“But the important thing is, where do you
think John’s gone?”
“I honestly haven’t a clue. He just said goodbye to his family, told Lance to hold the fort and left. I didn’t know he was gone until he was gone.”
“And if there’s one thing I know Samuel Oak can’t stand, it’s an unsolved mystery.”
Oak smiled at his wise mentor. “You know me too well, Edward.”
“I’ve known you too long,” said Professor Rowan with a smile sharper than Oak’s.
“You’re never getting rid of me, I’m afraid.” Oak chuckled and cast out his fishing line.
Rowan grinned. “I pray to Arceus every day that I might.” He stroked his thick white moustache and watched Oak’s lure float in the sea.
“I never had you down for a religious man,” said Oak with an inquisitive glance, hoping to make his tough old colleague laugh.
“I never had you down for a skeptic,” Rowan answered flatly.
“I’m no skeptic. I’ve been called crazy plenty. I’m just Kanto crazy. Our crazy’s a little more modern.”
“More modern? Don’t you Kanto lot believe that extinct pokémon are just hiding?”
“Not all of them. Just one.” Oak smiled to himself. “Of course, there are those of us who believe the dead may live again.”
Rowan remained typically stern. “Perhaps what is dead should stay dead.”
“Perhaps.” Oak knew what he wanted to ask; how a man so cynical about reviving the dead could believe in an immortal creator. He chose not to confront Professor Rowan on the matter. “But if we willingly lose the answers of the past, we will never answer the questions of the present.”
Rowan stayed quiet for a short while, gazing out to the ocean. The water was calm with no sign of human intrusion for miles. An occasional wake from a passing Wailmer would rock the boat softly for a second, and the Wingull flocks would caw as they flew overhead, but the ocean itself made no sound.
“How’s your daughter, Samuel?”
“Rosie?” The question took Oak by surprise. “She’s fine, I suppose. She’s certainly working her way up at Silph. I don’t hear from her much these days. She’s so busy and I’m so busy…”
Rowan finally smiled. “Never be too busy for your family, Sam. They’ll be all you have when you retire.”
In thirty years, Professor Rowan had never been heard to mention retirement. Neither had Professor Oak, not that he hadn’t considered it.
“Who says I plan to retire?”
“Perhaps not now, but you won’t be a spry sixty forever,” sighed Rowan, gazing into the shimmering water. “You’ll be a slow seventy, then a sedentary eighty. If you’re lucky you might live to a senile ninety. We can’t work forever. Did you ever think Fuji would retire?”
“No, I can’t say I did.” Mister Fuji was an old friend and colleague of Oak, who had taken up residence in Lavender Town after abruptly announcing his retirement. “He keeps himself going though. He comes to visit from time to time. He comes to see Maria and Jack, of course, but he still drops by the lab to send the best.”
Rowan turned away from his reflection in the water. “How’s he looking these days?”
Oak drew a heavy breath, unprepared for the question. “Slow…”
Rowan looked out to the distance, each inch of ocean indistinguishable from the next.
“…but still sharp, and as sweet as ever,” Oak added.
Rowan’s voice was heavy and deceptively unemotional. “I suppose he never found what he was looking for?”
Oak considered the question for a moment. “I’m afraid that is classified information, as it was when you last asked.”
“Well, has the amount of information, classified or otherwise, increased since I last asked?” Rowan still did not turn to face his friend.
“I’m sure you know that it hasn’t.” Oak shook his head, and smirked at the idea of withholding the truth from his trusted mentor. “The only living specimen he ever found turned out to be a fraud.”
This brought Rowan’s eyes back to Oak’s. “A fraud? What in heaven’s name do you mean?”
Oak leaned in and dropped his voice, as if even out in the ocean they might be overheard. “The Mew that Fuji tracked down was not, in fact, a true Mew. Only when the cloning failed did we learn this for sure, but he kept trying. He cloned the imposter countless times, but a real Mew never surfaced.”
Rowan’s reaction seemed almost smug. “And so the living fossil is still missing, but not presumed dead?”
Oak took no offence at Rowan’s smugness, knowing that it would quickly fade. “Oh, a Mew certainly lives. Though no human has seen a living Mew, we know one pokémon who definitely has.”
Before Rowan could respond, he was distracted by a quiet splash. A large pink-and-brown sea slug, a Gastrodon, had emerged. Gastrodon swam over to the boat, singing to the two old professors. Rowan’s melancholy evaporated as he called out to Gastrodon. “You found something, girl? Have you found Manaphy?”
The moment Rowan said the name “Manaphy”, Gastrodon chirped as she started to glow a bright pink. The pink shifted to a pale blue, blending perfectly into the colour of the sea. Rowan let out a stunned gasp. “Gastrodon?”
Oak laughed. “I don’t think that’s your Gastrodon, Edward. Your Gastrodon’s over here.”
Rowan turned to see two Gastrodon, one pink and one blue, swimming on either side of Oak on the opposite side of the boat. “What in…?” Before he could finish he turned back to see that the glowing blue had taken shape. A ruby-coloured gem shone against a sapphire-coloured body; two long arms and two long antennae, a striking pair of navy blue eyes. The prince of the sea, Manaphy, was gliding back and forth, twirling in a hypnotic dance, before his old eyes. “Manaphy… It’s… it’s true… the legends were true… I found you…”
“The legends are indeed true, Edward.” Oak sighed and put a hand on Rowan’s tense shoulder. “I’m afraid that’s not quite Manaphy, though.”
Rowan glared at Oak. “What do you mean it’s not…?”
“Ditto, get back here.”
At Oak’s command, Manaphy stopped the playful dance and whirled into Oak’s arms. After fading blue, then pink, for a second the perfect Manaphy became the amorphous and blank-faced Ditto. Rowan was furious, though Oak found it difficult to be angry at the spritely blob. “I can’t believe I was fooled by that pink pest.”
Oak smiled at his glowering companion. “You wouldn’t be the first. I was fooled once too. We all were. Meet the alleged origin of all pokémon. Meet the Imposter formerly known as Mew.”
In an instant, Ditto’s shapeless body stretched into a small, large-eyed pink creature with long feet and a long tail. The mythical pokémon Mew appeared on this remote boat in the deep sea, resembling perfectly the old drawings and matching the descriptions in unearthed journals to the finest detail. The replica was foolproof. “Would you look at this, Edward? The closest anyone alive has come to seeing Mew in the flesh? I’ve never met Mew myself, but an exact copy is at my beck and call, and mine alone!”
Rowan’s spirits did not lift, despite Oak’s jolliness. He sat and sighed, his head rested on his fingers. “And just when I thought I’d find a living Manaphy. Years of searching, trying to make my poor Fiona’s dream come alive. I should have known it was too good to be true.”
Oak put Ditto down on the floor of the boat and leaned in to comfort Rowan. “But it is true. Since the Mew that Fuji discovered turned out to be Ditto, I have studied its abilities extensively. And my subsequent studies have proven one fact: Ditto can only replicate species they’ve encountered in the flesh.”
Rowan looked up, directly at the Ditto contorting before him. “So… to become Manaphy…”
Oak rose and gave the jubilatory command. “Ditto, I want you to lead us to Manaphy.”
With joy, Ditto soured toward the sea and once again assumed the angelic form of Manaphy. With the loudest splash it could manage, Ditto disappeared below the water.
Professor Rowan, who had always seemed so cynical and adverse to speculation, had made the same leap which had driven Professor Oak in his studies. “Samuel, if Ditto can only transform into pokémon it has met…”
Oak concluded with elation, “Ditto has met Mew… a living, breathing Mew.”
Rowan looked out to the ocean. “And a living, breathing Manaphy… just now…” His voice sounded as Oak had never heard it before; energetic and almost childlike. “Samuel, that Ditto of yours may have just helped me make the greatest scientific discovery of our time.”
“Only the second greatest,” replied Oak with a smile. “When Ditto and I make the greatest discovery, I’ll let you know.”
The joke seemed to be lost on Professor Rowan, who roared out to the sea with his arms outstretched. “You hear that, Fiona?” He almost sang, as if his voice alone would open the heavens. “I found Manaphy! At last I have found Manaphy!”
Oak lay back and watched his jubilant friend calling out to the quiet sea, his white hair blowing in the gentle wind against the cloudless sky. He thought of his own late wife, and the advice Rowan had given him. He decided to call his daughter as soon as he arrived back to Kanto, and ask her to visit him and her daughter Daisy in Pallet Town. He hadn’t seen her son Gary in too long. The boy would receive his training licence soon, and he would need a mentor like his grandfather.
When Ditto emerged from the sea, still in the form of Manaphy, and returned to its pink-goo form, it brought an unexpected gift back with it. A small egg, the same shade of blue as Manaphy. A red jewel, just as Manaphy had on its front, adorned the egg. Rowan took the egg from Mew, and turned it in his hands. “Do you think Manaphy could be in here?”
“A Manaphy, perhaps.” Oak shrugged. “Edward, I’ve never seen an egg like this.”
Rowan smiled, his moustache wet with sea water and tears. “Neither have I.”
Oak watched Rowan cradle the egg and beam at his reflection in the jewel. “Perhaps you’re right then. Perhaps you have made the greatest discovery of our time.”
Professor Rowan clasped a firm hand onto Professor Oak’s shoulder, and grinned vigorously. “Perhaps we have, Samuel. But our time isn’t through yet!”