"Mama?" Manaphy asked, looking up at May. "How many of these Pokémon did you have last time? I don't remember some of them."
"Well, you met Glaceon last time," May said, patting the Ice-type between the ears. "She was just Eevee then."
"Oh, yeah, I remember!" Manaphy agreed.
"I'm new," Altaria piped up, craning his neck down to Manaphy's height. "Well, maybe not that new… it's been more than half a year, I think."
He showed off his Altarianite. "I've got a Mega Stone."
"A Mega Stone?" Manaphy repeated. "Wow!"
He glanced at May. "Mama, what's a Mega Stone?"
"...oh, yeah, that's right," May remembered. "Yeah, apparently they popped up because of the time travel, or… something? They let a Pokémon have a strong powerup if they have a really close bond with their trainer – but we only encountered them after the time travel, so you wouldn't know."
"Oh, okay, like Samiya does in enhance mode?" Manaphy asked.
"What's enhance mode?" Max said, blinking.
"I don't even know who Samiya is," Ash shrugged.
Manaphy giggled. "Silly, Samiya is a place! It's the Temple of the Sea, remember?"
"...oh, yeah," Max agreed, snapping his fingers.
He blinked. "Wait… enhance mode… was that that thing where Ash started glowing yellow and flying?"
"I had not heard about this," Lucario informed them.
"Yeah, sometimes it feels like there's too many stories to tell," Ash admitted. "I kind of forgot about that one because I nearly drowned."
"I didn't," May said firmly. "You'd better make sure one of your Water-types saves you before something like that happens again."
"Yep," Manaphy nodded, making them turn back to him. "That's enhance mode. It was kind of hard to operate for the first few months, but then I found a codex with instructions in it!"
"Somehow, it doesn't surprise me that we managed to miss finding the manual," Brock chuckled, putting down a tray full of nibbles. "Okay, here you go – I had to guess what you like, Manaphy, I hope it's fine."
"Thank you!" Manaphy told Brock, smiling brightly, then took one of the little pastries and had a bite.
"Mmm!" he mumbled. "This is-"
"Manaphy," May reminded him.
Manaphy blushed, and swallowed. "Sorry, Mama, I forgot."
"That's okay," May assured him, then nodded to herself. "I know – what about if, while you have dinner, I introduce you to the other new Pokémon?"
"I like that idea," Manaphy agreed.
"Are you sure we will get to all of them?" Lucario asked. "It is quite a list."
"We'll start with mine," May decided. "Okay, so firstly – you met Blaziken and Wartortle, they were just Combusken and Squirtle then."
Blaziken winked at Manaphy. "It's nice to have you around."
Manaphy smiled a little shyly. "Thank you… you're even bigger than I remember."
"You remember me being big?" Blaziken asked, a little baffled. "But… I was shorter than May."
"Yeah, but.. she's Mama," Manaphy said, waving a fin. "She's… just how it is."
He turned to Wartortle. "And it's nice to meet you again! Um – are you still May's only other Water-type?"
"Yes, she doesn't – did you say other?" Wartortle asked.
Manaphy looked confused. "I did, yeah – why? Is something wrong?"
"Manaphy?" May said, softly.
The young Legendary turned to look at her. "What is it, Mama?"
"Thank you," she said, blinking away tears.
"Nice to meet you!" Jirachi said, shaking Manaphy's fin. "I think you're going to have a great time!"
"So do I!" Manaphy agreed. "It's kind of odd being on dry land again, but it also means I have a lot more friends to meet than I used to."
He shrugged. "Plus, I didn't really meet many other legendaries. There was Kyogre, once or twice, and Suicune too, but apart from that..."
"Suicune?" Ash repeated. "That's funny, she didn't mention it."
Pikachu gave him a static shock.
"Suicune's one of the Pokémon you didn't remind, remember?" he asked.
"...oh, yeah..." Ash said, not bothered whatsoever by the pulse of electricity.
"So, what's your legendary thing?" Jirachi asked. "Mine's wishes!"
"Wishes are cool," Manaphy said. "And me… well… I think there's two things. Samiya is one of them, and I don't really know if that's a Manaphy thing, a me thing or a temple thing. But the other is Heart Swap."
"Heart Swap – oh, that thing where Lugia and Ash got mixed up, right."
"I wonder if we can try that out? I'd like to be able to fly."
"You're already flying," Casper said blandly.
"Oh, yeah, but I mean with wings."
Altaria nudged May with his cloud-like wing.
"I think you're right," May said, looking up at him. "It probably would have helped us out."
Manaphy took another bite of his meal, then yawned. "Sorry," he said, blinking a few times. "It feels kind of late..."
"Well, it is pretty much dark already," Brock said, waving around at their pool of bright light. "We're just not noticing because of Stantler and the Three Pings."
It was too much to hope that you'd forget that name, Kris sighed with a hiss of electronic noise.
"Right," Manaphy nodded, yawning again.
"We should get to bed," Blaziken advised. "I think we're going to be reaching Saffron tomorrow, and that means a chance for Contests, Battle Frontier battles and Gym Battles."
"Do you think I can do a Contest, Mama?" Manaphy asked, stretching out with his antenna sparking. "I'd like that..."
"Of course," May replied. "We'll see what kind of moves could work tomorrow."
She picked him up. "Come on. Let's get to bed."
"Thanks, Mama," Manaphy mumbled, snuggling up to her. "I missed you..."
"Are you sure you will not require our assistance?" Cobalion asked.
"I'm not sure, no," N said, spreading his hands. "But surety is not relevant. What matters is confidence – and I am confident that, whatever happens, everything will work out well."
"I'm not," Zorua grumbled, looking uneasy. "I don't like this idea. You're going to be in a lot of danger if we're right, N."
"To be in danger is to be doing things which matter," N countered.
"N, if we're nearby we don't actually have to get involved," Keldeo said slowly. "We can be there in case things turn bad – and if they don't, we can just leave."
"I thank you for your advice, my friends," N said, looking up into a sky turning pale with the promise of dawn. "But do not trouble yourselves on my account."
He tapped Zorua on the haunch. "Can you just go and ask that Pokémon there to come for a talk?"
"Sure, sure," the Dark-type vulpine agreed. He crouched, claws gripping into the material of N's hat, then launched himself off N's hat.
Between one second and the next, he flashed blue – and a Tranquill rose into the air.
"That's kind of cool," Keldeo admitted, as Zorua circled them once before flapping hard to climb. "I didn't know Zorua could do that."
"Illusions like that of Zorua are solid, though fragile," N explained.
"Neat!" Terrakion chuckled.
The assembled members of Team Plasma bowed, welcoming their ruler to the highest part of his castle.
"All is prepared, my King," Ghetsis said, putting his hands together. "We are ready to perform the ritual."
"I see," N replied softly, standing straight in his formal clothes. "The roof looks different with so many members of Team Plasma present."
"Things are simply as they should truly be, for this is the role it was built for," Ghetsis pointed out. "My King, do you feel ready for the summoning?"
"I do," N confirmed. "I have spent many days searching for truth."
"And have you found it?" Ghetsis inquired, straightening, and passed N a small white stone.
"I have found some things are true, but others I do not know," N answered, taking the stone and walking forward to follow his father. "The world is strange, and confusing at times."
"Yes, it can be confusing why so many people mistreat Pokémon – when their true place is apart," the older man said sadly. "Would that humans and Pokémon could get along, but that they cannot is simply how the world is."
N said nothing, and they passed the rows of watching Plasma grunts in silence.
The ritual site atop the castle was like a rough triangle, with a long low wall at the base, and the interior of the triangle made up of flagstones. Near the apex, a dais held the altar, and six of the Seven Sages were stood in a circle – with one missing slot for Ghetsis.
"I see you're alone," Ghetsis added, more quietly. "Where is your friend?"
N indicated one of the battlements some way off, with a Braviary perched on it.
"Interesting," the Sage said, looking at the illusory Flying-type for a long moment. "Any particular reason?"
"Zorua are creatures of illusions, father," N pointed out. "He was afraid that, in the heat of the moment, Reshiram would not be kindly disposed to him."
"A foolish fear," Ghetsis advised. "Pokémon, unlike humans, do not harm one another for no good reason."
"It is his fear, and I respect it," N replied.
Ghetsis thought for a long moment, then nodded. "Perhaps that is best."
As they reached the circle of sages, Rood spoke up. "Who approaches?"
"The seeker," N responded.
"What does he seek?" Gorm asked, taking the second part of the ritual.
"I seek truth."
"Is he ready?"
"Will he follow the path?"
"Does he have the stone?"
"I do," N confirmed, taking the Light Stone Ghetsis had just given him and holding it up.
"Is the stone ready?"
"Then approach," Ghetsis finished. "Approach, Hero of Truth."
N did so, walking through the centre of the circle and taking his place in front of the altar. To do so, he went right past Zinzolin – at his usual position at Ghetsis' right hand.
As he did, there was a faint buzz – too quiet to hear over the murmurs of the audience.
N watched the seven sages move forward from their positions, walking away from the circle on the floor and leaving it clear.
Leaving the space for Reshiram to appear, if he did.
If the ritual would work at all for someone so unsure of what truth was.
Raising his gaze, N looked up at the Braviary perched on top of one of the battlements.
Then his attention was drawn back to the Sages as they began. Now lining the foot of the dais, they began to strike the floor in unison with their staffs – Ghetsis leading the rhythm.
A small spark appeared in the Light Stone, almost too brief to be seen – then rekindled, growing and becoming brighter. Red light began to shine out from it, and channels in the stone of the altar soaked it up – taking on a vermilion radiance which slowly spread to trace out two concentric rings.
And inside them, the Light Stone continued to blaze higher. The light spilling from it was now like a three-dimensional representation of a flame, and then-
-Reshiram was there.
It was so sudden N almost jumped.
The Vast White Pokémon spread his wings and beat them once, examining the area closely.
Who summons me?
"We summon you," Ghetsis answered.
Reshiram gave him a glance, then dismissed him with a shake of his head.
"I am the reason you were summoned," N stated, stepping around the altar. "I seek to be worthy of you."
Reshiram's gaze turned to the green-haired young man, and began to examine him minutely.
"Do you think Reshiram will accept the boy?" Zinzolin asked, as the Sages moved away from the altar – giving N and Reshiram space for what was clearly a pivotal moment.
"I do not know," Ghetsis replied. "It is impossible to know anything with certainty. That is truth, Zinzolin… but I have high hopes."
"And then?" Zinzolin pressed.
"Then, with the aid of Reshiram, N will change the world," Ghetsis answered. "Just as we want it."
His voice lowered a little. "Of course, you know what we will have to do."
"The same thing we have been doing for years," Zinzolin confirmed. "If N is to wield the power of the Dragon of Truth, there must be no doubt in his mind whatsoever… and if we ensure he does not doubt us, and that he never questions us..."
"Precisely," Ghetsis agreed. "But remember – never outright lie. Not with Reshiram with him – the dragon may see right through it."
"Of course," Zinzolin nodded, then went silent as they reached their seats in the front row.
As he sat down, there was a faint buzz.
"What was that?" he asked, frowning.
"I heard nothing," Ghetsis replied. "What was it?"
"A buzzing sound… probably nothing," Zinzolin agreed.
A tiny, gossamer-winged Cutiefly zoomed under the rows of seats, weaving frantically in and out of the chair legs and person legs in the way of its path.
Once it was to the back of the crowd, it flickered blue – and a sleek Liepard landed on the flagstones, breaking straight into a run and getting around the corner in just a few strides.
Now out of sight, the Liepard spent a few moments trying not to panic.
"Okay, stay calm," he told himself. "What do I do in this... right!"
N inclined his head. "My greetings, Dragon of Truth."
Reshiram bowed his head a little in response.
It has been a long time since I was last awake, he stated, looking around from the top of the castle. The world has changed.
"It has," N agreed. "Most people now have Pokémon, who they capture in Pokéballs and keep as companions – or as pets."
Reshiram frowned, then focused in on N again. And what do you think about these Pokéballs?
"I… do not know," N began. "I used to think that it was wrong – no matter the details. But… I am not so sure, now."
He looked up. "I think that it is an open question whether Pokémon would be better off without humans. But I think some Pokémon in particular would be better off… and that others would be worse off. I do not know which matters more to more Pokémon."
A good answer, the Vast White Pokémon pronounced, surprising N a little. What matters is truth. And truth means to understand all there is about something… including that sometimes the answer is not so simple.
He huffed, turbine whirring for a moment and producing a noticeable wash of heat. That would be… idealism.
"I see," N said. "And, I think, I understand."
You are getting the hang of it.
Reshiram looked around again, frowned, then turned back to the young man for whom he had been summoned.
You do realize that many of your advisers are so untruthful I can smell it?
Any reply N could have made was drowned out by a clatter.
"Hero of Truth!" Cobalion's voice belled out, echoing off the stonework. "Beware – your allies seek to betray you!"
"N!" Ghetsis called, almost straight away, as his Cofagrigus appeared and confused murmurs broke out among the rank and file Plasma grunts. "You and Reshiram need to protect Team Plasma!"
"What does he mean, father?" N asked. As he spoke, Reshiram rose to stand fully erect, then turned to face towards Cobalion – and the crowd. "Why would a Pokémon say something like that?"
"The Swords of Justice are like Zekrom," Ghetsis explained, as Cobalion stepped backwards to gain some distance from the flickering Will-o-Wisp that Cofagrigus was summoning. "They follow ideals, rather than seeking truth."
And you do neither, Reshiram declared.
His foot slammed down on the stonework, making it quake with the force. You are neither a hero of ideals, nor truth – you are the villain. You have built an order of knights upon knavish lies, twisted good men and women to evil, made a mockery of all you claim to support – and it is by a great good fortune that your heir, my worthy Hero of Truth, has not been influenced by your lies.
Ghetsis stared, then a shout drew his attention back to Cobalion.
Back to a small, struggling fox wrapped in ghostly bandages.
"What?" he asked, then his eyes rose to the Braviary. "That wasn't-"
"Why, father?" N demanded. "You told me so much about liberating Pokémon!"
"That's right!" Ghetsis agreed. "No-one should have Pokémon if they can't be trusted to do what's right with them – so only Team Plasma should have Pokémon!"
N blinked, startled by how far his father had gone.
Then there was a flash – and Ghetsis' Hydreigon appeared, all three heads roaring as it lunged.
Reshiram's Dragonbreath slammed into the Dark-type, the sheer force of the impact checking Hydreigon's rush, and most of Team Plasma realized they should probably leave the area as fast as possible.
"Let me go!" Zorua snarled, twisting in Cofagrigus' ghostly grip, and sank his teeth into one of the bandages slowly tying him up. "Ick – pfeh! That tastes of old glue!"
Another coil of the material caught his muzzle, tying it tight, and then a blade as black as night carved within an inch of his fur and sliced them all away.
Zorua fell to the stonework with a muffled ow, shook his head to try and clear it, then felt the roof tremble as six pairs of hooves clattered past.
"Zorua!" Keldeo said, using his Night Slash to cut the remnants of the bandages. "Are you okay?"
"I think so," Zorua replied. "Stay away, I think the bandages can spread?"
"I've cut them all away, I think it'll be fine," Keldeo frowned, but stepped back. "The others are trying to help Reshiram fight that Hydreigon."
Zorua rolled to his feet, then transformed into a larger animal – a Liepard again – so he could get a better view.
"Hey, how come you're all here?" he asked, as Terrakion shouldered Virizion aside and took a Fire-type attack aimed at her. "I thought N said he didn't want help."
"None of us listened to him," Keldeo replied. "If everything was going fine we wouldn't have joined in."
He watched the flow of the battle a moment longer, looked again, then raised his voice. "Cobalion, behind you!"
Cobalion spun, blocking a blade blow from an Absol with his own.
"Team Plasma has a lot of members," Zorua volunteered. "And I think a lot of the Sages have really powerful Pokémon – and so do the Shadow Triad."
Cobalion had come to the same conclusion, as Zinzolin's entire team tried to hit him from the flank. "Keldeo, Virizion, Terrakion, fall back!"
"What about N?" Zorua asked. "Is N okay?"
"Reshiram, this is not the time!" N called out. "I do not think Team Plasma is beyond saving, and too many people and Pokémon will be harmed if we fight now!"
There is truth in your words, Reshiram agreed, and his tail turbine spun up – orange and yellow streaks whirling around inside it. Come – I have judged you worthy, so we shall leave together.
N didn't need to be told twice. He took three steps forwards, raising his arm against the sudden concussion as Reshiram's wing shielded him from the impact of a Draco Meteor, and got on the Dragon-type's back with a single quick movement.
"Don't forget Zorua," N requested. "He's – there!"
I see him.
Wings sweeping downwards, Reshiram launched himself off the scarred stone of the castle roof – then his turbine engaged, and he powered forwards fast enough to get out of the way of all the attacks aimed at him.
He swept the Dark-type fox off the ground with one wing, rolled, and headed for the sky.
"Wait – my sisters," N added. "Sorry, but – they're in the castle, I saw them go down the spiral staircase. I think I know where they are."
Reshiram banked, turning his head enough to see N out of the corner of one eye. Tell me where, Hero of Truth, and I shall smite the wall so they may join us.
Zorua came staggering along Reshiram's white-furred wing, and slumped down next to N. "What happened? And what's going to happen now?"
"That's quite a good question," N mused. "Perhaps we should find out."
Thousands of miles away, the sun began to rise slowly into the sky over a campsite north of Saffron City.
The light touched the treetops first, making Swellow chirp sleepily and rustle her wings.
"Mfff… five more minutes… or ten? Twenty?"
Shifting, she dropped back into a snooze.
The light continued lower down the tree, shining on Crobat's claws as he dangled from one of the sturdier branches.
Crobat didn't even stir, too used to sleeping while the sun was up to be disturbed by the sunlight.
Then it reached Altaria, who startled awake – his cloudy wings crashing into two of the branches next to the one he was on, making the whole tree sway and his branch creak alarmingly.
The Dragon-type jumped into the air, making the branch he'd been on flick up with a louder rustle, and leaves rained down around him as he slowed his fall and landed on the grass.
Then Crobat landed on his tail.
May yawned, stretching, and pulled herself partway out of her sleeping bag.
"What time is it?" she asked.
Twenty past six, Ethan answered her. Your alarm is not set for another forty minutes.
Looking over towards the nearby oak tree, May saw what had woken her up. "Oh, okay, I get it… well, I guess we didn't get to bed too late last night."
She turned to her other side. "Hey, Manaphy. You up yet?"
Manaphy blinked sleep out of his eyes, rubbing them, and focused on May. "It is you! Mama, I'm-"
He stopped, then blushed. "I kind of thought it was a dream."
May patted him on the head. "Don't worry, Manaphy, this isn't a dream."
Unzipping her sleeping bag, she started to go through her normal morning routine. Checking on her Pokémon, making sure they were all well rested, and then heading down to the nearby river for a dip.
After so long on the road, she was very used to it – even if she did prefer to catch time in a Pokémon Centre when they were near one.
Wash over – and with a quick warm shower, thanks to Wartortle – she was dressed and ready for the day.
"When's breakfast, Mama?" Manaphy asked, looking a bit puzzled.
May looked around, then chuckled. "Whoops… I guess maybe I should have realized that getting ready so soon would mean Brock didn't have time to cook."
Smiling, she sat down. "Well, I think the others would rather we gave them time to sleep, so let's see…"
After a bit of thought, she nodded. "I know – let's get Altaria over here, and you can help me keep his fluff in good condition. I've got a spare brush, so you can use that one."
"I like the sound of that, Mama," Manaphy nodded brightly.
"So you need to use the brush like this," May said, demonstrating. "It has to go along with the direction the air would be going when he flies – it helps keep him flying sleekly."
Manaphy nodded, and dragged the brush along with all his strength. "Like this?"
Altaria purred. "Yes, that feels wonderful..."
Beaming, the Water-type kept going.
After a few minutes, he sniffed. "...what's that smell?"
May blinked, then snapped her fingers. "Oh, that's right – sorry, I completely forgot to mention it, I must have just set it up automatically."
She indicated a little incense burner. "I got this from Rustboro department store. It's called Heart Incense, and I got it because… well, because it reminded me of you."
"...is that how I smell?" Manaphy asked, nose wrinkling. "I didn't know that."
Altaria chirped a little laugh.
"I use a little of it every day," May explained. "I've still got almost a third of it left, I was going to try and make sure it lasted until we met again..."
"It did!" Manaphy pointed out. "So that worked!"
"You're right," May agreed. "It did."
"I'm glad," the Legendary said firmly.
May and both her Pokémon looked up, losing concentration. "Brock?"
"Just letting you know, breakfast is ready," he said, putting the plates down. "This one's for Altaria, and that's Manaphy's."
"Thanks, Brock," May smiled.
"Thank you!" Manaphy agreed.
"I'm grateful too," Altaria informed Brock. "Just a bit slower off the mark."
"Oh, there's something I wanted to mention," he went on, sitting down and starting on his own breakfast.
May blinked. "Brock… that's toast."
"So?" Brock asked, taking another bite.
"You didn't even put butter on it?"
"I lost track of it," Brock admitted. "I was going to butter it, but by the time I remembered it had all cooled down, and I don't like putting the butter on when it won't melt in."
"But that's not what I wanted to talk about," Brock went on. "Misty said a while ago that she'd like to help with the Manaphy situation, and I know she's raised Azurill – do you think you'd like her to help with Manaphy?"
May thought about that, chewing on her pastry.
"I don't know," she said, eventually. "I don't know how much help Misty can be, though it'd be nice to have some tips – I raised Eevee to Glaceon, but I'm not sure how young Water types might be different."
She looked at Manaphy, and smiled. "But, then, Manaphy's not a normal Water type either… and I think Misty might have been thinking of helping with the pirates specifically."
"Who's Misty?" Manaphy asked.
"She's one of Ash's other friends," Brock explained. "She's a Water-type trainer, who's part of the Elite Four."
"Wow," Manaphy said, eyes wide. "So she's a really good Water trainer?"
May nodded. "That's right. She's one of the best."
"I think I'd like to learn some water type stuff from her," Manaphy decided, after a bit of thought. "I did training after I left Mama, but mostly underwater training."
"Then we'll ask her for help as soon as we can," May pronounced. "She might be busy, but it can't hurt to ask."
"Thanks, Mama," Manaphy smiled, finishing the last of his breakfast. "I'm looking forward to it."
"Um… excuse me?" Mawile asked.
Manaphy turned, seeing the Fairy-type shuffling her feet a bit.
"Hi!" he said brightly. "I don't think I've met you before!"
"You can talk human?" Mawile took a step back, surprised, then smiled. "That's pretty neat. I'm Mawile – I'm one of Ash's Pokémon!"
She patted the leg behind her. "This is my little brother!"
"He's big," Manaphy said, craning his neck up.
"I know!" Mawile agreed. "There's a great view!"
"Mama, can I go and play?" Manaphy asked.
"Of course," May replied, smiling. "Make sure to have fun!"
Misty picked up the phone.
"Yeah, who is – May? Oh, hi!"
Golduck looked up from his tennis game with Politoed, interested, then caught the ball as it flew at his face. Time out.
"Sure," Politoed agreed.
"What – already?" Misty asked, surprised. "Okay, well – I'm not really sure how much help I can give today or tomorrow, there's a couple of prospective Johto Gym Leaders who I need to test. One of them is a potential Water-type leader, too, so I need to show them my team for them to pick…"
Kabutops scratched his chin with the edge of a blade. "I wonder what they're talking about."
"It's Manaphy," Misty answered, looking up. "No, not you, I was talking to Kabutops… and yeah, if someone's the same type as one of us they actually get to pick first. It's why they pay us… however much they pay us. Golduck's the one who actually handles the finances most of the time."
"Well, if they do want to run a new Water-type gym they'd better have at least a few Pokémon who aren't borrowed from me – someone like that gets flagged for inspections." Misty thought for a moment, then went on. "How does the day after tomorrow sound? Or I could just try and visit you guys in a week or two… yeah, sure. I'll bring Azurill, he'll enjoy it."
Should I book it in the calendar? Golduck asked.
"Sounds good," Misty agreed, putting her phone down. "This time next week."
"Where will they be by then?"
"Good question, Chinchou," Misty admitted. "Hmmm… well, I can just phone then. If we give Ash a date and time he'll get lost somehow."
"Sounds about right," Kingdra agreed, poking his head out of the nearest pool. "Going to borrow a ride from Lance again?"
"Yeah," Misty shrugged. "Okay, we're going to have to have that meeting in an hour or so, so let's make sure everyone's in top shape."
"That's going to be a real help," May said, lowering the handset, then letting go as Ethan dissolved the hard-light image. "I'm kind of afraid of making a mistake, in an odd way… I know he's independent, but it doesn't feel like that – I missed over a year with him."
"So it feels like he's grown in ways you don't understand," Brock nodded. "And… you feel a lot like you missed some of the most important parts of his life, but you're determined to make the time you do have together count."
"That's pretty much it," May began, then frowned. "Or… maybe not? I don't know – I don't think I have a single opinion on this at all, it's all a bit too complicated."
She looked over at Manaphy, now in the middle of trying to show his Heart Swap to Mawile and Tyranitar – and encountering problems, because the Dark-typed Tyranitar was immune to the move. "But… in some ways, it's like those years never happened, but I can't forget they did."
Brock nodded, looking over to his Fire-type – making rings of flame from three tails at a time, then leaving them there for just long enough for Swellow to dart through.
"I know the feeling," he said. "Sort of."
He looked back at May. "But I think I know who's got a much better idea of what that's like. At least three people, actually."
"You do?" May asked. "Who? Do I know them?"
Skitty butted her ankle, and she lifted the Normal-type up for a quick stroke – getting rewarded by a satisfied purr.
"I'm pretty sure you do know them," Brock agreed, with a little smile. "They're called Norman, Caroline and Gardevoir."
May did a double-take, then blushed. "… Right."
She shook her head. "Now you say it, it actually sounds really obvious."
"Don't feel too down about it," Brock advised. "Sometimes it's much harder to realize when your situation is like a situation that involves you."
"And now you sound like a self help book," his friend chuckled.
She looked down at the purring Skitty in her lap. "Hey… you know we're going to be headed for Saffron city soon, right? I think it's as soon as Ash has decided what Pokémon he wants with him today."
"Like, I don't care," Skitty replied, tail flicking lazily. "I'm gonna, like, stay in this lap for-evar."
"When I stand up I won't have a lap any more," May countered.
"That's, like, a problem for the future..."
"What's that, Mama?" Manaphy asked. "Are those Pokémon attacks?"
"That's right," May confirmed. "These are some of the moves I think you could use, or moves which Manaphy or Phione have used in stories – Ethan put it together."
"That's pretty cool," the Water-type said, looking closer. "Oh, I do know a few of these!"
"That's good," May said. "What I'm doing is, I'm thinking about things a Contest routine could be based on for you, if you want to do one – and one idea I had was to use Tail Glow and Bubble, so you're sort of making some glowing bubbles."
Manaphy thought hard. "I… don't think I know what that would be like."
"Well, we've got time to practice," May assured him. "There's a Contest hall at Saffron, but I wouldn't ask you to take part unless you were completely confident – instead, we'll spend the time to make sure you're comfortable with what we plan to have you do."
She looked at her sort-of-adoptive-child, and saw he was looking a bit baffled.
"We'll have time to practice," she summarized.
"Ohh, right," Manaphy nodded. "Okay, sounds good!"
"...you know," May went on, looking at the list again. "I think I have an idea for something that would be a good finisher for a routine, and be a pretty powerful move too. Do you know Dazzling Gleam?"
"I don't think so," Manaphy replied.
He gripped May's shoulder suddenly, then blushed. "Sorry, Mama, I felt like I was going to fall off..."
"That's okay," May chuckled. "Thanks for apologizing, though."
She waved a hand, and Ethan's screen switched back to the basic version – showing his avatar hovering in the top left corner of a picture of the Maple family.
"Is that your Mom and Dad, Mama?" Manaphy asked.
"That's right," May said, a little surprised. "Have I really never shown you a picture before?"
"I don't remember if you did," Manaphy frowned.
"Then I'm sorry, Manaphy," May winced. "I really should have shown you before. But yes, that's my mother – her name's Caroline – and that's my father, Norman. This was taken after we moved into our house in Petalburg."
"I'd like to go there someday," the Water-type said a little wistfully.
"I'll try to make sure we can," May promised. "Anyway, what I was going to do was..."
Her fingers hovered over the keys.
You could just ask, Ethan pointed out. I'm very good at computer things.
"But then it wouldn't be a surprise for Manaphy," May pointed out.
Manaphy giggled. "I don't mind, Mama!"
"Fine, then," May said, with an exaggerated sigh. "What TMs are for sale in Saffron at the moment?"
Ethan's avatar dissolved in a swirl of digital chaos, then reformed. Not sure, but I did find this great deal from a bank who want to give me free money...
May blinked. "Pardon?"
Never mind, computer humour. A list of TMs came up, with the prices neatly next to them. Not all of these are in the same shop.
"Thanks, Ethan," May said, scrolling down the list. "Now, let's see… aha! Dazzling Gleam… where's that one on sale?"
Elektronica, in Ginza in Saffron.
"I've been meaning to go shopping," May mused. "I wonder how long I could get the others to stand a shopping trip..."
"I heard that!" Max protested.
"What do you think?" Brock asked, holding up a necklace. The centrepiece glittered, small gems forming a complete rainbow shading from deep black-red garnet, through orange and yellow to the green of olivine, then blue and purple to finally fade out in the shape of a purple quartz crystal so deeply tinted it was almost black itself.
"...I don't get it," Forretress admitted.
"I think it looks nice," Ninetales said, tilting her head. "But I don't think I get it either. You like things with a meaning to them, Brock, what's this one?"
Geodude did a thumbs-up. "Okay, Brockster, I got you. Nice."
"What am I missing?" Ninetales requested.
"The crystals are all geological minerals," Brock explained. "They're not precious ones, but they're common ones – or relatively common. Ones which show up too often in normal rocks to be all that valuable. And they're forming an electromagnetic spectrum."
"I think I get that," Forretress mumbled. "So it's sciencey and rocky?"
"That's the idea," Brock agreed. "Okay, I think it sounds like a good idea to get this one, and I'll see if I can spot something for Shinx."
As they headed to the counter, Geodude clicked his rocky fingers. "Hey, where's Ash gone?"
"I think he said Latios wanted to buy something, so he's helping with that."
"Hmmm..." May mused. "Ethan, I just realized how hard it is to shop for a Porygon2."
Only just? Ethan asked.
"Well, I've been thinking about it for a while," May elaborated. "I was thinking of getting something for everyone – all my Pokémon, I mean – but I realized I haven't really got much idea what you might want."
Ethan processed for a long time.
You are correct, he confirmed, eventually. I have access to just about everything that is open source, which is a lot of things. That being said, hardware is a possibility for upgrades.
"I'm not even sure if I can tell what that would mean as a good thing to get," May frowned.
In that case, I'll ask – would you be able to get me an extra data chip? I'll put books and films in it for when we're in a cave or otherwise not able to get a signal.
"I guess that works," May agreed.
"What's a data chip, Mama?" Manaphy asked, as they headed for the lift.
May thought about how best to put it.
"Well, computers like Ethan remember things a bit differently to most Pokémon," she began. "A lot of things are remembered more like a book than like a memory. And a data chip is like a really big bookshelf."
"Ohh, okay," Manaphy nodded.
The lift arrived, and they got into it with May pressing the button for the ninth floor. As the doors closed, Manaphy asked another question.
"What's a book?"
"Who's left..." May mused, looking at the bags of shopping she'd deposited on the bench next to her. "Ethan's got his memory chip, Skitty's got eight new cat toys..."
The Normal-type in question skidded past, chasing a fluffy feather attached by a long stick to a headband. "Like, this is way too hard to geeeet..."
"Should I take it off?" May asked.
"Like, no?" Skitty asked, glancing away from it for a moment. "I'm, like, totally wearing it out!"
Skitty raced off after her feather, and May smiled. "That one's a winner," she told Manaphy, who giggled. "Let's see… Blaziken has those bracers, and I got Altaria a classical music CD."
She patted one of the bags. "And I'm pretty sure Glaceon's going to like the thick fluffy coat. Is that right, Ethan?"
It should keep her cold on a warm day, yes, Ethan confirmed. It is insulation, which works both ways.
May nodded. "Still not sure what to get Beautifly… but at least I found some concentrated plant food for Venusaur, so hopefully she'll like that. And Muchlax would have preferred food even if I got something else."
"Was my idea for what to get Grumpig a good idea, Mama?" Manaphy asked.
"It was, yes," May agreed, smiling. "I'm sure he'll have a lot of fun with those marbles… so that means there's just three Pokémon left to get something for."
"Three?" Manaphy asked. "Uh… Wartortle… and Beautifly… and me?"
His face lit up.
"That's right," May agreed, giving him a quick hug. "Special treat, to go with the TM. What do you think you'd like, Manaphy?"
Manaphy thought hard, putting one fin to his chin and frowning extravagantly.
"Well..." he began, slowly, "There aren't any clothes I'd like. Or food. But..."
He blushed. "There's one thing I would like. But it sounds kind of silly."
"I'm sure it won't be," May assured him. "What is it?"
"Well..." Manaphy looked down slightly. "Latias and Latios have really cool Pokéballs..."
May took a moment to make the connection, then blinked. "You mean… wow, Manaphy, that's… thank you."
She smiled, then held up a hand. "But there's something I want to check, okay, dear?"
Manaphy nodded curiously.
"I want to make sure that you're really sure about this," May explained. "It's a really big step, and I don't want you to decide you didn't want to do it. I'm really glad you want to, don't worry – it means a lot to me."
Manaphy nodded, absorbing that. "So… is it because I'd always be your Pokémon, Mama? I always wanted to be!"
"Oh, Manaphy," May said, her smile a little wobbly. "I'm so sorry we had to say goodbye before..."
She gave him another hug, and he returned it.
"Still sure?" she asked quietly.
"Then let's go get you a really good Pokéball," May decided. "Exactly the one you want."
"That looks about the right size," Ash said. "Right?"
Yes, Latios agreed, looking at the bracelet on his wrist. It's a bit tight, but that's okay.
"What's it for?" Ash asked, unclipping the small piece of jewellery and checking the price tag.
It's for Latias, Latios answered.
"I didn't think it was… wait, no, it's not her birthday soon, is it?" Ash asked. "Pikachu, did I lose track of Latias' birthday?"
"No, you didn't," Pikachu agreed, looking up from toying with an earring.
Not… well, not my sister Latias, Latios admitted, very reluctantly. Other Latias.
"That makes sense!" Ash agreed, glad to have the mystery solved.
Pikachu and Lucario exchanged a glance.
"Let's not bother trying," Lucario advised.
Two primary focuses here, one human who talks to Pokémon – and a Pokémon who talks to humans.