Written for Cutlerine, whose existence I appreciate greatly for many a reason. <3 Summary: Grandma Aster doesn't want Zinnia to miss out on her childhood completely for the sake of the Draconid clan. PREPARATIONS * It’s summertime again. Just like at the end of every school year, Zinnia’s already lined up at the door, bouncing up and down in excitement with no less than five bags packed by her side. She urges the rest of the Draconid tribe to hurry up because she’s ready to leave meteor Falls now. Occasionally, she settles down long enough to peer out the window at the outside world, overcome by daydreams of the nights camping out in the sand and spending time trying to spot a glimpse of Rayquaza between the clouds. The girl’s nine years old, and she’s rarely interacted with other kids her age, but every year she finds herself counting down the days, the hours, the minutes until school’s out with all of them anyway. The only difference is that she stares at the chalet cuckoo clock from her assigned spot at the kitchen table at home rather than at a digital clock from a real student desk with her own nametag on it. And while she knows vacations out to Castelia are all the rage these days and she’d really like to try their famous vanilla ice cream as the seashore waves wash over her feet, she’s more than content to perform her duties as the future lorekeeper of the Draconids. Grandma Aster looks on, shaking her head but smiling anyway. Not even an hour has passed since she officially called off Zinnia’s lorekeeper lessons until the fall, so the girl will have to be patient a while longer. It’s a whole ordeal, preparing to travel halfway across Hoenn and live elsewhere for a solid three months. No one doubts the importance of what they’re doing, of course, and no one complains. Repairing the damage all the spring storms do to the Sky Pillar every year is necessary to appease Rayquaza and ensure it’ll return to save the region from danger if needed. Still, a child’s curiosity can’t be helped, and really, Grandma Aster’s pleased at her successor’s eagerness to explore Rayquaza’s chosen resting place firsthand—even if the connection to her studies doesn’t click in her brain until she’s older. If she can quell any of the disappointment brought on by the big bad adults not taking her seriously, then… Zinnia squeals when she feels Grandma Aster place a hand on her shoulder, then laughs. “Don’t scare me like that!” She fakes a frown but ends up just laughing again. “There, there,” Grandma Aster says, ruffling the girl’s hair to tease her more. “Let’s go outside, let you use up all that energy of yours.” Zinnia’s eyes widen, her small fingers reaching toward the door expectantly. “Are we gonna get a head start?” she asks. “Not quite. I just want to show you something you might like.” “Okay!” Grandma Aster places her hand over Zinnia’s. The two of them twist the brass doorknob, then step outside, past the front porch, and onto Route 114 leading up to Fallarbor. Zinnia races ahead, stopping and bending down to tear out some blades of grass while waiting for Grandma Aster to catch up. She rubs them between her fingers and lets them slowly fall back to the earth before continuing her sprint. “You sure we’ve got time to go all the way into town?” Zinnia asks. Her voice is hardly audible when she’s facing away from Grandma Aster and putting more distance between them every second. “We don’t need to.” Grandma Aster waves her hand around, motioning for the girl to keep on going. And the two do just that. They keep on going, the occasional caw of a wild altaria emanating from afar and light gusts of wind rustling the trees. Layers of ash carried all this way from Mt. Chimney swirl in the air before being swept away elsewhere. Despite how much duller everything looks with all the layers of ash, nothing could be more perfect to Zinnia’s childlike, guileless eyes. “I would like to visit Mt. Chimney someday, though…” Zinnia says, mostly to herself. Her walking pace slows. Grandma Aster tilts her head. “Oh? I didn’t know you were interested.” “Yeah, I’ve heard cool things about it. I overheard a group of kids say they’d give ten dollars to anyone who could stand being inside the volcano for an hour!” Grandma Aster nods, smiling sadly. She’s not quite sure how aware Zinnia is of how much she talks about other kids. It’s heartbreaking, but understandable, given her being homeschooled and belonging to a vastly different culture. It’s not her fault by any means that everyone around Fallarbor—even tourists and trainers—usually distances themselves from Draconids as if socializing with the tribe will somehow end in disaster. That’s why, as they near a fork in the road and hear cheering reminiscent of a parade, Grandma Aster points toward the noise and tells Zinnia to check it out. Zinnia, not needing an explanation to know this is an event she doesn’t want to miss out on, joins a crowd of people carrying backpacks, picnic blankets, and coolers. Realizing she has none of these things and is alone while the rest of the crowd has at least one person to tag along with, Zinnia backtracks toward Grandma Aster. “What’s everyone here for, anyway?” she asks. “Supposedly,” Grandma Aster starts, “Fallarbor’s contest hall is doing a battle reenactment today.” “A battle… what?” Grandma Aster leads Zinnia to the crowd again, her arm wrapped around the girl’s shoulder for reassurance. “Some performers worked hard to be able to put on a show today about the battle between Groudon and Kyogre. You remember them, don’t you?” “Duh,” Zinnia says, rolling her eyes. “I hear about them too much! They’re important, I get it, but Rayquaza’s the most important.” “And why is that, would you say?” “You know, because Rayquaza proved how strong it is when it stopped the gods of land and sea from destroying each other! And we can count on summoning Rayquaza at the Sky Pillar whenever, what with the mega stone hidden and protected on the top floor.” “All right, that’s enough of that, lest people overhear and get the wrong idea,” Grandma Aster says, holding a finger to her lips and grinning. “But you’re right, Zinnia. Fallarbor’s started doing this every June in the Draconids’ honor. We’d all be here if we didn’t have to start heading for the Sky Pillar tonight, but, well, that’s our priority, and the staff couldn’t change the date this year.” Zinnia frowns and watches as a few women wearing bright orange vests wave their arms in the direction of the stage so that passersby know where there are seats available to get settled before the show begins. The women flash a wide smile at the kids marveling over the stalls ahead selling pokémon masks, a kiddy pool to cool down in when the heat picks up with water guns for added fun, a bonfire setup for after the show, and buffet tables offering varying types of foreign foods. Zinnia looks up at Grandma Aster, eyes full of confusion. “I mean, I appreciate them doing this, but why?” she asks. “Things change. Fallarbor’s residents are becoming more accepting with every passing year,” Grandma Aster replies, then pauses. “You should go watch, play with the kids, eat what you want. While you’re waiting for us.” “Wait…” Before Zinnia gets to finish her sentence, a young boy with shaggy brown hair and a lanky frame runs up to her. He’s barely able to stop himself in time from crashing into her, and his words come out as a stammer as he asks about the clothes she’s wearing. Once again, Grandma Aster notices how Zinnia crosses her arms, her mouth agape in response to someone close to her age. To someone who’s not part of the tribe but seems accepting anyway. For a nine-year-old girl, she’s too suspicious for her own good sometimes. Grandma Aster grabs the cream-colored cape from behind Zinnia’s back and holds up for her to see. “He might be interested in this,” she whispers. “Just tell him the story you always tell me.” “O-Oh, right,” Zinnia says quietly, taking the cape and pulling it in front of her. “This?” she says to the boy. “Yeah! Are you here for the show? Or… are you one of the Draconid dudes?” Zinnia spreading it out so she can show off the way it looks like pokémon with giant teeth tried to wrench it away from her. “Yeah, I got into a fight with a hydreigon once. No big deal.” She rubs the cape’s rough, grey collar between her fingers as the boy’s parents swoop in and ushered him away so he doesn’t get totally lost. If only everyone regarded her and other Draconids the same way all year round. Zinnia looks at Grandma Aster again, her expression hopeful mixed with a twinge of loneliness. “Like I said,” Grandma Aster urges, “you can go.” Zinnia wraps her arms around Grandma Aster’s waist in an embrace and shouts, “Thank you!” Wondering just how many kids she could impress if she tried to pass the stitched on pieces as real hydreigon scales, Zinnia bounds over to the performance stage, with Grandma Aster’s permission to simply live in the moment rather than daydreaming about it.