She had always wanted to be able to spread her wings, to flee from the constraints of her rank and position.
There are many things she wishes for now, many things she wished for as a girl. Although little has changed since then, she likes to imagine she has gone somewhere in her life, has perhaps achieved some of the childish aspirations she dreamed up back when she didn't know better.
I want to be the strongest Pokémon trainer ever.
I want to be the Pokémon champion, and show everyone more about how both skill and kindness are what makes a true trainer, and not just brute strength.
I want to enter lots of Super Contests, and be the best coordinator there ever was.
I want to be a Pokémon professor and send young trainers off to see the world, to discover more about new species and evolution methods, to watch as they realise their dreams.
Especially when I can't realise mine.
I want—I want—I want—
Perhaps she was merely selfish then, and had only wanted to get her name into the history books, to be remembered for all time. But yet, ten, twenty years later, where was she? Rudderless and bewildered, seemingly wandering without purpose.
If other people were to look at me, what would they see? she asks herself, as she gazes into a circle of silvered glass, eyes picking critically at every little detail of her appearance. She sees too-soft brown eyes, a mouth which upturns into a hesitant smile; she looks down and sees fingernails bitten to the quick – a horrible residual habit from her girlhood – and too-knobbly knees, sees fingers which can never hold still, twisting at the hem of her cardigan.
Most people would only see what was on the surface. They see fierce resolve, and would grasp and shake a firm hand at the conclusion of a battle. They see a meekness offset by the steely determination in her eyes, and immediately reconsider their evaluation of her.
But what if they're wrong?
If I were a ship, just like all those which moor at the docks, which one would I be like? she asks herself, asks Erika, asks nobody in particular when she can't hold the desperate tumble of words back.
Am I a grand ocean liner, destined to sail the world and see all the breathtaking wonders it has to offer?
No. That cannot be, as she is tethered to Olivine City by the shackles of her rank; she cannot just shrug off the burdens of her office and travel wherever the wind will take her, no matter how often she is struck by forlorn wanderlust. She has many duties, many obligations—taking care of Glitter Lighthouse – even if nobody asks her to – and checking in on Amphy when he's feeling under the weather. She has to meet every trainer who challenges her gym in battle, or face allowing her reputation to slip.
And that is something she cannot allow.
Am I a marauding pirate ship that—
No sooner has the thought left her mind when she banishes it, half-formed and only half-realised, to the back of her mind. Erika hears it and giggles, jokes about how she can easily see her as a swashbuckling, debonair sea galleon if need be.
Jasmine covers her ears and pretends not to hear this assessment. No, she says, striving to keep a straight face. I don't think that's quite it.
Am I a simple little life raft, bobbing along the seven seas and going wherever the tide takes me?
Most would see that as closest to the truth. But yet—
Jasmine looks in the mirror and sees the flaws that they don't, sees a shipwreck which bobs despondently along wherever the swirling eddies of fate and circumstance takes her. In place of majestic sails and proud masts, she sees splintered bowsprits and warped deck-boards; she's a wreck waiting to happen, a wreck when she eventually rams into the hidden perils of sharp coral and choking seaweed.
It's only a matter of time before that happens.
It's something others won't see until they get too close, and by then it's too late, and she has flinched away from their scrutiny, hiding her unease with a faint blush and a murmured apology.
She stares down at her hands, grasping the edge of the porcelain sink, and for a fleeting moment, wonders why she isn't like her pokémon, so strong and cold and hard and sharp. Instead of being like steel, unyielding and resistant, yet malleable enough to bend gracefully to pressure instead of breaking and shattering, she's more like glass, so fragile and brittle and breakable.
I could have been a lot of things, she murmurs, pressing her fingers against mirror-glass fogged by clouds of her breath. I was a lady once, and the world was my oyster. I could have had the sun, the sky, the moon and the stars, if only I asked.
But what happened?
I chose to go where my heart took me. I left home, travelled as far as my feet could take me. I went to Sinnoh, to Kanto, to Hoenn, to Johto. I got a starter Pokémon from Professor Rowan, and travelled around until I found Olivine City.
It was then that I realised I didn't want the sun, sky, moon or stars.
She smiles at herself, a wistful, faded excuse of a grin. I wanted to battle. I wanted to feel the blood rush through my head, feel the adrenaline coursing through my system. I wanted to feel nail-biting nervousness, the kind which my nanny always told me was not meant to be felt my proper ladies.
Oh, she's far removed from the naïve little girl she used to be, that much is for sure. She wanted to be a Pokémon professor once, to be able to watch the forerunners of the future become everything they wanted to be, and more. Yet, yet, it is only now that she realises that even back then, her dreams were just that, nothing but idle fantasies entertained by a starry-eyed little princess with too much time on her hands.
Perhaps back then, she had always known she would never set out to accomplish everything she once aspired to.
It all made sense, in this entirely too convoluted and roundabout way. Even without realising it, even without expressing it, she had feared failure, feared the unknown, feared not having the strength to carry on when the going got tough.
What if I had gone through with any of my childhood wishes? Where would I be now?
The breathless voice cuts through her concerns and uncertainties like a knife. She turns, turns away from her own reflection, turns away from that momentary glimpse of the apple of a cheek curved into the smile which slides effortlessly into place onto her lips. "Erika."
Erika has been her rock – is her rock amidst turbulent seas; she's been there for longer than Jasmine cares to remember, a constant in the tides of her life.
"What're you doing here? If you don't make a run for it, you'll miss your ferry!"
With a nod, with an apologetic, embarrassed little laugh, she picks up her luggage, and with the other gym leader's help, manages to manoeuvre her awkwardly-placed belongings out of the tiny cubicle. "Sorry. I guess I just lost track of time."
They are silent as they make their way towards the waiting ship, which bobs serenely atop the rollicking waves. "Say hello to Gardenia for me," Erika offers as she presses a small bouquet of flowers into Jasmine's hand. "And tell everyone about the next Gym Leader's Conference. Don't forget to try your hand at those Super Contests!"
"But I'm not cut out for that—"
Erika shakes her head and kisses her, slow and reassuring. She tastes like honeysuckle and jasmines; her skin is soft as rose petals under Jasmine's fingertips.
"Didn't you once say you wanted to be a Pokémon coordinator?" Erika asks, her eyes bright. "It's time you dared to dream."
A sailor shuffles past; in his wake trail luggage-toting travellers, tickets rustling like wingull feathers. Jasmine can feel Erika's fingers, warm and comforting, close around hers as she is ushered through the crowd. "Do it for me," Erika says. "Do it for yourself."
It is only once she makes her way to the upper deck and leans upon the guardrail that she realises just how much she misses this.
She sees Erika's face in the crowd, sees the encouraging smile which calms her nerves. She reaches absently for the small satchel which lies by her feet, feels for the contours of the poffin case within. She carefully unzips the bag and frowns slightly at the vast array of accessories loaned to her by her friend, at the thick sheaf of paper below which is presumably a Contest handbook.
She remembers a warm spring morning, and enthusiastically haranguing her mother about taking her to see the Super Contests held at the local hall. She remembers the warmth of the sun in her hair, remembers the coolness of an iced-tea which she sips with vaguely ridiculous, pointedly childish daintiness. She remembers licking at sticky-sweet fingers, and savouring the taste of strawberry sherbet on her hands.
She remembers long-ago dreams that seemed so distant and faded, lingering at the back of her mind like an old photograph suffering from overexposure.
Without preamble, she pulls out a white handkerchief from her bag, and waves.
"Thank you," she says to the wind, feeling the words being snatched from her lips as soon as she voices them. "I'll be sure to tell you about everything."
Everything meaning the sights and sounds and attractions of Sinnoh. She would travel through all the routes, visit all the cities and towns, talk to everyone she could. She would stay at that famous Hotel Grand Lake, drop by the Seven Stars Restaurant, perhaps even try her hand at the slot machines in the Veilstone Game Corner.
It feels like she's come full circle.