B3 — 7. The Tale of the Maiden’s Peak

PoV:

1: Rhea (Our Blonde Rising Aura User MC!)

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4:03 a.m. August 1st, Saturday, 106 PH (Post Hoopa Event).  Day 52.

Events:  Rhea and the girls are now on a mission to get into the Silver Bracket, pushing many others in Bronze-tier to follow their example.  Our girl started her journey on the 9th of June, and the end of registration for the Winter Indigo Cup is December 5th (126 days away).  Rhea had her first perma-evolution with Alice!

Rhea had called her brother a few times on their four-day trip northeast to the small port town of Maiden’s Peak in order to make sure he was doing alright and make sure he wasn’t pushing himself or Kate too much; he reassured her that they were taking it slow and they were enjoying themselves.

Just to double-check, she’d contacted Kate in the same manner she talked to her aunt or dad to be sure her mother wasn’t hurting herself.  The blue-haired woman told her he was a bit more distant after their family talk and had been reflecting a bit, yet, for some reason, he was shockingly being even sweeter to her—even more surprisingly, he was keeping Luna from going crazy.

Looking back at what her brother said on their walk after the discussion, Rhea could see Sabin putting himself in their parents’ shoes more than she did; the way he was handling it made her somewhat embarrassed at her own outburst, but she also had to give herself slack.

Sabin said he respected their dad more after hearing the story, and that played in the back of her mind with her older brother’s admission that he wasn’t sure he could be as strong for Kate.  Rhea was sure the emotions her brother was feeling were a lot deeper than she’d initially thought because of how easily he seemed to just accept and brush it off, which made her want to internalize their parents’ story more.

Their nighttime travels along the route had been met with few people on the sea-side road, but they had seen a lot of camps with sleeping Trainers or sightseers; they hadn’t wanted to wake them up or cause their Pokemon to see them as a danger, so they made sure to go to the opposite side of the path whenever passing by.

Ash’s Charizard had kept the path well-lit throughout the journey, and the trip had given them a lot of time to ponder all the recent events.  Alice was growing a lot more used to her evolution, and by the end of Friday, her friends were able to keep their Pokemon out for most of the day.

Lulu was adorable and, with Nova and Holly’s help, seemed to be pulling Mariah more out of her shell with their friendly personalities; her Eevee had taken on the big sister role and was keeping a good watch on the Cosmog when she was outside of Rhea’s arms.

Gables, Amber, Serenity, and Roxie seemed to form their own little clique, spending time together as the Rockruff learned from her two seniors; Rhea thought the Froakie and Fennekin Starters were getting a bit closer than just ‘friends’ but it was a slow burn thing.

On the other hand, Alice and Zyra hit it off quickly after the mischief Pokemon added to the Lopunny’s night games.  It was actually amazing how Alice and Mya were starting to team up since Zyra usually had Terri on her side, teaching the serious Legendary Pokemon to lighten up more like Alice when fighting.

Zyra and Alice were good at getting the other two tight groups to join them for their spy, combat, or mischief games that had Rhea and Lori glaring at them some nights, trying to make sure they didn’t have any funny ideas; they didn’t do anything terrible, but Zyra could hit the border at times if Nova, Amber, or Gables didn’t temper things.

Oddly, Amira seemed almost ignored or immune to her tricks.  Ash got a fair bit, which included Pikachu joining in on the fun, and sometimes Rhea and Lori were added to the pranks.

All of their mouths had dropped open when Charizard blasted Ash one time with a Flamethrower, leaving him coughing and caked with soot.  He hadn’t appeared hurt and laughed it off as something that happened often; it was how he said he loved him.

The insane part was not only had he taken a Legendary-tier Pokemon’s attack but his clothes hadn’t even been hurt, which Ash claimed was something she could learn to do with Aura when she got good enough; he’d been attacked so many times by his own Pokemon that it came naturally to him.  Apparently, there was a time when if he didn’t get zapped by Pikachu at least three times a day, he thought something was wrong with his buddy.

Rhea had hung back after the incident, talking about it with her team; Amira had told them a few more details she’d heard from the Legendary Trainer regarding Buddy Bonding and how his early life was with Pikachu.  The electric rat hated Ash and Poke Balls, in general, which was how he’d become the first person to master Buddy Bonding.

His methods were certainly unorthodox, but the results spoke for themselves; Rhea had recounted what she’d heard from the Master’s community about Ash: that no one denied his power, but the things he’d been involved with were insane.  It was like he was the luckiest man in the universe that ended up in the most unlucky situations.

The nights had been mostly hassle-free, though, which was nice considering the journey they’d had, and Rhea had to wonder if Ash accepted to journey with them due to how troublesome their lives had been in such a short time; it might have even been a request by her aunt, but Ash never once made it feel like he wasn’t having fun or didn’t want to be with them.

In fact, maybe it was more of a danger to be with Ash, Amira had told her with a laugh when they hung back one night; the man was a misfortune magnet, but Lori pointed out that so were they, so maybe it canceled each other out.

Rhea hoped so; she enjoyed adventure the same as the next girl, yet they also had to get through a battle season and get badges.  She was a little anxious about having enough time to get all their Encrusted Badges since they only had 126 days left.

Ash had told them kids rushed things way too fast these days.  He’d waited an entire year before moving up a bracket, not that they were so defined back in his day; it was more particular tournaments for novices that were similar to their Silver Bracket.

He had suddenly gone into detail on it, recounting when he’d fought one of the most famous upstarts: Jeanette Fisher—a lady of standing in Johto’s Violet City—and whose Ace is a Bellsprout like Ash’s was Pikachu.  She was one of the rare Grandmasters who had a first evolution Pokemon as their Ace.

Ash had used it as an example to point to something Amira and Lori’s moms often said about not being bashful about using the Pokemon you love instead of only relying on ‘powerful’ or ‘fully evolved’ Pokemon.  Every Pokemon could bring out their inner power, and Jeanette was another one of those Trainers that had unlocked her Buddy Bond.

As they had done some more training through the nights, Ash told Rhea she could start practicing her Aura again.  He’d wanted not only her but Amira, Lori, and their Pokemon to have a short rest from her fluctuating Aura; plus, using Aura in a city like Lavender at her level, with her strength, could cause some unwanted attention.

Rhea had sucked in her bottom lip, not letting him know that she’d tried to use it, even though he had probably brought it up because he already knew; her focus had gone to her wrist charm that she felt some weird vibes from and she had thought back on the strange dream she’d had after attempting to analyze the ghostly space—perhaps the charm had actually prevented what Ash was worried about—since she could have been sucked into the Ghost World due to the reflux.

Laughing it off, she’d rubbed her wrist and let that topic slide, promising her leery-eyed Pokemon that she’d consult with the Aura Grandmaster next time and take his warnings more seriously.

Friday night swapped to Saturday as they drew closer to the port town; the northern peninsula of Lavender City-State was hilly and green, and, according to Ash, the Ancient Woods between Power Bay’s Storm Conductors and Maiden’s Peak was a magical place typically off-limits to anyone and the resting place of the region’s strongest Zapdos, which was one of the reasons for the perpetual storm.

Rhea hugged herself as the nighttime mist rolled in—half of their days had been clear and the other half in a fog—and the warm wind chilled; the rise and fall of the ocean current against rocky cliffs came more into focus as they drew nearer to Maiden’s Town, and the twang of a shamisen.

“What’s that?”  Lori asked.  “Someone’s playing an instrument at like 4 a.m.?”

Ash chuckled, and Charizard’s flame illuminated a small clearing up ahead that showed the hazy town below with its wooden docks and sparse, dull lighting.

“You’d be shocked at the traditions; the older generation in Lavender City-State is understandably superstitious, and legend has it in this town that to keep everyone in town safe, someone must play music through the night to entertain the spirits of the forest and sea.”

Rhea squinted, seeing a short, elderly man sitting in a wooden chair overlooking the peaceful scene and slow-moving mist; the moon was lower in the sky than Rhea expected, and the bright stars were spotted in areas that were clear.

As they approached, Ash passed by a wooden box and dropped what looked to be some old Kanto coin currency into it, closing his eyes and bowing respectfully to the back-facing elder that continued to play as if they weren’t there; Pikachu and Charizard mirrored their Trainer before they proceeded toward the town.

They followed his example in passing without the coin offering since they didn’t have any, and Rhea jogged forward to catch up to the Legend.

“What was that about?”

Ash smiled, hands in his pants pockets as she surveyed the white beach.  “An offering of thanks for keeping the route safe for travel; many of the elderly in this town live humble lives, and it’s good to respect the way of lives of different areas… they often live a particular way for a reason.  Well, you girls ready for some early morning ramen or breakfast burritos before we head to the shrine and call it a day?”

“Please!”  Lori cried, holding her stomach as it growled.  “I ran out of my snacking supplies yesterday; I need more trial mix!  I swear, Rhea, your buffs are increasing my appetite.  I’m spending so much more money on food when normally I’d have to watch my weight, but you have me feasting, girl.”

“Eh-hehe.  Sorry.  If it makes you feel any better, I think my food bill is like double yours, which is insane compared to how I typically eat; it’s been weird.”

Rhea and Lori shot a tight-mouthed stare at Amira as she reached into her backpack to pull out a protein bar; it was her last, and, somehow, the redhead always managed to just run out of packed goods when they reached a new place to restock, but she did track the distance they traveled and their location to nearly an OCD level.

“Hmm?  I can split it with you guys if you want since we’ll be eating again soon,” she offered, but Rhea and Lori held up their hands and shook their heads.

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“No… I need to get better at planning,” the violet-haired girl mumbled, trying to ignore her angry stomach.

Rhea chuckled.  “Yeah, I’m with Lori.  Plus, I’m more looking forward to grabbing some fresh fruit.”

“Suit yourselves,” Amira shrugged, breaking it in half to toss over for Amber to catch out of the air and split it with her teammates.  “We’re going to a shrine, right, Ash?  I’m guessing that has something to do with the town’s famous myth regarding the maiden that waited by a cliff for her lover until she turned to stone?”

Lori’s eyebrow creased.  “Huh?  Was she stupid?  Sounds totally bogus.  Who even does that?”

“Aww, I think it’s romantic,” Rhea interjected, having heard the tale from her father.  “In history class, I learned a little more about it; two thousand years ago, the newly formed Paldea Empire and the eastern kingdom of Kanto were at war, pulling in the western region.  Men were drafted and sent overseas in the fight, and this is a romantic story from that time period.”

Amira was listening while eating, seemingly interested in the connection Rhea was making, but Lori wasn’t having it.

“Okay, let me get this straight.  A girl loved a soldier dude; he was drafted off to war and died, so she just… waited on the cliff until she literally turned to stone?  C’mon!”

Rhea crossed her arms, trying to think back to what her father had told her about the tale.  “He wasn’t killed, though; the knight was captured and held prisoner or made to do some kind of thing called ‘The Last March.’  No one knows what that means, but he’d sent a letter back to her from the prison camp that he’d return no matter what to be with her and that not even death or time could keep them apart.  To this day, she supposedly faithfully awaits his return.”

Ash’s head turned, showing a small smile.  “Actually, that’s part of the reason why we’re here; I recently came across a damaged copy of that letter.”

“Wait, really?”  Lori asked, mouth twisting in disbelief while looking down the path at the partially obscured town; they still couldn’t see Maiden’s Peak due to the fog.  “You can’t mean she really turned to stone and is now a ghost?  I mean, I can believe the ghost part but the stone part…  I’m like… was she stupid?”

Amira finished her bar and cleaned her fingers.  “Love is love; I can totally see my mother doing that for my dad, but…”

Rhea snickered, completing her teammate’s thought.  “Yeah, your mom would probably just fly over there and decimate the war camp and rescue your dad rather than wait for him.”

Lori shivered, glancing toward the misty forest.  “So, uh, are we here to get rid of her?”

“No, really?”  Rhea cried, arms tightening under her chest.  “I really liked that story my dad told me; he said the whole thing about her bewitching a man each year wasn’t real.”

“Wait, she only possesses men?”  Lori breathed a sigh of relief.  “Well, sucks for you, Ash.”

He snickered with Pikachu and his Charizard.  “Not entirely true, but your dad also isn’t wrong; we can talk about it over our early morning dinner before making a short visit to the shine.”

They looked at each other, and Rhea wondered what part they’d be playing in this whole side venture; they’d actually be saving time if they took a boat to the middle of Silence Bridge rather than try to navigate it with the string of challenges they were bound to get traveling the notorious sea-based battle straight that Water Specialists staked out.

Making it into town, Rhea was a tad bit shocked to find a 24-hour open roadside ramen shop open that was family-owned; three generations ran the restaurant near the beach so the customers could eat and watch the nighttime waves.

Rhea was sure you could also see Maiden’s Peak from the location if the night was clear.  From what the husband and wife currently operating the establishment said, despite what some might say, the area was a popular romantic spot for couples to visit, but most of their business came during the end of the summer festival.  It was that rush that helped them stay open and the town stable.  The town would be hopping with tourists in the next month.

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Ash offered to pay for their meals since he got paid pretty handsomely for being an assistant chef in Saffron, making them laugh at the story again.

As the haze cleared, he drew their attention to the pillar-like stone spike that jutted out of the ocean beside a cliff; Maiden’s Rock was situated beside a shrine that was typically only opened during the festival weeks.

He’d met a shockingly powerful Ghastly that seemed to be using the Maiden’s tale as a means to gather strength and that would possess people—such as Grandmaster Brock—when they were teenagers, making Rhea snicker at the information.

She couldn’t imagine the hyper-successful and dedicated Grandmaster Trainer, former Gym Leader, and now renowned doctor that had treated her back in Pallet to be so easily taken over by a weak Ghastly, but apparently, the man had been what Lori would call ‘an unabashed simp’ back in the day—Rhea called it ‘a hopeless romantic’—either way, the Ghastly’s perfect victim.

Ash laughed and shook his head, recounting how many roses Brock had bought girls over the years could buy him an entire estate, but he would never regret making a single lady feel special; it was just the kind of man he was.  Of course, he was married now, so he only had one special woman in his life.

When asked what their goal was, Ash said he wasn’t sure, but he’d made sure they traveled at night and worn the charm the ‘ghostly elder’—as Lori dubbed the mysterious manor owner Ash had gone to in Lavender—had given him; now they just had to hope his hunch was right.

Finishing their meal, they made their way to the shrine before the sun came up; a priest would be preparing the site for the festival every night, and they couldn’t miss him.

Ash said the mostly destroyed letter that had survived for over 2,000 years had a second pair that a collector had managed to obtain and called upon him after hearing he’d had an encounter with the spirit.

He clarified that it wasn’t the woman—unless she turned into a Ghastly, but he doubted that—looking back, there was a reason the festival was so popular and hadn’t been shut down; sure, men got possessed, and random spooky stuff happened around the festival, but there was also a lot of unexpected romantic things lovers reported, which drew bigger crowds each year.  There was a reason Agatha hadn’t made this a target of her interest; it wasn’t nefarious.

Lori was reassured by the conclusion but still thought the woman was an idiot; there were a billion men, why literally die on a hill for one?

Rhea didn’t share the sentiment; there may be a billion men, but they obviously didn’t have the thing this woman wanted, and, to her, he was worth more than the world.  That was the reason she loved the story; she knew what she wanted and didn’t let her love waver, even for thousands of years, and that was what real love was—binding… everlasting—the fairytale made tangible.  The supernatural elements helped.

Climbing the long road to the top of the cliff, Rhea was surprised at how humble the shrine was, and they met with the bald priest—who looked more like a monk—that was praying and offering incense at the site.

Ash had a short conversation about being allowed to come back that night, and his fame certainly did help with breaking the ice; he promised he wasn’t here to cause trouble with their town’s way of life but get answers to a mystery and it was up to their ghostly maiden if she wanted to deliver them.

The priest further expanded on the story, piquing Rhea’s interest when she learned the young woman had been a shrine maiden that operated this very site; the town believed that one day she would be reunited with her lover by the power of their bond.

Lori rolled her eyes, and Amira was skeptical, but Rhea’s mind instantly made a connection, gaze shifting to Lulu, who was sleeping on Nova’s back.

Can… humans literally bond like the Pokemon Buddy Bond?  Is that what Ash is really researching; Auras that synchronize to become one with each other?  He mentioned in the letter that even time and space wouldn’t keep them apart.

Rhea followed Ash after he gained permission to return, gaze lingering on the statue behind the shrine before it went out of view.

The crashing waves drew her mind to the past; in those days, people usually didn’t travel more than a mile away from their homes for most of their lives.  In fact, that had been the norm up until about one or two hundred years ago.  Modern transportation and communication had changed everything at a rapid pace.

The shrine maiden probably knew the knight all of her life, and then to have him ripped out of her heart from some random war that they wanted no part in?  It must have been so hard on her, yet they didn’t give up…  Is that the kind of bond Ash and Pikachu share?

Her eyes lifted to the black-haired man as Pikachu stole his hat and ran off, making him laugh as the electric rat passed it to Zyra; it was probably another one of their prank training games.

We have to get close to our Pokemon like that, huh?  It really isn’t going to be easy.  Love like that is always built through trials and doesn’t happen overnight.  I wonder if that’s how Ash and Misty feel toward each other—they did travel a lot—and Mom and Dad…  Sabin and Kate.  This Buddy Bond isn’t something we should take lightly.

Rhea bent down to relieve Nova of her babysitting job, letting the Cosmog snuggle between her bust to hear her heartbeat while she slept; it seemed to be a favorite spot for the Nebula Pokemon.

Her little girl may cause a bad reception to the masses, but she was quickly becoming a part of her Pokemon family.  Nova was helping her fit in like the amazing team leader her Eevee was becoming.

“Pwe?”  Tail wagging, Nova chirped softly next to her, drawing Rhea’s gaze as she finished making sure Lulu wouldn’t just slip down her shirt; luckily, the specially made garment Rocket’s company made was form-fitting and the Bandeau bikini stretchy enough to allow the wispy Pokemon just enough space to be firmly comfortable.

Mhm, she communicated through their bond.  You’re doing an amazing job with our curious troublemaker.  I probably should be doing more to help you rather than trying to put all my focus on my Aura; Lulu needs all our love.

Amira guided them to the best-priced hotel that she’d already booked, and it seemed Ash was having the redhead do his own reservations since she was proving to be the expert.  They waved him goodbye as the sun started to rise.

Getting ready for bed, Rhea did her nighttime maintenance and sank into her fresh sheets, letting her Pokemon all snuggle around her; it was like her stuffed animals back home but warmer, fuzzier, and way better overall, feeling them breathe with her.

After wishing her teammates a good night, Rhea settled in, rubbing the charm she’d bought before drifting into her dreams.

The gentle sway of ocean waves drew her in, and when she opened her eyes, Rhea didn’t find sunshine and her teammates; beautiful, lilac-colored hair weaved in front of her as she noticed a young woman staring out across a vast, dark sea.

“It is almost time,” she whispered, making Rhea blink and glance around; a massive, smiling Ghastly hovered nearby, staring at her.  “I’ve waited so long… but I will wait an eternity.  Why do you call to me?”

The shrine maiden turned, offering her a curious smile.  “Two have sought my presence, yet I feel a longing in you that the other already has fulfilled.”

Her hair was lighter than Lori’s, and her dress was white as snow, fluttering in a breeze that didn’t touch Rhea.  Around her neck sat ceremonial beads, and she wore a purple flower in her flowing, straight hair.

Processing her sudden air-bound adventure, Rhea’s slow-working mind came to the realization that she was probably actually here in the spirit.  “Umm… I don’t know why I’m here.  I just, eh, bought this charm, and it felt kind of spooky, so…  I do love your legend,” Rhea admitted, shoving down the discomfort and now curious about her first response.

“You’re… not a Ghastly, right?”

The floating ghost snickered nearby, mirroring the woman.

“No, young maiden…  No, she has kept me company and given me the support I need to last this long.  I won’t have to wait much longer, though,” she said, smile softening as she looked out to the sea.  “I can feel my love…  He’s drawing closer every day.  At last, I will be free of this prison and he of his; our fates will once again reunite…  You will be the one to help me,” she chimed, showing her a brilliant smile.

The world flipped upside down, and she found herself on the ground, Lulu’s big eyes staring back at her.  “Neee?  Nee-Nee?!”

“Pwe?!  Pwe!”

“Puny…”

“Oh, sorry?!”  she hissed, getting off of Alice.

Blinking again, she saw Amira rolling over in her bed, cracking open an eye.  “Huu-haaa,” she yawned.  “Fall out of bed—that’s not like you—are you okay?”

“Uh…  Yeah,” she groaned, rubbing her forehead and now wondering if that was a dream.  “Sorry to worry you…  Is Maya really still sleeping?”  she softly giggled, seeing the Mawile’s mouth open, drool leaking to the floor, and Lori wasn’t doing any better; some of her Pokemon were peeking over to see if she was okay, though.  “I’m good, I’m good…”

Reassuring them, she got back into bed and tried to return to sleep; her mind remained on her encounter with the ghostly maiden, though.

What does she mean I’ll be the person who helps her?  I’ll have to ask Ash when everyone gets up.

She had a restless night after that, mind puzzling on the meeting, and during breakfast, she brought it up to the Legend and her team.  Lori was a bit freaked out, thinking she’d been possessed right next to her, but Ash ruled that out, saying she’d simply unconsciously astral projected using her Aura—not so simple, yet she did it unconsciously with the support of her shamanistic bracelet.  Everyone was shocked to know it was actually a real thing.

After listening to what she’d experienced, Ash hummed.  “It’s basically what I suspected…”

“Meaning?”  Amira slowly asked, but he threw another loop at them.

“Have you three considered going to Paldea after the Silver Cup?”

“Woah!”  Amira threw up a hand.  “Hang on there, bud, we haven’t even finished Silver-tier, and you’re talking about the next League?  How do we even know it will be Paldea?”

Amira crossed her arms and stared at her breakfast burrito.  “Rhea is supposed to help this shrine maiden, and her fiancé was trapped in Paldea on this ‘Last March,’ so… logically, she believes Rhea will trigger his return?”

Ash pointed at Rhea’s bracelet.  “If you check, Rhea, I think you’ll find your bracelet has a different feeling now; I think you’re who she’s been waiting for to bridge the gap between them and call him home.  I suspect this ‘Last March’ is connected to the mysterious, off-limits zone at the center of Paldea…  The Great Crater of Paldea.”

Rhea rubbed the charm, closing her eyes and expanding her Aura; he was right, the strength of the waves emanating from it had increased dramatically.  “What did she do to it?”

“Empowered it,” Ash replied, showing a small smile.  “Also, hehe, she’s been waiting over 2,000 years, so don’t let my comment rush you—I don’t think a few more years will matter—I bet what she thinks is soon is on a whole different scale than how we measure time.”

“True,” Amira nodded, seemingly accepting it since Rhea had experienced the thing firsthand.  “It is surprising she isn’t the Ghastly, but it has been helping her all this time.  How does that work?”

Ash finished a bite before responding.  “She would have deteriorated over such a long period, but, being a shrine maiden, and having a connection to a Ghost Pokemon, theoretically, she could have sustained herself from the energy it siphoned from the fear, awe, love, and other phenomena around the town.”

Rhea’s eyes widened.  “So… everyone in this town has contributed to keeping her love alive and supporting her to reunite with her lover?  That’s so… beautiful.”

“Uh-huh,” Lori mumbled, playing with the straw in her mouth.  “I don’t want to be the downer here, but you said this crater place was restricted, so… how are we supposed to get in there?”

Ash shrugged.  “I mean, things tend to work out in the end; you know what I’m saying?  Just do your thing; I’m sure it will come up eventually.  Cool.  So, she really is trapped in stone and will be released when her lover shows up to be welcomed back into his arms.  Well, now that we’ve solved that mystery, we can enjoy our day and catch a boat to Battle Island tomorrow morning.”

Lori’s straw dropped from her mouth to land in her lap.  “Hold up, I missed that part…  She’s actually alive?!”  They got a few looks at the Unovan girl’s raised voice.  “She’s going to bust out of that stone, jump the gap, and land in her knight’s arms—are you kidding me?”

Rhea giggled at the image Lori painted.  “I don’t know if it will be like that, but it sounds really romantic.  I can’t wait to see it,” she said, happy her weird Aura and whatever her mother had done to her had made it possible for this woman to finally experience life again.  “So, do we need to go to the shrine?”

Ash shrugged.  “I mean, we probably should reaffirm to her and the Ghastly that you’ll take up her quest but that it may take a bit.  We can swap to a more normal schedule, though; did you get good sleep?”

“Not particularly,” Amira answered, already browsing a website for a local store to see what goods they had in stock.  “We can do some shopping, and we can probably expect someone to challenge us on the boat ride over.  I’m still skeptical about the whole stone thing, but we’ll find out eventually.”

Lori held up her hands.  “Until I see her bust out and start dancing, I’ma say that ghost woman’s delusional if she thinks she’s going to live after 2,000 years.”

Ash laughed while finishing his meal.  “I mean, stranger things have happened.  Misty asked me to look into this, and I’m happy to report back to her; she’ll love it.”

“Aww.  That does sound nice,” Rhea smiled, holding up her cup of tea for Lulu to inspect as she teleported onto the table and leaned over to look at the dark liquid.  “Alright, let’s get things ready for the Battle Dome; Silver-tier, here we come!”


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