Peace and calm would be the first words Phoebe would use to describe their current situation. The S.S. Tidal skimmed merrily across the open waters, and the League members gathered on deck were definitely not as noisy as they usually would be. The sun had set a few hours ago, and the flock of Wingull heading home under the twilight sky told her that they would soon dock in Lilycove City. She and Drake would disembark at its port, as would Tate, Liza and Winona. At the ship’s next stop, Slateport City, Flannery and Norman would alight.
The next two words that came to Phoebe’s mind, however, were ‘underlying danger’. The waves that lapped at the side of the ship sparkled, but the declaration that had played on the television one floor down a couple of hours ago was still fresh in her mind.
This is war.
Drake leaned on the railing beside her, watching her with his sailor’s cap tilted at an angle. Phoebe started. She hadn’t noticed him at all.
“Hi, Drake,” she smiled. “Must be nice to be back at sea,” with a nod to his seafaring outfit. Drake quirked an eyebrow at her, his mouth still in its usual grim line.
“It is,” he replied after a while, staring fondly at the glittering sky, before turning his gaze to his younger colleague.
“What were you thinking about?” he asked. That was one of the things Phoebe liked about him. He was easy to get along with, because he was never afraid to speak his mind. It was scary at first, this abruptness and sometimes tactless way of speaking, but she had become used to it.
“Oh… just Team Flare and Galactic,” she sighed, turning around to observe as Tate and Liza formed a ball of water before them into the shape of their Pokemon, working in perfect harmony.
Drake scowled, the closest she’d ever seen him to being angry. “Galactic… I hoped I wouldn’t ever have to meet them. Disgusting, the way they carry out operations.”
“I - wait, you know Team Galactic?” Phoebe asked curiously, as the twins crafted a perfect Altaria with the water in an attempt to make Winona smile.
“Yeah,” he grunted. “They attacked Snowpoint City once, a few years before Steven became Champion.” He paused, looking sideways at her. “Back then, Glacia was Ever Grande’s newest Elite Four member.”
Drake glanced at the clock. It was almost midnight. Why would someone be knocking on his door at this time? He crossed the hexagonal room and yanked the door open. At first glance, there was no one there. It took a while before his eyes traveled downwards to land upon Glacia’s Snorunt, who chattered shrilly at him before darting into the room on its stubby legs. He closed the door and walked over to the television, which the tiny Pokemon was standing in front of, attempting to make conversation.
Drake just stared at it, with no clue about what it was trying to say.
“Did something happen to Glacia?” he asked, and the Pokemon seemed to consider the question, before continuing to talk as though it had not understood. He sighed, picking a Pokeball off his belt.
“Sorry, Altaria,” he said, bringing out his Pokemon, “but I need a translator, and you happen to be the best.” Altaria’s grumpy, half-asleep look was replaced by a proud smirk at his praise.
“Egoistic bugger,” he muttered, but it had settled in front of Snorunt with a chirp and was listening to what it was saying, its head cocked to one side. When the small Pokemon stopped for air, Altaria wrapped it in a cotton-like wing and sang sweetly to it until it fell asleep. Drake heaved a sigh of relief.
“Thanks, Altaria, all that talking was really getting to me,” turning back to the stacks of paper on his desk.
There was another knock on the door, and Glacia opened it nervously. There were dark circles around her pale blue eyes, and she wore a worried expression. But her face split into a wide smile when she saw Snorunt nestled in Altaria’s wings.
“Oh, thank goodness, I thought you wandered into Mr. Moore’s room by accident,” she said, rushing over to relieve Altaria from babysitting duty. Glacia turned around at the door, bowing.
“I apologise for disturbing you, Mr. Genji. Thank you for taking care of Snorunt,” she said.
Drake chuckled. “Just call me Drake, Glacia. And Fabian Moore isn’t anything to be afraid of, either. He may have a type advantage over you, but he’s a huge softie. Have you seen how he dotes over his granddaughter?”
Glacia tilted her head to one side, thinking. “Do you mean the child who came to visit him a while ago? Flannery?”
“That’s it,” the Hoenn champion replied, cracking a smile. “Absolutely fawns over her, I tell you.”
The ice-type Elite smiled back, but her eyes betrayed her worry. “Thank you, Mr. Ge- I mean, Drake. I won’t intrude upon you any further,” she said, quickly retreating and closing the door softly.
“So, what did that Snorunt want?” he asked, turning to Altaria. “It seemed quite upset, and so did its trainer.” The data he had been going through before the Pokemon’s arrival had been on Ever Grande’s battle statistics for the past month, and he quickly realised that Glacia was losing to rather more challengers than usual. It had completely slipped his mind to ask her just now.
To his surprise, Altaria fluttered over to the television remote and dropped it on his desk. He raised an eyebrow. “Surely that Snorunt didn’t waddle all the way here to ask me to watch television?” The dragon type stared at its thick-headed trainer in confusion, before shaking its head and beginning to explain.
“Sinnoh TV?” After an excruciating ten minutes, Drake was beginning to get it. “Something happened in Sinnoh?” Then it clicked, and he smacked his forehead. “Glacia’s from Sinnoh!”
His Pokemon chirped in exasperation, jabbing the remote control with its beak and sliding it into Drake’s hand.
“- tonight, we have a very special guest on our show. Please welcome Sinnoh Champion, Mr. Palmer Kurotsugu!” The camera panned to Palmer, who waved to his imaginary audience. His expression was solemn, however.
“You all know that the criminal organisation calling themselves Team Galactic has launched an attack on Snowpoint City,” he said, and the interviewer nodded.
“Yes. However, the whole thing has been shrouded in mystery, as the city has recently been rendered inaccessible for a few days due to a devastating blizzard.”
“Ah - yes, but the blizzard cleared up yesterday, and I was able to make my way through.” Palmer began to look a little uncomfortable, probably knowing how the discussion would be going.
“How is the condition of the city, Mr. Kurotsugu?” the interviewer queried.
Palmer chuckled weakly. “Kurotsugu is such a mouthful, it’s Palmer, please. Snowpoint City is largely undamaged. It seems that Team Galactic’s main target was Snowpoint Temple.”
“The temple is inaccessible unless express permission is given by the gym leader of Snowpoint City. It is said that a legendary Pokemon resides in its depths. Is this true, Mr. - Palmer?”
The Sinnoh champion looked even more uncomfortable at that question. “I’m afraid I can’t say.”
The interviewer seemed to decide that she should change the topic. “Have any major buildings been damaged? The gym, for instance.”
Palmer raised his eyebrows. “No… no, the gym building is fine.” He took a deep breath. “However, I… have an announcement to make.” He glanced at the interviewer, who nodded. He breathed again, steeling himself.
“I am very sorry to have to say this. But…” He seemed to choke on the words. “Aurora Haroku, the gym leader of Snowpoint City… she - she’s dead.”
There was silence for a few minutes, and the interviewer swallowed before asking, “Are you sure, Palmer?”
“Yes,” he said, more brusquely. “I saw - I assure you, I would not lie in a situation like this. Miss Haroku - Aurora - was murdered. Just outside Snowpoint Temple. It is - highly likely - that she was attacked by Team Galactic while defending the temple.” He bowed his head. “I am really sorry,” he mumbled.
“What of the Snowpoint Gym?” the interviewer asked cautiously. “Who will be its next gym leader?”
“The gym will have to be closed until we find someone else who can take the position,” Palmer said heavily. “But Aurora has expressed her wish for her daughter Candice to take the position when she is old enough. However, as that won’t be the case for a few years -”
The interviewer nodded. “Thank you for your time, Palmer.”
Drake flicked the television off, staring at its blank screen for a while. He turned to Altaria. “Do you think Glacia will be asleep yet?” The Pokemon chirped lightly and shook its wings at him, prodding its Pokeball before disappearing into it. The red and white ball rolled spontaneously into his hand, and he picked it up, staring contemplatively at it.
“Yeah, you’re right. There’s just no way she’ll be sleeping after this.” He got up, stretching, and tucked Altaria’s Pokeball back into its place on his belt. “Sorry I kept you up so late,” he said to it, before clicking the light switch off and striding purposefully to Glacia’s quarters.
The door was ajar, and he pushed it open carefully. The television was on, and tuned to a Sinnoh channel, as he had expected. But Glacia seemed nowhere to be found. The same Snorunt from before noticed him, however, and it ran anxiously up to him, chattering away again.
“Do you know where Glacia is?” he asked slowly, and it nodded, stumbling over its own feet as it spun around and ran off. Drake followed, albeit at a more serene pace. The Pokemon stopped in front of Glacia’s bedroom, and chattered away once more. Drake tried the handle. It was locked, so he knocked softly on the light blue door. A few seconds passed, and the door opened.
Glacia’s eyes were rimmed with red, and she quickly shifted her gaze to the ground, not willing to meet his eyes. “H - hi, Drake.”
“I heard about what happened in Snowpoint City -” he began, berating himself on how lame it sounded. “Is everything alright?” he finally settled with a question, after failing to put words into coherent sentences.
There was a tiny splashing sound at his feet, and he realised with a jolt that tears were sliding down her cheeks. She turned away, burying her face in her hands.
“I’m f...fine,” her muffled, shaking voice reached him. “D - don’t worry abou...t m - me. I - s...sorry I kept y - you up, so l - late…” She fell backwards onto the bed, and he could hear her shuddering breaths even though her face was hidden. Her Snorunt crept a little closer, its eyes also full of tears. It caught Drake by surprise, and although he wished he didn’t have to admit it, that was the only thing making him stay. He glanced down at his belt of Pokeballs, and thought he saw a few of them tremble. It was the slightest movement, but enough to confirm his doubts.
So, still wondering what being had taken possession of him, he walked closer, desperately fishing for something - anything - to say. Sailors didn’t cry, at least not where someone would see them, and neither did he.
It was one of a few extremely rare times that he had no idea what to say. But Snorunt was tearfully glancing between him and its distraught trainer, and he couldn’t bear the thought of leaving the two alone.
“Glacia?” he asked tentatively, as the ice-type specialist slowly stopped shaking. “Do you know about the Snowpoint gym lea -” He suddenly wished that he had not said anything, because instead of beginning to cry again, Glacia’s hands fell away from her face. Her expression could only be described as wild. The pair of usually quite emotionless blue eyes were wide, and her nostrils flared as she gulped in air. Her lips were trembling, and it definitely wasn’t from cold.
“Au… ro… ra…” Each syllable fell from her pale lips as though saying the whole name at once would kill her. “She w - was,” Glacia bit her lip, twisting her hands in her lap. She clenched her fists at her side and grit her teeth. “Aurora was my sister,” her words tumbled out in a rush, and fresh tears cascaded down her thin cheeks.
“I was shell-shocked at that point, to tell the truth,” Drake said frankly into the night air. Phoebe was staring at him as though he’d morphed into a Hydreigon.
“Something wrong?” he asked her, and she shook her head, more to clear it than to offer any sort of reply.
“You are totally kidding, right?” The statement caught him entirely by surprise.
“I - wha -?”
“Glacia… Glacia cried ?” He gave her a significant look.
“I mean, she hardly even smiles!” the younger Elite protested, the huge pink flowers at the sides of her head being ruffled gently by the breeze. “It’s just - I can’t ever imagine her losing control.”
“That was the first time I saw it. And the last. She left Ever Grande for a while, to go back home… and returned as a totally different person." He met her deep blue eyes. "That Snorunt eventually became her Froslass. An ice- and ghost-type." Phoebe looked down.
Bonds with Pokemon of the ghost type are usually forged by common experiences of loss.
“Poor Glacia…” she whispered. “I - I couldn’t defeat Team Galactic, I let them take her…”
Drake glared at her. “You, young lady, nearly killed yourself back there,” he growled. Then his tone softened into something like amusement. “Although, 'poor Team Galactic' may be the case once we find her and the others.” Phoebe had returned to staring at him slack-jawed, and the realisation hit him as the S.S. Tidal bumped gently into Lilycove City’s harbour. As the pair looked for the twins and Winona and bade farewell to Norman and Flannery, he turned to her at the exit of the ship.
“Let me tell you Phoebe, in all your time at Ever Grande, you have never seen Glacia when she’s angry.” He stared sideways at her as her brow furrowed. “And let me also tell you that you should ideally be two regions away if she ever gets angry again.”
His poor attempt at expressing concern for her personal safety was interrupted by a melodious voice, calling to them.
“He - ey! You guys made it back!” It was Wallace, who was waiting for them in the harbour, a wide smile on his face. Upon reaching the little group, he immediately took Winona’s hand into his own.
“If any of you need a ride home, I’d be happy to provide one!” he declared. “You know you can’t get past Lilycove without surfing or flying, and luckily I have some wonderfully graceful surfers on my team.”
“I can fly home,” Winona sibilated, walking quickly to the exit of the harbour. As they caught up to her, she had already released Tropius from her Pokeball, and she turned back and nodded once as they flew away. Wallace stared after them in disappointment.
“Thanks, Wallace,” Tate said.
“...but we’ll manage things perfectly fine without surfing!” Liza supplied.
“After all, it’s easy enough -”
“- to just teleport.”
“All we need to do is to focus on something in Mossdeep -”
“- that we can connect to, like the gym!”
“And once we do that, -”
“- we'll disappear from here and reappear there,” the twins said without missing a beat, jubilant smiles on their faces.
“It’s a technique -”
“That we only mastered recently,”
“But with Solrock -”
“- and Lunatone,”
“we know we won’t get lost -”
“- because they’ll guide us!”
“Oh, don’t worry,” Tate said breezily, when Wallace just stared doubtfully at them.
“We’ll call you when we get there!” Liza finished, and the pair linked hands and flickered out of sight, determined expressions on their faces.
A few seconds later, Wallace’s PokeNav rang, and their grinning, identically triumphant faces appeared on screen.
“We ended up near the Space Centre instead,” Tate confessed.
“But anyway, we’re in Mossdeep City!”
“See you, Wallace!”
With that, they hung up, and Wallace looked over at the two Elite Four members.
“I don’t suppose you two have a novel method of getting to Ever Grande as well?” he asked, putting on Lillipup eyes.
“Ehehe, no,” Phoebe lied through her teeth, ignoring Drake’s exasperated look, “we’ll be happy to surf with you, if you wish!”
“All right then!” Wallace exclaimed with gusto. “Full speed ahead!”
His Wailord took to the water with astonishing elegance for such a behemoth, and the two Elites clambered uncertainly onto its back.
“Should have taken a ship,” Drake muttered, staring at the blue skin of the gigantic Pokemon, and Wallace grinned.
“Never fear, never fear!” he said airily, “Wailord is the most steady Pokemon I know.”
“Won’t it hurt to have boots stepping all over its back?” Phoebe asked anxiously.
“Oh, no! Wailord doesn’t even feel it, I promise you,” Wallace assured her, and Drake raised an eyebrow as the Pokemon easily navigated the fast currents around Mossdeep.
“Isn’t that rather risky?” he grilled. “To ride on a Pokemon that doesn’t even know if you’re there or not.”
“Well, I have never been insulted more in my life!” Wallace said in mock indignation. “Wailord! You do know that I’m here, right?” When the Pokemon roared an affirmative, he smiled fondly, patting it. “Always such a sweetie, you are.”
Phoebe snorted. “You’re not very easy to forget, even if I tried.” Wallace did not seem perturbed by the jab.
“Of course not! I, after all, am a Master Coordinator! I have wonderful stage presence! You may even call it unforgettable ,” he declared dramatically, flinging out his white cloak. Drake shook his head, chuckling.
“I’ve gotta admit, you’re definitely one of a kind,” he said. “No wonder Steven holds you in such high regard. We should battle sometime.” He held out a hand for the younger trainer to shake, and Wallace took it.
“After all this is over, I promise you, we will,” the water-type gym leader said seriously. “I’d love to see how I compare to a former champion.” He grinned mischievously. “Especially since I have a type advantage over you, too! I bet I can beat you!”
“Someone’s confident!” Phoebe chimed in. “But don’t forget, you’ll have to beat me first!”
“And I look forward to it,” Wallace smiled sincerely. “So do you, right Wailord?” Water gushed upwards from the Pokemon’s blowhole, tipping Wallace’s beret off neatly. Phoebe swiftly plucked it from Wailord’s back, before swapping it for Drake’s sailor cap, giggling madly. Drake glared at her, but when Wallace put on the sailor’s cap and struck a pose he thought looked heroic, the Elite Four member’s moustache twitched, and he soon joined in the laughter of the other two.
And so they continued on their journey across the ocean, laughing and talking, their happy voices carrying across the gentle waves.
Overhead, the stars glittered, and Phoebe traced the shape of a Bellossom with her finger, while Wallace searched for Milotic. Drake remained silent, but he had absent-mindedly found the silhouette of a Snorunt.
Above them, the moon peeked out from behind a cloud, illuminating them with gentle consistency. The water sparkled, and the velvet sky twinkled as though it was replying.
Drake? Can I ask you something? A voice whispered to him in his memory.
What is it like, being a Champion? I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to it. Everything still feels unreal, actually. Is this really happening? Or am I just dreaming? It was Steven, in the moments after his victory over Drake at the Hoenn League.
It’s a ton of paperwork, he said in his mind, picturing an Altaria and Snorunt nestled comfortably against each other. Among other things.