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.
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.