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Taka's on the run from his old team and the woman who's corrupted everything he ever knew. Romi's looking for a Gym Badge, a Key, and answers. What happens when they end up as travel buddies through a large, confusing desert?
Hijinks, probably.

This is my 2020 Camp NaNoWriMo project, a sort of pseudo-novelisation of the Tourmaline Desert portion of Reborn. Except AU, because it's also a prequel to my other AU fanfic, which I will eventually stick in this thread once Tourmaline Travels is completed. (I wrote out of order, it wasn't a brilliant move on my part, but in my defense the other one was supposed to be a oneshot at first. Anyway.) I'm planning on posting a chapter per week until it's completed. Assume spoilers for everything up to and including Titania's Gym, and also be warned that I'm not holding back at all on the cheesiness. Cheesy is fun, read at your own risk.
Without further ado... 

Ch. 1 (Day 1)
Ch. 2 (Day 2)
Ch. 3 (Day 3)
Ch. 4 (Day 4)
Ch. 5 (Day 5)

Edited by Azzie
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All of Taka's dialogue in the "prologue" section is straight from the game, and therefore belongs to Ame and not me!

Day 1
The train ride to Tourmaline Station was uneventful.
Romi was the only passenger, as the train station was not officially back in business yet; the only trips being made were to gather supplies and carry the construction workers to where they were needed. And now, on Adrienn's instruction, to give Romi a lift into the desert "on City business".
Romi had wondered about that part, at first; they didn't know why Adrienn hadn't simply told the engineers that they were after a badge. But they didn't bother questioning xem about it; the Fairy Leader was busy enough as it was. Instead they had simply stocked up on supplies- their bag was stuffed with sandwiches, berries and Pokemon medicine- and got on the train. Less than an hour later, the train slowed, and Romi felt themself tense- but nothing happened other than the engineer opening the door and checking to see if they were off yet.

It was hot . Reborn was almost always warm, anywhere that wasn't in the vicinity of Ametrine Mountain, but this was something else entirely. It reminded Romi slightly of Pyrous Mountain's thick, choking heat, although the desert air felt drier and didn't carry the volcano's scorched chemical smell. But the swirling sand in the air made it just as unpleasant to breathe, as they discovered after their first gasp left them coughing. 


By the time they had cleared their throat of sand, the train was gone and the gate had closed behind it. Romi wondered if they would clean the tracks every time the train passed through, once the trains were officially running. They looked around; the city wall was behind them, a mountain to the east, but little else that they could see.
They took only one step before they heard a voice, muffled but unmistakable. 

"I hoped you wouldn't come." 

They turned quickly, and sure enough, there he was. Taka Alcantara, child of Team Meteor's mastermind Solaris. And likely runaway, judging by his disheveled appearance. The anger and indignation that had been building since Romi heard his voice ebbed at the sight of him looking so miserable, replaced with a feeling of worry and something else that was too tender to go near. Romi recalled their anger- really, how dare he ambush them like this?- and brushed aside the grim edge to the comfort that settled over their shoulders as they glared at him.

"Romi, I'm- I'm so sorry. I have to stop you here. If I don't... they're probably already- or she's- watching us from somewhere. I don't have a choice anymore!" He rubbed his face. "As if I ever did." 

He was nearly in tears. The twinge of worry grew and flared, but Romi shoved it down with a vengeance. He was still trying to go back, to pretend. Romi's hand found first Faith's pokeball, then Betty's, and they clutched both in comfort for a moment before moving to release the latter onto the field to meet the Gliscor Taka had chosen. 

The battle was somewhat subdued. Neither Trainer displayed their usual level of skill, both unused to the terrain and weather, and both distracted. By the time it was ending Taka could only sigh.

"I can't win. Not against you." He recalled the defeated Klefki, who reached for his hand with one key before returning to his Pokeball, and looked out over the horizon. "...And not against them." 

Romi was still angry, but the battle had made it impossible to smother the concern they also felt. Returning Madison to her Pokeball, they simply followed his gaze. Nothing they could think of to say felt right- nothing expressed both their anger and the way it blended, somehow, into compassion. So they chose, as they often did, to simply say nothing at all. 

After a moment Taka looked over at them. "So I guess that's it. I- This'll probably be the last time you have to deal with me. Sorry, again..." He looked down and scuffed the sandy stone platform with his shoes. And then his despondent expression shifted to one that was almost thoughtful. He looked back to Romi. "I never had a choice, but you can. You've always been standing up to us. And you've always been winning. You're gonna keep doing that, aren't you?" 


Romi had not been expecting that. And they felt the pressure to say the right thing warring with their other instinct, which was to be entirely honest.
They had been fighting Team Meteor almost as long as they had been in Reborn, but so much of that time had been incidental. For a long time it had been other people driving the movement against Meteor, Romi only getting involved by the chance of being nearby when things broke out. It hadn't been until the mess in Beryl Ward that Romi had felt any personal drive to oppose Meteor beyond fear, of what they had done and what they were capable of doing. When they had seen what Meteor had done to the Tangrowth, and to Heather, the determination to protect others from them had finally taken root in Romi's heart. And as they fought, against Meteor and against Taka, that drive had only grown. But the fear had not gone; it had grown, too, and been mixed again with pain from all the things Team Meteor had taken.
And in this moment Romi felt all of that hit them in full force.
"I. Hope so." 

"Not what I expected to hear, honestly, but what else is new? I never thought anything could change, but here you are. You rocked the boat and I've fallen right out of it. And yet you're still not sure."

Romi flinched at his words. 

"So where does that leave me? When I go back a failure again, I won't get another chance. And you... you'll keep fighting anyway, whether you're sure or not," Taka realized. Again his face turned thoughtful. "...Romi, can I come with you?" 

Not for the first time that day was Romi surprised. Both by Taka's request and by the clarity of their decision. They were still angry- they needed that anger- but they didn't hesitate for a moment. They nodded.

"Wait, really?" There was nothing but disbelief in his eyes now. Romi nodded again. "Okay, so here's the plan. I've got absolutely no clue. So I'm just gonna follow you, okay? I'll try not to get in your way. If I can find somewhere safe to hide, I think I'll lay low there for a while. Maybe long enough that I'll get off that woman's radar. After that... who knows?" He shrugged. "I never thought I'd make it this far, I have no idea what comes next. But there's gotta be somewhere." 

"Yeah," Romi agreed. 

He seemed surprised. "I'll keep an eye out. And in the meantime, I kinda took a bunch of healing items from base before they sent me out here... so I can help you out whenever your Pokemon need healing. Like maybe now, before we head out?" He hopped off the platform and squatted before clicking a Pokeball, and Minior appeared. "Here you go, bud," he patted the Pokemon before spraying it with a Potion he pulled from his bag. Minior twirled gently before Taka recalled him.
Next came Gliscor, and once Taka had sprayed him he dove into the sand, rolling around in obvious glee, and with an amused sigh he let Gliscor keep playing while he treated first Klefki, then Komala and finally Chatot. Chatot hopped onto Taka's shoulder and made clicking sounds with his beak, watching Gliscor, and Romi chuckled.
The sound drew Gliscor and Chatot's attention, Gliscor stopping to see who had laughed and Chatot simply turning to look at them before turning back. 

"Hey guys, we're going with Romi for now, okay?" Taka asked the two. "Romi, here, take some heals for your team." 

"Gli." Gliscor rolled about in the sand some more, completely unconcerned. 

Romi accepted the offered Potions with a nod of thanks, and brought out first Faith, then Betty and Madison. Primarina, Roserade and Fearow watched the others as Romi sprayed them down with healing salve. Shimmer, who hadn't battled, came last, the Musharna blinking up at Romi as they petted her. Romi briefly made the introductions, although none were truly needed. These Pokemon had battled each other often enough.

"Awesome," Taka said. 


As Romi recalled each of their team and prepared to head off, they wondered again why they had accepted. They hadn't brought enough supplies for more than one person, they weren't even sure where the Gym was, and they were still angry. But there had only been one real choice. And once made, Romi was immediately sure it had been the right one.

It had been the closest thing Romi had ever seen to hope on Taka's face.


Tourmaline Desert was scorching hot, a fact with which both Taka and Romi were well acquainted by the end of the day. It had been a lot of trudging, fanning themselves off, and adjusting their clothes to keep sand out of their eyes, and more than once both of them had gotten a foot stuck in a patch of softer sand and nearly twisted an ankle. And through it all had been the unrelenting sun that beamed down oppressively.
At least their pace was comfortable, each finding the periodic pauses to deal with wild Pokemon enough of a rest that they could continue walking otherwise. 

By the end of the day, though, a new fact was making itself known to them. Tourmaline Desert was hot by day , but as the sun sank gently behind the mountains, the air cooled to warm, then comfortable, and then chilly. And the wild Pokemon that had been so abundant throughout the day retreated, though neither saw where they went, and Taka and Romi began to notice Flygon and Cacturne instead against the fiery horizon. Taka seemed comfortable enough, but Romi grew cold, and after one battle with a pair of Hippopotas they withdrew a sweater from their bag. 

"Hey, you okay?" Taka asked them. "It's cold out here at night. I mean, I’ve only been here since yesterday, but last night was pretty cold. You all good?" 

Romi nodded, pulling the sweater over their head.

"Okay, cool. By the way, do you have any food in there? I don't actually know what time it is, but I'm kind of hungry. Aren't you?" 

Romi paused, then opened their bag again. About a minute later, they brought out a pair of paper-wrapped sandwiches and handed one to Taka. "S'not much." 

"Hey, it's better than nothing," he replied happily, ripping off the wrapping and opening his own bag. "Here." He held out a bottle of Fresh Water, and grinned as Romi took it. 

"Thanks." They carefully unwrapped their own sandwich and sat down in the sand to eat it. Taka shrugged and did the same. 

The pair ate mostly in silence, each too hungry after the long day to devote any energy to conversation. Taka finished first, and sat quietly drinking his water while Romi finished their sandwich. When that was finished, Romi gathered up both sandwich wrappers and stuck them in their pockets, and the two carried on. 

The horizon dimmed, and stars appeared in the clear sky. The two continued walking, and the moon rose, a thin crescent of opal against the deepening blue. But it was not enough to see by, and eventually Romi stopped and turned to Taka, who was trailing slightly behind them. 

"Should we stop?" they asked. 

"Uh. Here?" Taka looked around and saw nothing but open sand. "There's... no cover, they could find us... Do any of your Pokemon know Flash? We could get somewhere safer." 

Romi thought about it, then shook their head. "What about this?" They pulled out their Pokegear, and aimed it toward the ground. A faint white glow poured out from the screen.

"Again, better than nothing," Taka shrugged, and they continued walking. 


After another hour, however, they were forced to admit defeat. The only thing they had found that wasn't sand or wild Pokemon was a boulder, roughly as tall as Romi and twice their height across. Taka immediately gravitated towards it.

"This'll work," he announced, inspecting the boulder and the area around it. "Not as good as the ruins, but it'll hide us a bit. Come check it out!" 

Romi did, shrugging. It looked like any other boulder to them. 

Taka slung his backpack onto the ground beside it and sat up against it, stretching his legs out. "Man, I didn't know how tired I was."

Romi was tired, too, though they didn't want to admit it. They stood against the cool stone, letting it support them as they reached into their bag and withdrew a Fire Stone.

“What’s that for?” Taka asked.

“It should keep us warm,” they replied. Fire Stone was set aside as Romi withdrew the paper wrappers from their pocket and arranged them in a small circle on the sand. They placed the Fire Stone within the circle, and looked back to Taka. “Stand back.”

He stepped back, still watching curiously, and Romi took a deep breath and blew on the stone.
The papers erupted into flames, and Romi stepped back as well.

“...Well, gotta admit I didn’t see that coming.” Taka said, staring at the small fire. “Where do they teach you that, anyway?”

“Camping,” Romi said, a hint of a smile on their face. “I bought a few for the trip.” 

“I mean, someone might see it, but… better than freezing to death, I guess.” He yawned.

"I'll take first watch," Romi said. 

"Wait- really? Uh. Okay, thanks. Wake me up when you get tired." He unwound his scarf once and tucked the end under his head like a pillow, then curled up against the boulder. "...Dang, this sand is hard ." 

Despite that, it was less than ten minutes before Romi heard a quiet snore, and looked down to see Taka sound asleep. 

They smiled for a moment. 

The night passed without any sign of either danger or comfort, for either of them. Taka jolted awake several times, sometimes with a yell, and every time he did so it startled Romi, who kept awake by tending the fire. The low flames kept them warm enough, and it seemed to discourage the lurking Pokemon from approaching, but it was not an easy task to keep it going. Romi, who had not been camping since early childhood, kept accidentally letting the fire die and having to relight it. And fanning the Fire Stone was itself tiring. When Romi caught themself nodding off for the second time they woke Taka, who despite waking up on his own several times was not an easy person to rouse. He slept through whispering, calling and nudging his foot, and did not wake until Romi carefully shook his shoulder.

He yawned. "Oh hey. Thanks, Romi." 

They were not sure exactly what time it was, or how long it took them to get to sleep. Later, Romi was fairly sure they had not so much fallen asleep as passed out. But their sleep was dreamless, and they did not especially notice the discomfort of the ground as they slept.


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Day 2

Romi woke up to a loud screech shortly before dawn, when the darkness was thinning and the stars looked slightly more faint against the sky. Romi sat up stiffly. Every muscle in their body hurt. 

Taka was standing against the boulder, looking into the distance. He looked alert, but thoughtful, and when he heard Romi's movement he looked down. "Morning." 

Another Pokemon cry rang out, one Romi recognized as a Marowak. Taka shrugged. "They've been going for a while now, surprised you slept as long as you did." 

"So'm I," Romi mumbled. "Guess we should head out before it gets too hot." They dragged themself to their feet and brushed the sand off their clothes. 

"Good idea," Taka agreed. "What time is it, anyway?" 

Romi checked their Pokegear. "5:30." 

"Okay." He grabbed his bag from atop the boulder- Romi hadn't noticed it up there before- and scooped sand onto the last coals that remained. Then he nuded the dim Fire Stone out of the sand with his shoe. "You still want that?" 

Romi picked it up and looked at it critically, then pocketed it. "Might as well." They swung their own bag, which felt twice as heavy as usual, onto their back. 

"Wait," Taka said. "Shouldn't we eat first? Most important meal of the day and all that?" He looked downright alarmed, and Romi fought back a laugh. Then their stomach let out a low, treasonous gurgle, and they conceded the point. 

They ate as they walked, Qualot sticks and bread cut off a loaf Romi brought out. After a rest it seemed to help more than the sandwiches had done, and even Romi began to feel a bit more energetic. It was nothing to how alert Taka seemed, however. 
After an hour of walking Romi could not help commenting. "Must've slept well." 

"Better than the night before," he agreed. "But also I was scouting around and I found this bag of Pop Rocks in the sand. They were kind of melted together, but still good." 

"...You ate them?" 

"Hey, the bag was sealed, and food's food. Sorry. Next time I'll leave you some." 
This time Romi did laugh, and Taka grinned. "But seriously, how did they even get out here?" 

The pair encountered another sandstorm just as it was beginning to be hot again, and they found it helped the heat a bit, though the tradeoff was that it was harder to breathe. It was worse than the one they'd encountered the previous day,  stinging their hands and faces until Taka thought to wrap his scarf around his nose and mouth. Neither dared speak as they walked, and so it was without words that they decided to forgo stopping for lunch. So they trudged on, through the sand and wind, occasionally getting surprised by a Pokemon hiding behind the sand's veil. Time seemed to lose all meaning.

Until suddenly, the sandstorm grew thinner, and they saw something unbelievable beyond it.

Taka saw it first, stopping and reaching out to get Romi's attention. When he saw them looking, he pointed slightly north, and Romi followed his gaze. They looked back and Taka nodded, and they adjusted their course. 

Green in the desert was not to be ignored. 

It was not long before it came into greater view, the sandstorm diminishing until it was no more than a calm breeze making ripples across the ground. A clump of green in the near distance, lush and bright against the dull tan and reddish sands. It looked like a small forest. 

They picked up speed.

The closer they got, the more unbelievable it looked. Not only were there trees, but grass growing, and colourful spots that looked like Berry bushes. And when they were almost upon it, they could see the reflections of water, shining on the underside of the palm trees. 
They both ran after that. 

"Is this real?" Taka asked when they were both standing at the edge. What they had come upon was a thin grove of trees and deep green bushes, surrounding a clear pond that reflected the sky. Tiny Finneon darted below the surface of the water, and bright berries dotted some of the bushes. Romi was staring with open wonder.

At Taka's words, Romi tentatively reached forward and touched the grass. It felt cool and solid and real, and it continued to do so when Romi plucked a blade and rubbed it between their fingers. 
Taka took that as a good sign, running up and rubbing the bark of a tree. 

Romi squatted at the shore, opening their bag and withdrawing the empty Fresh Water bottles they had used over the last two days. When they leaned forward to fill the first one, however, a spark of blue light flared at their waist, and with no more warning Faith appeared next to her Trainer. 

"Priii!" she cried, diving into the water and completely soaking Romi. When she resurfaced a few moments later, Romi and Taka were both laughing, the former watching her affectionately. She swam to their side and chirruped happily, and Romi ruffled her hair. 

"I guess she smelled the water," Romi told Taka. "Hey, Faith." 

"Hey," Taka greeted her. The Primarina waved a flipper in his direction before diving back into the water and swimming quickly off to investigate something that had caught her eye. 

"I guess this would be a good spot to let our teams out," Taka thought. "Uh. If you want." 

"Good idea," Romi said. They went a bit farther along the water's edge to give Taka more room, and clicked the three still-closed Pokeballs. Betty, Shimmer and Madison appeared. Madison squawked in confusion, and Betty looked around as if to locate the threat. Romi crouched down to reassure them, and quietly asked if they wanted a stretch and some food. Betty immediately ran off to explore, and Romi grinned as Madison and Shimmer discussed the matter before heading over together to investigate one of the berry bushes. 
They looked over at Taka, surrounded on all sides by his own Pokemon. He was laughing as Chatot sat on his head and Komala clung to one leg like a tree, while Klefki, Minior and Gliscor took off on their own to look around. 

Faith poked her head out of the water, saw the happy humans and Pokemon, and whistled.

Romi had their hands full keeping an eye on Betty. Faith couldn’t go far, and they knew Shimmer would keep Madison out of trouble. But Betty was excited, quick, and the little Roserade blended well into the leaves she was investigating. So Romi kept their eye on her as they collected water in their empty bottles, and when they had finished they called out to her to not go far. 
Madison, clearly misunderstanding the instruction's intended recipient, flew over to land in the water near her Trainer. Her beak was purple with berry juice, and she dipped it in the water before turning to preen herself. Betty, however, poked her head out from behind a tree, and ran over to Romi. 

“Raaa,” she trilled. “Rose!” And she took one of Romi’s hands in both of her own flower buds and attempted to pull them toward the tree. 

“What’s up?” they asked her, and with a glance to make sure Shimmer was still nearby- she was- they followed Betty. When it was clear Romi was coming, Betty let go and ran ahead. 
Romi understood why a moment later. On the other side of the tree, half-buried in the grass and earth, was the golden glint of a Light Shard.

“Good find,” they told Betty, picking her up. She cuddled into their arms and rested there as Romi brought her back to where the others were.

Shimmer was floating next to Taka’s Gliscor, who had ventured over and was having some kind of conversation with her. On the ground next to Shimmer was a decent-sized pile of berries. 
Taka came over at almost the same moment.

“Oh, that’s where- oh hey, good idea,” he said, noticing the berries. 
Shimmer hummed with pride, and Gliscor nodded, smiling. 

“I can’t believe this is all out here,” Taka shook his head. “How does it even keep growing, with all this desert around?” 

“Oasis,” Romi shrugged. “And Betty found a Light Shard over there.” 

“A wha?” Taka asked. 

Romi frowned. “Light Shard. Glowing gold thing?” 

“...Okay, sure, ” Taka said. “Anyway, I got my water refilled, but maybe I should get some of those berries too.” 
One of the berries floated up and hovered in front of Taka’s face. Shimmer turned to him and trilled a question. 
Taka and Romi both grinned, and Taka took the berry from the air. “Thanks.” 

“I can help too,” Romi offered. 

As it turned out, the other Pokemon were also happy to help, especially with food. Even Faith, who did not want to get out of the water, reached a few Pecha Berries that were hanging over the pond, and then supplemented them with some pretty rocks she found. Clearly proud of herself, she deposited them all on shore and then watched as the others hunted for Berries and twigs to use for a fire. 
The rest of them searching together managed to find about as many as Shimmer had; she seemed to have been plucking from every bush she saw. At last they put the full pile together and split it in half, and then simply rested.

The sun began to sink lower in the sky, and Romi began gathering their water bottles together. But when they looked back at Taka, he shook his head. 
“There’s lots of shelter here, might as well just stay until morning.” 

As the night fell around them, Romi pulled out their used Fire Stone and fashioned a little pile of twigs around it, like a tent. They took some of the stones Faith had brought and set them in a ring around the twigs. It looked like more of a campfire than the crumpled sandwich wrappers of the previous night had, and it hadn't even been lit yet. 

Taka was doing something off on his own, Romi wasn’t sure what, but they were not at all bothered by the chance to be alone with their Pokemon. Faith had pulled herself up on shore and was napping after her afternoon swim, and the others were hopping around nearby. It was a comfortable quiet, free of the awkwardness that sometimes filled the silences between Romi and Taka as they walked. 

As Romi blew on the Fire Stone, willing it to heat up and ignite the twigs, they heard some small hops behind them, and Madison’s neck stretched over their shoulder to see what they were doing.  “Fea?” 

“Careful, Madison, I’m trying to get this fire going.” They took another breath and watched as the stone glowed brighter under the air. 

Madison chirped, and Romi felt her head leave their shoulder. They fanned the air with their hands, trusting their Pokemon to get back safely.

Several things happened then. A sharp gust of wind blew from behind Romi, the fire stone glowed brightly, then stopped as it, the twigs, and the rocks went flying in the wind. The rocks rolled only a few feet, but the twigs were scattered, and the Fire Stone landed somewhere in the underbrush. 

“Roww!” Madison crowed proudly. 
Romi turned around and saw her, wing outstretched and looking at them hopefully. 

“Madison, you- oh,” Romi realized. “You were trying to help. Thank you. It was just a bit too strong,” 
The Fearow hung her head, and Romi ruffled the feathers on it. “It’s okay. You’re a good girl. I can fix it anyway.” Madison leaned into the petting, then hopped off and began collecting the twigs she had blown away. Romi quickly put the rocks back, then went to search for the Fire Stone. 
Eventually they found it, glowing dimly against some ferns, and brought it back to the small fire pit.

There was already a fire going. 

Taka sat next to it, Chatot on his shoulder. When he saw Romi he waved. “Oh, nice, you got some wood too?” 

“How-” Romi held up the Fire Stone. “How did it start?” 

“Chatot did it,” Taka said, leaning his head against the little Pokemon. “Guess I forgot the little guy knows Heat Wave.” Chatot puffed out his chest. 

“Oh.” Romi looked at the dim stone in their hand and pocketed it. “Good job.” 
Madison spat out her beak full of twigs and looked sadly up at Romi. They squatted beside her and kissed her head. “You did a good job too.” 

The fire was much stronger than the previous evening’s, and the food much better. They left Romi's rations untouched and instead grilled berries over the fire, for themselves and all of the Pokemon. Despite the small fire, everyone managed to gather around it, even Faith wiggling over to investigate when she smelled the cooking fruit. The Pokemon did not seem at all uncomfortable with each other, although Romi had a distinct and unpleasant feeling that Chatot didn’t like them. They couldn’t be sure, but it seemed that every time Romi looked his way, the little bird was staring at them. It could have been Faith, though; she was more subtle, but more than once Romi caught her making faces at Chatot. 

Romi quietly told her to cut it out.

It wasn’t long after he finished eating that Taka finally began feeling the weight of tiredness settle over his shoulders. The lack of sleep and the long trudge through a heavy sandstorm had taken their toll, and the
gentle weights of Komala in his lap and Chatot on his shoulder, both dozing, made him even sleepier. 
He looked over at his cohort. Romi was scratching something in the dirt with their finger, their Musharna- Shimmer, her name was- watching intently. Taka tried to make out what they were drawing, but he couldn’t without disturbing his Pokemon. Romi looked at Shimmer and said something quietly to her, and she made a low whistling sound, gesturing at the drawing with her snout. 

Since they had arrived at the oasis, Taka had mostly been concerned with gathering supplies and resting, but it had been difficult not to notice the change in Romi. They had always seemed- not exactly tense, but more focused. If Taka had no idea what he was doing, Romi was the opposite; they always seemed to know exactly what they were doing, and never really wavered from that, nor lingered for longer than was necessary. They were kind, certainly; the very fact that they kept showing up to heal what Team Meteor tried to destroy was proof enough of that, and he could see their concern for their Pokemon in the way they battled. But there had always been an intensity to them, and Taka could see absolutely no sign of that intensity now. Since they had arrived at this oasis, surrounded by their Pokemon, Romi seemed… relaxed. And watching them interact with their Pokemon, it made him smile. Reminded him a bit of himself.

Taka felt Komala shift in his lap, and he petted the little Pokemon between his ears. He understood how Romi felt. Being surrounded by his Pokemon was calming, and it helped take the edge off his fear of Team Meteor catching up with him. 

“Hey, what do you think of letting our Pokemon stay out tonight?” 

Romi looked up from their drawing, and considered it. “What if wild ones attack?”

“Gliscor and Minior are nocturnal, they’d let us know,” Taka said. “Besides, most of ‘em are asleep already anyway. And I think they like being out with us.” He grinned at Komala in his lap. 

Romi glanced around them at their team cuddled up against them, then over to Taka with his own, and smiled. “Think they do.” 

“Great,” Taka said. “And if anyone comes, we’ll know about it. You’ll look out for us, right?” He reached behind him to where Gliscor sat, and rubbed his head. 
“Sco sco,” Gliscor said, tucking his head under Taka’s arm. 
“Thanks, buddy.” 
Minior floated in front of Taka and spun, glowing faintly yellow and making a sound like wind in a cavern. Taka held up a hand, and Minior gently flew into it. “High five.” 

Romi laughed, and Faith stuck her head on Romi’s lap at the sound. 

Arranging to sleep took longer than the night before, but it was much nicer, too. Each arranged leaves in a soft pile, some distance apart, along the water’s edge. Romi set four smaller piles next to theirs, and showed
Faith, Betty, Shimmer and Madison where they could cuddle in. Taka simply made his own pile larger, and set down his scarf for Chatot. 

With nobody staying awake, they doused the fire, Faith happy to sing water to it until it was nothing more than a patch of mud. Minior discarded his stone shell and hovered over Taka’s pile of leaves like a beacon, shining enough light for them all to see to get into the makeshift mattress. 
Taka reached up and patted him. “Night, Minior. Thanks again.” He flopped onto the leaf pile and then helped his other  Pokemon settle in next to him. Klefki and Komala cuddled against his side, and Chatot settled quickly on the scarf. Gliscor stood on his tail next to the leaf pile, looking alert and proud. 
“Thank you, too, Gliscor,” Taka said. “Night guys. Night, Romi!” 

The sight of Taka there, surrounded by his Pokemon and smiling up at Romi, made their heart skip a beat. They smiled back, reflexively, before turning away. 

They held up their Pokegear and hurried to their own leaf pile. Faith heard them coming, and whistled a question. 
“I’m fine,” Romi told her. “Night, guys.” 

The leaf pile was much softer than the desert sand had been, but it was a long time before Romi got to sleep. Their mind was buzzing and their stomach was full of conflicting emotions, and in the end they fell asleep with two thoughts in the foreground. The first was about how the leaves were somehow more comfortable than the sofa at Agate Circus.

The second was, ‘I thought I was over this’.

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It's written very well and wonderful💖

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(Warning for mention of suicide. Also, essentially all of Taka's dialogue from that part (regarding everything in Beryl Ward) is lifted straight from the game, so credit for that belongs to Ame and not me!)

Day 3
Romi awoke with a surprising amount of weight on their legs. When they opened their eyes,  Faith was sprawled out across their feet. Betty was nestled into the crook of their arm, and Madison had spread her wings out across all of them. Shimmer, seeming to enjoy the warmth, had curled up above Romi’s head.
The sun was well on its way up, although without moving and disturbing their sleeping Pokemon they couldn’t tell exactly what time it was. It was only a few moments before they decided they would have to anyway; the circulation in their legs had been cut off, and both of their feet were asleep.
They wiggled, but nobody woke. It wasn’t until they reached out and gently patted Madison's wing that the Fearow moved, and she woke up slowly, stretching her feathers out and nearly poking Romi in the eye with one.
“Morning, Madison,” Romi said groggily. The gentle commotion was enough to wake everyone else- except Betty, which didn’t surprise Romi. She had run around quite a bit the previous day, after all. But it was easy enough to gently slide their arm out from under her and greet the other three members of their team.

Romi stood up carefully and looked over to Taka’s campsite. They could see Klefki clearly, glinting in the morning sun, and what looked like Chatot hopping about. They approached, and held back a chuckle. Taka’s Pokemon were all awake, even Komala crawling up a nearby tree. Taka himself, however, was not. Gliscor waved drowsily to Romi when he saw them.

“It’s okay, you can sleep,” Romi told him. “Thank you.”

“Scor,” Gliscor murmured, already settling down on the leaf pile- next to Minior, who seemed to be asleep already.
Romi grinned and gathered up the last of their belongings. Chatot, they noticed, was watching them warily, but he didn’t seem as confrontational as the night before. Romi figured they’d take that as a good sign... unless it was just because Faith wasn’t staring back.
When they had finally gathered everything, and Betty had woken up and wandered over to see what her sisters were doing, Romi went back over to where Taka lay, still sound asleep. They took a step toward him- then stopped, and looked down at Chatot.

“Hi. Can you wake him up?”

Chatot considered this, and tilted his head toward Romi. “Tot?”

“Um. Please?”

Chatot bobbed his head. With a couple of hops, he was in front of Taka. “Chat. Wake up! Wake up!”

“Nnnghwizit” Taka muttered.

“Wake up!” Chatot repeated with a squawk.

Taka groaned and opened his eyes. As soon as he took in his surroundings and remembered where he was, he bolted into a sitting position. “What time is it?”

Romi pulled out their Pokegear. “About eight.”

“Yeah, we should move on,” Taka said. “Thanks, Chatot.” He gently patted Gliscor and Minior awake. “Time to eat, guys.”
The promise of food woke them quickly, and before long they were all chowing down on the Tamato Rolls Romi brought out and drinking from the cool pond.

When they had finished, Romi petted each of their Pokemon. “Gotta go now, so back in your balls for now, okay?” 

They all made sounds of assent, so Romi clicked each of their Pokeballs and returned them to their belt. They knew almost at once that Taka must have done the same, because it was quiet again, in a way it hadn’t been since they had arrived at the oasis.

“Man, I’m gonna miss this place,” Taka said. “But it’s too open. Not really a good place to stay hidden.” Romi nodded. “Well, here we go.”

They began walking, and when they were passing the Light Shard Betty had found, Romi pointed it out.

“There,” Romi said.

“...There what?” Taka asked. “Grass?”

“No, the Light Shard,” Romi grinned. “Like I said yesterday.”

Taka looked from them to the ground with a frown. “That wasn’t some weird joke?”

The grin slowly slid from Romi's features. “This isn’t?”
The two looked at each other, confusion in each face, as it slowly dawned on them that neither was trying to make a joke.

“You seriously don’t see it?” Romi asked. “Gold, glowing, about waist high?”

“Romi, all I see is that tree,” he said. “You’re kind of freaking me out. What’s a Light Shard?”

They were silent for a few moments. “...Never mind,” Romi shook their head. “Let’s go.”
They put their hands to the dusty golden star. A pleasant warmth ran through their body, and Romi felt the faint ache in their muscles ease. They also felt an immediate sense of confusion. The sun seemed to be shining more harshly on their skin the moment they touched the Shard, and when they looked up, the tree they had been standing beneath was gone.
The entire oasis was gone.

“...What just happened?” Taka asked. “You saw that too, right? The entire place just… gone?”

Romi nodded. It did not particularly surprise them.

“When you touched that… thing I can’t see. It was real though, right? It wasn’t just a mirage? If it was just a mirage, we couldn’t have…” He dropped his bag and brought out a bottle of water. "The water’s still here.”

Romi continued to stare, not entirely hearing him. Since coming to Reborn they had seen a lot of strange things, but an entire pond and several trees disappearing at once was perhaps the strangest yet. And it felt… bad. In a way they couldn’t explain, it 

hurt them to see the oasis gone. And what about the Finneon? They found themself worrying about them, too.

“Sad,” Taka said finally. “But probably good, really. No chance of her finding the campsite now, anyway. At least we got some food.”
But Taka was staring where it had been, too, and Romi wondered if it bothered him, too. The thought that it might made Romi feel worse, until they caught themself thinking it and briskly shut it out of their head.

“Yeah,” Romi muttered. “We should go.”

The day was fortunately free of sandstorms, but that did mean that the sun beat down intensely on both of their heads as they walked. Taka once again questioned his sanity in wearing a thick scarf into the desert, but he left it where it was. After the spook he’d gotten that morning, he was happy for whatever comfort he could find, and the scarf was a comfort, even if it was also making him about ten degrees hotter.
The scarf was not the only thing that made him wonder about his sanity. Something had happened that morning, back at the oasis, and he had no idea what. He’d tried a few times to bring it up with Romi, but every time he had, they had shrugged and changed the subject. He could tell it had spooked them, too, though. They’d thought he was joking, about not seeing the thing. And he couldn’t console himself by saying Romi was the one seeing things, because that oasis had certainly disappeared as soon as they’d touched… whatever it was. 

He wasn’t sure how long they’d been walking for when Romi stopped and frowned at something on the ground. They bent over and picked it up- and Taka laughed.
A package of Cotton Candy.
“More?” Romi asked.

“I think there’s someone throwing them off Beryl Bridge. That’s gotta be it, right?”

“But look. It doesn’t even look melted. How?” Romi raised an eyebrow at the clear plastic of the wrapping. “What do they put in this stuff?”

“Well, it revives fainted Pokemon,” Taka grinned. “So probably not just sugar?”

“I guess,” Romi took a last look at it, then slipped it into their bag.

Taka was quiet after that, uncharacteristically so. Romi wondered about it. At first they were content to simply let him be with his thoughts, but when an entire half hour had passed without him saying a word, they decided to ask.

“I was just thinking about that guy. You remember that guy that was with me and ZEL when we fought in Beryl? Back then, people were saying you killed him.”

Romi froze, but Taka didn’t seem to notice. “He wasn’t the friendliest guy. He never seemed to stick around that much, and he argued with Sirius all the time. But still… you wouldn’t do something like that, right?”

He looked, and Romi closed their eyes. “I… didn’t. But in a way it was my fault,” they said.

They opened their mouth to say more, but in the next moment the ground rumbled, and a pair of Dugtrio sprang up, one on either side of the pair.
They were easily dealt with- Betty and Klefki quickly sent them tunneling away. Taka found he wanted- needed- to hear more, to understand what had happened. But Romi’s concentration, or maybe their courage, seemed to have been used up. Taka watched them as they walked, and they seemed to be deep in thought- but they didn’t look happy. It was the first time the idea had occurred to him, that their quiet could be from nervousness, or something other than simple choice.

“So what’s your secret,” he asked finally. “Is it why you don’t say much?”

Romi looked surprised for a moment, then shook their head. “Just don’t always have much to say.” There was a pause, then they continued. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know him. Corey, I mean. But… he was a Meteor. Hurting people. So I didn’t think. It didn’t matter. Not until after.”

“What happened?”

“He was found out,” Romi told him. “Heather was there. He blamed me. Then we fought, in the Gym. He flooded the gym with poison gas, and I told the police where he was. And then he… jumped.”

Taka frowned, but he found himself relieved by the answer. “But you didn’t kill him.”

“Maybe not. But I didn’t think, either.”

Taka shrugged. “It sucks. But sometimes thinking’s hard, y'know?”

Romi nodded. It was.

The rest of the day passed uneventfully, for the most part. The heat had tired them both out, so the setting of the sun was a great relief. They could find no shelter- not even a boulder this time- so when it grew too dark to see they stopped and made camp where they were.
Taka pulled some twigs out of his bag, and grinned. “Glad these stayed too, at least.”
He let Chatot out, and the little bird Pokemon chirped in disappointment when he saw there was no battle awaiting him.
“Sorry, bud,” Taka said. “But can you help with the fire again? There’s a seed in it for you.”
Looking considerably happier, Chatot opened his beak and the pile of twigs erupted into flames.
“Good boy,” Taka grinned. “Here you go.”
Chatot took the Miracle Seed and nibbled at it intently, not reacting when the rest of Taka’s Pokemon joined him outside of their balls.

Romi followed suit. Faith, when she saw that there was no battle to be had and no water to rest in, gave Romi a wounded look and climbed onto their lap. Romi laughed, and Shimmer nudged Faith with her snout.

The sand was just as hard as it had been before, but Romi had brought some of the palm leaves, which had miraculously not been crushed by their bag. Faith jumped to one immediately and began cleaning the sand out of her fur.
Romi fell asleep almost instantly, Taka noticed, and this time they hadn’t even bothered trying to make their Pokemon a place separate from them. Shimmer made a soft humming sound in her sleep, not unlike a purr, and Taka wondered if the Musharna's presence was why Romi was sleeping so well.
Refreshed from their stint in their Pokeballs, Minior and Gliscor played while the others settled in for sleep. The rapidly moving light from Minior was a bit disorienting, but Taka figured it might help keep the other wild Pokemon away. And he'd certainly slept through worse.

“Night, guys,” Taka murmured, taking one more look at the stars before closing his eyes.

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(Please note that Taka's dialogue around the tree was taken directly from the game, although in a slightly different context. So all credit for that goes to Ame and not me!)
Day 4
They were woken by pelting sand before the sun had even fully risen over the mountains. The first thing Romi was aware of was something cold pushing against their arm, and when they opened their eyes they felt sand sting them. They sat up and rubbed the sand out of their eyes, and kept them closed as they reached for whatever the cold something was. 

“Kii!” came the alarmed response, and as Romi felt the small shape of Klefki they hastily opened their hand and their eyes. 

“Sorry,” Romi told the little Pokemon. Klefki smiled and held out one of his little keys, and guessing what he was after, Romi  shook it with their fingers. 

“Kii,” Klefki chirped. He made some cheerful-sounding jingling noises as he shook hands as best he could.

It was only then that Romi realized their own Pokemon were gone from their side. They shielded their eyes with their hand and looked around, sighing in relief when they saw all four of them over where the fire had been, through the blur of the sand. 

They stood up, and then remembered Klefki. “You want a lift?” 

“Klef,” he replied, and hopped onto the hand they held out. 

Romi carried him over to where their other Pokemon were gathered near Taka and his team. Faith whistled happily when she saw them, and Taka turned and grinned. 
“He woke you up, huh? Thought we should probably take off before this gets worse.” Taka gestured to the whirling sand. “Faith’s already chased off a Krookodile that wandered too close.” 

Romi laughed, and carefully handed Klefki back to Taka. “Good girl, Faith.” 

Klefki hopped into Taka’s hands happily, and Faith rushed to tuck her nose under Romi’s arm. “Priii,” she complained. 

“Yeah, let’s get going,” Romi agreed. 

They walked along in silence again, the sandstorm discouraging conversation. But Romi found it easier to breathe, and to see, by holding their head a certain way. It was a relief, and Taka too seemed to be having an easier time of it, with his scarf over his nose and mouth. The wind died down eventually, and with it, the sand. 
Around two o’clock by Romi’s Pokegear, they found a single tree growing out of the desert.
 It was not a tall tree, not like the palms that surrounded the oases, but short and sturdy, with lush, leafy branches sticking out in all directions. The deep green leaves were thick and shiny, and contrasted starkly with the large clusters of soft pink blossoms that were scattered throughout the foliage.

“It’s weird,” Taka said, staring at the tree, “but everywhere I go looks amazing to me. Even the sandstorms. But I mean, check this out. I’ve never even seen trees like this.”

“Me either." Romi ran their hand over a leaf, and then squatted down by its base. There were fallen petals in the sand, half-buried, and Romi scooped up a handful and sifted the sand out. The petals felt dry and papery in their hand. 

"Hey, good idea," Taka said, squatting next to them. He plucked a few of the fallen blooms from the sand and shook them out. "Souvenirs." 

Romi smiled. "It's nice." They carefully placed their petals in their Pokegear case, pressing them behind the device.

“It is,” Taka agreed as he watched. “...Maybe this is what living for yourself is about.”
He put his own petals gently in an empty Potion bottle, and packed it back in his bag before they moved on.

They made camp that night between a pair of boulders, which they welcomed, if only for the possibility that it might shield them from sandstorms if any picked up in the night or in the morning. It even hid the fire from view, from some angles, which seemed to relieve Taka's anxiety a bit. They slept soundly, and when they woke it was to clear skies once more.

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Day 5
They travelled on, crossing a stretch of dunes that tried Taka’s climbing skills. He complained about sand getting in his shoes, and Romi got their leg stuck in a soft spot that took them ten minutes to dig it out of, refusing help all the while.

At the top of the largest dune in the area, Taka put out his arm to stop Romi from going any further. "Look!" 
Romi followed his point. Down in a low part beneath the dune, an Excadrill and a Marowak were fighting a Hippowdon and what looked like a bright, emerald-hued Krookodile. The sun glinted on Excadrill's hands and head, but the shiny Krookodile seemed to capture the light in its own way as well. The two Trainers stared at the battle.

"Haven't seen a wild shiny in- well, ever," Taka said quietly. 

"Want to catch it?" Romi asked. 

"...Yeah," he grinned. "Come on!" 

They made their way down the dune, each slipping occasionally from their haste. The skirmish moved in and out of view as the Pokemon dove in and out of the sand, but the glinting of the sun on Excadrill's blades and Krookodile's bright hide made it easier to follow. 

By the time they reached the area, however, the Pokemon had gone. 

The pair searched for a while, and managed to find the Hippowdon sleeping its injuries off, but after nearly an hour were forced to conclude that the Krookodile had gone. 

"It's fine," Taka shrugged. "Guess that's what I get, thinking something was going my way." 

"Taka," Romi frowned. There was gentleness in their voice, a gentleness Taka hadn't heard directed toward any human- or, he should say, almost never. He remembered, twice before, hearing it. It made him stop. 

"No, really, it's okay. And it's not like I'm not grateful to you for dragging me along. That's not what I'm saying. Just my usual lousy luck, y'know?" He laughed halfheartedly.

"You don't have to be grateful." They shook their head.

Again, Taka was surprised. "Don't see why not, but whatever. Let's keep going, maybe we can get away from these dunes by tonight." 

"We're helping each other," Romi shrugged.  

They did indeed manage to get free of the dunes by the time night fell, and by the time it grew too dark to see they had made it to another rocky pile. Romi began to drowse quickly, and Taka suggested they get an early rest. 

"I'll handle the fire," he assured them. "Don't worry about it." 

Reluctantly Romi allowed themself to drift off, and Taka sat with Chatot on the lowest of the rocks to wait until the fire died down. 

Missing the shiny Krookodile had been disappointing, definitely. But it hadn't really bothered him for very long. He was used to disappointment, yes, but more than that he loved his team, and honestly, Gliscor was probably stronger than that Krookodile anyway. The disappointment had faded a bit behind the wonder of seeing a Shiny Pokemon in the first place.

But Romi- they'd seemed sad. Or worried, maybe. They'd even gotten closer to that Hippowdon than Taka had thought exactly wise, hoping to find the Krookodile nearby. That itself wasn't too surprising. Romi did reckless things all the time, things like breaking into Meteor bases and diving down waterfalls after relative strangers. Or standing up to his father. 
But it was different, being on the receiving end. And hearing that disappointment in their voice over something bad that had happened to him

It was sort of like they cared. Like they were friends. 

He found himself smiling at the thought.

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(Please note that a lot of dialogue from this part is taken straight from the game! Essentially all credit for Taka's dialogue up to 'Around sunset' goes to Ame and not me, minus his reaction to Romi's shrinekeeper comment. I hope you enjoy!)

Day 6
"Do you hate my father?" Taka asked as they walked the next day.

Romi stayed silent, considering the question. They knew, this time, what the right thing to say was. But it was not the truth, and they found were not interested in lying. "He's hurt a lot of people," they said finally. "I don't know how to forgive that."

Taka nodded, looking more tired than disappointed. "I know he's not a shining beacon of morals. But at least he's always followed his own ideals. That's something I could never do. Well, not until now, at least."

Romi was unable to silence the little voice in their mind that reminded them that Solaris' ideals had led to more than one innocent person and Pokemon being killed. They chose not to voice this thought, however, and stayed quiet, sensing that Taka had more to say.

"Now... what even are my ideals? I've never really had a chance to figure it out. I thought I was just supposed to do what I was told and deal with it. And then I just couldn't," he shrugged. "I kept thinking about getting out of there. And then I hated myself for wanting to. It's such a mess."

"What about now?" Romi asked quietly.

"Now? I want to make it out of this desert alive. And... I keep thinking about getting that woman out of there. She's... corrupted Team Meteor. Both our means and our ends. Did you know Team Meteor wasn't always like this? Before she showed up, we just looked after the Citadel."

Romi nodded. They could see it.

"Dad said his parents were more like shrinekeepers than anything."

Unbidden, the thought of Taka and his father- and then Sirius, Lin and Terra- in Kantonian shrinekeeper garb popped into Romi's head. They had to bite their tongue to hold back a laugh, but something must have shown on their face, because Taka frowned.
"What is it?"

Romi could do nothing but tell the truth. "Just... picturing all of you dressed as shrinekeepers," they admitted, laughter pushing through their voice. "With the little brooms and everything."
Taka laughed, and Romi stopped trying to hold back their chuckle.

"I mean, we've got a lot of weird clothes in storage, who knows? But if there were brooms, those are long gone. And I can't see Terra ever wearing anything like that."

"No," Romi agreed.

"Man, she's crazy. Everyone talks about her like she's this technical genius, but whenever she comes around we end up having to repair a ton of stuff. But Lin always insists she stays anyway."

"I don't know much about her," Romi said. "I think she's trapped in her computer now. Somehow."

Taka nodded. "Heard something about that. You went in after her, though, didn't you? What was that even like?"

"...Strange. Unnerving. There were some books..." They still weren't sure what to make of those. "Does Terra really have a Mewtwo?"

"Excuse me, a what?"

"No, then," Romi sighed in relief. "There were Porygon living in there, though."

"Now that I can believe," Taka nodded. "You catch any?" Romi shook their head. They'd been too much on guard, and too confused about the copy of the Citae within Terra's simulation, to even think about it.

"Just as well. Who knows what she's done to them in there?"

After the incident with the Krookodile, Romi decided not to mention that all of them had been shiny, and simply shrugged.

Around sunset, Romi caught a glimpse of trees on the horizon, and it stopped both of them in their tracks. They looked at each other, looked back at the distant forest, and broke into a grin.
Of course, it was far enough away that they could not run the entire distance. By the time they could clearly see that it was, in fact, an oasis, both had been forced to slow down. 

"We didn't turn around, right? That's not the same place... reappeared or something?" Taka puffed.

"I don't think so," Romi shook their head. "But we can check."

They walked the rest of the way, stopping only twice to battle some nocturnal Pokemon that were waking up and felt like a spar. The second time, Shimmer and Komala noticed the oasis, and once recalled to his Pokeball after the battle Komala immediately manifest once more. Shimmer refused to go back in in the first place, pointing with her snout and humming with excitement. She hovered slowly ahead of them, and Komala surprised everyone present by calling out to her and, when she approached him, hopping onto her back. For the rest of the walk to the oasis, Shimmer and Komala led, Komala looking happily around and Shimmer seemingly content to have a passenger. 

They reached their destination quickly after that. With a trill Komala hopped off the Musharna's back and climbed deftly up a tree, still somehow managing to carry his favourite log with him. Shimmer whistled goodbye and then wandered off on her own to explore. 

The oasis felt blessedly familiar, but there were differences. The pond was curved differently, and there was a tiny island- more of a sandbar really- in almost the exact centre. And while the first oasis had been dotted with lush Pecha and Rindo Berries, the bushes here were smaller and packed densely with the smaller red Leppas.  Still, Romi thought it best to double check. "I'll check my Pokegear." 
It was then that they learned that the battery of their Pokegear had finally gone out.

They prodded at it as they released the rest of their Pokemon, and it was a sign of how happy the Pokemon all were to be back among plants and shade that not one stopped to investigate what their Trainer was doing. 

"Did you have a map on there or something?" Taka asked after his own Pokemon were let out and Chatot nestled comfortably on his shoulder.

Romi shook their head. "Pictures." 

"Of the other one? Hey, good idea." 

"Not exactly," Romi shook their head, looking around for something. When they found a twig, they began drawing in the dirt, and Taka was reminded of when he had first seen them do so. 

"We came this way," Romi said, drawing a square and a line leading away from it. "And the oasis was here, and..." They continued drawing. "I had more, But we've been going east, I think. I don't think this could be the same one." 

"Oh hey. Glad one of us is keeping track of where we're going, at least." Taka hovered over the sketch. "Where was that tree, then, on this?" 

"I think about here? Somewhere on this line, anyway," Romi poked a dot in the dirt. "It was- wait. Have we really been out here a week?" 

Taka thought back. "Maybe. Sounds about right." 

Romi frowned. "...Hm." They opened their bag and rustled around in it for a few moments. "Good thing for these berries, or we'd be out of food by now." 

"...I mean, we could always see if someone would throw us some more candy off Beryl Bridge," Taka suggested, and his deadpan expression made Romi laugh. 

"Eating candy gets old quickly," Romi shook their head.

Taka stared. "Are you talking from experience there?" 

"Not mine," Romi said quietly, and grinned. "Cain tried it for a few days." 

This time it was Taka's turn to laugh. "What happened?" 

"Ciel made him stop. There was plenty of food, he just thought it would be fun."

"Strange kid." Taka smiled. "...Brave, though. Starting over on his own like that. I guess we've all done that now, though, huh?" 

Romi thought, then nodded. 

They sat in silence for a few minutes before they heard a loud whistle. Frowning, Romi looked over the pond- and grinned. 
Faith was perched on the sandbar, nose in the air, and when she saw them looking she sent large spheres of water up into the air. Each time she blew a larger one, she whistled. And when the first one popped, sending water splashing down on top of her, she cheered and clapped. After the second bubble popped she turned to make sure they were still watching. When they clapped, Faith squealed happily and sent another bubble drifting into the air.

"She do this often?" Taka asked, not taking his eyes off the performance. 

"She loves to show off," Romi smiled. "Especially in the water." 

Faith sent another bubble into the sky, then formed a bright rose-coloured ball that glowed faintly in the sunset. When the ball connected with the bubble it burst in a shower of water and light. 
Romi clapped loudly and Taka cheered for her, and they could hear the sound of other Pokemon- distinctively Madison, Klefki, and Betty- reacting as well. Even Chatot seemed impressed. 

"Good one," he squawked.

Faith was delighted. She clapped and dove off the sandbar, swimming quickly toward her Trainer on the shore. 

Chatot realized in time what was going to happen; Taka did not, and Romi simply embraced it. Chatot flew off Taka's shoulder with alarm less than a second before Faith surfed to the shore and tackled Romi in a very wet hug. 
They laughed and returned their Pokemon's embrace. 

Taka, caught in the wave of water that brought the Primarina to shore, stood with his arms out in shock for a moment, sopping wet- and then laughed, as Faith chattered in excitement and Romi answered, happily reiterating what a good show it had been. 

Chatot, taking refuge on a tree branch nearby, laughed too- though Taka noticed the little Pokemon was looking directly at him. 

"Laugh it up, buddy, it's hot out here and that was nice," he said. 

"Sorry," Romi said, still smiling. "Faith, careful, okay?" 

Faith turned to Taka, suddenly looking worried. "Rii?" 

"It's okay," Taka said, grinning at her. "You did good." 

She perked up at that, butting her head against his hand happily. Then she gave another whistle and dove back into the water, splashing them much less than her wave had done. 

Taka removed his scarf and wrung the water out of it, but he still seemed more amused than upset, so Romi let him be and went to check on their other Pokemon. 

They found Betty playing with a fallen palm leaf, and Madison nearby hopping after a smaller leaf that was being blown along by the wind. Romi gave them each a pet, and continued along looking for Shimmer. It was not particularly hard to find her; pink and purple were not colours known for their camouflaging ability, and Romi found her drinking from the pond a little way from the rest. When she saw Romi's reflection, she took one last drink and looked up at them. 

"It's okay, just checking," Romi told her with a pat. 
She hummed, licked Romi's hand with her tiny tongue, and went back to drinking. 

As Romi walked back they picked up what berries they could find, holding them in their sweater and depositing them in a pile when they reached where Taka- and the rest of Romi's Pokemon- were sitting. Taka looked much dryer, and was fixing up a firepit when Romi arrived. 

"Got some more food," Romi said, by way of greeting. 

"Awesome," Taka turned to see, and his eyes lit up at the idea of food. "I'll finish here, then come help." 

"It's okay," Romi waved. They opened their bag and retrieved their sweater, tying knots in the drawstring and sleeves until it looked more like a sack than a sweater. Betty tugged on one of the knotted sleeves curiously. 
"Gonna get some berries," Romi told her. "Want to come?" 

Betty thought about it for a few moments before plopping down next to the pile of Leppa Berries and grabbing one to munch on. Romi smiled. 

"Okay. Save some for us." They carried the makeshift bag off. 

The first time they crouched to pluck more berries, they found they had some unexpected help. Gliscor and Madison, following unheard behind Romi, helped pick some of the bigger ones off the bush, and shortly afterwards, Minior floated past and cried out when he found some more Aspear Berries hidden on another. The four of them worked that way until Shimmer found them on her way back, and joined Minior in scouting ahead. 
When the bag was filled, Romi announced to their companions that they had probably taken every berry in the area, and it was time to return. 
Shimmer trilled, and Romi felt a tug as she pulled on the sweater full of berries with her psychic power. Cautiously, they released their grip, and Shimmer yawned as she lifted the bag  slightly higher into the air and turned back toward the camp. 

"Thank you," Romi said, receiving a hum in response. Madison sidled up closer so Romi could pet her, and Gliscor rather surprised them by doing the same on Romi's other side, tucking his head under their hand. Minior floated ahead of Shimmer, starry tips luminous in the gathering dusk. When they arrived back at camp like that, Taka laughed. 

"Guess you didn't need me after all." 

"Pretty sure we got every berry in this oasis," Romi grinned. "Thanks, you guys." 

Minior's yellow tips flashed, and he flew over to investigate the fire that Taka and Chatot had set.

The two Trainers cut Berries for everyone, and ate them with the last bit of semi-stale bread Romi had in their bag. It was not the nicest meal ever conceived, but it was filling enough, and there were plenty of berries left over- even some Pechas from the first oasis they'd found.

When the sun had fully set, Faith at last emerged from the water and ate, sprawling comfortably on the grass. 

It was a quiet evening, everyone tired from the journey, and after food Taka and Romi mostly focused on finding leaves to lay on. Betty helpfully brought over the one she had been playing with, and before too long everyone was prepared to sleep. 
Romi found Chatot sitting next to their camping pile, looking up at them. 

"Hi," Romi said. "Need something?" 

Chatot hopped closer, and stuck his head out toward them. Surprised, Romi held out a hand.
And the little bird pushed up against it. 

Romi was more than a little surprised. It had been days since they had last caught Faith and Chatot making faces at each other, but even since then the Pokemon had mostly kept to himself, never paying Romi much attention at all. And they'd certainly thought he would avoid them after Faith had nearly drenched him, and had drenched his Trainer.

Then again, they did remember Chatot laughing at that.
Romi petted the little Pokemon's head a couple times before he hopped out of the way, but before he left he looked at them, and there was something very like kindness in his eyes. Romi felt their heart grow warm. 

"Night," Romi called out, loudly enough for Taka and his Pokemon to hear them. 

"Night, Romi," Taka called back. "...Night, everyone." 

Shimmer whistled back, and it wasn't long before everyone fell into a gentle sleep. 

Their rest did not remain gentle, however. In the middle of the night, Taka woke up with a jolt from a dream he could not quite remember, and immediately felt a heavy gust of wind. As he woke up further, he realized that a wind storm had picked up and was tossing dirt and sticks everywhere. The first thing he did was return Klefki and Chatot, who were struggling not to be blown away themselves by the wind. Romi woke soon after, and while their Pokemon were okay, they had been woken by a stick hitting their face, and thus were not in the best of moods. 

The two did the best they could to protect their little campsite against the wind, but the storm was unpredictable, the wind coming from no one single direction. Neither was sure what time they got back to sleep, but it was interrupted afterwards every so often by particularly great gusts. 




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(Please note that Taka's warning about "another base" is taken right from the game, All credit for that goes to Ame and not me!)

Day 7
By the time morning came, the sky was still cloudy, and both Taka and Romi were sore, tired and slightly grouchy. Taka was concerned, as well, about the stick that had woken Romi, which now that daylight had come he could see had left a long gouge across their cheek and the side of their nose. 

"It's fine," Romi mumbled. "It just startled me." 

"Well, wash it, at least," Taka told them. So Romi did, refilling their water bottles while they were at it. Taka did the same, and they prepared to head out. But after they had both returned their remaining Pokemon and Taka started walking, Romi spoke up.

“I’ve got an idea,” they said.

“Yeah?” Taka asked.  

“Come with me.”

Romi led Taka around the perimeter of the pond, eyes scanning the underbrush. It didn’t take long; the pond was small, after all, and the Shard was not especially well hidden. Romi saw it, at last, surrounded by tiny blue flowers and sparkling under the rising sunlight. 
It looked beautiful, and Romi hesitated. It was a shame to disturb it. But- it had been a long night. They were tired, and Taka looked exhausted too. Romi stepped toward it and gestured for Taka to follow.

“It’s amazing,” Taka said. “The sunrise…” 

“There’s a Light Shard,” Romi told him. “There, in the flowers.” 

His eyes darted instantly toward them. “Romi, what’s a Light Shard?” 

“I don’t know,” Romi said quietly. “It’s a gold… spike of some kind. When you touch it, it heals you, and your team. Then vanishes. They’re all over Reborn. You’ve really never seen one?” 

“Yeah, no,” Taka shook his head. “I think I’d remember that.” 

Romi closed their eyes. “Okay.” They pointed again. “Can you put your hand there?” 

Taka obliged, and waved his hand around. "Like this?"

In spite of themself, Romi grinned. “Your arm is right through it,” they told him. 

Taka withdrew his arm and looked at it. “Weird. Sorry, but... I just feel the air here, nothing weird. You said it’s supposed to heal you?” 


“Well, you should go for it,” Taka suggested. “Better one of us tired than both, right?” Remembering, he looked back at the trees. “That’s what made it disappear before, right? All right, it’s been fun.” 

“Yeah,” Romi murmured. “Thanks.” They looked back, too, and found themself sad, once again, to be leaving it. The wind had not been entirely pleasant, but the rest of it... had been. 

“Ready?” Taka asked, 

“Okay,” Romi said. 
They stepped forward and lay their hand on the Shard. There was a bright golden flash, and when it faded, there was nothing but sand as far as the eye could see, and Taka and Romi standing there trying to blink the spots out of their eyes. 

“Man, I am not going to get used to that,” Taka shook his head. “It’s- hey, Romi, your face!” 

Romi frowned and rubbed their hand over their face. “What?” 

“The scratch is gone.” He laughed. “It actually worked. There's actually some weird thing in these places that I can't see but... seems to help you out just fine.” 

Romi, despite their swirling thoughts, could not help but smile too. “You think I was lying?”

“No,” Taka said honestly. “But I mean... come on, you have to admit it's weird.” 

Romi shrugged. "Maybe." 

"Fair enough," Taka laughed. "I guess 'weird' is a bit subjective anyway, when it comes to Reborn. Come on, let's get moving before it's too hot." 

"Okay," Romi agreed. 
They glanced back and smiled. Taka had been right. The sunrise was no longer reflected in water or shining in shafts through the trees, but it still looked beautiful.


At some point that morning, the hazy air in the distance began to look somewhat different. The one blessing of the windstorm was that it had taken some of the heat off the air, and as a result the distance looked a bit clearer- and darker- than either of them had seen before. Cautiously they kept on, and by afternoon they could see the distant, towering peaks of mountains.

"So you said you were looking for a Gym?" Taka asked. "Is it in the mountains?"

Romi shook their head. "I don't know. Northeast was all I was told."

"It's Stabby's Gym, right? Mountain might make sense."

Romi frowned, remembering for the first time in a while why Taka had been sent here in the first place, and shrugged. "Right. Figure Team Meteor has better things to do than keep tabs on me, though."

Taka laughed. "Romi, you have to admit you've wrecked most of their bases by now. Not that you were wrong. But there are posters warning about you. They kind of want to keep track."

"I guess," Romi said absently. Then they looked at Taka and grinned. "Posters? Really?" 

"I have no idea who makes them," he laughed. "But they're like wanted posters. The grunts are supposed to just stall for time if you show up. But I think some of them would just take off." 

Romi shook their head, and looked at their feet. "That would explain a few things."
For a moment Taka had the urge to reach out to them, to put his hand on their arm. It was such a strange thought that he made a face. Where had that come from? He shook his head. Probably just that Romi didn't usually look so... lost in thought, he supposed, but there was sadness there, too.
He thought maybe he understood why.

"You, uh, okay?" he asked. 

"Fine," Romi said. "Just thinking." 

"Oh. Um, for what it's worth, I'm sorry about Devon. I only heard about it secondhand but... it sounded pretty awful." 

"Yeah." Romi looked consideringly at him. "...Thanks." 

For the rest of the day the mountains did not seem to get any nearer, and near dusk a sandstorm picked up that almost blocked them entirely from sight. But not completely, and by the time the pair decided to settle for the night the sand had mostly died down again. 
After Chatot lit the fire, Taka looked at Romi, playing with Betty in the sand, and felt conflicted. He didn't want to bring it up, especially while things were so calm. But for a reason he didn't really understand, it felt important. 

"Hey, Romi?" 


"There's... another base besides Labradorra, that you haven't been to yet. They'll probably try to lure you there, and... I think this is probably a stupid thing to say, but... don't go. It won't end well if you do. And I don't mean for Team Meteor."  There was no trace of laughter in his voice now, just sadness and resignation. 

Romi was quiet for a few moments, and Taka wondered if they had even heard him. But eventually they spoke. 

"I don't really want to get into it," Taka said. "Just. If they try and lure you, don't go." 

"How would I know if they are?" Romi asked. "If I don't know where it is?" 

Taka half-smiled. "Romi, please. You'd be on your way there in a second if I told you, and... like I said, it wouldn't end well." 

Romi sighed. "Okay."

They settled in to sleep, Taka quickly, Romi a bit more slowly. But even they did not take long, and soon the only sounds at the campsite were snores and the occasional chatter of Gliscor and Minior as they kept watch.

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(Please note that Taka's dialogue about Bennett, and asking about Luna, are taken straight from the game! Credit as always to the lovely Ame!)

Days 8, 9, 10 because they're all small
They awoke to a bright sunrise and the discovery that Betty was missing. 

Romi felt worry well up in them; Betty had been on their chest when they went to sleep, and aside from her, none of their other Pokemon had shifted at all in the night. Minior and Gliscor had been on guard as usual, but neither had seen Betty leave or anything else come near. They helped look, however, and Romi's worry was just beginning to spiral into true fear when Madison screeched and pointed with her beak. Romi looked where she was pointing- and there was Betty, waddling peacefully across the sand holding something shiny.

Romi ran to her. Betty looked up happily and stretched out her floral hands, offering Romi what she had found. "Rose!" 
The object dropped into Romi's palm, a surprisingly heavy round medallion with a star pattern on it. It was dirty and looked quite old, but bits of it shone like new copper. 

"What happened?" Taka asked. "She okay?" 

"I think so," Romi said. "Betty, what happened?" 

Betty gestured wildly, squealing as she did some sort of dance Romi couldn't understand. Then she reached for the medallion again and skipped in place before once more offering it to her trainer.

"...You know what she's saying?" Taka asked, skepticism written across his features.

"General idea," Romi said. "I think she just found it. Betty, if you want to take a walk, wake me up, I was worried. You need to stay close at night, okay?" They held out the medallion, and Betty took it quietly.

"Ro," Betty whistled, looking down. 

"It's okay," Romi told her, and picked the little Roserade up. Betty leaned her head against Romi's cheek. 

Taka stared. "You know how much sugar there is in those Cotton Candies? I think watching that was the equivalent of about three of those." 

"Not my fault," Romi smiled.

They ate quickly and then prepared to take off walking, Betty still clutching her medallion even when it was time to go into her Pokeball. It didn’t seem to be doing any harm, and Romi figured Shimmer would’ve noticed if there was something off about it, so they let her hold onto it. 

As the day went on, the distant mountains grew clearer and clearer, towering yellowish stone against the sky. Romi found two more packages of candy in the sand, and Taka found a third; they held onto them and wondered again just where it all came from. They camped that night in the shadow of a strange square boulder, atop which Faith perched and entertained everyone by pretending to be a statue. Gliscor joined in, and before long the statue act was cast aside as the two Pokemon began playing and chasing each other.

They all fell asleep easily and woke up, once again, to a sandstorm. 

“Not gonna lie, I won’t miss all this sand when we get out of here,” Taka said, after a battle against a wild Hippowdon intensified the storm even more. 

“No,” Romi agreed. 

Gliscor, dealing the finishing blow against the Pokemon, looked indignant, and Taka laughed. “I’m glad you like it, at least.” 

By that night, they were fully in the shadow of the mountains. 

“Hey, uh, Romi? You don’t… want to climb that mountain, do you?” Taka looked warily at them as he waited for their answer. 

Romi shook their head. “Adrienn said it’s in the desert. Not up a mountain. Might be at the base, though.” They grinned at Taka's sigh of relief.

“I’ve never actually met this Adrienn, but I gotta say, I’m grateful for that bit of info.” 

“I am, too,” Romi said. “Didn’t you meet xem?” 

“Nah,” Taka said. “I didn’t even hear about all that ‘til later. I think Elias just kind of found xem there. Although that reminds me, I think someone in Meteor really has it out for you. More than usual, I mean. Mostly kept to himself, but as soon as El brought him on he was just always talking about how he was going to teach you a lesson. It was kind of weird, honestly.” 

Romi thought for a moment. “Bennett?” 

“Think so. What did you do to him, anyway? I mean, it’s none of my business, haha, but I just always wondered.” 

Romi shook their head. “I was at Luna’s Gym, and he wanted to talk to her. I... honestly just wanted my badge. He made me battle him first, and he lost, and when Luna didn’t want to talk to him he blamed me.” 

“Luna?” Taka asked. “...Man, it’s been a while. Is she… doing okay?” 

“I think so," Romi said. “I haven’t seen her since we battled.” 

“That’s good, if she is,” Taka said. “Hey, if you ever see her, tell her… never mind.” 

“What?” Romi asked.

“She was one of my only friends growing up. And then she ran away...I kind of think it’s my fault she’s become as delusional as she is. If I hadn’t been born, she wouldn’t have had to be in that position.” 

Romi gave him a skeptical look. “It’s your fault you were born?” 


“No,” Romi said. Their serious expression made Taka half-laugh. 

“Okay, sure,” he said. “But I hope she’s doing okay. She was kind of like the little sister I never had, y’know?” 

“So do I,” Romi agreed. 

Taka gave them a wondering look. It was not the first time Romi had tried to defend him from himself. But it was the first time Taka had wondered, even for a minute, if they might be right. He still felt responsible, in a way, for Luna. But it was weird how... possible it seemed, that he might be wrong about himself.
Had coming out here really changed his perspective so much?

When they were ready to sleep, Taka once again noticed Chatot hop over to say good night to Romi. This time, he followed the little Pokemon.

"Hey, I just wanted to say thanks for earlier," he told them. "It... felt good to talk about it." 

Romi nodded, petting Chatot's head absently. "You can talk, out here." 

"Heh, I guess I can. This is the first time in... I don't even remember. Years, maybe? Anyway, thanks. Again. Oh, hey," he added, scratching Faith's nose when she reached her paw up for attention. 

"Marii," Faith trilled. 

Chatot gave Romi an affectionate chirp and flew to his Trainer, clearly wanting his attention. Taka grinned and patted both of the Pokemon. 
"So yeah. Night, Romi. Come on, bud, let's go rest," he told Chatot. 

"Night, Taka," Romi said quietly, their voice still enough to be heard across the short distance between them. Faith whistled a goodbye and flopped over to drape herself across Romi's lap. Romi hugged her, laughing into her fur at her antics, and that was enough to bring their other three Pokemon around, hoping for their own good night hugs. 

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