It was long ago been agreed upon that, in the event of Steven Stone seemingly vanishing from the face of the Earth as he so often does, no man is permitted to search for him unless he explicitly and clearly communicates that he is in need of help.
Roxanne Stein is many things -- Rock-type user, aspiring Pokémon Trainer, and Gym Leader of Rustboro City -- but a man is certainly not one.
This is why she is knee-deep in soot and ash in Meteor Falls.
She hasn’t been to Meteor Falls in quite some time -- in fact, she hasn’t been here since her “edgy Dragon-type phase” as a teen, as she calls it now. Gosh, she cringes just thinking about it. Still, she shines her torch around, illuminating the caves. “Steven?” she calls hopefully. “Steven, where are you?”
She receives no response and groans, trying with little success to brush the mountains of dust off of her skirt as she continues to walk. “Steven,” she calls. “If you’re in here then it’s time to come out. Wallace is panicking.”
She does not see why Wallace is panicking -- it has only been a week since he was last seen, and he has been gone for longer times with less powerful Pokémon to defend him -- but when the Water-type user had called her three times in a panic she was left with no choice but to search.
“Steven!” she calls. “Steven, where are you?”
She is given no response.
Then she sees a human-like shadow.
For a second she’s relieved but then she realizes the hair looks nothing like Steven’s -- it’s a little longer and it does not spike up in the same way. It’s also jet black, a sort of charcoal-y color that blends in with the rock walls in the low light, while Steven’s silver locks practically glowed. This person is also wearing a Draconid cape, whilst Steven could never be seen in such clothing.
The person turns, and Roxanne can see that it’s a woman. A familiar woman. A woman she hasn’t seen since last year, when her face was all over the news along with stories of the meteor crisis.
“Zinnia,” she says softly.
“That’s me!” says Zinnia. “And you would be Roxanne?”
There’s a hint of disdain in her voice, but that’s to be expected. Some people believe respect is given by default, and some believe it is earned. Zinnia believes it is given to Dragon-type users and earned for everyone else. Roxanne is somewhat well-known, at least in the area around Rustboro, as a Rock-type user.
Still, she gives a determined nod. She looks up, at Zinnia’s face, and their red eyes meet.
“I’m looking for Steven Stone,” she says, as confidently as she can.
Zinnia pauses. “He’s not here.”
“Wh-What?” That can’t be the case. She’s already gotten Brawly to check Granite Cave and Steven’s neighbors, Tate and Liza, to check Shoal Cave. Where else could he be?
“I would know if he was here,” confirms Zinnia, and Roxanne’s red eyes stare into hers, her lips burning with the unspoken question:
If not here, then where is he?
She tries, even though she knows Zinnia probably won’t know. “Do you know where he would be, then?”
“No,” responds Zinnia, but she’s grinning, and she has a glint in her eye that makes it clear she knows more than she’s letting on. Zinnia always knows more than she’s letting on.
“Are you sure?”
“Yes.” There’s hesitation in the air as she contemplates continuing, as she tries to figure out whether Roxanne knows. “Well…”
“Tell me.” Roxanne’s voice is confident and assertive, and suddenly she’s not third youngest Gym Leader in all of Hoenn, an unsure Trainer that only graduated a few years ago. Suddenly she’s a renowned scholar.
Zinnia does not look intimidated, but she continues anyway. “Do you have any Water-type Pokémon?”
“I have a Relicanth that I use when I need to cross bodies of water sometimes.”
Zinnia’s grin widens. “Your Relicanth will know what to do.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“Exactly what I said.” She hesitates. “How much do you know about ancient Draconid lore?”
“Not as much as I’d like to. It’s hard to find books on the subject in libraries.”
Zinnia laughs, and Roxanne glares slightly. She just wants to find Steven so Wallace can stop freaking out. That’s the only reason. She’s not worried about Steven at all. He’s been gone for longer than a week before.
“Roxanne,” says Zinnia. “There are some things you don’t learn through books.”
“Then how do I learn it?”
“Simple. You go to Pacifidlog, with your Relicanth, then send it out and see where it takes you.”
Roxanne hesitates. “Why should I trust you?”
“I think you know the answer to that.” She pauses. “Oh, and you might wanna bring a stronger Trainer with you, in case anything goes wrong.”
Her condescending tone is not lost on the younger Trainer, and while Roxanne is slightly insulted by the implication that she can’t defend herself -- she is a Gym Leader, after all -- she can’t deny that Wallace’s panic combined with Zinnia’s vague wording is starting to make her anxious. “Would you come with me?”
Zinnia shakes her head. “I have no interest in the Ice-types that could harm or kill my own Pokémon, nor do I care for the Rock-types and Steel-types that drew you away from Dragon-types.”
“What do Ice-types, Rock-types, and Steel-types have to do with this?”
She grins. “You’ll see, Roxanne. You’ll see.”
And she’s right. Roxanne will see.
Roxanne sighs, and as she looks down, her red eyes finally break contact with Zinnia’s. “I’ll go now, then. Bye.”
“So he wasn’t there, but you did find a Draconid woman who helped save the world from a meteor last year who gave you incredibly vague instructions to go to Pacifidlog and make your Relicanth take you somewhere?”
Roxanne sighs into her PokéNav Plus; it sounded unusual at the time, but hearing Wallace say it like that makes her feel like a madman and a fool. “Yes, in a nutshell. I was wondering if you would be willing to come with me?”
“I don’t suppose I have much choice in the matter, do I?”
“My niece is performing in a contest at nine tomorrow. I’ll meet you in Pacifidlog after she’s finished.”