Chapter 41: En Route

The Ruins of Alph had become so touristy and overrun with scientists that it was impossible to have any privacy. If anything, they were doubly ruined now that that the Johto government had declared the site a national monument, even though the declaration was supposed to protect it.

Not so with the Tanoby Ruins - tourists in the Sevii Islands chain weren't quite as interested in ancient history, it seemed, as those on the mainland; there weren't even enough Sevii natives to devastate the Tanoby site if they were. Besides, Seven Island's main attraction was the Trainer Tower to the north, not the historic landmark to the south.

Which was, in fact, why Priscilla was on a ferryboat to Seven Island, not a bullet train to Violet City.

When they finally got there, Johanna had the two of them surfing around on Sting's back for awhile, waiting for a couple grad students from the University of the Sevii Islands to stop taking pictures and scribbling down notes.

Priscilla took this little bit of free time to think.

Think about how, once she got back to Sinnoh, she was going to find her mother and make sure she hadn't died - that was one thing Nadir said she saw all over Sinnoh. Death. Poltergeist's Disease patients moving up in symptoms. Half-visible beasts bursting out from through slits in people's necks.

It wasn't going to be the happy home she once knew. That much, at least, was certain. But it was home, and that was where she wanted to be after four years of exile. (Pleasant exile, but exile nonetheless.)

"You know what to do, right?" Johanna-Beatrice asked when the annoying USI graduate students finally started to get ready to leave.

"I think so..." Priscilla frowned. "I just go into the 'unown world', or whatever it was you called it, and then somehow I find my way back to Sinnoh?" She paused. "Um, how exactly do I do that? The getting back to Sinnoh part, I mean. And why," she added with a slightly more severe frown, "do I even have to get back to Sinnoh this way? Why can't I just surf in or take a plane or a ferry or something?"

The woman raised an eyebrow. "Do you think commercial planes are going to be running back to Sinnoh tomorrow?"

"...No..."

"What about ferries? Do you think they'll be running?"

"(Sigh.) No."

"And," Johanna added, flipping her hair to to the side of her face and running her fingers through it. Priscilla knew this was Johanna fixing her hair, not Beatrice, since from what she noticed, the haelliad could care less about Johanna's physical appearance. "How fast do you think the Kanto-Johto and Hoenn governments are going to let people get back into Sinnoh? Even the ones who got stuck outside the cage?"

Priscilla sighed again. "Not very fast."

"Right. So if you want to get in right away - which, I'm sure you already know, you do - you'll have to sneak in. The easiest way to sneak in is to get in through the unown's little world," Johanna said with a shrug. "It pops you right out in Solaceon Town, too, which nobody would expect you to land in. They would expect people to go for the seaside towns and routes, since they'd be expecting people to get in conventionally."

In front of Priscilla, Sting was rolling his eyes.

Priscilla kicked her foot in the water, splashing water onto his back. Sting wasn't exactly the most respectful of all her pokemon, but he was dependable - if there was one thing she learned since she left Lilycove City to go to Mossdeep, it was that her tentacruel as loyal as he was powerful. Hence why he was on her team for the return to Sinnoh.

Only one of her other Hoenn pokemon was with her - Fang. She wanted to bring Steel, but there were only two extra slots on her team...

Her old team. The one up of pokemon Priscilla had caught and raised in her home region.

Sans Darcy, of course.

She knew she needed Sting, just on the off-chance she had to travel over some sort of body of water. Sure, Sinnoh didn't have as many bodies of water requiring passage as Hoenn, and the water routes were considerably shorter, but after spending so much time out on ocean routes, Priscilla just didn't feel comfortable without a surfer on her team.

That, and she was going back to a much colder climate than her Hoenn team was used to. It probably wouldn't bother Sting, since he was an ocean-faring water-type, but Steel didn't move fast in cold climates, nor did he move well on ice. Trying to use him in Shoal Cave had turned into a disaster.

Mightyenas, on the other hand, were known to grow thicker coats when placed in cold climates, and they could get traction on icy surfaces thanks to their claws.

Plus...

Dark-types had a type advantage against ghosts.

"...Priscilla? Are you listening to me?"

Priscilla blinked and looked up at Johanna-Beatrice. "Um, yeah," she lied. "Totally listening."

The other woman didn't seem to buy it, but shrugged it off. "I said that the students were gone. We can go now."

"Oh," Priscilla said, exchanging a nervous glance with Sting. "Right."

So, just like that, they hopped on top of Sting's back and swam off towards one of the nearby caves.

---

"I can open the portal pretty easily," Johanna-Beatrice said as she shone a flashlight onto a stone slab inside the cave. It had some strange writing on it, and apparently, it was going to reveal a passageway to Sinnoh.

Priscilla wasn't exactly sure how a rock was going to turn into a doorway to a far-off region, but she had seen stranger things. By now, she figured she'd just go along with whatever the haelliads told it. It was probably safer for her to do that, anyway.

"It would probably help if you had one pokemon out with you, just to navigate. Especially one that could travel in ways other than walking - that way, if you get disoriented while walking, chances are your pokemon won't."

Priscilla thought for a moment - the only pokemon she had with her that didn't travel by walking were Sting, who swam, and Jet, who flew.

She wasn't exactly sure how big this "unown world" was going to be, and the stone slab (and soon to be portal) didn't exactly look big enough to fit a giant, sea-monster-like jellyfish through. That, and what if there wasn't any water? Even if it didn't keep him from moving around, Sting hated it when there wasn't any water. When he hated things, he complained. Priscilla definitely didn't need his whining during this leg of the journey.

So that left Jet...awkwardly enough, she didn't really talk to him much after she got him back from Ichiro two days before. Since then, they only exchanged a couple words.

None of those words, however, included the question that hung on the forefront of her thoughts -

Jet obviously knew the ancient power attack. She had him use it for her when she was testing all of her return-to-Sinnoh team's attacks.

If he knew ancient power, then why wasn't she in the possession of a yanmega?

The others had evolved - even Blizzard, who also evolved by knowing ancient power - giving her a torterra and mamoswine she had no idea how to use in combat. Crystal and Ichiro tried telling her the battle techniques they'd picked up while training them, but Priscilla still wasn't sure how to deal with their size.

But Jet?

Why was he still the same yanma she'd left with Ichiro almost four years ago?

"Well?" Johanna-Beatrice asked, putting a hand on the stone slab. "Are you ready?"

"I think so," the younger trainer said, taking Jet's pokeball and expanding it. "Should I release Jet when I'm in the unown world, or before?"

The redheaded woman shrugged. "I would recommend here, on the off-chance the pokeball's release button doesn't work while in transit. It should, but if you want to be safe..."

One flash of white light later, a yanma buzzed up into the air next to Priscilla's head.

Then, underneath Johanna-Beatrice's green gemstone ring, the stone disappeared, leaving a hole in the earth.

Sooner than Priscilla would have liked, she found herself jumping in, her still-unevolved starter pokemon flying in after her.

---

The unown world was a little bit of a disappointment. Priscilla had expected something a lot...scarier.

The world Priscilla and Jet found themselves in, however, wasn't the most terrifying place they'd ever found themselves in.

It reminded Priscilla a lot of the ancient ruins people sometimes found in the Hoenn Desert. The unown's world was dark and with swirling purple light in the sky instead of stars, but there were large stone structures all around her. They looked kind of like houses, but they had ladders and stairs everywhere and were too blocky for the pointed rooftops of the modern world.

They also glowed a bit, as if they were more ghostlike than solid and build from clay and stone. Jungle-type plants seemed to grow around the buildings, but they were even more ethereal than the settlement's old structures. (Priscilla didn't really like that part.)

As she and Jet walked through the town, they examined the buildings more closely, and saw that strange letters had been etched in to every surface of every structure. They looked vaguely like Roman letters, but had circles jutting out of the middle of every letter...

Kind of like eyes.

And kind of like pokemon she remembered people talking about and sometimes showing her - the unown.

Priscilla vaguely remembered one of her friends telling her that they used to have one...one of Crystal and Ichiro's friends she met back in Sinnoh, though she couldn't remember if it was Lisa or Silver that said so, or which letter they said they had.

"I see pokemon," Jet said finally, jolting Priscilla out of her reverie. "They're all around us. Do you think they're going to attack?"

Before Priscilla could marvel at how well Jet spoke and how well she understood him (even after so many months of not really interacting with him), they were surrounded by floating animated letters, peering down at them from their single eyes.

"Who are you?" one of the unowns asked. It had a single stem cutting out from the bottom with a smaller branch halfway down, and a triangle protruding from the side of its face. Priscilla guessed it corresponded to the letter F. "Why are you here?"

"Um, my name is Priscilla," the girl said, trying not to get dizzy from all the unowns flying around. Jet had already decided to get out of the air, landing on his trainer's head. She supposed she was glad, just for that moment, that he wasn't a yanmega, because then he would have been much heavier. "This is Jet. We're going to Sinnoh."

Another letter, one that looked more like an X, narrowed its one eye. "But your Sinnoh is blocked off. There's something wrong with it. We know. We have friends there."

Priscilla bit her lip. "I mean, it's in a cage, yeah, but the cage is gonna go away soon. Like, tomorrow-type soon. That's really soon. If I go through here," she said, looking around, not entirely sure what "here" even meant, "I can get to Solaceon Town before anything bad really happens." She wasn't sure if that was exactly why, but it seemed like a good enough reason to give to a bunch of talking, floating cyclops-letters.

A smaller unown, one shaped like a C, bumped into Priscilla's shoulder. "We're worried about our friends," it whispered.

"Oh," Priscilla said, suddenly realizing that the unowns had the capacity to be downright adorable (despite their inherent creepiness). "Um, your friends will be fine. Can't they all just come back here if things get bad, anyway?"

Jet tensed on her hair, and Priscilla could see why - some of the unowns looked a bit offended. "Try not to make them angry at us," he hissed. "Remember what happened with Darcy in Mount Coronet? She made me go back in my ball and YOU disappeared for three months."

"Some of our friends aren't going to come back," an older-sounding O said solemnly. "We have already resigned ourselves to that. Even if they die, your world is crumbling faster than we can fight it. If it were a simple genocide or the end of a civilization, they would just return to us," it said, and Priscilla eyed the stone buildings around her. They definitely looked "end of a civilization"-y. "But, as you know, that's not what's happening."

Priscilla bit her lip. Nadir had told her a little bit about what the heart of the problem was, but not everything. However, she knew enough to ask: "Can you connect to...to the r-real world?"

An E replied, "Which 'real' world are you referring to?"

"The one...that we - we should be. The...the real one," Priscilla said, trying to mime what she meant.

None of the unowns answered, though they parted a little to her left, allowing her to see a building with a similar stone slab to the one that disappeared back in the Tanoby Ruins. Except... "That's not the same rock," Jet said for her. "It's different. It looks the same, but it's different." Priscilla could almost hear him talking to her, implying that she knew exactly why it was different, and that she was involving the little yanma way more than he wanted.

It really was her fault that he was messed up in all of this.

"It goes to the Tanoby Ruins, though, right?"

"It goes to an island within a large island chain, south of Kanto, that was part of a set of archaeologic sites discovered by the Department of Botany of the University of the Sevii Islands."

"Oh," Priscilla said, looking at the rock. "But it's not the same one we left from."

"No, it is not."

"How many of those stones do you have? Tanoby Ruins stones, I mean. Like, ones that are the same as that one and the one me 'n Jet came from."

The unown seemed to shrug. "A few. That one is the strongest, though."

Priscilla eyed the stone, wanting to run over there and jump through, landing in the correct world.

But that was the whole point, wasn't it?

She had to go to her world. Her Sinnoh. Not the one from the world that stone lead to.

"You had better explain all of this to me," Jet hissed from atop her head. "I don't like any of this."

Ignoring him, Priscilla turned to the unown cloud. "I'm ready to go to my Sinnoh. Can you show me where the portal is to the Solaceon Town ruin site?"

An S-shaped unown bobbed up and down in the air, nodding. "Follow me."

They followed the stream of floating letters through the shimmering town until they reached a stone pillar with many identical, etched slabs of grey rock creating a ring around the middle.

Priscilla assumed one of those stones lead to the Solaceon Town she wanted to go to...

And she assumed it was the one that a small, foxlike creature sat in front of, turned around and looking at her. The look on her face wasn't excited either - it was largely emotionless, with a slight hint of annoyance. "Well," Mara demanded as Priscilla's blood ran a little colder than before, "what took you so long?"

---

A/N: Whew! The Hoenn arc ("The Alias") is officially done. The next arc, "The Retaliation" starts with the next chapter. Also, I want to add that I'll probably start going back to a regular update schedule, so I'll probably post chapters sometime on Thursdays (US Central time), both here and on DeviantArt.

Also, thanks to all the new readers and people who continue to read new chapters when I post them. Thanks, you all are the best!