The rain fell steadily down on the lush greenery of Malie Garden, creating ceaseless ripples in the large pond and tapping a symphony on bamboo leaves. A Politoed poked its head out of the water, staring up at the dark, heavy clouds, before retreating beneath the surface.
Professor Magnolia watched it serenely from the pavilion in the middle of the garden. Taking a deep breath, the pale-skinned, brown-haired woman closed her blue eyes and sipped from her mug of Tapu Cocoa, the steam fogging up her glasses. "Malie Garden definitely deserves its place in the list of top 100 views of Alola, doesn't it?" she asked the Shelgon sitting beside her.
The bulky Dragon-type Pokemon glanced up at her silently, then returned to watching the rain.
Magnolia sighed and pushed her long braid over her shoulder to hang down her back. "I know, buddy," she said. "You're almost there. I'm sure of it. You've trained so long and hard. You've come a long way from that little Bagon I met at Kala'e Bay."
The Shelgon looked back up at her, as if to say, But I still can't fly.
Magnolia gave him a hopeful smile. That was exactly the reason why she had taken him under her wing. "Soon, Slawomir," she said. "I promise. And when you become a Salamence, you'll barely remember all of this frustration and sadness." He was far from the only Pokemon she had ever trained to its final evolution, and she knew well the sheer joy a Pokemon felt when it achieved its full potential.
The professor finished up her cocoa and stretched her arms. "Well, this was fun," she said. "Want to go check out the library? I'm always up for a good library."
Slawomir looked back up at her, and if he had shoulders, he probably would have shrugged. Thankfully, Magnolia had been training him long enough that she understood his often stoic body language.
She slung her traveling satchel over her shoulder and stood up, popping open her umbrella and holding it out for Slawomir to walk under. Together, the two of them wandered down the garden path, closer to the pond.
Here, Magnolia took out a Poke Ball from her bag and held it up. "Adrammalech!" she called. "Hope you had fun! Let's go see Malie Library!"
For a moment there was no response. Then the surface of the water erupted in an enormous spray, and a huge shape rose into the air. Towering above the human and the Shelgon was a Gyarados, his jaw agape as water streamed down his azure scales.
Magnolia smiled. "Did you have a good swim, Drammy?" she asked.
The Gyarados nodded with a friendly grunt, and Magnolia clicked the button on the Poke Ball. In a flash of light, Adrammalech disappeared back into his home and Magnolia tucked him back into her bag. She'd acquired him in Hoenn a few years back, and since then he had become one of her main modes of water transport. Days like this were perfect for letting him out to play.
But Gyarados did not exactly fit nicely on city streets, so Adrammalech usually stayed in his Poke Ball in urban environs. Magnolia would have to stick with letting out smaller Pokemon for now.
She and Slawomir made their way down the winding path, out the garden gates and into Malie City proper. It looked like a Johto town deposited in the middle of Alola, with tile roofs and paper lanterns hanging from eaves. There was even a pretend Kantonian Gym, which really brought Magnolia back to the days when she was a young trainer earning her Gym Badges.
"The library should be this way, I think," she muttered, pulling out a map. "These city blocks are so square and samey that it's hard to orient yourself if you don't know the place well…" Glancing up at the road ahead of them, she trailed off. Walking toward them was a familiar figure.
The tall man in a smart white coat didn't seem to notice them as he strode down the street, an umbrella in one hand as he flicked the screen of a tablet with the other hand. But Magnolia definitely recognized him—no one else could pull off a swoop of blue hair swirling around a blond head like that.
As he drew closer, Magnolia called out, "Colress!"
Colress looked up at the professor and did a double take. "Ah—Magnolia!" he said. "Imagine running into you here!"
"How's your research coming?" Magnolia asked. "I haven't seen you in years!"
"Oh, it's coming along quite well!" Colress said, tapping away at his tablet. He wore a strange mechanism on one arm that he glanced at before swiping his tablet screen again. "And yours?"
"Great!" Magnolia said. "I've been exploring Alola for the past few months now. What brings you here?"
Colress looked up at her and his expression grew thoughtful. "Well—" he began to say before stopping himself. "Well… it's funny you should ask. This is something that might interest you. I'm here in Malie to meet two of my associates at the library. Would you care to accompany me?"
"Sure!" Magnolia said, and she and Slawomir fell into step beside the researcher as they splashed down the wet streets. "This is Slawomir, by the way," she said. "I'm helping him become a Salamence."
Colress smiled down at the Pokemon. "A pleasure to meet you, Slawomir," he said. "You've done well in choosing a Trainer who brings out the potential of her Pokemon."
"And how are your Pokemon doing?" Magnolia asked.
"Quite well," Colress said. He patted his side, where Poke Balls hung at his belt beneath his coat. "Tell me—have you heard of Ultra Space?"
Magnolia raised an eyebrow. "That was all over the news when I first came to Alola," she said. "Is that what you've been working on?"
"I've certainly been working on studying it," Colress said. "How much of Alola have you seen?"
On the way to the library, Magnolia told Colress all about her adventures in Alola so far. She'd met Professor Kukui and learned about the Island Challenge, and a few new Pokemon had even joined her ever-growing family, including Slawomir.
"So I explored pretty much all of Melemele and Akala Islands," Magnolia said as they turned a corner and Malie Library came into view, "and I'm just starting to get a look around Ula'ula. We got here just last night, in fact, and we've spent all morning in Malie Garden."
"Sounds like you've been keeping nice and busy," Colress said. "Ah, here are my associates." He pointed to two figures standing under the eaves of the library.
Magnolia's smile froze into a look of confusion, because they were the strangest people she had ever seen. The two, a man and a girl, wore unusual white and blue uniforms with goggles that covered their eyes, and what she could see of their skin was pale blue. The girl rocked back and forth on her heels, her orange braid swinging merrily, while the man beside her stood like a soldier on guard.
"Hello there, you two," Colress said when he got closer, waving his tablet in greeting. "Are you enjoying the rain?"
The girl nodded. "It rains so much in this world!" she said. "Every day—several times a day! I've never seen so much water in my life!"
Colress chuckled. "There are many places in this world where it rains less," he said. "Alola is located in an especially wet climate, being an island archipelago." He motioned to the professor. "This is an old friend and fellow researcher of mine, Professor Magnolia. Magnolia, these are my associates from the Ultra Recon Squad, Dulse and Zossie," he said, pointing to the man and the girl respectively.
"Nice to meet you," Magnolia said, extending a hand for them to shake.
Instead of taking it, Dulse and Zossie moved their hands in a rather square-ish approximation of the native Alolan greeting. "An Alola to you, Professor," Dulse said. "Have you come to assist us in the rescue project?"
Magnolia looked over at Colress. "Rescue?" she asked. "What's going on?"
"I guess that's a 'no'," Zossie said with a giggle.
"Wait—really, what's happening?" Magnolia asked. "This sounds serious."
"I'll fill you in as soon as we get inside," Colress said, moving to the library doors.
As Dulse opened one, a woman leaned out. "I'm afraid we're closed right now," she said. "The roof is leaking and we're scrambling to keep all of the books dry."
"Ma'am, this is important business," Colress said.
"I'm sorry," the librarian said, "but can you come back in a few hours?"
"Well… I suppose," Colress said. "But—"
"Thanks," the librarian said, closing the door.
The researcher grimaced and turned back to the others. "So much for our meeting location," he said.
"I'm sure there's somewhere else in this great big city where we can sit and talk!" Zossie said. "Preferably somewhere with food!"
Magnolia grinned. "Hey—I saw a malasada shop a few blocks back," she said. "Let's go for lunch there! My treat!"
"I have found malasadas to be quite tasty," Dulse said. "I am in agreeance with this idea."
"Sure, why not," Colress said. "I don't think there was anything specifically at the library that we needed. Burnet and I have already combed their collections for information."
So it was back to tromping through the rain, which did not seem to want to let up. Magnolia sort of wanted to let Adrammalech back out of his Poke Ball just because he would enjoy all of this water so much. But he would also crowd out half the street, so she held off on that.
"You two are from another world entirely?" she asked Dulse and Zossie as they finally ducked into the malasada shop. Magnolia and Colress set their umbrellas to dry in the corner, and then they got in line to order.
"That's right!" Zossie said. "All sorts of interesting things happened here in Alola a few months back!"
"Stuff about the Aether Foundation and a Pokemon called Necrozma, right?" Magnolia asked. "I'm still learning about all of it. Seems I got here just a little too late—just like last time," she said, shooting an impish grin at Colress.
He returned it with a smile. "That's right," he said. "But perhaps it worked out better that way."
"Now I'm curious," Zossie said. "How do you two know each other?"
"It's an interesting story," Magnolia said, "and I'll tell it to you after we order."