She did not notice the road before her, or the road she had already passed through. Her eyes saw the trees and the dying sunlight, but her mind was elsewhere. She daydreamed of nostalgic folk songs and orchestral classics; she marvelled at the possibility of music she had never heard. The smells of the forest became those of the open road, and she remembered note by note a hymn she had heard once, on a road like this one. Then, finally, she heard the clamorous hustle and bustle of Alomomola Bay, and her awareness returned.
A spike of worry overwhelmed her as she took step after thoughtless step through one street, then another. She knew only that she was headed towards where her destination should be, but not where it was – or if it even existed. She felt sick, first thinking that her trip might have been pointless, then believing that it was. She slowed when she realized that she had gone in a circle, that she was standing in the same unfamiliar street as she was minutes ago. Pained to hear the sound of her own breath, she stopped there, but it did her no good.
She remembered this being a long, sloping street, but here it was twisting left and right, narrowing and bottling its many noises. Where she had expected a travel agency, there was now a warehouse. Where once there had been a grand bed of foreign flowers with no name she could put to them, there instead grew a small patch of rafflesias. At least, they looked like rafflesias – were they really? They could be any kind of flower, she thought, any at all, and she wouldn't remember what kind that was.
Abruptly, someone stopped in front of her, and her reeling eyes widened as her attention moved straight forward to that someone. About a head taller than Shou Mei herself, her bright green hair was distinct – distinct enough that they reminded her of someone she knew once, briefly. That someone said she was a Kirlia, so this Pokemon, she thought –
“Excuse me, you're in my way.”
Shou Mei composed herself, at least a little, and stood up straight before stepping aside with a flourish and a bow. “I'm dreadfully sorry. Please, forget I ever was.” That sounded like the right thing to say.
“Hm? What do you mean?” The other girl stepped forward, passing her without so much as a glance. “You were standing there, that's all. Nothing to seem so upset about.”
“Unless... is something else the matter?” The Kirlia abruptly turned back to Shou Mei. “Even if it was just a trifle... it's not often someone slows down in the middle of the street. Are you lost?”
“Lost in this city, and perhaps, a little lost in this world.” Shou Mei blurted out, albeit so quiet that when she realized what she said, she held out hope that perhaps the Kirlia had not heard the second part.
“What a strange thing to say. In fact, it's strange to meet someone like you at all in this city.” She looked her up and down, and Shou Mei looked away in response. “You're trying to blend in, but that only makes you stand out. If you're so lost and confused, I know my way around here. Do you want me to take you?”
“That's a very generous offer,” Shou Mei began, “and I thank you for it either way, but... why are you making it?”
“As I said, you're quite strange. You must be from out of town, then. Let me introduce myself: I'm Harmony, and I perform at the King's Rock Casino with my partner.”
Had she heard Harmony right? No, of course she had heard her right. The doubt that had been clouding her mind – that perhaps her music had reached no one after all – vanished, along with the discomfort Harmony had caused her. It was reflected even in her face, upon which she wore a smile for the first time in what had felt like years. Still deathly quiet, her voice at least hid that excitement.
“Really now? That's as wonderful as your offer, and as convenient besides. I am on my way to the King's Rock Casino as well.”
“Hm?” Harmony sounded pleased. “Are you a fan of Melody's? I suppose you might not know me if you've only heard her once or twice. She likes to have solo performances, and I was sick the last time we were going to perform together.”
She couldn't perform because she was sick. Was that right? But she didn't seem upset... or maybe she was. That was one of so many things she felt like she would never know, at this rate. As she wondered about Harmony, or more about Melody, who she thought would be tonight’s performer, she noticed that the other girl was already looking back at her through the crowd with a smile.
“Are you coming?”
Part 2 to "Echo" by