Yay she's back again.
Does she have anything to say after a few weeks off?
No, not really.
Ref page at sta dot sh/020375lykmjz
Cynthia was thrilled. "Of course I'll watch over the Spear Key!" she said cheerfully. "I'd love to examine it, if you don't mind."
Looker's face had frozen in a grimace. "That's fine."
"Was there anything else?" Cynthia asked us.
Thomas and I shook our heads, but Looker answered, "We need to discuss the keeping of the Key."
Cynthia nodded. "Okay. Come inside."
"Wait here," said Looker, going into the apartment. He closed the door behind him. Thomas and I looked at each other and shrugged.
I don't know what happened, but when Looker and Cynthia emerged, Looker seemed… Happier? At peace? When I asked him why that was, he shrugged vaguely and said, "Cynthia… was the right choice."
From Eterna, Thomas and I took the Coronet cave routes to Celestic Town. We spent the next week training for the tournament.
Sunday at noon, while Thomas and I were passing through the lobby of the Pokemon Center, the world around me started moving in slow motion. I couldn't move faster than the rest of it; it was like moving through molasses. I tested my first time anchor: watching the clock above the front counter (I know it wasn't my best idea, but I wanted to test it anyways). Judging by the fact that slowed-time continued for what felt (to me) like three minutes and was really (according to the clock) one, this first anchor was very much unsuccessful.
"But hey," I said to Thomas after I was back in standard linear time, "at least I got to test one out."
He and I had a scrimmage battle that afternoon. After Faith defeated Cassie and Swaine defeated Faith, I sent Prom out against the sandslash. Things were going well until Thomas told Swaine to use toxic.
"AAH DODGE!" I yelled out loud. Prom avoided the liquid poison. "Thomas, don't do that."
"Don't poison Promise."
He looked confused. "It's… it's a practice battle."
"I know, but don't poison Prom. He… He sort of gets a reaction to it, I mean in addition to the usual poison effects."
Thomas stared at me, then started jogging over. I met him halfway. "What kind of reaction?" he asked.
"From what I can tell, it hurts him psychologically as well as physically. He starts shaking, he sort of loses control."
Thomas glanced at Prom, who'd sat himself down next to Swaine on the battlefield. "Like a panic attack?" he murmured.
"That sounds about right…"
I think we realized it around the same time. "What if it has something to do with…" Thomas began.
"…Prom having PTSD?" I finished. "Poison, huh?"
I asked Def that night if Prom had ever mentioned his past. Def said oui. "He lived in la Floaroma Rivière," he said.
"Oh. I thought he was closer to the Valley Windworks."
"Oui. La rivière connects the town and the Windworks. It runs all the way out to la mer."
"Has Prom ever said anything else?"
"He mentioned a human friend who wanted him to fight the bad guys."
Annie. The Windworks keeper's daughter. "Is that all?"
"Oui. He is usually quiet when we talk about where we came from."
"Well… okay. Maybe we'll find out eventually."
On Tuesday, I skipped a minute back in time while in the bathroom. I only noticed because my previously-brushed hair was now in post-shower wet tangles again.
"No," I said to my reflection. "Fuck you, Dialga. I already brushed my hair."
I returned to the room, where Thomas was calling all his pokemon back into their pokeballs. "I don't know how I'm supposed to test anchors when I get no warning," I said, shoving my toiletries into my bag. "Most of the time, it's over before I even realize it. If I realize it."
Thomas eyed my tangled hair, but didn't say anything. "Maybe there's a solution that accounts for that?"
"Do you have any ideas?"
"No, I just think that's a quality the solution should have."
"Ideally," I muttered. I was too grumpy to come up with anything wittier.
I called Tricia that night, figuring she could cheer me up. She was still enjoying her internship, judging by the animated way she talked about the project they were working on.
"Maya, one of the interns? She went out and brought back water and soil samples from a river in western Sinnoh, the one by Floaroma?"
I smiled as she excitedly explained how the water going out to sea had historically been polluted by an old ironworks north of Floaroma, but had steadily been improving since its close. Tricia had a magical ability to make anything sound hopeful.
"The most recent samples were by far the cleanest – even cleaner than before the ironworks opened," she piped happily.
"Wow, that's great!"
"I know! It was supposed to take another decade, but I guess the ironworks completely stopped leaking muck into the river? Can't complain."
"Yeah." I realized I had something I could ask her. "Actually, can I ask you something about that river?"
"Sure. I'm not an expert, though."
"Were there any… I dunno, is there a record of like, a poison-based incident around there in the last few years?"
Tricia's face was blank. "Never mind," I said. "I guess I wouldn't expect you to know that."
"Sorry. All I can really think of is the fire in Eterna Forest, a year and a half ago."
"In southwest Eterna?"
"Yeah, right near the ironworks."
"Oh. Were there multiple fires?"
"Not since then. And it was the only fire last year."
"Oh." I guess… that was the fire Faith died in. I'd assumed she lived in the northeast part of the woods, since I found her there. "What do you know about that fire?"
"Maya was talking about this, actually. I think she said the fire department did an investigation, since it was so close to the ironworks, but they determined it was caused by a pokemon. It was a pretty small one, overall, so there wasn't a lot to know. "
"Mm." A pretty small fire, but still big enough to reach Faith and her father.
"Anyway, how's life over there? You're in… Solaceon? There's a Solaceon Tournament?"
"That was last weekend. This weekend is Celestic."
"Will Lucas be there?"
The thought of him made me anxious, but I smiled at her hopefulness. "I think so."
"Have you talked to him lately?"
"Not in a while." I remembered what I'd seen in Solaceon. "I… I saw Dawn and Lucas last week, and… I think they're getting really close."
"OH NOOO D:" Tricia anguished (yes, the D: was necessary). "Are they…?"
I saw where she was going with that. "No, I think they're just friends. But they're way closer to each other than I ever was."
Tricia tapped her chin. "Hmm… So you need to get closer to them…"
"Yeah. Lucas, anyways."
"I guess just try talking to them? It's a good place to start."
"Yeah. Little nervous, though."
"It's okay! You can do it! You became friends with Lucas in the past, right?" Tricia reminded me. "And even before you ever time traveled – you've been friends since what, March?"
"So you know it's possible," she said. "It's just a matter of doing that again."
"That's true." I smiled. "Well, I'll keep you posted on how that goes."
"Great!" said Tricia, grinning.
I tested anchor number two, deep breathing, when time started speeding up Wednesday evening. I honestly don't know if it worked, or if the time irregularity went away on its own. Useless. What was I supposed to do, gasp like a fish for the rest of my life?
Other than the time irregularities, nothing much was happening. Thomas and I went to sleep at night and woke up in the mornings. We ate mostly at a small café we'd found. We trained together and separately for most of the day, and chatted in the shade during breaks.
Thursday around noon, Thomas and I went back to that café. "Hey," he whispered, putting his hand on my shoulder. "Look."
I looked where he was pointing. Dawn and Lucas were sitting across from each other at a booth, their heads in their menus.
"Go join them," he said, giving me a little push.
"What about you?"
"I don't want to get in your way. Go on."
I swallowed and walked over to their table. My stomach was feeling unnecessarily tight.
They looked up. "Evelyn! Hey!" said Dawn. Lucas held up a hand in greeting.
"Do you mind if I…?"
"Not at all!" Dawn scooted over on the bench, much to my relief. If I had to sit next to Lucas, I'd die, panic, and explode, in no particular order.
I read the menu over Dawn's shoulder, although I already knew what I was getting. Thomas and I had been here too many times.
"Did you guys just arrive?" I asked them.
Dawn shook her head. "Nah, we got here on Tuesday," she said. "Been training for the tournament. You?"
"Oh, uh… I've been here all week." My head was whirling. Did "we" mean they'd arrived together? Why hadn't Thomas or I seen them?
"Ooh, okay. Hope you're ready for the tournament," Dawn teased.
"Oh, uh, yeah."
"What have you been up to?" she asked.
"I, uh… I'm going for the Canalave gym, but I'm also kinda focusing more on the tournaments for now."
"Smart move. I'm still stuck on the Sunyshore Gym," Dawn sighed.
"You should've given up by now," Lucas said, glancing at her.
"Oh, shut up. You've been working on the Hearthome Gym for how long?"
"Hearthome's a tough one," I said, nodding in understanding. Lucas didn't acknowledge me.
"Well, anyways. We all have five badges, I'm guessing?" Dawn said.
"I do," I said.
"And so do we. Maybe I'll face you in the tournament this time," she said, grinning.
Lucas put down his menu and stared at the table. My hands were sweating. What could I do? Why was he still like this?
"So uh." I inhaled. "Everything turned out okay in Solaceon?"
"Oh, that. Yeah, we were fine," said Dawn.
The waiter came to take our order. I kept glancing at Lucas. I don't know if it's because he wasn't making eye contact with me, but his bright amber eyes were dimmer than I remembered.
The waiter left with our menus. "So, Lucas," I said, trying to… trying. "What… have you been up to?"
Lucas shrugged dismissively. "Training," he said.
"Well, yeah," I said, trying to laugh it off. "I mean besides that."
He shrugged again. A short wave of nausea, or maybe fear, flushed through my chest. Dawn was absentmindedly studying a portrait of a shaymin on the wall above us. I glanced back at Thomas, who'd seated himself at the counter. Thomas locked eyes with me, said something to a waitress behind the counter, and got up. He made his way over to us.
"Hey there," he said, waving at Dawn and Lucas.
"Oh, hi!" Dawn said, tearing her gaze away from the painting. Lucas looked up and smiled a hello. I was so jealous of Thomas for getting that smile.
"How's everyone doing?" Thomas asked them, smoothly sliding into the bench beside Lucas.
The waiter soon brought our food, and the waitress behind the counter brought Thomas's order not long after. Thomas and Dawn did most of the talking, as expected. Lucas responded to Dawn and Thomas. I generally talked to Thomas or Dawn. I just… I didn't want to make Lucas uncomfortable? But also if he ignored me again, I'd shrink into a microscopic being.
"Guess we'll see you around?" Dawn said as we were getting up to leave.
"Yeah, tomorrow," said Thomas.
"Great, see you then!" she said. She and Lucas headed out in a direction that had no significance to me, without a word of communication between them.
"See you," I said, probably too quietly for them to hear.
"You okay?" Thomas asked, definitely too quietly for them to hear.
I looked down. "You saw how that went," I mumbled.
"Yeah." He patted me on the shoulder to comfort me. I smiled in appreciation for what he was trying to do, rather than because it succeeded.
We walked back to the Pokemon Center. "Oh," I said suddenly. "Does that… Did that count as you saving me again?"
Thomas considered it. "Nah," he said. "That's just what friends are for."
"Liar. I mean, that's nice, but you totally just saved me."
I might take a ~tiny~ hiatus to finish up APiP (which for SOME reason is still consistently popular despite having been unupdated in idk ages). Anyways no worries next chapter should be easier bc tournament. See you then!