to open a full map with only one hand.

The shop’s owner came over and served us our drinks. He was even polite enough to include straws and a slice of apricorn for Sentret. I reached over the table and pushed the map down to meet Leon’s eyes.

He tried to ignore me for a while. “Do you know that you can look remarkably like Oleana if you try?” Silence. “Ok, I might have fixed his fridge,” was the explanation he finally gave me.

Seeing how it had worked before, I tried to emulate my best Oleana-impression once more.

“Well, Rotom took care of the mechanical issue, but that little buddy who really runs this place needed to power himself out a lot.” He leaned back in his chair and shouted in the direction of the booth: “Ain’t that right, Seel?”

The answer came immediately in the form of a squeal and a few claps that I’d only ever heard in pokemon-shows on telly.

“What did you do?" I asked, while turning the map in his hand into the right orientation.

“Nothing too fancy,” Leon said, upon hearing the worry in my voice. “Just let him go swim in the ocean and show the pokemon here in the bay who’s the boss. Marcel isn’t a trainer himself, so he’s always been afraid of letting Seel loose. But no matter how much they love their humans, from time to time pokemon have to act out their instincts.”

I nodded as I pulled my chair over to his side and opened out the map to its full size. It pictured the entire Johto region, including all the roads, cities and public transport systems (sparse as they might be).

I searched the south-eastern area until I put my finger on a certain dot near the sea. “Cherrygrove City. That’s where we are.” Leon studied the map as intently as I did. It was really rural compared to Galar. Even in 1993 Galar would have been better developed, with an established railway system and several cities with a population of over a million, while Johto didn’t have a single city that reached that mark.

Sentret hopped onto my lap, and I handed it the slice of apricorn. My dad had always treated Kanto’s extension almost like a developing country. Admittedly, the region lay a bit awkward; a piece of land wedged between mountains and the sea. There was an ad in the bottom left corner of the map, promoting a two-week holiday in Galar. Looking at the prices listed for the flight, my heart sank. As tempting as the ad may have looked like, I forced my focus back onto the map.

I searched for Ecruteak City. It was to the north from here, right on a fold in the map. The sun reflected off the brand new paper and I had to squint my eyes.

Without a word, Leon handed me his sunglasses. He had leaned back in his chair and now, seeing his eyes for the first time today, I could tell that something was seriously troubling him. Like he wanted to say something, but hadn’t yet found the right words.

I slowly leaned back in my chair, letting go of the map for now, just looking at him. For a minute, there was only the crashing of waves and the howling of the wind between us.

“There’s currently nothing Lucy can do for my team,” he finally got out. These words did not come easy to him. “She says she’s never seen anything like that. None of her devices even register them as pokeballs, let alone pokemon.” He traced the rim of his unopened can of cola with his fingers and took another deep breath.

“There is a man in Azalea Town, who is some kind of specialist in that field. I’ve called him yesterday, but he’d have to take a look at it in person. I…”

Sensing his distress, Sentret hopped over onto his lap and wrapped its tail around his waist, but Leon didn’t take any notice. He was now playing around with the can’s tab. I took a long sip of my ice tea, listening to the mechanical clack of the tab when it met the tin.

“Hannah, the reason I trapped you here and what I’ve been procrastinating the entire morning…” Leon was back to looking at everything but me. I gave his knee a gentle nudge with the tip of my shoe. “Man, I really don’t know how to spring it on you…”

He took a deep breath and tapped his temple with his fingers. Hop did the same thing when he needed to focus.

“The cab fees here are horrendous. If I have to make my way there alone, this could take well over half a year. And you’re the only person I can reasonably ask if you could accompany me there. Please?”

I took another long sip. “When do you want to leave?”

Relieved about something concrete to hold on to, Leon finally met my eyes. “When the paperwork’s done. Owen and I managed to complete that application for our trainer cards last night. Should be in the mail by now. When that’s done we can start with the whole bank account thing.”

I leaned over the map and looked at the scale. Leon leaned forward as well, but I could feel he was watching me rather than the map. Lucy had heard rumours of a renowned scientist about to open his lab in New Bark Town. Ecruteak City with its long history and many libraries would also be a good point to start, if we ever wanted to find out how to get back home. Both locations were nowhere close to Azalea City.

“We could make it to Violet City in about eight days. And from there to Azalea would take another… ten days — at least. Less if we can hitch-hike part of the way…”

“We?” Leon asked. The hope, though reluctant, was barely hidden.

I leaned back in my chair and looked at him. “We have absolutely nothing.” The glimmer of hope immediately ceased from his eyes.

“I know.”

“Leon, I’m sorry… argh…” I groaned in frustration, then took a deep breath in and collected my thoughts while massaging the bridge of my nose.

I hated letting him dangle for so long, especially when asking for help was so difficult for him. But that was a heavy decision. This meant delaying any solution to the time-shift problem for at least another month, if not longer. On the other hand, I couldn’t tell how long it would take me to leave the comfort of Lucy’s home. But for good reason. I didn’t even own the clothes I had on my body right now. I traced the lines on the map. There wasn’t even a bus system.

What to do? My eyes fell on the little dot with the tag ‘New Bark Town’ next to it, then on Ecruteak to the north.

“I’ll do it,” I breathed. As soon as the words were out, I realised they didn’t even sound as ludicrous as they did in my head. At least I tried to convince myself of that. “I’ll come with you,” I said, this time with more conviction.

“Really?” Leon’s eyes once again filled with excitement. I nodded. “Oh, thank you so much! I… I promise I’ll make it up to you!” The tension falling off of him was almost visible. He slumped forward a bit, covering his eyes with his healthy hand, and for a moment all I could see was the peak of his snapback.

There was being nervous, and then there was this. I leaned in a bit closer to him. “Are you alright?” No answer. “You know you can ask me for things, right?” He motioned me to wait a second.

When he looked up again, his voice was calm and serious. “I want to explain something, so I don’t look like an absolute selfish ass here.” He took a deep breath in, but the tremble in it betrayed the tension remaining. “You’ve said a few days ago how you don’t understand why Eternatus was my responsibility. Aside from the fact that I should have tried better when Rose brought that stuff up.”

When did I—? Oh!

“I am the single strongest trainer in all of Galar. I’ve proven this now ten times over. If there is someone who can stop Eternatus, then it’s me.” Leon paused, his gaze wandering over the map. “You know, that’s the reason why all my matches are sold out. Not because of the flashy battles or because I can put on a good show. It’s because all these people need to see me win for an eleventh time to know what Galar has to offer them.”

I took a long sip of the tea. The can was getting empty. Leon’s gaze was transfixed on an indeterminate point in the middle distance, somewhere across the table.

“But right now, I am absolutely nothing. Not only am I not there, now that a really strong trainer is needed, I don’t even have my team.” Alone the thought of that made him groan. The pain was now visible, and Leon focused intently on his indeterminate point. For a moment, he lost his thought.

The breeze picked up and made the map flap against the table. It was getting cold. Leon absent-mindedly placed the travel-guide in a way that the map wouldn’t be blown away, then went back to staring into the middle distance while he was seeking for words. I slipped off my shoes and started putting my socks back on.

“I guess it’s pretty selfish after all,” he finally continued. “But I would rather them remember me missing in action than me being an absolute disappointment. That way they can at least hope that someone else can rise to the occasion and assume that mantle.” He collected himself and met my gaze. His usual confidence had vanished, revealing a sadness I could have never imagined on him. “Long story short: That’s why I want to get my team back before I can ever get back to Galar 2019.”

“Leon…” I knew he wanted me to say something — anything to make that sadness go away. But I could only deal with anger, not with that. My mind raced, looking for the right words. “You don’t have to justify your decision," I finally said. I tried to look at him as steadily as possible. “I can understand you. Every trainer would do the same.”

He sighed as he broke my gaze. “Thank you.” The wind picked up once more and made the map flap again. His gratitude was genuine, but my words did little to console him. Leon sighed and slumped back in his chair a bit. “Thanks. I just really hope things turn out to be alright.”

Another moment of waves and wind. A long and quiet moment.

“Still hurt?” he said after looking around the table for a while.

“Huh?” I looked down. I had my leg crossed over and absent-mindedly started a stretching pattern, twisting and kneading the ligaments and muscles of my foot.

“No, no, it’s alright, don’t worry!” I assured him. I knew this was a quirk of mine — Hop had teased me about it often enough — but this time it made me think. Leon once again traced the rim of his can.

“That’s pretty much the same, I think,” I said after a while. Now it was Leon’s turn to watch me. I looked down at my foot in the yellow sock and wriggled my toes a bit. “You know, before I did the Gym Challenge I did ballet. And not just as a hobby. I’m talking about four to five hours of dancing per day. If I had stepped on that little rock on any other surface, it might have taken me out of training for over a week. Which could have set me back enough that I couldn’t take part in the tournaments.” I kneaded my foot a bit more, twisting it in angles that might seem dangerous to other people.

I shook my head and sighed. “That’s an immensely stupid comparison and I apologise in advance for it. I know I shouldn’t talk about pokemon like this. At the end of the day, they are our friends. But sometimes, they are also tools. Very very valuable tools. Just like—” I extended my leg to full length, proud that I could still hold my split. “Any other person could step on a rock or stub their toe and just move on. But to me, those things used to feel almost life-threatening, and I’d do anything to prevent it.” When I looked up, I found Leon looking directly at me. “So, yes, I understand you. As twisted and as selfish as it might be.”

Leon looked at me for a while. Initially, I had presumed that he would get angry, seeing how he always emphasised the team-effort and friendship that won his team award after award. But instead I found only sincerity in his eyes.

“I don’t think that’s a stupid comparison," Leon said after a while. His gaze made its way over the table again. “And even if it is — thanks.”

The sound of breaking waves and howling wind again took over in the ensuing silence, but this time, there was no tension. Only the numb void that strain always left in its wake, while each one of us followed their own thoughts.

“So, ballet, huh?” Leon broke the silence after a while. “That explains a thing or two. What’s the farthest you ever got?”

“Prix de Illumis, 2016.”

“I don’t know anything about ballet, but that sounds impressive,” he said and finally opened up that can of coke.

When we went home an hour later, it only took us ten minutes.
 
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Chapter 7: Goodbyes and First Steps

bluesidra

Mood
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. custom/hoppip-bluesidra-reup
  2. custom/hoppip-bluesidra-pink
  3. custom/hoppip-bluesidra3


Chapter 7: Goodbyes and First Steps​


It took us two very stressful, but also very harmonious weeks to get going. They were filled with house- and paperwork. To my surprise, Leon proved to be rather efficient at the latter one. Turned out that the league’s international matches also required seemingly endless amounts of forms and applications. In the end we decided on sharing a bank-account for now, largely because I was still a minor and getting around the legal guardian’s signature was too much of a hassle. Now, since we both needed to date our birthdays back, I could have easily made myself old enough for that. But Lucy, who was growing more uncomfortable with every detail we had to make up, insisted on leaving at least this one as close to the truth as possible. She later made good for the inconvenience with an ice-cream cake — an apology well accepted all across the board.

The harvest festival turned out to be a tremendous success. And while Leon and I felt like onlookers in this small town variant of a funfair, it was fulfilling seeing Lucy and Owen spend time together, doing couple-things and get praise for their garden. The two of us made the most of the day, strolling through town and reading up on every pokemon we didn’t know in our by now very worn out tourist guide. Alas, we couldn’t escape Ms Barnes forever (Leon had picked up the irises the other day and made it back in under an hour). After we had sufficiently satisfied her nosiness about our travel plans, the conversation devolved into that dreaded horticultural discussion. And while I rather enjoyed it, Leon only braved it for about half an hour before getting away. With him out of the picture, me and the old lady actually had quite a pleasant evening as we wandered through town, bonding over flower arrangements.

As a treat for the successful festival, Lucy decided we’d go on a shopping spree the day after. And while I didn’t really find my style here, it was nice to find something my size in the women’s department. It took me, however, way too long to realise why Leon was so anxious out of a sudden, always asking me for feedback on his comparatively conservative choices. Never in my life had I imagined I’d be standing between the aisles of a small-town clothing store, having to explain that I, in fact, did not have a crippling fear of 90s fashion.

The actual shopping experience, however, came a few days later, when I was running errands for Lucy. I was picking up some groceries in the supermarket, when I saw the ad for a special offer on pokeballs.

«No matter what, we’ll have to get back into it,» I thought as I stared at the 10+1 pack later at the kitchen table. To be honest, I didn’t miss having my team with me for the past two weeks. No, that was wrong. I missed my pokemon; we grew close over the course of the Gym Challenge, but I didn’t miss always having to be prepared for battle. But what we were about to do was almost like the Gym Challenge all over again, just with less support. And the wild pokemon out there could indeed be a threat.

That’s why we eventually decided to leave Sentret here with Lucy and Owen. After it hung around more often, Lucy gave it a full physical. Turned out the little girl was an absolute baby, a little over two weeks old at most. Which left us only with Rotom, who firmly stated that it would happily inhabit every electrical device we gave it, but not fight anything scary.

And so came the day we had to say goodbye to Cherrygrove. Owen even borrowed a car from work and drove us a good chunk of the way, making sure we could safely check in at our first stop. When we said our goodbyes, it was incredibly awkward. I was bad at doing this, Owen was bad at doing this, and Leon was once again struggling with expressing thankfulness. So instead of anything heart-warming, Owen brusquely made sure we had their number before driving off, leaving us at our first stop: Cuora City.
 
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Chapter 8: A Timetraveller's Woe and Chapter 9: Of Birds, Bees and other Misunderstandings

bluesidra

Mood
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. custom/hoppip-bluesidra-reup
  2. custom/hoppip-bluesidra-pink
  3. custom/hoppip-bluesidra3

Chapter 8: A Timetraveller's Woe​

September 24th 1993, 2pm.

“When were you supposed to meet him again?” I asked Leon while I slid our registration papers into a plastic pocket.

“Tomorrow morning,” he replied. “What do you think are the chances he’s home right now?”

Ten minutes later, we left the small hostel where we checked in for the night and made our way to the other end of the town. Cuora City, at the side of Tortoise Hill, was an old town tracing back well over 500 years. During feudal times it was known for its expertise in candle-manufacturing. This was still a staple in the town’s economic and cultural identity today. At least according to our travel guide.

But it didn’t lie when it granted the old town the title of ‘insiders’ tip’. Cuora was a lovely place, smaller than Cherrygrove and like it a fascinating mix of modern and historic city parts. The farther up the mountain we went, the older the architecture became. The wooden houses with its sliding doors and veiled windows slowly replaced modern buildings, until, high on the side of the mountain, the remains of the old castle stood, still keeping wake over its valley.

But Cuora was also home to a certain Hattori Yoshi, also known as Mr Pokemon. He was some sort of hobby-scientist who had good connections with the experts in pokemon studies. According to Lucy. Both Leon and I had raised at least one eyebrow at the mention of his… unusual nickname, but it seemed to be well established. And at this point, what did we have to lose?

About half an hour later we stood in front of his house, a small former mail-station at the outskirts of town. I had to admit; he kept the gardens lovely, with apricorns in different colours hanging ripe from the trees. After looking for a doorbell in vain, we entered the premise. A piece of paper was pinned to the front door, reading: “I’ll be back soon”.

We hung around for fifteen more minutes. But when we grew tired of watching the bug-types playing around in the flowers, we decided to make the best out of the rest of the day.

* * *​

Fifteen minutes later, I browsed through the ads on the town’s notice board. They were mostly communal announcements and holiday lets that were looking for long-term inhabitants willing to spend the autumn in the countryside.

“Hey Hana, can you believe that those lamps are not connected?” Rotom asked, phasing in and out of the lamppost next to me.

One ad caught my attention, and I shoved the paper that almost covered it up to the side to get a better look at it. Rotom, however, took me not replying as an invitation to tell me some more details about the technical intricacies of street lamps.

“Did you know that back at home, every streetlamp reports how it’s doing back to their municipality over the mobile grid? The Porygon that takes care of our lamps in Postwick is actually quite nice! But sadly, it sits in a dark server room in Wedgehurst. Not that it minds much.”

I had been nodding along to its explanation, but now I shot it a sceptical glance.

“I mean, it’s a little hermit, but those lamps here? They are probably quite lonely, having no one to talk to and stuff. I wonder…”

When Rotom fell silent for a second, I seized my opportunity to ask an ultimately pointless question: “Have you considered not messing with public property?”

The lamp only gave a dull humming sound. I sighed and shot it a stern look.

For a quick second, Rotom reemerged from higher up the post with an apologetic smile. “Not really. Oh, hey, what’s the boss doing over there?”

I followed Rotom’s gaze across the town square to find Leon standing in its geographical centre — the one place where he got in the way of the biggest number of people.

I frowned. What was he doing?

He might have been forgiven if he’d been looking at the historical buildings. Both of us looked like tourists and at least I had no shame in acting like one from time to time. He was hard to read with his shades on, but from what I could tell, he was more focused on the people that now had to walk around him.

Suddenly, a light above my head flickered.

“Hey!” I jolted around. “Rotom! Stop that!”

I tried to keep my voice and curses low, but Rotom didn’t care either way. It had fun flicking the streetlamp on and off and didn’t intend to stop soon. I could already sense people’s stares piercing my back. Okay, maybe I didn’t enjoy being a tourist as much as I had thought.

“Having fun?” A familiar voice asked. I didn’t even need to turn around. Leon was speaking Galarian again.

“Wh — no!” I focused my attention back on Rotom. “Stop it, please! People are looking!”

But the little ghost did not budge. Instead, the lamp only made a happy buzzing sound somewhere between its metal sheets. I heard the small crowd in my back whispering.

Next to me, Leon shrugged. “So what? Let it!”

I sent him a glare that I hoped covered up my growing desperation just enough to show my discontent. Leon shrugged again and smirked, but at least he turned his attention to Rotom and away from me.

One quick promise of a Cherry Drop and a “C’mon, get outta there” was everything that was needed to convince Rotom to leave the lamp alone.

I felt cheated.

The small ghost now stayed close to Leon, enjoying its treat and hoping for a follow-up. Leon shot me a long, unreadable look from behind his darkened glasses, while he ruffled Rotom’s plasmatic layer. I could imagine what he was thinking.

«How is this my challenger?»

I was not exactly… good with pokemon. Which was a strange thing to say for a competitor in the Championship Cup. But I had raised every single one of my pokemon from hand in our greenhouse since they were but a sprout, and somehow, we got along.

I had always dreaded the interviewers asking the inevitable question of what made my team so strong. Somehow, they seemed to love this question.

Hop would always answer something about ambition and willpower, maybe even passion — whatever his brother had said before. But all I had to show for were hours upon hours of training. Sure, I might have been able to spin a tale about perseverance out of that. But in reality, countless nights spent in the Wild Area weren’t as glamorous, no matter how one would twist it.

Leon was once again watching the people passing by. Now that Rotom was no longer causing a fuss, the small crowd had dispersed and people ignored us again.

“What were you doing over there?” I asked.

“Huh? Nothing.” As soon as he heard my question, he turned towards me and his sunglasses again prevented me from getting a good read on him. When I had seen his profile a second before, I could have sworn his eyes betrayed a strange melancholy.

There was a reason Hop only introduced me to his brother roughly a year ago. And it was those interviewers that I later learned to avoid. What should have been a relaxed family barbecue had been interrupted at least once by the Wedgehurst Courier — and that was just the one time I witnessed. Hop later told me that this had become standard procedure when Leon was home.

So being ignored must have been a new experience for him.

I turned back to the ads.

“You don’t miss it at all?” I asked casually. “Being in the limelight?”

Leon shifted from one foot to the other. “Hm… it’s… unfamiliar.” And after a long look over the town square he added: “But also kinda cool.”

So that’s what it sounded like when he lied.

Those were definitely not the words of the person who had absorbed every bit of media attention like my plants absorbed water and sunlight. In the end, it had been Hop who had to get rid of that Wedgehurst Courier reporter.

I almost wanted to dig deeper, but seeing how uncomfortable this question had made him, decided to change the topic.

“Here, have a look at this.” I pointed to the half-covered ad and tore Leon out of his thoughts.

“Huh? Oh, wow.” He inspected the paper closer. Mr Pokemon’s slide-show had been a week ago already, but it sounded interesting nonetheless. “‘Breakthrough innovation?’ The pokedex? Really?”

The sound of Leon’s incredulous voice made me laugh. “Right? I’ve seen one of those first dexes in a history museum once. They are bricks.”

Leon raised an eyebrow and turned back to the ad when Rotom reemerged from the lamppost.

“Should have asked me, hah!” it exclaimed. “I can do everything that pokedex can and more!”

“It says here that it’s got some tech from the space shuttle?” Leon said. Rotom’s eyes grew wide.

“Did you know that the computers on the first manned spacecraft had less power than even a regular smartphone today?” I asked none of the two in particular, but Rotom now flew a happy circle around me.

“And that’s saying something,” Rotom chirped. “I bet the Porygon on that mission must have been quite lonesome. Oh, Hana, if only I could have accompanied it! Just imagine the things I would have done with those solar panels up there!”

It snuggled up against my chest, its body swelling with pride at the imaginary deeds.

“You in space?” I shooed Rotom away when its quivering body started sending jolts through my jacket. “You eat through your battery like it was cake, and then you complain about my charger being slow! What good would you have done on that spacecraft?”

The little ghost hovered a few feet away and faced me with a challenging look.

“Because what you call a charger is considered a toy where I come from.” Rotom explained, an obnoxious smugness on its small face. “You know, even for the first moon landing, they had actual solar panels and not that square inch thing on your charger.”

I clenched my jaws to not say something very rude in return. Not that I had good ideas, anyway.

Rotom had been complaining about my solar power bank ever since I got it and I was even inclined to believe that its capacity was subpar. But Galar was so big on Dmax energy; it was almost impossible to get other forms of electricity. And also, it had the form of a Togedemaru and was a present from Dad, who sent it all the way from Kanto. So Rotom would be well advised to shut its cheeky mouth.

But sadly, it wasn’t.

“Oh, come on, Hana! You keep complaining, but who else here would have fixed that healing machine, huh?”

I shot it a glare. It was right. Still.

Upon seeing the anger on my face, Rotom hovered back and bounced into Leon, who was staring at an undetermined point somewhere across the square.

“Hey, Leon, back me up here!” Rotom demanded. “Smart Rotoms are the best!”

Leon only made a distant humming sound. Rotom promptly sanctioned this lack of enthusiasm with a quick Thunder Shock to his side, causing Leon to wince.

Okay, now it was enough.

I grabbed Rotom and pushed it down and behind me, with a look that should make it very clear to the small ghost that this debate had ended ten seconds ago already. It seemed to understand and contended itself by sending occasional jolts into the palm of my hand and cooling its plasma to match the sensation of frozen jelly.

Ready to apologise for Rotom’s misbehaviour once again, I turned around to Leon, but he was lost in thought. Something was up with him ever since we got back from Mr Pokemon’s house. I sent Rotom one last admonitory glance, then searched my brain to strike up a conversation.

“What phone do you have?” was the best I came up with.

“Me? An MCT 6000s,” he said, not taking his eyes off his undetermined spot.

My question might have only got me a brief second of Leon’s attention, but Rotom’s was now peaked. “An MCT?” it asked. “Ha! Their voice assistants are some AIs of the stupidest variant. A short-circuiting Porygon1 in a toaster could do better than that!”

I again pushed it behind me. “Hush now!” The answer came in the form of angry sparks around my fingers.

Rotom wasn’t wrong. The 6000s was the flagship of Macro Cosmos’s conventional smartphone line and worth more than what I could save up in two years, but still leagues behind a Smart Rotom. I used to have its predecessor’s smaller cousin before Mum bought me Rotom because she was feeling guilty, and Rotom was the better VA, by far.

Leon was again back in his thoughts. Was it because of the limelight-thing I mentioned earlier? I tried one last time.

“Why not a Smart Rotom? Aren’t you the brand ambassador for Macro Cosmos?”

“Huh? Me?” Leon finally got his eyes off the square and onto me. “No. Raihan’s got the promo-contract for the Smart Rotom. I’m not even that MC affiliated. But that’s business talk. We’re basically on holiday here, right?”

“Right.”

And that was as far as that conversation went. But at least it got us going.

Now that we were here and had the entire afternoon to waste, we had figured we could as well visit whatever made this city an ‘insider’s tip.’ And so we made our way up the hill again to the historical castle.

At least that was where I was going. Leon was going… everywhere except there. I was sure he’d get himself lost on a straight street. In fact, he would have twice by now if I hadn’t stopped him whenever he was about to turn off into some random back alley. I had suspected that him being ‘directionally challenged’ was embellished as some sort of media stunt. Today, however, he proved this gossip more than correct. His sense of direction was a disaster, and today more than ever.

The cobblestones glistered in the afternoon sun. As we left the town’s centre behind, the streets got less and less crowded. Soon we were alone, save for some residents working in their gardens or the occasional car passing by.

It was so rural here. The town clung to the side of a mountain on the border of a national park. SUVs and pickups were a common sight here. And yet, somehow, it was more worldly than Postwick had ever been. What a stupid, boring, small town…

Next to me, the only reason Postwick was even known to the wider public made a frustrated sound, and I almost expected him to have run into another dead end. Instead, I found him struggling with his cast.

After a short while, he admitted defeat and contented himself with rubbing his temples and ruffling his hair with only one hand. But now that his glasses were off, he looked exasperated.

“Is everything okay?” I asked when he snapped out of it and now looked around for a direction.

“Argh. It’s nothing. I’m just all over the place today.” He shook his head one last decisive time. “Say, have you ever thought about what would happen if they did listen to Rotom?”

I looked at him, confused, while Rotom yelled a gleeful “Good things!” in response. After a few seconds, Leon continued on walking.

“Like, Rotom, you probably know why these first dexes were bricks, right?” he asked.

“Of course!” Rotom exclaimed. Happy to spill its knowledge, it continued: “So, the algorithm they used for their image recognition is… well, not good at recognising images. It’s simply the wrong one. The Mistralton Institute of Technology brought out an implementable version of a deep learning algorithm around 2001. That’s the one you’d want to use. Oh, and those grainy cameras didn’t help the case either. That’s why you had to get a real good close shot of the pokemon if you ever wanted to identify it.

“And don’t even get me started on those chipsets they used. I could play golf in there, it’s so spacious. Also, why even use touchscreens when instead you can have more buttons?”

Despite being a ghost and not reliant on oxygen, it seemed like Rotom ran out of breath for a second. Leon seized the opportunity.

“See what I mean? One Rotom would save the world twenty-six years of painful development,” he said, while he patted Rotom’s core affectionately. “Can you imagine how different life would have been?”

This was a specific and at the same time very far-reaching question, and I did not know how to even begin answering it. But the way Leon looked at me was demanding an answer.

I shrugged. “Pretty sure my selfie-pose would be on fleek if I had practised it ever since I was a baby.”

That at least brought a smile to his face. “Right? My highlight would be GPS. Oh man, that would have saved me some walks. And the cabbies some headaches. It’s kinda hard explaining your location to somebody when all you know is ‘between three trees.’”

Leon seemed to be back to his usual chatter, and I nodded along.

To imagine a world where we had smartphones as early as 1993… A lot of things would have been different, for sure. Saffron would have developed a lot faster than it already did. Maybe even Postwick would have caught up to the modern world. And Mum and Dad wouldn’t have to decide if they wanted to move to Galar or to Kanto, and could instead have a long-distance-relationship for a while.

“Hey, and maybe they’d used those twenty-six years on actual good capturing technology.” Leon’s subsequent sigh made me look up. His carefree expression had vanished again, gone as fast as it came. “Who am I even kidding, I’d still suck at catching pokemon. But maybe, if we got better balls, I might have caught Eternatus…”

At the mention of its name alone, I could feel a knot grow in my throat. Maybe he was right, maybe he could have contained it, but…

“... and we wouldn’t be here,” I finished his trailed off sentence.

“Exactly! Right?” I could tell that Leon wanted to be upbeat, but somehow, he didn’t quite manage.

“As in, we would have never met,” I said. “Did I ever tell you that my dad works for Silph?”

Leon looked at me, quiet, and I could tell that he was following my every word.

“Let’s say they could make and sell something like our phones earlier… I’m pretty sure things would have gone a bit differently. I imagine Silph would be big in that business. Dad moved to Circhester because they offered him a leading position in one of their new branches there. But with smartphones suddenly booming... I’m sure he would have taken a position in Saffron.”

“Oh. So Indigo League for you then, huh?”

I looked at him and had to blink a few times. Could this man even think outside of his League world? But before I could say anything, his expression grew thoughtful again. Absent-mindedly, he started kicking a pebble around.

“But I get what you’re saying. If things like smartphones catch on right away, and if Silph outsources its plants right away and exactly like they do? — did? — will do? — whatev’s, then my parents would have never moved to Galar.”

“Your parents?”

“Grandparents,” he quickly corrected himself. “Imagine this. No Champ Leon, no Rose who got his hopes too high and no Darkest Day.”

With one well-practised motion, he kicked the pebble away. It sailed through the air, only coming to a halt at a tree a few hundred yards down the road. I watched it bounce off the bark and roll a few feet until it vanished in the sparse grass, then I sighed.

“And no Rotom to pitch that idea to Silph in the first place.”

He nodded. “Which brings us back to a Champ Leon and a Darkest Day. Pretty stupid loop if you ask me.”

The knot in my throat grew tighter and I could feel my heart beating faster. Leon had found himself another stone and balanced it on the tip of his foot, unconcerned.

But what if that did happen? What if we did something to start this loop? Would I then be forever stuck between here and the Darkest Day, flipping back and forth in a matter of seconds? Would I have to see—

«Deep breath in. Count to ten. It’s okay, you are not there. This is not happening.»

But I wasn’t sure any longer. For a moment, dark crimson clouded the edges of my vision. And somewhere, at some point in time, the Darkest Day might still be happening.

It was Rotom’s voice that banished those thoughts, if only for a brief second. At first I was happy to hear it, but then the panic in its voice told me Rotom had very similar ideas.

“Wait, does that mean we would just… disappear? Or also turn to stone?”

“Who knows?” Leon said, ruffling through Rotom’s mantle. This time, it didn’t reform itself right away, and his hand left a long streak across its ethereal body.

For a moment, I wanted to scream at him, disregard any manners, and ask him how he could be so casual about all of this. As if our lives didn’t depend on it. But then I noticed my chest had become too tight to even breathe.

Darkness in purple and crimson was again about to take my world. If we would disappear, that would be one thing. Sure, we would never make it home, or even get close to stopping the disaster from unfolding, but it was still better than— than—

I wanted to go home. If I did nothing, I would see myself as a baby again in nine years, and then continue to make the same mistakes. But what could await me if I did the wrong thing… No!

A paralysing fear overtook me. It felt so familiar, so awfully familiar that my body again became so light and then…

Leon grabbed my arm. His hand was firm and warm on my skin, and he could easily wrap his fingers around my wrist. But mostly, his hand was steady. And real. I tried to focus as much of my thoughts and attention on those feelings before this little gesture ended way too soon.

“Hey! So far we haven’t pitched Rotom’s brainpower to anyone, have we?” Leon’s eyes were again hidden behind his sunglasses and his smile the perfect bright smile I would expect from him.

I swallowed the thoughts and memories down, pushed them back into that dark corner of my mind where they belonged, and tried to mimic his expression.

“Right.” My voice sounded so weak, I hated it. But at least I wasn’t crying, was I? When I slowly let out my breath, it was only shaking a bit.

“Right.” I swallowed once more. Somehow, talking helped get my brain on track. Even if I didn’t like the nonsense that would pour out of my mouth. “And it’s probably best to keep it that way, huh?”

Leon chuckled a bit. “Hey, you’re the engineer’s daughter. Maybe you know how stuff works, but I can only tell you that my phone has transformed from a brick into a real brick. No need to worry on that end.”

False modesty didn’t suit him at all, and it was sheer luck I caught myself before I told him that straight to his awfully cheerful face. Instead, I tried for a rational thought.

“That’s not true. You can probably ‘predict’ every single League battle between now and… well, back home, simply because you know how they’ll end. Or screw that. By saying ‘Chairman Rose is planning something’ you could write the entire thing out of the history books.”

«And us right with it.»

“He is around already, right?”

The knot in my throat wasn’t entirely gone, and my breathing still strained. In fact, it was only getting worse the more I followed this rabbit-hole of thoughts. And I could tell that Leon was tense, too, even if he tried to hide it. But somehow, he didn’t want to let this go.

“Sure,” he said, without taking his eyes off me. “I’ve been thinking about this, too. But then we’d have another loop, right? I mean, I’d give it a try. If only I could come up with something simple to test it on first.”

“You — what?” My voice was way louder than I had expected and made me almost recoil in shock. “I don’t think experimenting blindly is a good idea.”

Leon gave me a long, quiet look, then the next pebble went flying towards a tree. The silence that followed was so tense it was almost tangible.

“I need to set things right.”

“But you can’t simply…” My breath was only coming in small bursts from my lungs. If I didn’t watch it, I would lose my countenance for sure. “Leon!”

At the mention of his name, he jumped a little, snapping out of the place that his thoughts had taken him. For the quickest of seconds, there was a startled regret on his face, before it was replaced by a smile and well hidden under sunglasses.

“Don’t worry, I’ll be careful. I’ll keep my mouth shut, promise, cross my heart!” A wink and a smile, and his attentive, accommodating self was back. I only now realised how dearly I had missed it.

He didn’t give me much time to ponder, however.

“Hey, by the way, Hannah, do you know where we are?”

Startled at his words, I looked around. We were… at the edge of a forest? The town was a good distance away, up the small track that we had followed for quite some time now.

“No,” I had to admit, confused about what had happened. “I was following you.”

Leon laughed, and this time it sounded natural. “Y’know, I’m honoured, but in general, that is a bad idea.”

* * *​

The way back was nothing but banter and a few jokes at my and his expense. When we were back in town, Leon aggressively picked every wrong option and I was sure that this time, he played it up to keep me occupied.

But despite his best efforts, my mind wandered here and there.

Leon and his knowledge were a threat, as was Rotom. But what about me? I couldn’t bring any stunning revelations about tech or anything to the table, really. I could mess around in my parents’ lives, but that was about it.

Or, well… I could still tell people that Rose, despite all he did for the region, all his philanthropic efforts, would in the end only bring doom to Galar. And for what it was worth, I could also tell people to watch out for that ten-year-old prodigy under his mentorship, who would become an unwitting tool in Rose’s scheme.

And who I had to apologise to, at least in my mind. He might miss the spotlight and the attention, but he could have got it any time by now. It was as easy as proving that we were from the future, which our petrified phones would stand testimony for.

But no matter how gratifying that would be — it wasn’t worth the consequences.




Chapter 8.5: Of Birds, Bees and Other Misunderstandings​

September 25th 1993, 6am.

When I woke up, I purposefully kept my eyes closed, holding on to those fragments of a dream for a bit longer. I had dreamt of home, of my pokemon. The mattress was harder than my own and the fresh breeze coming in through the wooden, rickety window carried the scent of unfamiliar trees with it. But Whimsicott’s weight on my stomach assured me that everything was fine.

Wait.

That was not my Whimsicott on my belly, that was Leon’s cap. That had suddenly come to life with small, regular breaths and an ever so slight snore.

“You again!” This time Sentret tried to offer me a cherry drop.

* * *​

A mechanical sound accompanied the phone receiver as I hung up. “Lucy says there’s no other Pokemon Center between here and Violet." The news interrupted Leon’s and Sentret’s one-sided discussion about the ownership over that pack of knock-off cherry drops.

“Then I guess she’s going to stay with us until then.” I nodded. Sentret didn’t seem to mind at all.

I stared at the little critter from across the breakfast table. “How did she even get here?”

“I think she hid in the backpack. I wanted to ask you about those scratches yesterday, but you were already asleep.” Leon put the sweets away and instead handed it a dried fish. Sentret devoured it . “But hey, we are now officially Professor-Magnolia-sanctioned to go into tall grass.” Looking at the remnants of Sentret’s first messy encounter with rice, I doubted that statement.

* * *​

An hour later we again stood in front of Mr Pokemon’s house. The note was still where we had left it yesterday. We exchanged a glance.

Leon knocked on the door, only to find it unlocked. I sat the backpack down. “Hello?” Reluctantly, we entered the dark house. “Mr Pokemon?”

The inside of the house would have been quite spacious if it hadn’t been stacked full with boxes of material. Their content was hard to make out in the dim light that broke through the rolled-down window shades. Somewhere farther back the steady sounds of a machine, rotating fans and something like a reel could be heard.

“Hey Rotom!” Leon whispered. “Check that out!” A happy buzzing sound followed Rotom as it left my bag and zapped over to Leon.

“No, Rotom, wait! That’s not—” A loud cracking sound interrupted me. I jolted around.

The house was completely quiet again. I tried to scan my surroundings for anything that might have caused the bang. But there were only books over papers over used tea cups. Then I saw it: A flower pot had fallen from the windowsill and now laid cracked on the floor, the soil spilling on the parquet.

“What was that?” asked Leon from the other side of the room.

I squinted my eyes. There were no movements. Or were there? I stepped closer to better inspect the pot and then it looked at me: A gardener’s worst nightmare come alive — sentient weed!

The little dandelion-root looked at me with its two yellow eyes on its round, pinkish body as if it hadn’t just eaten a perfectly fine house plant. And it seemed to understand my thoughts. The next moment its expression changed and it flopped over to me, aggression in its little face.

Its head felt remarkably soft when it hit my knee, though I sensed the stubby hair on its leaves. Paws skittered across the floor when Sentret rushed to my side. She could also only look on in bewilderment as the pink pokemon collected itself and bumped into my knee once more.

“Hoppip, the Cottonweed pokemon,” Leon read as he closed up to me. He flipped through the pages of the travel guide. “Grass-Flying type, very light, can be carried away by the wind if it doesn’t pay attention.”

Another pounce against my shin. More as an experiment than anything else, Sentret tried to scratch at it with her claws. Hoppip yelped, let go of me, and hopped over to Leon. Sentret followed.

“Oh, look what it reads here,” Leon said while the little plant pokemon attacked him. “It is also known for its vicious hunger for human flesh.”

That wasn’t even worth commenting on. I threw a pokeball in his direction and Leon managed to catch it with the travel-guide still in his one hand.

“Hey, you’re supposed to catch it, not me!” He threw the ball back at me. Another scratch, another yelp, and Hoppip again made its way over to me.

I knelt down to look at it. It was a cute little guy; I had to admit. “I’m Hanako. Do you want to join me?” Instead of an answer, it tried to headbutt my face to no effect.

I dropped the pokeball. It collided with its round head, opened and immediately turned the pokemon into a wave of energy, sealing it away. The ball twitched twice, then came to rest on the ground. Hoppip was caught.

I took the pokeball and got up. “Human flesh? Really?” I looked at Leon. He was way too proud of that one. “You couldn’t come up with anything better?”

A voice from the other side of the door cut short whatever excuse he had.

* * *​

“So you are waiting for Hattori, too,” the young man said after five confusing minutes of introductions. Or making sure that none of us was about to rob this place. “I was supposed to meet him yesterday, but he seemed to have left shortly before our appointment.”

The wiry young man now switched the lights on and cleared some space on a desk. He had introduced himself as Marcus Elm. After he put his messenger bag down he again turned to us. A clueless expression replaced the rather hostile one he had before. He was about to say something, but then stopped himself, as if a new thought had come to his mind.

After a while, Leon and I exchanged a glance. “Is… it unusual for Mr Pokemon to stay away that long?” I asked.

Mr Elm looked up, startled. “Oh, sorry. Yes, it is. Sorry, I was thinking about something.”

“Do you know where he could be right now? We’re kinda on a schedule,” Leon asked before Elm could drift away in his thoughts again.

“No, sadly not,” Elm responded. He seemed to become a bit more rooted in reality the more we asked him. “He is a very active old man and going for an impromptu field trip fits him. But letting so many people wait is indeed unusual.”

I shook my head, hoping to clear my thoughts. “Excuse me, Sir, but you seem to be a friend of Mr Hattori, right?” Elm nodded. In the corner the machine got louder. I raised my voice a little to cover the noise. “Then, with your permission, maybe we can find some clues where he is somewhere around here?” I made a broad gesture that included the entire mess that this room was.

“Last time we talked he said something about his devices registering an energy spike. If you can find something about that…” Elm turned around and picked up a stack of papers, sifting through it.

«Oh god, please don’t let Sonia end up like this!» I thought as I exchanged again a worried glance with Leon. The mechanical spinning in the room's corner got louder again. Leon sat down on a box and picked up an alibi stack of paper while keeping his eyes on Elm.

“So, an energy spike, huh?” Leon asked casually, while I made my way over to Rotom and its machine.

“Yes, I’m pretty sure he wanted to show me those measurements. Hattori can become quite excitable whenever he finds something,” the man went on.

I knelt down beside the humming machines. There were two of them, as big as a fridge and even though fans were cooling the things, they emitted quite the heat. “Rotom, what are you doing?” I whispered.

“I’m helping you, of course,” a voice somewhere within the machine said.

“How? What is this even?”

“Magnetic tape drives, Hana! To think that I’d ever see something like this! This is so vintage!” Rotom was very excited. When it saw the confusion on my face, I was sure I heard a machine sigh. “Just think of it as an ancient computer. He’s also using a voice recorder. The last cassette in here says he wanted to investigate rumours of pokemon behaving strangely in the Dark Cave.”

“Wow.” I was speechless. That was actually really helpful. I thought for a moment. “Is there anything in there about that guy?” I pointed my head to Elm, who was now telling Leon in vivid detail about his research work.

“Give me a minute!” Lights flickered as Rotom passed through the circuits. Soon after, the sound of several cassette tapes rewinding and fast forwarding rang from the box. I picked up one of the rectangular cases from the floor and turned it in my hand. I had only ever seen cassette tapes in movies, and I wasn’t even sure how they worked. There was this brown tape going from one reel to the next. And what was that about magnetism? I tried to understand what Rotom was doing there, but it was in vain. It was simply too fast.

“So, you specialise in Pokemon evolution? The process or—” Leon was still keeping the conversation going.

“No, more the taxonomy side of things. I’m trying to classify the pokemon in this region and generate a sort of family tree.” Leon gave an approving ‘hm’ so convincing that I couldn’t tell whether he was actually interested or faking it to keep Elm talking. “That’s why I wanted to talk to Hattori, actually. I think I made a grand discovery.”

“Here!” My attention was back to Rotom. “Mr Pokemon says he looks forward to Elm’s visit. That was, let me see…” Again the winding sound of the tapes. “scheduled for yesterday.”

“So he could be telling the truth,” I whispered.

“He is a bit weird, isn’t he?” Rotom asked. I nodded. At the other end of the room, they now threw around a lot of very scientific terms.

“Hey, do you have something about who he is?” I asked. The machine flickered with the new task at hand.

Leon’s voice in all this science talk made me turn around. “You’ve got to be kidding me!”

“I know, right? It’s an amazing discovery!” Elm was very excited about whatever he had just told Leon. Too excited to realise the anger in Leon’s voice.

“He is a doctorate,” Rotom’s voice buzzed through the spinning of cassette tape. “Currently he works on his thesis on pokemon evolution. And— oh!” Rotom’s mechanical voice sounded surprised. “His dissertation supervisor is Professor Oak himself! Hey, Hana, wait—”

Rotom hadn’t quite finished its sentence when I was already back to the two men. Leon shot me a glance and his eyes once again had this dangerous glister. I noticed he tapped his toes.

“It is the first one of its kind we’ve ever found!” Elm looked at the object in his hands with reverence. It was a pokemon egg, the yellowish shell covered in pink spots. “It was hidden under some rocks north of the Ice Path,” Elm said. “I wanted to hear Hattori’s guess before I’ll show it to my boss.”

“Guess about what?” I couldn’t decide if that undertone in Leon’s voice was anger or desperation.

“About what it is, of course!” Elm seemed to almost glow with excitement as he now turned to me, presenting me with his rare discovery.

“It’s a pokemon egg, for crying out loud!” Leon screamed out, at the end of his patience. “And I’d bet money that it’s a Smoochum.”

His sudden outburst took both Elm and me aback. Leon immediately bit his lip.

Elm took a moment to process things. “Wait, you’re saying… Do you study pokemon evolution too? How come I’ve never heard of those studies? What university do you belong to?”

Leon covered his mouth with his hand, slowly shaking his head. “No, I’m just not from around here—” He bit his tongue again.

Now I finally realised! “Mr Hattori is in the Dark Cave!” I blurted out. At least it got me Elm’s attention. Now I had to keep it. “Yes,” I stumbled, “he made some notes about pokemon acting all weird and stuff.” Elm still looked at me like I had twisted into an alien. “He made a voice recording about it yesterday.” I pointed over to the machine while I watched the young scientist closely. I could almost see his brain work behind his forehead. Finally, there was the moment I broke his train of thought.

I felt something nudge my hand and looked down. Leon was trying to hand me the travel guide.

“Dark Cave… and he hasn’t returned yet?” Elm said, his gaze floating somewhere over the machine. “That doesn’t sound good.”

“Right! That really doesn’t sound good,” Leon said with newfound vigour as he stood up. “I think we should inform the police.”

“No, after his last three spontaneous excursions they said they only want to be called when he’s been missing for four days or more.” Elm was now deep in thoughts, mumbling incoherent words to himself. Leon slowly and quietly slid the door open while I flipped through the guide.

“All of that is very mysterious,” Elm concluded. “I’d like to look deeper into it. You two wanted to see him as well, right?” I nodded. “You sound like pokemon trainer. Could you go to the Dark Cave and look for him? I’ll try to get these things here in order.” Elm looked around the room and I could see him forming a plan. “He probably had his Rapidash with him,” he went on. “Otherwise he couldn’t have made it there so fast.”

I caught Leon’s questioning look and held up two fingers. He didn’t seem too happy.

“On the other hand,” Elm said as he pulled up the curtains and finally let air and sun into this mess of a place. “I’d really like to discuss my findings with you. Maybe you could—”

“No problem,” Leon interjected. “Dark Cave is on our way, anyway. We’ll look for him and send him your direction.” He was already out the door before Elm could even mutter his thanks.

“The Dark Cave can be dangerous,” the young scientist said in a now surprisingly grounded voice while he put on the kettle. “Please take care.”

I could see Leon waiting for me at the gate. “Ah, Mr Elm?”

“Yes?”

“Are you the researcher who is about to open that lab in New Bark Town?” I asked.

He laughed. “Well, first I have to finish my thesis. But yes. It’s about time that I get back home again.”

“I actually wanted to ask you something.” He now looked at me with genuine interest. Outside, Leon was holding up the backpack. “Ahem, it’s something rather complicated. Can I call you back or something?”

“Oh, yes, of course!” He rummaged through his pockets. “Where is it?” He moved over to his messenger bag and looked there. “Because I’ve got one of those new phones… here it is!” He pulled out an ancient looking mobile phone. I could almost feel Rotom’s excited shivers through my waist bag.

Elm wrote his number on a piece of paper and double-checked it with what he saw on the monochrome display. I quickly thanked him and said my goodbyes, reassuring him I’d call him back as soon as possible.

* * *​

“Thank you. Man, that was close. Thanks so much!”, Leon burst out when we were far enough away from the house.

“Anytime,” I said, while I took the backpack off his shoulder.

“If we meet him again, just pretend I’m dead or something.” Leon’s breath was actually shaking. I adjusted the backpack’s straps and handed him back the travel guide.

“Ok, so much does this really cost us?” Leon asked after a while, much calmer.

“Two days by foot from here to the Dark Cave. But it’s somewhat in the right direction anyway, so it’s only going to cost us a day in total.” I pointed at Leon’s pocket. Without a word, he handed me the map. Leon was in the privileged position to wear cargo shorts and actually look good in them. Because of that, a lot of our on-hand gear was stored there.

“Do you really want to do this?” Leon nodded. I unfolded the map and looked around for signposts. “In that case, it’s this direction. We’ll have to go into the Silver Mountains National Park, so say goodbye to a nice bed for a while.”

We headed north, following the road in silence for about ten minutes, until Leon couldn’t hold himself back any longer.

“How could they not know about breeding 26 years ago?” I had to laugh. Hearing him say it like this, I suspected that eight of the ten minutes went into scrapping all curse-words from that question.

“I mean, they knew about it, but I think that whole classification thing was new,” I got out between laughs. Thinking about it, he had said nothing PG-rated or higher, even when he lost it with Elm earlier.

“What’s so difficult to understand about that?” Leon was more confused than angry. “That’s birds and bees levels of biology. If mummy and daddy love each other very much- What’s so funny?”

“Are you contractually bound to not use swear words?” I asked, trying to keep my laughter down.

“I’m—” Leon looked at me for a moment. “That’s stupid.” He pouted for a while after that, but I had way too much fun at his expense to let it slide.
 
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Chapter 10: Applied Soccer Practise

bluesidra

Mood
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. custom/hoppip-bluesidra-reup
  2. custom/hoppip-bluesidra-pink
  3. custom/hoppip-bluesidra3


Chapter 10: Applied Soccer Practise​


September 26th 1993, 11am.

It was around noon the next day when we were hiking along the Gallard hillside slope. Leon was pretty lively, given the fact that he barely slept last night.

We stayed the night in an old lodge at the borders of the national park. It was the first time I shared a room with him and I was surprised to learn what a light sleeper he was. It couldn't be the lack of exercise. At 2am, he at least pretended to be asleep.

Paradoxically, I was the one who was now wishing for a bed while Leon told me the story of how he got lost on a similar mountain range once back home.

“Don’t all mountain ranges look the same to you?” I asked while we took what must have been the one-hundredth bend in the road.

“Hm? Why would they?” He looked at me puzzled. Before I could even change my tired expression, he found the answer by himself. “Oh, because I always get lost? No, that’s not the reason.” He thought about it while we took yet another bend. “If I knew what the problem was, I could probably do something about it. But do you wanna know something cool?”

Leon was a few steps ahead of me. I made a vaguely interested sound.

“Up there things get a lot less steep.” And off he was.

«Please don’t be a lie,» I prayed. Firstly, that would mean: Yay, flat ground. But secondly, that would also—

“Found it!” Leon’s voice from atop the slope sounded happy.

I pushed myself past that last incline and finally stood in front of the cave entrance. One would have to crawl to even get in there — a small, black tunnel leading who-knows where. Next to the entrance was a newish looking warning sign about the dangers of caving.

“We can rest here a bit if you want,” Leon offered. I gladly accepted. “What’s up with you today?” he asked while we sat down.

“I don’t know,” I mumbled. “I think I got up on the wrong side of the bed. What was up with you yesterday?”

“Hm?” Leon searched through the backpack. “Oh, just couldn’t fall asleep, that’s all. You want one?” He offered me an apricorn. I declined. “Really? You haven’t eaten that much this morning either.”

I shrugged and closed my eyes. Warm rays of sunlight tingled my face. I was about to ask Leon for how many nights he wasn’t able to fall asleep now, but hadn’t found the right words yet. Leon remarked on how me telling him to go to sleep at 2am was somewhat hypocritical, but I decided not to listen.

When I opened my eyes again, Leon and Sentret were practising passes. Hoppip’s happy squeals accompanied them. The small plant-type seemed comfortable with her role as football.

* * *​

“Dark Cave. Exactly what it says on the tin. Hey Rotom! Make a bit of light around here!”

A massive swarm of bats drowned out Rotom’s complaints, fleeing from the light into a darker corner of the cavern. After about ten feet of crawling, the tunnel had opened up into a room just high enough for me to stand. The air here was stale and carried the distinct smell of wet rock on it.

But besides the rustling of the upset bats and the occasional drip of water that echoed off countless walls, it was eerily quiet. I could almost hear my heartbeat in the absence of the usual static. The brown rock forming this fissure between two slabs of stone was slightly wet. Whenever I watched it closer, I was sure I could make out movement on its surface.

My heart sank at the sight of this cave. Something told me that this was more than we could handle right now. Even Leon had caught on.

“Be careful,” he said, his tone sombre as he hopped down the natural stairs.

Sentret scouted ahead while the two of us tried our best not to slip down the side of the shelf. Leon was uncomfortable accepting help and so I watched him closely, always at the ready to catch him. Even if he didn’t want to admit it — the cast around his arm did put him at a disadvantage.

Then the path narrowed down to yet another gap between stones, about a meter in height. I had to brace myself between the walls to not fall down the rift that now opened up between the slabs. Rotom dipped down into the ravine. No ground became visible in its light, only a large black cavern. I tried not to think about the fall.

“Hey, do you see that?” Leon’s voice pulled me out of my vertigo.

I looked around but I couldn’t see anything in the pitch black darkness. Leon motioned Rotom to again swoop down into the fissure and then pointed to the back of the cave. And in fact: Now that Rotom’s light was dimmed, about ten meters away, a weak glow illuminated what seemed to be a larger cavern. The source was not visible from where we stood, though. We exchanged a look and proceeded with caution.

The next segment of the cave was easier to navigate, mostly because one massive rock jammed the fissure and made it easy to balance over. Traces of recently moved sediments across the rock’s surface shimmered in Rotom’s light. This place was definitely not uninhabited. But so far there was no sign of life around.

Things, however, changed shortly before we could see into this larger cavern, when we had to climb over a pile of what seemed like fresh debris. I looked up at the ceiling. In fact, there was a huge junk of material missing, exposing naked stone amidst the dripstone covered ceiling.

I slid down the rubble, making sure not to think too much about the fact that this was merely a sub-ceiling to a much larger cavern. When I set my foot on solid ground again, Leon followed in my tracks.

I felt him tug on my hand and jumped a little, then I realised he was just holding on to me to get up. I was so stunned by what I saw; I didn’t even think about that.

In front of us was a massive round tunnel. Its diameter was about four times the size of a human. There was no dripstone here, the drill-marks were still rough. The perfect surface of the tunnel was intersected by smaller, round holes branching off into the stone at random intervals. Whatever had drilled this came to a halt about twenty meters from where we stood. And back there, at the end of the tunnel, knelt a severely injured Rapidash, its mane illuminating the cavern.

Leon gave Sentret and me a sign to stay behind and approached the pokemon, talking to it in a calming manner. Rapidash was about to get up and point its horn at the intruder when Leon knelt down, once again soothing it with his voice. And even though the only thing keeping this pokemon from running rampant was its fatigue, Leon calmed it down enough for it to let him approach. When he placed his hand on the horse’s neck, it visibly relaxed. Leon was still talking to the startled pokemon, never breaking eye-contact, when he motioned us over.

At first Rapidash tensed up a little as I approached, but soon relaxed under a whispered reassurance. I tip-toed around it, then I saw what had caused the concern in Leon’s expression.

Behind the pokemon laid what I presumed to be its trainer, an elderly, well-dressed man, unmoving. I checked for his pulse. Weak, but regular. He was worryingly cold, but from what I could tell there were no outwardly bleeding injuries, save for a few scratches. Judging from the dirt on his clothes, he must have taken a severe blunt blow that had knocked him out.

I stated the obvious while I tried my best to bring him into a stable position and cover him with my jacket: “He has to get to a hospital.”

Leon nodded, but then focused on a point behind me. “Don’t move!” He slowly got to his feet and around me. A sudden rattling sound made both me and Rapidash jolt.

“Just an injured Dunsparce,” he said a moment later, his voice still in that soothing sing-song. In his lap he held the badly burnt snake.

The sound of stone on stone echoed through the caves. I turned around. There was movement at the entrance of the tunnel, of that I was sure. I scanned the darkness with my eyes.

“Hannah!” Leon’s voice was still calm and controlled, but there was surprise in it. I turned back to him. He held up the Dynamax Band on his wrist and my eyes widened. Behind the now dull screen, the Wishing Star shimmered red.

Rotom hovered closer to me. “Leon, we are not alone here,” I said as I too rose to my feet.

Beyond my beating heart, there were other sounds that filled the cave: grinding of rock on rock and skittering movement in the surrounding stone. And then I saw it: Out of the darkness, two eyes appeared. And then a set more. Each of them attached to a boulder-shaped body, supported by two hands. Geodudes. A whole flock of them.

Leon got up and they immediately tensed. “Watch it,” I whispered. The pokemon looked like any sudden movement could tip them over the edge. “Are they — are they scared?”

Leon nodded and knelt down to meet them at their height. Sentret was by his side, but I could see that she was frightened too. The rattling in the walls became more intense.

A sudden mechanical sound made us jump. Out of a beam of red energy, Hoppip materialised next to me, pugnaciousness in her eyes. Of course Hoppip wasn’t afraid to take on a horde of wild pokemon on her own.

Before she could even flop over to them, I picked her up. “Stop that!” I whispered to the little dandelion. “You only know Splash. If anything, let Sentret handle that.”

I glanced over at the little scout. She had her claws out and used her tail to appear larger than she was. In my hands, Hoppip flounced. I looked into her golden eyes, filled with determination. No, she couldn’t be serious.

Leon and Sentret were still assessing the situation when a pink missile shot past them. It hit one of the Geodudes in the face, knocking it out. The rest of the flock got visibly insecure. Hot damn, that hurt. I rubbed my foot to make the pain go away.

Leon turned around. He didn’t need to say anything. The accusation in his eyes spoke volumes.

“Believe me, it was her idea,” I pressed out through gritted teeth, still jumping around on one leg. With a flopping sound, Hoppip hopped back over to me, ready for a second pass.

“At least keep your whole foot engaged,” Leon said in a hard-to-read tone. “That way you don’t overstretch your ankle.”

“Thanks, I know that!” I aimed at the Geodude next to the one that laid unconscious on the ground and gave Hoppip my best attempt at a straight shot. Her battle-cry sounded through the cave as she hit a Geodude (not the one I aimed for) and knocked it out.

Leon’s gaze lingered on the hole in the Geodudes’ defences. He slowly shook his head.

It took a second, but Hoppip was up again and confidently jumped back in my direction when suddenly the temperature around us dropped. The rattling in the walls now sounded more like a beehive than anything else.

Then a pale hand grabbed Hoppip by the leaves, lifting her up and pulling her back into the darkness. Just as her surprised face was out of view, a low voice echoed through the cave. It bounced off the walls, making it hard to distinguish where it came from:

“Are you two idiots crazy?”

I looked around, confused and worried. The temperature was still dropping when, in thin air, a little piece of paper began to float. The Geodudes grew restless at its sight. So restless in fact, that they even parted ways for the figure that was now making his way towards us. A man in dark clothes, a bit older than Leon, stepped forward, holding a confused and angry Hoppip in his hands. He was thin, almost as frail as I was and judging by his looks definitely from here, save for his bleached hair. Leon’s silent accusation before paled compared to the cold fury in his eyes.

“I swear it was her idea!” I got out.

He was about to say something, but whatever it was, it instead turned into a sudden outcry of pain. Hoppip bit his finger, gave the man a headbutt and made her way over to me. She shot him an angry glance as she positioned herself in front of my foot.

“I’m sorry,” I quickly said while I picked up Hoppip. “Is everything ok?”

The man still held his nose. If Hoppip had just learned Tackle, she sure chose the worst possible time for it.

“Do you both have anger issues?” His voice was muffled.

“No— maybe— I’m sorry,” I ran on. “Are you ok? Is your nose broken?” The guy continued to grumble.

Leon got up. “Hi, I’m Leon. This is Hanako. And you’ve already met Hoppip.” Despite everything, he managed a sincere smile. “Good idea on that Cleanse Tag.”

“Thanks,” the man finally said. “It won’t hold out forever, though. My name is Matsuba, Morty for short. What are you two doing here?”

Leon smiled. “Aside from shooting goals?” Ouch. Just as my pulse slowed down. Morty didn’t seem to be in the mood for jokes.

“We could be asking you the same question,” I said, my face still red. “We’re here to look for that man over there.” I pointed at Mr Pokemon.

The young man took a few steps towards Rapidash and its owner. The pokemon immediately became hostile, stopping his approach.

“Rumours about the Dunsparce acting up,” he answered my question in a nonchalant tone while he looked around. “Hey, little ghost!” He reached up to pet Rotom. For the first time, his face showed something else than discontent. Rotom — usually a scaredy-cat par excellence — seemed to gravitate to this guy. Instead of outright zapping him with electricity, it let him examine the ectoplasm. The two of them stayed like this for quite a while, so long, that I was convinced that Morty had forgotten about his initial question entirely.

“And you really thought coming in here like this was a good idea?” he finally asked, without taking his gaze from Rotom or changing his tone.

“Ah, well—” I stumbled.

Morty exhaled. “Are you responsible for this?” he asked, motioning around the cavern.

I looked at him, confused. He turned around and returned my gaze.

“No, let me rephrase that: where are you really from?” His grey eyes lingered on me.

“What do you—”

“Hannah, I think we need your expertise here!” Reluctant to break that man’s gaze, I turned around. The magic of the band seemed to have worn off, and the Geodudes were back in formation, angrier than before.

“What’s up?” Leon asked when he noticed I was still eyeing Morty.

“Nothing. Let’s do this.” With one last look at him, I turned to face the Geodudes. Hoppip immediately got into position. My foot still hadn’t quite recovered, but one could only hope I wouldn’t mess this shot up. I estimated their numbers. They had got reinforcements and with the new arrivals, their confidence grew.

I took aim and shot. Hoppip once again flew across the cavern, only to graze one Geodude’s arm.

“Stop that!” Morty yelled behind me. “That hurts to see. Gastly, come on, help her!”

The Cleanse Tag floating in mid air wiggled and slowly the chill in the air condensed around it until a ball of gas stood by my side. It stared the enemy down while a determined Hoppip made her way back.

“I don’t think I can do that forever,” I said as I lined up another shot. “Can you Dynamax here?” This time it hit a little better, but still couldn’t knock the Geodude out.

Leon had once again knelt next to Rapidash to calm it while Morty examined the unconscious gentleman. From the corner of my eyes, I could see him shake his head. “This is no power source. Only residue particles.”

I turned back to the Geodudes. Their numbers had again increased. Ghastly made a good job of keeping them back, but that also wouldn’t last for long. “What made them so angry?” I asked, already considering my next target.

“Aside from someone kicking their pokemon around? I have no clue,” Morty snapped. Then he took a deep breath. “All the evidence I saw pointed to the Dunsparce acting up. But something must have destroyed their nest.”

Fur brushed against my calf. Sentret was by my side, ready to fight.

“Wait, this is a Dunsparce nest?” Leon asked. If Morty reacted to that question, I couldn’t see it. But Leon sounded like he had an idea. “Sentret, come here! Hannah, can you hold them back for a while longer?”

“I’m not really sure. They are getting more and more.” I took another step back. Now I felt Rapidash’s warmth in my back.

Morty stood up and stepped to my side. “I think we can hold them back.” He turned to me and now he actually gave me a smile. “Gastly can do more than just glare menacingly. Get your Hoppip out of there.”

As soon as the little root was safe in my arms, blueish lights descended on the Geodudes, disorienting many of them. “Ever seen a Confusion Ray before?” Morty said, the sarcasm seeping out of his voice. I bit my tongue. “Just wait till you see a Hypnosis in— ow!” Midway through his sentence, Hoppip got out of my grip and tackled him again. “What is wrong with your pokemon?”

Hoppip jumped in front of my foot, and I again lined up a shot. Fuelled by pure anger, I hit one square in the face. Hoppip bounced back and after a few flops landed safely in my arms. “Nothing,” I said. I really needed to step up my comeback game.

However short that might have fallen, Sentret’s arrival distracted from it. I hadn’t even realised that she sneaked out. Now she ran straight over to Leon to exchange the things she carried for some cherry drops.

An even deeper growl, however, made me turn back around. Another Geodude, bigger and with four arms, appeared behind the flock. Their leader. Morty and I were forced to retreat from the now further emboldened pokemon. My foot now almost bumped against the injured Rapidash. Things were not looking good.

“Hey, Geodudes!” Leon’s voice sounded worryingly challenging. “Look at who’s kicking again!” In his lap the frightened Dunsparce was struggling to break out of his grip, blue berry juice still around its mouth. To my surprise, the Geodudes flinched. Not much, not enough to get them to retreat, but still.

Morty gave him a doubtful glance. “Do you really think this will work?”

“Of course!” Leon’s voice was pure conviction. He let go of the Dunsparce, only for it to immediately flee into a hole. I could not for the life of me see what that should do to help us. The buzzing in the walls increased while the Geodudes became even more restless.

I was about to open my mouth, but Leon read my thoughts. “This is not our fight. Rotom! Turn the light off!” The small ghost gave a frightened buzz, frozen in place. “Now!”

I jumped up and caught Rotom, squeezing it against my chest. Jolts of electricity ran through me as it pressed its tiny body against me, but it slowly lowered its brightness.

Behind me, Rapidash panicked. “You’ll have to extinguish these flames now,” Leon said in the same soothing voice as before. “Be a brave boy! Well done.”

In the dying light of Rapidash’s mane, I could see the dangerous glow in the wild pokemon’s eyes. My grip around Rotom and Hoppip in my arms got tighter. And then the flames extinguished.

As soon as the darkness overtook the cavern, it came to life. The air was vibrating, bodies shooting through it left and right. The sound of a battle viciously fought between its two sides. And in the middle were we: Rotom and Hoppip pressing against my chest, Sentret clinging to my leg — a neutral party in this war. And the war ignored us. Behind me was still Leon’s voice in all this chaos, calming Rapidash.

I started to count to ten. Not because I needed to calm myself — well, yes — but mostly because I needed something to keep my mind occupied while I stood there, motionless. When I reached 52 the fight began to die down. But only upon reaching 134 things seemed to have finally been decided. A reluctant warmth flared back up behind me as Rapidash’s mane ignited once more.

The small radius of light revealed the scene of the battle: Unconscious Geodudes and Dunsparce, fresh drill-holes and dents in the loosened ground and still an uncanny rattling in the walls.

Morty stated the obvious: “We should get out of here.”

* * *​

The afternoon light was already shining warm at the end of the small crawlway when I reached down to help Leon up those last stairs.

“You were doing well back there,” he said. He looked at Morty in front of us, then at me, passion in his golden eyes. Leaning in closer, he whispered: “You need to adjust your aim for the spin next time.”
 
Last edited:
Chapter 11: Catharsis

bluesidra

Mood
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. custom/hoppip-bluesidra-reup
  2. custom/hoppip-bluesidra-pink
  3. custom/hoppip-bluesidra3

Chapter 11: Catharsis​


September 26th 1993, 8pm.

The sun had already long vanished behind the forests to the west when we once again set up camp at the border of the national park. We had pushed through longer than planned, but that way we at least had a roof over our heads for the night.

Relieved that tomorrow’s route would be shorter, I leaned back against the wooden walls of the lodge, pushing around the rice in my soup. I missed curry.

Next to me, Hoppip was asleep. Sentret was half-heartedly chasing the grass swaying in the wind. I could tell that she was about to fall asleep as soon as we settled. Morty did the dishes, and Leon did his best to help him.

After Mr Hattori had been air-lifted to the hospital, we found out that both Morty and we had the same destination: Violet City. To avoid any awkward situations on the only trail leading there, we agreed on sticking together until we were at least out of the national park. He seemed to be an overall ok guy, but I still couldn’t shake the unease about his remarks earlier in the cave.

“Hey Hannah,” Leon asked. “Are you gonna eat that?” I looked between him and my bowl of soup he was pointing to, and shook my head. He was more than delighted to finish it.

“Why are you butchering the name like this?”, Morty asked. “I can’t even pronounce that right. Hanna— Hahna…”

Silence. That sounded like Leon’s answer was a shrug, and the way both men looked at me now confirmed that. “Hannah. That’s the nickname my friends at school gave me,” I said, my eyes still half-closed. “And isn’t Morty kind of a butchery as well?”

“Well, yes, but it makes it easier for westerners like you to pronounce.” Morty sighed. “Do you mind if I call you something else? I don’t want to mess up your name constantly.”

I shrugged and leaned back again, listening to Hoppip’s regular breathing and the rustling of the fire in the old brazier between us.

“Thank you,” Morty said. “Now, back to my original question. Hanako, Leon, where are you really from?”

My eyes shot open and I was wide awake.

“Postwick, Galar,” Leon said between spoonfuls of soup.

“I know. But that’s not what I’m asking and you know that.” Leon avoided meeting Morty’s eyes, so his gaze lingered on me.

I refused to answer and returned his stare. If he wanted to play a little game — I was in the mood to deliver. I might not be good with pokemon, but I made up for it by reading people. When I saw him rephrase his question after he realised no answer was coming his way, I had to smirk.

“You are from Postwick, Galar,” Morty began again. “But I don’t know from when you are.”

So my suspicions were right. Darn. I wanted to hold him off as long as possible while I wondered what had given him that idea in the first place. The jacket I had thrown around my shoulders rustled as I leaned forward. “What makes you think that?”

“The fact that you are not challenging it?” Morty said with a half-smile.

“I don’t need to challenge things that make absolutely no sense,” I replied.

Leon had now finished and got up. He shot me an apprehensive glance as he passed me by.

“Okay,” Morty smiled. “Why not? You deserve it. Cleanse Tags? Those don’t exist, at least not yet. What you saw was a prototype of an Ofuda that extends its powers to beyond ghosts. But nothing that should be known outside a very close circle of people. Also, that band he’s wearing?” He pointed at Leon’s Dynamax Band. “Looks pretty out there to me. Not even Silph Co. has anything that looks remotely like this.” He pulled out his mobile phone. The same one as Mr Elm had with its sad monochrome display. “This is the best in terms of display we’ve got.”

“So because of a word you don’t recognise and a technology you’ve never seen before, you conclude we must be time-travellers?” I asked him, still not breaking his gaze. Leon now leaned back against the lodge’s wall next to me.

Morty briefly averted his eyes, and a smile flashed across his face, betraying a little shame. “Also, your Rotom and I had a little talk,” he said. “Like many ghosts, it wants to go home, but that home is nowhere I can lead it to.”

«Little traitor,» I thought while I came up with my next non-answer. I leaned back again. “So it’s our word against a poltergeist’s. Who’s saying you’re not making this up to put me in a tough spot?”

Morty exhaled. Would this have been a pokemon battle, I would have won. That little groan would be the signal to strike. But it wasn’t that simple. “Can we stop dancing around, Hanako?” he asked.

Leon tugged my sleeve, but I didn’t want to bother with him right now. “Yes, Morty, let’s stop dancing around and end this discussion. Or is there a reason you won’t stop asking?”

Morty opened his mouth to answer, but stopped himself midway through.

“If not, I’d entreat you to stop,” I continued. My voice was deliberately betraying aggression. “You’ve asked, we’ve answered: Postwick, Galar, 1993.” The tugging continued. I turned around right as Morty lowered his gaze again. “What?” I hissed.

Leon knelt down next to me. “Hannah, what’s this all about?”, he whispered in my ear. “He already knows it.”

Just like that, Leon’s voice took the rising anger out of me. I looked him in the eyes, confused and worried. Leon’s gaze was steady. He leaned in again to whisper. “I know when I see a capable trainer. Morty is one. I’m very sure that he can communicate with ghost pokemon. Besides that, Rotom is not exactly one to shut its mouth once asked.”

“I know he knows,” I whispered. “But I thought we agreed that this is dangerous. You remember, like yesterday when Elm almost—”

Leon shook his head, but before he could elaborate, Morty interrupted us. “There is a… theory I have to prove.” We both turned towards him.

“What theory?” Leon asked when it looked like Morty faltered. He thought about his answer for a moment.

“About… three weeks ago, there was a…” He stopped again in search of words. Leon slightly nodded in my direction while he got up and walked back to his place on the other side of the fire.

“It’s hard to explain. Let’s call it a disturbance in the force, or a wrinkle in the weave. Since then, unusual things have happened.” He paused, carefully choosing his words. “Again, I can’t explain it. It boils down to just my instinct. But I am certain that this was not a case of location displacement like Teleport. There was time involved, too.”

Leon and I exchanged a look. “How… do you know all of that?” I asked.

“Oh, if I hadn’t been in deep focus, it would have completely slipped past me.” Morty looked at me like this was the entire explanation I needed. When he saw that this did nothing to clear things up, he continued.

“Okay, the long story. My family runs back many generations. They were always considered the spiritual leaders of their community, because people thought they can divine the future. Of course we can’t. There is a special training handed down over generations. But all it does is make you hyper observant and teaches you to make the right predictions, based on those observations. Anyway—” He shook his head to get his thoughts back on the right track. “I was meditating that day when I sensed those aftershocks of what must have been kind of an explosion…” He looked at me, then at Leon, apologetically. “It’s really hard to put into words.”

“And now you want to find the cause of this,” Leon speculated. Morty nodded.

“At first I dismissed it. But then I heard about the early snowfall on Mt. Silver and the storm that hit Violet City two weeks ago, both with no meteorological causes. Then the Stantlers in the woods around Ecruteak became more aggressive. And now those rumours about the Dunsparce.”

Leon was on edge immediately. “What do you mean, more aggressive? How are they acting?”

“Oh no, my friend.” Morty looked him straight in the eyes. “Now the ball goes back to you. You’ll explain to me what happened in the Dark Cave.”

“Dynamax,” Leon said straight away. “The Dunsparce we found had dynamaxed, destroyed the nest and caused a territory dispute with the Geodudes.”

“Dynamax is a phenomenon not native to Johto,” Morty pondered.

“Leon, no,” I said, as assertive as I could muster. Dynamax wasn’t the only problem we had on hand.

Leon’s breathing rhythm rose as he turned to me. “It’s the Darkest Day, Hannah. Weather phenomena, aggressive behaviour—”

“Stop it!” I commanded, but Morty gave me a sign to hold up.

“What is the Darkest Day?” he asked, his eyes pointed straight at Leon.

“A pokemon called Eternatus. Twenty days ago, it was released from its prison. It’s a gigantic energy source, responsible for pokemon spontaneously dynamaxing,” Leon shot out without so much as taking a single breath. “It destroyed Hammerlocke Tower and I thought I could banish it but instead we landed here and I don’t know where it is or what happened or—”

I ran over to him. “Calm down. Leon. This doesn’t help anyone right now.” He covered his mouth with his healthy hand and pressed his eyes shut. It was almost like back in the forest. He had to calm down. Reluctantly, I reached out and stroked his back with my hand. “Just breathe,” I whispered. This was so awkward.

“The Darkest Day is the origin myth of Galar,” I explained after a while. I tried to keep my voice calm and factual, while I could feel Leon’s back shiver under my hand. “We have now learned that the pokemon Eternatus caused the events of that day. It covered the sky in darkness and caused pokemon to grow to massive sizes. In the end it was banished, but the power sources that still allow pokemon to dynamax remained all over Galar. Parts of its body rained down as Wishing Stars — small meteorite particles that interact with the energy needed to dynamax.” I pointed to Leon’s wrist. “This band contains one of those Wishing Stars. It also reacted in the Dark Cave around the injured Dunsparce.”

Somehow, talking about the Darkest Day in such a factual manner was reassuring. It put it so far away from me. And concentrating on Leon’s breath that now slowly calmed again distracted from my heartbeat throbbing painfully in my own ears.

Morty gave us a long look and leaned back against the tree. “This all reminds me of the meteor showers in Hoenn,” he said. “Or how the end of the Kalos war is usually described,”

“But all of this doesn’t matter.” Leon turned around and looked me straight in the eyes. “Hannah, if this is the Darkest Day, I can’t do anything against it!”

I pulled my legs under my body and tried to be as reasonable as possible. “Even if, it’s still not the end of things. You still have time.”

Leon was already about to disagree, but Morty beat him to it. “Why has it to be exactly you to do anything against it?” It was a simple question, but within one heartbeat Leon’s desperation turned into anger.

“Because I’m Galar’s Champ. Because that’s what I do.” His voice betrayed a dangerous undertone. Morty stared at him with calm, grey eyes and I could tell that Leon’s anger was by far not over yet.

“If I— Had I— Under normal circumstances I could beat the both of you and make it look good while I’m at it. Do you know what that means?” He was close to screaming. A shadow flashed over Morty’s face.

“Stop that, please!” I tried to position myself between Morty and Leon, but it was no use.

“That means that it’s absolutely irresponsible for me to even let you get close to any danger.” Leon was shaking with anger now. “So yeah, that’s why I’m the one who faces Eternatus. While the rest of you are safely away.”

“Calm down, please. You promised me,” I whispered when Morty’s hands touched my shoulders. He nudged me to the side.

“Leon, listen,” he said, and his voice was surprisingly soft. “Those weather phenomena or the pokemon acting up are not the reason I’m investigating this. After I finished my meditation that morning, something strange happened. The bells of Ecruteak rang out. Now this is strange for two reasons.” He paused, but all this did little to sooth Leon’s anger. “First: I am the only one who is allowed or able to ring these bells. Second: Both sets of bells rung. Those in the Tin Tower and those in the Brass Tower. The Brass Tower that burned down 150 years ago.”

“And what does that have to do with anything?” Leon hissed. Morty was unfazed.

“Let me finish! Something has called out to Johto’s patrons. Not me, not the ghosts. But I’m the one in charge of the towers. And I will find out why those bells rung. So no matter how much you want your little ego-trip, I’m now also involved in this. Not to mention that you’ve already pulled Hanako into this as well.”

“Ego-trip is what you call this?” Leon was irate. “Listen up, Tower-man. How about I’m not telling you how to do your job and you shut up about mine?”

Morty took it without as much as a flinch. “Things are already happening because of you. Things that are outside of your control. Either because they are necessary for your future to arrive or because the future you’re from does not exist any longer. But you’ll have to accept that this is no longer your problem alone.”

“So which one is it?” Leon screamed. “Either or Or? Don’t you think I’ve thought this over and over again, too? Between the two of us, you’re the diviner. Which one is it?”

Morty fell silent, then swallowed. “I don’t know.”

“Then how about you shut up already?”

Morty shook his head, and a snide smile crept onto his face. “You still don’t get my point, do you?”

“Please stop!” My voice broke. I had clenched my teeth so hard, my whole jaw hurt. If I wasn’t pressing them onto my lap, my hands would be shaking.

“Oh god, Hannah!” Leon’s voice was back to normal as soon as he looked at me. There was shock in the faces of the two men who now stared at me. Tears. Tears ran down my face.

“I am now going for a walk,” I declared as I got up. “I understand you won’t rip each other apart in the meantime.” The last sentence was meant as a question, but it didn’t come out as one. I shot both a stern look, turned around, and walked back the way we came.

* * *​

Arabesque. First. Second. Third. Croisée. Bow. Repeat. First. Second. Third. Croisée. Bow. My legs burned by now, as did my core, but it was worth it. I knew this would be a long workout, and I had warmed myself up. The full moon was high in the sky, shining its mild light over that small parking lot near the rangers’ base. The hut was abandoned during the night, leaving only an old pickup truck to witness my practices. It was the strangest mirror I had ever used, but it did its job surprisingly well.

As surprisingly good as my arabesques were. I’ve almost reached the 90 degrees again. Very good. If I could control my legs in that manner, holding back a few tears was nothing. I smiled. It was part of the performance, but also part of the routine to calm myself.

Those two idiots had by now probably settled their argument. That situation had got out of control fast. I went through the conversation again, but then I wavered a bit on the transition from second to third. Clearing my thoughts, I decided to fully concentrate on the workout again. All muscles engaged, focused on my central line. I was good at this. If Leon thought I had to get better, I’d get even better. As a trainer or as a dancer. Right now, there was no difference. A gust of wind brushed through the trees as I transitioned into the croisée and took me when I was already rooted in the pose. I did not falter once.

The wind abated. My foot was firmly placed on the ground. I could sense every single spot where my sole connected to the floor. Could I try? Why not.

From a first arabesque I slowly shifted my weight onto the outside of my foot. From there, I made the smallest jump with the heel, setting it back onto the ground a tiny bit further to the side. I repeated that movement until it felt natural again. Then my eyes followed the point of my extended index finger. I made sure that my whole form drew an exact circle parallel to the ground, while my body turned on my leg, making ever so small steps. I did my first promenade in a year. I could hear my core scream under the tension, but I repressed any notion of shaking.

When I was about two-thirds through the full circle, my index finger passed over a shape on the edge of the woods. I allowed myself a small sigh. Then I raised my outstretched arm and over a fifth position came back into a neutral stance.

“I didn’t want to interrupt you,” Leon said as he got closer. “It looks good.”

“Thank you,” I said and ended the practise with a small curtsey. Now that I was back to normal again, Sentret ran up to me and brushed her fur against my leg. I reached down to pet her.

“Morty and I are good again, so if you—” Leon pointed to a place behind him. I nodded and picked up my jacket. It wasn’t even close to the direction of the lodge.

I walked towards the small path that actually led back onto the track. When Leon didn’t want to follow, I waved him over.

“I know you don’t like people yelling at each other,” he started again after he caught up to me. “And that I promised you that I wouldn’t lose it again. But sometimes— I can’t tell you how good screaming at Morty felt.” If he expected me to say anything, he wouldn’t get his wish fulfilled.

After a few steps in silence, he again took up the one-sided conversation. “I know it sounds stupid, but that’s just me. I can’t keep all this inside like you can. And I don’t think running up to you after the fact and apologising is the way either.”

“You don’t need to apologise, you shouldn’t do it in the first place,” I said in a neutral tone as I turned around and met his eyes. He was unsure of what to say.

“You get that I wasn’t angry at you, right?” I held his gaze. Leon fell silent.

“It doesn’t matter.” I turned back and followed the path.

“Why— yes it does.” Leon didn’t catch up to me this time. “Why can’t I just fight with people? Speaking of which, why can’t you just be angry at me right now?”

“Because I don’t like fighting.”

“Hannah, you are an excellent pokemon trainer. Conflict is the core of any battle and those are what makes a trainer in the first place.” Leon sounded more confused than anything. “Why? I just want to—”

I turned around and stopped him mid-sentence. “Because this is how my parents got divorced. I didn’t enjoy it and I don’t want to be reminded.” There was that dreaded pity in his eyes. As if I was a lost and hungry Wooloo. And worst of all, he said nothing.

“It’s always the same,” I said, if only to break the silence. “People fight and then they pretend that they are good again and the next day the fighting continues. No matter what I try, or how nice I am, or whether I try to get in the way or not. Then they promise they’ll try harder, but it’s back to fighting again within a few days.”

Silence. I wasn’t even angry or sad. To my surprise, really, because I’d always thought I’d cry the first time I’d mention my parents’ unending arguments to a stranger. The workout had taken its toll on me. At this point, I only wanted to go to bed and not discuss things any further. But judging by Leon’s expression, this would not come easy to me.

He took a second to process what I said, then came up to me. “Can I?” he asked, and I nodded. Leon put his arm around my shoulder and we continued down the gravel path. “I’m sorry that happened to you. But that’s not all people. Really.” We walked a bit in silence, Leon’s arm warm around my shoulder while our footsteps resounded in the night.

“I’m not saying that you can’t keep your promises,” I said after a while. My voice had a strange sound, half an octave deeper than usual. “I just don’t want to be—” The words got stuck in my throat. Maybe because I didn’t even know what words they were yet.

“You know how Raihan and I always fight?” Leon asked into the silence, following his own train of thoughts. I nodded. “A lot of it is marketing, but outside the league we argue about almost everything as well. What club we go to, what crowd to hang out with. Heck, once he was especially moody, and we had an argument about ice cream flavours. But still he’s the only semblance of a real friend that I have. And I wouldn’t go all out on him if I wasn’t sure he could take it. Never in my life would I throw those lines at Sonia… or at you for that matter.”

‘Reminded.’ That was the word that was stuck in my throat.

For a while there was again only the sound of our shoes displacing gravel. The sound was a quiet and comforting one, just like Leon’s warmth around my shoulder. “I believe it’s called catharsis.” His voice was as calm as the breeze that had picked up. “That feeling you get when you’ve given everything you’ve got and things finally cool down and you’re just… empty. But in a good way. I still don’t get how you do this. I mean, that’s the way it works for me. And I do this either with pokemon battles or… well, without the pokemon — just fighting people.”

“Leon, I know.” My voice was full of regret. I didn’t mean for him to go on this rant. “You don’t have to change the way you work. And I get the whole thing about going all out. I’ve seen you fight and, believe it or not, I did the homework for our match. It’s nothing against you. This is my problem. I just wish—” I bit my tongue. You did change, was the last part of my sentence. How selfish. I could feel empty as well? Was that what should be there instead?

“Hey, I have an idea.” Leon’s voice sounded energetic again, like it always did when he mentioned an idea of his. “Morty is a great guy. He very much knows that he can drive me crazy with his stoicness. Basically, from the first time I raised my voice at him I knew he could take anything I’d throw his way and more. I also know that I can’t do the same with you. So…” He looked at me and there was an apprehensive glow coming back into his eyes. I hated how much he cared about my very own problems right now. “How about I promise you that I’ll never ever ever ever lose my temper with you? In return you’ll promise me that you’ll trust me with the people I pick fights with?”

“Please stop saying ‘lose my temper’ like you’re doing something bad. Because you’re not. What you’re doing is totally tame. It’s me who’s overreacting.” I had to swallow, but I could feel Leon squeeze my shoulder a tiny bit. “Also, you don’t have to promise me anything.”

“Oh, but I want to.” There was simply no stopping him when he was in a good mood, was there?

“Do you feel empty now?” My voice was still that strange, deep sound. Leon nodded. “And Morty?”

“As far as I’m concerned, he’s doing fine. Called him a few more names, then we apologised and talked about life in 2019.”

I wasn’t empty. What a delightful feeling this must be. My core, my chest and my thighs had now cooled down. There was this familiar feeling of exertion, close to the point of fatigue. But I still wasn’t empty. There was this almost electrical current keeping my shoulders engaged, my head up and my mind on focus.

“Ok, you’ll get your promise,” I said. “But you’ll call me out on it, okay?” Leon nodded.

“Also, if you ever need someone to scream at, I’m here. I can take it.”

“Leon.” I put my arm around his back and hugged him a bit closer. “You’re way too good to deserve everyone going full out on you every time.”
 
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Chapter 12: The Exorcist

bluesidra

Mood
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. custom/hoppip-bluesidra-reup
  2. custom/hoppip-bluesidra-pink
  3. custom/hoppip-bluesidra3

Chapter 12: The Exorcist​



September 30th 1993, 3pm.

“Okay, guys, isn’t this really dangerous what you’re doing right now?” I turned around. There was a car coming up behind us and it was my turn to thumb anyway.

“What do you mean?” Morty asked.

“You shouldn’t know about any of this!” I eyed the driver of the orange mini-van and put on my sweetest smile. “What if, based on our information, you’ll now head over to Wyn— argh!” I sighed as the car shot past us. “What am I doing wrong?”

Leon smiled and kicked a bit of gravel from the roadside my way. “Yeah, you’ve now got insider information. Just head on over to Wyndon and buy every vacant piece of land and you’ll be rich in fifteen years.”

“Or your price gauging will make it too expensive for Rose. And then he’ll never build Rose Tower and Wyndon Stadium,” I completed Leon’s thought. “Where are you going to have the championship matches then? In your backyard in Postwick?”

It sounded mean, I had to admit, but that kind of banter had been going on for the last few days now. Leon didn’t take it too harshly. Judging from his expression, I’ve just given him an idea.

Morty looked at me with his usual calm expression. “You’re afraid of some butterfly effect things happening.” I nodded.

“Like the movie?” Leon asked, but sprinted off before he could get an answer. It was his turn now.

“They’ll make a movie about it? Is it any good?” Of course Morty had picked up on it. I groaned while Leon made a somewhat approving sound from ahead. We took a few steps away from the asphalt to get some distance between us and the upcoming vehicle.

“Hanako,” Morty said in a serious tone. “Hanako.”

“You sound like my mum. Just Hana.” We’ve been together for four days now, and I still couldn’t tell when he was serious and when he was only pretending to be. Judging from how he now joked around repeating my name, it was the latter.

“What?” I finally shot out with only partially played annoyance. Morty laughed.

“Don’t worry about that stuff. At least not with me. You know what sucks when you can foresee the future?” I shook my head. “You see how utterly boring you’ll end up.”

“That’s… not a nice thing to say.” I faltered at the sudden harshness of his words. Whenever he had teased Leon before, it was borderline mean-spirited as well. But then I always tried to remember my promise. Also, Leon took it well. This was different. There was no bright smile for that insult to bounce off of.

“Yeah, but it’s true.” Morty shrugged. “I’m stuck in Ecruteak, anyway. This here is the longest I’ve left the old town in over a year. Also, we’ve got a ride.”

“Come on, it’s safe,” Leon said about five minutes later while he stowed away the backpack.

My expression betrayed my complete and utter lack of confidence in that statement. But, to be honest, the cabin of the old pickup was so crammed full with tools that rearranging them would be too much to ask.

“Also, Richard’s a ranger. It’s state-sanctioned.” I raised an eyebrow, but jumped onto the rickety truck bed, regardless. This would save us an entire day. Still, I liked the old car better when it was my mirror four days ago.

* * *​

A while later, the forests of eastern Johto rushed past us. The truck went at a slow pace, but it was still so much faster than we could ever be. Large stretches of woods were followed by apricorn farms which in turn were followed by magnificent ponds, only to vanish again behind the by now familiar firs here in the outer regions of the national park. Leon and I played a game of pokemon-spotting while Morty had his sketchbook out.

A quick read-up in our travel-guide stated that these ponds were not only nice to look at. They were in fact used for Magikarp farming. Which explained why every so often fishes jumped happily into the air, only to be caught by a nearby Spearow. On the water’s edge, a bare-footed farmer with a straw hat yelled at the birds, to little avail.

Next to us, Morty’s 8-Bit ringtone played its uncanny theme. Annoyed by the distraction, he grabbed the hovering phone out of the air and answered the call. It had got a lot more personality since Rotom made it its temporary home.

After a few ‘yeah’s and ‘aha’s on Morty’s end, the call seemed to turn into a longer issue. He scribbled something in the upper corner of his notebook and handed it over to us, now fully listening to the voice on the other end of the line.

The drawing was a stunning recreation of Rose Tower, based on the description Leon had given earlier. It wasn’t exactly the building I remembered, but the little details separating the sketch from reality of the distant future made it all the more terrific. Bold, purposeful pencil strokes outlined the elegant spire while quick, random hatching gave the drawing depth. In the upper corner was the outline of a little butterfly. Next to it, written in Kantonian, were the words “Looks pretty sturdy, doesn’t it?”

I had to smile. I pulled the pencil out of the spiral binding and added, “What if that’s a dynamaxed Butterfly?” Reaching over Leon, I handed the sketchbook back to Morty. He read the text and shook his head in the same playful annoyance that I’d put on earlier. Then I realised that Leon hadn’t reacted to any of my movements. By now, one didn’t even need to be psychic to recognise what was going on.

“Leon, look at me!” I demanded. He complied and there was this desperation again, that by now cropped up more and more often. I was, however, very relieved to see it covered under a layer of shame about being called out on it.

“There was nothing you could have done. I was there. Rose didn’t want to listen to you.”

Leon wanted to say something but bit his lips. He knew as well as I did that his self-blame wouldn’t help anyone. And even if I let him talk; with every thought spent on the Darkest Day, he would only get more desperate. “It was not your fault. Maybe Rose just lost his mind.”

“Rose wouldn’t simply lose his mind.” I didn’t get why he was still defending him. But there was no point in arguing now.

Before I could reply, Morty handed the phone over. “For one of you. Marcus Elm.” I was as confused as the other two but took the phone after Leon refused to react.

I listened to him for quite a while, then covered the mic. “Do we have a few more days in Violet?” Leon shrugged. After a bit of back and forth, we said our goodbyes and hung up. Two sets of eyes were looking at me.

“A big Thank You from Mr Elm — Marcus — for saving Mr Pokemon. He is still hospitalised, but he hasn’t forgotten about us and is more than happy to answer your questions. We’ve got an invitation.”

The expectant looks turned into surprised ones.

* * *​

Orchid Town, our last stop before we reached Violet, was a by all means unassuming collection of houses and shops. It had its few historic buildings scattered in between, sure, but by now their novelty had worn off. This wasn’t helped by the fact that halfway through our exploration a sudden shift in the weather had taken us by surprise.

Now that I had finished planning tomorrow’s route, I was huddled up in a booth in the hostel’s diner. A cup of cocoa steamed hot in my hands and a still somewhat wet Sentret laid by my side. I was watching the relentless downpour outside the window when I saw Morty hurry across the street, avoiding as much rain as possible. Half a second later, he entered the lounge.

“Did you order that weather?” he asked while he put his soaking wet jacket away and slipped into some house-shoes.

I shook my head. “How was it?”

“Oh, nothing a bit of purification couldn’t solve,” he said and put both his headband and scarf onto the table. They were wet too. “It took actually quite a while to manifest itself. I finished your tower in the meantime.” He handed me a folded piece of paper and made his way to the bar.

The page was folded a few times along the long side in what I presumed to be a traditional letter style — one I’d only ever seen in movies. I unfolded the drawing and had to smile. A swarm of butterflies, flying from the scribbles in the corner to Rose Tower, got smaller and smaller the farther into the picture they went. But not only that — Morty had also detailed the one small sketch that started the discussion to make it look like an almost lifelike Butterfree.

“You’re really talented,” I said when he got back with a steaming cup of tea in his hand. He nodded and sat down. I studied the drawing a bit more, then him. When he realised it, he returned the stare until I finally gave in. “You’ve been called to an exorcism and now you’re acting all casual about it?”

“Yeah.” Morty looked at me, a bit confused. “Not all exorcisms are Hollywood material. Why are you looking at me like this? Don’t you have ghosts where you come from?”

I shook my head to get that expression of wonder off my face. “Of course we do. I mean, it’s Galar. Every other house has its ghost and every respectable castle at least two. But they are always a big deal. Not something you handle between lunch and teatime.”

Morty took a sip of his tea, and I couldn’t help but suspect a smirk behind that cup. “That’s something else. For a castle, I’d take at least… let me see… from breakfast until teatime.” Now he really smiled. “But seriously, this was only a lingering spirit whose house got torn down and replaced by a new one. That’s not that uncommon, especially now that way less new building sites are being developed.”

“So what did you do?”

“I waited until he manifested and listened to him. Then we came to an agreement, I gave the new house-owners their homework, did my rituals and that’s it,” Morty said casually. He sighed when he realised that this still didn’t satisfy me. “You know what, maybe some time I’ll take you with me on one. Then you can experience for yourself how thrilling waiting for two hours in an incense-filled room is.”

I exhaled and took up my cup again. Morty looked like he didn’t want to be bothered about it any more. Though I found the entire ordeal more than interesting. Instead, I made a mental note about it for later.

A minute passed in silence, then Morty sighed. “To be honest, that would actually be quite funky.”

“Huh?”

He looked at me with what I assumed to be sincerity. “The old house is pretty empty as of late. If you ever visit Ecruteak, you’re welcome.”

I raised an eyebrow and smiled awkwardly. “I might take you up on that. We are somewhat homeless, you know. Also, I wanted to check out Ecruteak, anyway. You’ve got quite the libraries, right?”

“Depends on what you’re looking for. And no, I do not know how vast the section on time-travel is.” He handed an interested Sentret his tea-leaf. The bitter taste made her hair rise.

Morty leaned back on the bench and looked at me. “So, what’s your deal?” I looked at him, taken completely off guard. “I’m sorry.” His laughter betrayed his lie. “I mean, what do you do back at home? Leon is the Galar League Champion, but what about you?”

This was actually the first time that Morty and I were alone. I was expecting a strange conversation, but this was actually quite conventional. “I’ve told you, I’m a Gym Challenger. And the one supposed to meet Leon in the next match.”

“Yeah, yeah, I know that. But before that? Or after that, for that matter? Do you want to work for Leon, too?”

“Why would I?” It took a moment for me to follow this weird thought process. “Oh, you mean for the League. I think only the Gym Leaders are actually employed there. And that’s…” I ended my sentence with a shrug.

“Can you really make a living off of being a Gym Leader?” Morty’s doubts were obvious.

I shrugged again. “At least the ones in the major division, as far as I know.”

“You guys are really into that Gym-ordeal, aren’t you?” He paused for a moment, but soon continued with the dreaded question: “So, is that something for you?” I shrugged again, but I could feel the weight of his eyes on me.

“I mean, the Gym Challenge was fun, but… seeing how Leon’s doing, I don’t think that’s something for me in the long run.” The truth was, I didn’t have any clue what to do with my life after the Gym Challenge. One part of me suspected that I only made it this far because I didn’t want to actually think about getting a job.

Time to get that ball out of my field again. I picked up my mental note and faked a casual smile. “But hey, seeing how we’re not lacking ghosts, I can always become an exorcist.”

Morty’s face was again unreadable, but a brief shadow flickered across it for the shortest time. “That’s not so easy… And it’s not called an exorcist.”

I took a sip of cocoa and shot Morty a long stare. He knew he’d shown his weakness and he would pay for it. “So what is the correct job description, then?”

Before he could answer, the sound of familiar, fast footsteps came down the stairs. Leon was finally done showering. His hair was still wet and his shirt somewhat skewed, but what could you expect when dealing with a cast around your entire arm? He was, however, unusually determined, even by his standards. And he headed straight towards our table.

Morty shifted over and offered the newcomer a seat. “No, you’re not interrupting anything. You’re right on time.”

“Great.” Leon sat down, almost as if under electricity. “Morty, I need your opinion. What has happened here?” He put his petrified pokeballs on the table. I hadn’t seen them recently. He carried them around everywhere, sure, but lately he hadn’t been staring at them as much anymore.

Morty took a second to inspect the stones, then looked at Leon. “You tell me. What are these?”

“This is my team.” Leon looked straight at Morty, tense like a bow ready to be shot. “Something happened to them during the time-shift. Have you ever heard or seen anything like this?”

Morty took a deep breath and picked up one of the pokeballs. I couldn’t tell what gave it away, but within one heartbeat, his joking attitude had completely vanished. For the first time since we met, he was genuine. He studied it closely while he took another sip of tea. Turning the ball in his hands, he asked: “Who is this?”

“Dragapult.” Leon did not take his eyes off Morty. “So what’s it? Do you know what this is?”

I gently nudged Morty’s shin under the table. He gave me an irritated look. Couldn’t he see the direction this was going? I tried to tell him as clearly as non-verbally possible to stop here at once.

Morty turned his attention back to Leon. “No.”

“Okay, and the long answer?” Leon wouldn’t have it, and even though he was acting composed, he was only one step away from cracking. I gave Morty another nudge, harder than the first one. This time he paid me no attention. He leaned back on the bench and gave Leon a long look.

“Johto has a few legends about what you’d call ‘time-travel’,” he began, choosing his words very deliberately. “They are— I’m not really an expert on those.”

“But didn’t you study history?” Under the table I could feel Morty comforting me, his toes stroking up and down the back of my foot.

“That doesn’t mean I know every single patron of Johto by heart.” He still had that sincere, grave expression where he would normally have his mischievous grin. “I’ll read up on that. But, Leon, I’m also not one to give you false hopes. I can not detect any sense of aura or presence around your pokeballs. I am very sorry.”

With that, he put Dragapult back onto the table to his friends. Leon’s gaze sank and for a moment wandered between the map and my cup. “Thank you,” he finally uttered. I was about to reach over the table and squeeze his hand. Anything to let him know he wasn’t alone in his grief, even though I very much knew how bad I was at comforting people.

But then I noticed his eyes were stuck on Morty’s drawing. I jumped up and darted forward, but the circumstances did not dull Leon’s reaction time. Within the same second, both our hands landed on the paper.

“No!” I yelled while Leon’s eyes scanned Morty’s and my scribbles in the upper corner. The grief did nothing to slow him down. If anything, it seemed to make him even faster. “Stop that. You’re just hurting yourself. Why do you keep on doing that?” I didn’t realise I raised my voice until I saw Morty move around in the corner of my eye.

“Hana!” His calm voice pulled me back into the moment. He held a banknote in his hand. “Can you get me another cup of tea? You can get something for yourself as well.”

I looked at him, unsure if he was joking or if he had given me the permission to claw his eyes out, when I felt his icy hand remove mine from the drawing. He did not break my stare.

“Please.” His voice was as heavy as the rain, and his insistence made any joke unlikely. He pressed the money into my hand, then folded the drawing back together. “Here, this is yours.”

I refused to go. Yes, he had reassured me that he knew what he was doing, but no matter what, he did wrong. Under the table, I felt him nudge my shin. ‘Come on, trust me,’ was what Morty’s eyes spelled out, even clearer than my plea to stop earlier. Leon’s gaze wandered around the table, once again lost.

I couldn’t take it. I couldn’t take another one of Leon’s breakdowns. I snatched the money and the drawing out of Morty’s hand and made my way over to the bar. My steps were determined, but more so to convince myself that this was the right thing to do.

“Tell me something about Dragapult. Was he with you in Rose Tower?” Morty’s voice was gentle.

* * *​

My toes hurt when I got up on pointe while I waited for the lady to prepare the tea. But that was ok. That way I could at least focus on that and not on the scraps of conversation still audible behind me. Much to my dismay, the tea was prepared way too fast. Now I stood there, far beyond my limit, only to max out the time I had before deciding what to do.

When my feet began to shake from the pain, the temperature around me dropped. I took a deep breath and counted to ten, watching the dancing Cleanse Tag next to me. Ghost and Poison were both on my list of least favourite types, but I swallowed my disgust down and petted Gastly while it manifested. The cool gas felt like little stings on my skin. I forced a smile to show that the petting session was over, but Gastly continued wriggling around.

Then I realised why the Cleanse Tag was pointed at me. I looked over at the two men. Leon was close to tears while Morty merely sat there, listening, drawing something on the cast. Every time Leon got too agitated, Morty calmly forced his arm down again.

I asked the waitress to deliver the tea to the table and left her the change. Then I petted Gastly again and slipped out the back door. A small porch was all that separated me from the rain, but it was still preferable to being in there. I unfolded the drawing. “It’s called perspective,” read the addition under my note. Deep breath in.

«The Butterfree hasn’t dynamaxed. It’s just a regular little Butterfree.»
 
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Chapter 13: The Note

bluesidra

Mood
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. custom/hoppip-bluesidra-reup
  2. custom/hoppip-bluesidra-pink
  3. custom/hoppip-bluesidra3

Chapter 13: The Note​


October 2nd 1993, 2pm.

I counted to ten and knocked on the door’s wooden frame. It rattled in its rails while my hands clutched ever so tight around the note and the sunglasses. From the other side of the rice-papers came an unarticulated humming sound. When I slid the door back, I went over the note once more in my head and was still not prepared for what I saw.

Sprawled out in complete darkness on his mattress on the floor, his legs crossed over was Leon. Even though he was now looking at me, I could tell he’d been staring at the ceiling a moment ago.

“Everything okay? Should I—” Awkwardly I pointed to the curtains that were drawn over the small windows. It was the early afternoon after all, and the weather was splendid.

Leon followed my finger with his eyes, shook his head, and got up with way more vigour than I had given him credit for. “You’re right. Probably about time to let the light in.” A quick glance confirmed Morty wasn’t around. Leon drew back the curtains and the warm sun started flooding the room. When he turned around, the light reflecting in his eyes lit them up again. The gloomy aura of a moment ago vanished, leaving me to wonder if it had even been there.

“What’s up?” Leon’s upbeat voice soon ripped me out of my wonderment.

Sunglasses. Note. Deep breath in. “Hey, do you want to take a look around the city?”

Leon looked me up and down and smiled, even brighter than the light in the room. “Sure thing.” He grabbed his jacket from a pile in the corner and headed over to me, to the door. When he took the sunglasses out of my outstretched hand, his sunny attitude soon turned to confusion. It became clear that I was blocking his way.

I swallowed. Note. “Leon,” I began, slower than intended. “I’m sorry for two days ago. I should have hand— hey!” I slapped his hand away. How I hated it when people ruffled my hair. A strand came loose and fell all the way down to my elbow.

“Wow, it actually worked.” Leon seemed surprised, but not for long. He sighed, taking a step back. “Promise, it won’t happen again, but…” He dangled the missing pin in front of my nose, initial surprise transforming back into his trademark smile. “If that’s the only way I can stop you from apologising for nothing, we’re doomed.” I snatched at his hand, trying to get it back, but Leon once again was faster. That man and his damned reaction time.

“Do you know that that takes time?” I started curling the renegade strand back up. “Now give it back.” Leon placed the pin in my outstretched hand.

“Apology denied for lack of reason,” he said while he fetched his snapback. “But if it makes you feel better, you can consider us even now.” I grumbled while I put my hair back in order. Morty was clearly a bad influence on him.

“Come on, let’s go! Drinks are on me,” he cheerfully said as he pushed past me. Halfway down the corridor he turned around to wait for me and for a split second he was serious again.

The note. I had written down what I wanted to tell him. That the word ‘sorry’ didn’t encompass half the pain I too felt when thinking about his team. That, even though I hadn’t experienced a loss like this, I wanted him to know he wasn’t alone. That he could share his pain with me whenever he felt like and that I’d try to listen, but that I was afraid I wouldn’t find the right things to say to build him back up again. But the words wouldn’t come out, no matter how thought out the note was. And then the split second was over.

I shook my head. “You can be insufferable sometimes, do you know that?” Smiling, I closed the distance between us and crumpled the note.

* * *​

We had arrived in Violet City yesterday, but it was already late when we got here. This was not because of the travel times — they were pretty short — but for two other reasons. First: Morty didn’t want to be bothered with anything and meditated until noon, and second and most importantly: Leon actually slept in for once. That, however, left me with plenty of time to train with Hoppip and stress out over if we’d make it here on time. We of course did.

Now we were wandering the streets of the historic city and I had to completely row back on my statement about how I’d got used to the building style by now. Violet was not just some single historic houses — it was an entire city full of it. Sure, it had its share of modern buildings along the main streets, but away from those it was a scene you’d see in an animated movie: Narrow, winding streets lined with small, wooden city houses. Their latticed windows had paper in place of glass and their white walls contrasted with their dark frames.

But most curious were their roofs. I didn’t notice it at first, but when we climbed up the stairs on the city’s only hill, it hit me: All the houses were covered with shingles in different shades of violet. From up high, the city looked like an entire sea of violet petals, its waves breaking on the tall mountains to the north and the autumn forests to the east. The Spearows and Pidgeys that perpetually circled the gusts over this sea made it look like there was another city above the human one. Air routes instead of streets, nests instead of houses and power lines instead of street signs. No wonder it was a world heritage site.

“Let’s see… Hirotaka Air Courier,” Leon read as he overtook me on the stairs. “It’s basically the region’s postal system. That would explain all the birds around.”

I was still staring at the roofs beneath me. “Hey, isn’t that a beautiful view?”

The tiniest of pauses. “It sure is.” Leon stopped and looked over the city as well, but something in his posture betrayed an uncanny discomfort.

I took the image in for another heartbeat, then quickly shook my head to get myself back into reality. “Mail service. Tell me something about it!” I turned back around to make my way up those stairs, taking Leon with me as I passed him by.

“It says that it’s a family business, going back as far as the Momoyama period, which was…” He flipped through the pages of the travel guide. “500 years ago. Not bad.” The strange tower ahead of us reflected the sun in its many windows and doors. I enjoyed the chill autumn breeze while Leon summarised the history of the company. After our trip into the national park, a simple set of stairs didn’t scare us any longer.

When we reached the top of the small plateau, the view got even more impressive. I leaned onto the railing, letting my gaze wander over the winding stairs at the side of the still green hill, into the vast valley in which the core city nestled and back around to the impressive wood construction that was Hirotaka Tower on the outskirts of the northern city park. The park was called Sprout park, Leon informed me. It was home to over one thousand conifers and broadleaf trees, an extensive system of ponds and Sprout Tower, an old temple dating back even farther than the building we were currently in front of.

“Tell me if I’m too slow for you today,” I said when he paused for a moment.

“Huh?” Leon was leaning against the railing next to me and pretty perplexed by the question.

“You’re—” I stopped when I heard a familiar voice and looked over to the tower’s entrance gate. Leon followed my gaze.

“Hey Morty!” he shouted. The man in question rolled his eyes, ready to turn the other way. “We’re sightseeing. Wanna come with us?”

“No.” Morty was already heading towards the park.

“Come on, you’re better than any travel guide!” He might have done his best to ignore us, but that was still not enough to get Leon’s mood down.

“Then start paying me!” Morty turned around mid walk, now going backwards while he continued talking to us. “I’m going to find some inner peace now. Don’t expect me back till way later.” With that, he was off. Leon shrugged his shoulders.

When I was sure Morty was out of earshot, I turned to Leon. “What’s the matter with him today?”

He shrugged again. “Told me he had to visit a family friend whenever he dropped by. And that he wasn’t looking forward to it.”

“A ‘friend’?” I tried to articulate ‘friend’ in the most derogatory way possible. It still didn’t match Morty’s vibes.

“Well, their old men were friends,” Leon explained. “The son is — and I’m paraphrasing his words here — a snotty little brat that could use a dressing-down the size of an Alolan Exeggutor.”

I raised my eyebrows. That would remain an issue for another day. “Sprout Tower?”

Leon nodded. “Sprout Tower.”

* * *​

Fifteen minutes later, we were standing in front of an impressive temple complex. And by that I meant really impressive. At the centre was a three-story pagoda, shining in the sunlight as if it had only been built yesterday. The red varnish contrasted with the white paint. If one looked ever so close, there was a plethora of fantastic, never seen before pokemon drawn along the roof’s crests in waving lines. All of them connected to the swaying form of an unending Bellsprout.

“Man, I swear, when we get home I’m going to jet over here just to take a photo.” Leon was as impressed by the structure as I was.

Back home… there were only few temples of that kind and none of them as impressive as this one. Dad used to visit one when I was still very young, but I was never very interested. Now I remembered that Lavender Town used to have its own. After the fire fifty years ago they replaced it with an ugly block of concrete that I stayed as far away from as possible.

While we wandered through the temple complex, I wondered what that strange mix of emotions was that grew inside of me. Something in here reminded me of home, even though things couldn’t have been more foreign. Weren’t Leon’s grandparents also not from Galar? I wondered…

“Hey, does your grandma sometimes still cook traditional curry?” I asked, turning to Leon.

“Huh?!” He looked at me, one-thousand questions in his eyes, then at the travel guide, then back at me. “Excuse me?”

“Ah, sorry!” I shot out. Was I assuming something? I was. “Where exactly is your family from again?”

Leon collected himself. “You might have skipped a few talking points there. That’s why I was confused.” Darn! That’s what happened when I didn’t pay attention to what I was saying. I felt the blood shooting to my head. But then a smile lit up his face again.

“Hey, no problem. Most people don’t know the country. It’s pretty small.” Internally I sighed, relieved. Too late I realised that Leon’s smile kept growing. “It’s only the second most populated in the world and the one that led Galar to its wealth and influence today.”

Oh gosh. I covered my face with my hands and grumbled some unintelligible apologies. But Leon, in a sadistic manner that I hadn’t seen on him before, wasn’t done yet: “And the first thing that comes to mind is curry, yes? Painting with real broad strokes here, huh?”

By now I had to choose between dying on the spot and joining in on his mockery. I decided against outwardly dying, for now. “Give it a moment,” I said with an uncomfortable chuckle. “Naan bread?”

Leon couldn’t keep his semi-scolding tone any longer, even though he tried to tear me down for my cultural insensitivity a bit more. By the end we were both laughing and the colour of my face indicated I had evaded the heart-attack. “To be honest, that’s about as much as I know as well,” he got out while he was trying for a more serious tone. “I’ve had that discussion already in excess. I’m Galarian, simple as that.”

“What discussion is there to have? Of course you are,” I asked as I wiped a tear away and pondered if my face had already returned to a somewhat normal complexion.

“Came up when I had defended my title for the first time.” Leon’s voice was rougher around the edges than I was used to. “It was cute the first time ‘round, but the second year that the grandson of immigrants held the title? That raised some… unpleasant discussions. I was eleven at the time and only really interested in pokemon battles. Not in the whole discussion about everyday racism or League politics. So we’ve decided to go for the All-Galarian route. Paid off well in the end.”

“Oh. Sorry, I didn’t mean to bring that up. Hop never told me about it. Only that your grandma can cook deliciously when she gets around to it.”

“Hop was a baby back then. No wonder he doesn’t remember it. Speaking of food and someone who likes it—” Leon pointed over my shoulder to a spot behind me. “Come here, girl! I haven’t seen you all day.”

As soon as I turned around, the little shadow vanished under the low patio. “She’s been like this all day. Yesterday Lucy and I tried to explain to her that she doesn’t need to be afraid of the teleporter, but she ran off.” I caught Leon’s questioning look. “That was before you two got down. I figured she’d sneak into your room later.”

“I thought she was with you.” Leon tried to lure Sentret out again, but in vain. Not even the cherry drops would do the trick. He got up and shrugged. “How about we wrap up our tour here and sit down at that tea shop outside the gate? I'm sure she'll come out if there’s food on the table.”

We finished our walk through the outer sanctum and passed the red gate with its curious ropes attached to it. I was watching the ensemble when Leon picked the topic up once more, asking me how I came up with the question in the first place. Which, in and off itself, was a tough question to answer.

“I was just thinking how my Dad’s always been way too busy to cook for us, or—” I shrugged. “Don’t you want to learn more about where you’re— your family is from?”

Leon swallowed down another chuckle. “And learn about two-hundred different deities? No thanks. I’m already studying business, I don’t need to put another nail in that coffin.”

Speaking of nails in a coffin: To my relief the tea house had a few tables and chairs in their outside area as well. I had appropriated foreign cultures enough for one day and didn’t feel the need to also engage in a traditional Johtonian tea ceremony.

I was currently browsing the postcards when Leon asked what I wanted to drink. “Do they have that one ice-tea with that pink apricorn on it?” Happy to see a thumbs up, I went back to those postcards.

They had some detail shots of the wooden figurines around the temple. I remembered faintly the shrine we had at home until we got rid of it when I was — what? — ten. It looked so different in my memory, even though it belonged to this exact religion. I remembered its mixture of reverence for pokemon spirits and a focus on inner growth. But it was the same uncanny difference with the language as well. I spoke the same language the people around me spoke, yes, but at home it had always been different. Probably because those images and religion and language were part of an identity I had never assumed. One that I could never fully assume.

Leon’s voice tore me out of my contemplation and back to my ice tea. We looked for a nice, sunny table and he offered me some of the biscuits he had bought. I declined and opened my can of tea instead. Leaning back in my chair, I enjoyed the last warm rays of the autumn sun tingling my skin. Leon got to work luring Sentret in, who had been stealthily following us. I watched the two of them for a while, then turned around to take in the impressive view of the pagoda for a bit longer.

Was it a sense of belonging? No. I was Galarian, just like Leon. Maybe he had to consciously agree on this All-Galarian identity first, but I never was anything else. But then what was it about this place that hit more in me than the trivia in our travel guide could ever answer? Was it that it reminded me of my dad? I hadn’t seen him in almost a year, yes, but by the time they got their divorce, Dad had fully integrated. If it wasn’t for his name and his looks, people wouldn’t assume him to be anything other than a normal Galarian, working a normal nine-to-nine office job. Then again, I had to admit that not sticking out for my skin-tone for once in my life was relieving.

Next to me the luring-chatter had gone silent. Presumably fed up with me being a quiet piece of wall-dressing today, Leon had started drawing something on the handkerchief. A bait-biscuit was still on the ground next to the table.

Leon stuck out. He was taller by at least a head compared to the everyday people here and impossible to miss in a crowd. I, on the other hand, only had to lower my head and could vanish. Here we weren’t the celebrities that we were back at home. There were no interviews or cameras or any of that stuff. Still, it was nice to imagine that the reporters here would not immediately ask intrusive questions about how different my home life was. Or what traditions we practised. Or what sushi-restaurants I could recommend. Maybe the All-Galarian way was the way to go. But then there would still be that feeling that I had to try extra hard at every little thing, just to fit in. I sighed. But I didn’t belong here either. For starters, I hardly knew the religion or the history of this pagoda next to me. So what was it?

Leon heard my sigh and looked up. I returned his gaze, letting his warm eyes pull me back into and ground me in reality once more.

“What are you doing?” I asked after a while, when I had stuffed those thoughts sufficiently far into the back of my mind.

He looked down. “Nothing.”

“For all your battle skills — you are a poor liar, do you know that?” I smiled and leaned over. “Now what are you doing there?”

Now Leon sighed. “I’m thinking about that vortex again. We have to get home somehow, right?” He showed me his drawing. Now that I was so used to Morty’s style, Leon’s was swifter and almost looked technical. “I do know Dynamax by heart — at least I believe so. But something doesn’t quite click yet and—” he grumbled and ruffled his hair.

“Then just ask Mr Pokemon about it.” I took a closer look at the drawing. It showed the cross-section of that hole in… presumably the fabric of time and space itself that Eternatus’s body had vanished into. And that, upon closing, created a vortex that sucked the both of us to where we were now. It resembled the Dynamax phenomenon, but Leon was right when he said that something didn’t quite click.

“That’s the thing: I know all this stuff, that hasn’t ‘officially’ been discovered yet. Magnolia published her research some fifteen years ago. I mean, eleven years from now. Darn…” Leon shook his head. “It’s going to be so difficult to tiptoe around this stuff.” He slid down his chair until he almost fell off and looked up into the sky, sighing at the few clouds above. “Also, I just really don’t want to go.”

“Then don’t.” I picked up the ice tea that I had completely forgotten about and started looking around for a straw.

“Yeah, but that’s grown-up stuff that I should be interested in,” Leon pleaded with the clouds.

“You are aware that I’m only three years younger than you?” I reached over and picked up a straw. “Anyway, you can just cancel for now and still decide to show up later.”

Now he managed to get his eyes off the clouds and back to me. “You’re Hop’s age.”

“Who isn’t a baby anymore either,” I completed this sentence.

Leon shot me a long glance that I was sure contained at least trace amounts of daggers. “I’ll debate you on that later.” Then he sighed again. “Is it really okay if I chicken out this time?”

“Of course.” For a moment, his eyes again opened up, as if he wanted to reach out, say something, but instead he let his head fall back again to watch the clouds.

Sentret had finally mustered up the courage to approach the biscuit, but as soon as she felt my gaze on her, she fled back into the nearest bushes. Once we got up, I’d try to lure her out as well. After all, there was no reason to be so scared. I shifted around a bit on the chair when I felt the crumpled up note in my pockets.

There was one certain line on it, I remembered.

Leon was still staring into the blue above. “We’re going to get your team back on track before we go home, I promise,” I said. “And… if it’s too much for you and you trust me with them, I’ll talk to Mr Hattori about it on your behalf.”

The sound of my voice pulled him back to me. His expression was unreadable, even though his face was usually an open book.

He managed a one-sided smile and a “Thank you.” Why was I getting the impression that he could hardly endure holding my gaze for longer than decency dictated before he looked up at the clouds again?

After a while I slouched back in my chair and looked at the pagoda, the note in my pocket pressing against my hip-bone. It said that I’d do anything to help get us back home. But here I was, with a flavour of ice-tea I could really get used to, thinking about how Morty’s stylised version of the champion-team on Leon’s cast looked way better than in any commercial I’ve ever seen them in. Was I really helping when I was getting attached to this place?
 
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Chapter 14: The Last Birds of Violet

bluesidra

Mood
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. custom/hoppip-bluesidra-reup
  2. custom/hoppip-bluesidra-pink
  3. custom/hoppip-bluesidra3

Chapter 14: The Last Birds of Violet​


October 3rd 1993, 2am.

A rattling sound and the bursting of wood shook me awake. Before I could even open my eyes, splinters of the roof’s timber and terracotta rained on my face and my body. Instinctively, I rolled off the mattress and sought shelter under a nearby table.

A shot, akin to an icepick breaking through wood, accompanied every single one of the small holes being jabbed through the roof. Fast, powerful steps shook the entire structure until whatever was on the roof reached the edge and ripped out a good junk of the room. At first I saw the outer support-beam splinter under the weight on it, then the wall around the crack was torn away and the roof soon followed. In the gaping hole I could see a shadow jumping onto the next roof, vanishing in the rain and thunder. Water came pouring into the room through the holes in the roof.

“Hannah! Are you alright?” Leon’s voice. The sliding door to the women’s dorm bounced open. I answered something somewhat reassuring, still processing the fact that where I had been sleeping a moment ago was now a large piece of wall, cracks breaking through it in several places.

Suddenly, Morty appeared in front of me. He was looking me up and down, and once I was back in reality, I did the same. He wasn’t hurt, neither was I. Leon was busy on the other side of the room and judging by the looks of it, doing fine as well. «What happened?» was the obvious thing to ask, but there was no need to. There wasn’t a single question that Morty had the answer to, otherwise he would have guessed the question and given the answer straight away.

A howl broke through the night, followed by thunder so loud it shook the building, causing more debris to rain down. As soon as it died away, Morty’s phone rang. In an instance, Rotom hovered out of his pocket and next to him.

“Yes, I’ve heard it too,” he bellowed without greetings or introductions while I crawled out under the table. The voice on the other end said something that was way too low for me to make out, but Morty seemed to understand it just fine. “Get going! I’ll let you know once I know more.” He pushed Rotom away from his face and caught my look. “That’s the extrovert that I attracted. Just like you—” He pointed behind him.

“Leon, get down there, that’s dangerous!” I yelled across the room.

“Nah. You get up here! You gotta see this!” Leon had made his way onto the roof somehow, his feet dangling through the hole in the ceiling. I got up and grabbed my jacket. Rain was now pouring in through the gaps in the roof and wall, and yet it was still only a ghost of the storm that hailed outside.

Morty had already made it onto the roof when I got up on the night-stand as well. Leon offered me his hand, but I declined. I didn’t feel comfortable on roofs and much more enjoyed clinging onto the shattered wooden beam while I watched the storm of a century rage. I was soaked to my bones in a heartbeat. Strong gales tossed immense amounts of water around, lit up by lightning striking almost every ten seconds. Thunder followed every flash almost instantly.

And against the night sky, almost invisible in the chaos, was a dark figure soaring up high. When it dove down on the buildings, it left screams and debris behind. Jagged wings. I had seen them before.

“It’s not quite here yet,” Morty shouted against another wave of thunder. “Between Ecruteak and Violet. Closer to Violet.” Rotom buzzed. “Eusine, someone else is calling. I have to hang up.”

“Do you see that?” Leon screamed in my direction.

“The giant bird?” He shot me a quick glance, that I could feel, but I was way too transfixed on the pokemon circling above.

“That too. But all the other birds are gone.” He was right! How didn’t I notice that before? The sky was empty save for the storm and this gigantic predator.

Morty crawled back over to us. “Sage Li just called. He wants me in Sprout Tower immediately.” He looked between the two of us. “That means that you get off this roof and—” Morty couldn’t finish his sentence.

Another flash of lightning tore through the darkness, followed by thunder. And Morty’s face fell for the shortest of seconds. I’ve never seen actual fear in his eyes before now. He covered his mouth with his hand and had his expression almost under control again. I followed his gaze to the cause of his distress: Up ahead on the hill, on the outskirts of town, against the darkened night sky was a flame. Hirotaka Tower was burning. Morty fell silent.

Leon was the first one to shake off the shock. "How important is that sage?"

Morty blinked twice, getting some rain out of his eyes and some thoughts in order. He still hadn't found an answer, but his solemn look didn't need one.

“If he wants to see you, go!” Leon screamed against the rain. “We’ll take care of your cousin or whatever.”

Morty’s face immediately turned into his stern mask again. “No way. You stay here. Now get off the roof!”

Leon complied, but gave me a look that said everything. Before Morty had climbed down, I had already dug out my waist-bag from underneath the rubble.

“Again, Morty! You know I’m Galar’s Champion. I can handle this,” Leon tried to convince him while we ran down the Pokemon Center’s corridor. Morty didn’t even bother to answer.

He was the first one through the front door and made it very clear that he didn’t want us to follow. I was about to say something when Morty cut me short.

“Hana, please be the sensible one. And you, Leon: Champ or not, currently you’ve only got a Sentret and Hoppip to your names.” A Sentret that hadn’t shown up until now, but still. “Stay inside, take cover under a table, and only leave the house in case a fire breaks out. Understand me?”

He looked firmly between the two of us. Neither Leon nor I said anything. Lying felt wrong, even if nodding would be so easy. Leon even took a step back to imply that he would stay inside — for now. Morty sighed. “Why am I even arguing? His name is Falkner.” He slammed the door shut in front of our faces.

For a moment, there was silence between us. Thunder roared while I was still listening to the quiet echo of the door.

“You’re not angry at me, are you?” Leon asked. “Like, this is grown-up stuff. I’m not pulling you into something you don’t want to, right?”

I crossed my arms, still looking at the shut door. “I’m only angry if you don’t say the line.”

Leon turned towards me, and in the corner of my eye I could see his smile. “It’s Champ Time!”

* * *​

Fifteen minutes of running through the storm later, we reached the plateau. The rain did its best to slow the fire down, but the lofty wooden structure had had half a millennium to dry. It stood no chance against the flames. Some people — I presumed employees — ran in and out of the tower, releasing birds still caged inside to fly to safety.

I grabbed the nearest one and asked a) what we could do to help and b) if they had seen Falkner anywhere. The answer I got out of him between stumbles was quite simple: a) free the birds still inside and b) no, and there was a good chance that the boy was still in the family’s quarter. Which were on the uppermost floor.

Every sufficiently large flying type immediately took to the skies in a panic. This only left us with the stairs. Leon and I exchanged a look. It was pretty clear what to do.

The core of the fire for now roamed in the middle of the building, yet filled the ceiling of the first floor with thick, black smoke. Though the air was still breathable, it foretold what was to come further up. Leon was ahead of me on the winding staircase when he stopped at a door so abruptly that I almost ran into him. A row of cages with terrified Pidgeys had grabbed his attention. I yelled that time was running out if we wanted to make it through the next few levels, but it was useless. And some people said Hop was unfocused.

I was rubbing the back of my nose when suddenly a rumbling chased through the walls and threw me to the ground. Leon! When the tower had settled again and I jumped to my feet, there was nothing but a gaping black hole where seconds ago an entire floor had been.

“Leon!” I shouted into the darkness. Nothing but the falling debris and the roaring flames above. My heart began to race. “Leon!”

Through the rubble came a faint, muffled voice. “It’s ok. I think I’m in one piece still.”

“This is not the time for jokes!” I scolded, but my panting betrayed the relief I felt. From beneath the settling dust came the sound of frantic wings making their way outside. And a sneeze.

“Hannah, I can’t see you from down here. Are you alright?” Leon yelled.

“I am. You should be on the ground floor now. Can you get out?” A few footsteps, then an affirmation. “I’m going further up. I’ll see how far I can even get.”

“No, come back down!” Leon had his ‘this is grown-up stuff’-voice again. I frowned. His change in attitude had lasted at best twenty minutes. “If it’s already that unstable—”

“I’ll just look!” Before I could decipher Leon’s protest, I was already headed up the stairs again.

* * *​

As soon as I fell through the door of the living quarters, I couldn’t tell any more how I got there. All I knew was that in here the air was still somewhat bearable. And that I would have to get that door closed if I wanted to keep it that way. Turning on my back, I shoved it shut with my feet. Even through my sneakers I could feel the warmth. I allowed myself a few breaths before I would get up again. The middle floors were a lost cause. I had made one wrong decision not to back off and got caught by the fire. Now the only way out was upwards.

“What are you doing here?” somebody asked. I looked up. The voice presumably belonged to a young man sitting in the next room and eyeing me through the open door.

“Falkner?” I panted. The young man nodded. The room was still upside down — I was lying on my back — but even if everything was skewed: That man didn’t look like a snotty little brat. At least not little. He was about my age, with dark hair and in a curious blue and white robe. I rolled onto my stomach and got up.

“That still doesn’t answer my question now, does it?” He was acting composed, but I could tell how thin that curtain of countenance was.

“I’m here to get you out of here,” I said in between breaths. “Because you are already a bit late.” Damned be my weak comebacks.

He sent me a long look before he turned back and stared at something I couldn’t yet see. His look might have been sincere sorrow if it had been on Leon’s face, but was veiled under teenage arrogance on Falkner’s. “Then you’ll be out of luck. I’m not going anywhere. Take Pidgey and get out of here.”

Determined, I walked over to him, internally questioning his sanity, but the view of the majestic pokemon took me off guard. The Pidgeot was taller than me, easily by a head, and exuded an aura of regality and authority that could only come from age and experience. It stared at me in silence, but its eyes were wide awake. It was fully taking in the chaos around it.

“What—” I shook my head to concentrate again. “What are you talking about? You’re coming with me. Now!” I grabbed his arm, but he shook me off.

“This is my family’s business. If it goes down, so will I.” Falkner’s voice was forced calm.

My nerves were on the brink of leaving me. “Oh, don’t let that be some stupid honour thing!” I called out. “This is the last thing I can deal with right now!” Falkner turned around, finally letting his facade fall. Anger, sorrow and pride all laid out here, in the open. But most of all: Fear. The rage was boiling in me again and would take over if I didn’t watch out. But at the same time: It seemed to resonate with him.

“You don’t understand a thing, lady. This is my place!” At his feet, a little Pidgey frantically pecked at his shoes, but he ignored it in his anger. “I don’t care if you think I’m too young. I am still the head of the Hirotaka family.” He turned back to Pidgeot and concluded: “This is where I belong.”

My face twitched. I could scream that little twat from here right to Cherrygrove if I let my anger get the better of me. But that wouldn’t change much in the long run. Deep brea— too much smoke for my lungs!

Pidgeot was watching over some sort of altar. The framed photo of a middle-aged man was all I needed to see to connect the dots. This Pidgeot was not Falkner’s, it was his father’s. And it had already decided its fate. But that decision did not extend to Falkner.

I grabbed the young man by the arm once again, this time determined not to let him go, and dragged him over to the window. He protested, of course, but he didn’t know the sheer amount of strength that was needed for ballet.

“Head of the family,” I mocked him through the smoke. Under the strain my Galarian accent got stronger, but I couldn’t care less. Not if confronted with such an idiotic thought. “I did not run up here to deal with daddy-issues and some outdated concept of honour.”

I finally opened the window and pushed his back against it. Smoke filled the room like gas would fill a vacuum. The influx of fresh air had only given the fire new food. Next to me, Pidgey darted out the window. I could hear its flaps behind Falkner, who braced himself against the window frame with all his might. On his face was an expression that made the roaring fire behind me feel cold in comparison.

With my free hand, I grabbed his collar. “Pidgeot already looks pretty comfortable with the sacrifice-role. I don’t think you have to one-up it here to prove—” Smoke choked the last words in my throat.

He looked me straight in the eyes and his words were poison. “You know nothing, outsider!”

“Hannah!” Leon. “Throw him out the window if you must! Pidgey and I can catch him. Just get out of there already!”

I clenched my fist around Falkner’s collar. All I had to do was give it a little more force. Why did I even come here? To a guy who didn’t want to leave the inevitable alone, even though I tried to argue, plead and pull him away from it? This was all too familiar…

“You are such an idiot!” I got out between coughs. “Out there are people waiting for you. They want to see you safe and what do you do? Throw yourself in unneeded danger? Shows how much you really care about them!”

Finally. All those words I wanted to throw at Leon came out. They were still locked up inside of me from way back in Hammerlocke, before the Darkest Day had devoured us both.

“Hop would—” I coughed again. “Morty would never forgive me, nor you, nor himself, if you don’t get out of here. Your hero-complex does not help anyone right now!”

Falkner had now at least stopped insulting me. “Morty is the last one to care about—”

“Are you still arguing with me?” I pushed my fist closer against his sternum. “I’m not doing therapy while the building is on fire!”

“Fine!” He pushed my hand away and sent me a look that could kill. One foot on the windowsill, he looked down, then to Pidgey and then back to me. “You’re disgusting!” With one swift leap, he was out the window. A few seconds later I could hear a faint “Got you!” from beneath.

“Hannah, come on, you’re next!” a happy Leon shouted from below. Pidgey was up again, ready to pick me up. Pidgey… would pick me up. I stepped closer to the window and looked down. Then I remembered.

* * *​

With Hop I felt invincible. With Leon I always had something else to worry about and didn’t even think about my vertigo. Because it was gone. It had dissolved way back when Hop took me on that first terrifying, wonderful, awful ride in the flying cab. It was gone. Until now, when a gaping, four-storey abyss had opened up in front of me. Cold sweat covered my hands and arms, and yet I felt hotter than the fire in my back. I let myself sink down, clawing into the windowsill, seeking shelter behind the wall.

“Hannah?” Leon was both worried and alarmed. Leon. I could just follow his voice. He was his brother, after all. Just one, straight, safe way. I gasped for air, but only burning smoke filled my lungs. Alright! I pulled myself up and peeked out again.

No. No way I could do this. I hid behind the wall again. My stomach rebelled. I threw up and then sunk back. This was bad. Really bad. I had to think, but the air was not enough.

“Hannah! Trust me! I’m here for you!”

I’d been up way higher than this, and I managed. Because of Hop.

«Come on, Hana, think!» Fire escape? No, the way was blocked. Going higher? No use.

I gasped for air.

«Careful, it’s full of fumes!»

That vague voice of reason again? Oh no! I couldn’t have a panic attack. Not here. Not here!

«You want to get back, right? Think!»

I looked over at Pidgeot, my vision blurring. It was still there, unwavering, unapproachable. I cursed, probably out loud, but it didn’t flinch. Leon’s voice. I could hear him loud and clear, but my brain could not translate the sound into words. Tears ran down my face. Maybe from the smoke.

Darn, my breathing was fast.

«Calm it down, save oxygen!»

Calm down. Shallow breath in.

One. There was the sound of cracking in the structure around me. Smoke was shooting through the smallest gaps.

Two. Leon’s voice. And Falkner’s. Then Leon’s again.

Three. Silence from Pidgeot. Why was it so cruel? Why did it put the boy under such pressure? Couldn’t it understand how important fathers were for their children?

Six. Leon’s voice. Panic. So much smoke. Why didn’t he leave Eternatus alone? We didn’t stand a chance, Hero of Galar! Hop’s hero.

Seven. Pidgey’s pecks. Pidgeot’s stares. Hop.

Nine. “Hana!” Smoke everywhere.

Ten. “Hana!”

Shallow breath out.

«I am here.»

I knew that voice. Why was it so calm?

“Hana, listen to me! Close your eyes and get up!” The voice was so mild and steady, far more pleasant than the chaos in my head or the fatigue that consumed me. I closed my eyes and got up, my head spinning a little. Everything felt so light.

“You know I can see the future. You will not die.” Idiot. He always insisted that he was no diviner. The tears got caught in the dimples of my smile and ran salty over my dry lips. “Just do exactly what I say and everything will be fine.” Maybe the tower had already collapsed. There was no way Morty could be that calm. “I will tell you exactly what to do, so there is no reason to open your eyes, understood? Now take one step back and put your right foot over the windowsill.” I did. “And don’t open your eyes!” I didn't.

“Good. Now put both hands on the lower part of the frame and hold on tight.” I did. “Good. Thirty centimetres to your left and fifteen centimetres down from your right foot is a small ledge. Put your foot there.” I did. There was a ledge. “Good. Shift your weight onto the front of your right foot.” I did. There was resistance. Instinctively, I tensed up. I knew my toes could be like steel if I wanted them to and if this was really happening, I would need them to. “Good. Now left foot over the frame and twenty centimetres under the right foot.” I did. There was a ledge. “Good!”

I managed to get to the next ledge. And from there to the next handhold. Then to the next ledge, complete darkness around me. Only once I stopped and for the briefest of moments saw myself from the outside. But Morty caught on to that and stopped me before I could fully take in the picture. Next handhold. “Good.” Next ledge. “Good.”

“Hana. In a few moments a piece of wood will fall down to your left side. It will miss you completely. Just hold still. Three. Two. One.” A mass rushed past me. It spread its heat for a brief moment over my body before crashing into the ground so far beneath me. But I was still holding on to the wall. “Good. Now put your right foot twenty centimetres to the left and fifteen down.”

We continued. I followed the voice to a tea, and it worked every time. Even when I was about to slip, Morty would correct me before my weight had completely shifted. Maybe he could divine the future after all. “Good. Now don’t freak out. This is Leon’s arm around your stomach. Just hold on for a little—”

Those were the last words I heard before Leon pulled me away from the wall and close to him. Following the momentum of the rotation, we both fell from wherever he was standing, but it was way too fast for me to process. Leon landed softly on his knees and sat me down. Before I could even open my eyes, he hugged me close and threatened to squeeze the last oxygen out of me. This was still the best feeling in a long time.

Reluctantly, I opened my eyes. There was solid ground beneath me. I had no clue how I got here. And in front of me a tower, now almost completely consumed by flames. The storm was still raging, showering us in water that I could barely feel.

“Unless she’s dead, she needs to breathe once in a while.” Morty’s voice was no longer that disembodied sound guiding me through the darkness. Now it sounded right again, especially when accompanied by that half-smirk.

After a few more heartbeats, Leon let go of me. He couldn’t smile, even though he was trying to.

Words were exchanged, apologies uttered. When Leon got up, I stood up as well, if only to get those worried looks off of me. The spinning in my head had died down enough now.

All of us, however, flinched when lightning tore through the sky again. Oh right, there was another problem at hand. Morty drew Leon aside when suddenly someone touched my arm. I jolted around. Out of all people, it was Falkner.

“Come on, let’s get you away from here.” I could swear he sounded defeated. I looked him up and down. He seemed to have got away fine, but I could only imagine the turmoil inside him.

We walked over to a group of maintenance sheds far enough away from the main tower to not be endangered. I leaned back against a wall and crossed my arms while I watched the guys. If Morty was tearing Leon down, I would personally send Hoppip his way. But so far the two seemed to be in some sort of discussion, each one looking up to the sky once in a while. Pidgey was now pecking at Leon’s foot.

“So…” Falkner began. He seemed eager to break the silence. “Thank you, I guess.” I shrugged my shoulders to the noise of the burning tower crumbling.

I knew I had done the right thing, but I wasn’t sure if Falkner saw it that way. Or if I had handled it the right way. Pidgeot’s piercing stare still haunted me. Silence again fell over us. When I coughed those last wisps of smoke out of my lungs, I could see how grateful Falkner was for the sounds.

The guys had now finished their discussion, with Leon sprinting over to us. He shot me a swift glance, then turned to Falkner. His golden eyes burned with the same passion they had held when he handed Hop and me our first own pokemon, but something was… off.

“Falkner. You want to be recognised by your father’s pokemon, right? How about you prove yourself to your own Pidgey first? The little guy is waiting to take on whatever is up there while its trainer is standing there, doing nothing!” That hurt. Leon did not pull any punches this time, and Falkner’s face showed.

“I can’t…” he stumbled, but quickly composed himself when he realised Leon wouldn’t let him finish otherwise. “I can’t send him up. There is literal lightning in the air.”

“That is an excuse and you know it.” Leon wasn’t smiling. This was even scarier than when he was angry. “If you can’t even believe that your pokemon can balance out a bit of type-disadvantage, it honestly deserves better.” Falkner swallowed hard. “Pidgey needs you. Not because you need to tell it what moves to use. It needs to know you’ve got its back and can guide it through the storm. The rest is child’s play.”

Falkner closed his eyes for a long second. “What should I do?” Leon nodded and finally, there was his smile again.

* * *​

Leon and Falkner climbed on top of the building opposite to me. I watched the young man climb up to the peak of the roof, while Leon never took his eyes off of him, giving him directions when needed. Pidgey took to the air — the last bird in Violet willing to fight whatever threatened its city. Lightning again shot down, but with a quick warning from its trainer, Pidgey could avoid it. With jet-like determination it continued its way up into breezy heights.

The predator was still there, circling. I slid down the wall while I watched the two birds, one small and one gigantic, engage. One attack, then Pidgey dropped down again. I was sure that it was out, hitting the ground somewhere in Bellsprout Park. But to my surprise, before I even finished the thought, it shot past me, wrapped in an all too familiar aura.

When it shot past its trainer, it had already changed its form, flying upwards at an unfathomable speed, readying its next attack. And Falkner did a good job at guiding it. Leon sat next to him on the roof and watched the young man, but he didn’t need to give him any more directions. Falkner had arrived in his element. I wondered what had held him back all this time.

With a loud crashing sound, Hirotaka Tower fell in on itself. The roof collapsed through the lower levels, leaving the site shrouded in debris. Falkner did not once take his eyes off his pokemon. Just guiding it with graceful, well practised signs through the skies.

The dust of the burning tower settled fast under the pouring rain, leaving a majestic silhouette against the sky. Pidgeot flapped its wings once and caused a new plume of debris on the ground. But this one, powerful stroke was enough to catapult it towards the clouds; towards its enemy. I smiled.

Leon let himself fall back on the roof. He held up his Dynamax Band and, after a few seconds, turned it in my direction, sending me a worried look. Something was pounding on my chest, but I had a different puzzle to solve: Why was the Wishing Stone glowing?

The last thing I saw before I lost consciousness was Leon running over to me.
 
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kintsugi

golden scars | pfp by sun
Location
the warmth of summer in the songs you write
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. silvally-grass
  2. lapras
  3. golurk
  4. custom/booper-kintsugi
  5. custom/meloetta-kint-muse
  6. custom/meloetta-kint-dancer
shockingly I saw the title, realized they'd been magically transported to Johto once the sentret showed up in chapter 1, and didn't put two and two together that this would be to-the-past fic. lol.

also, hiya, saw that you were leaving a lot of in-depth reviews around the forums and wanted to return the favor a bit! I've read up through chapter 3 and wanted to drop some thoughts real quick.

Hana's an interesting main character—I like how her schtick seems to be mostly just staying calm in the face of chaos, but now that they're in the face of reality-breaking chaos, will that composure be able to keep her and everyone else going? There was an interesting line after Leon blew up at her where she's trying to ask how she could've done that better, which is a mood, but also it makes me feel bad for her—sometimes people just wanna blow up at you, and there's nothing you can really do to avoid that, but I do sympathize with the sentiment of thinking that everything can be optimized to avoid shitty things. Leon's clearly Not Coping with this very well, but there's an argument to be made that, like, this isn't really a problem that "I'll just take a deep breath and single-handedly solve this one step at a time without having to burden anyone else" can actually fix. I thought the conversation in chapter 1 where Hana tries to explain herself to Leon was actually a really good way to pitch this:
“When things get too overwhelming, I just try to concentrate on the next step. Then it’s not so much you have to deal with at once,” I finally said. Leon thought about it for a moment.

“And what is the next step?”
Because it's true, Hana's spent a lot of time putting the problem in the back of her mind so that she can stay calm, but the actual first time she concentrates on the next step, in her words, is right here. This is the first time in her narration that we actually see her looking at the problem—the rest is a lot of avoidance and trying to think about all the ways things are fine, the pretty trees (which were nicely described btw), the rain, Leon's anger, etc. I could see this causing a lot of issues for her later down the road, when issues build up and it's clear that the method she tells herself she uses to tackle problems and what she actually does to tackle problems don't actually align at all.

In general the concept here is an interesting one—time travel and fish out of water stories are a great avenue for character exploration, and I could see how the pokemon called Eternatus might have some ties to eternity, yeeting people into the past, etc. And I guess on a more thematic level, these kinds of stories + isekai structure in general always fascinate me because it begs the question: without X, what are you? When you take someone out of their environment, take away the things that normally make them special, and put them somewhere else, who would they become? It's a great way to merge character- and plot-driven stories into one imo. In this case it's pretty direct; Hana and Leon are champion-tier trainers, so this setup takes away their influence (via fame/recognition) and their power (via pokemon) and lets you really get to the heart of who they are without the ceremonial champion cloak, so to speak.
Leon and I were Galar’s two most powerful trainers. But, as we were currently without our teams, we were just regular people. Still, there was a part in me that refused to show this little guy the same respect I would have had a year ago, when Mum warned me not to venture into the high grass. And it seemed to understand that.
He had absolutely no understanding for why Nurse Joy was more concerned about him than about the state of his team.
Which is why I found bits like these particularly interesting—even without the actual power, Hana's hesitant to relinquish the respect and intimidation that came with it. There's also some interesting subtext about how Hana views wild pokemon in the first bit, particularly with the word "respect"—they're something to be respected when she's weaker than them, but once her pokemon were stronger, she doesn't seem to feel that way any more. So she isn't really respecting them for existing; she's respecting them only to the extent to which they can threaten harm to her. And in the second bit, she can't really understand how Leon might be more concerned for his pokemon than himself—which, honestly, I'm in Leon's camp for! His injuries seem pretty recoverable, but as far as we know there isn't really a way to unpetrify his friends, so I can absolutely see why he'd be confused that Nurse Joy is fussing more over his scraped arm and sore legs than his magically deadified friends. But to Hana, she and Leon are the more valuable people—"Galar's two most powerful trainers"—so she can't really wrap her head around the idea of anyone, even Leon, thinking they're unimportant. Which, now that she's effectively depowered via some time/space magic, might need to change. Or maybe it doesn't! But either way I can see it causing her some issues in the future.

Overall I think the prose is solid here. On the macro level I think there are places where more description would be helpful, and on the micro level I think there are places where sentences are a bit too verbose. More detail on that in the spoiler below, along with some general line comments. I kept things kind of vague/high-level because this review was running long, but if you're interested in a deeper dive, let me know!
I shooed it away, then my eyes fell close again. This time it wasn’t dangerous. The all-consuming light was no longer around.
The intro sequence was a bit hard to follow--and in some respects I get that it's supposed to be difficult to track, but I found myself caring less about the concrete details of what happened (understandable if Hana doesn't know) and more about what Hana thinks happened/how she reacts to it. (which Hana should have a handle on).
Not the light! I forced my eyes open. A blurry canopy of trees slowly came back into focus. So did the pain. For a moment I allowed myself to enjoy feeling the dull pulses throughout my rib cage. After all, they meant I was still alive. Sparking new flashes of pain, I closed my eyes and took a deep breath in: cold soil and grass, still wet from the rain. Wonderful.
Likewise this section has a lot of words but I'm not sure what the takeaway here is—it was hard to anchor these grand statements like the pain making me feel alive to the rest of the chapter, especially since we only get these vague understandings from Hana for why she thinks any of this is actually happening.
I tried twisting my ankles and my arms, but only what felt like sores for a week revealed themselves.
Wasn't sure what "sores for a week" meant here--is it like, lots of days' worth of bedsores? Sores tend to refer to a pretty specific type of raw wound, so if they were unconscious/not moving I don't know how they'd get sores after a week.
I had left them with Guardevoir in Hammerlocke
Wasn't sure if this was a nickname or a typo on "Gardevoir"
Without even opening my eyes, I reached for the back pocket of my pants to my Rotom-Phone.
I wasn't sure how "without even opening my eyes" played out--has she had her eyes closed up until this point?
“Hana! It’s got the case too!” Rotom’s distorted voice sounded through the speakers. And now I felt it as well: While in my hand, my phone started turning to stone. Rotom squeezed in a corner as, along the cracks, the display turned to solid granite.
I thought this was a bit of excellent fridge horror—in normal situations, can Rotom not leave without Hana letting Rotom out? Are they all just trapped in their phones until their owners say otherwise, or was it specifically from whatever turned the case to stone? Either way, they seem to have gotten really lucky that Hana happened to notice in time, given what happened to Leon's team.
Leon spun around with an intensity that made me jump half a step back. “Yes I am!” he screamed, his golden eyes glinting dangerously.
This was a section that felt underdescribed—there's a big mood shift here, but it's hard to pin down what's happening in the narration itself.
“Here, let me help you,” I gave in. “How do you want it?” It took us a while, but we finally had it over his head.
"I gave in" isn't really a speech tag here (you'd want something like "I said at last" or "I agreed"). I also wasn't sure what she was giving in here, since Leon's the one holding out in this sequence and she's consistently trying to extend herself to him.
Rotom had by now left my waist bag and enjoyed being massaged by Leon.
"enjoyed" in the past tense reads a bit awkwardly here—since everything is in the past tense, it reads as if it's just stating a thing that Rotom constantly enjoys, instead of something Rotom is enjoying in this exact instance. I'd rephrase to:
> Rotom had by now left my waist bag and was enjoying a massage from Leon
or something
She was still wearing her challenger uniform, but her trademark rose singlet and her frilly scarf, in which she usually appeared on telly were visible underneath.
This could be streamlined a bit as well--"trademark" and "in which she usually appeared on telly" are conveying roughly the same thing, and I think it'd read a bit breezier as:
> "She was still wearing her challenger uniform, but her trademark rose singlet and frilly scarf were still visible underneath"
He sighed. This was the Champion Cup card, freshly printed in anticipation for Leon’s and Hanako’s match. Under other circumstances, his daughter, self-declared leader of team Hanako would be overjoyed. But so far, they still hadn’t recovered either of the competitors.
Seems like not opening up emotionally runs in the family for these guys! I wish we got to see a bit more from Hana's father about the fact that his daughter got yeeted during the Darkest Day and still hasn't been found. That's a lot to get through.
I was getting tired and the bruise around my ribcage slowly but steadily made itself more known with every step that I took.
Similarly, there’s a lot of extra words here—I think it could be rephrased to “I was getting tired and the bruise on my ribs ached more with each step” or something.
“The finals should never be a rare rerun,” concluded Leon rather factually, stroking the hairs on his chin as I read ‘Cliff’s home electronics’ on a neon sign in big, bold Kantonian letters.
"concluded Leon rather factually" read a bit awkwardly here
Within the same second that the sliding door bounced back shut, we simultaneously asked a) where exactly we were and b) to please do something about Leon’s pokemon. If she had called the police at this moment, I would not have blamed her. Instead, she just asked us to calmly explain what had happened. Despite her best efforts, it wasn’t calm.
the a/b in narration felt a bit casual—this kind of listing would be something that I think you'd want to lean in a lot more (i.e. Hana is very organized in her narration and always lists things out in very meticulous bulletpointed order), or that you'd just write out as normal prose.

Overall I thought this is an interesting setup for exploring your characters and really getting to the core of who they are/what they do. I'm admittedly kind of new to Galar/OC fic in general, but this feels like a fun direction to take the characters (backwards! in time), and I'm curious why Johto specifically/what this will mean to them in the future.
 
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bluesidra

Mood
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. custom/hoppip-bluesidra-reup
  2. custom/hoppip-bluesidra-pink
  3. custom/hoppip-bluesidra3
@kintsugi Holy Moly, thank you so much for that review! I did NOT expect such a deep and really really helpful thing at all, even less without bugging people for it. You can't imagine how happy that makes me!!!

And you have such an interesting point of viewing this story, especially Hana. I'm almost compelled to respond to some of the things you've brought up about her, but honestly, I don't want to spoil your view. Because that is heckin interesting. And totally different from how I read her.
Some parts of it come down to the word choice and I get that. I have to somehow get her to narrate her surroundings well enough for the reader to understand the story and then things might read different. That's an engineering issue. But the the "respect" thing you've brought up cut really deep, because that right there says something about me, the author that has written that line. But like I said, I don't want to muddy your view with my interpretation. This is soooo fascinating.

(But, if you're into people treating pokemon like the cute little buggers they are, look forward to about every interaction Leon has with them. He is an absolute cutie.)
(Also, "Not Coping" and "Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms" could be their middle names)

Thanks for the very extensive feedback on the prose. I'm aware of most of the problem-lines, especially in chapter 1 (not so much chap3, so thanks for that a lot). But you've added to that list. Chap1 needs a rework, but I want to wait a bit more until my style has solidified itself further.
Speaking of reworking, I think it's interesting that you've pointed the "next step" convo out. Because that was one point I wanted to scrap from the reworked chapter. Around that time, the dialogue has a tonal hiccup and I originally thought I could iron it out by omitting this exchange and have that part of Hana's character be handled by the narration. But for your interpretation to work, it is crucial that the two talk about it.

The aspect of "dealing with yourself once every external stressor is gone" is one of my driving factors for this fic. But that can hardly be done in Galar. Isekai is usually a term I avoid like the plague because nowadays it always involves a truck and a harem, but going by the definition, they are very much a fish out of water in an unfamiliar world.

Oh, but one thing I can spoil for you: There is unfortunately no super lore-deep reveal how Johto and Galar are connected. The idea behind this story goes back to a dream I had while I was changing my meds -- which did not help with a good night's sleep, I gotta say. I vaguely recall s*ht going down on Hammerlocke Tower and then being near Elm's lab. Also something with pokemon being turned to stone and Leon understandably loosing it. And that's what I ran with. But I do plan on giving Johto and its history its time in the spotlight and in the plot-part of the story. It is my second favorite region after all (nothing can beat Hoenn imo)

So thanks again for your kind review. I'm sooo looking forward to what you think about those two going further :)
 

LukeSkyRunner

Bug Catcher
Pronouns
He/Him


Chapter 12: The Note​


I counted to ten and knocked on the door’s wooden frame. It rattled in its rails while my hands clutched ever so tight around the note and the sunglasses. From the other side of the rice-papers came an unarticulated humming sound. When I slid the door back, I went over the note once more in my head and was still not prepared for what I saw.
Heya! It is time I reviewith thy chapter. This is my first ever catnip review!!

This chapter is my first impression of your fic, and it was pretty nice!! To me at least, this intro of Sonia seemingly being a bit nervous before opening the door kinda sets the tone of the chapter for me.
Sprawled out in complete darkness on his mattress on the floor, his legs crossed over was Leon. Even though he was now looking at me, I could tell he’d been staring at the ceiling a moment ago.
Ah Leon, for whatever reason I realized that this POV was that of Sonia's. It just clicked.
“Everything ok? Should I-” Awkwardly I pointed to the curtains that were drawn over the small windows. It was the early afternoon after all, and the weather was splendid.

Leon followed my finger with his eyes, shook his head, and got up with way more vigour than I had given him credit for. “You’re right. Probably about time to let the light in.” A quick glance confirmed Morty wasn’t around. Leon drew back the curtains and the warm sun started flooding the room. When he turned around, the light reflecting in his eyes lit them up again. The gloomy aura of a moment ago vanished, leaving me to wonder if it had even been there.

“What’s up?” Leon’s upbeat voice soon ripped me out of my wonderment.

Sunglasses. Note. Deep breath in. “Hey, do you want to take a look around the city?”

Leon looked me up and down and smiled, even brighter than the light in the room. “Sure thing.” He grabbed his jacket from a pile in the corner and headed over to me, to the door. When he took the sunglasses out of my outstretched hand, his sunny attitude soon turned to confusion. It became clear that I was blocking his way.

I swallowed. Note. “Leon,” I began, slower than intended. “I’m sorry for two days ago. I should have hand- hey!” I slapped his hand away. How I hated it when people ruffled my hair. A strand came loose and fell all the way down to my elbow.
Two days ago!? Maybe I should've read the other chapters before this one lol.
“Wow, it actually worked.” Leon seemed surprised, but not for long. He sighed, taking a step back. “Promise, it won’t happen again, but…” He dangled the missing pin in front of my nose, initial surprise transforming back into his trademark smile. “If that’s the only way I can stop you from apologising for nothing, we’re doomed.” I snatched at his hand, trying to get it back, but Leon once again was faster. That man and his damned reaction time.

“Do you know that that takes time?” I started curling the renegade strand back up. “Now give it back.” Leon placed the pin in my outstretched hand.

“Apology denied for lack of reason,” he said while he fetched his snapback. “But if it makes you feel better, you can consider us even now.” I grumbled while I put my hair back in order. Morty was clearly a bad influence on him.
I wonder what happened? I also wonder what's going on with Morty? Another reason why I should've read the other chapters before.
“Come on, let’s go! Drinks are on me,” he cheerfully said as he pushed past me. Halfway down the corridor he turned around to wait for me and for a split second he was serious again.

The note. I had written down what I wanted to tell him. That the word ‘sorry’ didn’t encompass half the pain I too felt when thinking about his team. That, even though I haven’t experienced a loss like this, I wanted him to know he wasn’t alone. That he could share his pain with me whenever he felt like and that I’d try to listen, but that I was afraid I wouldn’t find the right things to say to build him back up again. But the words wouldn’t come out, no matter how thought out the note was. And then the split second was over.
His "team"
Poor Sonia :(
I shook my head. “You can be insufferable sometimes, do you know that?” Smiling, I closed the distance between us and crumpled the note.
Sounds about right for Leon, I've never played SwSh, but I know enough about him at least.
* * *​

We had arrived in Violet City yesterday, but it was already late when we got here. This was not because of the travel times – they were pretty short – but for two other reasons. First: Morty didn’t want to be bothered with anything and meditated until noon, and second and most importantly: Leon actually slept in for once. That, however, left me with plenty of time to train with Hoppip and stress out over if we’d make it here on time. We of course did.

Now we were wandering the streets of the historic city and I had to completely row back on my statement about how I’d got used to the building style by now. Violet was not just some single historic houses – it was an entire city full of it. Sure, it had its share of modern buildings along the main streets, but away from those it was a scene you’d see in an animated movie: Narrow, winding streets lined with small, wooden city houses. Their latticed windows had paper in place of glass and their white walls contrasted with their dark frames.

But most curious were their roofs. I didn’t notice it at first, but when we climbed up the stairs on the city’s only hill, it hit me: All the houses were covered with shingles in different shades of violet. From up high, the city looked like an entire sea of violet petals, its waves breaking on the tall mountains to the north and the autumn forests to the east. The Spearows and Pidgeys that perpetually circled the gusts over this sea made it look like there was another city above the human one. Air routes instead of streets, nests instead of houses and power lines instead of street signs. No wonder it was a world heritage site.
This part, I really love! I love the way you describe Violet city. From the scenery to the flying types above. Definitely something to take notes on! This is a big help, aside from being fun to read!
“Let’s see… Hirotaka Air Courier,” Leon read as he overtook me on the stairs. “It’s basically the region’s postal system. That would explain all the birds around.”
Neat!
I was still staring at the roofs beneath me. “Hey, isn’t that a beautiful view?”

The tiniest of pauses. “It sure is.” Leon stopped and looked over the city as well, but something in his posture betrayed an uncanny discomfort.

I took the image in for another heartbeat, then quickly shook my head to get myself back into reality. “Mail service. Tell me something about it!” I turned back around to make my way up those stairs, taking Leon with me as I passed him by.

“It says that it’s a family business, going back as far as the Momoyama period, which was…” He flipped through the pages of the travel guide. “500 years ago. Not bad.” The strange tower ahead of us reflected the sun in its many windows and doors. I enjoyed the chill autumn breeze while Leon summarised the history of the company. After our trip into the national park, a simple set of stairs didn’t scare us any longer.
I'm assuming that time period is a reverence to a real Japanese time period?
When we reached the top of the small plateau, the view got even more impressive. I leaned onto the railing, letting my gaze wander over the winding stairs at the side of the still green hill, into the vast valley in which the core city nestled and back around to the impressive wood construction that was Hirotaka Tower on the outskirts of the northern city park. The park was called Sprout park, Leon informed me. It was home to over one thousand conifers and broadleaf trees, an extensive system of ponds and Sprout Tower, an old temple dating back even farther than the building we were currently in front of.
“Tell me if I’m too slow for you today,” I said when he paused for a moment.

“Huh?” Leon was leaning against the railing next to me and pretty perplexed by the question.

“You’re-” I stopped when I heard a familiar voice and looked over to the tower’s entrance gate. Leon followed my gaze.

“Hey Morty!” he shouted. The man in question rolled his eyes, ready to turn the other way. “We’re sightseeing. Wanna come with us?”

“No.” Morty was already heading towards the park.

“Come on, you’re better than any travel guide!” He might do his best to ignore us, but that was still not enough to get Leon’s mood down.

“Then start paying me!” Morty turned around mid walk, now going backwards while he continued talking to us. “I’m going to find some inner peace now. Don’t expect me back till way later.” With that, he was off. Leon shrugged his shoulders.

When I was sure Morty was out of earshot, I turned to Leon. “What’s the matter with him today?”

He shrugged again. “Told me he had to visit a family friend whenever he dropped by. And that he wasn’t looking forward to it.”

“A ‘friend’?” I tried to articulate ‘friend’ in the most derogatory way possible. It still didn’t match Morty’s vibes.

“Well, their old men were friends,” Leon explained. “The son is – and I’m paraphrasing his words here – a snotty little brat that could use a dressing-down the size of an Alolan Exeggutor.”

I raised my eyebrows. That would remain an issue for another day. “Sprout Tower?”

Leon nodded. “Sprout Tower.”

* * *​

Fifteen minutes later, we were standing in front of an impressive temple complex. And by that I meant really impressive. At the centre was a three-story pagoda, shining in the sunlight as if it had only been built yesterday. The red varnish contrasted with the white paint. If one looked ever so close, there was a plethora of fantastic, never seen before pokemon drawn along the roof’s crests in waving lines. All of them connected to the swaying form of an unending Bellsprout.

“Man, I swear, when we get home I’m going to jet over here just to take a photo.” Leon was as impressed by the structure as I was.

Back home… there were only few temples of that kind and none of them as impressive as this one. Dad used to visit one when I was still very young, but I was never very interested. Now I remembered that Lavender Town used to have its own. After the fire fifty years ago they replaced it with an ugly block of concrete that I stayed as far away from as possible.

While we wandered through the temple complex, I wondered what that strange mix of emotions was that grew inside of me. Something in here reminded me of home, even though things couldn’t have been more foreign. Weren’t Leon’s parents also not from Galar? I wondered…

“Hey, does your grandma sometimes still cook traditional curry?” I asked, turning to Leon.

“Huh?!” He looked at me, one-thousand questions in his eyes, then at the travel guide, then back at me. “Excuse me?”

“Ah, sorry!” I shot out. Was I assuming something? I was. “Where exactly is your family from again?”

Leon collected himself. “You might have skipped a few talking points there. That’s why I was confused.” Darn! That’s what happened when I didn’t pay attention to what I was saying. I felt the blood shooting to my head. But then a smile lit up his face again.

“Hey, no problem. Most people don’t know the country. It’s pretty small.” Internally I sighed, relieved. Too late I realised that Leon’s smile kept growing. “It’s only the second most populated in the world and the one that lead Galar to its wealth and influence today.”
Hmmmmmm, I'm going to make the assumption that Unova is most populated?
Oh gosh. I covered my face with my hands and grumbled some unintelligible apologies. But Leon, in a sadistic manner that I hadn’t seen on him before, wasn’t done yet: “And the first thing that comes to mind is curry, yes? Painting with real broad strokes here, huh?”

By now I had to choose between dying on the spot and joining in on his mockery. I decided against outwardly dying, for now. “Give it a moment,” I said with an uncomfortable chuckle. “Naan bread?”

Leon couldn’t keep his semi-scolding tone any longer, even though he tried to tear me down for my cultural insensitivity a bit more. By the end we were both laughing and the colour of my face indicated I had evaded the heart-attack. “To be honest, that’s about as much as I know as well,” he got out while he was trying for a more serious tone. “I’ve had that discussion already in excess. I’m Galarian, simple as that.”

“What discussion is there to have? Of course you are,” I asked as I wiped a tear away and pondered if my face had already returned to a somewhat normal complexion.

“Came up when I had defended my title for the first time.” Leon’s voice was rougher around the edges than I was used to. “It was cute the first time ‘round, but the second year that the grandson of immigrants held the title? That raised some… unpleasant discussions. I was eleven at the time and only really interested in pokemon battles. Not in the whole discussion about everyday racism or League politics. So we’ve decided to go for the All-Galarian route. Paid off well in the end.”
I wonder where Leon's family comes from? Probably the poké-world equivalent of India, I'm guessing. I'd imagine some racists in Galar wouldn't be too pleased with Leon being the champion due to his skin color....
Also league politics, I've seen those theories about the elite four and champions controlling regions. Or it could just be the case that powerful and influential trisners like that could be involved in politics?
“Oh. Sorry, I didn’t mean to bring that up. Hop never told me about it. Only that your grandma can cook deliciously when she gets around to it.”

“Hop was a baby back then. No wonder he doesn’t remember it. Speaking of food and someone who likes it-” Leon pointed over my shoulder to a spot behind me. “Come here, girl! I haven’t seen you all day.”

As soon as I turned around, the little shadow vanished under the low patio. “She’s been like this all day. Yesterday Lucy and I tried to explain to her that she doesn’t need to be afraid of the teleporter, but she ran off.” I caught Leon’s questioning look. “That was before you two got down. I figured she’d sneak into your room later.”

“I thought she was with you.” Leon tried to lure Sentret out again, but in vain. Not even the cherry drops would do the trick. He got up and shrugged. “How about we wrap up our tour here and sit down at that tea shop outside the gate? I'm sure she'll come out if there’s food on the table.”

We finished our walk through the outer sanctum and passed the red gate with its curious ropes attached to it. I was watching the ensemble when Leon picked the topic up once more, asking me how I came up with the question in the first place. Which, in and off itself, was a tough question to answer.
“I was just thinking how my Dad’s always been way too busy to cook for us, or-” I shrugged. “Don’t you want to learn more about where you’re- your family is from?”

Leon swallowed down another chuckle. “And learn about two-hundred different deities? No thanks. I’m already studying business, I don’t need to put another nail in that coffin.”

Speaking of nails in a coffin: To my relief the tea house had a few tables and chairs in their outside area as well. I had appropriated foreign cultures enough for one day and didn’t feel the need to also engage in a traditional Johtonian tea ceremony.

I was currently browsing the postcards when Leon asked what I wanted to drink. “Do they have that one ice-tea with that pink apricorn on it?” Happy to see a thumbs up, I went back to those postcards.

They had some detail shots of the wooden figurines around the temple. I remembered faintly the shrine we had at home until we got rid of it when I was - what? - ten. It looked so different in my memory, even though it belonged to this exact religion. I remembered its mixture of reverence for pokemon spirits and a focus on inner growth. But it was the same uncanny difference with the language as well. I spoke the same language the people around me spoke, yes, but at home it had always been different. Probably because those images and religion and language were part of an identity I had never assumed. One that I could never fully assume.

Leon’s voice tore me out of my contemplation and back to my ice tea. We looked for a nice, sunny table and he offered me some of the biscuits he had bought. I declined and opened my can of tea instead. Leaning back in my chair, I enjoyed the last warm rays of the autumn sun tingling my skin. Leon got to work luring Sentret in, who had been stealthily following us. I watched the two of them for a while, then turned around to take in the impressive view of the pagoda for a bit longer.

Was it a sense of belonging? No. I was Galarian, just like Leon. Maybe he had to consciously agree on this All-Galarian identity first, but I never was anything else. But then what was it about this place that hit more in me than the trivia in our travel guide could ever answer? Was it that it reminded me of my dad? I hadn’t seen him in almost a year, yes, but by the time they got their divorce, Dad had fully integrated. If it wasn’t for his name and his looks, people wouldn’t assume him to be anything other than a normal Galarian, working a normal nine-to-nine office job. Then again, I had to admit that not sticking out for my skin-tone for once in my life was relieving.

Next to me the luring-chatter had gone silent. Presumably fed up with me being a quiet piece of wall-dressing today, Leon had started drawing something on the handkerchief. A bait-biscuit was still on the ground next to the table.

Leon stuck out. He was taller by at least a head compared to the everyday people here and impossible to miss in a crowd. I, on the other hand, only had to lower my head and could vanish. Here we weren’t the celebrities that we were back at home. There were no interviews or cameras or any of that stuff. Still, it was nice to imagine that the reporters here would not immediately ask intrusive questions about how different my home life was. Or what traditions we practised. Or what sushi-restaurants I could recommend. Maybe the All-Galarian way was the way to go. But then there would still be that feeling that I had to try extra hard at every little thing, just to fit in. I sighed. But I didn’t belong here either. For starters, I hardly knew the religion or the history of this pagoda next to me. So what was it?

Leon heard my sigh and looked up. I returned his gaze, letting his warm eyes pull me back into and ground me in reality once more.

“What are you doing?” I asked after a while, when I had stuffed those thoughts sufficiently far into the back of my mind.

He looked down. “Nothing.”

“For all your battle skills – you are a poor liar, do you know that?” I smiled and leaned over. “Now what are you doing there?”

Now Leon sighed. “I’m thinking about that vortex again. We have to get home somehow, right?” He showed me his drawing. Now that I was so used to Morty’s style, Leon’s was swifter and almost looked technical. “I do know Dynamax by heart – at least I believe so. But something doesn’t quite click yet and-” he grumbled and ruffled his hair.

“Then just ask Elm about it.” I took a closer look at the drawing. It showed the cross-section of that hole in… presumably the fabric of time and space itself that Eternatus’ body had vanished into. And that, upon closing, created a vortex that sucked the both of us to where we were now. It resembled the Dynamax phenomenon, but Leon was right when he said that something didn’t quite click.

“That’s the thing: I know all this stuff, that hasn’t ‘officially’ been discovered yet. Magnolia published her research some fifteen years ago. I mean, eleven years from now. Darn…” Leon shook his head. “It’s going to be so difficult to tiptoe around this stuff.” He slid down his chair until he almost fell off and looked up into the sky, sighing at the few clouds above. “Also, I just really don’t want to go.”

“Then don’t.” I picked up the ice tea that I had completely forgotten about and started looking around for a straw.

“Yeah, but that’s grown-up stuff that I should be interested in,” Leon pleaded with the clouds.

“You are aware that I’m only three years younger than you?” I reached over and picked up a straw. “Anyway, you can just cancel for now and still decide to show up later.”

Now he managed to get his eyes off the clouds and back to me. “You’re Hop’s age.”

“Who isn’t a baby anymore either,” I completed this sentence.

Leon shot me a long glance that I was sure contained at least trace amounts of daggers. “I’ll debate you on that later.” Then he sighed again. “Is it really ok if I chicken out this time?”

“Of course.” For a moment, his eyes again opened up, as if he wanted to reach out, say something, but instead he let his head fall back again to watch the clouds.

Sentret had finally mustered up the courage to approach the biscuit, but as soon as she felt my gaze on her, she fled back into the nearest bushes. Once we got up, I’d try to lure her out as well. After all, there was no reason to be so scared. I shifted around a bit on the chair when I felt the crumpled up note in my pockets.

There was one certain line on it, I remembered.

Leon was still staring into the blue above. “We’re going to get your team back on track before we go home, I promise.” The sound of my voice pulled him back to me. His expression was unreadable, even though his face was usually an open book.

He managed a one-sided smile and a “Thank you.” Why was I getting the impression that he could hardly endure holding my gaze for longer than decency dictated before he looked up at the clouds again?
After a while I slouched back in my chair and looked at the pagoda, the note in my pocket pressing against my hip-bone. It said that I’d do anything to help get us back home. But here I was, with a flavour of ice-tea I could really get used to, thinking about how Morty’s stylised version of the champion-team on Leon’s cast looked way better than in any commercial I’ve ever seen them in. Was I really helping when I was getting attached to this place?
Overall, this chapter was really engaging. From this chapter alone, and from the title of the story. I can already tell that there's a lot going on with Sonia and Leon, their relationship must be pretty complicated.
Another thing I really liked was how you dove into the subject of Leon and how his background might affect how some in Galar perceive him.... It's sad really. Though I do like how you explore this a bit, I kinda like it when real world topics like this are explored in fanfiction.
The last major thing I'm wondering is what the heck is going on with Morty?

So, well, I liked the chapter. It definitely makes me want to read the rest of your fic. I really didn't have much issues with it.
 

Negrek

Sunshowered
Staff
Hello! I’ve seen you posting around a bit, and I thought I’d come check your story out. It’s definitely an intriguing premise, Leon and Hana getting transposed in both time and space, and Johto is going to put both of them well out of their element. At least there’s a time-traveling legend there who might be able to help them out with their predicament!

Anyway, I’ve read five chapters so far and figured I’d give you some of my early impressions. I saw your note about editing woes, so I figured that instead of going in-depth with typos and so on I’d focus on more big-picture story elements.

Hana makes for an interesting protagonist, and I’m looking forward to learning more about her as the story goes on. She seems to be someone who’s had a lot of experience dealing with stress—her methods for dealing with it seem hard-won. And already this new situation she’s finding herself in is overwhelming them! So far Hana’s been the one carrying the team while Leon wanders around, lost and distressed, but in the long term I imagine Hana’s going to have a lot to learn from him. I look forward to seeing how those two end up helping each other grow as the story progresses.

I’m a little confused about Hana’s backstory. My impression is she’s moved to Galar fairly recently, no more than a few years ago. But some of her other comments seem to bely that, like how she speaks Galarish without an accent or doesn’t know anywhere in Kanto other than Saffron and Lavender. If she spent most of her young life in Kanto, I hope she’s a little better at the local geography than that!

Leon I haven’t gotten as good a read on yet; he’s been indisposed for a fair amount of the earlier chapters. Good to see him return to form a bit in in the most recent chapter, but I have the sense that this little trip back in time is going to test him quite a bit. I’m curious whether there’s anything to his worry that Eternatus may have traveled back with them. Clearly it didn’t show up in Hammerlocke, but then again Leon and Hana didn’t, either. Seems like it could be anywhere.

I’m kind of surprised we haven’t heard about Leon’s Pokémon recently. Presumably the healing machine didn’t work on them, or we’d have seen them out and about. But if they’re still petrified, on the flip side, I’d have expected to hear more about it from Leon. It seems like something that would be wearing on his mind.

I’m curious where the legendary bird plot may be going—if it exists. The sight of Ho-oh overhead I thought was an anime reference and didn’t think about too much, but then Hana’s visit from Galarian Zapdos—maybe? regular Zapdos?—makes me think there’s something more going on. Not surprising; it’s probably going to take legend-level help to get Leon and Hana back home, unless they want to travel back the slow way.

I can tell you enjoy the world of Pokémon as well as its characters. Despite the fairly high-stakes situation Hana and Leon find themselves in, the narrative so far has been fairly relaxed, with plenty of attention paid to the everyday life of ordinary people in Johto. Details like the sentret who keeps popping up, or Leon having to dig up news on Usenet, are fun additions that have lent the story so far a cozy small-town feel. Sometimes, though, I felt like the “back in time” feel wasn’t coming through strongly. For example, it seemed odd that what made Leon suspicious of the timeline was what was being broadcast on a TV, rather than the fact that the TV itself was presumably some massive CRT thing he would have taken for an antique.

All in all, this fic presents an intriguing premise with some fun characters. I’m curious where the story will go once Hana and Leon start seriously working to find a way home. Thanks for sharing, and I hope your writing’s going well.
 

bluesidra

Mood
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. custom/hoppip-bluesidra-reup
  2. custom/hoppip-bluesidra-pink
  3. custom/hoppip-bluesidra3
@Negrek Hey!!! Thank you so much for checking my stuff out! I love it when people do that! It makes my day every single time.

And thanks so much for your input! TR is amazing with feedback. You guys bring up some stuff I‘d never seen myself and that I'm now implementing happily.

Thanks also for going on the high-level story perspective. One day I’ll have to find those typos, because people tell me they are there still. But I just can‘t find them for the love of me. I‘ve read that stuff so often now and they are still somewhere in there! Argh! They drive me crazy…
(But I enjoy the high-level aspects much more :D )

As to your points:
So far Hana’s been the one carrying the team while Leon wanders around, lost and distressed
Leon wandering around lost is his default state.
But yes, Hana's is the carrying force and Leon the driving one. They definitely can learn something from each other.

My impression is she’s moved to Galar fairly recently, no more than a few years ago. But some of her other comments seem to bely that, like how she speaks Galarish without an accent or doesn’t know anywhere in Kanto other than Saffron and Lavender.
First I was like “Hm? I thought you‘ve read up to chapter 5?” Then I remembered that I cut Porcelain in half and Ocean Waves is now chapter 6.
It is intentionally a bit muddy. I didn‘t expect someone to actually stumble over the inconsistency, but kudos to you. Her cultural heritage is one of the leading themes and I‘ve set the card up in a misleading way on purpose.

I’m kind of surprised we haven’t heard about Leon’s Pokémon recently. Presumably the healing machine didn’t work on them, or we’d have seen them out and about. But if they’re still petrified, on the flip side, I’d have expected to hear more about it from Leon. It seems like something that would be wearing on his mind.
Hmmm… you have a point. Now I‘m actually worried I made both of them too relaxed. Reality will come back and bite them, big time. In the meantime, both of them, but especially Leon, have a plethora of exclusively unhealthy coping mechanisms at their disposal, but still… Hm… gotta think about that one.

I’m curious where the legendary bird plot may be going—if it exists. The sight of Ho-oh overhead I thought was an anime reference and didn’t think about too much, but then Hana’s visit from Galarian Zapdos—maybe? regular Zapdos?—makes me think there’s something more going on. Not surprising; it’s probably going to take legend-level help to get Leon and Hana back home, unless they want to travel back the slow way.
Wow. I‘ve never felt more called out by a single paragraph than that one. I think I‘m going to print that out, frame it and hang it over my bed. I don‘t know how you‘ve managed to see right through me, but you did :D
I can assure you, the bird-plot does exist. But the fic is also really slow on plot. So it will take a while to resolve.

I can tell you enjoy the world of Pokémon as well as its characters. Despite the fairly high-stakes situation Hana and Leon find themselves in, the narrative so far has been fairly relaxed, with plenty of attention paid to the everyday life of ordinary people in Johto.
I have been aiming at a relaxed atmosphere. But yeah, that clashes with the stakes, at least if you take them as seriously as Leon should. Again, both of them have their coping strategies, but that‘ll only get me so far…

Sometimes, though, I felt like the “back in time” feel wasn’t coming through strongly. For example, it seemed odd that what made Leon suspicious of the timeline was what was being broadcast on a TV, rather than the fact that the TV itself was presumably some massive CRT thing he would have taken for an antique.
I fully accept the blame for ignoring the CRT. There are shops like that one still around over here, but I get it - I‘m just way too in love with my joke to let that go yet :D
But please do point those issues out when you come across them, should you return

Thank you again for the kind words and the food for thought! Hope to see you around :)
 
Chapter 15: Windows Are Just Smaller Doors After All

bluesidra

Mood
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. custom/hoppip-bluesidra-reup
  2. custom/hoppip-bluesidra-pink
  3. custom/hoppip-bluesidra3

Chapter 15: Windows Are Just Smaller Doors After All​


October 1993, probably.

“No, that’s not like it.”

The wonderful scent of clean cotton, old wood and a rain shower that had just passed mixed to create the memories of a new, yet familiar home.

But despite that, grime seemed to be all around me, no matter how much I tried to concentrate on the cotton.

“What did I do wrong this time?”

My arms and my stomach were warm and cosy. Was the sun shining on them? Why did they feel so different? It took an immense amount of willpower to move my fingers by an inch. The fabric underneath them was rough, but it invoked images of freshly mangled and starched sheets, wonderfully clean.

In fact, everything was wonderful — or rather would be if these voices to my right didn’t send spikes of pain through my poor brain.

“You’re kinda expecting him to fight.” That was Leon’s voice. But who did the other one belong to?

“Isn’t that the point?” Young and stubborn. I had heard that voice not too long ago.

“Pokemon don’t attack each other for no reason.” Leon paused for a moment. Falkner? What did he do here? “Yes, Hoppip may be a bad example. But still. See how calm Pidgeotto still is?”

A sound around me had stopped. I didn’t notice it at first, but now its absence made it even more present. It was some sort of grinding sound.

“If he fights, he fights because you want him to. You’ve got to let him know that you appreciate it.”

Grinding… charcoal on stone? No.

“Good morning.” Pencil on paper. “Should I close the window?” My mouth twisted into a slight smile at the sound of Morty’s voice. Seconds later the rough sound of wood sliding on wood and the voices were finally silenced.

I tried to open my eyes, but they were almost glued shut. Something was dragged across the floor. A chair? Then Morty’s voice was very close to me.

“You’re in Violet Hospital. Everything’s ok, but you’ve scared the living daylights out of us.” His voice was low, almost a whisper and felt like balm on dried skin.

Something touched my left hand, and I instinctively pulled away. Then my brain kicked in and told me that there was nothing to fear. But that also meant I could move my left hand.

“I usually only deal with dead people,” Morty said. “You’ve got to let me know when you need something.”

I raised my arm up to my face and rubbed my eyes. And just like that, with that one motion, I had the control over my body back. My very aching, sore body.

“I hope your dead feel better than this,” I groaned, terrified by the rasping sound that escaped my throat instead of my voice. “Do you have a glass of water?”

I finally managed to open my eyes. Yikes, how they burned! Now I also realised where that odour of grime was coming from. I smelled at my hand, then at my arm, then my shoulder. I was a campfire that had reached sentience. Right now I wished for nothing more than a very long, very warm shower. But for the moment the glass of water that bumped against my hand would have to suffice. I swallowed it down until I was sick, yet my body absorbed the water like a sponge, and I finally fell back onto the pillow.

The room, no, the entire hospital, was old. The wooden window-frames, the thin metal rails holding up the curtain, the antiquated, simple furniture and even the creaking metal bed-frame seemed to be from a time long since passed, even for 1993. Yet they were all maintained well, exuding a sensation of cleanliness. Morty was over at the basin, filling up the glass. I observed him for quite a while when a sudden motion at the edge of my vision pulled my attention away. Something next to me had moved. I looked down. Beside my foot was Sentret, still in the last remnants of a dream, her outstretched tail twitching against my knuckles.

“Smoke inhalation,” Morty said as he sat down again and handed me the glass. “The doctor will tell you to relax for a few days and take things slow from there on.”

I eyed him over the rim of the glass. “Did he tell you that?” The look I received in return was one of only partly feigned disappointment. I took one long sip and handed him the glass back.

With a deep exhale, I fell back onto the pillow. I couldn’t help but smile at him. It was the stupidest smile I had in a long time, and there was nothing I could do against it. “Thank you,” I whispered.

Morty held my gaze, calm as always. His half-sided smile came back and when he turned away after a while, I could see it grow into a full smile. He still felt cool and distant, but I knew this impression of him was wrong.

A harsh sound, however, made both of us twitch as the window was slid up again. “Hey, Hannah—” Seeing my pained expression, Leon immediately turned his volume down a notch. “Hey, Hannah. You’re finally awake!” He leaned over the windowsill and gave us a smile that raised the temperature in the room by three degrees. Next to me, Morty frowned.

I looked between the two. “Alright, be honest with me.” I tried for a light-hearted tone, but only a sound akin to chippings came out. “How angry are you?”

Leon, with his remarkable skills in deflecting, redirected the question to Morty. He frowned again, slighter this time. “I wasn’t really stopping you, was I?”

“No, not really,” Leon confirmed, before turning to me. “But seriously, it would be nice knowing such things going in.”

I rolled my eyes. They retorted with more burning. “I was sure I had put that vertigo-issue behind me.”

“Anything else I should be aware of? Any other phobias or allergies?” Leon made it sound like he was teasing me, but it was clear that a big part of him was very serious about this. “Next thing I know, I’ve killed you with — what? A peanut bar?”

Unable to find a witty response, I could only make faces at him while he listed various common phobias. And was Morty next to me chuckling?

“Okay, okay,” I interjected when Leon was running out of ideas for a moment. Desperate to get that unwanted attention off of me, I suppressed a coughing fit. “Let’s change the topic. Do you know what caused all of this? Was this really only a freak storm?” Now the coughing couldn’t be held back any longer.

Luckily, Rotom chose this moment to emerge from Morty’s pocket to inform him that someone was calling. At least it gave me enough time to get my lungs back under control.

“Then tell him I don’t have time right now,” Morty answered as he reached over to one of the cabinets.

“But you’re not allowed to phone in here!” complained Rotom.

“Then just go outside.” Morty’s tone was expressionless when he came back, his notebook in hands. He turned a few pages back and showed me a sketch. “I’ve asked around a bit, and this is what most witnesses described.”

The picture showed a bird-like pokemon with jagged wings, sharp talons, and a beak like a pick. Its eyes looked menacing, even when they were now banned on the paper. To my right I could hear Leon swinging himself over the windowsill and coming over to us.

“Do you know what it is?” he asked Morty after examining the drawing.

Morty nodded. “This is a pokemon called Zapdos. Together with two other pokemon, Articuno and Moltres, it forms a trio that is strong enough to influence the weather. Each one of them associated with one specific type of tempest. Articuno is usually connected to blizzards, Moltres to droughts and, well, Zapdos to thunderstorms.”

He leaned back in his chair, now examining the drawing with professional interest. “Their legend is more prevalent in Kanto, though, and the last alleged sighting over there was over thirty years ago. I’ve set Eusine on the case.” Without looking up, he caught Leon’s question before he had even articulated it. “Eusine tracks down legendary pokemon for a living.”

I reached for the notebook. “Who pays for that?” I asked, without considering that I was breaking his flow.

Morty was genuinely taken aback. Was this out of all questions the first one he didn’t see coming? “Old money, I suppose.” Startled, he collected himself for a second, then looked at me examining the drawing again. “Is something wrong?”

I tilted my head a bit, trying to find the right words. Or figuring out if telling them was worth it at all. “Are there… pokemon that look similar?”

“Not that I know of. Why?”

I tried to re-summon the tear-stained image of the one pokemon I had met on the outskirts of Cherrygrove back into my mind. “Is its colour scheme yellow and black?” Morty nodded. I handed him back the notebook and looked at him. “I’ve seen something like this before, but it was much more… bulky? Especially the legs were different.”

Morty leaned in closer, now fully focused. “When and where was that? Or was this back in Galar?”

“No, when we were still in Cherrygrove. That was on… September 7th.” Morty was looking for something in his mind, but once again got interrupted by Rotom. He tapped his lip twice with his pencil before putting it back into the binding and closing the notebook.

“This is Eusine calling,” he said as he got up. “He wanted to meet up with me. I can’t stand him up any longer.” Morty and Leon exchanged a look. From outside the window came fragments of a phone-call. Morty went over, trying to get Rotom either back in or hold the call for a moment, but Rotom was too nervous to get closer to the hospital.

Defeated, he sighed and turned around. “Morning of September 8th. There was a slight thunderstorm reported between Cherrygrove and New Bark.” With that he climbed out the window, finally catching Rotom and answering the person on the other end.

As soon as Morty was outside, Leon ran around the bed, snatched the chair and smiled at me as if he had just won his first championship tournament. He couldn’t care less about any legendary pokemon at the moment. I was about to say something when Morty’s departing footsteps came to a halt. A brief moment of absolute silence followed.

“Hey Falkner,” he finally said. “Do you want to come with me? Eusine pays for the drinks.”

With a serene feeling somewhere in my chest, I turned back around to Leon. I assumed he wanted to tell me something, but he was still just smiling at me. After a while it got awkward.

“So…,” I began, trying to find a subject. “How did you get her to come back?” I motioned to the still somewhat sleeping Sentret next to me. When she had realised that I was awake, she had crawled under my hand and dozed off to having her hair ruffled.

“Oh, I didn’t do anything,” Leon answered, still with the brightest of smiles. “She was attempting CPR on you.”

I looked at the little girl, surprised. “And now she’s not scared any longer?”

“You still haven’t guessed it?” Now I looked at Leon, surprised. “I wanted you to figure it out yourself.” I coughed, demonstrating that I was not in the mood for thinking. He relented. “She’s not afraid of the teleporter. She just doesn’t want to be sent away.”

Silence fell over us again while I petted Sentret more intently. She enjoyed the attention and turned on her back to have her belly rubbed as well. Leon had now stopped staring at me and was tucking on the folds in the bedsheet, but smiling nevertheless. I got the impression that he had a really stupid joke right at the tip of his tongue and tried to protect me from cringe-induced cardiac arrest.

I observed the drawing on his cast closer. Morty had retraced it, as it seems the first version had fallen victim to the rain. But now the mix of blurred ink and the newer, sharp lines made it even more intriguing, reminiscent of some of the art at Sprout Tower.

“Come on, spit it out!” I finally gave in.

“Huh?” Leon looked at me, confused, but then turned his gaze right back to the tiles underneath his shoes. A moment later, another set of folds had caught his attention.

“It’s nice to still have you around,” he got out after some tugging.

* * *​

When I woke up again, it was dark outside, with only the few street-lights illuminating the room in dim light. A silent drizzle had enveloped the city, pressing the smells of the late summer night down onto the street and into the room. When I turned around on my bed, the single bird seeking shelter on the windowsill noticed and scurried away.

Leon was asleep, sprawled out over two chairs on the other side of the room, his chin on his chest, arms crossed over, snapback pulled deep into his face. On his forearms rested a new travel guide and on his lap Sentret, curled into a ball.

I felt a lot better now. My joints weren’t aching any longer and even though my eyes still burned, I knew the sensation would fade over time. I tried to get up as silently as possible, manoeuvring to not provoke the old bed-frame to squeak. There was a bag next to Leon. Like a ninja, I used all my body control when I pulled it over and into the bathroom, closing the door behind me. Proud that I didn’t wake up anyone, I pulled the zip back equally quiet and my heart jumped to new heights at the sight of my pyjamas.

Twenty minutes later I had finally scrubbed that smoky scent away and replaced it with the smell of clear soap. My hair fell to its full length, dampening Owen’s old shirt along my shoulders and back.

I peeked out the bathroom door, only to find Leon still asleep. That I didn’t scream at the sight of the shadowy figure in front of the window was sheer luck.

“Falkner!” I whispered when I regained my composure. “What are you doing here?” The young man looked at me, the sulky defiance from yesterday gone. “Get in here, you’re getting all wet. But be quiet!”

Another moment of ninja-like movements later, he was inside. He looked different from yesterday: The dark circles under his eyes were only exaggerated by dark clothes that looked eerily familiar. I had seen them before. This was one of Morty’s spare outfits.

Falkner shuffled around a bit, pressing his back against the wall near the window. “I wanted to thank you again, in a more… reasonable state.” He had forced eye-contact, but as soon as he had whispered that line, he immediately turned his eyes back to the floor.

He looked miserable. I would too if I had seen my home crumble to ashes mere hours ago. He was my age, yes, but he looked so vulnerable right now, he might as well have been five years younger. It was clear that only his pride kept him upright at that moment.

I sighed and got half a step closer. “You didn’t have to come out here to tell me that. Not in the middle of the night. Besides, I feel bad about it, anyway.” I noticed him flinching, and that he didn’t want me to notice. Oh shoot, me and my wording! I picked my next words with special care. “I mean, I’m happy that we’re all alive and well,” I whispered, “but I’ve put us in unnecessary danger. Also, I’ve said some things I really shouldn’t have.”

Falkner did not respond, but raised his eyes again, looking at me with his soul-piercing, haughty stare that he probably didn’t even know he had. How I wished he said something right now. But in the ensuing silence, I only felt the need to explain myself further.

“The things I said about your family’s honour… I know this is a big thing over here. I shouldn’t have insulted and walked all over it.” I smiled at him sheepishly. He still didn’t move a muscle. “I must have looked like the biggest, whitest westerner to ever grace the scene.”

“That’s one way to put it,” he finally said. “At least you realise it.” This time it was me who now studied the floor-tiles.

What a stupid situation. Here I was, whispering to someone only two arm-lengths away from me like we were an intimate couple, while both of us tried to reconcile the disdain we felt for one another with the notion of begrudging respect. “It’s strange because you almost look like… like one of us, but…” He broke his sentence, realising full well where he was threading now.

“Does Morty know what happened?” I asked. The snide look he shot me for the shortest of seconds reminded me of Morty’s disappointed expression from earlier. Of course he knew.

Falkner straightened himself up a bit, trying to appear bigger than he currently felt. “Do you have a family name?” he asked. The smoke had roughened his voice, just like mine, even though the whispers hid it well.

I thought about my answer for a moment, then shook my head.

“Then you can’t understand it.” The way he said it was so straightforward and plain, almost brutal in its honesty, but I could recognise the attempt at comforting, awkward as it might be.

I shrugged. “Probably.”

Of course I had a family name, everyone had. But not everyone had one with 500 years of history behind it. I had my parents, and I loosely knew my grandparents. That’s as far as things went. No siblings, no cousins. We were nobodies, just a young family in Galar. If— when we fell apart, nobody but us had given it a second thought. And until now I had never thought of it that way.

My legs were getting heavy and I sat down on the bed, my cold hair shifting over the wet spots on my shirt. I was now only an arm-length away from that pullover that normally signalled comfort and a silent understanding.

My whispers were now also sounding hoarse, just like his: “But believe me, I know how it is to have the fate of your family on your shoulders.” Silence. I clenched my teeth. “You need a foundation when you’re holding that weight. Mine was ambition. Or perfection. I’m not sure.” Falkner said nothing, yet understood me, maybe for the first time. “Does your honour help you with that?”

“Yes.” He considered his answer again, then sighed. “Well, it’s the only thing I have left now. In the end it’s just something to hold on to.” Like perfection. Or a happy home. “Sometimes in the past days I’ve caught myself wishing you hadn’t shown up.”

I nodded, though couldn’t bring myself to admit to understanding him. “It wouldn’t have made much of a difference. Pidgeot wouldn’t have let you perish there after all.”

“That’s where you’re wrong.” His tone was perfectly factual, but a quick glance revealed how deep this statement cut into him. “I still don’t understand why he changed his mind.”

A silence so definite fell over the room that even the rain seemed to drown out in the face of these grave conclusions. Falkner began to shuffle around again.

“I don’t want to keep you any longer,” he finally said, nodding me goodbye. When he climbed over the windowsill, I remembered the reason we had been whispering all along.

“Wait!” I got up again, feeling the tiredness in my legs grow. “Where are you staying now?”

“In the Pokemon Center.” Falkner had already half turned around. At his side was his Pidgeotto.

I looked back into the dark room, where Leon still laid, unmoving. “How long has he slept last night?”

Falkner sent me a long glance. “He hasn’t slept the past two nights.”

* * *​

Despite my best efforts, my skills for tonight were drained and so it happened that I bumped against the bag while I crept to the door. A muffled sound of cloth on tiles as well as one zip colliding with the chair’s leg were finally enough to break Leon’s rest.

“Oh shoot. I didn’t want to wake you up,” I whispered. “Go back to sleep!”

Leon stretched himself in his chair like a cat after a long nap. “No problem. Where are you going?” He blinked a few times, looking at me with my hand on the knob of the half-opened door.

“To be frank, I just wanted to see if this door actually leads somewhere.”

From his expression, it was clear that he wasn’t yet awake enough to understand. Or to care about not understanding. “Did something happen?” he asked. “You look like you’ve been to a funeral.”

Now that I had verified that there was in fact a second entrance to this room, I closed the door again and slid back under the covers. “I’m just tired.”
 
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Chapter 16: The Grandfather Paradox, Reversed

bluesidra

Mood
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. custom/hoppip-bluesidra-reup
  2. custom/hoppip-bluesidra-pink
  3. custom/hoppip-bluesidra3

Chapter 16: The Grandfather Paradox, Reversed​


October 6th 1993, 9:30am.

Already exhausted, Morty placed his head on my shoulder. Today he didn’t smell of smokey sweet wooden incense like he usually did, but rather of people and the faintest traces of sake. I considered asking him how late it had got yesterday, but then refrained. Instead, I folded the map as carefully and silently as possible. A faint moaning was the only answer.

We had only a few more moments to enjoy each other’s silence. Violet had fallen into a sedated morning routine after the first wave of commuters had left for work. Now the streets were quiet again, even the main street where we stood. Leon had run ahead, and I watched him figure out the bus schedule while I gently patted Morty’s hair.

To be honest, we only had ourselves to blame here. Nothing had forced us to get up early after a long night out, yet all of us had agreed on meeting up at 9am at the bus stop. Two days ago, Eusine and Leon had met and after Leon’s instinctive “Cool cape, bro!”, they had bonded on a level beyond mortal understanding. It had all inevitably led to us spending last night in various bars, getting to know ‘Johtonian culture’ as Eusine had put it. And it wasn’t helped by the fact that both Leon and I were absolute lightweights and could get intoxicated by exposure alone. At least I had an excuse to leave early — I had only been discharged from hospital the day before — but Morty was the group’s appointed adult. And now I could tell that he had heard more words in one night than he usually would in an entire month.

“Hannah!” Morty flinched at the sound of Leon’s voice. “Are the Ruins of Alph on our way?” I gave him a thumbs up. Finally, Morty broke out of his resting state and put his arms around my stomach, pulling me closer.

“Promise me to take care,” he sighed into my shoulder. Instead of an answer, I squeezed his hands and he let go of me, at last facing the bright horrors of the day.

Leon made his way over to us, two bus tickets in hand and not at all affected by yesterday. If anything, he seemed to have doubled up on energy.

“Are you sure you don’t want to come with us?” he asked the question we’d asked countless times once again. And once again, Morty shook his head.

“I have to go back to Ecruteak. I’ve been away for far too long already.” He straightened up and looked Leon in the eyes, about to say something.

“C’mere!” Without another warning, Leon pulled Morty in for a hug. Every single hair on Morty’s body stood up at the unexpected embrace. I could only imagine the pain in his hungover state. Like I said, we were bad at goodbyes.

* * *​

An hour later we were on the tourist bus that would bring us to the Ruins of Alph. The other people around were chattering, looking forward to their day-trip on the famous site. We would, however, not pay the site a visit. If we kept at it, we could make it to the northern border of the Union–Waterway National Park.

While the bus was making its way out of the city’s reach, I held the pokeball of my newest companion in my hands. She was a gift from Eusine. He brought her up at the end of a long conversation about Johto’s legendary pokemon, when I was already on my second can of ice-tea. Seems like one of his newest pokemon just wouldn’t fit in with the rest of his team. But since she was a present from his parents, he didn’t want to discard her to the storage system, so I offered to take care of her. We considered it an even trade since Rotom had now made Morty’s phone its permanent residence.

I pressed the ball’s centre button. From the red light manifested the small, brown body of an Eevee that regarded me with the same conceited look she had yesterday and the day before. She sat down on the seat next to me, striking a gracious pose. All my previous attempts at bonding had resulted in scratches. Cute as she might be, I didn’t even dare to pet her long ears under those dismissive glances.

Leon returned from the back of the bus, where he had been chatting with a group of Galarian tourists. I had no choice but to lift her up and over on my lap, clearing his seat. She stared daggers at me for a second, but then moved on to getting her fur back in order. Leon sat down and shot her an apprehensive glance.

“Are you cold?” he asked after a brief assessment. “You look cold.”

I was confused for a moment. “No?” Was last night’s aftermath so obvious?

“Are you sure you don’t want my jacket?” I declined. Though I had to admit, his jacket with the fake-fur lining looked tempting and way warmer than my summer blouse. But still — pride forbade it. Time to change the subject.

“How late did it get? Morty is a walking corpse today.”

Leon laughed. “Right? That’s what we’ve told him yesterday, too. Like, it’s a new way to connect to ghost pokemon. Though he didn’t like it any more the third time we brought it up.” He paused for a second. “Come to think of it, he didn’t like it the first time either.”

Since that event definitely happened after I left them at around half past two, my interest in a concrete answer faded.

“And you’re not tired at all?” I asked.

“After one night?”

I sent him a sceptical look. If Morty was in my place right now, Leon’s bright smile would surely send shock waves through his brain. In that case, the bus might have become the scene of a homicide.

Eevee had now finished her grooming session and looked out of the window with a pointedly bored expression. I laid my hands around her waist. There were some curves in the road ahead and I didn’t want her to fall, but it still earned me an annoyed flick of the ear. On the seat in front of us, Sentret played with her tail, careful to keep a safe distance from the recent addition.

“So, you haven’t told me about the meeting with Hattori,” Leon said while he repositioned himself to get a better look at me. “Was it as strange as I imagine?”

“I don’t know what you imagine, but, yeah, it was pretty awkward.”

Actually, I was surprised Leon brought it up.

After a lot of back and forth, he had, in the end, visited the old man alone. I had to assume they talked about the state of his team, but I didn’t dare to ask. I had still been hospitalised back then, so I didn’t notice his absence right away, but Morty later told me that he couldn’t get a word out of him for the rest of the day.

So when I met up with Mr Hattori, Eusine was assigned with keeping Leon busy while we sat down in a quiet area of the Pokemon Center to ask if he knew anything about time travel. Or temporal displacement, as Morty had called it.

And even though Leon had acted as if nothing had happened ever since, I still wasn't sure how much I should or could now tell him. I decided to thread with caution and only if pressed.

“I tried to keep the discussion as generalised as possible, and yes… it got very awkward.” Especially because I didn’t know what Leon had told him the day before and what not.

“Oh?” I looked over at Leon. So far, he was still casually chatting with me.

“Well, he knew at least a bit. According to him, people travelling through time aren’t that rare of an occurrence.” Now Leon’s expression changed. “There have been instances — or rather tales — before, but only from people who wanted to go back in time. You know, to change something in the future. Never of people who ‘fell’ through time.”

For a moment he looked for words. “How much of those stories are… believable?”

I shrugged. “To be honest, most of them sound like fairy tales.” Or cautionary tales.

Leon sighed and put his head onto the headrest. “So nothing more substantial than that mystical pokemon that Eusine mentioned.” I nodded in defeat.

Celebi was actually at the root of almost all the incidents that Mr Hattori, Morty or Eusine had brought up whenever we were brainstorming. But it had also not been seen in centuries. Some historians now even considered the possibility that it had never existed in the first place and was a mere personification of different folk beliefs.

Leon started playing with the zips on his jacket. By now I understood him well enough to know that he wanted to say something, but this time I wasn’t sure if I wanted to answer. I tried petting Eevee’s coat again, only using my index finger, but it still earned me a dangerous flick of the ear.

“Does he have any solution, even if it’s just a wild guess?” Leon was still playing with the zips. This was not the hard question.

I looked out the window. “No… not really.” I saw his reflection in the glass, watching my reflection. His stubborn silence was challenging me to explain further. After a while, I sighed and gave in. “Silph works on — or rather researches — new ways to put the technology for the Pokemon Center teleporter to use. And that could hold a key. But those are still only ideas on paper.”

And from what I knew from Dad about the Silph development processes, some of those ideas were not even on paper yet. At best they were only thought experiments in the minds of very gifted engineers. Between theoretical ideas for machines of the distant future and a mythical pokemon from ages long past, we were left in present times with nothing substantial.

The reflection in the window slouched down, and I turned to its real-life counterpart. Leon was observing the back of the chair in front of him, his purple hair all over the headrest and his thoughts all over the place.

“What?” I asked.

Leon hesitated a moment before he replied. “I mean, that’s the solution right there, isn’t it?” He again studied the backrest in front of him as if it was written out in its pattern. “Travelling forward in time is easy. What if they stored us on a PC like we do with our pokemon? Put a nice label on the data-package ‘To be reassembled 12th August 2019.’ And next thing we know we’re back home.”

I blinked a few times, processing this idea. Leon continued on: “I wouldn’t even have to worry about my team. I can just use mine again.” This took me even longer to understand. “Then talk Rose out of everything and — boom — day saved.”

The bus took a few turns through the mountains, past the last fir forests of Mt Silver National Park, while I followed Leon’s thought. And I also came to the inevitable conclusion that he already had reached.

“But then there would be two of you, right?” I felt stupid for even voicing it before I had finished the sentence. Leon was painfully aware of that paradox, but from the looks of it he was currently judging if it was worth a try.

My heart grew heavy when I realised what went on behind his golden eyes. If he could talk Rose out of it, his younger version wouldn’t need to face Eternatus on the Tower Summit. His younger version and my younger version would go on to fight in the finale and live the life we were supposed to. But in this life there was no place for the current Leon.

«There must be a logical catch,» my brain screamed. «Something to talk that idea out of him.»

If it worked, why weren’t there more duplicates running around? Or why didn’t more people send their body and consciousness ahead into the future? A part of me now understood why these ideas were never brought to paper in the Silph R&D departments.

I could see the pro- and con-list in Leon’s head grow. He was only an arm-length away from me. I just needed to touch his hand to get him out of there, but my stupid, stupid brain didn’t allow it. Now even Eevee could sense my distress and repositioned herself on my lap.

“Do you really want to be the first one to try that out?” was the best thing I could finally utter.

It took a moment for him to come back into reality and another one to form an answer. It came as a shrug.

“Leon,” my mind sighed. Only when he turned around to face me did I realise I had said it out loud. His face was like a silver screen, playing a movie at 200 times the playback speed. Confusion, sadness, determination all rushed past me, only to come to a screeching halt on a confident, warm smile.

“Oh hey, isn’t that over there the ocean again?” If I hadn’t watched closely, I wouldn’t have noticed that the Leon I knew had vanished for the shortest of seconds. He straightened back up again, fished our new tourist guide out of his pockets, and looked at the small map on the back cover. “Can we see Cherrygrove from here?”

The issue was over, dead and buried. And I swore on its grave to never bring it up again. Morty was the one who got him to talk after all. I, however, wouldn’t know what to do in such a situation. So I smiled and took the guide out of his hand.
 
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