Author's Note: An experiment, so to say. Preparation for NaNoWriMo, maybe? Just a word of warning, I am a die hard Candlestickshipper. Also known as Flannery x Steven.
Over the clinking of spoons and bowls, Flannery's laughter rang low. She'd just related a funny story to her grandfather. It wasn't a loud laugh, but it filled the small kitchen and spilled out of the open window into the evening sky. The kitchen was dim and orange, casting a glow over the simple meal and catching the red in Flannery's hair. She had lit the old candles around the room, and the scent of melting wax and spicy soup reminded her of the approaching autumn.
A cool breeze drifted occasionally through the window. It felt good against her skin when the spicy soup made her too warm. Flannery brushed back her long hair and took long gulps of ice water, not caring that the condensation dripped over her fingers.
Moore, her grandfather, broke off a piece of fresh bread. "Flannery," he said calmly, "how would you like to travel?"
Flannery finished swallowing the water and set the cup down with a sigh of satisfaction. The young woman picked up her spoon and shrugged. "It depends on what kind of travel, I guess," she answered, taking a mouthful of warm soup. "Why do you ask?"
The old man busied himself with the bread, not looking up at her. "I was thinking," he began slowly. "Why don't you go out and travel, like I did?" He didn't seem to notice her spoon pause as he continued, "You can explore parts of Hoenn that you've never seen before. Meet new people. Catch more Pokémon. It would be a great learning experience."
After a moment, Flannery spoke, "But what about the Gym?"
"The trainers and I can handle it while you're gone," Moore told her, glancing up with a slight smile. "I still remember a thing or two about battling."
There was a longer pause. "When will I leave? How long will I be traveling?"
"If you start this week, only about a month or so," he said, thinking aloud. "That should give you enough time to stop by each city and do some sightseeing. You can explore the caves and go to the beach. You could even observe the Gyms and learn how the other Leaders manage things." He paused upon seeing the blank expression on her face, giving her time to absorb his words. "And you can see your friends," Moore reminded quietly. "It's been a long time since you've seen them, hasn't it?"
At the mention of her friends, Flannery realized just how long it had been since she'd talked to them. They were so busy with their own lives that they barely had time to call, nevertheless see each other. Suddenly, she was overcome with nostalgia. Here was a chance to finally see them again. She missed them terribly. The thought of hugging and talking and laughing with her friends made her forget about everything else. She needed to go pack and call Roxanne, Winona, Sapphire—
Then she stopped and sank in her chair. "But what about you, Grandpa?"
He smiled in understanding. "It's okay," he assured. "I'll be busy taking care of things here while you're gone. But you need some fresh air. It's good to travel while you're still young. You'll learn many things that you couldn't at home, and you'll mature as well." The old man smiled warmly at his only granddaughter. "A month might seem like a long time right now, but it will fly by faster than you realize. You can tell me everything you did when you come back. Don't worry. I'll be waiting for you."
A silence settled in the kitchen. Then Flannery got up and went over to embrace him from behind, wrapping her arms around him and propping her chin on his thin shoulder—just like she did so many times when she was younger.
"Will you miss me?" she murmured plaintively.
His aged but strong hand reached up to pat her arms comfortingly.
"Every single day."
They stayed that way for a long time, until one of the candles flickered out from a particularly strong breeze. Then they began to plan for her trip.
From the Top of Mt. Chimney
Flannery peered up at the sky with difficulty, her raincoat hood firmly blocking her view of the gray mass of clouds and volcanic ash. When her eyes returned to the earth, it wasn't very much different from the sky. It was like being trapped inside a snow globe, only the snow here was chalky and dirty.
She pulled out a bare hand from her pocket, catching the dry flakes as it fluttered from the sky. The flakes did not melt, and she stared at the soot contemplatively.
Did it ever rain or snow here? Was Route 113, nestled beside Mt. Chimney, destined to remain an eternal world of gray and white? Would this valley of ash forever be shadowed, unable to see sunlight, catching the discharge of an ancient and unyielding volcano?
This was not her first time here.
Flannery remembered coming here once with her parents when they were alive, and then again when her grandmother was still alive. She remembered visiting the glass workshop with her parents, where a man huffed and puffed near the furnace, creating a blue sea-glass orb—her mother's anniversary gift from her father. When Flannery stood in front of the workshop, more than ten years later, it was exactly the same as she remembered, though perhaps a little smaller and older.
She didn't step inside.
Despite the familiarity, she looked at this silent and static world with fascinated eyes. When she walked through the white grass, she watched the footprints behind her slowly disappear, erasing the evidence of her existence. It was as if she was never there.
A young lady holding a pink umbrella had been watching Flannery as she held out a bare hand to catch the ash flakes. They made eye contact and she waved, skipping over the ashes with a twirl of her umbrella.
"I'm warding off this filthy, yucky volcanic ash from my dear Numel," the young lady claimed, patting her pocket where presumably dear Numel resided in a pokeball. Flannery rather thought she was warding the ash from herself, but only nodded politely beneath her hood. The lady invited Flannery to join her under the pink umbrella—parasol—and the redhead obliged. They chatted about their plans for the future, and for a moment, they shared the same view of the sky.
It was pink.
Fallarbor Town was smaller than Lavaridge, and, if possible, quieter as well. Flannery liked it enough to stay there for one night, washing ash from her hair even though she had been wearing a hood. And it was during her stay at Fallarbor that she had a very ironic but awesome encounter with an equally awesome gentleman.
After lunch, she had been standing in front of the Pokémon Center, contemplating whether to use the PC or continue to Rustboro City and surprise Roxanne. She gathered her hair in a low ponytail and donned an old hat as an added precaution, so as to not attract attention. It wasn't that she didn't like being recognized, but in her limited experience, once a trainer laid eyes on a Gym Leader, there was no escape. Either the trainer wanted to talk or exchange numbers or even ask for a battle—Flannery's month-long trip would quickly turn into something else entirely. Thus, she decided to hide her identity.
An old gentleman had been standing nearby, and she gave him a polite smile when he glanced over.
He nodded back and said, "Excuse me, Miss. Are you a trainer by any chance?"
"I am," she replied, wondering if her cover was blown already.
His face transformed into an excited smile. "Have you already challenged Flannery, the Leader of Lavaridge Gym?" he inquired.
Flannery paused. "Um, not really…"
He didn't seem to notice her hesitation, because he continued eagerly, "The girl's grandfather was famous. He was one of the Elite Four in the Pokémon League at one point. It wouldn't surprise me to see Flannery become a great trainer in her own right."
Flannery didn't know whether to laugh or continue to pretend. She felt odd, hearing herself described as though she was a completely detached person. But she was also flattered, and extremely proud of her grandfather, because he was her role model and it was her dream to become as great a trainer as him one day.
"I'm sure she would be very happy to hear that," she told him with a smile.
On her way to Rustboro, Flannery discovered there were two kinds of people in this world: those who had adventures, and those who did not.
She fell in the latter group.
Lanette's house was almost midway between Fallarbor Town and the entrance to Meteor Falls. She knocked and waited for a few minutes, before finally trying the door. It was unlocked. Flannery cautiously let herself in. A chaotic clutter of machines and computers greeted her, the large room organized in a pattern that only the owner could discern. The heavy smell of overheated monitors, sharp ink, fresh paper and coffee made Flannery dizzy for a second. She found the light switch and stepped inside.
"Hello? Lanette?" she called. There was no answer. She was probably out running an errand and had forgotten to lock the door in her distraction. Lanette was an easily distracted person, after all.
Flannery was a little disappointed, even though there had been a high chance that Lanette wouldn't be in as they hadn't arranged a meeting. She wasn't particularly close to the PC expert, but the older woman had done her a favor recently and she'd been grateful ever since.
The redhead searched for a paper and pen to scribble Lanette a little note, proving she had stopped by. The little note turned into a long letter, and she wondered if typing it in one of the computers would have been better. She hunted for a tape to stick the note on the main monitor, and paused. On the screen there was an open email message from Bill, the Kanto region's PC storage creator.
She was only going to glance at it, assuming it was discussing computer jargon, but then suddenly caught the terse phrase, 'For now, go to Devon and recheck the security system.' Even though it was an invasion of privacy (though she'd crossed that line when she walked into the house without permission) Flannery grew curious and decided it couldn't hurt to take a quick peek.
Sorry for messy email. It's 5 AM and I need coffee. As you probably heard by now, someone broke into Silph and stole some top secret data in the main computer. So much for my amazing codes. I'm tracking carbon footprints of criminal now—Devon is probably next target. Just letting you know, it isn't Silph. For now, go to Devon and recheck the security system. Track down the hacker while you're at it please. I'm getting my coffee.
By the way, I read your article on the uses and disadvantages of incorporating the newest D4 model storage system in'
The email broke off mid-sentence. Perhaps Bill realized he needed his coffee before discussing the uses and disadvantages of anything. Flannery wondered if this email was why Lanette left without shutting down the computers and locking the door. Judging by the fact that the email was sent this morning, Flannery must have just missed the other woman.
With another sigh, she taped her note to the monitor and walked out of the house, hearing the computers humming in her ears even after shutting the door.