Thread: [Pokémon] ROOTS // Professorfic
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Old December 28th, 2012 (11:32 AM).
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Haruka of Hoenn
Rolling writer
 
Join Date: Nov 2007
Location: Yes.
Gender: Female
Nature: Calm
3.2


[…] Skim past the central mountains… glide over miles of forest that cover Sinnoh’s southeastern shore, and you reach a land of water and grass, where the summer humidity brings rain to the bogs below. Long before there were roads, there were marshlands—which grace the fringes of human civilization, their beauty fragile and preserved. Wherever you look, you see water: to the south, the sea; to the east, the blue gem of Lake Valor; and in the surrounding land, endless routes of rivers and mud.

This is the land that gave birth to Pastoria City, a province that still holds a prominent place in Sinnoh culture. It began as a small port town, receiving ships from neighboring parts of the continent, and eventually flourished into a beacon of innovation. Poets and scholars flocked to the natural setting, mesmerized by the rich land that surrounded them, and letting it inspire their work. Schools were built, as well as research centers, where scientists performed their studies in the midst of an untamed environment. Over time, the city became host to a thriving intellectual community for which it is still known today. Here the first advancements in aircraft were made, and later on, in jet-propulsion technology—an era from which many relics remain, both in stories and in objects. Old buildings and production centers dot the modern roadways, some of which have been converted to other purposes, and others which were revived as historical monuments, their stolid forms etched seamlessly into the landscape.

Today, the city has shed all remnants of its humble past—smooth roads and towering buildings gleam against the backdrop of the marshlands, which dominate the surroundings, permeating the metropolis with warm, clean air.

As the city grew throughout the years, it eventually acquired a second claim to fame. During the early 1890s, Pastoria became a hotspot for pokémon trainers, who founded a battling club near the Valor Lakefront. When the League reformed, the facility became an official Gym, which brought the splendor of national recognition to Pastoria’s gates. To minimize trainers’ travel and time expenses, the Gym was given its own special place in the city layout—an isolated plaza exclusive to traveling trainers and League employees—within whose bounds all League proceedings could be carried out. To this day, the plaza remains the unique feature that sets the Pastoria Gym apart from the others.

Sinnoh Travel Guide



Trainers, come one come all! All trainers welcome at Pastoria’s Pokémon Village! Surrounded by miles of beautiful nature, this self-sustaining community is located at a midpoint between thriving city life, and the calm, upscale atmosphere of Valor Lakefront. Enjoy time away from the bustling city crowds and be immersed in a casual, pokémon-friendly environment! The Plaza features the Gym, a Pokémon Center, and a PokéMart—as well as other League buildings and services—all within walking distance! Never again drag your exhausted pokémon halfway across town—in Pastoria, you will be able to experience the full range of our services, right outside of your hotel door!

For your recreational pleasure, picnic huts and tables are stationed at various points in our vast courtyard. You may inquire anytime about our free tours, which take you on a one-of-a-kind journey through our city’s most famous locations. Pastoria’s natural environment features many exotic plants and pokémon that can’t be found anywhere else in the world, so you’re guaranteed to make wonderful memories.

Broaden your knowledge of our world, and of yourself, at the Pastoria Pokémon Village!

Advertisement in the Pokémon League Weekly, February 1963 edition



Without doubt, Pastoria City can be considered to be the birthplace of Sinnoh’s space program, and one of the most important early sites of space research in the world. During the early 30s, it played host to a number of conferences and exhibitions which guided the nation’s early steps towards space exploration, and for a time in the late 40s, the space engineering department at the Marsh University prospered well beyond the that of Lilycove University in Hoenn.

A particularly striking moment in history occurred with the founding of The Galaxy Corps, the now-dissolved company which was known for formally initiating the space program in Sinnoh, as well as applying its developed technologies to society’s daily needs.

The company was responsible for many advancements and inventions, among them the modern capsule-containment system, which is employed in the design of pokéballs.

Sinnoh in Space: A History



[…] The towering building stands desolate and alone, a relic of past times, abandoned for almost twenty years. It was built in the 1930s originally as a laboratory, then in 1948, became the headquarters of TGC, the predecessor to the modern Sinnoh space company, whose research centered upon fuel and propulsion. However, the facility was mysteriously abandoned a short while later, and remains empty to this day, disturbed only by the occasional camera flash from the passing tourist.

The building has since been made property of the city, and plans are underway to convert it to a museum dedicated to the Pastoria Pokémon Gym. And, given the building’s history, this provides an interesting juxtaposition…


Pastorian Landmarks—A Tourist’s Catalogue, 1960 edition




May 26, 1963

- P A S T O R I A . L O C A L . G A Z E T T E -

MUSEUM OPENS DOWNTOWN—CITY CELEBRATES

Just four years after the commencement of the project, the mayor has finally announced the opening of Pastoria’s very own Museum of Pokémon Training, which has been highly anticipated and discussed since early March. In its completion, the grand, three-story building dominates the eastern half of Ashton Blvd, designed in an old-fashioned style with towering pillars and elegant roof trimmings. Inside, the museum hosts nearly 1,000 exhibits pertaining to the past, present, and future of pokémon training—including symbols and artifacts which have been graciously donated from various countries. A special wing on the ground floor is dedicated to history of Sinnoh’s very first Gym town, Pastoria City itself, and how the years have molded it to its wonderful present image.

“It’s really a wonder to behold,” one passerby commented. “I can’t wait to see it!”

The museum was officially inaugurated yesterday morning, in an elaborate red-ribbon ceremony whose cheer echoed throughout the whole of the city center. Aside from a sea of townspeople, who flocked to the streets alongside reporters, the celebration featured dozens of sponsors from around the country, whose investments and support made the museum project possible. But perhaps the largest contribution was made by the Pastoria Pokémon Gym, whose three-year fundraising campaign resulted in a sum of $70,000.

The ceremony brought a curious clash of events for the Gym—for it was also the day that marked the facility’s 100th year in operation, which its leader, Marie Wickham, celebrated in style. She joined the mayor at the head of a large parade, which traveled around the downtown, at the end of which she cut the red ribbon and declared the museum open to the public.

Then, in true Pastoria fashion, the ceremony culminated with a round of speeches from city officials. Last to enter the podium was Mrs. Wickham herself, who accepted the Award of Service on behalf of her Gym, and promised that there will be many great years for the city ahead.




In those summer months, life in Pastoria was as thriving as ever. Following the museum’s opening, which had stirred a wave of activity for a short period of time, the tide of events continued its relentless push forward. Several other stories swept through the news from time to time, such as the opening of a renovated park, or a business scandal. The atmosphere of large societies seemed to be such that no topic would linger in the air for long; it was always replaced by something new, something different. And in such a large city, something always seemed to be happening.

The month of June dawned on Pastoria like any other—humid and vibrant. The city felt little strain from the influx of trainers, or from the greater-than-ever tide of tourists rushing in to see the marshlands. Business went on as usual.




But for the Pastorians, the greatest was yet to come.






//////




On the day of June 29th, a silver Cadillac De Ville pulled up to the parking lot beside a run-down convenience store, somewhere in the outskirts of town. The air outside was warm, and as customary in the afternoons, a clump of storm clouds was fast approaching the city, smudging sun behind a gray cover. Wind was stirring the trees beside the road, bringing the scent of coming rain.

A man in a suit and hat stepped out of the car, and looked up to survey the sky as he closed the door. He was dressed primly, not arrogantly, but possessed a businesslike manner which looked out-of-place in the drab surroundings. The Cadillac was neither new nor old, neither clean nor dusty, the sort that would blend right in with the rest of the road. Aside from two other models, worn-down and dusty, the lot was empty.

The man stood still for a moment, eyes scanning the gathering clouds, then he lowered his head and crossed over to the store. The only other person inside was a cashier, who looked up automatically as the door opened. The man stepped inside and began to pace around the vacant aisles, selecting various items. When he finished, he approached the register, and turned his gaze to the rack of newspapers that stood by the door. A brief smile lifted his face, and he took the topmost issue of The Hearthome Times and added it to the pile.

The cashier perked an eyebrow as he read the headline: League Game Corner Closed Down; Others Under Scrutiny.

“Seems like they’ll have something to answer for,” he muttered.

The man gave a silent nod. He took out his wallet to pay, and by chance, the cashier’s eyes alighted on the keychain that was still clutched in his hands—one of the keys sparkled gold, and was engraved with the emblem ‘GL’. The cashier seemed taken aback, but didn’t say anything.

“It’s all in a day’s work for the press,” the man mused in the meantime. “Scandals, mysteries… so much that it’s hard to separate the true from the false.” Looking up, he noticed the cashier’s lingering stare. He rattled the keys and placed them into his pocket. “You don’t happen to know how far the Grand Lake Hotel is from here, do you?”

The cashier chuckled. “Well, you’re certainly wasting your time here. It’s nowhere near the downtown. Grand Lake’s on the far east, right by the Lakefront. It’s mostly foreigners who stay there, or people who have money. Mighty nice. I’ve only seen it once, but once was enough.”

The man nodded. “Thank you.” He gathered his purchases into a plastic bag, and a minute later, the silver Cadillac sped away down the road.



//////



Around that time, the 5:00 train from Solaceon Town was speeding across Pastoria’s northern marshlands. Michael and Henry were both leaning against the window, trying to see as far as they could past the rows of trees, catching fleeting glimpses of mud, grass, and occasionally buildings. Bertha was in the row across the aisle and had a window of her own to look from, but occasionally craned her head over to see from the boys’ side.

For a good hour, the view remained the same. Once the rolling hills of Solaceon had vanished behind a scrim of thick forest, the passengers of the train saw little more than a running strip of leaves and branches. Then, the forest thinned, exposing soggy, muddy grass that lay in pools around the trees’ roots. Ponds appeared, flat as glass, reflecting the blue of the sky. Then the forest vanished entirely, fleeing off into the distance, revealing an utterly flat landscape—islands of green grass clumping atop a bed of water, like a patterned carpet, stretching without bounds towards the barren horizon. And then, they saw the most marvelous sight of all—the outline of a sprawling city emerging over the bogs, standing like a looming guardian, its buildings gleaming in the waning light.

The Pastoria Rail Terminal was located on the edge of the Valor Lakefront, a sparsely-populated area reserved for lavish gardens and large homes. As the train slowed, its passengers were able to glimpse the main shopping square. It was filled with color and movement, and was designed with an uptight glamour that reminded Michael of a summer resort. The buildings were white and square, adorned with matching blue shades that hung above the windows. Plants stood in pots alongside their walls, or in neat patches of soil beside benches. The sidewalks were paved with multicolored stones, all chiseled to fit every curve and corner, and the people who walked upon them were dressed simply and elegantly.

Once the passengers had emerged onto the terminal, Bertha quickly found the information desk and formulated a plan of action. She would rent a taxi to the hotel, where she and the boys would spend the rest of the evening and make arrangements to visit the Gym. Depending on how far away it was, and on the availability of the leader, Bertha would either accompany the boys the next day, or send them to book their battles alone.

While Bertha talked with the attendant at the desk, Michael’s gaze began to wander, and by chance, he alighted upon a large picture that was framed on a nearby wall. It featured a plump lady in her late fifties, who stood in the foreground hugging a Marill, gazing out at the viewer with a breezy smile. Behind her was a large, brown building surrounded by a lush meadow, though the image was slightly blurred, making it hard to see the details. A strip of text ran across the top: “Pastoria City Gym—A Water Wonderland.”

Beneath the picture was a small table with a stack of brochures. Michael took one and opened it up, scanning through the text. “Her name’s Marie Wickham… She’s been the leader here for twenty years, and she’s done all sorts of things for the League before that. And it looks like her type’s Water.” He glanced back up at the grey-haired lady, and shrugged. “I guess that was easy.”

Beside him, Henry crossed his arms. “Well, she sure looks nicer than Lona.”

Michael let out a laugh. “Yep.” But his heart wasn’t really in it.



After calling their cab, Bertha took the boys out for a walk around the square, which was even more breathtaking up close. It was here that Michael truly realized how far he had strayed from his home in Jubilife. All signs of the city culture and mannerisms he was familiar with were lost. There were no posters, or advertisements, or blaring music that drifted from open doors. Unlike city streets, which were designed for mass accommodation and seemed pasted together solely for convenience, the lakefront was designed with every curve in mind. Smooth roads looped around elegant flowerbeds and sculptures, with ample room left for pedestrians. Groups of ladies strolled around with big hats, hiding in the shade of their parasols. Men wore crisp jackets, and escorted their dates by the arm in the fashion of an earlier era. Aside from Skitties or Glameows on leashes, there were no pokémon.

As the trio wandered further into the square, a wide building with a flat roof emerged into view from across the street, towering several floors above the rest. The building bore the same colors and design as its neighbors, but the shades over the windows were trimmed with gold, and a huge revolving door stood at the entrance. The property was enclosed by a low stone wall, which terminated at the front for a large circular driveway. Coming closer, Michael was able to read the thin cursive that stood out on the face of its sign: “Hotel Grand Lake.” It was clearly a popular place, for the driveway was nearly filled to the brim with expensive cars, forcing others to park beside the road.

“Whoa…” Henry gazed at the building in wonder, mouth agape. “Bertha, can we stay there?”

“Keep dreaming, kid.” Bertha gave a chuckle.

“Hmph.” Henry crossed his arms. “It sure must be nice there… Can we at least take a look inside?”

It seemed that Bertha was about to voice her doubts, but a second later she seemed to rethink them, gaining a touch of humor. “Well, why not? Let’s go.”

They quickly crossed the street, slipping through crowds of prim-and-tidy passersby, and pushed through the revolving wooden doors into an enormous lobby. The interior of the hotel resembled that of an expensive museum—the ceiling arched high overhead, covered with a pattern of soft golden swirls. Three chandeliers were spaced along its length, filling the room with a warm glow that was reflected in wet smudges on the marble floor. Amidst the dominating surroundings, the movements of the guests seemed hushed and peaceful.

Stopping at the doorway, Bertha gave the boys a gentle push forward. “Run along, you two. But don’t go far. I’m going to see if this place has a map.”

“Right.” Henry nodded, then without a backward glance, he rushed off.

After a brief pause, Michael started forward, following the sound of the boy’s fading footsteps. His feet moved of their own accord, though he didn’t know where he was going, or why. He let the lobby flee by him in its brilliance, passing huge paintings framed on the walls, glass-encased information racks, and hotel staff, who were often better dressed than the guests themselves. He didn’t give any of it a second look, but kept walking towards some unknown destination, his mind drowning out everything but that one object of its concentration, which he himself couldn’t pry out of its darkness.

Finally, Michael’s eyes locked on a small door hidden behind a corner, all the way on the opposite side of the room. He turned towards it, not bothering to check if anyone was watching, and in the same continuous motion, he pushed it open. He was met by a cool whistling breeze, and found that he had reached an outdoor veranda, looking out at the hidden half of Valor Lakefront. Beyond the railing, he could see the rest of the land laid out beneath him, a valley of color beneath the stained sky. The ledge of flat land on which the hotel stood terminated suddenly, sloping down at a steep angle to a depth of land some miles below. Houses and swimming pools were wedged along the cliffside, poking out from between the treetops, lying on various levels like steps on a staircase. Even from his position, Michael could make out the patterns of their roofs, and lavish backyards with gardens and walkways.

Beyond the cluster of homes, the land continued, rolling out towards the horizon before ending in a large stripe of water. It was a lake of unimaginable size, stretching as far and wide as the eye could see, its smooth waves reflecting the shimmer of the sun.

It was the sort of picture that could appear only in a painting, or in someone’s dream. As he watched, suddenly, Michael wanted to approach—to lean down over the railing, to throw his gaze out to the farthest point he could see, and lose himself in the color, the sounds, the breeze…





But there was already someone standing there.





A girl.




Michael stopped his move forward as his vision registered her form. She stood with her back to him a little ways to the side, one hand laid over the bar, the other raised slightly, as if to grasp something in the air. The breeze rippled the skirt of her white dress, and strands of long, blonde hair.

The girl didn’t appear to notice his arrival. She was pacing around the deck, lost in her own thoughts, searching for something in the vicinity. Then, noticing him, she looked up, widening her eyes. There was something familiar in their stare…



“Oh. Hi.”



She smiled politely. Then, she pursed her lips. “You didn’t happen to see a suite key lying around somewhere, did you? I’ve gone and lost mine again…”


Michael shook his head. The girl kept thinking, tapping her chin.



The face. The eyes.



As he looked at her, suddenly, he remembered where he had seen them before. She had been the girl he had met in Jubilife, the one he had amazingly run into outside a diner and talked with for hardly a minute. But that was nearly a month ago. Why did he still remember? And did she remember him? (Michael’s heart skipped a beat at the prospect.) She had said that he had resembled someone, but never told him who it was…




The girl continued to pace in the meantime, and Michael cleared his throat, trying to think of something to say. “Well uh… where did you see it last?” he offered.

She stopped. “Hmm… I know I had it this morning, but I guess I must’ve dropped it somewhere here, because I didn’t leave the hotel today.”

“At all?”

She shook her head. “I went for a walk on the lakefront for a few hours, but I know I had the key when I came back because I used it to enter the pool deck. I stayed there for a bit, then I went to eat… and when I went back to my room, I realized I didn’t have the key anymore.”

“Let’s check by the pool, then.”

The girl smiled wryly. “If only we could get in. You need the key to open the gate. I’ve asked the staff to look, but they didn’t see it anywhere. I’d borrow one from someone if I could, but people here aren’t that talkative… I guess I was too nervous to ask.”

Michael paused, and unconsciously, his face adopted a look of naïve determination. “We’ll figure something out. Can you show me the way?”

“You want to help?” The girl looked relieved. “Oh, I can’t thank you enough! Follow me.”

Beckoning, she led him down the veranda, and rounded a corner to reach a back door. They entered an inner wing of the hotel, where the girl made a series of twists and turns, then pushed open a door leading to a grassy outdoor space. Much of the pool was obscured by a tall white picket fence, though which Michael could glimpse rows of lounge chairs, and a poolside bar. The entrance to the pool appeared to be from the other side, where guests were coming in and out through the gates. Coming closer, Michael stood on his toes and peered as high as he could over the fence, trying to see what was going on beyond it.

The pool itself was nearly empty; most of the people were roaming about on the deck, strolling about with drinks in hand, or resting on lounge chairs, trying to absorb a last inkling of warmth before the sun went out. But his view was imperfect, and Michael had to reposition himself several times as a large group passed, or when a tall lady stood up in a sunhat.

The girl soon joined him in his search, following along as Michael made his way around the perimeter of the deck. At last, she gave a cry of delight, and pointed towards a row of empty chairs on the other side. “There! I think that’s it!”

Michael’s gaze flicked to the place she indicated, and he saw something tiny and golden sparkle from a deep corner. “Yep, it’s gotta be,” he said.

“But it’s so far away,” said the girl. “How are we going to get it? Should we ask someone?”

Still staring at the keys, Michael felt a smile cross his face. “I have a better idea.”

He let go of the fence and backed away several paces, drawing a pokéball from his backpack. He held open the capsule and unleashed a brilliant burst of light, which materialized seconds later into his Chatot. Ringo dove into the air, circling twice over their heads, then came down to perch on Michael’s arm.

Michael brought the bird over to the fence and pointed forward. “See those, Ringo? The keys behind the chairs?”

Ringo gave a curt nod, eyes narrowed.

“I need you to get them for me. But be quick—if the staff start giving you a hard time, tell them Michael Rowan sent you, and he don’t play no games.”

The girl began to giggle. Ringo shifted his stance, ruffling his feathers, then took off in for the pool, soaring over the people’s heads like a paper glider. The reaction of the resort community was almost immediate. Seconds after the bird’s appearance, the pool deck erupted in a series of gasps and yelps. Through the fence’s tiny slits, Michael saw people duck and cover as Ringo swooped past, his claws gleaming. Several disembodied hands sprang into the air, waving fans and books in an attempt to swat the bird away.

Ringo played along with the taunts, pecking at people’s heads, and plucking objects from their hands. Several times, the bird dipped low out of sight, but from the sharp clinking of glass, and the chorus of angry voices, Michael could tell that he was causing a commotion.

At last, Ringo’s bright colors reappeared over the fence, amid a final tide of shooing hands, a set of golden keys dangling from his beak.

With the bird’s disappearance, the deck sank back to its former calm, though Michael heard bits of rapid chatter from the frazzled crowd. He went back to the fence and saw that Ringo had indeed made his mark. Guests were now scooting their chairs away from the trees, lifting fallen magazines, and muttering to their companions in annoyance. One woman’s hat had fallen into the water, and was drifting there like a lily pad.

Turning back to the girl, Michael saw that she was clutching her belly, her face flushed from laughter.

“People don’t like pokémon here much,” she explained. “We’re not allowed to have them out here, unless they’re small and ‘properly restrained.’ But honestly, I think that takes the fun out of things.”

Michael handed her the keys, and she smiled in gratitude. “I can’t thank you enough. Honestly… if it had been just one more day, I would’ve gone crazy.” She shook her head. After placing the keys back into her purse, she took a look at Ringo and smiled. “Can I pet him?”

“Sure.” Michael held out his arm, and Ringo instinctively backed away a couple steps, sensing a foreign hand draw near. But gradually, he warmed up, and allowed the girl to stroke his feathers. A smile tugged at the corners of her lips.

“He’s so handsome…” she said. She held up her finger to the bird’s beak, and giggled as he nibbled at it. Her eyes found Michael’s again, wide with curiosity. “Are you a trainer?”

“Yeah.”

The eyes smiled again. But in that instant, they seemed to flash with recognition. “Hang on…” Her lips parted. “I remember you. I think I’ve met you before… back in Jubilife, wasn’t it?” The girl looked at him more intently, and suddenly, her face brightened. “Michael! It’s you, isn’t it?”

Michael smiled. “Yeah. I remember you too.” He paused. “What’s your name?”

“Shella. It’s nice to see you again.”

Michael nodded. “Nice to see you again too.” But his thoughts weren’t nearly as calm as his voice was. Shella. She had given him his name. Shella. From Slateport. He repeated the name several times in his head, and made sure that he would never forget it.

“It’s really funny that we met here,” Shella continued. “This part of Pastoria is pretty specific.”

Michael was able to break away from his thoughts just in time to process what she had said. “What do you mean?”

“I guess the people, the culture… the price range. Heh. But it’s the Sinnoh experience, still.” She gave a shrug. “So what brings you to Hotel Grand Lake?”

“I’m not staying here,” Michael replied. “I’m just… uh, passing through.”

“Oh, I see. Because you’re a trainer, you’re probably doing the League. You guys have your own hotels and stuff, right?”

Michael nodded.

“We have trainer hotels in Hoenn too. But they’re bigger, and you can find them in pretty much any big city—not just the ones with Gyms. Contest Coordinators stay there too, and so do people who want to do the Battle Frontier.”

“Battle Frontier?” Michael put on a look of puzzlement. He hated to have to hang on to her words, but for lack of a clever statement, he had to make do with what he had.

“It’s this thing that we have. It was funded by our Elite Four, actually. They recognized that not all trainers wanted to challenge the Tournament, or were strong enough for it. So they created this island where people could just battle without having to worry about money or badges.”

“Cool.”

Shella gave a laugh. “I’m not a trainer, so I don’t pay much attention to that sort of stuff… But I do admire how motivated some people are.” At this, she turned her gaze to him. “So what about you?”

Michael blinked to clear his haze. “… Me?”

“Yes, you.” She smiled. “What’s it like doing the League? Do you travel a lot?”

“Well, yeah. It’s pretty sweet—you know, seeing all the towns and stuff. But it’s not just battling; there’s a lot of history involved too. Like, you can learn about the Gyms, the culture of the Gym towns… they can even give you free tours.”

Shella nodded slowly. “That’s really nice. I’d love to go on a tour. Especially in Pastoria. I’ve only been here for a week and I’m absolutely lost! I’m on a budget, so I can’t stay here for too long, but I haven’t even seen the Great Marsh yet. I’m too busy trying to figure out how everything works around here. It’s so different.”

Her shoulders drooped slightly, and Michael felt a glimmer of opportunity.

“Well, you know… I could always help you. Like if you need directions or anything.” Almost instinctively, he lifted his hands to show that they were empty—there was no cage dragging him down this time.

Shella responded with a giggle. “That’s so nice of you. I’d really appreciate it.”

Michael felt his breath pause. Was this really happening?

“Maybe… we can meet up tomorrow at the Lakefront,” Shella continued. “Just if you happen to be free. I know you must be busy and all…”

But before she could rethink herself, Michael gave an affirmative nod. “Yeah, I’ll be free.” It didn’t matter what the time was; he would find a way.

Shella smiled. “Okay. That’s great.”

Michael nodded. “So… I’ll see you then, I guess.” Before his mustered calm could begin to falter, he quickly turned and started to walk away. But right then, a shout broke him out of his thoughts.

“Wait!” Shella called. “I didn’t even give you my number yet!”

Michael turned around, unsure if it had been a hallucination. But no… Shella had opened her purse, and was writing something on a torn piece of note paper. But he couldn’t get himself to move. His feet were stuck to the ground, his only anchors to reality. A moment later, Shella approached and handed him the paper. It was a phone number.

“That’s the number of the hotel, and the extension to my room,” she said. “You can call it anytime. If I’m gone, they’ll leave a message.”

Michael nodded. “Okay. Thanks.”

Shella looked befuddled. “I should be thanking you!”

They eyed each other for another split second, then awkwardly exchanged goodbyes. Michael stumbled his way back to the lobby, feeling as if he had emerged from a trance.

When he reached the front doors of the hotel, he found that Bertha and Henry were already waiting for him, stiff and impatient. As soon as they saw Michael, their faces grew visibly relaxed, and Bertha let out a sigh.

“Kid, you sure have a way of running off. We were just about to have the staff go looking for you!”

Michael nodded an apology, though he was too busy stuffing away Shella’s note to answer. In the meantime, Bertha’s eyes found the Chatot, who was looking over Michael’s shoulder, clacking his beak. “Why do you have Ringo out?” she asked.

The bird began to pipe a reply.

“I wanna hold your haaaaaand—I wanna hold your haaaa—”

Before he could finish, Michael hastily aimed the pokéball, and Ringo fled back into the capsule mid-breath. Looking up at Bertha and Henry, he felt a slight sting pass over his face. “Nothing. Just getting some air.”

Bertha lifted an eyebrow. But the explanation seemed to suit her. She waited for him to get his things in order, then led the boys out of the hotel and started briskly towards the rail terminal.

“Our cab will be here soon,” she said to them. “We’ll meet our driver in the station. It won’t be a long ride from here to the hotel, but I want to make sure I have down the locations of other important places. I got a map of the city just now, and I’m telling you, this place is huge. It’s got over two thousand miles of subway tracks, and the downtown is like a city on its own…”

Henry followed Bertha’s words with keen interest, but Michael made no effort to pay attention. An odd sense of slowness had overcome him. He bent his head back to look up at the sky, then let his gaze trail down to the trees, admiring how the candlelight from the street lamps made their branches gleam.

When they returned to the terminal, the trio settled down in a waiting area, choosing seats facing the window. Henry sat on his hands as he watched the moving crowds, and as was his custom, began to tap the toes of his sneakers together.

“Pastoria is a really pretty place,” he said, after a while. “I like it here already.”

Michael nodded in reply, but only when he was struck by the perfection of the moment did he let a chuckle escape him. “Me too...”





//////




Some minutes later, their taxi driver appeared from the rest of the crowd, dressed in casual city attire, and holding up a card with Bertha’s name on it. After greeting them, he helped Bertha with her new luggage bag and led them outside to the car.

The ride from the Valor Lakefront to the trainer hotel would take about half an hour, but fortunately, it would only be a one-time trip. As the man explained, the Gym and hotel would be in walking distance from each other, secluded in their own special area independent from the city. He assured them that they wouldn’t need to have a cab cart them along anywhere, unless they wanted to go sightseeing.

Together, the four of them went to the curb beside the road, where a white taxi was parked. Beyond it, cars were moving about in either direction, forming two stripes of color along the roadway. Stopping beside the car, Bertha and the man began to talk, discussing routes, times, and destinations.

After placing their things in the trunk, Michael and Henry stood by the curb, looking around, listening to the driver’s deep, laid-back voice mix in with Bertha’s.

“Pastoria’s got a lot, though it might seem overwhelming to a tourist at first. The roads are rather complicated, but I know a lot of quick detours that’ll get you there faster…”

The drawl of their voices kept Michael occupied for some time. He continued to casually scan his surroundings, when in the corner of his eye, he saw Henry’s head snap suddenly to another direction.

Instinctively, he turned to the spot the boy was looking at, and saw that a second car had pulled up behind theirs, sleek and silver. The door opened, and out stepped a man in a jacket and tie. He removed a suitcase from the backseat, just as a well-dressed valet appeared from the side to take his keys. Upon stepping up to the curb, the man turned to close the car door, and his face flashed for a single lucid moment in Michael’s vision. And for the second time that day, a shock of recognition hit Michael with full force. It was the man from Hearthome, he realized, the one with the glasses — who had shut down the Game Corner and vanished as mysteriously as he had arrived. In these new surroundings, the man seemed almost foreign, but still he maintained an air of purpose, as if part of his business was still unfinished.

Michael tore his gaze away to look at Henry, whose face was marked with shock. The boy met his gaze, eyes wide. “What’s he doing in Pastoria?” he whispered.

Michael shook his head. They watched in silence as the man turned away from them, and without so much as glancing in a stray direction, proceeded directly towards the Grand Lake Hotel. His form was soon lost in the trickling crowds, whose figures were illuminated by the lamplight.

“Whoever he is, he’s got a fancy agenda,” Michael murmured.

Behind them, Bertha shifted her gaze away from the taxi driver, evidently noticing the boys’ exchange. Her eyes searched the square, then alighted upon the man’s figure as the hotel door swooshed closed behind him.


“You’ll like it,” the driver continued, unaware that all three of his listeners had zoned out and were turned away from him. He tossed Bertha’s things into the trunk and slammed the door closed. “They don’t call it the trainer village for nothing. It’s all you really need—not too loud, not too crowded… Has a shop or two, since it’s right by the suburbs. But there’s one thing unique ‘bout this city, and that’s word spreads fast. Mark my words, you’ll never feel like you’re disconnected there. It’s just how folk around here talk, and move. You could never set a single foot in the downtown, but in a matter of days, you’ll feel like you know everything that’s goin’ on, everywhere. People call it the Marsh City, but I’d place my bet that it’s really the Talk City… heh…”





It would only be a short while till they realized the truth of those words.
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