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Your Name, Please

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As the ferry coasts smoothly to the marina, and as passengers ready themselves to drift off, a girl with her face pressed against her arm lets a melody glide through her memories; a soft tune, oft played on flute, sometimes a guitar, always with love. Played all through the day during her youngest years, when she had days off; a lullaby for the sleeping trains in Anville Town.

Anville Town, right? She almost chuckles at the thought, gazing out at the island coming steadily into full view in front of her. A small, sleepy town, one she knew like the back of her hand. Every weekend, tourists and Trainers alike coming to trade wares and trinkets for the sake of finding new things. She brushes a hand against a silken blue bag tied to her belt, feels the smooth grains within it slide against her touch; the Stardust within something she traded for many years ago with her father. Kept with her always, whether walking the familiar path through the woods to forage for berries or playing a venue out in busy Castelia.

Days away, now, she thinks, as the boat comes to a stop and she pushes herself off of the railing and into a standing position. Rolls her shoulders, cracks her back, stretches her tired legs. In front of her, as far as she can see, lay the isle of Melemele, her new home for as long as she can imagine.

She doesn’t know how she feels about it, but she’d never said much of anything when her mother bequeathed the ferry ticket unto her, so she’s stuck now.

“Cadence!”

She turns at the call of her name, face splitting into a wide grin as Damien and Mia barrel towards her, waving their arms in a frenzy. Her bandmates envelop her in a warm bear hug as the afternoon sun begins to fade, the evening upon them. She takes a deep breath of the salty air once they let her go, turning to walk with them to where their parents wait for them to collect their bags.

As she picks up her bag, she reaches into the front pocket with a held breath, releasing it only when she feels the sticker-covered Pokeball within. A seal lies just above its crest: a yellow star, slightly faded, in the space parted by the sea of affectionately placed stickers. Within it lies her one and only partner, with her since she was young; since the day of their trip to the Nacrene Museum to watch her cousin Blair’s match against the gym leader, and the subsequent trip afterward to the Pinwheel Forest right beside the city.

She’ll breathe easy knowing nothing happened to her lovely Leavanny during the ride.

As soon as Cadence steps off of the boat and onto dry land, she feels homesick. Not that the city in front of her reminds her of Anville Town — no, not in the slightest — but because it reminds her of the days spent listening to the hustle and bustle of traders, of the sounds of the train whizzing by, of days spent with her feet dangling from the edge of the station platform. She can feel the rhythm pounding through the land, a song she knows by instinct and not by choice; she remembers band practices spent idly strumming whatever felt right, and the memory feels right at home with the noise in her ears.

This is a good place, she’s decided. She tells her mother so immediately and is met with a squeeze of the hand and a bright smile. As they cross from the marina into the city proper, she’s greeted by warm air and happy welcome calls of “Alola!” from passersby, oft accompanied by a wave of the arms and a bright smile. Many people walk the streets, lined with shops and miniature gardens alike, and a Pokemon Center lights the street corner with a familiar red-and-white glow. They look different in Alola, she observes, taking special note of the cafe-style sign outside denoting the day’s special.

Her mother leads her to the house they purchased, light blue with a wide garage, just on the outskirts of town. The mailbox in front is the same light blue, printed with white waves and a light red flag. It’s new, and mostly unfamiliar, but her mother’s Meowth immediately jumps from her clutches to scamper to the door, so she disallows herself from feeling that twinge of homesickness and instead opts for curiosity at the new landscape.

They had their furniture moved to the house before they arrived, so that the boxes would be there by the time they arrived, but it wasn’t like they had much to go in the way of furniture in the first place — their home in Anville Town being quite small, as the rest of the town was. Cadence tosses her Leavanny’s ball up and lets her free; the tall Bug-type stands about a foot and a half beneath her head, and she leans down to hug her before racing up to the steps of the house.

———

Cadence lays on her rug with her headphones on, listening to some Orre-based rock that she’s not quite sure whether she likes yet, when her mother comes in to tap her on the shoulder.

“Are you done putting up your things?” A nod. “Are you okay to come out and see our guest?” another nod. “Get up, then.” Her mother chuckles, leaving the door open as she goes. Cadence heaves a sigh before standing, turning off the music and leaving her headphones on the desk.

The moment she exits her room, something impacts with her stomach, and she immediately curls inward, grabbing the whatever-it-is with a vice grip. A funky little dog (she catalogues that one) stares back at her; too short-furred to be a Lillipup, but too small to be a Furfrou pup, so obviously some Alolan (or otherwise) creature. She puts it down and it yips at her, eyes twinkling.

Apparently, her mother forgot that they prefer Meowths.

She follows the little whatever-it-is to the living room, where her mother chats amicably with some shirtless guy (she rolls her eyes inwardly; he looks nice enough, but come on). The whatever-it-is crashes into him as well, and he laughs heartily, chastising it with a “Rockruff!” and a quick ruffle of its fur.

She sits quietly on the loveseat across them, eyes on her Leavanny tut-tutting about the foyer through the hall. Her observance is interrupted, though, for mere moments later her mother is saying ”something something starter pokemon” and the mystery man is saying ”something something Island Kahuna” with a reverence that she can barely parse, and though she wasn’t listening for most of it, she nods and smiles all the same.

The shirtless guy introduces himself as “Professor Kukui, yeah!” and her mother introduces her as “Cadence, but her friends call her Cade,” and receives a swat on the arm for it. Her mother just laughs in that singsong way she does, and all is well.

The professor goes on about the Island Challenge and whether or not she’d like to take part (she would), the benefits she’d receive from it (many), and the introduction of a Pokemon League within the coming spring (yes, she’d love to watch the initial beginnings) and whether or not she thinks she’d be able to compete in the full League in three years’ time (if Blair did it, I can too, she had said, with quiet determination, to Kukui’s delight), and finally if she’d like to meet the Kahuna the following day.

This question, of meeting the Kahuna, whoever that is, was the only question she answered with a ‘no.’ Her mother shook her head as well, and when Kukui asked why, Cadence answered with her first more-than-seven-word response: “Dami made us agree to play the Pokemon Center on the corner, so we gotta, I guess. You can get that Kahuna dude to watch us if you want, though.” She shrugs, reaching up to fiddle with her sweater.

He just nods. “Oh, all right, I get it! Sorry, cousin, I forgot that you were in the music business. Your mom said as much, ha, but it slipped my mind.”

She stifles a yawn with the back of her hand, nodding, and gets up. “I gotta head, dude, but it was nice to meetcha.” Cadence cracks a lopsided grin, sticking a hand out for the professor to shake, as her mother gets up to grab the funky little Rockruff messing with her scrapbooks. He shakes her hand heftily, and for a moment she almost feels the same vibe she used to get from her Blair back when they play-fought; that feeling of strength, of a quiet power.

She nods at him, then turns and heads back to her room to crash.

She dreams that night of Blair and Whitney, of her father’s Stardust bag, and of the sleeping trains of Anville town; in the morning, she spends a few extra minutes staring at the old green ribbon hanging from her vanity, feeling a chill despite the warm sun streaming through her window.

Cadence wakes tight-chested and terrified, startled from a nightmare only to find she was in a room she barely recognised, before seeing her Leavanny’s beloved ball resting on her desk. She tugs on a sweater in spite of the heat, saying a quick goodbye to her mother before running out to the street, phone in hand and headphones slid over her ears.

Yeah, they really want you, they really want you, they do, sing her headphones, and she taps her hands on her thighs to the beat as she walks.

Damien and Mia wait for her outside of the Pokemon Center, a very jet-lagged Matt speaking to a clerk beside them, handing some bills over. He holds a coffee in one hand and some cords in the other, and waves to her.

“Cade! We thought you wouldn’t even make it!” He jokes, grinning. She sighs with relief, no real reason why, and beams back.

“Is everything in already?” She asks, pointing at the cords in his hand. He answers to the affirmative, saying that the cords are just backups, and waves Dami and Mia over.

“All right, guys, let’s do our best, yeah? This is a fresh audience and a pretty fresh venue, so we’re givin’ it the best first impression we can give!” Matt claps once before heading around to the side entrance of the Center, the others in tow. Cadence naturally takes front, being the lead, the but they mostly crowd around each other, making dumb jokes to try and play down their stress.

Her headphones lie around her neck, and she ties half of her hair up in a quick bun, the rest hanging down near her waist and spilling over her shoulders, the dull teal complimenting the soft cream of her sweater. They spend barely a moment on introductions before diving headfirst into the first song, one off their newly successful album.

She wouldn’t admit it, especially not outside of the confines of her mind, but she was hoping that putting the album out worldwide would make her father come back to see her. Maybe just call her, even. She voiced it only slightly in the songs, some of the lyrics hitting a bit closer to home than she had realised when writing, but Cadence would let people make their own theories. It didn’t matter much, anyways.

Not much at all.

She swings her hand up and brings her fist close to her heart, squeezing her eyes closed as she belts out the final notes of the last song; Damien sets his drumsticks down, Mia lifting her hand from the strings of her guitar as Matt steps slightly back from his keyboard.

And their audience, even if it’s only a crowded Pokemon Center, is enough. There’s an explosion of applause and noise, and it hurts her ears a little bit, but Cade and her bandmates light up. As they take their instruments and gear and leave the mini-stage the clerks had so helpfully set up, Cadence thinks she notices for a second the professor from the day before, but leaves too fast to look.

Maybe he did come, and maybe he did bring that all-important Kahuna guy. She swells with pride. She hopes they liked it, whoever they are. That, at the very least, calms her nerves a bit, as they pack up their instruments and gear and begin the trek to Matt’s garage. The walk there is rather short, what with Matt and Mia’s apartment being near the Center, so it isn’t hard to lug everything back.

Cadence sits at a small table in the Pokemon Center, face flush against her folded arms, a mug of Roserade tea steeping in front of her. She jolts up, though, at the sudden touch of a hand to her arm.

Mia stands in front of her, hands on her hips. “Come on, genius. Your mom said we needed to get you so we can go to the festival thing out in Iki Town.”

Cadence huffs and stands up, grabbing her cup and popping a to-go top on it. “Why? I already told her that I’d rather keep my Leavanny, and I know that that’s where they’re giving out the starters. You know,” she groans, “because she wouldn’t shut up about it while we were unpacking.”

Mia shrugs, waving her along. “I’ve got no idea, but just don’t spill your drink, okay? I’m not stain-sticking your sweater a second time.” She laughs dryly as Cadence’s face flushes pink, opening the door of the Center with a flourish.

They join the crowd surging the streets, hands held to keep from getting separated, and make their way down to the very corner, where asphalt peters out to sandy walkways, and where they can see Cadence’s house in the distance. It lies on the edge of the outskirts, close enough to be a short walk into the city proper but far enough out that it’s not quite as noisy. A sign lies nearby denoting the grassy pathway as Route 1, a few sentences beneath the marker noting Iki Town further on and a number to call for roadside assistance. Cadence rolls her eyes at that — an unnecessary precaution, with all the lights strung above the route and the clearly well-kept grasses to its sides — and keeps walking, falling into step beside her friend. She tugs at the neck of her sweater, pulling it further up towards her chin despite the quiet heat of the night.

It is in this moment that Cadence realises that the weather in Alola will be more dissimilar to home than she anticipated, and it is in the moment directly after that she decides that she doesn’t care. She’ll catch her death of heatstroke in a sweater rather than be caught baring her arms to all who wish to see.

She rubs her arms unconsciously as they round the corner, up the path to the bustling small town. The afternoon’s celebration appears to be in full swing all ready, and Cadence spots her mother talking to her friends’ parents as they enter. She hunches her shoulders a little bit, creeping away towards the central stage present in the centre of the town, where stands a tall, buff man in a flowered yellow coat. All who crowd around him gaze with such reverence that she decides that yes, this must be the Kahuna, and joins the audience to listen.

He speaks of the meaning of Alola, and Cadence tries her hardest not to let her focus waver.

“— and I hope that, for the years to come, we will continue to take the meaning of Alola into our hearts and share the land with those who need it. That we will continue to give our aid to those who desire it, and to share the bounty of the isles with all who come to them.” He smiles wide, and Cadence shifts to give her full attention as he continues, “That being said, the harvest this year has been great and plentiful indeed. Exports and distribution have commenced already, and the results have been outstanding. Thank you all for your help and commitment.” A murmur of agreement rises from the crowd, and she finds herself nodding despite not initially being part.

“So, with that out of the way, I would like to direct your attention to the platform behind me,” he steps out of the way and gestures toward it, “more specifically, the pokeballs there. In those capsules lie tonight’s newest Island Challengers’ gateways to the world of Pokemon: their first, or “starter” pokemon.” He grins and motions to a young boy in the crowd, who bounds onto the stage with a smile shining like the sun, and after a moment of scanning the crowd, nods.

“Young Hau,” he says, which Cadence takes as being the boy’s name, “are you ready to receive your starter?” The boy nods excitedly, and a moment later Professor Kukui walks to the stage to stand beside the platform. He receives no introduction, and so she assumes that she missed the part of the speech where the Kahuna talked about him and the selection of starters (one she had heard a version of before from Professor Juniper, except she talked more about herself).

By the time she’s snapped out of her reverie, the boy — Hau, she thinks — has selected a pokeball, and with a flash of red light it releases a small owl-like pokemon. He beams at it, and it croons in response, landing on his shoulder.

If he smiles any wider, she thinks, he may just burst!

After that, her attention is mostly on the banquet table, so she doesn’t hear as they speak of the importance of a child’s first pokemon, as well as their first battle. She also doesn’t hear as the Kahuna asks the boy if he’d like to perform his first battle, and as he answers that he would.

What she does hear, though, is her mother nominating her as a challenger.

She snaps to attention as her mother makes her way through the crowd, hand raised and waving, to place her Leavanny’s well-loved pokeball in her hand and wishes her luck, pushing her forward. Hold on a second, she begs, I didn’t say I wanted to

Her whispered screams go unanswered by her mother as she’s pushed onto the platform, and instead of an apology she hears her bandmates chanting her name. She heaves out a sigh and stands up straight, pushing up her sleeves.

If she has to, then she might as well go all out, right?

Hau stands across from her on the platform, grinning still, his little Rowlet bouncing beside him. She takes a deep breath, steels her nerves (though, really, the boy’s are probably worse) and tosses Leavanny’s ball. The Bug-type appears with a pop of stars and a ready chattering, and Cadence raises her hand to ask the rules.

Hau, she notices, looks about the same age as her, perhaps a year younger. She’s only fourteen, after all, since kids in Unova were advised to start later for their own safety, but this kid looks about the same. That’s whatever, she decides, even if she had figured that Alola would have the same general “trainers start at eleven” rule.

“This will be a no holds barred match,” rings the voice of Professor Kukui, acting as a referee in front of the stage, “the last person standing wins! Go!”

She nods, and so does Hau. She hadn’t noticed it before, but he looks a little bit nervous now that her Leavanny is up. Well, so be it.

As they begin the match, murmurs surge about the audience. A Leavanny, huh? Those only evolve with high friendship, and even then, you have to evolve them once before that. How old is this girl, anyway? She doesn’t look too old. Hey, isn’t she the girl that played the Center in Hau’oli earlier? Yeah, she is! That band was good. Are the rest of them — hey, she won!

Cadence stands with her hands on her knees, huffing out breaths that blow her hair out of her face. She looks thoroughly spent; after all, it’s been years since her last real battle, and a Rowlet isn’t the easiest opponent, being a Flying secondary type against her Bug type Leavanny. She shakily stands fully, raising Leavanny’s ball and recalling her, pressing a kiss to the ball’s top red coating, covered in stickers as it is.

Hau stands opposite her, extending a hand as he walks, a grin still present on her face. He thanks her for the match, for a first taste at battling, and she nods, knees knocking together. She cracks a similar grin despite her exhaustion, then launches herself off of the platform to crash against her bandmates, who try their hardest to lift her up, difficult because of her ragdoll-ish state. Leavanny’s ball is cradled in the grip of her right hand, dangling above the ground as her friends carry her to the mostly-raided banquet table.

Hau stands on the stage, still, watching her laugh and clumsily fill a plate with berries, jostling against her group of friends, and spares a second to think that he wants a group of friends like that.

Late that night, Cadence dreams of Flaaffy, and Hau dreams of standing on a stage at the edge of the world, him against the girl from the evening hours ago.

Chapter Text

Two days.

It is a mere two days after her first battle in Alola that things are peaceful before Cadence is bombarded by people online. And it isn’t like she’s much bothered by it; she rather likes to interact with her fans, despite her aversion to social situations.

But this? This was getting to be a little much.

It’s not uncommon for battles to be taped and posted online, especially so for battles of the ceremonial variety — whether it be Baby’s First Battle, or a League match, or otherwise — so she wasn’t surprised that the video of her battle with that Hau kid was put on almost immediately. What she didn’t expect, however, was that the person who posted it immediately tied her to Cherry Bomb.

The video she’s watching, another theory-dump, zooms in on her as she pushes her teal locks from her face, skin glistening with sweat in the mid-afternoon light. She sweeps her arm out, fingers splayed, and calls for Leavanny to use X-Scissor. Though her phone’s speakers are a bit tinny, she can hear the slight gasp from the person who recorded the footage, and a cry of how strong a move it was.

She purses her lips and locks the phone.

Of course she’s strong. After all, her father was rather strong himself, and she took after him a considerable amount — she idly places a hand on the Stardust bag looped around her waistband — so it was to be expected that Cadence would follow his example. Despite only carrying one pokemon, that one pokemon was a considerable opponent, one that knew strong moves. Not to mention the fact that Leavanny only evolved when its Bond with its Trainer was strong and meaningful.

She hears the doorbell ring, and her mother calling out, “I’ll be there in just a moment!”

Instead of hearing the door open just to slam closed again, she hears her mother call her name.

“Cade, sweetie, someone’s here for you! It’s very important!” Cadence makes a noise of irritation under her breath before stalking from her room, shoulders squared, visibly defensive.

That all melts away when she sees the Professor, with someone else in tow, chatting with her mother. He notices her, waves with a bright smile, and says “something something Trial Amulet, yeah!” and though she isn’t quite listening she nods anyways, asking of the visitor behind him.

He and the visitor are invited inside by her mother, and she gets a look at the other person: a pale, pale girl, seemingly untouched by the sun, with almost-white hair tied into Dutch braids that hang onto her shoulders, and a color palette mostly consisting of faded lilac and white. She looks about the same age as Cadence, and introduces herself as Lillie, at which point Cadence notices the slightly wiggling pokeball-printed duffle she carries.

Cadence nods once, then a second time, then scrambles to the kitchen, because she doesn’t care.

The three are amicably talking when Cadence returns, nothing in her hands, but an aspear resides within her mouth, and she clearly carries it with purpose. She flits past Kukui, despite him being the sole reason she departed her room for the day, and sits directly next to Lillie, having declared her (only within the confines of her mind, of course) the prettiest girl she’s ever seen. While Lillie endures it (terrified as she may be), the others talk of the Island Challenge.

In her hands Cadence cradles an ornamental wooden charm, a winged rectangle with tassels hanging from the wings. The left wing is a rich yellow, the inner rectangle divided into red and pink triangles, and the right wing is a muted royal purple; none of the colors clash with the light-colored wood enough to hurt her eyes, so she decrees it decent and loops the beaded clasp around the same loop her Stardust bag is attached to. Her mother scurries to find her camera to add a picture of it to her newest scrapbook.

Lillie sits beside her on the loveseat, still quivering like a leaf in the wind. She knows that this is Cadence’s house, and by that logic she can sit anywhere she desires, but Lillie’s still unsure as to why the blue-haired girl chose to sit so close to her. She doesn’t dislike the closeness, by any means; the girl is warm and the house they’re in is quite cold (she can’t put her finger on why that is quite yet) so it’s not unwelcome.

At the very least, the fruit that the other girl has smells delightful, and that distracts Lillie enough for the time being.

———

Hau and Cadence sit in a booth at a malasada shop — the reason for this being, Hau visited initially to properly introduce himself, and then discovered that she had never tried his favorite thing — and the girl’s face is ghost-white as Hau continues to describe each and every pastry with the patience of an absolute saint.

However, it is not the knowledge that she sits in front of Alola’s Number One Malasada Evangelist that has her looking like paper. It is the knowledge that this boy, full of pep and verve and all things cheerful, has just informed her that he is indeed older than her.

She is, to put it frankly, envious. Just a little bit.

However, now that she studies him closely, she notices things that she hadn’t during their fight. She assumed him to simply be a young child, no older than twelve-and-a-half, and was now coming face to face with the realisation that lighting matters. In this setting, now, she seems him for who he is: a strong, raring-to-go Trainer who resembles the average starting Unovan trainer in every way but one.

This one thing being, of course, his never-ending optimism. She inwardly chuckles — no, no, plenty of others are optimistic like Hau. The thing that differentiates him is his cooperation and friendliness. That, she thinks, are things you’d not find often in the newly-made Unovan Trainers, oft wary and anxious to all that surrounds them. Ah, well.

Cadence zeroes back in on their conversation (or apparent lack thereof) when she realises that Hau’s simply been staring at her for the past minute, as she’s been stuck in her thoughts. He almost doesn’t think it possible for her to pale further, but she does, blinking once before diving into the mountain of pastries in front of them.

Better to stuff her observances into the back corner of her mind and stuff these too-sweet sugar-dusted almost-doughnuts down her gullet, she decides. Hau is just happy she finally let herself see the light (that is, of the amazing Alolan delicacy that is malasadas). They make her teeth hurt, and her stomach can barely handle the darn treats, but she rather likes the prospect of a new friend and so swallows them down with truly Herculean effort.

By the time they’ve left, each with a box of leftovers in their respective bags, a commotion has spiraled out on the street. Two particularly silly-looking “thugs,” if you can call them that, with neon blue hair and skull-printed accessories are dancing menacingly at a lanky figure in a sweater-vest.

“Makes sense, I guess,” Cadence mumbles, and Hau stares at her like she just asked him how to spell wheat germ. He’s about to ask what she means when the lanky dude catches sight of them and calls their aid.

“Oh, Trainers! You look rather strong. You’d not mind assisting me, would you?” The stranger’s voice is smooth as honey as he waves to them, not seeming particularly bothered by the thugs but asking them for help nonetheless. With a shrug, Cadence concedes — she reaches for Hau’s hand to pull him along too, but he’s already shot past her toward the fray.

With a hand on Leavanny’s ball, she readies herself, and points at the thug on the left — the term ‘grunt’ comes to mind — and beckons at him. He looks confused for a second, but his buddy sharply elbows him, snapping him back to reality.

He lets loose a Zubat, of all things, and Cadence sighs. She lobs Leavanny’s ball into the air and catches it again as the emptied capsule lands in her palm, sweeping her arm out and ordering a hasty Leaf Storm.

Needless to say, the battle is quickly over. It’s simple, she supposes — Leavanny is veritably strong on its own, and even without a type-based advantage, it’s nothing to sneeze at. The grunts make their hasty retreat, and Sweater Vest looks indiscriminately pleased with their show of efforts. Hau’s Rowlet looks extremely proud of itself, and Cadence is kissing the top of her Leavanny’s pokeball for a job well done.

Sweater Vest claps for them a bit. “Splendid job,” he says, brimming with glee, “thank you so much for your aid! I must say, I did notice your Island Challenge amulets; have you completed any trials yet?” He tilts his head quizzically, and Cadence would have laughed if she weren’t thinking of his question. When they both say no, he beams.

He goes on to explain that he is Ilima, the Trial Captain for Melemele island, and makes a joke (that isn’t particularly funny) about how of course they haven’t done a trial yet, they’ve not even met him!

Hau laughs with him, but Cadence simply sticks an uncomfortable smile on her face and pretends she knows what’s going on. Ilima waxes poetic about their quote unquote ‘undeniable power’ and says this-and-that about how excited he is for them to challenge his Trial, and bids them ado with a quick explanation of where his trial site — the Verdant Cavern — lay.

“You know,” Hau says, as they stroll aimlessly about the city, “I was wondering…”

“Wondering what?” She answers, tilting her head.

“Where’d you get your Pokemon?” He cuts right to the chase, tilting his head in a similar way, making them look like a pair of right angles. She giggles a second, before waving for him to keep walking with her.

“Well,” she begins, “Blair convinced my dad to take us out to Pinwheel Forest, out by the Nacrene museum —” Hau, of course, understands those words, but not in that order “— and so we went on a little forest hike, and Blair was teaching me how to catch one, ‘cause my dad was talking to a ranger.” She looks off to the side, continuing, “and he saw this little Swadloon, ‘bout this big,” she moves her hands to indicate the size, “and I said ,’I want that one! I want that one!’” She pitches her voice up for the last part, doing slight jazz-hands.

Hau laughs, interjecting, “Oh! So, you caught it, then? That’s so awesome! So it wasn’t your starter? That’s wild, I thought everyone got a starter—” He keeps going at a mile a minute, and Cadence grimaces.

“That,” she interjects, and Hau quiets, “sort of thing, uh, doesn’t happen in Anville. It’s, like, a school partnership with the Juniper labs, I think.” He just nods, barely understanding. “You got your Rowlet from Kukui, right?”

He wonders about the fact that she didn’t bother calling him ‘professor,’ but answers nonetheless as they round the streetcorner. “Yeah! Well, really, the Professor selects them and gets them ready, but Tutu’s the one who gives Trainers the opportunity. Ooh,” he starts, eyes wide, “how do you think those Team Skull guys got theirs? Those were Zubats, so they probably got them in a cave—”

She stops listening halfway through, running a hand through her teal hair. At the mention of Team Skull — apparently, that was their name — she pictured the Grunts from before, with their eye-scorchingly bright blue hair. Hers is faded, of course, teal now, but it was blue before. She scowls.

“Hau,” she starts, looking at him and looping her thumbs under the straps of her backpack, and he quiets almost instantly, “are there any beauty supply shops here?”

He nods, about to ask why, when she speaks again. “How do you think I’d look if my hair was, uh, red? Like,” she moves her hands in little circles in front of her, “bright red. Fire red.”

His eyes widen, and he grabs her hand, practically dragging her down the street. “I’ll help! Ooh, it’ll be awesome!” Hau keeps talking, but she’s not listening. She can feel the debit card in her backpack burning a hole through the fabric.

She winces. Sorry, mom.

Chapter Text

Cadence is sitting across from her mother on the loveseat, Hau practically vibrating with pride at her side at his job well done. Her mother is casually sipping at a cup of tea, staring directly at the girl.

She squirms in her seat, and her mother finally relents. “So, red? Really? Why red? It could not possibly be just to match your band,” she says, a wolfish grin on her face. Cadence grimaces.

“Uh, I got tired of it?” She replies, clearly unsure, and her mother doesn’t miss a beat when replying herself.

“So you spent a bunch of money on a dye job with the help of a friend that you just met.. For the sake of acting on a whim?” Cadence pales at this, tugging at her sweater’s collar, and nods.

“Well, if you say so,” her mother shrugs, and Hau swears he can see a weight lifted from his friend’s shoulders. He turns to beam at her as she clutches her shorts, a pained smile on her face.

“What’s the problem?” Asks Hau, when Cadence’s mother leaves the room. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” she replies, making a scratching post out of her shorts, “I just, you know, spent more money than I’ve ever spent in my life ‘cause I didn’t want people thinking I’m a dumb thug.”

Recognition flashes in Hau’s eyes at that, and he lets out a quiet “Ohhh, I get it now!” upon hearing that. He snickers at her and the fact that she went red just because she didn’t want to look like a Team Skull member, because it’s pretty silly, but he understands.

(He doesn’t think anyone would mistake her for one, anyways, she’s got this air about her that’s super different than the flow he feels from Team Skull’s goons. Like she’s a ticking time bomb, just a little bit. But he doesn’t voice this; at least, not yet.)

“Anyways,” Cadence says, standing up, “feel like showing me the rest of Melemele?”

———

Okay, yeah, maybe Cadence isn’t listening to Hau’s vivid descriptions of the environment as they walk the path to Iki Town. What of it, though? She listened for a good long while when he talked about malasada, and that has to account for something, right?

She purses her lips and tunes back in.

“— and they change out the lights along the routes every season, like with different levels of brightness and stuff, and sometimes when it gets really cold they use these bulbs that heat up —” Hau stops abruptly, grabbing her arm and forcibly shaking her. “Did you hear that? Did you?”

“The what?”

He shakes her again — ow — and points at the slightly swaying grasses, practically shaking with joy. “It rustled! There might be a wild pokemon in there! Ooh, you could get to meet your first Alolan native, it’d be so cool — other than Rowlet, I mean — go on, go on!” He gives her a little shove and she grimaces, dipping a hand into the side pocket of her bag to confirm whether or not a spare Pokeball lay dormant there.

When her fingers brushed against the cool plastic coating, she swept her hand from the back to her hip, easily grabbing Leavanny’s ball as she stepped into the grass. She takes two steps before a little weaselly thing knocked itself into her ankle, hissing at her.

Well. So much for a good first impression.

Leavanny chitters when she releases it, all practiced confidence and smooth flicks of the wrist, raising her arm and calling for X-Scissor. She prays fervently that Leavanny won’t overpower the little thing, and lets out a breath she didn’t know she’d been holding when it stays standing. She bends into a squat, dipping her hand into her bag and withdrawing the capsule from it before holding it out to the creature in silent query.

When it shows no hostility, she gently tosses the ball toward the creature, and Hau makes a giddy little noise from behind her when it clicks. He asks if she’ll name it, and she shakes her head, because she’s not good with names.

“I’ll ask Mia,” she says, and Hau is infinitely disappointed by her lack of interest in nicknames.

———

Iki Town, in full, is a home for the homeless and rooted alike. Reminds her of Undella in springtime, if she can glean anything from the memory of her three-year-old days, with the same salt-spray air and laid back atmosphere. The vegetation is much more lush here, though, and the wilds are less held back. It’s nice, she thinks, that the island is as natural as it is.

Hau says something about checking his house for snacks — which, really, are unneeded, as they still have leftover malasadas in their bags, but still — and leaves Cadence to her own devices. So, of course, she takes to inspecting the flora around Iki.

Red flowers with long, spindly fingers that wave gently in the breeze, and yellow ones that bloom in little clumps, and little pink blossoms that smell like they’d taste amazing (but she’s tried to eat flowers before, they never taste that great) catch her eye, soft petals that shiver in her palms.

She dares not sever the blossom from the stem.

Further into the brush lay a path, neatly carved and hidden in plain sight, under the canopy of trees that provide minimal shade despite their great breadth. She crosses this path, because not only is Hau taking longer than she expected and so she is bored, but because today is a day of new experiences, and her mother specifically told her to have a good day and as such she must. She pushes the billowy sleeves of her sweater up her arms and brushes off her shorts, putting her best foot forward onto the path (and almost tripping in the process) and silently declares this gravelly walkway a rite of passage.

It isn’t a particularly long walk (sad, she’d have loved a hike) but the sight she’s faced with after the short trip is a reward in itself: the pretty girl from before, the pale one with the jellyfish-cap hat stands before her, slightly trembling. The pokeball-print bag at her side is not wriggling, as Cadence saw it had before.

She pauses.

The error corrects itself.

Ahead on the bridge, flanked at its mouth by little statues with funny faces, lay a creature the likes of which Cadence only sees in Matt’s stupid doodles. It’s fluffy like cotton candy, and looks the part too, but it’s wispy at the edges and slightly gaseous, and is seemingly being antagonized by Spearow.

Alright. Okay. Normal, everyday occurrence. The little cotton thing maybe not so much, but she can understand. For now, though, she coughs into her hand to alert jellyfish-girl that she’s arrived. Jellyfish-girl jolts and swerves around, looking at her wide green eyes, and Cadence notices the girl flinch at seeing her own indifferent expression.

“What’s wrong?” She almost grimaces at her own shaky voice. Golly, what a great first line.

“Oh, uh,” Jellyfish-girl blinks a couple times before speaking. “H-help! Save Nebby, please!” She points a trembling finger at the gaseous creature on the bridge, and Cadence has to bite her tongue to keep from asking what on earth is a Nebby?

Instead, she just nods, making a vague motion for ‘I’ll go do that’ and tries to smile at Jellyfish-girl, in an attempt to calm her down. She doesn’t look back to see if it works when she walks forward, raising her hands in a hopefully placating manner, inching towards the horrible little birds. She hates Spearow, really; they’re the worst of the worst in terms of being jerks, and they agitate her mother to a criminal degree. But Cadence wouldn’t commit such a capital-C Crime such as trying to attack the birds herself, simply tries to shoo them off.

They take it the worst way possible, and she bristles with the realisation that they’ve turned their attention to her. She tries to step back, and the bridge makes a concerning noise before giving way. Cadence hears Jellyfish-girl make this strangled sort of sound, halfway between a yell and a gasp, as she moves to cradle the little Nebby in her arms, in a last-ditch attempt to break its fall. (During this, she also takes to writing a three-line last will and testament in her head — to whom it may concern, I don’t have any stuff, but please give everything to my mom.)

There’s a sharp cry of something that sounds suspiciously like cocoa, and she has the craziest thought that perhaps someone is warning her of impending chocolate doom, and then something strong and ever-so-slightly tingling grabs her and the little Nebby nestled in the crook between her arms, and she’s back on land. The something-or-other lets her go and she stumbles, taking notice of the black-and-gold figure that whizzes past.

The Nebby wrangles itself from her grasp, floating towards Jellyfish-girl — Lillie, her brain ever so eloquently supplies — with a happy chirp, and Cadence falls into a squat, balancing her trembling arms on her knees.

“I’m so sorry to have d-dragged you into this,” Lillie starts, and Cadence has the more bizarre notion that perhaps the girl is about to start bawling, “but it was being.. T-terrorized by those Spearow, and I wanted to save it, but I just —” She takes a deep, shaky breath, and Cadence thinks that perhaps her observation was more astute than she had hypothesized “— I wanted to save it, but my confidence just shriveled up like a.. Like a —”

Cadence cuts in, eyes wide, “Like a worm on hot pavement?”

“Y-yes, perhaps — the what?”

Cadence smiles at her, standing up, “It’s a good rhyme, right? Oh my gosh, I should use that. Do you mind if I use that?”

Lillie blinks. “U-uh, I don’t mind, but.. Would you mind.. Walking me back..?”

———

Hau is, to say the least, very displeased with Cadence for walking out on the “snack opportunity of a lifetime,” but he’s nothing if not awed by her apparent heroism. When she retells the event, he listens with rapt interest, eyes widening at the mention of the gold and black Thing-with-a-capital-T that Cadence and the Nebby encountered.

Quietly, Lillie says, “You don’t have to call it.. ‘The’ Nebby.” When Cadence and Hau turn to look at her, she folds in on herself, mumbling something about titles.

“So if it isn’t the Nebby, then what is it? Looks like cotton candy to me — oh my gosh,” she turns to Hau, putting her hands on his shoulders, “what if it’s called fairy floss, wouldn’t that be so cool—”

Lillie pales as the two discuss possible names for Nebby, but she dares not say what it is. “Um,” she interjects instead, “would you mind, eh, not mentioning Nebby? To anyone?”

Cadence and Hau (CadenceandHau, HauandCadence) turn to look at her in tandem, nodding in understanding, before turning back to each other. Lillie watches as their conversation turns from sweets to their respective candies of choice and back again, and decides to slip away while she’s still unnoticed.

Hau and Cadence are an odd duo, Lillie thinks, but neither of them questioned her about Nebby, and the redhead had gone out of her way to help despite not knowing what was going on, and Hau had offered her peace of mind for the few minutes she spent in their (admittedly overwhelming) company, and she supposes that that tells a lot about who they are.

Lillie watches the afternoon fade to evening as she walks back to Professor Kukui’s quote unquote “lab,” frown hidden in the curl of her fist in thought. Nebby wriggles in the bag, but stays put when she reaches a hand in to pet it.

———

“While I don’t disagree that pecha is a good flavor, I honestly prefer cheri. It’s just better.” Cadence states this from her spot on the sand, red hair spilling out over the pale yellow. The water comes up to meet her, lapping at the edges of her locks and turning them darker on contact. Her sweater lay in a heap next to their backpacks, a little sandy but mostly untouched. Her tank top is barely visible underneath the mound of sand Hau is currently packing on top of her.

“What? You’ve gotta be kidding! Pecha’s the best,” Hau retorts, pointing an accusatory finger at her, “you just can’t recognise good flavors. Do they teach you nothing of flavor in Unova?”

She snorts. “Um, I have an extremely sophisticated palette, mind you,” Cadence says, imitating (in the worst possible way) the fanciest voice she can. “Cheri is overall a better — gah!”

The ocean comes to meet her, spraying water and seafoam all over her face. She splutters, immediately sitting up and shaking her head off, letting sand slough off of her skin like a waterfall, and Hau just laughs. Sure, maybe she did just ruin all his hard work, but the look on her face was priceless!

When he voices this, he’s met with a glare, and just keeps laughing.

Chapter Text

HauandCadence is just Cadence again when Lillie sees her next, at a shopping mall nestled in the heart Hau’oli. Lillie’s shaking, just a little, with a contacts and makeup case clutched one in each hand, and almost deflates with the longest sigh of relief she’s ever heaved out when she notices large, glitzy headphones between the aisles. She sneaks a look o’er the clothing rack and finds a girl in a sweater despite the heat, and knows she’s found the right one.

Cadence is thumbing through different floral-printed shirts on the rack when Lillie approaches. There’s no fanfare for Lillie when the redhead’s gaze flickers to her face, no change of music in the store to fit to the atmosphere, but a smile creeps onto her face when Lillie clears her throat and offers a wave.

She holds out the cases to Cadence, who takes them without question (but a query certainly lies in her features), and swallows before speaking. “Uh, I was the hundredth customer to step foot inside the store, so they said.. Uh, so the employees gave me these, but I have the same models already, and then I saw you, and..”

“Oh, cool,” Cadence replies, slipping the little cases into her bag with a smile and an I know what you mean so you don’t have to say it glimmer in her eyes, “thanks for the free stuff.”

She laughs a little when Lillie splutters about that not being her intent, and raises her hands. “I’m just kidding! I’m just kidding. I’m happy you thought of me, dude.”

They shop in companionable near-silence, til Cadence mutters something about the shop not having the right fabric. Lillie frowns. “What do you mean?”

“Oh, uh,” she makes a face, “not really anything, just — aha, stuff in Unova was always made to brace against the environment, since there are so many, uh, different climates? I guess?” She rubs the back of her neck sheepishly. “But I don’t know why I’d need them, as far as I know it’s just sun here, haha—”

Lillie laughs, just a bit. “You’re mostly right, but I don’t think they’d sell anything like that in a touristy shop like this.”

“I was mostly planning to buy, like, hiking shoes? The pink Trial Captain dude said something about the site being, like, a cave system, or something.”

“... Do you not remember his name?”

———

Lillie tries her best to ignore the music coming from Cadence’s ever-present headphones, truly, she does. They sit in the Pokemon Center, Lillie with a cup of tea, and Cadence with a parfait in front of her.

“A parfait is a dessert,” Cadence says, “but it’s also the Kalosian word for ‘perfect.’”

“Oh?” replies Lillie, because it is all she can reply.

“A sucker is another name for a lollipop,” she continues, and Lillie becomes a bit nervous, “but it is also what Hau is.”

“I’m sorry, what?” Lillie says, dumbfounded. Cadence shoots her an unimpressed look over the rim of the cup.

“He’s out doing his trial in the sticky heat, while I’m relaxing after early morning training that he, mind you, didn’t do.” She enunciates the last two words with a spoon pointed in Lillie’s direction, the beginnings of a smug smile tugging at her lips. “So when he comes back with all his rewards and he talks about how hard it was, I’ll know exactly how much more I need to train. Speaking of training,” she segues, to Lillie’s utter dismay, “wanna help me ‘n Yungoos get buff?”

Lillie makes a face. “Do what?”

“I’m joking. We’re gonna go do another practice battle. Leavanny’s, like, well it’s really agile and speedy, but it’s defense isn’t as good. Not bad, but not super on-par with it’s other stuff, y’know?”

Cadence, Lillie finds, is more talkative about something she loves rather than something she doesn’t quite mind. Lillie also finds that the girl’s hair is different than it was the day before; yesterday it was a strange teal that was quite definitely unnatural, and today it is a fiery red that reminds her, oddly enough, of Kalos. But it fits well enough that she doesn’t mind.

She makes that connection in passing — must have seen something about it on the news at some point — and pays it no mind. They walk in silence; rather, Lillie is silent while Cadence mutters about strength training.

Hau and Cadence are very different, Lillie thinks. The former talks about anything and everything, anytime he chooses; the latter mostly speaks when spoken to, and mostly of the current topic. But, she thinks, they’re very easy to make friends with. Or maybe Lillie is just intruding on a pre-existing friendship.

She frowns. If they didn’t like her, they’d surely tell her, so take that, inhibitions (please and thank you).

“Beach time!” Cadence says, all of a sudden, and Lillie blinks hard. “Come on, you can watch if you want. Or you can’t if you don’t want.” The redhead withdraws two pokeballs from her pocket — Lillie squints for a second, wasn’t she wearing those same flared shorts yesterday? Does she have multiple pairs? That’s a bit strange, or maybe not, she has many of the same dresses — and tosses them out, materialising two figures on the sands.

One of the capsules, Lillie notices, has the upper side coated in stickers of every sort, with a Seal on the crest of it, and the other has only one on the very top. She has to crane her head a little to get a proper look at it before Cadence slips it back into her pocket, and it turns out to be a simple little cloud.

“Why are there stickers?” Lillie asks, and Cadence spares her only a glance before directing the two pokemon to opposite sides on the sand.

“Well,” she says, cracking her knuckles, “every time they win, I give ‘em one. Or I put it there ‘cause I think they deserve it.” She says nothing more, moving to draw a court in the sand with her foot.

Lillie doesn’t really watch — doesn’t want to, doesn’t think she should — but hears the commands and praises all the same. She notes a few things, like that Leavanny needs less call-outs than the newer Yungoos, or that the Yungoos responds quite well to her commands despite how young it is.

“Cadence,” she asks, and quietly gets told dude, you can call me Cade, I don’t mind, “when did you catch that Yungoos? Isn’t it a bit young to respond that well?”

Cadence gives her a puzzled look. “Caught it yesterday. ‘S pretty headstrong, I guess, but it responds just fine. What do you mean?”

Lillie simply hums, shrugging her shoulders almost imperceptibly. “Perhaps you have a knack for training, then.”

Cadence smiles, confused as she may be. “I guess, yeah.”

The mock battle ends when Yungoos lands a hit on Leavanny that knocks it over, and Cadence rushes to the pokemon with a bright smile, offering critiques and smiles and praise to the both of them. Lillie watches with rapt interest as the other girl shrugs off her backpack, hastily unzipping it and withdrawing a sheet of stickers from within.

It’s a sheet of sparkling moons, stars, and clouds, and Lillie wonders where she got it for a moment while Cadence withdraws the Yungoos’ pokeball and extends the sheet towards it, letting it pick a sticker for itself.

She watches the exchange for a few seconds before she notices the sound of footsteps sinking into the sand (and subsequently kicking up quite a bit of it), and turns to see Hau waving at her, beaming.

“Aue!” says he, and she hesitantly raises a hand in greeting. “What’s up?”

“Oh, they were doing training,” Lillie responds, lowering her hands. “Cadence said that you were going through with a trial, how was that?”

He beams and holds up his wrist, displaying an intricately carved white bracelet with a prismatic grey crystal, inset with a little darker grey design, lying in its center. “It went great! It was so cool, like, the cavern was all mysterious and then the battle in the center was super exhilarating, and — I’ll tell you everything in a minute, I gotta show this to Cadence—” He flashes the bracelet at her again before stumbling over to Cadence, a bright smile upon his face.

Lillie watches the other girl turn around, watches her face go from interest to shock to pride, and giggles as Cadence puts her hands on Hau’s shoulders and sternly tells him something she can’t hear. It couldn’t have been bad, though, because they both start laughing.

“Should I wait ‘til tomorrow to do mine, or..? Like, you didn’t really explain anything, so...” says Cadence, shouldering her bag, and Hau shrugs.

“Probably! I mean, all I had to do was a couple battles and then a big one against the Totem. Ooh, you don’t know what a Totem is, right?” Hau tilts his head a bit in question.

“Uh, like, the carvings?” Asks Cadence, wiping off her pokeballs and putting them back in her pockets. “But you probably don’t mean carvings, right?”

Hau laughs, and Cadence smiles too, because how could you not, when he’s around? “Kalea could probably explain it better, but a Totem is a pokemon that the Captains train up super strong and big with lots of love —” he gesticulates wildly while speaking “— so that they’re, y’know, a good challenge for Trainers! But this one wasn’t super hard, I mean, it did call in another Yungoos so I had to strategize and stuff, but… I mean, it’s not super hard, so don’t worry,” he says, shrugging. “Like I said, Kalea could explain it better. But you don’t know Kalea, so.”

Cadence shakes her head, stifling a giggle. “No, I don’t.”

The walk to the Pokemon Center for a cursory healing is short, but not uncomfortable. Lillie half-listens to Cadence and Hau’s laughter-ridden rendition of the Traveler’s Ballad — something she doesn’t recognise, but apparently they both know, more or less — and glances over all the stores along the sidewalks, resting her hands on Nebby’s bag at her side.

“Kalea’s my big sister,” Hau explains, “but she’s not doing an Island Challenge right now. She said she was gonna do it as a gap year between graduation —” he extends a hand out, palm up “— and college.” He extends the other hand, clasping them together in front of him, and continues, “She says she’d rather take a backpacking trip around the region with her friends after completing her studies, instead of going on a Trainer journey smack dab in the middle of her schooling.”

Cadence nods, resting her elbows on the cafe table they commandeered. “That’s good thinking, since she does public school stuff. I do homeschooling with Mom and — uh, so I’m ahead, kind of.” She falters, making a face for a moment before adding on, “But Mom said I’m gonna have to do work when I take breaks, and I said that was gross and I shouldn’t have to, but y’know.”

“You aren’t doing the Island Challenge, right, Lillie?” Asks Hau, turning to face her, and she blanches.

“Uh, no, I’m not,” Lillie says, ducking her head a bit. “I, well, I considered it, but I’m not sure. Trainer registration might be a … a problem.” Her voice quiets at the end, and she fidgets a bit.

Cadence shrugs. “Que sera, sera,” she says, shifting so that her head lies on her propped-up fists, “what will be will be. Hey, Hau, do you know where I can find Sweater Vest — I mean, uh, the Trial Captain?”

Hau gives her a look. “His name is Ilima.”

“Sorry.”

“It’s fine,” he smiles, “uhh, he said that he’d be repainting the gates today? So you can probably find him just… around, I guess.”

“Then I’ll go searching,” she says, because that’s what she would say, and she kicks the chair out from behind her and leaves the Center’s cafe with a wave and a promise to see Lillie and Hau later.

Lillie is almost disappointed, really.

Ilima is near the marina, strolling along the pristine sidewalk with something that Cadence can just barely recognise as a Smeargle. He turns and smiles brightly at her when the pokemon taps him, wordlessly directing his gaze to the redhead. “Oh, hello again!” he says, and Cadence smiles back.

“Hi there, Captain,” she says, loosely imitating a salute, “Hau told me that he beat your trial today, and I was wondering when I could get a crack at it.”

Ilima’s closed smile widens almost imperceptibly before he clasps his hands together. “If you wish to challenge it sooner rather than later, I could guide you to the Verdant Cavern in the morning tomorrow. By then, I will have had ample time to prepare for your arrival.” He’s all earnest, genuine excitement, and Cadence spares a thought that perhaps his trial is not challenged often. It must not, she deduces; so many of the trainers she has fought here — few as that number may be — often have only a single pokemon with them, and seem to be somewhat lazily kept.

Perhaps, she thinks as she lets him arrange a meeting time for them while letting her mouth run on autopilot, trainers in Alola have stopped keeping up with the tradition of the Island Challenge, because they are becoming less of a traditional journey and more of a tourist gimmick. That seems like what is happening here, with what she has observed of the island and the city here.

Perhaps, she muses, she will join him in the morning, challenge his trial like normal, and save speculation and idle thought for later, when she decides to spend half the night vomiting out song lyrics that inevitably end up flushed down like everything else because they turn out badly.

“So, I’ll meet you at the Pokemon Center just by the shopping centre at around eight, then?” he says, eyes sparkling, and she nods.

When she gets home, her mother tells her that she is to sleep early to prepare for the trial, and so she does.

Cadence rises with the sun the next day, soon after seven fifteen, and spends the next thirty minutes staring at her Vanilluxe-printed socks with no discernable expression upon her face. She checks the weather with her phone and decides to tie her hair into a ponytail for the day, leaving her mostly-uncombed locks hanging heavy and pulling back on her enough to cause a headache.

She leaves it that way.

She wears not a sweater, today, but a thin long-sleeved shirt with a Casteliacone printed upon it, a novelty piece of merchandise from that time Cherry Bomb had a gig at Sonata, some cafe where people would go to get away from their soul-sucking jobs. The owner had given her a Lemonade on the house, once, and told her that she bore resemblance to a scrappy kid with a blue jacket that came through every week to relax.

You mean Blair?” she had asked, and the owner snapped their fingers.

Yeah, that’s the one! Give the scamp my best, will ya?

On a whim, she calls her cousin, and miraculously, he answers. So, Cadence spends the better part of her remaining hour before she has to be at the center calling Blair, talking about how his journey is going. Iris took the championship from him when he flew back in to see his mom — her aunt — and soon after that he left again, searching for a boy whose name Cadence can never remember. He’s in Kalos, now. She walks along the sidewalk to the center, rubber flip-flops squishing slightly against the warming cement.

“It’s so pretty, the Lumiose Tower,” Blair says, and he sounds older than she remembers him ever sounding. “Sometimes, me and Sasha —” she doesn’t even bother trying to dig Sasha out of her memories this time, “— we sit up on the top of it at night, and talk about our dreams. Well, about my dreams.” He laughs. She’s at the street corner, now.

“Oh!” he says suddenly, struck by a sudden thought, “Did you ever get around to challenging the Battle Subway with your dad? Wait, wait, is he there with you? I’d love to catch u—”

She hangs up at the door.

Chapter Text

The Pokemon Center is mostly empty this morning — kind of like being in the emergency room on a Tuesday, or something — and while it’s easier for her to spot Ilima standing by the general pokemart section, Cadence kind of wants the normalcy of other trainers standing by the entrance, talking about whatever.

For a second, she looks up near the ceiling, expecting a second floor and a spinning GeoNet globe, and deflates when she remembers that Pokemon Centers in Alola are one-story. Nevertheless, she approaches the lanky Trial Captain anyway, who brightens upon seeing her.

“Good morning!” He says, all genuine excitement, and she smiles back. “If you have any business to conduct, go ahead. I can wait.”

She shakes her head. “I’m good. How far is the trial?”

Ilima starts walking and she follows. “It’s not very far — just off of Route 2. I won’t be able to help you within, but I can tell you the basics of it, if you wish.”

They pass through the city easily, and the mouth of Route 2 greets her with lush grasses that, to her surprise, aren’t as carefully clipped and maintained as on Route 1 and in the little sections within Hau’Oli. Well — actually, upon reflection, it isn’t quite as surprising; Route 2 is basically a trialgoer’s gateway to trainerdom, and as such doesn’t need to be overseen by city workers to make sure that citizens who aren’t getting up to much of anything don’t suddenly get attacked by pokemon.

She passes a lovely motel overlooking a beach and tries not to feel like Ilima is basically holding her hand. Obviously, she and Hau have been his first attendees in a good while, she can tell that much from the way he can only just hide his excitement, and whenever she asks a question he answers a little too quickly for someone who’s just happy to do their job.

Her headphones are around her neck, crooning out songs from one of her favorite albums. The mind was made to illuminate the heart, they sing out in one of the moments where Ilima’s quiet, and she hums.

The (much) taller boy turns to look at her, eyebrows raised. “Oh, no, sorry,” she says, “I was just thinking about this song.”

“Oh, were you listening to something? I never noticed, aha!”

She’s not sure how — her headphones are the one thing about her that’s immediately noticeable (except, perhaps, her hair), given that they’re oversized and glitzy and covered in fake diamonds — but nods anyway. “I kind of always am, I guess.”

“Well, I hope it empowers you,” he says, facing the road, and points ahead at ornate wooden gates, decorated with the same colors as those that lay on her challenger’s amulet. “That there is the Verdant Cavern, where your trial will take place.”

As they approach the entrance, he starts up again. “If you leave or if your team is wiped out during your trial, you must forfeit. Don’t fret, however! You can attempt it as many times as you please.”

“Oh, okay,” Cadence says, knowing full well she’ll either hole-in-one the thing or take it every day this week. She makes a mental note to ask Damien to train against his Liepard (but, then again, he rarely battles — maybe Mia’s Watchog might be better) and keeps walking. “Will you be calling out the, uh, the little cave-dwellers?”

“Oh, no,” Ilima says, waving her on, “but I can offer you moral support!”

Well. That’s that, she supposes.

Cadence steps through the decorative gates lining the front of the cave and gets a good look at the Verdant Cavern: truly a marvel, and not as sticky-hot as everything else, either. If she didn’t know better, she’d have turned and asked if someone painted Mistralton Cave green.

Green was a good way to describe it, in fact. Boulders along the ground coated with lush greenery, moss and ivy climbing along the ragged walls of the place. Not too large, but not small and stifling like some of the caverns she hears about; little dens littered throughout the cave coated in moss and lichen shine, almost, where spots that the sun filters through are cast with its light. She sees little scratches in the ground, remnants of skirmishes and the inhabitants alike; she sees dust motes, flying aimlessly through the air, and tosses Yungoos’ ball between her hands, readying herself.

The first battle comes easily: she walks around, getting a feel for the significantly cooler air in the cavern and stumbles over one of the dens, prompting another Yungoos to scutter out from it and hiss at her. She steps back and tosses her own out, fumbling for a moment —

— “All right, Yungoos, let’s get this show on the road — give it a hot Pursuit!” She calls, pointing at the adversary. Her own charges toward the other, running in a zig-zag pattern and tackling the other pokemon. It retaliates with a simple tackle, and she grins.

She calls for an Echoed Voice — really, people leave Technical Machines everywhere these days — and the battle’s soon over. When the other Yungoos scuttles back to its den, she nods and recalls her own, scanning the site for the next opponent.

It comes in the form of another Yungoos, this time headbutting her from behind as she makes her way to the (admittedly creepy-looking) wooden bridge in the center. She sends out Leavanny and calls for a Fell Stinger, knocking out the smaller pokemon almost instantly, and she recalls her teammate almost as fast as she called it out, leaving her with a twinge of disappointment. Perhaps she overtrained for this — well, no use in not being prepared, and what’s done is done, so.

Cadence tries to corner the next one, really, she does! But it keeps skittering from den to den and if she didn’t know better, she’d say it’s laughing at her. She almost sends out both of her pokemon, but —

Her saving grace is, laughably, Team Skull. Two of the grunts, just like last time, except these ones are only recognisable through their clothes. One is tall and lanky, with spiky fluorescent orange hair — she cringes, she thought they’d all be blue, like Plasma was all orange — and the other is about her height, with dark blue hair — jeez, no color’s safe, huh? — but they’re both in dirty black-and-white. She frowns.

“Yo, yo, yo!” The orange one says, and the navy one looks instantly peeved, “It’s your thievin’ boys, back again!”

He gets sharply elbowed by the navy one, who hisses, “Jackson, you said you wouldn’t do that—”

“Well, I lied!” the orange one — Jackson, apparently — says, causing the navy one to swat him. Cadence watches as Ilima calls out something she can’t quite make out, and Jackson responds with, “What do you think we’re plannin’ on doin’? We’re gonna catch these pokemon, yo!”

She watches the grunts stalk off to the other pokemon dens, and listens to Ilima yelling out things she can’t quite hear but can assume are commands to quit messing around and leave the trial site, and decides that she’ll use their meddling to her advantage instead of waiting around like a baby. She crawls through the little passage near the mossy rock and emerges next to another den, effectively cornering the final opponent.

A Gumshoos pops out at her — her phone tells her as much when she hastily brings it out of her pocket and Bings ‘weasel pokemon alola’ — and hisses, signifying that it is effectively Battle Time. She tosses out Leavanny, in hopes that using her more experienced fighter will garner better results (but also because she didn’t feel like using Yungoos against its evolved form was very fair), and calls for the second Fell Stinger of the day.

Gumshoos — well, it does not go down quite as easily as its predecessors, that’s for sure. It takes two Fell Stingers and the beginning of a Leaf Blade to knock it down, and Cadence is suddenly very, very aware of the fact that the Totem pokemon will be much, much stronger than the first few opponents.

She sprays Leavanny with a Potion, leaves the bottle in her bag to clean out and use as decoration later, and moves on.

The Trial Guide standing near the back of the chamber wishes her good luck versus the Totem. “It may call in an ally,” he says, “but you may only use one pokemon of your own at a time, so try to balance your attacks.”

She nods, and without further dilly-dallying, steps in.

This area is not as dark and cool as the inner cavern had been; instead, it is lit by the sun, filtering in through a break in the foliage. Rubble lies around the site, blocking a pathway leading upward, but the clearing she stands in now is of relatively large size, large enough for a good battle. At the back edge of the clearing lay a hooded wooden pedestal, with a singular crystal upon its surface — one that looks, as she nears, just like the one Hau received.

She reaches a hand out, but — she draws it back in instantly.

I’m being watched, she thinks, swallowing. Probably the Totem, then. She steels her nerves and reaches out again, fingers brushing against the smooth, chiselled surface of the crystal —

— and jumps back, leaving it behind, when a loud hiss sounds around the clearing. She quickly steps back, eyes widening in surprise as the Totem reveals itself: a Gumshoos, a bit taller than herself, lands on the ground, sending a spiraling miasma of dust up. She coughs and swats her hair from her face, blocking the dust from reaching her eyes with her arm, and with her free hand reaches into her pocket, withdrawing Leavanny’s sticker-clad ball.

She launches the capsule without a word, trying not to inhale more dust, and snaps her fingers a couple times to try and get the show on the road. Leavanny looks back at her with a questioning chirp, and she coughs again, sweeping her arm out and waving it side-to-side, trying to convey that it should try for Leaf Blade. She hacks into her arm, trying to keep the dust from flying up into her mouth.

She hears Leavanny summon Leaf Blade at the moment that the Gumshoos goes for what sounds like Frustration, closing in on the smaller pokemon and getting in a hint at the moment that the blade struck, knocking it back slightly. She orders an X-Scissor, calling out and subsequently causing a coughing fit, and while she hears X-Scissor, she hears other noises as well. She pushes her hair out of her mouth and looks down when she feels something land on her shoe, finding a small, blade-like leaf.

The Totem roars, and while it moves to tackle Leavanny — Cadence screams dodge, dodge! — a Yungoos skitters in from a crevice in the rocky walls, trying for a tackle itself. Her hand twitches to her own Yungoos’ pokeball, but — no, no, she’s not allowed to do that. She grimaces and calls for Leaf Storm, praying that the range of the attack might work to her advantage.

It pays off: the Yungoos goes down easily, if not easy on the eyes, and the Gumshoos gets a hefty dosage of plant-based combat. Leavanny moves again when Cadence asks it for a nice, close-up Leaf Blade, and the Totem responds with a Scary Face. (She almost laughed at that one — really? Golly.) She wipes the dust off of her face and calls for one more Leaf Blade, and — the Totem doesn’t hit back.

It hisses at Leavanny again, who backs off, and almost shamblingly pulls itself to the pedestal, standing next to it. Cadence steps forward, guard up, and watches as the Totem slides its gaze to her and hisses again.

..Ah. She understands, now.

She quietly praises Leavanny, as disappointed as she may be that Yungoos didn’t get a chance to shine, and recalls it, tucking the pokeball back into her pocket. She warily approaches the pedestal again, and when the Gumshoos makes no move at her, she pockets the crystal and thanks the larger pokemon for a chance to test her strength.

On her way back out, she passes by the Skull grunts, who seem to be having an argument: the blue one is quietly screaming at the orange one (darn, forgot his name already) that they shouldn’t have come, and so on and so forth. The Trial Guide nods and congratulates her as she walks by, and when she finally exits the cavern she finds that the sticky heat of noontime has dissolved into the comfortable warmth of evening.

Which means that she just spent four hours in a cave.

Chapter Text

Hala gives her a Z-Ring.

Well, not immediately. First, Ilima leads her back to the city, apologizing for not warning her of the time a trial can take. “Sometimes they take even longer,” he laughs. She doesn’t.

Cadence crosses her arms, but thanks him anyways. He leads her back to the Pokemon Center and congratulates her again, and then tells her to eat something. The clock on the PC reads 4:32. She orders a panini.

She hands her pokeballs to the nurse, who verifies that they belong to her before depositing them in the healing machine. She still doesn’t know how those work, but she’d rather not think about science at the moment — the man at the cafe counter calls her name for her order — and quickly files those thoughts away.

She shoots a text first to Mia (mind meeting me for a match tomorrow? we need practice and you know it so don’t argue) and then to her mother (im alive) before retrieving her pokemon, tucking the capsules back into her pocket. On her way down the street, she eats her panini, and tries to remember how to get to Iki from Kuma Avenue.

Left from Kuma Avenue leads to Honu Drive, and down Honu drive is the bay that she can’t remember the name of, and opposite of the bay is the way home, and next to home is Route 1, and Route 1 leads to Iki. She nods a couple times before following the path, discarding the panini wrap in a trash can along the way.

In the weird gray period between evening and night that is the hour-and-a-half between 4 o’clock and 5:30, she thinks, the sky is prettiest. Clouds are fuzzy and moving sluggishly overhead, slightly grey over the blue-pink-orange-purple of almost-sunset, and the sounds of the city mesh with waves crashing against the beachside below. She slides her headphones off of her ears, turns off her music, and listens to the hustle and bustle for a while.

Her reverie is interrupted when a heavy hand lands on her shoulder. She freezes, bristling, and whoever it is says something about looking for her everywhere, but it’s the wrong name. “Man, Nana, where have you been? Jackson said he couldn’t find you anywhere—” and there’s that name from earlier, in the Verdant Cavern —”and I was like, she’s probably slacking in the city, and oh crap you’re not Nana—” Whoever’s talking is speaking Kantonian, which she understands well enough, but interspersed with some Alolan pidgin and Arceus knows she hasn’t had the time to learn Alolan yet.

The hand on her shoulder lets go and she turns sharply, trying to look mad. The sight she’s greeted with isn’t what she expected: small band of teens, outrageously dyed hair (though the jobs are pretty professional, she’ll give them that), outfits of dirty black and white and cheap leather jackets and the like. She steps back, scowling. “Would it kill you to keep your greasy hands off my sweater?” She asks, and oh-ho, they don’t understand Unovan, by the looks of it. The offender in question makes a face and turns to his goons, who shrug, and he turns back to her looking nervous.

“Look, kid,” oh, great, they probably think she’s twelve or something, “‘m sorry, didn’t mean to scare ya, we’ll go, see ya!” They make a hurried exit, tripping over each other in their haste.

She frowns and keeps walking, but makes a mental note to ask Hau if he’s had as many run-ins with Team Skull as she has. At the rate she’s going now, someone’s probably going to think she’s part of the gang. She tugs on the sleeve of her shirt.

She makes it to her home without further interruption, keeping her eyes up to look out for possible incidents-in-waiting despite there being none. She hesitates before Route 1, and after a moment of thought, turns and heads to her house instead. She steps in, careful about shutting the door quietly, and walks into the kitchen.

… Mom isn’t home.

Cadence gets a glass of water from the fridge, frown deepening. Why isn’t Mom home? She could be out shopping, but she doesn’t like leaving the house when it gets dark. Or she could be at a job interview, she did say she was going to do some of those over the weekend, but it’s only Thursday.

She looks at her message log. Nothing there; she sighs, finishes her water, and resolves to check the Xtransceiver when she gets back, leaving her backpack on the hook in her room. It’s probably nothing.

Back out the door and down Route 1, then. She strolls down the route til she sees the somewhat-familiar wood steps leading to Iki, running up them once she’s close. Hau is immediately within view, running around with his Rowlet and another pokemon — a Pichu, as far as she can tell — while Hala watches from the porch of the house Hau’s fooling around in front of.

She raises her hand in a wave as she jogs over, smiling. Hau looks up — the Pichu tumbles over his shoes — and his face splits into a grin. “Hey, Cade!” he calls, scooping the pokemon into his arms, “How was your trial?”

As she nears, she drops her arm back down to her side. “Went pretty good.” She fumbles around for a second before digging the Z-Crystal from her pocket, extending the crystal toward Hau between her thumb and forefinger. “Team crushed it.” She doesn’t bother to mention that Team Skull showed up not only during her trial but after it as well, but it doesn’t matter. So.

“Oh, awesome, so we both have a Normalium-Z!” Oh, that’s what it’s called. “But you don’t have a Z-Ring yet, right? Hey, Tutu!” He turns and calls out to Hala, and she raises an eyebrow.

Hau calls out something she doesn’t understand — sounds like Alolan words she doesn’t know, she should probably take some time to learn more — when Hala responds, and the kahuna gets off of the wicker chair and heads inside. Hau turns back to her, somehow smiling even brighter, and beckons at her. “Come on, Tutu’s gonna get you a Z-Ring, it’s so cool, you’ll see,” he says, and keeps talking, but Cadence isn’t really listening because she’s trying not to trip over his Pichu.

Hau leads her through the house, down a hall with wide windows that remind her of the dumb old church in Icirrus City, except without the little dragon engravings along the window frame and the weird red sill covers. They come to an office with a warm green carpet, and she stands awkwardly in front of the kahuna, who retrieves a small something-or-other from a shelf behind the office desk and turns to her.

“Here you are, clever girl,” he says, and she blinks, “this is your Z-Ring. I have spent many a night carving these sacred rings from sparkling stones found throughout the islands, thought to be blessed by the Tapu, and I present this one to you now,” he extends the Z-Ring out to her, and she spares a thought that it looks so tiny in his big hand, and then she tries not to laugh, “to commemorate the completion of your first Island Trial.”

Hau smiles at her, excitement clear on his face as she lets Hala pass the ring into her palm. It’s white, speckled with shiny greyish and black flecks. There are grooves painstakingly carved into it, designs that clearly took a lot of work, and she nods a thank-you to the kahuna once she’s done examining it. She loops it around her ankle, because it’s much too big to fit comfortably on her wrist, and slips the Normalium-Z into the notch carved into the front of the ring with a smile.

When she walks back from Iki toward home, she spots an outcropping of rock overlooking the bay. There’s grass there, tall enough that it brushes at her calves and pricks her ankles, with little wildflowers sprinkled throughout. She moves careful enough not to disturb the flowers, tries not to crush the plants beneath the soles of her flip-flops, and stares out at the receding final dregs of light, the black-purple-orange of the night sky settling in. Her phone says it’s about twenty til seven, and she sits down in the grass and watches the waves below.

Something soft brushes by her hand, and she looks to the side to see a curious Pikipek staring at her headphones — oh, the decorative stuff must be reflecting the moonlight, she gathers — and she slowly puts out her hand.

The little bird trills at her and pokes her hand with its beak, and she laughs. “Hi there,” she says, speaking only loud enough to not let her voice mesh into the sound of the waves crashing against rock below, “would you like to come with me?”

It trills again, and she feels around in her pocket for an empty ball, but comes up empty. Darn. “Feel like walking with me?” she asks, moving to stand, “I need to ask Hau for a pokeball.”

When she makes it home, Mom still isn’t there, but Meowth finds her new friend all the same.

Chapter Text

Mom still isn’t home when Cadence wakes up. She crawls out of her bed and reaches up on her tippy-toes, fumbles around, and grabs the Xtransceiver off of the shelf above her desk. No new calls. No new calls since before she got her phone a year and a half back. Her last call is from her dad.

She practically throws the Xtransceiver back into its spot, but tries not to crack the screen. Probably can’t find a new one here, anyways, she’s pretty sure they’re only manufactured in Unova.

She lets her team out for the morning, gives them each something from the berry bowl. Leavanny likes sour berries, but the other two are too new for her to know yet. She just gives them whatever’s on top. She doubts they’ll really mind; it’s not like oran berries are bad-tasting, so.

There’s an envelope on the counter, by the jar of coffee grounds. It’s sealed with a sticker, the way Mom likes to do. Her name’s on it. She frowns.

She opens it. 30,000 Poke and a letter urging her to do her best on the next island. Mom probably made it in advance, in case she couldn’t be there. Probably because of all the interviews she’d been having. Cadence’s face scrunches up, and she puts the envelope down, resealing it. Better to leave it until Mom comes back. Yeah, she’s probably out at an interview.

Lillie appears at the door when breakfast is over, if you can call dejectedly eating fruit next to a bird ‘breakfast.’ “Oh, h-hello, Cadence!” she says, far too chipper for seven in the morning, “Professor Kukui wanted to see you and Hau, if you’re able! I can wait, though,” she tacks on, seemingly realising that it’s only seven.

Cadence nods and leaves Lillie in the doorway, grabbing her flip-flops from their spot under the table and slipping them on. She waves her team to come along with her, and Pikipek settles on her shoulder while Yungoos scurries around her ankles. Leavanny follows by her side, happily chittering about something or other.

Lillie looks surprised to see another pokemon in the other girl’s arsenal, but. No matter. She leads her down and off of the pathway, toward the sandy shores where Professor Kukui’s lab lies. Cadence hops down the shortcut, landing effortlessly on the sand, glancing up at Lillie’s horrified expression shortly afterward and laughing. Mia used to be that way, too. “How on earth do you land a five-foot jump so easily?” She’d always ask, terrified at the prospect.

Practice, Miriam,” she’d always respond, turning tail and running shortly after. Mia would always scream at her for that.

Lillie, however shaken she might be, leads Cadence down the rest of the way. Her pokemon follow around her, playing amongst themselves in the sand. The moment she gets within a twenty-foot radius of the lab, they hear Kukui yelling something — she doesn’t really pay attention, but Lillie looks scandalised, so it’s probably not great — and then a crash and a bang, and then they notice Hau looking in through the window. She recalls her team and slips the capsules into her pocket, heading up the wood stairs.

“Rockruff just tackled the Professor!” he exclaims, and Lillie grumbles. Apparently, it isn’t the first time.

Cadence just steps up to the door and grabs at the handle. Better to get it over with so she can go back home and sleep until Mom gets back. She stops, though, when Hau asks, “Whoa, Cade, did you just get out of bed, or what?”

“Yeah, basically,” she says, turning back to face him. Fuzzy red frames her vision, and she laments not brushing her hair.

“Oh, my gosh,” Lillie stumbles over her words, “I’m really sorry! I could have waited, if you needed it..!”

Cadence opens the door to the lab. “It’s okay. I don’t mind.” She prepares herself for instant noise.

The door opens to Professor Kukui letting himself get pummeled by the little dog, who yaps and wags its tail like nothing’s wrong with the situation. It’s not bothersome, really, but the more that Rockruff scrabbles across the floor, the more noise is made, and, well, she did just wake up. She winces, but leans over Kukui’s counter all the same, waiting for him to finish his squabble.

Lillie inhales sharply. “Professor! You need to stop doing that!” She starts fussing about his lab coat, insisting that he stops, grovelling about needing to mend it again, and Cadence and Hau simply sit and watch.

After a minute or two, the Professor retrieves something from the counter. Hau’s eyes light up, so she turns and looks: it’s a red plastic case.

“Not just any red plastic case, oh yeah,” Kukui says, grinning, and Hau grins ever wider. “This here is soon to be a Rotom-Dex!” Obviously, she doesn’t know what that is, so he continues. “Once there’s a Rotom inside of this, it’ll function just like a pokedex, except it can function almost like a smartphone as well! Plus,” he says, and Cadence thinks Hau might explode next to her, “Rotom’s just like a partner for you! It’ll be able to communicate with you through the dex. Except, it doesn’t take up a spot on your team!”

Hau looks so excited about it, and it isn’t hard to tell that Kukui’s offering the thing to her. So, she makes a decision.

“Uh, my cross-transceiver has a pokedex on it,” okay, that’s a half-lie, but she can probably download the Alolan dex onto it, “so I think Hau should get the, uh, Rotom-Dex.” The words taste strange in her mouth, but whatever. “It’ll probably be happier to work with someone who’s better at jokes than I am, anyways,” she says, lightly jabbing Hau with her elbow to try and prove the point.

Hau gives her a side-hug, practically yelling his thanks into her ear. She doesn’t mind, really, but she’s tired. “It’s cool, it’s fine, go get your robot,” she says, waving him off.

Cadence watches a Rotom gleefully zip past them and into the plastic casing, past the long tank where two Luvdisc float happily. It powers up with the Rotom equivalent of a smile, and Hau sets it up with ease. He looks happy.

Eventually, they make it out of Kukui’s lab. They head back up the beachside without Lillie, who insisted on staying back to help mend the Professor’s lab coat, and Cadence lets her team out to walk again. Hau gasps, and she snaps her gaze to him. “What?”

“You already have three? Wow, Cade, that’s amazing! Is it, like, hard to take care of them?”

“Uh, no? I just got Pikipek yesterday. I’m still trying to think of nicknames for them.”

“Oh, that’s why you asked me for a pokeball last night?” She nods. “Wow, okay! I just have Rowlet and my Pichu. They’re the best teammates I could ask for!”

“That’s good. Are you gonna nickname yours?” He shakes his head. “Oh, okay. I was thinking I’d name my Yungoos Hypatia — you know, like the old philosopher? — but I’m not too sure about Pikipek yet. She’s very clumsy, though. Ooh, what if I named her Pandora?”

They talk about nicknames on the walk back up from the beachside, until she snaps her fingers, hit by a sudden thought — “Hey, how would you like to sit in on a match with me and Mia? She’s got pokemon you’ve probably never seen,” she adds, grinning, and he nods. It’s not like he’s seen every pokemon there is to see, but he’s certainly never seen more than two or three Unovan pokemon other than Stoutland.

Mia’s house is right near hers, same as it was in Anville. Except for the fact that Mia’s house in Anville was two stories and next to the old ruined church that Team Plasma used to squat at sometimes — Damien always called it a haunting — and Mia’s house here in Hau’Oli is one story and next to a school. And it's a different color, and the roof shingles are different, and the grass is all neat-clipped and bright green instead of murky, and the driveway is white instead of painted with all their fun doodles from over the years, but it's okay because they aren't in Anville anymore, are they?

The windows are lined with asphodel (but Cadence rather likes calling them onionweeds, because it’s funnier) and the walls are a washed-out dark grey, just like how Matt’s side of his and Mia’s room back in Anville looked. She knocks on the door, Hau hot on her heels, and Mia opens it seconds later with a frown.

“You interrupt my nap demanding that I train with you,” she begins, looking down her nose at Cadence, “you don’t even give me a time to plan for, and then you just show up at my house in pajamas?” Mia pauses for a few seconds before grinning. “Sounds just like you. C’mon, Matt’s sleeping, come to the backyard.”

On the grass out back, Hau stands in as referee on the patio as Mia and Cadence take their places. Mia sends out her Watchog immediately, and Cadence brings out Leavanny, and the match starts.

Mia whistles short and low, and the shorter pokemon rushes across the yard, baring its teeth for a super fang. The taller girl grins when Cadence calls for a dodge, directing Leavanny to slide behind and go for X-Scissor.

“Playing dirty as usual, huh?” Cadence jabs, still smiling, “Leaf Storm!”

Mia whistles higher. Cadence knows that one well; Crunch. The Watchog lunges and bites into one of Leavanny’s arm-covering leaves, not enough to break the fibers but enough to leave a mark. Leavanny retaliates with a Fell Stinger at Cadence’s behest, jabbing into the other pokemon’s leg.

Hau watches the two pokemon exchange moves and blows, working effortlessly in an attempt to prove themself to their trainer. He’s perplexed by Mia’s whistled commands, but he’s heard of Trainers who can command their pokemon with their minds alone, so perhaps it isn’t too far out of left field. Cadence and Mia bicker back and forth, just having fun, until Leavanny knocks Watchog down with a final Fell Stinger. Hau calls it a moment after it happens.

Mia nods, recalls her fallen teammate, and throws out another ball. Cadence lights up, but Hau doesn’t recognise what it is.

“Leavanny, hit Simisage with a good, old fashioned X-Scissor!” She directs, grinning ear to ear, and Hau’s Rotom-Dex floats out of his backpack to snap a picture. It pulls up the pokedex entry for him, narrating out loud over the battle.

Ill tempered, it fights by swinging its barbed tail around wildly. The leaf growing on its head is very bitter.” Hau nods, then looks at the monkey in question. Mia whistles something low and long, and Cadence frantically begs Leavanny to dodge, eyes wide. He doesn’t understand until he sees it.

Light gathers in front of Simisage, pulsating and bright, and Hau has to bring his hand up to shield his eyes. He hears Cadence scream, “Evade it! Evade it!” and the subsequent sound of Leavanny thudding onto the ground, well and beaten. He blinks a couple times and brings his hand back down, then clears his throat.

“Uh. Whoa. Uh, Leavanny is no longer able to battle,” he says, and Cadence slips the capsule back into her pocket and throws out Pikipek.

“I can’t believe you seriously pulled out Hyper Beam now of all times,” Cadence says, crossing her arms. “Pikipek, Echoed Voice!”

Cadence calls for Echoed Voice a couple more times after that, layering its power, asking the little bird to evade Simisage’s attacks all the while. The bird is small and much more nimble than the larger monkey, and Simisage appears incredibly tired by the Hyper Beam. If Hau looks closely, he thinks he can see it stumbling — the beam must have taken quite a bit out of it.

Cadence wins with a final Peck, and Mia thanks her Simisage for all of its hard work. Pikipek gets praised and called back in, the two girls shake hands, and then Cadence’s phone rings.

Chapter Text

Miriam Fletcher is not a miracle-worker, but she can try her hardest.

She kicks Matt awake and tells him that they have company, so he has to be the one to tend to Gran while she takes care of their guests. He can grumble all he wants, but she’s always been better about delegating tasks. Besides, he’d have to wake up anyway.

She stirs hot cocoa powder into the water, whisking the spoon back and forth, the clinking of metal against ceramic flooding the kitchen, filling in the empty spots left by her friend’s endless train of “yes, of course, I understand.” From what she can gather, Cadence’s aunt said something about someone being back. Probably Cade’s cousin, she decides, and leaves it at that.

She has to lean down a little bit to drop the marshmallows in, and again to set the mug next to Cadence on the coffee table. The girl looks altogether too tired, and Mia’s mind wanders to the little bird who incapacitated her Simisage. Cadence had mentioned another teammate, as well, over text a few days back. Perhaps that’s why she looked so sluggish.

Mia’s gaze slides to the shorter girl, hunched over and nodding as her aunt speaks to her over the phone. She doesn’t listen, of course, but she worries. She always worries, though; nothing else is new.

Well, Hau is new. He seems like a replacement Damien, if she’s being honest — he’s the inverse of the other boy in all but personality. Damien is quiet and withdrawn where this boy is loud and brash; he’s familiar and soft-spoken whereas this boy is anything but.

She’s cut from her thoughts when Cadence sits back, jostling the cushions on the couch. “Yes, auntie, I get it. No, she didn’t tell me… auntie, please.” She sighs. “Auntie, I kn— Aunt Priscilla if you would please. No I did not know about the Aether foundation. Mom said she was just going to interviews.” She wrinkles her nose and leans forward, continuing, “And I did not know about Team Neo Plasma, either! Don’t blame me for the green-haired man in your house! It’s probably Blair’s stupid boyfriend!”

… Mia stops listening.

“Hey, uh, Mia, right?” Hau’s talking to her now, fingers laced. “Uh, can I talk to you about that battle?”

Oh, right. She nods.

“So, like… how did you get that good? How did your pokemon learn Hyper Beam? Did it take a lot out of you? How many times have you battled? Do you—” She winces. The kid talks pretty fast.

“I went to school in Nimbasa, next to the Battle Subway, so I spent a lot of time there,” she answers. “Damien and I used to participate in the Super Double train rounds.”

“Who’s Damien?”

Cadence picks that moment to end the call with her aunt, placing her phone on the table and thrusting a decorative pillow into her face. Mia half-expects her to scream, but she just grumbles about her Aunt Priscilla and her apparent need to know everything about Cadence’s involvement with her mother’s job search.

She puts the pillow back, picks her phone back up, and makes another call.

“Hi, yes, is this the Aspertia Trainer’s School and Gym?” Mia blinks. That’s the gym that replaced the Nacrene Museum, right? And then after that, Humilau Gym replaced the Striaton restaurant, so people had no reason to really go southeast…

“This is Cadence Whitaker. No, I uh — I’m in Alola right now, I just — could you put Cheren up for me? It’s about the Champion. No, not Iris.” A sigh. “Not Alder. Blair Whitaker? Conqueror of Plasma, or whatever?”

Mia clears her throat and looks back at Hau. “Damien is one of our friends. He lives further into the city.”

“Ohh, okay! Is he in Cade’s band?”

Mia preens at this one. “Yeah. He does drums. I am, too. I play guitar.”

“— for Arceus’ sake could you please call him, your calls always get through but mine don’t and for all I know he could be in Orre and you know that that region is a wasteland, they only have reception in Agate — no, I don’t care that you have a scheduled League match!” Mia winces and taps Cadence on the shoulder, who cringes and whispers an apology before sneaking a sip of the cooled-down hot chocolate in front of her.

“Yeah, he was in Kalos a couple days ago. Probably left already. Just call him, please. No, I can’t have my dad do it,” she says into the microphone, voice dripping with bitterness. “Have a good day, Cheren. Sorry for bothering you.” She ends the call and stands up. “I’m bored. Let’s go train.”

Hau frowns, jarring Mia a bit — she’s only known him for about forty-five minutes and a frown already seems wrong on him — and stands up too. “I mean, if you’re up for it, let’s go! But… is everything okay?”

Cadence smiles. “It’s all good. Just, you know, my mom casually forgets to tell me that she’s out preparing for a job on a manmade island with no cell reception, calls my aunt from a landline to get my aunt to tell me, and then my aunt also springs on me that hey, guess what? Blair’s stupid boyfriend is back home, and lucky me, I’m the only person who’s talked to him lately! So I phone Cheren, the worst of Blair’s friends, and it’s like … sorry for calling you at two in the afternoon!” She keeps grumbling, and Hau taps Mia on the arm.

“Since when does the Champion of Unova have a boyfriend?”

She sighs.

Mia doesn’t come with them to train. She says that Gran needs her medicine, which is only half true; Gran had her medicine already, and of course she’s perpetually in need of it, but she doesn’t need it now. Mia’s just tired.

Matt pours himself a mug of coffee and smiles at her. “Have fun?”

“Company is tiring,” she replies, brushing out Simisage’s fur. Watchog titters around the coffee table, waiting its turn. She smoothes back the leaf on the top of Simisage’s head. “I like Cade’s new friend, but he practically saps half my energy every time he breathes.”

“Tough,” Matt replies, pouring creamer into the mug. “So has Cade gotten better at battling?”

“Kind of?” She stops short of Simisage’s arm with the brush, looking up to her brother. “I mean, she still doesn’t have a strategy, but.” Mia returns to brushing, pausing for a few moments to think. “She got new partners. Two in the past few days. She was doing pretty well, didn’t even seem that worse off. Simisage… takes a lot out of me, but that might just be me.”

Matt sits down on the couch and loudly slurps at his coffee. “She probably doesn’t even know anything about Trainer’s Bonds and stuff. You remember when we found her mom’s lesson plans that time? It was literally just language and philosophy.”

“Yeah, but her dad was the scientist, so,” she trails off.

“But Dr. Whitaker took off a couple years ago, right?” Matt prods, kicking back and putting his feet up on the table. Simisage makes a face and bats at his legs.

“Right,” she replies, whistling at the grass monkey to get its attention again. “I doubt she’ll be able to handle much more than the three she has now. I mean, Leavanny’s not especially high-energy, but the other two have to be something to adjust to, right?”

Matt nods. “I mean, it didn’t take long for Leavanny to evolve, but, like… the Leavanny line doesn’t take long in general. You just have to take good care of them.”

“Right, right.”

“... I think I’m gonna catch an Alolan Rattata. They’re Dark types, did you know that?”

“You’re so edgy,” Mia responds, recalling Simisage and beckoning Watchog over. She starts brushing its fur too, continuing, “but no, I didn’t. Apparently the Raichu here have a Psychic secondary type, though. Isn’t that something?”

“Electric and Psychic is a good combo,” Matt says, dumping his mug into the sink. “But Pichu take a lot of upkeep before they evolve, and then you have to get your hands on a Thunderstone.”

“True, true. Plus, evolution rates are probably different here, right?” Mia recalls Watchog shortly after, placing its capsule on the table next to the flower vase. She stands and picks up the empty hot chocolate mug, dumping it in the sink. “Because of all the environmental differences, I mean.”

“Probably.”

On the sand beside the Melemele Sea, Cadence and her Yungoos stare down Hau and his Rowlet. Rowlet ruffles its wings before going in for a Peck on Hau’s command, and Cadence calls for a dodge and roll with an easygoing smile.

“Alright, Yungoos,” she chirps, cracking her knuckles, “let’s try something new!”

She stretches downward, righting the Z-Bracelet on her ankle. Hau points and orders another Peck, calling out, “Go on, Rowlet! While she isn’t looking!”

She raises her arms outward as she stands back up, moving them shortly afterward into the Z-Pose for Breakneck Blitz, a quick and fluid dance. “Alright, Yungoos! Give it all you’ve got!”

Hau realises his mistake only in the moment, as Yungoos dashes forward with a speed it hadn’t displayed prior, barrelling towards Rowlet and kicking up a veritable blight of sand. He shields his eyes with his arm, but he hears the dull thud of Rowlet landing on the sand and Yungoos’ victorious hiss afterward.

He recalls Rowlet with a murmur of praise, thanking it for doing its best. Cadence stands opposite him, hands splayed in front of her, eyes wide, smile bright. Yungoos skitters back toward her, running around her ankles. For a couple seconds, it feels like light is rising from the sands below, casting her shorts in bright white. Hau’s still unsure as to why she uses the Z-Ring like an anklet, but Kalea puts hers around her ponytail, so.

“That felt amazing,” she says, as her hands shake. She jogs towards him, places her hands on his shoulders, and says, “I absolutely cannot believe that Unova doesn’t have this. Unova should have this. This feels incredible!” She gasps. “I should write a song! Oh my gosh. I’ll call it — wait, hold on, I know — uh —”

He isn’t exactly listening. He’s looking over her shoulder at the Gumshoos trailing behind her, eyes closed and triumphantly smiling as it walks.

Chapter Text

Til she steps foot on the asphalt, she feels energy wash over her in wave, starting at the point where the Z-Ring connects with the flesh of her ankle and ending at her fingertips, buzzing just beneath her skin.

Her foot leaves the sand and connects with the gravel and she feels herself deflate, feels a weight beneath her eyes and a pull on her stomach. Gumshoos walks diligently behind her, paws clasped behind its back, head held high, a triumphant smile playing on its face. Hau looks less pleased and more concerned.

She makes it home without incident.

———

Cadence wakes to the sound of the TV on in the living room, and deduces instantly that either her mother is home or someone broke in. Neither are ideal situations — the former because she’s mad at her mother, the latter because she’s not good at hand-to-hand combat — but she climbs out of her bed and slinks toward the kitchen area anyways, because she feels the need to investigate. Her limbs feel like lead as she drags herself down the hall, and she realises bemusedly that her pajamas are sand-crusted.

The intruder is not, in fact, a burglar, but they’re certainly not her mother. Her mother doesn’t wear white. It looks horrible on her.

“Oh, sweetie! You’re up!”

Nevermind. Her mother does wear white. Still looks horrible, though.

“Why are you wearing that.” It’s less of a question than it is a demand.

“It’s my uniform,” she says, and when Cadence narrows her eyes she adds, “for work!”

“Whatever,” she replies, and rummages around in the fridge, absently searching for a breakfast. There’s nothing, though, because her mother was gone for three days and she just ate whatever was lying around, so she closes the fridge with a frown.

“I’m gonna go get takeout,” she announces, ignoring the fact that she’s still in her pajamas, and her mother laughs.

“Really? At eight?” She snorts and changes the channel on the television. “All right. Have fun, honey.”

Cadence tries not to think about the fact that she slept for roughly seventeen hours, and shuts the door behind her. She checks the mailbox — postcard from Aunt Priscilla — and turns on her heel, walking into town.

The guy at the register sniffs at her, the corner of his mouth quirked up. “You lost, kid?”

She wordlessly hands him the money and makes to slide her headphones over her ears, but they aren’t there, so she just combs at her hair. The clerk makes noise about her total and hands her a plastic bag full of food, and she pockets the money and slings the straps of the bag over her elbow.

She sits at a bench on the beach and eats, tapping her feet on the sand in a pattern. Slips a hand into her pocket, feeling for the familiar ever-cool not-plastic of sticker-coated pokeballs, but none are there. Her team is resting soundly at home. She is by herself.

She quits the beach and leaves her garbage in a bin, resting her hands in her pockets and pulling a stray hair band from the left with which she ties her bird’s nest. She walks aimlessly all the way through the now-familiar roads, all which lead to Iki Town and decides, spur-of-the-moment, that she will challenge Hala to the next Island Trial.

Not now, of course. She’s far too tired. But later. For now, she walks the route to Iki and sings under her breath for lack of her headphones, the same few stanzas from a song the name of which she cannot recall. Something something clowns were my boss at every job I ever had, a song that always makes her chuckle but that she always has to substitute the cuss words out of. She always likes to harmonize with the recording, because her voice sounds similar to the singer —

Her ankles brush against the papery grass at the steps to Iki, the rubber soles of her flip-flops crushing stray weeds to the dirt. She passes through, same as every other day she has, and stops in front of Hau’s grandfather’s house to knock on the door only for the boy himself to open it, turned the other way, nodding at someone. He steps on her foot at the moment she moves to step back, and she makes a noise of general discomfort.

He whirls around. “Oh, Cade!” He punctuates it with a lopsided smile, and she smiles back.

“Uh, afternoon,” she says, “is Hala in there, or..? I wanted to talk about scheduling.”

“Sounds boring,” he replies instantly. She raises her eyebrows. “Well, he’s there, but I’m gonna head toward Route 2 for some battling and stuff!” Hau fist-pumps before bidding her adieu, calling behind him that she can join if she wants.

She walks through the halls again, skin sticky from the heat, uncombed hair wiry against her neck. The Z-Ring bumps against her ankle, her fingers trail along the wall, and she hums to herself until she reaches the Kahuna’s office room, knocking on the threshold before letting herself in.

He greets her warmly, with a smile that reminds her a little too much of her father. “Ah, hello, Cadence. What brings you here?”

“Mom came back so I decided to make myself useful,” she answers blandy. “Prob’ly gonna leave again, though. You think we can schedule that Grand Trial thingy?”

“I believe we could,” he responds, as Cadence plops herself into one of the wicker chairs. “When were you thinking?”

———

In retrospect, “as soon as possible” may not have been the brightest answer, but hindsight is twenty-twenty.

Her headphones are still crooning sweet nothings into her ears — currently, it’s a recording of one of her jam sessions; she hears herself and Mia singing together, her own voice refined while Mia simply sings for the fun of it, “but I want you to know—

Two beats pass, and then the guitar and drums start up again, I know a guy who knows a guy who knows just where to find you, said he saw you hiding out right near the cove—

Hala begins with a Mankey, and Cadence responds with Pikipek, who preens the moment it’s released but quickly springs into a ready stance. Not quite yet able to hold itself in the air, but capable of speedy movement, and with a type advantage to boot: definitely a good cornerstone. Of course, she expects Hala to have prepared for a fine match, so.

The Kahuna orders Pursuit, a dark-type move, and she grins through her order to dodge and peck, as many times as it can get in. The larger pokemon moves with a purpose and direction that Pikipek doesn’t quite yet have, but Pikipek is agile and quick and gets a hit in anyways. Mankey hits it out of its position just above the raised platform afterwards, though, and the little bird skids back and huffs out an indignant squawk.

You remember when we used to play together? I don’t, but I know a guy who says you do—

Hala calls for another Pursuit, and Mankey moves faster than the first time. Cadence frantically gestures to the side, calling for a dodge-and-roll — she expects Leavanny’s evasiveness and agility, but receives Pikipek’s speed and weightlessness, so the maneuver becomes moot as the little bird strains and lifts itself a little higher, barreling away. She blinks and points, calling to push the pig-monkey away with Echoed Voice, smiling despite the frenzy.

The smaller bird knocks Mankey off of its course with a well-aimed Echoed Voice, but Hala responds in kind: he recalls Mankey as the attack hits and sends out a pokemon that Cadence has to take a moment to identify. A yellow, bun-like creature, a Makuhita. She nods at Pikipek, who glances back at her, and asks it to crush it, if you would kindly. A bit cocky, sure, but she feels good about it.

Pikipek dives in with a Peck, and the Makuhita blocks it with an Arm Thrust. It does little to dispel the Pikipek besides simple pushing it back, and so Pikipek dives in again, aiming at first for Makuhita’s belly but Cadence calls up, up! and it barrels toward the bigger pokemon’s head, hitting directly.

She fist-pumps in the air at the moment the Makuhita uses Fake Out, point-blank slapping Pikipek and making it flinch, and in that moment the other pokemon uses Arm Thrust, and Pikipek skids across the surface of the platform.

Cadence grimaces and recalls the pokemon, patting its capsule before tossing out Leavanny. Information runs by in split-second bursts: Bug-types have a half-resistance to Fighting-types, but Fighting-types have the same for Bugs; Leavanny is a secondary Grass-type, so it can still deal normal damage, meaning it has a one-and-a-half bonus.

She asks Leavanny to use X-Scissor, and Makuhita goes down surprisingly easy. She attributes it to a critical hit and moves on. Hala sends the Mankey back out, who bristles at the sight of Cadence but follows Hala’s orders nonetheless. It’s weak, though, and can only take so many hits.

Leavanny uses Leaf Blade twice in a row, withstands a Karate Chop from its opponent, and downs Mankey with a final Fell Stinger. Cadence whoops in excitement, and Leavanny exudes an aura of victory, until Hala sends out his last teammate.

Honestly, Cadence didn’t expect a third, but still.

Her Xtransceiver’s illegally-downloaded pokedex information tells her that it’s a Crabrawler, and she peers at it from her place across the platform. It has an aura of smugness radiating from it, and she steels her gaze.

“All right, Leavanny, let’s go for a Fell Stinger!” Cadence directs, and Leavanny moves quickly. From there the Crabrawler stays still, peering up at Leavanny as it gets closer. Leavanny hits it with Fell Stinger.

A moment passes, and Leavanny moves in closer for a Leaf Blade, and the crab rears backward before slamming its pincer into the bug with impressive force, in a much more audacious form of Power-Up Punch. Cadence’s eyes widen as the bug thuds to the wooden planks, not beaten yet but surely hurt, and she recalls it for the sake of her own worries. She flicks her wrist and sends out Gumshoos, shoving down the thought that comes to mind about how weak Normal-types are to Fighting-types, and asks it to use Pursuit. She and Hala call for Pursuit at the same moment, in fact, and she thinks it would be much funnier if only Crabrawler wasn’t so strong—

— Gumshoos gets the hit in anyways, pushing the crab down, and Cadence quickly asks it for a second. It hits the Crabrawler again, and Hala retaliates with a Power-Up Punch. This one comes quicker than the first, and Cadence’s heart squeezes as she sees the punch make contact with Gumshoos.

She, as speedily as she possibly can, recalls Gumshoos, sends out Pikipek, and asks it to Pluck the larger pokemon. Pikipek moves noiselessly and quickly, and Cadence thinks for a moment that it seems like some sort of assassination attempt. The smaller bird knocks into the crab with its beak, and Cadence shouts peck!

The battle is over soon after that. Pikipek is struggling, but it gets in a second Peck after Crabrawler lunges at it — the attack is sluggish, and misses Pikipek by a centimeter. The bird is equally sluggish, though, if not moreso, and takes a moment to right itself before barreling towards the crab in a last-ditch attempt to land a hit.

Crabrawler goes down without further fight. Cadence praises her teammate for all its hard work, smoothes down the feathers on its head, and recalls it with a promise to take them all to the Pokemon Center as soon as she can. Hala does similarly before walking towards her, steps heavy but disposition summery and kind. He extends a hand to her, and she makes to shake it before noticing the reddish-orange crystal in his palm.

She glances up questioningly. “This for me?”

The Kahuna laughs, though not unkindly. “Right you are, my girl,” he says, and she notices for a moment he sounds quite tired, “this here is Fightinium-Z. It is a crystalized form of the essence of Fighting-types, and you have proven your mettle in battle, and thus deserve it.”

She gingerly takes the crystal from him before shaking his hand, then peers down at the prism. She blinks, thinking for a moment of where to keep it, before her hand comes to a rest on her Stardust bag.

She slips the crystal into the velvety bag, feels the smooth surface of the prism collide with the silky grains of Stardust, and pulls the blue bag closed.

Her headphones are playing something else, now, but she calls to mind the lyrics of the dumb song she and Mia made up that summer: and I know I said I wouldn’t call, but I know a guy who knows a guy who said he knew where to find you, and I just wanted to say—

Her Xtransceiver rings. She looks down at it in surprise, and finds a call from the Aspertia Gym.

— that I still think you’re pretty nice, but I wonder if you know a guy?

Chapter Text

The ferry chases the shadows across the water, blue tinted grey, sand beneath turned funnelling silt and rock. Above, the sky — lilac-gold-white, sun tinged red at the edges, rising just so that Cadence can feel the heat on her back, bare for the first time in a good while — and around, ocean and ocean as far as the eye can see. The ferry is small; not uncomfortably so, but she’s still unused to boats, and as such her steps rock with the waves, her free hand trembles at her side.

Her left hand holds her phone; her right hand, only air. It clenches sometimes, others she rubs the edge of her thumbnail over her palms or her index finger, just sharp enough to feel the edge but dulled by coats of nail polish, hot pink and shiny. A baggy tank top, printed with Swirlix designs that have since faded, rubbed away by the washing machine back home. Back home, back in Anville.

She speaks in low voices with a man whose name doesn’t stay on her tongue; he says it warmly each time she asks him to repeat it because he doesn’t mind but she does. She knows part of it — Gropius, rhymes with Tropius — but she’s less concerned about his name than she is his own self. He’s much older than her, but he doesn’t speak condescendingly. He reminds her of Aunt Priscilla, with his fast way of speaking and his soft, gentle tones.

He starts talking about Blair, halfway into their call, so she listens.

Her headphones and the rest of her stuff — one backpack, full of her day-to-day stuff; one big tote bag, packed with carefully folded clothes and hygiene things and her Xtransceiver — lie in the cabin, where Lillie is, if she’s not in the bathroom or something. Her red hair is still bright, starting to fade as it may be. Her roots, dirt-brown and unflattering, are starting to grow back, but they fade nicely into the red, so she doesn’t mind.

The guy — who she just had to ask the name of again — says that he’s been searching for himself, but along the way he started looking for Blair, too. He says that he was last in Oblivia, a region Cadence has never been to, and oh it’s lovely, she should visit sometime, he’d take her if she wanted to, and that he came back to Unova shortly after because he felt homesick.

She understands.

Her hand rests over the railing; over, not on, because it’s cold and wet and she’d rather not, thank you kindly. Her fingers curl just around it but not onto the metal, and she rocks unsteadily by it. The sea sprays onto her shoes, and the sand comes with it, sometimes.

Her teammates — her teammates; isn’t that something? — rest safely and soundly in their pokeballs, in her tote bag. Leavanny’s ball, plastered with a fresh coat of stickers, sits front and center as always it does, but now it’s framed on either side by some more friends. At the back of her mind there is a constant buzz — when they are out in the open it lessens to a pulse; when they are released she feels not a buzz but a rush of contentment-understanding-hope from somewhere other than herself, and she conquers.

The sun climbs steadily, lazily, over the sky; the ferry coasts smoothly, speedily. It seeks the warm harbor of Akala, it craves the red-orange rocks and the golden brown sands as advertised by the brochure she read. The man on the phone croons something over the speaker, apologizes, says he was speaking to the Pidove, and she just blinks and says “alright” because it’s not unheard of. She stifles a yawn — he asks her quietly if she’s slept, she says “yeah, why,” he says it’s ten in Unova and she blinks hard. He takes her silence as a question and says oh, yes, well it’s the twenty-third if you didn’t know that either, I wouldn’t hold it against you and he chuckles. It’s five in the morning, her phone tells her, as she stares down in indignation.

At five in the morning Cadence is fifteen years old, fifteen years old in Alola without her father or her mother. Fifteen years old without her bandmates — Damien would probably have gotten her another troll doll the way he does every year — which is a feat in itself; fifteen years old without her Leavanny (or the others) next to her. She’s fifteen now and doesn’t feel a thing. June twenty-third, isn’t that wild?

Lillie laughs from a few feet away — Cadence blankly wonders when she came out — and holds her hand just over her smile. “Oh, look,” she says. “Is that Hau on the waves? That’s so silly!” She sounds tired, she looks tired, but the sea sprays just so over her dress (is that the same dress as the day before?) and makes her whitish locks gold in the sunrise. It is Hau, on the waves; he’s perched on the back of what looks like a Mantine, dodging rocks and Tentacool, performing flips and turns. He looks to be having the time of his life.

Aunt Priscilla yells over the tinny phone speaker, demands she get some sleep, asks if she’s eaten, demands she sleep once more. The man bids her a goodbye with a laugh and a smile in his voice — his name comes to mind belatedly, after she’s already said the customary see-you-later-dude — and the call clicks off. Her phone screen stays black for a moment before opening to her lockscreen, a picture of Leavanny with a dumb Houndoom filter.

She slides her phone into her pocket; crosses her wrists, flexes her hands, leans back and then back further, springing forth the k-k-k-k-k of her back cracking. Lillie jolts at the edge of her vision, but returns to gazing across the ocean. Cadence rights herself and bends down, resting her cheek against the cold wetness of the metal railing.

“Good morning,” she says, mouth pushing against the rail. Lillie looks over and — gosh, she looks so tired, did she sleep? — smiles.

“Good morning,” Lillie says back, and Cadence notices for the first time that oh, she’s not wearing her hat. She looks lovely without it hiding her face.

Seawater plink-plink-plinks against the railing, sprays on in an onomatopoeia she can’t quite think of now. Not now, when she’s tired and been talking for hours. Too early, too early.

Cadence leaves to sleep, sluggish steps thudding across the deck and back toward the cabin. Lillie gazes out toward the sea again, taking in the blue-green-white of early morning waves, Hau skates in and out of view, on the edge of waves; she wonders, briefly, what sort of devil possessed him to make him want to voluntarily choose Mantine Surfing over taking the trip in a boat. Akala Island skirts on the edge of the horizon, red-orange-yellow around the purple-tinged morning sky.

Five turns to six.

For Lillie, blue is the color of freedom. Blue is the stain of ink on sterile white, blue is the smell of cleaner on tile, blue is the ocean’s gaping maw, wide and large and hungry. Blue swallows and meshes with red, spilling purple onto the side of the boat, rust and salt. She yawns, covers her mouth with a dainty hand.

Morning comes and the ferry slots into its spot on the dock.

Chapter Text

Cadence downs a can of Monster and tosses the can into her tote, hefting the strap further over her shoulder and humming. Her headphones, the band pressing against the back of her neck and the speakers rubbing against her jaw, blasting a Galarian single from a couple years back. Lillie walks ahead of her, hat firmly on her head, same crossbody bag as usual.

The Professor is ahead, next to a sopping-wet Hau and across from a lady Cadence doesn’t know. She’s tall, tan, and muscular, and Cadence gives herself a second to be awestruck before looking at the next person, a shorter and younger-looking girl with green hair. She raises her eyebrows as she walks towards them, falling into step beside Lillie.

When they meet the group, Nebby pokes its head out of the bag, and Lillie inadvertently makes a show out of hissing at the pokemon and forcing it back into the duffel. Kukui claps a hand on her shoulder and tells her not to sweat it, all while Hau just giggles.

The lady introduces herself as Olivia, and her voice reminds Cadence of the rumbling of rocks over a hill — she thinks briefly of Mistralton Cave — and the younger girl introduces herself as Mallow, a Trial Captain. Cadence has to fight the urge to ask her where she got her overalls as Olivia explains that she came to check who was pulling into the port, and ran into Mallow while she was out on a delivery.

Mallow grins, stepping forward. “Yep! My trial will be the chance for all the fine ingredients that make up your team to shine!” She catches Hau and Cadence’s gazes and squints a bit, before continuing with, “Especially you two! You look like you’re ready to cook with gas.”

Hau smiles wide at that, while Olivia talks. “Mallow isn’t the only captain here on Akala, of course,” she says, and Cadence lifts her eyebrows. One on Melemele, more than one on Akala — probably increasing every island, then. Or something.

“So, what’s your plan now?” Olivia asks, facing them directly.

The redhead blinks, opening her mouth to say well I was gonna get breakfast when Kukui interrupts, “Yeah, that’s up to these kids. It’s their island challenge, after all!” He laughs, spurring the taller woman into a slight chuckle.

“Yes.. I suppose so.” She shifts her hand to rest on her hip, continuing, “Enjoy your time on your Island Challenge, kids, along with your pokemon. I’ll be waiting for my chance to face you in battle when that time comes.” She nods as Cadence blinks hard, continuing, “I’m looking forward to seeing what you’ve got!”

She gestures at Mallow, who hops backwards and gives a wide wave before jogging ahead, leaving Olivia to follow behind her. Cadence turns to Kukui, eyes wide. The professor laughs, “I’m sure she just wanted to see to it that you made it here alright. But she’d never admit it to you! Hah!”

Hau pipes up from beside him, “Miss Olivia’s the Kahuna here! She comes to Tutu’s big fancy dinners sometimes.” ‘Big fancy dinner’ is the part that stays in Cadence’s mind, of course. She wants one of those tonight. Maybe sushi. “The trial captains usually come, too, but I only see Mallow every now and then,” Hau continues. He’s still dripping water onto the ground.

“You’re dripping,” Cadence comments, and Hau blinks fast before looking down and laughing.

They end up walking around Heahea’s effective main street, filled with little shops and booths. A lot of the cultural influence around this part, Cadence notices, is closer to being strictly Alolan, while on Melemele it was touristy things from many other regions. Buildings in Heahea are less modernized, too; she smiles because of that: living in ever-changing, tourist-filled Unova has made her bitter to the industry’s effects, whether she realised it immediately or not.

She comes upon an apparel shop early-on, and in spite of her bad luck in Melemele drags Lillie inside with her. She tugs her bags along as well (perhaps she should look into an actual travelling bag? Mom did give her a good sum of money) and stampedes through the store, looking at this and that and the other thing. Lillie, as excited as she is to be there, mostly smiles and nods.

They meet a man there who says he was a former trial captain, which Cadence doesn’t immediately believe, before she remembers that people age. Go near the Hano Grand Resort, catch a Pyukumuku, and show him the pokedex entry, he asks. The mission is simple and to the point and would likely be a learning experience, as well.

“I could look it up on my Xtransceiver, if you want,” she says, and he laughs and says it’s less about the solution than it is about the way you get to it. Lillie asks if they could move on, please, if it’s not a problem, so they do.

“Hey, Cadence,” she says, while the redhead looks at obnoxiously colored socks, “tell me.. Do you pick out… all your own clothes?”

Cadence blinks and turns to look at her, nearly falling over in her squatted position. “‘Course I do, why?”

Lillie frowns just so, quieting some. “Of course... Most people do, don’t they…” Cadence makes a face and turns back to the socks, waving Lillie to look too.

“I…” Lillie trails off, moving to sit beside Cadence. “I’ve always just worn whatever my mother wanted me to wear,” she says. “I don’t really know what kind of thing would suit me.” She quiets near the end, and Cadence looks back to see the other girl staring forlornly at a pair of lime green argyle socks.

Cadence starts to suggest that she could buy something for her, if she wants to, only to be cut off by Lillie, who shakes her hands and paints a smile on her face. “No, no! It’s okay! I don’t mind. I don’t — I don’t need that.”

“It’s my birthday,” Cadence says. “We’re doing it.” Lillie grimaces, so she adds, “Or you could just look through stuff I already have so we don’t have to spend money! I don’t wear all my clothes anyways.”

Lillie looks a bit less pained at the thought of not spending anything on her, so Cadence considers it a win in all. They end up walking out of the store with two pairs of striped stockings and a beaded bracelet reading ‘BUG LOVER,’ which Cadence talks about showing to her Leavanny the entire walk back to Hau and the Professor.

“Oh, happy birthday, Cadence,” Lillie speaks up suddenly, and Hau gasps. “I’m sorry I didn’t say it before.”

Hau clutches his (concerningly overflowing) bag of malasada to his chest, heartbroken, and snaps to Cadence, a betrayed look on his face. “It’s your birthday! And you didn’t even tell me! Oh my gosh, dude, you can’t do that!”

Cadence laughs and pushes down the finger he pointed at her. “Oh, man, I’m sorry, but It’s not a big deal. We’re Team Fifteen, you and I, so.” She puts her hands on her hips, crushing the bag of Stardust beneath her palm. “Right? I think. You old yet, Lillie?”

Lillie makes a slight face — the closest she’s come to showing an emotion other than sadness or complacency — and says, “No, erm, I would hope not. I’m fourteen.” She shakes her head as they come to a stop outside of a fast food chain, turning to face the two of them head-on. “I’m going to see about booking a room in the Pokemon Center. Hau, your Rotom has messaging systems, right?”

Hau opens his mouth at the moment the Rotom-Dex whizzes out of his backpack, a wide smile on its screen before it switches to a contacts page. “Of courzzze!” Cadence almost winces at the shrill voice, but holds it in. “What do you want your contact to include, Mizzz Lillie?”

Lillie smiles and says something Cadence doesn’t quite hear. The redhead squints and looks past them, focusing on a flash of navy against the bright colors of the rest of Heahea. She leans forward a bit, then when she garners no further results whips out her phone camera and zooms in. Just as it goes around the corner, she focuses on the navy: it separates into two figures, one taller than her, one much shorter. She frowns.

“Mizzz Cadenzzze? What do you want your contact to include?” Rotom’s shrill voice (though it did lower its volume, so points for that) drags her out of her investigation.

She rattles off her phone number and XTransceiver ID, which Rotom dutifully logs in, automatically putting her, Lillie, and Hau into a group text. Lillie takes off shortly afterward, waving them goodbye, and Cade’s mind drifts back to the navy figures.

“Hey, wanna go get more food?” Hau nudges her arm. “We’re kinda loitering and I'm out of malasada.”