The funeral for Giovanni is a hushed, intimate affair held a week after his death on the grounds of the family estate. Just fifteen invitations are issued to his closest and most trusted associates. Despite the vast reputation that had always preceded the late Viridian Gym Leader in life, only a select few in his inner circle could ever claim to have known him well, and even fewer could have been said to love him.
Of the sparse group of mourners gathered there to pay their respects, Silver recognizes his father's executives but no one else. Ariana is sitting to his left, lips pressed in a thin line as she listens to the priest ramble on about the Creator's mercy and flesh returning to dust. He can see Petrel, Proton, and Archer in the adjacent row with their scarves wrapped tightly around their faces, Petrel fiddling with a pack of cigarettes hidden up his sleeve. Behind them are politicians, bankers, corporate officers, military men - an assortment of the wealthy and powerful elites his father had surrounded himself with, who have come either out of a sense of obligation or perhaps to see Giovanni dead with their own eyes. More than half must have been eagerly awaiting this day for years, hoping for old debts to be cleansed and forgotten once they'd gotten what they'd needed. It makes his stomach turn.
When the time comes for the casket to be lowered into the ground, Ariana beckons him to rise, the other three executives already standing at attention. Snow falls lightly from an ash-colored sky, melting on his coat and against his cheeks, clinging to his eyelashes. Blinking away water, he takes up his side on the coffin, raising it with a grunt of exertion. The muscles in his arms and shoulders burn from the strain, but he will not - cannot - let go now. A Vittore man must be strong, his father was fond of saying. If you learn to flinch from pain every time you encounter it, you will never make a place for yourself in the world. Hesitation in front of Giovanni's best - no matter how lowly they might be - will spell the end of his leadership before it's had a chance to begin.
Worth is proven by actions, not mere words. Teeth gritted, Silver bears the discomfort until his father's body is six feet below the earth, until Ariana taps his shoulder to let him know it is done. He pants, breath misting in the chilly air, knees rattling with cold.
As if by a hidden sign, the rest of the attendees begin to file towards the grave, all clutching a single lily, pale and precious, in their hands. He stiffens, not trusting himself to speak openly as each guest pauses by the edge of the site, some lingering longer than others. The last to leave is an oily little man addressed as Mr. Acerbi whom Archer introduces as the vice-president of Silph Co. Upon brief inspection, Acerbi proffers a gloved hand for him to shake.
"You must be Giovanni's boy," the president says. "I've heard quite a lot about you over the years; it's a pleasure to meet you at last. How unfortunate, though, that we must do so under such dreadful circumstances."
He sighs. "Your father was one of the greatest men I've met in all my years at Silph. His passing is a terrible loss for our entire company. The contributions he made during his time with us, however, will be remembered for generations to come." An insincere flash of sympathy crosses his face. "Rest assured that Mr. Vittore will not be forgotten - not by us, and certainly not by the public."
He feels Ariana's grip close around his shoulder before he hears her voice, clear and perfectly measured, above his ear. "Thank you for coming today. He," she nods lightly in his direction, "hasn't been well since it happened."
"But of course," Acerbi replies. "I understand. In this time of hardship, we must show our solidarity, yes? For Giovanni's sake."
Smiling, he redirects his gaze to Silver. "You've been exceptionally brave throughout this entire ordeal. One day, I'm sure, you'll go on to do marvelous things of your own, just as your father did."
"As are we." Ariana's tone has gone the way of steel. "Safe travels, sir."
Mr. Acerbi's smile flickers, just enough to reveal something sharp behind the good-natured mask. "Goodbye, signorina." With a tip of his hat, he tosses his lily in with the casket and strolls away, stepping inside a sleek sportscar and vanishing down the long road in a growl of exhaust.
"Giovanni made provisions in his will before he died," Archer finally announces. "You'll be sworn in as Silph's president once you're of age to hold a company position. Until then, you're only a successor in name, not title."
"Who will serve as president in the meantime?"
"Considering that there aren't many current candidates vying for the job, I'd imagine that the board will simply ask the standing vice president to take over."
His fists clench. "The Gym. What did my father say about that?"
Archer coughs, a polite, meaningless sound. "League protocol supersedes your father's influence in that regard. The only way for you to become the Gym Leader is via election or by formal contest. You'll need a trainer's license for the second option and one year's worth of experience in the field. Neither of which you've managed to obtain. Blue Oak has already received several nominations to start at Viridian once the remainder of the term expires."
A sudden fury rises inside him, bubbling to the surface in so many angry thoughts until he's forced to bite his tongue to keep himself from screaming. All of it - Silph, Viridian - gone, given to sycophants and upstarts. Every mark he wears from Giovanni's teachings was earned in sweat and blood, all for the purpose of eventually doing what his father never could - to bring the grand plan to completion, as he was meant to.
"How many-" He chokes back his anger, clears his throat. "How many are still loyal to Rocket?"
Glancing at Ariana, who glances back without responding, Archer says, "Roughly a hundred are left. The rest fled when they found out Giovanni had-"
Meager, but a start. "Send for all of them. Tell them to come here. I have something important that I need to say." Silently, he vows that he'll punish the deserters later; at present, there are other matters to attend to, all more pressing than his frustration.
Later, Silver thinks, he will like to go to each one, each of those who doubted, and teach them what Giovanni taught him, but now-
Now, he stares at the fifteen lilies lying pristine and pure amidst the soil, across the dark red wood of his father's coffin, leaves folded serenly over delicate stems; their shapes are committed to memory. As the dirt is shoveled in, Silver pictures his father disappearing in a blaze of fire, his body emerging from the ash and smoke to lift the reins and drive headlong into the awaiting future.