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Berlitz Manor

 

“A little more icing on that left part, Lady – no, not quite that much, hold on, I’ll just neaten it a bit –“

Platinum Berlitz sighed and thrust the piping bag towards her slightly flustered friend.

“I think it would be best if you were to finish the cake decorating yourself, Diamond. It seems this will take more time than I thought for me to master, and I do want the cake to look presentable for the occasion.”

The budding chef smiled softly and took over, creating picturesque swirls on the rim of the cake, around the somewhat shakily iced message that read, “A very happy birthday, Pearl!” The heiress stood back and watched her friend slowly turn the cake into artwork. The baked confection itself had turned out quite nicely: Diamond's culinary skills, combined with the paraphernalia found in the Berlitz Manor kitchen, had resulted in a light, fluffy dessert that had immediately drawn the Pokemon in with it’s fragrance. Diamond had handed off the icing work to Platinum when she asked if she could 'make a more active contribution than lending my kitchen' (and it left him free to keep Lax well away from the cake). However, she hadn’t completely managed to get the hang of decorating desserts. They were well past the point when giving Platinum a piping bag would only result in large splatters of buttercream all over the counters and walls (and any unfortunate souls standing behind the cake), but she still had a way to go when it came to the more delicate shapes and patterns that Diamond was executing with such ease.

“It looks just fine, Lady, you didn’t mess anything up. I’m sure Pearl will love it!”

Are you sure you’re not just being kind? she thought while leaning against the counter. “I certainly hope so. And even if I couldn’t quite manage the icing, I can certainly cope with placing toppings – Lopunny, could you please hand me the remaining Berries?”

The rabbit Pokemon smiled and gracefully walked out of the kitchen. Diamond had sent all of the Pokemon on a Berry-gathering spree earlier that morning; it burnt off nervous energy, kept them distracted, and brought in fresh ingredients for the birthday cake. Platinum stretched, then reached for the knives.

“Diamond, do you want to use the Berries whole, or should I dice them?” she asked – then froze when suddenly the sounds of the Pokemon over in the west study of the manor rose in commotion. Platinum looked over at a wide-eyed Diamond, and they simultaneously threw down all utensils and ran towards the mayhem.

They sprinted into quite the scene: Rotom, Cherrim and Pachirisu appeared to be chasing something around the furniture, which was in disarray, but being saved from total destruction by a very upset Empoleon. Tung and Froslass appeared to have assumed some sort of defensive position near one of the doorways, while the other Pokemon blocked the entrance to the foyer. Dia was stunned into silence, while the lady of the house shrieked.

“What is – what in Arceus' name happened here?!”

The chasers almost instantly skidded to a halt – quite literally, as Cherrim slammed into Empoleon's legs, bowling her over into the nearest cabinet. Tung hurriedly blocked said cabinet and it’s contents from collapsing on the Emperor Pokemon. Meanwhile, the object of their attention rounded the corner and attempted to make a break for it, only to be swiftly blocked by Lopunny and Moo. Dia snapped into action and scooped up the offender.

“Lax, I told you to leave the Berries alone! How are we supposed to have food ready and intact if you keep eating the ingredients?!”

The Munchlax yelped in protest and shook his head vehemently.

“…. Lax, I can see your belly bulging all the way from here. Please, be nice and hand them over?” asked Platinum, over from where she was keeping her seething starter from possibly mauling the giggling Cherrim.

The Munchlax sighed, and, with a defeated look, emptied his pocket. A cascade of Berries fell out, which were promptly arrested in mid-air, and floated into the kitchen, courtesy of Froslass. Dia put Lax back down with a groan.

“Well, now that’s sorted, I should finish the cake topping – Pearl and the others will be here any minute now. Lady, you can handle sorting this room back out by yourself, right?”

She nodded. “Go finish the cake, we will make sure that the place is spick and span in no time. Come on, all of you, help me put everything back in it’s original place – that is not where that shield was, Pachirisu! Please take it off the doorframe and put it back on that shelf over by the fireplace. No, I do not care if it looks better, we are not leaving it there to drop on someone’s head if and when you feel like it.”

 

About 10 minutes later, the study was clear of any obvious debris ( a few ripped cushions had been hastily tossed under various furniture, and there were only a few feathers still floating around) and Dia came back from the kitchen with Froslass following while carrying the cake, now glittering with diced Berry chunks. She put it down on the table in front of the fireplace. The others gathered around to admire the sight.

Platinum stretched her arms and smiled. “It looks simply wonderful, Diamond! I’m sure Pearl will love it – why are you looking around like that?”

Dia seemed to be searching the room for something with a puzzled expression. Turning to Lopunny, he asked, “Hadn’t one of you found a Rowap Berry? The rare blue one?”

Empoleon gave a call in the affirmative.

“I was saving that for the topping because it would make for a great contrasting flavor, but I couldn’t find it just now. I figured Froslass just missed it. Did you guys find a Berry while clearing the place up?”

Lopunny shook her head, while Platinum and the others looked confused – and then, as one, all of their heads whipped towards the large window where a certain glutton was sitting too quietly for anyone’s comfort.

Platinum narrowed her eyes, the gesture mirrored in most of the Pokemon's eyes. Wig, Don and Moo exchanged long-suffering glances and slowly moved to block the doors again.

“…. Lax, you did return all the Berries, yes?”

Lax slowly blinked, then yelped and pointed at the door coming from the foyer. Everyone whipped around to see what happened, and a second later Diamond sighed and muttered, “He’s bolted, hasn’t he…”

Froslass hissed and flew after the scrambling Munchlax, while Lopunny and Tung leapt for the table to protect the cake. Diamond looked torn between joining those two and tearing after Lax. Cherrim had no such qualms; she made a beeline for the door Lax was headed for and suddenly dropped in front of him to cut him off. The startled Lax tried to make an about turn, slipped and accidentally chucked the item in his hand – straight across the room into Empoleon’s face.

Empoleon shrieked and began waving its flippers frantically. Platinum ran over to her, calling out, “No, do not rub at it, it’s a spicy Berry! Do not let it get into your eyes! Wash it off – wait, no, what are you doing? Empoleon, wait– “

The Emperor Pokemon had quietly stalked forward with murder in her eyes. Cherrim's laughter quickly subsided as she watched Lax shrink under the taller Pokemon's glare.

 


 

 

Pearl rolled his shoulders and yawned as he and his partners walked into Berlitz Manor. His 15th birthday had brought an early morning; a very excited Palmer asking him to come for a birthday hike and breakfast had woken him up at 5:00 am. It had been an interesting experience, with only about 3 near death escapades. Tauhiko and Dighiko still looked mildly peeved at the fact that they had spent the majority of their morning distracting a stampeding Bouffalant herd. In any case, they were all here, mostly in one piece.

“Well, we’ve made it, and we all know never to trust Dad with choosing a picnic location again…. Ya gotta admit it was somewhat funny, right?”

His Pokemon simply stared at him. Chimhiko slowly shook his head.

“Oh, come on, so we almost died. A few times. But he tried his best, so that’s what counts! Now, to find the othe- ACK!”

Pearl had been cut off by someone suddenly giving him a tight hug from behind.

“Young lad, I wish you the most joyous of birthdays! 15 years old – why, I remember that 11-year-old boy, always speeding off towards his next target! Now –“ Sebastian paused, letting go of Pearl and spinning him around to face him “- well, you still are hasty. But more mature, certainly!”

“Thanks, Sebastian,” wheezed Pearl. “Are Lady and Dia in the usual spot?”

The butler straightened and smiled. “Where else? Enjoy your day!”

“Thanks!” Pearl yelled as he took off towards the study. Zelhiko and Rayhiko quickly ran past him, grinning as they raced their Trainer to their room, everyone's feet practically moving on muscle memory.

Pearl vividly recalled the first few times they’d all hung out in the manor; the very first time, Diamond, Zelhiko and Lax had gotten hopelessly lost. They had almost immediately retrieved Lax from the larder with minimal damage to the food stock. After 3 hours of searching, they had found Zelhiko chilling out in the swimming pool, and Diamond snoring in an upper bedroom.

 (“This is the fifth guest bedroom! Pearl, I thought you said you checked this floor?”

“No, I said I went through twelve different bedrooms – how was I supposed to know there were more?! Why do you even have more?! DIA - DIAMOND, WAKE UP BEFORE I GET CHIMHIKO TO FIRE BLAST YOUR SORRY BUTT OUT OF THERE!”)

The boys were welcome at the manor anytime, and over the years the residents of the Berlitz household had gotten used to sometimes seeing the brash, loud boy putting the Pokemon through different training regimes in the back gardens, or entering the kitchens to find his calmer raven-haired counterpart in deep discussion with the chef about the latest trends in gastronomy. After the first few path finding disasters, the trio ended up deciding on a specific room to meet up in so Dia and Pearl didn’t have to embark on a hunt through the vast house every time they wanted to find the others. The west wing study was a large, spacious room that led into the lawn, and it quickly went from a simple meeting spot to a second home for the gang. It was now almost a weekly occurrence to walk by the study and hear yelling and laughter emanating from behind the doors. They were practically a part of the family.

Pearl snapped out of his musing when he rounded the last corner and saw Rayhiko standing in front of the study. The normally unfazed Luxray actually looked dumbfounded. Pearl also suddenly realized that the shouting coming from the room was significantly louder than normally warranted. Now bidden by both curiosity and impatience, he sped up, and as he reached the entrance, exclaimed, “What in the name of Arceus are yo- AAAACK!”

The Luxray could only wince as Pearl took a full blast of water to the face.

 


 

 

“Empoleon, seriously, I’m all right! Its just water! Just, uh, watch your aim and surroundings the next time?”

Diamond quietly chuckled. The birthday boy was on the armchair opposite his, loudly protesting the Empoleon’s insistent attempts to apologize. Platinum walked back into the room with a large, fluffy towel and a dry shirt in her hands, which she handed to Pearl. The now fifteen year old seemed to be in a good mood; he wasn’t nearly as indignant as Diamond would have expected. Pearl changed out of his wet T-shirt and messily put his hair into a towel turban.

“…. what? It’s convenient and doesn’t drip water everywhere.”

Froslass just shook her head and brought the cake back over to the table. Pearl's eyes lit up with delight.

“Did you all make this? It looks so good!”

“Try not to sound so surprised, Pearl. And the cake is almost completely to Diamond’s credit,” said Platinum, smiling wryly.

The cake was cut, Happy Birthday was sung and howled along to, and Diamond handed everybody slices of what Pearl proclaimed was, “The greatest cake I’ve ever eaten.”

“Pearl, you have said that every birthday so far,” pointed out Platinum, perched on an ottoman next to the fireplace. Poised and calm, with Rapidash and Empoleon comfortably settled on either side of her, she cut quite the regal picture.

“Well, I mean it everytime! Dia, your cooking just gets better and better,” said Pearl through a mouth half full of cake. Settled into an antique armchair, with Chahiko perched on the right arm and pecking cake out of his plate, the scene could have made for another imposing portrait – if not for the fact that both Trainer and Pokemon's mouths were lined in frosting. Diamond suppressed his laughter and grinned at his best friend.

“I’m glad you like it. I tried to bring a summery feel to it; your birthday falls right before summer fully kicks in here in Sinnoh, so I figured we could celebrate both your turning fifteen, and the fun that’s to come.”

The word summer perked practically everyone in the room up; human and Pokemon alike looked equally enthused.

“I understand perfectly what you mean, Diamond. I simply cannot wait for summer to begin! I have already made so many arrangements to facilitate our activities!” chirped the heiress with her bright smile.

Pearl slammed down his empty plate with an exclamation. “Damn, that’s right! We’re all three of us together this summer– this is going to be EPIC! But knowing you, you’ve probably already planned to the extremes, so what do you have in store for us, Lady?”

The boys leaned forward in their armchairs, looking expectantly at their lady. The Pokemon were watching the scene with varying degrees of interest.

The girl’s eyes sparkled, and clapping her hands, she said, “Because Professor Rowan allowed me to select my preferences first, I was able to handpick the finest research topic from his list of summer assignments!”

Platinum took the boys' bulging eyes and open mouths as awe, and obliviously rambled on, “Even better, I told him that with all our manpower, we could easily undertake even more fieldwork than the assignment calls for, so the Professor agreed to lend us lab equipment to conduct my own individual studies as well! Isn’t that just fantastic?

Pearl blinked, and Platinum suddenly realized that he hadn’t done so for about a minute. Then he broke out into borderline hysterical laughter.

“Dia, would you look at that – she’s cracking jokes now! We’re fantastic teachers, aren’t we?”

Diamond slowly slid off his seat and onto the floor. “I…. don’t think she’s joking, Pearl.”

“I am not!”

“See, she is not.”

“I heard it. Still working on believing it.”

Platinum narrowed her eyes. “Alright, what is up with the two of you? Why do you look like you were expecting something different?”

Pearl spluttered and shot to his feet, and Chahiko flew out of the reach of his flailing hands. “E-expecting something different?! I’m sorry, you were thinking we would act excited about having to WORK IN THE SUMMER?!”

“What else were you going to do?!” snapped the heiress, standing up.

“Uh, do picnics, camping, gaming, going to the beach, and just plain old hanging out not ring a bell? Or did you legitimately forget what summer means?!” snorted Pearl.

Platinum's face suddenly went from vexed to pensive. Turning a little away, she murmured, “I wouldn’t know. I never spent summers anywhere other than the Manor, or in the lab itself. As I grew older, I joined the Professor on more and more research trips. That is what summer means to me, Pearl. A season that produces surprising and wonderful results for science.”

Pearl now looked sheepishly between Platinum and Dia. “Yeah, I forgot you hadn’t spent vacations the way we did. But that’s all right, we can show you! Me and Dia, we’ll make sure you know what summer really is!”

The heiress smiled slightly. “That would be very much appreciated, my friends. It would make for a welcome break from research from time to time.”

Pearl, who had unfortunately chosen that moment to drink water, choked and spat everywhere. Dia ducked away from the spray and came back up to hear Pearl hissing, “What the – did you completely miss the part where I said we don’t work in summer?! Why on Earth would we spend the holidays doing something we dislike?

“It is important that these assignments be finished in summer itself, Pearl! And besides, who ever said I dislike research?!” cut in Platinum, with flashing eyes. “I happen to enjoy fieldwork immensely, and I am quite looking forward to the new assignments. I am not going to give it up to frolic about, no matter how much fun you say it is!”

The two formidable opponents glared at each other. Looking around at the stunned Pokemon, and at his upset companions, Diamond sensed that it was time for him to step in.

But what do I say? What will appease you both? More importantly, what’s the right thing to do here?

“Well, we could always just do both, right?”

Diamond braced himself for onslaught as his friends broke eye contact and whirled towards him instead.

“Dia. No. Diamond. What?!”

Platinum just sighed and shook her head. “I wish it were feasible, Diamond, I truly do. But the assignment is intensive, and then there is my individual research to think about…. I can only study certain topics during specific times of the year, and summer is one of them for several interesting subjects. And I even got to select sub themes that I personally think are the most interesting!”

“That’s all fine,” interjected Diamond. “We do both. You show us how research in the field is conducted, Lady, and we’ll all help you out to the best of our capabilities. And –“ his eyes flicked to Pearl, halting him midway in the process of interrupting, “- we also have as much fun as we can. Campfires, volleyball, the whole lot. We’ll make sure that we have sufficient time to finish your studies, but we spend the rest of the time however Pearl and me want. Deal?”

Pearl glanced over at their lady, who was intensely studying the carpet. The corners of his mouth turned up. “I’m on board with this. Deal?” he queried, extending his fist forward. Diamond smiled and put his own fist forward as well.

Platinum looked up at the two of them, and suddenly laughed and bumped their fists with her own. “Alright. We are going to spend this summer the way we want – the way all of us want.” They grinned at each other for a moment, and then Diamond looked over at the Pokemon. “That goes for all of you, too! You up for this?”

Their roars of agreement echoed through the manor.

 


 

 

Route 2 24 – Seabreak Path

 

“How on Earth did no one find this place before?” asked Diamond, hiking his backpack further up his shoulders. He gently nudged the already exhausted Lax ahead with his knee, while Chimhiko skipped ahead and beckoned the Munchlax forward (to get him moving or to punt him, no one knew). Ahead of Chimhiko was the slowly trotting Rapidash, with Platinum, Phione and Manaphy on his back.  Still further ahead was Pearl, with Rotom beside him and Chahiko flying overhead.

“Oh, no, people have most certainly known about this place – and the beautiful spot it leads to – for ages now. But the fabled secret that the Flower Paradise hides has so far gone unnoticed. We would never have considered a legend with next to no proof for a research topic, if it were not for Marley vaguely hinting at something the last time she was in Sandgem Town. After badgering her for approximately an hour, she caved and told me what she knew,” replied Platinum, as she made playful grabbing motions at the Mythical Pokemon with her. Bringing Phione and Manaphy along had not been planned – but the lab already had their hands full with various tests and experiments to conduct, and none of the trio felt it was fair to burden the staff with two hyperactive, powerful Pokemon. As for Rotom, he had not been invited either, but by the time they discovered the mischievous ghost hiding in Platinum's research equipment bag, they had already made it to Route 224.

“Could y’all hurry up already?! I swear, if we get there and the place is empty because you were too slow, I’m gonna fine you all!” shouted Pearl as he ran even further down the seemingly endless path.

“Pearl, it will be just fine! Do try and stop to smell the flowers sometimes – oh for crying out loud, he is already out of earshot!”

Diamond laughed as he recalled the now refusing to move forward Munchlax to his Pokeball, and quickened his steps to catch up to the rest. “You knew perfectly well he would run ahead, Lady. The question is – is he going to find anything there without the inside information you have?”

Platinum smiled knowingly as she gazed down the gorgeous flower- lined road.

 

 

Pearl glared at the gang as they came into sight. He’d been scouring the Flower Paradise for half an hour with no luck. Platinum took one look at his peeved face and burst into giggles.

“It’s not funny, Lady! You did that on purpose!”

“Purpose, when you were the one who ran ahead without asking what we were supposed to do? I think not! And from that outburst and your facial expression, I take it you found nothing?”

Pearl rolled his eyes and threw up his hands. Chahiko mimicked him by throwing his wings up. Platinum gave a most unladylike snort, and then her face quickly morphed into shock as she took in the carnage behind the oldest Trainer.

“Pearl! Why would you run all over the flowers like that?!”

“Are you kidding me? Look at this place, the flowers are practically weeds. I had to find that tiny bush like Pokemon amongst all this – of course some of them got walked on!”

Platinum spluttered. “That logic is ridiculous – and preserving the natural habitat is of the utmost importance!”

Diamond chuckled. “Alright then. This is research work, so we need to be careful. Lady, you’ll need to guide us both from here on out.”

The heiress nodded as she slid off Rapidash. “First, we need to slowly and quietly scan the flowers for signs of activity – “

“Been there, done that, Lady. The place is so silent it’s borderline creepy!”

“ – Without disturbing the flowers themselves. The second you see any movement of any kind, signal for the rest of us as subtly as you can. This step highly depends on us being stealthy.”

Diamond quickly steamrolled past his indignant friend and said,”Alright, then the searchers should probably just be us three and our quietest Pokemon. Too many people searching will also scare them off, I guess.”

Pearl huffed, and sent out Rayhiko. “Fine! Me, Chahiko and Rayhiko will take the northern side; Dia, Rotom, and Phione, go eastwards; Lady, you, Manaphy and Lopunny can check the western area. Chimhiko and Rapidash, you two alright with staying here and watching the central area?”

The Fire types nodded and settled comfortably in the grass, watching around them for any movement. The three teams scattered to search their allotted areas.

About half an hour in, Chahiko squawked to get Pearl's attention. When Pearl looked at the Music Note Pokemon, he flew over to Diamond's side of the Paradise. Pearl called Rayhiko over and they swiftly made their way over to Dia. As they approached, Platinum and Lopunny joined them, and the group silently made its way to where Dia was lying on his stomach, so still that Pearl was convinced for a second that he had fallen asleep – until he spoke softly, “About three yards straight ahead, to the right of Phione!”

The sharp-eyed Rayhiko was the first to spot and confirm their research subject’s presence. Pearl let his binoculars drop and pumped his fist. “Alright, we found a Shaymin! Now we just gotta catch it, right?”

The heiress pinched his arm and hissed, “Not so loud! And we do not have to catch it in a Pokeball; we just need it to cooperate with us for the sake of the study. I am sure we can do that just by being quiet and kind to it.”

“So, how do we approach it?” asked Diamond, rolling over into his back to face the others.

“Well, Marley did say that Shaymin favor people who are sensitive to the needs of nature and Pokemon, but I was not sure how that helped us – “

“So Marley gave us nothing. Brilliant. We should just walk ahead and directly ask the Shaymin, Lady,” muttered Pearl as he shuffled his feet impatiently.

“No, I believe she did in fact give us the answer – in her own way, that is. I am starting to think she meant that we have to show respect to the Flower Paradise itself – why, yes! That must be it!” Platinum clapped her hands together. “We are probably required to – Diamond, why are you looking at me like that? Is there somethi – oh. Oh, for the love of Arceus, why does he never wait?”

The statement was, of course, directed at Pearl, who had already slunk forward towards the Gratitude Pokemon. Diamond sighed, and extended a hand towards Lopunny, who pulled him upright.

“We’d best hurry before the Shaymin disappears again, Lady. The rest of you, block any possible escape routes while we go after Shaymin – “

“Avoid the flowers!” burst out Platinum. “Shaymin does not want the flowers to come to harm – do not trample through them and leave them untouched as much as you can!”

The group spread itself out around Pearl, who had come directly in front of the Shaymin. The tiny Grass type looked up at the imposing figure in front of it with wide eyes.

“Hey there! We need your help with a project. Could you come with us for some time?” asked Pearl with a wide grin.

The Shaymin looked down at the Trainer’s shoes, which stood on crushed flowers. Behind him extended a trail of similarly wrecked flora. The Pokemon shook it’s head and began moving backwards.

“Hey, now, hold on a second – this isn’t gonna hurt or anything, I promise – why are you going backwards faster come back here you little –“

The Shaymin had quickly retreated from the increasingly frantic Pearl, and the second his tone of voice entered a different octave, the Pokemon turned and made a break for it – only to be scooped up by Diamond. The Pokemon squeaked and began to struggle.

“Hush, it’s alright, I know the large mean boy scared you – “

Excuse me?!”

“ – But he’s not a bad person, I promise! None of us are. We’re just curious about you and these flowers, and whether you can make these flowers grow faster with your presence. We’re not going to hurt you, I swear,” murmured Diamond in his soft, lilting voice. The Grass type had stopped wriggling by the time his words trailed off, and was silently looking up at him. Platinum, watching from a distance, heaved a sigh of relief and approached the duo.

“Hello there, Shaymin. My name is Platinum Berlitz, and these are my friends and research assistants for today, Diamond and Pearl. I want to take a closer look at you, and how you influence floral growth around you. We promise to be extremely careful, and not damage the flowers any more than they have already been, for which we sincerely apologize!” The last part was delivered in a pointed tone, with a steely glare directed towards the now confused blonde.

The Shaymin looked between the onlookers with an expression akin to a mixture of apprehension and curiosity, and eventually turned up to see Diamond’s smiling face. The Pokemon relaxed and nodded. A collective sigh of relief escaped the group.

“Thank you very much, Shaymin. Let me set up the instruments I will need – meanwhile, Diamond can introduce you to everybody!” commented Platinum as she sat on her knees on a patch of ground devoid of flowers, and began rummaging through her bag.

About ten minutes later, everything was set up, and Platinum wiped her brow as she turned to her friends. “Is everyone getting along?”

“Just fine, Lady!” called back Diamond. “Well, except…”

“Except who? Actually, never mind, I think I can guess.”

Platinum carried her material over to the group, and took in the spectacle. Pearl was sneezing viciously, while making blind swipes at the wide-eyed Shaymin in Diamond’s arms.

Pearl! Just what do you think you are doing to that Pokemon?!”

Pearl rubbed his eyes and whirled upon his Lady. “That menace decided to Worry Seed me! It stings!”

Platinum turned disbelieving silver eyes upon the veritable picture of innocence nestled in Dia's arms.

“…. If you say so. Shall we begin, Shaymin?”

The Grass type gave a happy chirp. Platinum smiled and said, “ Keep holding it that way for now, Diamond. It’s relaxed and comfortable, and I need it to be in a position where we can film all of its characteristics. Pearl, would you take the camera?”

Pearl wiped his nose with his sleeve and nodded. “Sure thing, I’ll film the best damned video you’ve ever seen – HEY!”

Just as Pearl had moved to take the camera and face Shaymin, it had launched a Seed Bomb in his direction. He had successfully called the move and dodged, but that didn’t leave him any less pissed.

“You see what I’m talking about?! This thing is Giratina spawn!”

Now even Rayhiko was looking at his Trainer in stunned silence. The Shaymin shrunk away from Pearl and snuggled into Dia's jacket.

Platinum sighed. “Alright then, Pearl won’t be filming – but then what? I need to be the one talking on film, and Shaymin only seems to be comfortable with Diamond – “

A sudden light flash cut her off. The trio blinked confusedly before looking over in the direction of the flash – to see a grinning Manaphy waving the camera. Pearl yelped and quickly swiped it away from the tiny blue Pokemon.

“Careful, buddy, that’s really expensive! – Wait, this actually turned out good?”

The others inspected the photo and confirmed Pearl’s weird discovery: Manaphy apparently could handle the camera quite well. Platinum smiled and bent down to the Seafaring Pokemon's level.

“Little one, do you think you can handle the job I have in mind for you?”

Pearl groaned and moved aside to make way for the excited Manaphy. “Oh well, it does seem to know what it’s doing. Surely this can’t go that badly…”

Pearl's words trailed off as he looked at the Shaymin and saw nothing but murder in its eyes. He gulped.

“… I really, really do not like research.”

 


 

 

Pokemon Laboratory, Sandgem Town

 

The two laboratory aides on duty stood outside Professor Rowan's door, listening to the noise erupting from inside the room with intrigue.

“…How long have they been laughing like that?”

“Twenty minutes now… what on Earth could be that funny about a research video?”

Inside the room, Professor Rowan and Yanase Berlitz were slowly gathering themselves. The grizzled professor chuckled. “It certainly seems like they had an… eventful time during their research.”

Yanase snorted. “I’m torn over whether I wanted to be there or not. The details they’ve captured about Shaymin and its behavior are simply marvelous, and I must say, Manaphy did an incredible job documenting all of their hard work – and the chaos that followed.” She lapsed back into laughter for a while, then continued, “But then I remember what poor Pearl went through – agreed, it was his fault for rushing ahead and not following the instructions Marley left, but I feel the consequences were a tad too harsh.”

The professor outright laughed as he saved the video to his computer. “ That Shaymin certainly did not appreciate the damage the boy did to it’s precious garden – so in a way, they also managed to document it’s fierce territorial and defensive nature, as your daughter correctly pointed out. And the unexpected change into its Sky Forme! I don’t believe we’ve ever captured that on film – or the immense changes in its personality that follow! They all did a fantastic job, and the hiccups can be ignored in lieu of the massive amounts of data they collected. I’d definitely call that a successfully completed assignment.”

“Successful in more ways than one, Professor.”

The old researcher turned to look at his younger colleague, who was intently looking through the field photos. “Was there another good outcome to this little conquest?”

The mother laughed, and held up a photo of the three children and their Pokemon lying among the flowers and laughing, a content expression on all their faces. The smile on Platinum's face was the brightest the Professor had ever seen it.

“… I never realized just how happy I am about the fact that she has those boys by her side.”

 

 

The aforementioned boys, meanwhile, had taken the Berlitz heiress to the 'summer piece de resistance’, as Pearl termed it in a questionable accent. Sandgem Beach was a lovely place with calm waters ideal for swimming, and hence was quite well frequented by Sinnoh citizens during the summer. However, the sharp minded heiress had quickly realized, as she and the boys navigated the rocky path that eventually led to the sea, that her knights were not, in fact, headed for that beach at all.

“I thought you said we would be going to the shore? I believe we missed the turn for Sandgem Beach a little ways back,” queried the confused Dex Holder.

Pearl and Diamond shared a secretive grin, and the latter extended his hand towards her. “We are absolutely headed for the shore. Careful here, the path is a bit steep.”

Path?! This is practically a cliff, Diamond! Where on Earth does this… trail lead?”

Diamond burst into laughter as he helped her down the rocky edges, and pulled her around a corner. He then grinned at the awe that crossed the girl’s face.

In front of the Dex Holders stretched the ocean, big and blue and seemingly endless. Right at their feet, a few more meters down, was a gorgeous little cove with pristine sand and absolutely zero people. Well, apart from Pearl, who had jumped the last few feet with the confidence of someone who had definitely traversed the difficult trail through the rocky cliffs before.

“You did say you would prefer beaches if they weren’t crowded!” shouted Pearl from below.

“Hush, you. You most certainly had this place in mind before I even said that. It is stunning! How has nobody else discovered this pla- eep!” The lady had unknowingly taken a step forward, enamored by the sight, and promptly slipped on loose gravel. Diamond grabbed her arms before she could reach the sands the fast way.

“…. Never mind, I think I know why the scene is secluded.”

Dia chuckled as he helped her back to her feet. “That’s why we said to keep the Pokemon in their Pokeballs as well – there’s no way the larger ones could make it down on their own. Steady now, we’re almost at the bottom.”

“But how in the name of Arceus did you two come upon this tableau?”

“Come upon is more appropriate than you think, Lady. Pearl fell off this cliff while we were looking for Pokemon in the woods back up there. He broke his left arm, but it was for a good cause, since we found this pretty little beach!”

“I heard that, Diamond! Let’s not forget how many times you took a Swanna dive off those ledges when we were trying to figure out how to get down here, huh?”

Platinum giggled and made the motions of a diver preparing to jump.

“Did… did you just try to mimic a diver, Lady?”

“No, I did not.”

“Yes, you did.”

“No, I certainly did not.”

Pearl laughed as the heiress hopped off the last ledge onto the sand. “Yes, you did.”

The girl scowled as she walked up to him, and then suddenly burst into laughter. “Oh, all right, yes I did!”

Pearl cheered and called his Pokemon out, the other Dex Holders doing the same. Platinum’s Pokemon all took on the same wide-eyed expression their Trainer had shown. Phione and Manaphy squealed and made a beeline for the blue waters.

“Ah, you two, wait! The waves are quite large – “

“No need to worry, Lady! The two of them love the ocean. They’re probably better swimmers than all of us combined. Just look at them go!”

Indeed, the Mythical Pokemon had swum into deeper waters with extraordinary speed, and were happily jumping about and creating funny seawater shapes using their powers. Platinum laughed. “I don’t think we’ve grasped what it is those two are truly capable of.”

There was a blur of movement next to the Dex Holders as Zelhiko practically flew into the waves. Empoleon followed in his tracks in a more sedate pace. Diamond smiled, watching the water Pokemon play in the surf as he helped Lopunny, Cherrim and Tung set up a giant umbrella and deckchairs that the boys kept stashed in a small cave below the cliff.

“So, you two have spent all your beach days here?” asked Platinum, taking off her sandals to feel the sand beneath her toes.

“Nah, we went to Sandgem Beach a lot too. This was more private, when we wanted to practice our manzai, or just… enjoy the ocean with only the ocean's sound. I dunno, it’s hard to explain,” said Pearl as he unceremoniously kicked off his shoes and chucked his shirt over the nearest chair.

The corner of Platinum’s mouth went up as she watched the boisterous blonde look out at the shining water with an unusually peaceful expression. “ I think I understand anyway.”

Diamond, in the meantime, had grabbed a sandwich from their lunch hamper and settled down on the sand with something oddly colorful in his hand. Platinum squinted, trying to make out what the object was, when Pearl looked over in their direction and groaned.

“Dia – no, Diamond. How is that old thing still intact, and why do you still have it.”

The accused looked up with a puzzled expression and said, “I always make sure it’s safe. I like this Ducklett float very much.”

He then began to inflate said float. Pearl rolled his eyes and murmured, “That rag is practically a mascot of our beach outings at this point. I’m pretty sure I have a photo of Dia at the age of five with that damned duck.”

Platinum smothered her giggles with her hand so as to not offend her softhearted friend. “I think his loyalty is commendable, do you not?”

“Never let it be said that I thought our Diamond was a disloyal individual – but that float really gets on my nerves. He thinks he’s invincible in the waves thanks to it.” Pearl sighed, and then his mocking expression was replaced by a fierce grin, in a manner similar to the tide washing away the sand. “Bad plastic floats aside, we promised to show you how we spend summer – and beach days are an all important aspect. Today, Lady, you’ll know what it means to enjoy the season the right way!”

The duo was true to their word. Over the next few hours, Platinum and her Pokemon:

Built sand castles (Lopunny and Froslass' creation was actually a thing of beauty until it was unfortunately run over by a sand-blinded Tauhiko)

Learnt the rules of beach volleyball (she and Empoleon absolutely destroyed Pearl and Chimhiko – the former claimed to all sundry that he went easy on the lady)

Went shell hunting (“I don’t care how rare and beautiful an intact nautilus is, Lady -  if you say one more word about logarithmic spirals I'm throwing it back into the ocean.”)

Discovered frisbees, and that was how the cove became the site of one of the most outrageous games of frisbee tag ever played in Sinnoh.

“I still say using Dig to bypass an opponent should be banned! That point shouldn’t have counted!” sulked Pearl as he snagged an orange popsicle from the cooler they had carried along. He passed another over to Platinum, who was laughing along with Dighiko.

“It was a fair strategy! What about you telling Froslass to freeze the sand to make us slip? Or Diamond asking Chimhiko to set the frisbee on fire? Actually – Diamond, explain your logic behind that last gambit, please.”

Diamond exhaled the sigh of one who is truly full and said, “I was hungry.”

“… Fair.”

“Anyways!” exclaimed Pearl, standing up and brushing sand off his shorts. “We’ve had a good lunch and some rest – “

“Pearl, you practically inhaled your popsicle. I do not think that was enough time for mine to even thaw.

“ – But the best part is yet to come! Lady, when we were planning out our summer trips, you mentioned how you’d always admired surfers and their Pokemon, right?”

The unsuspecting heiress nodded. “The few times I was at beaches, at Sandgem or out of Sinnoh, what I did the most was observe those groups. As a child, I could never fathom the ease with which they navigated those massive waves. Now I have grasped the physics behind the sport, but their sheer nerve and skill still astounds me – oh. Pearl, are you serious?”

The lady's stunned exclamation had erupted when she heard heavy footfalls on the sand behind her and turned to see a grinning Zelhiko and slightly chagrined Empoleon carrying two colorful surfboards with them. Diamond choked on his heavily topped sundae and burst into laughter.

“Careful what you wish for, Lady!”

“I did not wish for this! Admittedly I am curious regarding the inner workings of surfing, but I had no desire to experience it first-hand – Et tu, Empoleon?”

The Emperor Pokemon had sheepishly picked up her Trainer and carried her to the breaking waves. Diamond waved farewell and then snickered as he turned to a blinking Froslass, utterly nonplussed by what had just transpired. “Poor Lady is going to have her work cut out for her. I’ll join them in a minute, that water looks ridiculously tempting - but I gotta finish that amazing sundae – hey, where’d it go? I just put it down a second ago – LAX, WAIT!”

The boy could only shriek in dismay as his Munchlax finished licking the insides of the sundae glass. The remaining Pokemon, all in various stages and positions of naptime under the umbrella, could only roll their eyes. Lopunny consolingly patted the distraught Trainer while exchanging flat looks with Wig. Diamond exhaled slowly, with the air of a war veteran, and slowly pushed himself to his feet.

“Looks like I’m joining them right away, huh? Has anyone seen my – “ Diamond felt a nudge to his back and turned to see Chimhiko, lying on his back, twirling the Ducklett float around his finger. “Thanks.”

 

A while later, the Dex Holders, Zelhiko, Empoleon and Tung had all hit the water. Lax paddled along until he got tired (which was five minutes in) and clambered onto the floating Tung's belly for a 'well-deserved' nap. The Lickitung was simply mimicking his Trainer, who was amicably moving about with the waves. Empoleon had to keep pulling the dozing Trainer back before he floated off to some distant isle.  Meanwhile, Platinum was tottering on her surfboard, with Zelhiko holding on to the board for stability. Pearl lay on his back on a board beside the duo, calling out instructions to the lady.

"Try and balance on your toes!"

"Pearl, that does not even make sense! My heels are providing more support!"

"Alright then, try your heels."

There was a yelp and a splash as the board swept away from under Platinum's feet. The heiress surfaced with an angry look. "I am starting to think this is pure retaliation for making you do the Shaymin project."

Pearl shot her an innocent glance. "Revenge for the Flower Paradise? Come on, Lady, I'm not sadistic!"

As she shrieked and tumbled into the cerulean waters once more, Pearl snorted. "Of course, you didn’t mention plain petty."

Zelhiko rolled his eyes as Platinum emerged and hissed, "I would believe you were lying about knowing how to surf if not for that video Crasher Wake showed me in Pastoria the last time I was there!"

The heiress was unfortunately dead-on as usual: the Pastoria Gym Leader had shown her and Palmer a delightful little tape he had filmed at the Battle Zone coastal area of Pearl and Zelhiko surfing quite well. There had been a rather chaotic wipeout at the end involving an angry Frillish pair, but it was a testament to the boy's skills.

Pearl winced. "I'd rather not remember that day. I can still feel the Frillish grabbing at my legs like they were some kind of juicy food. Ugh. I accidentally propelled Zelhiko towards them, too - they nearly stole him away for chow." The Buizel gave his Trainer his best I almost died for you and this is what I get look.

"I wish they could have taken you to their nest and fed you to their offspring," muttered the heiress with a sour expression. Zelhiko spluttered with stifled amusement.

"Very funny. Look, the tide's coming in and these breakers are getting bigger by the second, so you’re either gonna have to ride this next wave or get tossed back to the beach by it."

Platinum's head shot up with a panicked look. "But - I have no idea what I am doing!"

Pearl stood up on his board and shrugged coolly. "Tough luck. I did my best to teach you - "

"You barely moved an inch, you absolute -"

"Language! Goodness, Lady, that wasn’t expected from you. Big swell's coming up in approximately a minute. Don't worry; there are no rocks in the water here in a mile's radius of us, and we're not too far away from shore. You'll go rolling directly towards the sand."

"Pearl!"shrieked the livid Trainer, clinging to her board like it was the last piece of lumber in an infinite ocean. Zelhiko looked between the Dex Holders, one furious, one insufferably confident, and made his decision.

"This is not fair at all! How could you expect me to pick all of that up in thirty minutes?!" ranted Platinum as she glared daggers at the smirking blonde - and then her eyes caught movement in his periphery. She stared for a moment, and then her furious expression melted into one of resignation.

"Fine. I will make it back to shore without being swept there by the wave."

Pearl readied his stance for a drop-in as he swiftly glanced at Platinum, who was observing him and now appeared to have her jaw set in determination. He narrowed his eyes. "You're not gonna be able to outswim this wave, you know? Twenty seconds!"

"Oh, I am not going to try swimming to shore before the wave hits, Pearl. That would be silly." The Trainer finally met his eyes - and flashed the sweetest of smiles at him. Realization came crashing down on Pearl along with the thundering sound of the rapidly approaching wave - Platinum had been looking past him, not at him; and where had his Buizel gone?

Oh - I've been screwed over, haven’t I?

"ZELHIKO, DON'T YOU DARE - AAUGH!"

Pearl screeched as the Sea Weasel Pokemon hit his surfboard from underneath and toppled him into the water. Platinum, on cue and in accordance with Zelhiko's former gestures, dived off her board and swam under the oncoming breaker, with a little boost from the Buizel. The hapless blonde received no assistance, and Platinum resurfaced to see Pearl rolling onto the wet sands. He gasped, spat out sand and sat up as the small breakers rolled onto him, and yelled, " I HATE THE TWO OF YOU WITH EVERY FIBER OF MY BEING RIGHT NOW."

Even from the shore, the drenched Pearl could tell that the two survivors were helpless with laughter. On his right, Tung had washed ashore as well, and he rolled over to reveal a rather flattened Lax. An exhausted Empoleon huffed as she walked up to the Munchlax and pulled him out of the sand. Pearl felt a clap on his back and looked over to see a chuckling, sodden Diamond, his hair sticking up every other way.

"They got you good, huh?"

Pearl's outraged countenance shifted into one of wry amusement as he watched his friend and Pokemon make their way out of the sea, still cackling mercilessly.

"They sure did. Lady's acting was stellar; I couldn’t tell anything was off until the very last second. Don't tell 'em I'm impressed, though; I still gotta be mad at them for chucking me into the surf like that."

Diamond smiled as he watched Pearl stalk towards the dunking duo, yelling about wet sand in his trunks. The day was going beautifully. Everybody was enjoying himself or herself to the fullest. The lady looked about the happiest he’d ever seen her, even as she and Zelhiko were getting the lecture of a lifetime from a soggy Pearl. Nothing could bring him down at this point.

“… Hey, have any of you seen my float?”

 


 

 

Route 210

 

Pearl scrunched his forehead as he leaned further into his PokeNav, trying to hear the voice of his best friend more clearly. “Repeat that last part, Dia? What do you want me to get?”

Moomoo Milk! Café Cabin is pretty close to where you are – Moomoo Milk would make for just the best tea in the evening!”

“Ugh, Dia, I am literally on top of a waterfall – isn’t Café Cabin further down the route?”

“I mean, you don’t have to if you don’t want to – but then we have no milk.”

“WAIT, WHY?! You were in charge of the food!”

“Well, I knew you’d be near the Café and I figured we might as well get the best ingredients, so I didn’t pick any up. Ah, Chimhiko's calling me over – gotta go. Don’t forget the Milk!”

“Ah, come on, Diamond – hello? Did you hang up on me, you arse?!”

Pearl snapped his PokeNav shut with a groan. Across the water from him, Empoleon squawked, asking if something was wrong.

“Ah, it’s nothing. Diamond lumped a last minute errand on us. We’re gonna have to wrap this up soon and go down to Café Cabin to get some Moomoo Milk.”

The Emperor Pokemon shrugged carelessly and dove into the crystal clear stream. Pearl sighed, stretched and looked around. “Alright, now where could this last Whiscash be hiding?”

 

Two days earlier

 

“Split up?” Diamond queried, through a mouthful of popcorn.

“Indeed. The three of us can cover more ground this way, the assignment will be finished faster, and we can maximize the time we spend at the campgrounds,” murmured Platinum, as she picked up a kernel from the bowl in her lap, and then passed the bowl to her left. Pearl snagged some popcorn for himself.

“Makes sense to me – but you just said that you wanted to take on the analysis of Celestic Ruins' murals, and also that Empoleon knows about the area the banded Whiscash live in, so how’s that gonna work?” muttered the blonde, never taking his eyes off of the screen in front of the trio.

“Because Empoleon and I will not be partners for these tasks. What is that woman doing? Going around in circles in a camp with a serial killer seems…. counterproductive.”

“Oh! So we split our starters as well? Good idea. Also I’m calling it, this crazy lady is dying soon.”

“Then, is it alright if I take Chimhiko with me to Route 211 to check on those Tyrogue groups? The terrain is pretty rocky, and his dexterity would come in handy. Man, that chainsaw revving keeps making me jump!”

“Sure thing, Dia. Then I’ll go with Empoleon to Route 211’s waterfalls and count the banded Whiscash. That leaves Wig with Lady to go through Celestic Ruins. Does this woman have no sense of self preservation?”

“Pearl, I thought you said scary movies do not affect you?”

“I’m fine!” insisted the blonde, even as he scooted closer to the Lady in the center of the couch.

“Alright…. As for the assignments, I think it is settled! We shall all meet directly at the campsite once we finish our designated tasks, and then we can relax – is that a wood chipper?”

Pearl clutched at the blanket covering the girl sitting between him and Diamond, who had raised an eyebrow with interest. The boy on her right had curled into a ball and was whimpering softly.

“Ah, relax, Lady, there’s no way that chipper’s got any significance other than scaring us with that noise – wait, wait, wait, oh dear Arceus AAAAAAAAGH!”

Platinum sighed as the popcorn bowl flew across the room, the lady onscreen met a grisly end, and her shivering, petrified knights dived under the blanket and huddled closer to her.

“My heroes.”

 


 

 

Present day

 

Pearl and Empoleon certainly made for an efficient team. The Emperor Pokemon was accustomed to Pearl’s quick-paced commands from their training sessions together, and they swiftly found the Whiscash with silver marker bands on their fins. Empoleon dove to find the Whiscash and bring them up to the surface, and Pearl noted down the numbers on the bands in a sheet Platinum had given him. Most of the Whiscash came amicably, but a few were peeved at being disturbed and had to be calmed down via talking and bribery in the form of Poffins. The last individual was upset enough to attack, but a few well-placed attacks from Empoleon were sufficient to show the Whiskers Pokemon that it was not a fight it could win. The last Whiscash fled, Pearl jotted down the band number, and turned to high-five the Empoleon.

“That was incredible! Alright, let’s go get that Milk, and then off to camp we go!”

Meanwhile, over at Route 211, Diamond and Chimhiko had seen substantial action. Tyrogue were temperamental Pokemon and lived for fights with strong opponents; the powerful Flame Pokemon certainly ticked all the boxes. At first, Dia and Chimhiko were only scrambling out of the way; gradually, the Infernape began taking on his opponents while Diamond filmed them from a distance. Pearl's partner did not really need any commands to do well in battle, but the Trainer kept an eye out for the Flame Pokemon as he documented the battles. Eventually the Tyrogue were bored of (losing to) the powerful Fire type, and they resumed their normal activities. After collecting enough footage, Dia and Chimhiko clambered away from the Tyrogues' territory, grinning all the way.

Platinum and Wig drew the short straw according to Pearl, but neither of them was inclined to agree with him. Wig was comfortably settled in the center of Celestic Ruins, simply keeping an eye out for stray wild Pokemon that could disturb Platinum at work. The lady was engrossed in her work, going over every nook and cranny of the murals, making extensive notes and taking photographs of the same. She often came over to show the Torterra what she had found interesting, and the Continent Pokemon was quite content with watching her animated face explain her views on the paintings. The two worked in tandem, surrounded by history and only the sounds of the air rushing through the grotto. They also ended up finishing their part of the assignment quite early, so they stopped by Cynthia's grandmother’s place for some tea and discussions regarding the murals. So intense and engaging were the stories told, that the duo lost track of time and ended up heading to the campgrounds in the late afternoon, where they found Dia and his Pokemon, and Chimhiko setting up their campsite.

“We both made it here before Pearl? Now that is surprising,” called the lady. Dia's head instantly spun towards her voice, and he waved them over. Platinum sent out her Pokemon as well, and they joined their friends, instantly adding to the chatter of voices echoing across the grassy fields. Chimhiko vaulted up to the Lady and handed her a stack of papers with a grin that burned brighter than any flame. She smiled and took the papers, and returned the Infernape's proffered fist bump.

“I take it this means you enjoyed yourself?”

The Infernape laughed and nodded, and then high-fived Diamond as they made it to where the boy was setting up a portable cooking unit.

“Chimhiko was a powerhouse. Those Tyrogue realized pretty quickly that we weren’t there to hurt 'em, but they couldn’t do anything about us either! Also, I gotta hand it to you, Lady – this place is one of the prettiest spots in Sinnoh. How did you know about it? Heya, Wig! Did you help Lady out with her work?” said Diamond with an easy-going smile, as he affectionately rubbed the top of the Torterra's head. The Grass/Ground type readily leaned into his ministrations.

“Wig was just splendid. I scoured the ruins from top to bottom with no disturbance at all, and he even seemed delighted to learn about the history surrounding the murals. As for the spot, you have research work to thank for that, too – I first came here four years ago on a laboratory assignment regarding the Water-types found in that brook further down the meadow.”

The Pokemons' eyes lit up at the mention of a stream. Dia chuckled and shooed them away, saying, “Go on; be careful and have fun! We’re almost done here anyway, and you lot won’t work with that kind of tempting distraction!”

Pachirisu, Cherrim, Rotom, Phione and Manaphy practically stampeded in the direction of the water; the remaining Pokemon followed at a slightly more sedate pace. Rapidash, Chimhiko and Wig opted out and settled for chatting near a circular clearing in the ground. Platinum noticed it and queried, “For the campfire?”

“Yep. Pearl wanted a giant raging bonfire, but I think that’s a bit risky in such a grassy area. This fire is still gonna be pretty big compared to ordinary fires – I wanted the Pokemon to be able to sit around the flames too. Speak of the devil, he’s finally here. Oi, Pearl! This way!”

Diamond waved at the blonde and Empoleon, who seemed to be scanning the meadow looking for them. Empoleon spotted them first and nudged Pearl, who grinned and sprinted the last few hundred meters towards them. He skidded to a stop in front of the two, made a faux bow to his Lady, who giggled and shoved him away, and handed Diamond a bag stamped with the Café Cabin logo. Diamond’s eyes lit up.

“Moomoo Milk! Thanks a ton, Pearl!”

“You owe me one for covering your forgetful ass, Dia. Me and Empoleon literally had to run the length of Route 210 to get there before the Café closed! Even then, they actually did shut shop before we made it, but Empoleon talked it out with the Miltank on duty, and she relented and gave us six bottles.” Pearl grinned at the Emperor Pokemon, who had sidled up to them and greeted her Trainer with soft chirps. “Actually, yeah, you owe Empoleon.”

Platinum smiled brightly and ruffled her starter's feathers. “Wonderful work, little one.”

Diamond cheered and held up the bottles with a blinding grin. “Who wants some of the best hot chocolate I can make? Relax, Pearl, I got your coffee too.”

Pearl flopped onto the grass with a satisfied sigh, and held up some papers towards Platinum. “We found all the Whiscash, by the way. Empoleon was absolutely fantastic – it was like she had a sixth sense for where they were hiding under all that water! All I had to do was check their bands and make sure they were healthy. She gets MVP on this one.”

The Emperor Pokemon shuffled its feet and walked off to join her fellow starters, embarrassed at all the praise. Platinum rearranged all the sheets, gave them a cursory glance, and nodded. “All the information I needed for my research is here! Thank you very much, all of you. I could not have done this without your assistance.”

Pearl snorted. “You absolutely could have and you know it.”

The lady gently kicked at Pearl’s feet, even as a smile tugged at the corners of her lips. “ Maybe I could have completed the research on my own; but all of this?” she questioned, gesturing encompassingly at the camp, the comfortably settled starters, and the raucous sounds of laughter echoing from the brook. “No, this definitely took all three of us.”

The Trainers lapsed into a peaceful silence, staring out into the beyond.

 


 

The camp was quickly and unequivocally deemed a raging success. The Pokemon frolicked and swam to their heart's content; the ones with more pent-up energy even took part in a few swift battles. The starters and Rapidash watched the proceedings from a safe distance, and talked amongst themselves on matters unknown to the human ears. The Dex Holders settled for a walk across the meadow, laughing and prancing about like the eleven year olds of yesteryear. The other Pokemon soon joined them, and a game of dodgeball put everyone in even higher spirits. As Pearl put it, “There’s no greater satisfaction than pummeling someone who annoys you with a ball.”

(He was promptly pelted by about seven simultaneously thrown balls, two of which absolutely came from his fellow Trainers.)

As evening came, the gang watched the sunset while rampaging through the snack bags that Diamond had brought. (“Huh, guess I was wrong; you really can’t have too much food on you. Lax, give me back my cookie.”)

The fire was lit. (“Did you seriously bring a matchbox when we have two Fire types between us?” “It never hurts to be prepared – Phione, no, that fire's actually needed, don’t put it out!”)

As night fell, the little family gathered around the flickering flames. It was a relatively cooler night, and both the campfire and the two Fire-types were in high demand. The Pokemon were all seated in close proximity to Rapidash or Chimhiko, and their conversations, arguments and laughter all filled the night air. The Trainers were around the fire, settled on stumps that they had found near the stream, and were engrossed in imparting a crucial bit of knowledge to the novice camper.

“So, I toast the marshmallows over the fire to enhance their flavor?”

“Precisely! This makes them go from good to great.Toasted marshmallows are key to this next thing we’re gonna show you. But you have to remember to keep an eye on your stick: if you don’t pay close attention – “

“Uh, Pearl?” Diamond pointed at the marshmallow-covered twig the blonde boy was holding towards the flames, which was now less marshmallow and more fire.

“-Ah, damn it!”

A few barbecued fails later, Platinum, under the boys' guidance, sandwiched the warm marshmallows and a chocolate bar between two graham crackers. Looking at their expectant faces, the heiress took a hesitant bite – and her face bloomed in delight.

“Why – this is delicious!

The duo snickered and high-fived. Pearl raised his cup of hot chocolate to the sky.

“Here’s to your first smores, Lady! May there be many more in your future!”

The other Trainers burst into laughter and knocked their mugs against his.

 

Later in the night, most of the Pokemon had dozed off, still sticking close to their personal heaters. The Fire types had no qualms about the situation, and had fallen asleep before anybody else. Platinum suspected that the two were quite happy to be at the dead center of the gay group of Pokemon, and hence didn’t mind that they were being used for their warmth. The Dex Holders, meanwhile, had walked over to a small grassy crest, where they were lying on the grass in a circle of sorts, with their heads in the center and legs outstretched. They were looking up at a clear sky; filled to the brim with twinkling stars, forming shapes and patterns that Platinum and Pearl were busy arguing over.

“How does that even remotely look like a Drapion?!”

“It is what the constellation is called, Pearl! Ancient astronomers here in Sinnoh itself named our stars and the formations they saw in the skies, to help seafarers find their ways across the ocean. Look, those three form a tail, and there are the two pincers!”

“I still say it looks like a wheelbarrow.”

From which angle does that– Diamond, are you quite all right?”

The third Trainer had been laughing fit to kill for about five minutes. Wheezing, he sputtered out, “Oh, I’m more than alright, Lady. I’m having the time of my life.”

Pearl gave a derisive snort. “Dia, you’ve literally done nothing but laugh at us since we sat here.”

“I know. Being here is enough for me,” murmured the empathic boy.

The lady turned her head slightly to look at Dia, who had his eyes shut and the most peaceful smile she had ever seen plastered across his face. She felt her own face mirroring his expression. She rolled back over to look at the glittering vista above her. The world was silent, and she could hear her own heart, beating in time to an unknown rhythm.

“Boys?”

She couldn’t see their faces, but she heard two affirmative grunts.

“Thank you. For everything.”

She heard Pearl laugh – not his harsh, sarcastic chuckle; the softer, sincere one that only she and Diamond were privileged enough to have witnessed.

“We could say the same, Lady,” whispers Diamond softly, like a voice carried on the wind.

Maybe it is. Maybe they are just voices. Maybe you’re still alone, after all these years.

The niggling voice in her head, the one she had suppressed successfully made a sudden emergence, and overtook her mind with sudden doubt. Suddenly apprehensive, she stretched her arms out and upwards on either side of her.

Am I imagining all of this? Are they really, truly a part of my life? Are they not –?

Her derailed train of thought was cut off by the sensation of two hands grabbing her own; a soft, comforting one held her left, and a rough, strong one gripped her right. Somehow, without looking, Platinum knew that they’d grabbed each other’s remaining hand as well.

Were they scared as well? That all of this is a dream?

The girl shook her head. Look at me. Such irrationality is unexpected. They are real. I am real. And we are all here together. A team. A family. They are holding on so tightly – like they do not wish to let go.

I will let go - of my inhibitions. Not them. Never them. This is where we belong.

The trio exhaled, letting all their doubts and fears fly away into the midnight skies.

 


 

 

(“This is a good night, huh?”

“You said it, Dia.”

“….. you know what would make it a great night?”

“Dia – no, Diamond. I love and cherish our friendship, but if your next sentence includes the words 'Ducklett' and 'float', I am throwing you into the stream.”)