‘This must be why mom told me to be careful!’
‘It’s fine, Maylene,’ Gardenia shouted back. ‘We’re fine! It’s just snow!’
Four figures, completely surrounded by snow. One of them was the determined young Gardenia, who was taking the lead despite not knowing her way around. The girl right behind her, and the one who caught up to her often, was Candice. She knew the way to her hometown by heart, but Gardenia seemed to perceive this, like everything else, as a competition, and the fierce little girl pushed her back every time she caught up to her. Right behind the two were Maylene and Roark, who struggled the most.
Of course, some of them were hesitant on taking a trip to the north of Sinnoh without any adult accompanying them, as were their parents, but Candice convinced them that it was as safe as drinking water, and Maylene’s mother had to admit that her daughter wasn’t easily phased, and if there was any group of kids that were safer in the world than adults, it would be this one.
Throughout her life, Maylene challenged everything, and even defeated a few Trainers at her father’s Gym. She was easily the strongest in the group, but also the most rash, never thinking before delivering a hit. Gardenia followed up on the same rash personality, but produced such bluntness that easily repelled anyone who meant the group any harm.
Candice gave the brains that the group needed. Every situation she was in was one that she resolved with the least damage caused, and she got the group out of danger’s way many times. The same could be said for Roark, who served the ability to think about the future, and the safety of the group, as opposed to Candice, who specialised in the situations they were already in.
They would surely all be friends forever; they created a very unique combination of skills, and shared a common goal: help each other.
They kept battling their way through the blizzard, and Maylene took this opportunity to train her endurance. ‘We should be there soon!’ Candice shouted. ‘You’re finally going to see where I live!’
‘Right now, it seems very bad!’ Gardenia beamed. ‘What kind of crazy folk live here?! Crazy folk!’
Candice ignored Gardenia, as she always did when she fired an insult at anyone, and ran forward, attempting to finally go ahead of Gardenia. She used her speed in the snow and her experience as an advantage when she created a distance between them, and ran ahead of the group before returning to the path they were taking.
Furious, Gardenia ran even faster, and the pair behind them copied silently. Candice proved herself reliable when they did reach Snowpoint City in a few minutes. They ran to the Gym, where they took shelter from the cold for a little while.
‘You cheated!’ Gardenia started. ‘Candice cheated, everyone! She ran away from the path, and went in front of me!’
‘But you pushed her many times,’ Roark added, much to Gardenia’s annoyance. ‘Let’s see Snowpoint now; this trip would be useless if we don’t.’
‘Yes, I’ll show you,’ Candice said. ‘Follow me!’
With a scoff, Gardenia followed Candice, as did the others. Roark seemed very eager to learn about all the history of Snowpoint, and eager to study the Snowpoint Temple, even though Candice had already informed him that it was off limits, even for her.
‘How do you train in here?’ Maylene started. ‘Do you go to the blizzard?’
‘No, I don’t train like you three do,’ Candice smiled. ‘I think the stronger bond you have with your Pokémon, the stronger the Pokémon will be; you already know that. It’s why Snorunt and I are almost never apart. Oh, let’s send out our Pokémon!’
With a nod of agreement, they all sent out their Pokémon. Roselia appeared on Gardenia’s side, Riolu on Maylene’s, Cranidos on Roark’s, and Snorunt on Candice’s. Their first instinct was to look at their surroundings, and they eventually recognised the snowy ground as Snorunt’s home, and in turn, Candice’s home, and without a moment delay, they took the opportunity to play in the snow, while their trainers sat amongst some trees.
‘I like Snowpoint,’ Maylene said. ‘Every city in Sinnoh is different. And the trip here was good for my training.’
‘It was quite a challenge,’ Roark said. ‘I didn’t enjoy it, though. But Candice and Gardenia seemed to; they were racing in the blizzard!’
‘Yeah, you two are weird,’ Maylene added. ‘I was sure Gardenia would win.’
‘I would have won, but Candice cheated,’ Gardenia repeated. ‘Because she’s a cheater!’
‘When do you have to be back home, Roark?’ Candice asked, ignoring Gardenia again, but that wasn’t the only reason she had for changing the subject.
‘Tomorrow morning,’ Roark said. ‘Our parents know we’re spending the night here, but my dad wants me back home early to pack everything.’
‘Canalave City is very far away!’ Gardenia said. ‘It will be harder to drag you around Sinnoh, but I’ll still do it!’
‘We’ll be seeing less of you,’ Candice said, with a very faint hint of sadness, and a blush. ‘We won’t be the same group without you.’
‘Hey, Candice,’ Gardenia started. ‘Do you want me to help Roark up that tree for you?’
‘What do you-’ Candice suddenly realised what Gardenia meant. ‘T-That’s fine. We’re not g-going to climb.’
‘Yeah, I don’t like it,’ Roark said. ‘Canalave is far away, and I like Oreburgh. I’m not sure who my dad will put as the Gym Leader in Oreburgh to replace him, but my grandpa is the temporary replacement now. I just really wish he would pick me. He would never think that I’m strong.’
‘He will,’ Maylene said. ‘You’re strong, Roark! You even defeated Riolu once! You can become a Gym Leader, and eventually, we will become Champions!’
‘Two Champions?’ Roark smirked. ‘That’s not possible.’
‘The four of us will be Champions!’ Maylene corrected him. ‘We will be strongest than everyone!’
The spot where they last were a group was now back to it’s former cold glory. No more trace that they were there at all. Candice walked to it, and sat where Roark did, Snorunt by her side. She looked up at the tree Gardenia had pointed out, and then turned her gaze to Snorunt. Her eyes started watering, and her chest fluctuated with silent short gasps.
‘I’m sorry,’ she pleaded to Snorunt, letting all of her tears flow. ‘I’m so sorry. I- I don’t… It wasn’t me… I didn’t, I didn’t want to do this, but they never liked me. They always made fun of me. Snorunt, I’m sorry.’
The Pokémon started crying with her trainer, and it was as sudden as Candice’s breakdown. She jumped into her arms, and they held each other in an embrace that felt cold, but couldn’t have been more comforting. Snorunt’s cold body froze some of Candice’s tears, and her own tears as well.
Candice could apologise, but she didn’t want to; it was too late now, and it would only cause Gardenia to make more fun of her. She slowly fell back, onto the snow that once was nothing to her, but now, she felt cold, as cold as ice.
It was just a few days ago that Candice returned to Sinnoh, but it was already different. Roark had moved to Canalave, Maylene to Johto, and Gardenia, who she never considered a friend, was nowhere to be found. She sat alone in front of Lake Acuity, not even her own Pokémon Snorunt was next to her.
By now, Maylene must be mad at her for rejecting everyone from her life, and the only person she didn’t push away was Roark, but he had been pulled away. She regretted her decisions; that wasn’t her, a girl who was praised for her rational decisions and wits couldn’t make such a great mistake, but she did.
Even if she regretted her choices, she was still determined not to back down; she would never beg someone to be her friend if they refused to, even if it was Maylene, who picked Gardenia over her. There wasn’t any hope for their friendship, not even hope for her at all.
Or so she thought. There was a light at the end of the tunnel, or rather, hope on the horizon; Roark battling his way through the blizzard.
‘You’re becoming really strong, really fast,’ Brawly punched his fist against Maylene’s. ‘That’s just in a few days, as well!’
‘Thanks, Brawly,’ Maylene said. ‘You’re a good friend.’
‘Or maybe, a good person in general,’ Brawly chuckled. ‘You’re a great friend as well, Maylene.’
‘Do you think I’m becoming stronger because my friends aren’t here?’ Maylene frowned. ‘I mean, you’re here, but I meant my friends from Sinnoh.’
The pair was sitting at the shore, where the mud was sand again, the ice trail Candice left was gone, and all forms of connection Maylene had with her Sinnoh friends was cut. The sun was setting, and Maylene decided to join Brawly in his daily routine of watching it, even though, to her, there wasn’t anything more boring that that.
‘It’s not that they are not here,’ Brawly said. ‘It’s just that there aren’t any more distractions. Even if they were there, that storm would have still hindered us, and that rockslide.’
‘I guess you’re right,’ Maylene said, and remained silent for the final moments of the sun’s day. ‘There she goes. I will miss her.’
‘You mean Riley refused the position?’ Candice gleamed. ‘And suggested you as his replacement?’
‘That’s right,’ Roark’s smile couldn’t get any wider. ‘And you’re the first to know, aside from my father and Cynthia. Maylene is in Johto, and I have no idea where Gardenia is, but I’m actually glad I told you first; you can keep a secret. I want to surprise everyone I tell by telling them personally.’
‘I’m so happy for you, Roark!’ Candice threw her arms around him. ‘Your dream has come true!’
Roark returned the hug, and they embraced for a while. It had always been Roark’s dream to become a Gym Leader, just like Maylene’s dream, and that was what connected the two. But when it came to Candice, something else connected them; they cared for each other greatly, more than anyone else. Not only did their intellect compliment each other, but so did their unspoken feelings.
‘So where is Gardenia?’ Roark asked after their embrace was broken.
‘Johto,’ Candice scoffed. ‘Better off, I never liked her.’
‘That’s unlike you,’ Roark frowned. ‘You are a friendly person; what happened?’
‘I never liked her,’ Candice repeated. ‘Since the start, I never liked her. The only good thing she did to me was introduce me to you.’
‘But she’s a nice person,’ Roark said. ‘I know you think she’s rude all the time, but she cares about us all. How many times did she defend your name?’
As much as Candice hated it, Roark was right. Gardenia had stood up for Candice several times when people called her weak for not training her Snorunt like everyone else, and even punched an old lady that dared to say that Candice was bad at contests.
‘Yeah, but she teased me,’ Candice said. ‘And made fun of me.’
‘Candice, listen to yourself,’ Roark pleaded. ‘You’re an amazing person, and I know that. It’s unlike you to be so cruel and rash; that’s Gardenia.’
She hated it again; Roark was right, again. She was being as rude as Gardenia, and as rash in making her decisions; she didn’t even see herself that way. Her feelings flooded back to her, her feelings of regret and remorse for what she did; that was the true Candice.
‘I’m sure you can work things between you two,’ Roark added. ‘And I hope you do, for my sake. It’s selfish, but I would like our group of four back.’
As everyone who met them would say, these four were the future of Sinnoh. Maylene, Candice, Gardenia, and Roark. They all had dreams, ambitions, and a lot to learn from each other. They were all quite mature in their way of thinking, but at their core, they were still children, and the world was still an open space to discover.