All 11 chapters in a single article (Patreon patrons only)
“Are you ready?” Lizabeth Hiromi asked her Pokémon. Gorebyss, Dragalge, Corsola, Golduck, and Kabutops nodded, as did the series of Seakings, Buizels, Medichams, and others behind her in or around the levitating globes of water on the Pacifidlog stage. She wore a costume version of her usual clothes, with more pronounced shoulders and a flared skirt instead of jeans, but retaining the triangle of exposed midriff. Behind her, her parents Kyle and Meredith and grandfather Ship helped direct the crowd of performers.
At Lizabeth’s nod, the performance began. Dragalge swam leisurely between and around the globes of water, providing a backdrop to the more acrobatic paths and stunts undertaken by the other Pokémon. Buizels did spinning flips around Corsola as she leapt between moving globes, Kabutops slice globes in two and spun the halves into other globes, and Gorebyss swam upward through the watery paths, her movements emphasized by the continually changing refraction. Golduck assisted Kyle and Meredith’s Medichams in maintaining the floating spheres. Throughout, Bronzong was at the center of the show, ringing in time to the other music and calling rain clouds to fill the globes and make new ones.
In the audience, Lizabeth’s friends each held a drink in a coconut shell and had a lavish plate of food before them, in various states of consumption. Jane Kojiro wore a black and white bikini top and long blue skirt. To one side of her at the table, Lucy Azami wore something similar, but in her trademark purple and Seviper pattern; to the other, Jessie Musashi wore a black bandeau and blue shorts. Chimecho, Dustox, and Servine perched on the backs of chairs, enjoying the performance and occasionally descending to small plates of their own. Flannery Asuna lounged to Jessie’s left in a red flame-motif bikini. At the next table, Elena Alicea wore a light green sundress. She had been taking hormonal medicine Jane and Lucy found her for just over a month, and glimmers of her new shape had begun to show. Her face’s edges were softer and rounder than before, her skin no longer showing its former masculine grit, the shine of happiness in her face impossible to ignore. Marciela lay in the chair next to Elena, resting her head on Elena’s lap. Leavanny watched the show in rapt excitement at the same table, and Pangoro sat on the floor nearby, pouring a plate’s contents into his mouth. At Pangoro’s feet, Luxray lay curled, a mix of relaxed and attentive, still sizing up his new situation. The third table was filled entirely with Milotic and Froslass, carefully drinking tea from tiny cups after finishing their meals.
Behind them, five menageries of Pokémon played, ate, and enjoyed the show.
On a coral platform behind the one bearing the tables and chairs, Flannery’s team playfully tussled with one another and Jane’s Growly. Growly the Arcanine, Heatmor, Torkoal, and Macargo did their level best to stay on the surface they’d been provided and not set the wooden floors of the rest of Pacifidlog Town on fire or fall in the ocean. Chandelure levitated above them, catching stray sparks with visible enjoyment. Hydreigon and Gyarados clashed with each other in jovial challenge in the air, and in the next hut, Jessie’s and Lucy’s Sevipers wrestled each other into submission. Nearby, Cacturne used Wobbuffet as a willing punching bag, the relentlessly chipper creature even saluting as the cactus Pokémon slammed him repeatedly in the face with Needle Arm. Drapion, Hippowdon, Pumpkaboo, Tyrunt, Joltik, and Sylveon partook eagerly of Pacifidlog Pokémon food at the buffet table, turning periodically to enjoy the show. Lucy had absconded with the rest of Minamoto’s abused Pokémon, but the other three were not here. She had, at their request, turned Krookodile and Ariados loose in the wild and left Steelix at the Battle Pike with Ibara.
“I still don’t get it,” Flannery admitted, turning to Jessie. “It’s pretty and all, but where are the explosions?”
Jessie rolled their eyes, and Flannery smirked flirtatiously. “Please,” she responded, running a finger along Jessie’s cheek, “We both know I have a type,” she leaned forward, her nose almost touching Jessie’s, finger moving down Jessie’s collarbone, “And that type is fiery.” Jessie bit their lip.
After the show and a lavish round of applause, Lizabeth, her family, and her performers descended on the buffet table. Kabutops, Golduck, and Dragalge gave Sylveon and Pumpkaboo nods of respect before claiming their shares. Lizabeth pulled up a chair next to Elena, earning a smile from Leavanny, a pleased click from Marciela, and a nod from Pangoro, and wariness from Luxray.
“I’ve heard that music before,” Elena spoke without warning.
“Oh?” Lizabeth answered between bites.
“It’s hazy, like a dream…from a long time ago.”
“The song has words, in Aquarak,” Lizabeth explained. She began singing, no louder than a lullaby, in a language the other table wouldn’t recognize but that struck Elena deep in her memory. “In a place not so wholly faraway / I do what I can to hold what’s familiar / My heart aches for what I left behind / But I’m here and you’re here and as long as we’re both here / There’s no loss or privation that I can’t withstand / You can’t fill what’s missing from me / From a place not so wholly faraway / But I’m here and you’re here and as long as we’re both here / The hole in my heart doesn’t burn quite as strongly / For that place not so wholly faraway / That I might never see again.”
Elena held back her tears for a handful more seconds, and then collapsed into Lizabeth’s arms. “The last time I heard that, or knew what it meant,” she squeezed out between throat spasms, “I was in my mother’s arms, when I was three.”
“Too many of us didn’t make it even that far,” Lizabeth spoke, words trailing off in her faraway look. “I can’t promise you that my family here wouldn’t have been as awful to you as the people who raised you after they took you away. But they’re doing okay around Jane and Lucy right now, and I have an army to hold them to account if they try anything with you. And I’ll make sure you can hear Aquarak in songs and recipes and little messages we send each other, whenever you want.”
“I’d like that.”
“You won’t be ‘Elena of no people’ anymore.”
A quiet splashing next to them and the appearance of two blue antennae between the rocks told them that their adventure would have one more event. They followed Manaphy’s lead to the back of one of the cabins, out of sight of the others. Thus hidden, the two saw their clandestine benefactor for the first time since Lizabeth’s long-ago encounter, flapping out of the water and onto the wooden floor. Bright blue with yellow markings on his face resembling eyelashes and two long antennae, Manaphy was about 30 centimeters tall, with a playful bearing and baby-seal proportions that belied his royal status.
“Manaphy,” Elena addressed the Prince of the Sea, “I can’t thank you enough for what you did for me. You didn’t just help me save the world…you saved me.”
Lizabeth, too, extended thanks. “I met so many wonderful friends because of you, and helped rescue so many mistreated Pokémon. I’m glad you brought us all together.”
Manaphy spoke, not in repetitions of the syllables in his name, but in clear, high-pitched speech. “I have one more favor to ask, and an honor to grant.”
Manaphy reached into the water and produced a Pokémon that looked much like him, but with less prominent eyelash markings and a single long ribbon instead of Manaphy’s trademark antennae. They were small enough to cradle in Manaphy’s flippers, awake, alert, and unsurprised.
“Their name is Phione. They want to meet and learn about the people who saved the Sea Crown of Samiya, and the people who stopped Ortolan, and the people I helped learn about themselves. I want them to grow up knowing the People of the Water as family. I think you can help us both.”
Phione chirped assent, and jumped into Lizabeth’s arms.
“I’d be honored to help raise Phione,” Lizabeth responded, and Phione hugged her.
Manaphy started descending into the sea, parting with the words, “May my child prove a welcome performer for your songs.”
Lizabeth tickled Phione, eliciting a tiny laugh, and another, and another. Elena walked out of the cabin and faced the midday sun. Her Pokémon, now comprising Pangoro, Leavanny, Marciela the Durant, the Luxray once enslaved by Minamoto, and the Drapion that once answered to Ortolan, left their seats to stand around her touching her legs and shoulders to let her know they were there. She listened to the dim outlines of conversation behind her, mostly Jane and Jessie sharing how they met their Pokémon during their flight from Team Rocket. Jane and Milotic were locked in a tight embrace, glad to be reunited.
Elena started this day not knowing who she was or what she was doing, and ended it with new friends, new Pokémon partners, and a new lease on life.
It was indeed a better, shinier world.