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Written Story Unova General Gijinka Search for Yesterday: A Black Notepad Story (reupload)

Bowser's Family Vacation

Johto League Champion
Writer
Team Delta
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301
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Jul 1, 2019
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972
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"Am I Mario's babysitter? Are you going to call me every time that guy blows his nose, or what?"
Errant music, boasting the same tinny quality of sound produced in old-timey eras
I love it when the narrator comes out in their descriptions. :) "Old-timey" indeed.

Oh, Skyla. A l d e r w i l l r e m e m b e r t h a t.

Before long, Skyla counted down the beginning to the race. As the numbers got smaller and smaller, Cindi offered her hand to Nate. “May the best person win.”

He shook it perfunctorily. “I will,” he said without malice.
Nate is a gift. He can also see the future. :o

There we go! If Cindi gets knocked over, she will get up again! Hopefully, it's a little less perilous than that.
 
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Rhema

Conqueror of the Violet Gym
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Jun 30, 2019
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She tries her best, but doesn't succeed. She gets what she wants but not what she needs.
Oh man, so freaking pumped to read this again. I don’t think I ever got fully caught up so I’m glad to see it’s back and here for me to read! I always loved the vibe you’ve got going on here, probably because I like theme parks so much. Excited to see this!
 
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Dee

THIS IS MY HAPPY FACE
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147
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Jun 26, 2019
Messages
538
Location
Zion National Park
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A regular writer of fanfics and other works, this pokemon loves puns, bugs, and the outdoors.
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #23
I love it when the narrator comes out in their descriptions. :) "Old-timey" indeed.

Oh, Skyla. A l d e r w i l l r e m e m b e r t h a t.


Nate is a gift. He can also see the future. :o

There we go! If Cindi gets knocked over, she will get up again! Hopefully, it's a little less perilous than that.
Poor Skyla xD She's never gonna see her bosses coming, hehe

Nate is... something, that's for sure :'p And I haven't seen that movie, but that's a catchy song!


Oh man, so freaking pumped to read this again. I don’t think I ever got fully caught up so I’m glad to see it’s back and here for me to read! I always loved the vibe you’ve got going on here, probably because I like theme parks so much. Excited to see this!
Welcome back!! I'm glad you're here. You're just in time for the final act! :D

Land 7: The Dreaming Wood



Though I know this is another land without a proper “ride,” I feel I have made my case effectively with earlier inclusions—so let us just discuss what this one is about instead.



There is something about the quality of the four seasons, is there not? Think of the great art they have inspired—the paintings, the songs, the woodprints and carvings and folktales. Almost everyone has a favorite of their own.



Spring, the season of beginnings; summer, the season of excitement; autumn, the season of change; and winter, the season of reflection. Each of them has a role to play, and it is my hope to inspire our guests with a journey through the seasons, that we might show them the quiet lessons nature has to teach us.



—Alder




---



High above them, the fireworks burst again and again, dazzling the park with reds and blues and greens; but though Bianca wished he would look at them, Cheren merely sulked, staring down at the dirt.



They had wandered aimlessly through the park since the meetup with Cindi and Tasha outside of the minecart ride. Bianca’s attempts to distract Cheren by pointing out snack stalls or encouraging him to go onto other rides had been fruitless. They’d wandered alone, not even heeding the announcement that sent others rushing to Skytown.



She rubbed her arms, more than a little disconcerted. She hadn’t expected that tonight would involve spending an evening in the world’s most famous park virtually alone—or that she would oversee multiple clashes between her friends.



Because Cindi was a friend. Why didn’t Cheren just get it? Sure, it had been a little weird, at first, to see the ‘guy’ they’d known suddenly in skirts and done up with makeup, but didn’t Cheren realize how much happier she looked, how more confident she seemed? Didn’t he recognize that the same thoughtful personality they liked hadn’t changed—it had simply become unconstrained?



After the fight between Cheren and Tasha a few months back, they had split into two spheres—Bianca and Cheren on one, and Tasha, Cameron, and Cindi on the other. Bianca had hoped, even up to this evening, that the differences could be reconciled—but after Cindi’s assertive outburst earlier, she was having doubts. It didn’t seem like they would forgive Cheren anytime soon.



And, she admitted to herself, were she in Cindi’s place, she might not either.



How quickly her friend had blossomed—that entire big group of kids she’d found in the park were really something, and Cindi possessed an almost Hippolytan ability to find new friends as soon as the others were gone.



Bianca’s mouth tightened at that. She hadn’t meant to get the girl expelled, and Cheren’s private gloating about it to her afterwards had left her deep in shame.



As the fireworks faded above, the cannily-hid speakers in the park switched tunes, moving to a soothing, classical piece. It was almost as if it had been picked specifically for her.



They had found their way to Nostalgia Lane. The softly-lit lights of the turn-of-the-century venue bathed the avenue in a soothing yellow glow, and the wistful music piping through the air lent Bianca a sort of nostalgia.



Things had been better, before. When they were kids. When there hadn’t been a chasm between any of them. If only she could have made things the way they were before…



She shook her head. No. Then Cindi wouldn’t have been Cindi.



Glancing sidewise at Cheren, Cindi wondered if he was pining for their lost friendship as much as she was. But he didn’t seem focused on anything more than scowling at the cobblestones.



Beyond him, a warm-colored ice cream parlor was lit up. Blinking, Bianca realized that the parlor was still ready to serve, despite the fact that there were almost no kids in this park.



She needed a place to sit and think, and a treat sounded divine.



“I’m hungry,” she said to Cheren, causing him to look properly at her for the first time in eons. “Let’s go inside.” She strode off towards the parlor.



“I’m not gonna waste—”



Bianca turned and fixed him with an icy glare. “I am hungry,” she reiterated. “Let’s go inside.” She turned and pushed in without waiting for an answer, and after a shocked moment, Cheren eased after her.



---



Cindi emerged from her second go at Skyla’s obstacle course sweaty, out-of-breath—and with a badge firmly in hand. The rest of the team cheered as she pinned it in place. The badge was a lofty blue feather with a claw-like design on the bottom; an unorthodox choice for Skytown, but fitting considering that the primary theme Alder was going for was a sense of wonder.



“There’s only two regions left!” Diego said with a whoop. “The Hub and the Dreaming Wood!” He eyed the Hub, lit up with carnival magic and sporting the vast circling Ferris Wheel, with undisguised glee.



“I say we go to the Dreaming Wood,” AJ said, his voice deep and pleasant. “Save the best for last.” While Diego looked positively offended, Cindi agreed—besides, it would be more economical overall.



They walked along in companionable silence—well, except for little Alette, who constantly bounced up and down on AJ’s shoulders, pointing at everything she could. “Look at that tree! Whoa, the fireworks! Is the music coming from that pole? Woooooooow, a roller coaster!”



Tasha chucked Diego playfully on the shoulder. “That caffeine’s hitting her like a truck! What are you gonna do when it wears off?”



Laughing, Diego waved one hand idly, the other in the pocket of his jean jacket. “She’s a small kid—that soda should last her plenty of time. Trust me!”



Felix was looking around with a tight frown. Cindi fell in beside him. “What’s up?” she asked.



“…alone.”



Blinking, she surveyed the park properly. He was right. They were alone, more or less. It had been getting late—a number of kids would have fallen asleep by now, being escorted off the premises. Others had broken the rules perhaps, or simply called it a night. Most of the kids who were still in the park had gathered in Skytown after Skyla’s announcement. The rest of the park was like a ghost town.



Cindi breathed in a sigh of wonderment. It felt strange and yet… not wrong. The loneliness was not oppressive or disconcerting. There was something unique about Alderland that lent the park an openness among big crowds and an intimacy in moments like this.



She smiled. It was masterfully done.



The gears and pipes of Skytown had long since faded; they were in the Dreaming Wood now, the northwesternmost portion of the park. The Wood was the least-trafficked portion of the park, probably because it had no normal “attractions” at all; and, unlike Nostalgia Lane, you were not required to visit it to enter. It was a shifting woodland that moved through all four seasons—spring, summer, autumn, winter.



The boughs of cherry trees in blossom swayed around them, giving the air a soft, aromatic scent. Small petals drifted down through the air, brushing on cheeks and getting tousled in hair. Everyone, even Alette, was quietly admiring the beauty.



They crossed the burbling artificial river (the same that split the Lost Isle from the rest of the park) on a small wooden bridge. Spring flowers poked out of grass just off the trail, and smooth round stones glistened with speckled dew.



As Cindi drank in the springtime, she noticed that ahead, the trees were bigger, greener—summer was coming.



Alder was trying to say something with this, she thought. But what?



---



“Sounds like you two had a rough time of it.” The parlor attendant—Lenora, if her name badge spoke true—busied herself rinsing off dishes in the sink. “Another one, sweetie?”



Bianca nodded eagerly and Lenora, drying her hands, set about getting another sundae made.



“It’s all their fault,” Cheren grumbled, poking at the half-melted ice cream in his bowl. “They don’t deserve to have so many badges.”



Lenora said nothing but gave him a very pointed look, which he missed due to staring down at the dish. But when she turned her attention to Bianca, she felt compelled to speak up—finally letting out the feelings she’d kept inside of her all night long.



“Why are you being so mean?” she asked. Cheren’s eyes snapped up to her. “Cindi didn’t do anything to you. Every time something happened, you’re the one who always starts something!”



He blinked at her and scoffed. “You’re joking, right? We were all friends until Sid—”



“Until Cindi what, exactly?” Bianca said. She’d kept the feelings bottled up more and more, but now that she was finally talking about them, the words flowed from her like water. “It was your choice to be all nasty!”



Cheren’s face got ugly, like he was going to say something, but Lenora cut him off with a clearing of the throat. Setting the new ice cream down in front of Bianca, she looked at both of them. “There’s no space to be fighting here,” she said, her voice gently chiding. “You two are some of the luckiest children in the world, getting to come to the most famous park ever in a night to your own. You should be having fun.” As Cheren skulked back in his seat, Lenora turned a discerning eye towards Bianca. “And if you’re not having fun… maybe you should ask why that is so.”



Sitting in her chair, spooning the sundae into her mouth, Bianca thought—and thought. Was she having fun tonight?



No.



Why not?



She squirmed.



---



Summer was here now, the trees healthy and green, the brook a vibrant, singing river.



Cindi marveled at it all as they walked. How had Alder managed to make this work? How did he keep portions of the Dreaming Wood seasonal—making the cherry trees perpetually blossom despite the season? These trees would be green all year ‘round, even in the wintertime. How was it done?



There was the sound of birdsong—real birdsong, she realized, not ephemera piped in from outside.



Pity those who wrote this off as not worth the visit, she thought. As much care went into this dreamy forest as the rest of the park.



The season shifted again, and autumn was on them—all reds and yellows and oranges. The dry leaves crinkled in the wind, some of them blowing off in the cool breeze to whirl merrily in front of them, and even the air was cooler. The slight smell of pumpkins and other autumn scents touched her nose and she giggled, and the paw prints of some critter padded through the mud just off path.



It was all truly marvelous.



Her friends loved the changes in the seasons, and Diego skipped beneath the boughs, whooping and hollering. Laughing, Tasha followed along and quickly overtook him. “Nice try, legs,” she said with a knowing wink, “but you gotta do better than that to outpace a star athlete!”



Huffily, Diego challenged her to a race, and Felix set the finishing line as a particularly vivid tree a few dozen meters down the path. Laughing, Cindi rushed down to stand guard and call the victor.



At AJ’s command, they stood waiting. “Mark—set—go!” he yelled, and the two of them snapped into action, rushing down. Alette bounced on AJ’s shoulders, excitedly cheering them both on, and Cindi smiled. Both of them were really going at it! Diego surged forward, then Tasha, then Diego, then Tasha—



But despite her talk, Diego proved to be plenty fast when he had reason to go all out, and as the finish line loomed, Tasha slowly sagged a pace or two behind. Teeth gritting, she gave everything she had to a mad leap.



She shot past Diego—cleared the finish line—landed jarringly—her foot twisted out from under her—she fell with a shocked and pained cry—



And then, as suddenly as that, she was sprawled on the pathway, clutching her ankle as tears budded in her eyes.



Diego rushed up to her, all concern. “Y-you alright?” he said.



“‘M fine,” she muttered, “just help me—ahh!” She winced and almost collapsed on putting weight on the ankle, only held aloft by Diego’s support.



She clutching him, still sniffing, as a figure melted out of the trees. He was a tall, stern-looking man with soft, almost periwinkle-covered hair. An attendant.



“A sprain,” he said, eying Tasha’s already-swelling ankle. “Be grateful it is not more serious.” Nodding to two other attendants, he instructed them to take her out of the park.



“No!” Tasha protested. “I can stay, I need to stay, they’re my friends, I’ll be fine—!”



He quieted her with a simple look. “You need to have that looked at,” he said in an even tone that brooked no argument. “I’m sorry, young lady, but your time in this event is over.”



As Tasha grudgingly allowed the other attendants to take her, Diego looked at her with sorrow. “I shouldn’t have raced—Tasha, I’m—”



“‘S alright,” she said. “I’m the one who made it competitive.” Leaning forward, she pecked him lightly on his lips—he blinked in shock, his cheeks burning a low color visible under the soft trail lights. “Glad I met you,” she said flirtatiously. Then, turning her attention to Cindi, she said: “Cindi, you’re gonna make it. I know you are. You’re so strong! Okay?”



Even a few hours ago, Cindi would have felt lost without her oldest friend—but now, she felt assured. She nodded. “I’ll see you outside.”



As the attendants led Tasha away, and the rest of her group arrayed themselves in a loose, somber circle, Cindi told them to wait there.



“…and you?” Felix asked.



Cindi turned to face the stern-looking man. “I’m going to speak with that man about a badge.”



---



It was quiet in the ice cream parlor. Bianca sat, stewing over this evening—and about other things, further back.



Looking at her, Lenora seemed to probe into the young woman’s disquiet. “You know that Alder wasn’t always the benefactor of Alderland?” she said, busying herself about the shop. Bianca perked up at the sound. “He was a businessman first. A banking executive. He was good at what he did, but the work slowly bleached his soul away, like flowers drying up under a harsh sun. What’s more, he knew that, deep down, the banks weren’t helping people. They repossessed houses, denied loans; all normal stuff in the world of finance, nothing predatory or illegal, but it wasn’t what he’d envisioned himself doing as a child.



“He turned to philanthropy after retirement, spending his money building libraries and hospitals, and he funded artists, too, making himself a name in entertainment, but it wasn’t enough. His yesterdays had been squandered, and it wasn’t until he was starting to become an old man that Alderland became a reality.”



The dishes and countertop were clean, now, and Lenora rinsed her hands off and dried them. She looked immaculate—the whole parlor did. The older lady looked at Cheren, who was sullenly ignoring everything she said, then she sighed and leaned on the counter, staring at Bianca.



“Alderland’s about many things,” the woman continued. “It’s about Alder’s childhood, and his attempt to bring joy to people—but deep down, part of it is about regret. About the choices he made, and how his adulthood would have shamed his childhood. It was about trying to make things right.”



Sighing, Lenora started restocking the topping bar. “Alder believed it was never too late to make things right—but you have to want it.”



Bianca sniffed, and blinked, and realized she was crying. What? Why? The story hadn’t been that sad…



But she was thinking about things. About how much fun she’d had with Cindi and Tasha when they were little, and about how hurt Cindi had seemed when she had walked after Cheren when the two of them had fought that first, nasty time.



She hadn’t wanted to hurt anyone! She just wanted her friends to all be friends…



She sniffed again, and wiped the tears off her cheeks. Who was she kidding, though. It was too late. Cheren was too proud and too hung up on all this to ever go back, and he’d hurt them too much for them to accept him.



She was trying to save something that had died long ago.



Blinking, Bianca looked up, and found Lenora staring at her with a mix of pity and compassion. “You know,” the attendant said, her voice soft, “she’s been doing real well, that friend of yours. We’ve been keeping an eye on her, since she’s probably gonna make it all the way.” She leaned back. “She’s at the Dreaming Wood,” Lenora said, “if you want to go.”



Her throat tight, Bianca could barely gasp—but then she knew what she had to do. “Thank you,” she said, pushing away from the counter.



Cheren turned his face to scowl at her. “Where are you going?” he said.



“I’m going to go apologize to Cindi,” she replied.



“Apologize for what? We didn’t do anything wrong.”



She could only stare at him.



“Come on,” she said after a moment, making the offer she knew he would shoot down. “Come with me. Let’s all be friends again.”



“With that freak? No way.”



And though she had expected it, his reply angered and disappointed her nonetheless. “Alright,” she said softly, and she turned on her heel to leave the parlor.



“Are you kidding me?” Cheren snarled. He leapt off his stool, the action violent enough to send it crashing to the floor. The sound reverberated through the quiet place, marking and scuffing the floor. Lenora frowned; Cheren didn’t care. “You’re here as my guest,” he said. “You leave me, then they’ll kick you out.”



“Then I’ll be kicked out,” Bianca replied.



He folded his arms. “You do this, we’re done. You hear me? We won’t be friends anymore.”



The pang of those words were like a dagger to the gut—what if she lost him, only for the others to reject her? What if what if what if—



Regret.



And resolution.



“We aren’t friends anymore, Cheren,” she said. “I should have accepted that when you said those things to Cindi before, but I hoped… you would grow up. But as always, you disappointed me.”



He looked as if he’d been socked in the nose, but Bianca didn’t have time for him anymore. “See you,” she said, and she left him behind.



---



It was winter now.



Cindi strode down the snowy path, the attendant following respectfully a few paces behind.



“There are no attractions at all in the Dreaming Wood,” she told him, “so the forest itself is the attraction.” He nodded but said nothing. “But it wouldn’t be so easy as that. Four seasons… I have to guess which one is Alder’s favorite, don’t I?”



He smiled lightly. “You do.”



“There are only so few options. What’s to stop me from just throwing out all four?”



“After a wrong guess, I have been instructed not to accept another one from you for thirty minutes.”



Half an hour? If she got every wrong option before the correct one, that would waste an hour and a half! Of course, she had nothing but time… but the others were growing tired, even if they were hiding it. She’d seen Diego and Felix stifling yawns, and it was only a matter of time before little Alette dozed off. Her group would trickle down without a firm answer.



She nodded, and allowed herself to sink into thought.



The snow in the winter section drifted softly down. In the deep darkness of the night, it almost seemed to glow, the powder emanating a lovely, soft bluish hue. The trees were leafless and merrily coated with snowfall; beneath them were sled tracks and happy, lumpy snowmen. A small cabin, smoke drifting from its chimney, squatted further back. A warm light lapped at the windowpanes from inside of it. Cindi wondered if it was for show or if guests were allowed in.



“Alder’s favorite season…” she pondered aloud, speaking slowly. “Spring is a time of beginnings, and of loveliness. New, fresh, green… lots of flowers. It’s a nice time, spring.”



The attendant cocked his head. “Is that your answer?”



“No,” she replied, “just thinking aloud.”



Was spring the likeliest fit for Alder, though? For someone who fixated so much on the past, an emphasis on fresh starts seemed a bit off the mark. “Autumn, then?” she wondered. “A time for the harvest and festivals… a time of importance for many cultures. A metaphorical shift, what with the changing of the school year. A season of change. …no. He would like it… but it would not be his favorite.”



She leaned back. Alder held close to his past, to his childhood. Summer. What season was more childlike than summer? A time off of school, a time to play and roll across the hills, splashing through puddles after rain and hunting bugs in the woods. Summer was the high season, a time that every child adored. Wouldn’t it be summer?



“…but he’s not a child anymore,” she realized. “He’s an old man… an old man seeking to capture the essence of the past, but an old man nonetheless. He values connection and reconciliation. Gathering together for the holidays, sharing family meals and exchanging gifts, forgiving each other in the spirit of the season… those are his values.” Beyond the attendant one of the snowmen almost seemed to beckon at her. She could imagine a youthful Alder rolling up a misshapen, goofy snowman—could imagine an older Alder, wistfully wishing he had grandchildren to roll snowmen with, to share cocoa with, to open presents with. “His choices denied him what he wanted, and he didn’t realize it until it was too late. He has no family anymore… no grandchildren… so he built this park. The world would be his family now, and he would delight in the children smiling in his park, knowing that he spread happiness. He’s in the twilight of his life… he would appreciate the beauty of the closing of a year. He wants a happy winter.” She turned to the stern-faced man. “Winter is Alder’s favorite season.”



A moment held—and then, with a knowing smile, the attendant nodded. “You have done well,” he said, and he pulled out the badge, like a long icicle. Cindi held it reverently, before pinning it in place. She nodded at the man. “Thank you,” she said.



He replied in kind.



She returned to autumn, turning over what she knew in her head, when suddenly she found a familiar face waiting for her amongst her friends.



Bianca.



“H-hi, Cindi,” she said, waving. Cindi started, eying beyond her, looking for Cheren—



“Oh, he’s not here,” Bianca said. “I… I left.” She looked downcast. “I should have a while ago but I just… thought that maybe I could make him better. But he just wants to be angry and alone forever, I guess.”



She looked up. “I know that me siding with him wasn’t good, and I’ll—I’ll u-understand if you don’t want to be friends anymore, but I just… wanted you to know that I’m sorry. I should have supported you, and I still—I still think you’re—a friend.”



Stepping closer, Cindi looked at her for a quiet moment—then pulled her into a hug. “Welcome back,” she said.



Cindi felt Bianca’s anxiety melt away as her friend—and she was her friend—relaxed. “Thanks,” Bianca whispered.



They held the hug for a bit and then Bianca pulled back. “I’m just sad I missed Tasha,” she said. “The others told me what happened. I guess I’ll…”



“I’ll help explain it to her. Cam too,” Cindi said. “It’ll all be okay, Bianca.”



She smiled, and then pulled away, the smile growing wistful. “Well, I’m Cheren’s tag-along, so I… guess without him, I’d better leave. I’ll see you at home?”



“…nah,” Cindi said, “I’ve got a better idea. Tasha left, so I figure my team’s got a slot open.”



Bianca gasped. “Will they allow it?”



“Let’s just assume so,” Cindi replied roguishly. “I figure better to ask forgiveness than permission.” Giggling, Bianca fell in among the others in the group.



They turned towards the glowing Ferris Wheel in the center of the park. “One land left,” Cindi said. “One badge.” She turned to Bianca and smiled. “Let’s go.”


---


I've wanted to get to this one for a while. We're entering endgame now!

Regarding Bianca, yes--she really is a member of the team. She's a Joltik (well, a Galvantula now) from Chargestone Cave! Tasha was taken out by the Cheren fight right outside of Twist Mountain. His Simipour managed to land a critical hit Scald that ALSO burned her; because of the burn she couldn't OHKO, and then she was taken out by burn damage at the end of the turn. Probably the unluckiest death I've had in any run!

The Brycen fight was easy-peasy. Diego, AJ, *boom*. Done.

Current team: Cindi (Samurott), Diego (Simisear), AJ (Sawk), Alette (Krokorok), Felix (Archeops), Bianca (Galvantula)

DEE'S DISNEY RESEARCH:
The Dreaming Wood is the area least based off of a direct Disney analogue. The closest would be Critter Country in Disneyland Anaheim, as a forest/river area in the far corner of the park. There is also a number of seasonal events in a number of parks (especially the Disneyworld Resort in Orlando) that I mashed together.
 

Bowser's Family Vacation

Johto League Champion
Writer
Team Delta
Pokédex No.
301
Caught
Jul 1, 2019
Messages
972
Nature
Rash
Pronouns
She/her
Pokémon Type
Dragon, Cool
Pokédex Entry
"Am I Mario's babysitter? Are you going to call me every time that guy blows his nose, or what?"
Oh my goodness, poor Bianca. The fracturing of a friend group is hard enough to reconcile as an adult, but to navigate it as a child, when you understand that nothing should have changed...

“That caffeine’s hitting her like a truck! What are you gonna do when it wears off?”
Diego: "Have a lot of explaining to do to her family."

A race was a bad idea..! Ouch! Well, it goes to show how much Cindi has come in this night alone. Win it for Tasha!

Yay for Bianca! It hurts, but sometimes, a friend just isn't a friend anymore, and that's not your fault.

Of course winter would be Alder's favorite season! It's in the design of the badge! :P
 
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Dee

THIS IS MY HAPPY FACE
Writer
Team Alpha
Pokédex No.
147
Caught
Jun 26, 2019
Messages
538
Location
Zion National Park
Nature
Sassy
Pronouns
They/Them
Pokémon Type
Bug, Clever
Pokédex Entry
A regular writer of fanfics and other works, this pokemon loves puns, bugs, and the outdoors.
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #25
@Bowser's Family Vacation - Aaaaaaaaaaa thank you! Yeah I felt bad for Bianca too. But it all turned out okay in the end hopefully! <33

Land 8: The Hub



And here we come at last—the final land to be included in our grand park. Every wonderland needs a core, and the Hub is ours—a crossroads at the center of all, bridging legend and reality, past and future, technology and nature. I have left it for the end because it is truly the centerpiece of our park. Without it, Alderland falls apart.



At the navel of the land (and, by virtue, the center of the entire park) shall stand our symbol: the great Ferris Wheel. It will be a widely-known icon, an instantly recognizable symbol, its lights and gondolas visible from all corners of Alderland as a reminder that this is a land of fun and fantasy.



The theming of the land is one I will not budge on. A boardwalk and carnival may seem unusual to some, but reflect on what it means—pure, old-fashioned fun. Sometimes you need nothing more symbolic than that; and, after all, we should not forget what this entire endeavor is to be about: childlike joy.



—Alder



---



Finally.



Nate stood on the cobbled streets, a low coal of satisfaction smoldering inside of him. It had taken him a long time—a good long time—but he finally tasted it. Victory.



Nostalgia Lane, the one land that had stumped him. Was this old-fashioned, inaccurate testament to an idealized childhood that never really was meant to say anything? But now, finally, Nate had it. All his calculations and analyses pointed here. This unassuming ice cream parlor had to be the spot.



Around him, the antiquated streets were deserted. The night was long and deep, and most children had already left the park—and those few who stayed certainly weren’t coming here. There was nobody in the penny arcade, no one riding the horse-drawn carriages; not a soul except the attendants, quietly standing sentinel for guests who were never coming.



Didn’t they realize it? Didn’t Alder realize it? Nobody cared about his childhood. Nobody cared about his wistful recollections. Alderland was an icon, but icons could fail. Nostalgia was no substitute for ticket sales or dollars.



“But there will be change,” he muttered to himself. How he envisioned it—a transformation of the world’s most famous park, himself grappling it into the modern age. Fewer walkabout paths and cobbled streets and stage shows; more coasters, snack stands, gift shops. Under Nate’s watchful eye, Alderland wouldn’t just be iconic, it would be paramount—the most economically viable amusement park in the world.



It started tonight.



Filled with a sunstar of confidence, he strode into the parlor. The attendant glanced up with a warm smile and opened her mouth as if to say something.



Nate cut her off by pushing his hand out, palm outstretched. “Badge,” he demanded.



The attendant (Lenora, by her name tag) glanced at it for a few seconds before reaching down and grabbing one. She wordlessly offered it to him.



Ignoring the air of disregard from her—it would matter very little, in the long run—Nate smiled down at it. Finally. Finally.



All eight were his.



---



The Hub glittered around them.



All of them could not help but gape and wonder at it. Strings of small gold lights—like for Christmas—draped over wooden signs and low fences. Most of the hub was a wooden island; a boardwalk that stretched over a modest lake. Although the sound of lapping water could not have been natural (Cindi was certain it was being piped in from outside) it nonetheless gave the area an air of authenticity. Amidst the sound of slowly dancing water was the carefree tinkling of carnival music and the distant cries of barkers. She really felt like she was on a seaside boardwalk.



They all oohed and aahed as they walked past. There were games like the ring toss and a shooting gallery where you could pelt bandits and other ruffians with small, suction-tipped arrows. Tilt-a-whirls, tower drops, and other classic attractions provided further entertainment.



They stumbled off the carousel, all giggling—it had been little Alette’s idea, and none of them possessed the werewithal to say no to the young girl. She bounced up and down on AJ’s shoulders happily, still excited that she had ridden the unicorn. Cindi had sat on a plastic lion, his fangs bared in a regal roar. There was no badge offered at the end, of course, and Cindi hadn’t expected one—but they were having fun nonetheless, and that’s what counted.



Of course, the real highlight was still to come: the Ferris Wheel.



They made their way to Alderland’s icon. The great wheel rose, colored lights spangled off of it like multifaceted jewels. It spun slowly, uncaring of the fast pace demanded of modern amusement attractions; it turned over itself, again and again, leisurely and unapologetic.



The hour was late; the crowds were thin; the line, marvelously, was nonexistent. They were able to walk on almost as soon as they wished. They went two to each gondola—AJ and little Alette on one, Felix and Diego on another, and Bianca and Cindi on the last. At the attendant’s call the operator cranked the lever, sending them all up.



The spinning wheel carried them high, higher, and higher still. Cindi could hear the distant chatter of the others talking in their cars; for her part, she was content to repose in thought in her gondola.



To ensure guests’ safety, the car was encapsulated with a thin latticework of metal shaped to look like vines and flowers, all painted a soft red. Beyond the metal bars stood all of Alderland.



Bianca’s voice broke the silence. “It’s… really wonderful,” she said, her voice soft. Following her gaze, Cindi looked to the southeast, where the great glittering dome that housed Cyber City glowed in the night, the neon painting the night with vivid color. On the opposite end, in the southwest, were the greens of the Lost Isle. The stone magnificence of the Forgotten Temple rose over the ferns and plants, and if Cindi closed her eyes, she fancied that she could still hear the distant panpipes and drumbeats. Nestled between them was the quiet glimmer of Nostalgia Lane, lined with soft light; beyond it the dark topiary of the Greeting Gardens stood nobly, waiting to greet the next slew of guests to visit the park.



Turning, Cindi looked to the north. Skytown, higher than the rest of the park, gleamed, all the metal and steam looking bright in the cool night air. Skyla’s zeppelin circled above. Flanking it to the east was the quaint childlike wonder of the Storybook Village, the dragon’s mountain towering over the timber-framed Bavarian houses. And in the other corner, the pale florality of the Dreaming Wood shifted from pink to green to auburn to pale white, a dance of the seasons.



It should have been so patchwork, so jumbled-together. Yet it meshed so perfectly. It was a celebration, she realized; a celebration of the world, of humanity’s collective pasts and dreams, and their ambitions. Of the stories they told each other and of their capacity for fun and communal enjoyment.



“It is,” she responded, turning to Bianca with a smile.



Her friend responded with a smile of her own—and in that moment, though the days in which Bianca had initially backed Cheren’s venomousness still could never truly go away, Cindi felt the gulf between them shortening in every moment.



“Remember when we were little?” Cindi laughed. “And we first heard about Alderland? You told me that all you wanted to do was sit in the Ferris Wheel with your best friends.”



Blushing, Bianca pulled her hat over her eyes. “Oh gosh! I forgot about that… what was that, clear back in kindergarten?” Putting her hat back, she grinned goofily. “But like… I meant it. I know that most people like fast-paced rollercoasters or spectacular shows, but… just being in a special place with my friends means a lot.”



“Thank you,” Cindi said, and meant it.



As the wheel continued its slow turn, Cindi felt the excitement of it all rising in her chest. “I get it, Bianca,” she said. “Alderland, I mean. It’s… it’s his love letter to… to everyone. Everything. It’s all coming together. It wouldn’t work if any part was broken off or left out. It’s a single, unified piece.”



“I’m sure he’ll be excited someone like you made it,” Bianca said. “He couldn’t have asked for a better successor.”



Embarrassed, Cindi rubbed the back of her head. “I mean… I don’t have all eight badges yet. It’s not a sure thing.”



And, reflecting on the sharp-minded and aloof person she’d run into a few times—Nate—she was still sure of that. It wasn’t over yet.



When the Ferris Wheel ride was over and they stepped off the gondola, Cindi traipsed over to the attendant, pulling out her badge case.



But the attendant—a very short, olive-skinned girl barely out of high school with a spectacular mane of navy blue hair—smiled apologetically at her.



“Sorry,” said the girl. “I get that a lot but… I don’t have the badge. This is not Alder’s favorite attraction in the Hub.”



The news struck like a thunderclap. Every member of the group exchanged shocked, unsure glances.



But Cindi recovered swiftly. “It’s no problem, everyone,” she said. “Remember the Lost Ilse? The Greeting Gardens? Alder’s anything but predictable.” Then, nodding at the girl, she thanked her.



The attendant smiled back. “You’re welcome. And good luck!”



“What could it be, d’ya think?” Diego drawled as they walked away. He tugged idly at the sleeve of his jean jacket. “There’s so much stuff here!”



“Tell me about it,” Cindi said. Finding a nearby bench, she cradled her hands in thought.



When she glanced up, the others looked slightly bored—and tired. Now that was problematic. Sleep would get them kicked out. “Go have fun,” she said, waving them off. “Really. I’ll figure this out.”



It took some persuasion, but ultimately AJ, Diego, and Alette wandered off for another go on the carousel. Bianca insisted on staying close, however, and at the prompting of more rides, Felix just shrugged and said, “…no interest.”



“Alright,” Cindi said. “Let’s walk.”



With Bianca and Felix stepping behind her, they wandered over the boardwalk, their footsteps sending wooden echoes into the water beneath.



“It’s one of these carnival games,” Cindi mused aloud, eying the stalls. “If it was a ride, it would be the Ferris Wheel for sure. It has to be a game.” It fit Alder’s general mold—games were tied to youth, and the Hub, in its old-fashioned glory, was as much a celebration of childhood as Nostalgia Lane.



But they celebrated different aspects, Cindi realized. Nostalgia Lane was wistful and reflective, a portrait of the quiet moments of youth. The Hub was high-energy, frantic, loud, bright, and vivid; it embraced the unchecked, gleeful chaos of childhood run amok.



“Find the wackiest, zaniest game you can,” she said, turning to Bianca and Felix. “Let’s spread out.”



They spread out among the games, hunting like hawks. Cindi eyed ring-tosses, basketball alleys, foosball tables—duck ponds, fishing games, whack-the-mallet stalls. All typical carnie fare. What would be the standout? What would Alder like best?



Finally, she heard Felix’s voice picking at her from above the stalls. She dashed to find him, almost bumping into Bianca along the way.



They found him completely crushing the game at a small, out-of-the-way stall. The game had you control a water cannon, aiming it at the mouths of cardboard cutouts shaped to look like dragons. The more you filled up a dragon, the bigger the balloon behind them got, until—



POP! Cindi leapt with a squeak as one balloon burst. Without missing a beat, Felix moved to the next. Impressed, Cindi saw that he was leaving a trail of draconic devastation behind him.



The attendant, an older man with a ferocious white beard, black suspenders, and a bolo tie, was watching with undisguised respect. Not wanting to bug Felix out of his groove, Bianca, the attendant, and Cindi each sat quietly until the timer ran out.



By the time it was over, Felix had burst all the dragons’ balloons, rescued the knights from falling debris, and put out the fire in the village. It had required a consistent display of precision and masterful shooting.



“Impressive,” the attendant—Drayden, according to his nametag—boomed. “Most impressive. That’s the second-best performance I’ve ever seen and… oh my. The sixth best performance in the history of the park!”



While Bianca and Cindi cheered, Felix looked disgruntled. “…sixth best?” he muttered. “I’m slipping.”



Shaking her head ruefully in remembrance of the forest of high scores he’d left behind in the Cyber City arcade, Cindi turned her attention to Drayden. “The highest score… would Alder himself hold it, by any chance?”



The man guffawed. “Hah! No, he’s far too old—his reflexes can barely keep up.” His beard wrinkled with the hint of a smile behind it. “But he’s quite a fan of these games. Wanders the stalls pretty frequently, but…”



“…this one’s the one he comes back to most?” Cindi finished. Eyes twinkling, Drayden nodded.



Pulling out her case, Cindi opened it and offered it to him. “Badge, please.”



Chortling, Drayden pulled out the final badge and pinned it in place. It was grey, with a ruby in the center and spikes pulsing out of it—a stylized wheel-and-spokes formation.



Glancing down at it, Cindi looked up to see the man beaming at her. “That’s all eight,” he said. “Congratulations.”



“Thank you,” she replied. Then, after a short moment, she added: “what now?”



“Now?” he said mischievously. “Now there’s a final test. There’s a spot, here in the park, set aside for Alder to stay in. Go there, and you’ll meet the bigwigs. Your journey will end.”



“I suppose you won’t give me any hints?” she asked.



His laughter boomed. “Do you want them?”



“…no,” she said. “No, I don’t.”



The final test. Alder’s place of residence in the park. She could do this. She could do this.



“Go find the others,” she told Felix and Bianca. “It’s time for tonight to turn into tomorrow.”


---


I can't believe it... this is the second-to-last chapter! We only have one to go, and then an epilogue..

This was an atypical, experimental, and very fun ride, and I thank everyone who came along with me :'> We're moving into endgame real soon!

The Drayden fight was quite simple. A Blizzard from Cindi OHKO'd the Fraxure. Felix managed to KO Druddigon despite Drayden using one of his healing items on it, though the chip damage from rough skin left him in the yellow, triggering defeatist. Haxorus scared me, but was the simplest of all. After a turn 1 Dragon Dance (which was a bit superfluous because Haxorus already outsped) an Earthquake from Alette left Haxorus in the red. Drayden healed, another Earthquake brought it to low yellow--and then on his last turn he used Dragon Dance again, letting her EQ one final time to KO him without Haxorus ever launching an attack.

The final Cheren fight was similarly a joke. After wasting several turns with Detect, Unfezant went down to Felix's Rock Slide without ever damaging him. Simipour managed to be the trickiest member of Cheren's team, just like it was back when it KO'd Tasha: I sent out Cindi against it. It outsped, used Scald, landed the burn AGAIN (what is with this thing's OP luck?) but then Cindi retaliated with a crit Grass Knot that OHKO'd. Serperior outsped Bianca but used a weak Slam attack on her; after two turns, Bianca was to one-thirds HP but Serperior was fainted thanks to Signal Beam. Liepard managed to land a single weak Slash attack on AJ before the cat got KO'd by Brick Break.

I made it through Victory Road no problem, either. Next time I will probably post final team stats, and then cover the E4 and the final fights. See you then.

DEE'S DISNEY RESEARCH:
In terms of a central location featuring an icon, the Hub is based off of the Fantasyland entrances to the various parks, with the Ferris Wheel standing in for the castles. The theming of an old-fashioned waterfront pier is drawn from California Adventure's Pixar Pier location in its original incarnation as Paradise Pier, which I always found the most charming area of the park. Along with the changing of the Tower of Terror to a Guardians of the Galaxy ride, the overhaul of Paradise Pier to a Pixar land left me feeling like California Adventure lost a lot of its charm, especially considering that the park already has entire lands dedicated to Cars and A Bug's Life. Oh well...
 

Bowser's Family Vacation

Johto League Champion
Writer
Team Delta
Pokédex No.
301
Caught
Jul 1, 2019
Messages
972
Nature
Rash
Pronouns
She/her
Pokémon Type
Dragon, Cool
Pokédex Entry
"Am I Mario's babysitter? Are you going to call me every time that guy blows his nose, or what?"
No one:
Nate: "Let me calculate Alder's feelings."
Seriously, though, I do that his strategy, which is very different from Cindi's, hasn't been denigrated or shut down by the competition.

That being said, public image is a huge part of a company's success, Nate, and the public isn't always enamored with economics driving decisions...

God, those water balloon games are the worst. I never played them because I couldn't handle the sound, but you could still hear them... Darn you, Alder, for liking them. who beat the game tho was it nate
 
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Dee

THIS IS MY HAPPY FACE
Writer
Team Alpha
Pokédex No.
147
Caught
Jun 26, 2019
Messages
538
Location
Zion National Park
Nature
Sassy
Pronouns
They/Them
Pokémon Type
Bug, Clever
Pokédex Entry
A regular writer of fanfics and other works, this pokemon loves puns, bugs, and the outdoors.
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #27
@Bowser's Family Vacation - Yeah, Nate is... Nate. Yeah. He's a successful planner, but I wonder if that's all it takes?

And those water balloon games ARE the worst, I hate them! 🤣


So for my runs, I usually have one "update" near the end that's just my final team statistics! This is to make sure everyone knows what I went into the endgame with, and also fuel speculation on who's not gonna make it muahahahaha

Below is the team as it stood for the pokemon league!

Cindi

Samurott (F) lv. 53. Water-type w/Expert Belt. Ability: Torrent. Quirky nature, "mischievous." Obtained: Nuvema Town (starter)
HP: 190 | Attack: 141 | Defense: 104 | Special Attack: 138 | Special Defense: 85 | Speed: 99
Moveset: Blizzard, Grass Knot, Surf, Revenge


Diego

Simisear (M) lv. 53. Fire-type w/Charcoal. Ability: Gluttony. Careful nature, "somewhat stubborn." Obtained: Dreamyard (gift)
HP: 155 | Attack: 128 | Defense: 79 | Special Attack: 106 | Special Defense: 97 | Speed: 136
Moveset: Flame Burst, Brick Break, Fire Blast, Yawn

AJ

Sawk (M) lv. 53. Fighting-type w/Shell Bell. Ability: Inner Focus. Modest nature, "impetuous & silly." Obtained: Pinwheel Forest
HP: 159 | Attack: 144 | Defense: 97 | Special Attack: 56 | Special Defense: 92 | Speed: 115
Moveset: Close Combat, Rock Slide, Bulk Up, Bulldoze

Alette

Krookodile (F) lv. 53. Ground/Dark-type w/Rocky Helmet. Ability: Intimidate. Brave nature, "somewhat vain." Obtained: Relic Castle
HP: 184 | Attack: 165 | Defense: 89 | Special Attack: 77 | Special Defense: 94 | Speed: 100
Moveset: Crunch, Earthquake, Rock Slide, Dragon Claw

Felix

Archeops (M) lv. 53. Rock/Flying-type w/Flying Gem (final battles only; otherwise, no item). Ability: Defeatist. Relaxed nature, "scatters things often." Obtained: Nacrene City (Fossil)
HP: 177 | Attack: 177 | Defense: 95 | Special Attack: 135 | Special Defense: 77 | Speed: 123
Moveset: Acrobatics, Rock Slide, Crunch, Dragon Claw

Bianca

Galvantula (F) lv. 53. Bug/Electric-type w/Silverpowder. Ability: Unnerve. Relaxed nature, "highly curious." Obtained: Chargestone Cave
HP: 149 | Attack: 101 | Defense: 93 | Special Attack: 130 | Special Defense: 80 | Speed: 113
Moveset: Thunderbolt, Signal Beam, Sucker Punch, Thunder Wave​
 

Thirteenth

Number XIV
Writer
Pokédex No.
14
Caught
May 20, 2019
Messages
107
Nature
Quiet
Pronouns
She/Her
Pokémon Type
Fairy, Ice
Pokédex Entry
The reason she guides people all the way down to the mountain's base is that she wants them to hurry up and leave.
aaaa I've finally caught up!! This has been a sweet story, Dee. It was nice to see Cindi kind of come into her own, though I think my favorite characters have been Diego -- if only because he seems to be a little adrenaline junkie like me lol -- and Bianca. Those scenes where she's in the ice cream parlor trying to figure out where she stands have probably been my favorite out of the whole run. I'm really glad that she realized she just couldn't salvage the past and returned to the friend who's like. actually a friend.

But I think my favorite thing overall about this story has been the atmosphere. You do feel the whimsy and magical quality of Alderland while reading, and it's really made me want to go to Six Flags 😂
 
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Dee

THIS IS MY HAPPY FACE
Writer
Team Alpha
Pokédex No.
147
Caught
Jun 26, 2019
Messages
538
Location
Zion National Park
Nature
Sassy
Pronouns
They/Them
Pokémon Type
Bug, Clever
Pokédex Entry
A regular writer of fanfics and other works, this pokemon loves puns, bugs, and the outdoors.
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #29
@Thirteenth - Aaaaaahhhhh thank you! I'm glad you caught up and that you liked it ^^ I like Diego too--like him (and you, it seems) I too am a big adrenaline junkie. I'm always zooming right for the biggest coasters and wildest rides, hehehe. I'm glad you liked the Bianca scenes, too. That one was one of my favorites so far!

And I've only been to Six Flags once, but I definitely get the sense of wanting to go someplace fun!




Confidence. Confidence. That was what Cindi needed. If there was one thing she should have learned tonight, it was confidence.



So why was this feeling in her chest? Why did she feel tight—like something was gripping around her heart? It was here. She had done it. She’d gotten all eight badges and was finally ready to meet Alder, her childhood icon.



Maybe that was it. What if he didn’t choose her? What if they didn’t click? What if she failed?



Then you fail,
she told herself, breathing in and out, in and out. Besides, your new mindset… reconnecting with Bianca… the friends you made… those themselves should count as victories.



But first, she had to find Alder. Where could he be? It was somewhere in the park, she knew that much. Somewhere…



So far they had quietly cased the Hub, moved back to Cyber City, and were now poking around the fairytale cottages of the Storybook Village. Yet, it didn’t seem like there was any clue as to where he might be.



But, amazingly, things could get even worse.



A tap on her shoulder took Cindi out of her thoughts. The culprit was Felix—motioning a little ways back. The other members of her group were arranged in a loose circle, looking worriedly at—



Alette.



The little girl’s eyes were drooping, and her head was nodding. She looked completely out of it. AJ held her gently to stop her from collapsing and taking a nap right there on the cobbled streets.



“Caffeine ran out,” Bianca said, sighing. “Poor thing. It’s like she got hit with a tranquilizer.”



“Could we get her more?” Cindi asked. She felt like she knew the answer, though.



Bianca shook her head. “Wouldn’t do any good. She’s crashed too hard. Especially given how young she is… I’m surprised she lasted this long, caffeine or no.” Cindi’s heart sunk. It was as she’d suspected.



“‘S my fault,” Diego muttered, sticking his hands in his jacket pockets. He was staring down, not meeting anyone’s eyes. “Shouldn’t have given her that soda.”



Cindi rested a hand on his shoulder. “Don’t blame yourself,” she said. “Without it, she probably would have had to leave even earlier.”



“I’ll take her to the attendants,” AJ said, gently raising her. “I’ll keep her company there.”



“Wait—you’re leaving?” asked Diego.



AJ flashed them a wan smile. “Yeah. Ever since Wynn and Dyson left, I just haven’t had the same stake in this as I used to. I’ve seen all the rides and all the lands… I had fun. Figure this night is something I’mma carry with me for a long time.” He stood, gently holding Alette to his shoulder. “Besides, I figure that if she wakes up, she might be confused and scared—her brother got sick, so I wanna make sure there’s a friendly face there just in case, y’know? Something familiar. Comforting.”



They all nodded. It made sense.



And then, Cindi blinked.



“Familiar…” she said, stretching the word out. “Comforting…”



She blinked again, her heart suddenly racing a hundred beats a minute.



“That’s it. That’s it! AJ! I know where Alder is!”



He laughed merrily. “Yeah, there’s the Cindi I know! I’ve got nothing but respect after seeing you figure stuff out all night long. And besides… it won’t matter if I’m there to see it or not. I know that you’ll end up Alder’s heir. There’s no doubt in my mind.”



Alette stirred on his shoulder and twisted around, blinking blearily at Cindi and the others. “Sorry I got tired,” she murmured, the sounds coming as if through molasses. “Cindi… I know you can do it…” She smiled and buried her face on AJ’s shoulder. “You’re a great girl…”



“Thank you,” Cindi replied. She received only a light snore in reply.



Smiling down at Alette, AJ nodded at the others. “Thanks for a great night, everybody,” he said.



As he slowly took Alette to find an attendant, the others—Bianca, Diego, and Felix—looked at Cindi expectantly.



She grinned. “Familiarity. Comfort. Follow me.



And then she turned and ran. She ran and ran—ran past the enchanting storybook houses, ran over the cobbled streets. She ran as the fairytale village transformed into the old-timey glitz of the Hub. The wooden boardwalk echoed with her footsteps as she ran. The carnival barkers eyed her, and she ran straight on by the giant Ferris Wheel, which was still turning in the night. From the Ferris Wheel she ran south, towards the collection of old-fashioned buildings and tinny music: Nostalgia Lane.



She ran and ran and finally she stopped right outside a familiar ice cream parlor, her chest heaving with sweet exertion as the others caught up.



“This place?” Bianca said, staring straight up at it with a look of familiarity. Felix was frowning, and Diego looked confused.



“Isn’t this where we got the second badge?” he asked.



Cindi grinned impishly in response. “Yes. But remember what the lady told us? This is his mother’s shop. An exact recreation. Even considering how personal the rest of Alderland is… that’s got to mean something.”



The bell over the door tinkled as they went inside, and Lenora—still dutifully manning the counter, despite the near-emptiness of the park at this late stage—glanced up. The older woman’s face broke into a big, big smile.



“Well, here you are,” she said warmly. Her gaze moved from Cindi over to Bianca, who smiled and waved sheepishly. “So you found your friend? That’s good. Very good indeed.”



“Yes ma’am,” Bianca said. “Um… thank you. For the advice.”



Lenora’s eyes twinkled. “Advice? I just asked you some questions.”



“This is it, isn’t it?” Cindi said, stepping forward. “Right… there.” Her eyes swept to something totally innocuous—a staircase in the corner with a wrought-iron gate over it. She’d seen it last time and ignored it completely.



“It is,” Lenora said. “It is.” She stepped from behind the counter, pulling an old-fashioned key from her apron in one smooth motion. She unlocked the gate with a simple twist and pulled it aside.



“Go on upstairs,” she told them. “By the way… That other kid—with the green hair—came on through a little earlier. We ain’t supposed to play favorites, but…” She winked. “I’m rooting for you, honey.”



Blushing, Cindi stammered out some thanks and took the stairs two at a time, followed closely by the others. She went up one floor above the parlor to a small, warmly furnished flat with a number of chairs, sofas, and other cushions.



Nate was sitting on one, looking disinterested.



He turned his face to see her—their eyes met. His face remained flat, but he nodded once in the closest thing to respectful acknowledgement he seemed capable of.



Cindi took the seat across from him, and the others found their way in as well.



“I thought it would be you,” Nate said. “I would’ve liked to have been the only one, but… I knew you’d make it here.”



“Thanks… I think.”



He swept his eyes at her group, counting the members. His brow furrowed, but he said nothing on it.



“They’re one floor above,” he said. “The second and third floor are Alder’s personal apartment. They’re having us wait until it’s almost closing time until they pull us up.”



“Okay,” Cindi said, leaning back. “So we wait.”



And they waited, all of them. Felix had conjured some small gaming device from seemingly nowhere and was tapping away at it, Diego hovering over his shoulder. Bianca wandered around the room, examining the trappings with wide-eyed interest. Nate simply stared at a wall, his arms folded, as inexpressive as ever.



Cindi… took it all in.



It was warm. Not sentimental—not kitschy—not even of the sort of well-intentioned but calculated nostalgia that defined this part of the park. This was Alder’s personal living space. There were metal candy tins from before plastic became common, a gramophone that was not in use, and even what looked like a period-accurate newspaper. But it was not as good as it could have been. The wallpaper was fading, the sofas and cushions comfortable but not divine, and even the paneled wood floor had seen more than its share of nicks and scratches.



But what really spoke to her were the pictures. Old black-and-white pictures, and a few even older ones, like daguerreotypes and mezzotints, were hung on the walls or resting on tables. With frames of mahogany and other soft and inviting woods, many of the pictures were coated with a fine layer of dust.



This is as close to a true recreation of his childhood as he could get, Cindi thought. Not the fun version for tourists. This is just for Alder himself. This is as personal, as real, as it could be. She stood and gently picked up one up from a nearby table. It showed an interior of an ice cream parlor that looked like the one downstairs. A woman in a stained apron was smiling at the camera, mussing the hair of a gap-toothed young boy with a cone in his hand.



The door leading upstairs creaked open.



As Cindi set down the picture in a jolt, an unfamiliar person poked his head out. He had a lithe, thin face with angular features, and a Flight of the Conchords hairstyle. “We’ve figured that at this point, nobody left in the park could get all 8 badges in time,” he said, speaking with a clipped and crisp RP accent. “So you two are invited up.”



“Wait—just them?” Bianca protested. Felix and Diego nodded vigorously behind her.



“Afraid so,” the man said, no trace of a true apology in his voice. “You all can wait down here. It shouldn’t take too long. Now then?”



Without a word, Nate stood and walked for the door. The man held it open for him, giving greater insight to his dress—a black suit with red highlights, coupled with a long yellow scarf. As Nate ascended to the third floor, Cindi turned to face her friends.



“Guys…” she said, worried at the looming spectre of their absence



“You can do it Cindi!” Bianca cheered.



“…believe,” added Felix.



Diego crossed his arms and grinned. “Just do what Tasha woulda done and shoulder on ahead. Just act! We’re rooting for you!”



Nodding in relief, Cindi turned and went up the stairs.



The third floor was a small hallway with a few doors branching off of it. “That one at the end,” the suited man said, and Cindi nodded and headed for it.



Inside, she found an office that was pretty spacious, considering the size available. A long and slightly curved desk dominated it; it looked new and out-of-place. This probably wasn’t Alder’s original one; he brought it here for the event. Two cushioned and equally-out-of-place pleather chairs were set across from it. Nate was standing near one, ramrod straight; Cindi sank into the other.



The suited man took his place at the table. There were four other people sitting there: a young woman with a purple-colored bob cut and massively oversized glasses in an artistic tee; a dark-complexioned and friendly-faced man with big muscles wearing a suit with the sleeves rolled up and without a tie; a chic-looking woman with voluminous blonde hair in a lavender suit-skirt; and, in the center, a middle-aged man with a thin mouth and greying blonde hair in an immaculately pressed suit, whose placement and demeanor clearly indicated that he was in charge.



“I figure we may as well get introductions out of the way,” the man in the middle said, his voice terse. He had an unapologetic Boston accent. “We know who you are, of course. Cindi Fischer and Nathan Gropius, the only two invitees out of hundreds to make it here.”



He looked at the others as if encouraging their input.



“Guess I’ll go first,” said the Brit in the suit who had fetched them. “Carson Grimsley, Alder’s lawyer and executor for this transfer.”



“Caitlin Lamoreaux,” added the woman in lavender. She had a soft voice that nonetheless demanded you listen to it. “I’m head of marketing.” She glanced at the woman in the glasses.



“Shauntal Nix,” the other woman replied. “I lead the team that designs and engineers the rides.”



“Marshal Wilberforce,” said the last man. “I manage the park’s day-to-day operations and oversee employees.”



“And I,” said the man in the middle without missing a beat, “am Gerald Harmonia, chairman of the board.” He leaned back, steepling his fingers. “Now then. The two of you managed to make it all the way here. What this means—”



“Excuse me,” Cindi said, almost without meaning to. Harmonia looked deeply dissatisfied with being cut off, narrowing his gaze at her. The other adults all wore various expressions: Grimsley and Wilberforce both seemed entertained, Nix seemed intrigued, and Lamoreaux looked just shy of facepalming. Cindi’s words died and silence reigned in the office. She shrunk back in her seat; out of the corner of her eye, she saw Nate sitting still, staring forward in silence.



“Well,” barked Harmonia, clearly cross, “out with it then. What is it?”



“Um, I just thought… where’s Alder? Isn’t he the one to decide who his successor is?”



Her question didn’t have the effect she had anticipated. The bigwigs at the table all stirred, each of them—sans Harmonia, who still looked aggrieved—wearing some sort of quiet expression.



“That’s right, nobody told them yet,” Nix said. “It’s not an unreasonable expectation. Gerald?”



“Oh, go ahead then,” he said waving his hand at one of them to continue.



Wilberforce picked up the slack. “Kids,” he said, leaning forward, “I hate to be the bearer of bad news but… Alder passed away. Five—wait, no, six days ago.”



Cindi blinked. “W-what?”



“We always knew his health was bad, but he was hiding just how bad,” Wilberforce continued. His accent was working-class British—Northern England, probably, though Cindi was bad at placing them. His suit was high-quality, but he wore it like a man who wasn’t used to it; a man who disliked such formal attire. “He was doing his best to make it to this event, but it just wasn’t to be. We’re making the announcement public tomorrow, at the same time we announce his successor.”



He suddenly got very blurry. Cindi blinked, and blinked again, realizing that she was crying—why was she crying, when had she started crying? “S-sorry, I…” she said, wiping her eyes. “I d-didn’t… I thought…”



With a look of sympathy, Lamoreaux stood up and wordlessly handed her a tissue. Cindi wiped her eyes. “I’ll be f-fine, really. I just… I thought I’d get to meet him.”



“He wanted to meet you,” Nix said softly. “Both of you. Anyone who managed to make it here.”



Cindi nodded, still sniffing. From the corner of her eyes, she saw Nate glancing—almost imperceptibly—at her for the first time with a look that could best be described as a muted mix of confusion and… concern?



“Yes, well,” Harmonia cut in, his voice carrying a clear get-on-with-it tone, “he was originally to pick his own successor, but…”



“But,” Grimsley continued smoothly, pulling out a sheet of paper with flowery handwriting on it, “in the event that he couldn’t make it in time, Alder appointed us five to judge in his stead. We were to narrow it down to two finalists based on observations of your behavior in the park, then have a joint interview followed by a vote—five of us, so simple majority. But,” he said with a laugh, “since only two of you made it anyway, we get to skip the first part.”



“So,” Harmonia said, taking over once again. “Here we are. Alderland. The world’s most famous theme park—but also a struggling one. Newer, bigger parks with top-of-the-line rides and slick presentation have nibbled away at out park’s visibility and our bottom line. Upkeep costs a lot, and even Alder’s pockets aren’t—or weren’t—limitless. Considering that our founder and icon has just passed, the park will be more vulnerable than ever. How do you,” he said, sweeping his gaze from Cindi to Nate and back again, “plan to address this potential cataclysm? How do you plan to take Alderland into the future?”



The woman in charge of engineering—Nix—stood up, looking from one to the other. “So here’s how it’s gonna go,” she said. “Each of you will have a few minutes to make your case. If you think that’s not enough time, don’t—we’ve been observing you throughout your journey thus far the moment you began to stand out, and so we have a pretty good image of you already formed.” She smiled roguishly at the two of them, and Cindi couldn’t help but smile back. Shauntal Nix was quite young for her position—mid-twenties? The fact that she wore a tee even here seemed like a definitive statement. “During those few minutes, we five may occasionally ask you questions. Don’t take them lightly; your answers will matter. And absolutely, positively, do not interrupt the other person speaking.”



“Mr. Gropius,” said Harmonia, “since you were the first to arrive, I figure we can allow you whether to present first or second. Which would you choose?”



The other four at the table all gave Harmonia a sideways glance—it seemed that this had not been something they’d been briefed on. But Nate, for his part, didn’t miss a beat. “I’m going first,” he said, rising from his chair.



Harmonia leaned back, with a satisfied and appreciative look on his face. “By all means, then. Go ahead.”



Nate nodded and, without preamble, launched into his words. “Like all things, Alderland must change in order to survive,” he said. “A monarch may sustain itself crawling on milkweed in its infancy, but that cannot last it after the chrysalis. Alderland made a name for itself, but to keep that name, substantial changes need to be made.



“First of all,” he said, “other parks rely on the best. The biggest drops, the fastest rides, the widest loops. We need to outcompete them. We don’t have space to spare for parlors or village greens or any of that other silly stuff. We need more rides—and they need to be big and modern. Fast coasters with loops or towers with big drops.”



“What about the current rides?” interjected Nix. There was a distinct southern Californian drawl to her voice.



“Some can stay,” Nate said. “The big coasters are fine. The Ferris Wheel is an icon, so it has to be kept. But most people—and I’m talking about the average customer; I personally hate fast rides, but the typical park attendee would disagree with me—don’t care about being lectured while they stand in line. They want to shoot off at 70 miles-per-hour and go so fast that their screams reach the stratosphere. A lot of the small rides would have to go so that real rides could take their place.”



“What about the park’s brand and theming?” asked Harmonia.



Nate nodded at him. “Good question. We could still keep the lands, but restrict the theming to names. The same coaster could be called the ‘Techno Blaster’ in Cyber City or the ‘Steam Express’ in Skytown. By naming them appropriately and building them in proximity to landmarks of the park that remain unchanged, we can reap the benefits of new rides while still riding towards the future.”



Harmonia smiled and nodded. He looked satisfied.



“Ultimately, much of the park is based on Alder’s personal nostalgia,” Nate continued. “And while I respect that, it doesn’t make for good business. Too much of this park is personal. Imagine how successful it could be if it catered to the tastes of ten million rather than just one.”



Cindi’s mouth felt dry. Was this what he wanted for Alderland? To make it a soulless shell wearing the old park’s clothes? It might be successful, but… where was the heart?



“Alright,” Wilberforce said with a slow nod. “I understand what you’re saying so far. What you’ve proposed probably would increase attendance. However, I’d like to ask a personal question—if I may.”



Nate’s browed furrowed, almost imperceptibly, but he nodded.



“Can I ask why you didn’t bring anyone with you—or why you didn’t pick up anyone along the way, though rules permitted it?”



Nodding again, Nate responded. “They would have slowed me down. I was the first of only two to make it here—and I arrived far sooner than my competition. Bringing other people would only have held me back. Efficiency in all things; that’s my motto.”



“Well said,” Harmonia said warmly. Cindi tried not to swallow. Harmonia was obviously already enamored with Nate—and while the others didn’t seem as overtly affectionate, they didn’t seem hostile to him either. Was this Harmonia’s plan? Had he made up his mind before she ever stepped into the room—and allowed his favored candidate a chance to plant a seed before she got a chance to speak?



“So what I assume.” Harmonia was saying, “is that said efficiency is going to be our guiding principle under your leadership?”



“Yes,” Nate responded an affirmative gesture, “exactly. Certain sacrifices will have to be made. The art studio will have to go; the Dreaming Woods should be made into something else entirely. A food court, perhaps, to get that extra revenue. Nostalgia Lane will need to include actual rides—probably in place of the penny arcade, or the barbershop. I know that losing these may sting, but in the end, what we replace them with will bring more crowds—and ultimately, the tourist dollar is all that really matters.”



He took his seat. “That’s all.”



Harmonia burst into a vigorous clap, which the other four slowly trailed into repeating. “Well,” he said jovially, turning his attention to Cindi, “it’s your turn, young lady.”



Cindi breathed in, and out. In, and out. She stood, forcing her hands to unclench. She knew that her eyes were still puffy; her throat was still constricted from her cry earlier. God, but she wished that her friends were here to lend them everything she needed from them: Tasha’s fierce strength, Diego’s wit, AJ’s quiet resolve, Alette’s innocence, Bianca’s contrition, and Felix’s skill.



She wanted to say something in opposition to Nate—how sterile his plan seemed, how it went against the very meaning and nature of Alderland itself, how it missed the point. How Alder, a retired banker—or perhaps ‘reformed’ was the better word—could have chased the dollar if he wanted to, but how he chose not to in pursuit of something higher. She wanted to protest, but she didn’t know how to say it.



As seconds of silence stretched, she stared at the men and women arrayed before her. Nix seemed intrigued and slightly rebellious; Grimsley, lounging with a smirk on his face; Lamoreaux, by far the hardest of them to read in her lavender suit and glossy nails; Wilberforce, who eyed her with expectation; and Harmonia, who if not gauche enough to meet her with open derision wasn’t hiding the fact that listening to her was nothing more than a token gesture.



She took it all in, closed her eyes, breathed, and then spun and walked to the wall.



All eyes followed her as she grabbed the cord for the blinds and yanked it down. The blinds shot up and light from outside swept into the room, filling the drab, muted office with an array of reds and greens and oranges. Dominating the view was the great Ferris Wheel, still spinning, all parts of it edged in color.



Cindi stared out the window. “Today,” she began, “I walked through jungle temples. I took down a predatory corporation. I walked the four seasons in matters of minutes.” Silence still filled the room, but there was a different taste to it now—it was the silence of attention and respect. “I buried a dragon. I saw the stars from the vantage point of a flying machine. I made friends, and I lost friends, and I regained someone who I thought would be lost to me forever. I… I found myself.” She stood quiet for a moment, letting the moment hold. When she spoke again, she kept her back to them, keeping their attention away from her face and on the fanciful vista that was arrayed before her.



“That’s what Alderland is,” she said. “It’s more than the sum of its parts. It’s more than just a collection of rides and shows and shops. It lives and it breathes. But more than that, it inspires us and speaks to us. I learned more today hearing the story of Alder’s childhood today while sitting in the parlor below us than I ever would on some zero-to-fifty roller coaster. I’ll remember that forever. The parks competing against us that you’re concerned about… they’re all the same. They blend one into another. No one remembers them.”



“Memorable or not,” snapped Harmonia’s voice behind her, “they’re scooping away our crowds and our bottom line. So we’re just supposed to ignore that in favor of nostalgia, then?”



“No.” Cindi shook her head, and then turned to face them. She clasped her hands behind her back. “But the solution isn’t to parrot them, but to play up our differences. Those slick new rides are a dime-a-dozen, but Alderland is the only one of its kind in the world. There’s something to that.”



“So is that all we have going for us?” asked Wilberforce. The big man’s eyes were probing.



“Oh, of course not,” Cindi replied. “A big part of it is the people themselves. The workers here care in a way I haven’t ever seen. They buy into the magic of the park as much as anyone. I mentioned Lenora, who ran the ice cream station, but Burgh’s passion for nature expressed through his art, and the nice man tending the gardens who told me about Alder’s grandmother and his passion for tales… that’s not the kind of personality you expect to see in other places.” She smiled. “But it’s characteristic here.”



Wilberforce seemed pleased, but Harmonia cut in: “Considering that you spent most of the evening partying with your friends, do you think that has colored your viewpoint a little bit?”



“Gerald, please,” Nix cut in, looking cross.



“I didn’t hear you object when Marshal asked a personal question, Shauntal,” he countered.



She leaned back, conceding the point but looking none too happy about it, while Wilberforce shrugged at her in apology.



Breathing, Cindi returned Harmonia’s gaze. “I did have a lot of fun with my friends—but most of us weren’t friends until tonight. Exploring the lands, learning the stories behind the rides, and trying to figure out what Alder meant in all of them gave us purpose that unified us. I don’t think that would have happened in a different park.”



“And you think you know what Alder ‘meant in all of them’?”



“Yes, sir,” she responded simply, “I do.” Harmonia leaned back, clearly not expecting that answer, and she forged on. “It’s about respect. Respect for the past, and for our childhood. For nature and other people. And respect for ourselves—and the things we may have forgotten. To Alder, this park was a tribute to yesterday—and he considered yesterday something to learn from, to make us better people. That’s what Alderland is about, not just having fun.”



Grimsley, who had until now been silent, let out a short laugh. “Well, you’re almost out of time, Ms. Fischer—but I have one last question for you, if I may. If you were—and this is a big were—to be declared the heir, what would be the first thing you did?”



“Honestly? I… I would try to figure out a way to honor Alder within the park itself, sir, kind of like the way he has the topiary to honor his grandmother and the ice cream parlor for his mom. I know the park has his name, but… that’s not enough. I think he would want his tribute to be smaller. More intimate, and more honest.”



Grimsley leaned back, satisfied, and turned to the others. “I think we’re done here?” At their nods, he motioned for Cindi to take a seat, which she did, while he led the others in polite applause.



“Now then,” Harmonia said once the clapping died, “each of us will explain who our choice is, along with a few sentences why. A reminder that a simple majority determines the winner. Three votes selects you as the heir. If there’s no complaints, then I’ll lead us off.”



After clearing his throat, he looked directly at Nate. “I think the superior choice is obvious. The young lady’s ideals are lovely, but they amount to ‘more of the same’—and ‘the same’ is why this park is facing an uncertain future. Mr. Gropius’s concepts are promising, solid, and—most of all—maximize profit. My vote is for him.”



Cindi tried not to feel defeated—it had seemed obvious from the beginning that Harmonia was working against her. Still, her heart felt like a pit in her stomach.



“I’ll go next,” said Nix. She looked back and forth between the two of them. “I must admit, the two of you are both solid choices. I could see either of you leading Alderland down a successful path. So I must ask… which of the two paths is the one I most prefer?” She nodded at Nate. “From a design standpoint, your perspective would have me and my team engineering rides like those found at other parks—high-speed, exciting thrill rides that bring visitors’s heart rates soaring. Honestly, trying to outdo other engineers at their own game sounds like fun.” She adjusted her glasses, then turned to Cindi with a small smile.



“But if I wanted to build those kind of rides, I would have joined those groups to begin with. While making a fast coaster sounds fun, what really entices me is the idea of telling a story through the ride—making an interactive queue, hiding hints and scattering backstory. Making it all one package. It’s like making a complete meal.” She turned back to Nate with some sympathy. “To extend this analogy, young man, Ms. Fischer’s plan wants me to become a better all-around cook, whereas yours wants me to ditch everything but dessert. And while I love dessert… it’s not a complete meal. My vote goes to Fischer.”



Nate nodded, once, while Fischer fought to keep the elation from showing too much on her face. Gloating was extremely beneath her—and besides, there were three votes left.



“Guess I’ll go next,” Wilberforce said with a sigh. He looked as if he needed a coffee or a nap. “I spend a lot of time on the ground here at this park. I try to know the names of all the rank-and-file. I care a lot about them. And kid,” he said, eying Nate sharply, “you were not especially kind to my employees. You cut them off, you walked away; you treated these people with disrespect. Your own future employees, if you had your way, with disrespect.” He shook his head. “I can’t allow that.” He turned to Cindi. “You’ve been nothing but pleasant to all my workers, and they’ve all had nice things to say about you. Their vote is my vote. It goes to Fischer.”



She smiled and nodded, trying not to smile too much. From the corner of her eye, she saw Nate. His expression was still the same, but was he… paling?



“I’ll go,” injected Lamoreaux with that same soft voice. She smiled at Cindi. “Young lady, I greatly admire the passion in your heart, as well as your ability to win friends and the kindness you show to others. You are truly exceptional.” But then she crossed her hands in front of her. “But Gerald is right. This is not a character trial. This is a question on leadership of the park. And Mr. Gropius’s ideas are simply superior and a better bulwark against the threats that face us in the future. I won’t say he is the only correct choice—only that he is the better one at our current juncture. My vote goes to him.”



And just like that, they were tied up.



All eyes in the room made their way to Grimsley, who was lounging with affected disinterest, nearly splayed in his chair. “Oh, me?” he said playfully. “Is it my turn?”



“Lawyers,” Wilberforce said without malice. “They’re all the same.”



Grimsley laughed before turning more serious. “Alder wasn’t just my client—he was also a good friend,” he said. “I watched the passion he poured into the park grow and grow, and saw the happiness it brought him. This park was everything to him.” He stood and clasped his arms behind his back. “Would he be happy to see it struggling? I think not. It means too much to him. Alder would want it saved.”



He lifted his chin. “But how would he want it saved? Your ideas are solid, young man, but in enacting them, we would strip the park of its very identity. We would be taking the Alder out of Alderland. Whereas this lady… shows she truly understands him, even though they’ve never met. I would better see us take a chance on a future that preserves who we are over one that sacrifices personality for solvency. And let us not forget that we five are only here because he wasn’t able to make it. Had everything gone as planned, Alder himself would have made the decision. And I think there’s no question as to who he would have chosen.”



With confident strides, he walked around the table with a large grin, holding his hand out to Cindi. “Congratulations, boss,” he said, shaking her hand. “You’re going to do well.”



The others at the table all broke into applause, even Harmonia—though it didn’t match the look on his face. Blushing, laughing, trying to say thanks, Cindi barely knew what to do—but then a sound jolted her out of her reverie. Nate had opened the door to the room and was striding away.



“Sorry,” she said, pushing away Grimsley. “Hold on—wait!” she called, chasing after him. As she left the building, she heard a low voice—Harmonia’s—mutter under his breath: “Really, Grimsley?”



She caught up with Nate in the hall. “Hold on, don’t go.”



He froze, then stopped and faced her, holding silent for a breath before sighing. “Congrats,” he said. His voice was tremulous with barely-constrained emotion—anger and hurt and confusion each fought for the right to tramp across his face.



“I’m… sorry,” she said. “Really.”



He shook his head. “We both did our best. I underestimated you—or overestimated myself. And besides,” he said, “the lawyer was right. If Alder had been making the choice, there was only one he would have picked.”



As he turned to leave again, Cindi called after him: “I, um, think you had some good ideas! Really!” He turned to face her, and she pushed on: “I didn’t agree with implementation, but overall, your ideas were pretty solid. I think… I think that if we can figure out a way to make them work without sacrificing the atmosphere and destroying the park’s uniqueness… maybe that might be a way to move forward.”



He blinked at her.



Squaring her shoulders, Cindi straightened her back. “What I mean to say is… I’m, uh, offering you a job.”



A beat—and then another one—and then, for the first time since she’d known him, unconstrained emotion blossomed across Nate’s face. It was happiness; no, it was joy. “You mean it, don’t you,” he said, wearing a huge smile.



“Hells yeah I do.”



He laughed and offered her his hand. “Thank you.”



She took it in a vigorous shake. “Thank you. Now come on,” she said, pointing at the stairs. “Let’s go share the news.”



They walked down the stairs together, opening the door to the apartment’s second floor. Cindi’s friends were gathered there expectantly.



“Well?” Diego demanded.



Cindi beamed at them. “I’m Cindi, and this is one my new managers, Nate. Welcome to my park!”



With a roar of celebration, the other kids surged forward, mobbing them. Cindi fell back, laughing, as words blended into each other and laughter filled the sky. Even Nate seemed to be enjoying himself.



The other adults filed into the room, looking at their celebration with undisguised delight. Cindi briefly introduced the two groups, and then asked: “Tasha, Cameron, Wynn, Alette, and AJ; is there a way I can reach them?”



“We should be able to,” Nix said pleasantly.



Cindi nodded. “Ummm… Harmonia!”



The suited man did a double-take, as if not expecting to hear his name.



“Could you set up a way for me to contact them? I need to share the news,” Cindi said candidly.



The chairman of the board looked around at the others staring at him before pulling out a cell phone and, muttering, walking into the other room.



Cindi giggle. Pow. Bam. Take that.



“Wow, Cindi!” Bianca said, pulling her in for a tight hug. “I never would have thought you’d order around someone with such confidence!”



Laughing, Cindi walked over to the stairs to the ground floor, motioning for the others to follow. “That’s the magic of this place,” she said. “It changes you.”



---



As this proposal comes to a close, I hope that you all come to share my vision of a land of wonders and enjoyment. I’ve articulated my ideas for every locale. Now I have only one more thing to share.



I’ve often heard that we, as humans, are haunted by our pasts. Perhaps that is true. Everyone bears scars from mistakes, injuries, or ill-treatment. Everyone must learn to live with those scars. Yet, I find that in my twilight years, I reflect not on the bad things, but on the good—on the lessons I learned, and the friends I made. And if there were mistakes—and yes, there were, even for me—they do not seem so titanic.



What we yearn for as we strive for the future is a way to make things better, based on our knowledge of the way things are and were. It is a noble pursuit. But I beg you, all of you, not to lose yourself in the horizon. For all too often we hunt for things we had all along; for things we took for granted. Human existence is not, as I have heard it sometimes said, a race to catch an ever-distant tomorrow. It is a search for yesterday.



—Alder


---

What a ride.

Okay, I figure I'll get gameplay stuff out of the way first. I'll break things down by battle in the order I fought them. If you don't care, then skip below the stars!

CAITLIN - I opened with Bianca vs Reuniclus. Signal Beam almost KO'd Reuniclus, but Psychic took me to a low yellow. Caitlin healed the next turn, and Signal Beam OHKO'd. I sent out Diego against Sigilyph, and he outsped and landed a crit Shadow Claw to OHKO. Alette easily stomped both Gothitelle and Musharna without taking hardly any damage.

MARSHAL - Felix managed to outspeed and OHKO everything with Acrobatics except for Sawk. Because I knew that thing was packing Sturdy and a Rock move, I elected to switch to Cindi instead. Cindi ate a weak Stone Edge, and did about 60% of his HP with Surf. Repeat the next turn for victory.

GRIMSLEY - Easy-peasy. Felix OHKO'd Scrafty, AJ OHKO'd Bisharp, Bianca ate a Fake Out and then a weak Night Slash before OHKOing Liepard, and Cindi took about 1/3rd damage from Krookodile's Earthquake before OHKOing with Surf.

SHAUNTAL - Alette OHKO'd Cofagrigus with Crunch. Bianca vs Jellicent was tricky; Thunderbolt took Jellicent to low yellow, but Surf did about half Bianca's HP in return, to the point that another hit could spell death with unfortunate damage range. Shauntal healed that turn, Thunderbolt did about the same amount of damage. It paralyzed Jellicent, but Cursed Body sealed away Thunderbolt. Banking on it to be enough, I used Sucker Punch and KO'd Jellicent.

FINAL N BATTLE - Under my ruleset, I could not use Reshiram, so I led with Alette. Zekrom used Light Screen, and Alette almost OHKO'd with Earthquake. N heals, but that turn, Earthquake hits hard again. Zekrom uses Giga Impact, crits, and KOs Alette! The turn Zekrom recharges, I send out AJ to KO with a Bulldoze.

N then sent out Klinklang. I responded with Diego--Fire Blast crit for a OHKO. Light Screen fades that turn. Cindi 2HKOs Carracosta with Grass Knot but takes some damage, and Zoroark is 2HKO'd by Felix after landing a Night Slash on him. N then sends out Vanilluxe. I send out Diego but use the first turn to heal Cindi while N's Blizzard attack misses. I then miss Fire Blast twice while Vanilluxe first sets up Hail, then uses Frost Breath for piddly damage. Finally Fire Blast goes through and OHKOs. Finally, N sends out Archeops and I field Cindi again. After Acrobatics takes her to the mid yellow, she retaliates and OHKOs with Surf.

GHETSIS - I was in a conundrum because the game full heals you between fights, which meant Alette rising from the dead! I just spammed X items on her, wasting turns until Cofagrigus killed her again. I know it wasn't a perfect solution because it technically drained a lot of Cofagrigus's PP, but it was the best solution I had.

After Alette goes down (again) I send out Felix, using Crunch on Cofagrigus the same turn it uses Toxic on me. Mummy pops on Felix, which is actually a blessing, all things considering. After some hax stalling from Cofagrigus that takes away a fair bit of HP thanks to Toxic, I land another Crunch and KO it. Diego vs Bisharp: Diego outspeeds, uses Flame Burst to get Bisharp to low yellow, but it returns the favor with Stone Edge. Ghetsis heals the next turn, I bring it right back down again with another Flame Burst, then Use one more to KO Bisharp.

I sent out Bianca against Bouffalant. She outsped, doing about a third of his damage with Thunderbolt. Bouffalant hits with Head Charge, taking her to low yellow but doing monstrous recoil. I heal Bianca the next turn, but Head Charge lands again, the recoil taking Bouffalant to the mid yellow. I chance Thunderbolt, knowing I can outspeed, and manage to squeak out a KO! What a dirty play! ;D

It's time for Hydreigon. I send out AJ, having put a Fighting Gem on him before the N battle in lieu of his typical Shell Bell. He takes a Dragon Pulse, then retaliates and OHKOs Hydreigon with a STAB, Fighting Gem boosted Close Combat. Truly the MVP we all needed. Sadly, Ghetsis then sends out Eelektross, against which I have no real defense. AJ, Bianca, Diego, and Felix are all wounded, and Cindi has a losing matchup. Ultimately, I kept AJ in; he outsped to land another Close Combat on Eelektross before being KO'd by Acrobatics. Diego then revenge killed with Flame Burst. And for Ghetsis's last pokemon, Seismitoad, I sent out Cindi and took it out with a single Grass Knot.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Whew! Gameplay notes finished!

Okay...

First of all, let me say that there is going to be an epilogue. However, it's very short and is mostly going to be a distant "where are they now" style deal. This chapter is the real finale of the story.

That said, though...

Thank you for reading along. This was an impulsive and experimental project that I fell deeply, deeply in love with. It's an atypical story for me in many ways, but one that I found myself enjoying way more than I thought. Thank you for sitting through it with me. And a big special thanks to Thirteenth and Cross_off for basically daring me to do this project. Did my lighthearted amusement park run meet your expectations?

Stay magical, everyone.

~Dee
 
Last edited:

Dee

THIS IS MY HAPPY FACE
Writer
Team Alpha
Pokédex No.
147
Caught
Jun 26, 2019
Messages
538
Location
Zion National Park
Nature
Sassy
Pronouns
They/Them
Pokémon Type
Bug, Clever
Pokédex Entry
A regular writer of fanfics and other works, this pokemon loves puns, bugs, and the outdoors.
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #30
** Read This Chapter on DeviantArt! **



TWELVE YEARS LATER…



The head of Alderland strolled through the park, pleased. Everywhere, there were people smiling—eating ice cream and other treats, filing onto rides, or even (and this made her proudest of all) simply basking in the atmosphere.



Around her was the roar of rides and the distant laughter of her park’s attendees. Even after a dozen years, it still captured the same wonder as that long and magical night when she had first stepped inside. She hoped it never went away.



Cindi sat down and rested in the shade of the village green in Nostalgia Lane, the curls of her hair bouncing against her shoulders. She pulled her knees up and idly crossed her arms on them, watching people go by. Most people who came to Alderland didn’t know her face, and she liked it that way. It let her see their honest, unfiltered reactions. She often liked to stand in queues and make idle chitchat with the visitors, asking what their favorite experience was and what, if anything, they would fix or improve. The attendants always caught her eye at this point, giving her covert nods. She knew almost all of them by name.



Laying down amidst the grass, she was in danger of drifting off. The wind played about the grass, her skin, and even her heart, carrying her off into daydreams.



How familiar it all seemed…



Cindi’s phone buzzed, yanking her out of it. She pulled it out—it was a message from Dyson excitedly telling her about his acceptance to an academic conference, and conveying AJ and Wynn’s wishes that they all meet up next time she was out East. She happily agreed; she tried to see her friends out there at least a couple times a year.



Thumbing through a few other messages, she reflected on her other friends. Cameron had just become a teacher, and little Alette was now tall and athletic, the star of her high school’s tennis team. Both of them had lifetime passes and both of them used them quite frequently.



Grinning, the tall, confident woman who now led Alderland crossed the lane over into a certain ice cream parlor.



The gate over the stairs leading up was gone, now. Alder’s apartment had been hers to move into and redecorate, if she wished; but it was far too intimate, too personal, for her to make that change. She had another private getaway in the park that she preferred to stay in, someplace cozier and quieter. Nowadays, visitors could take a guided tour through the apartment as Alder left it.



The counter was still staffed by Lenora. By now the woman’s age was beginning to show in wrinkles and streaks of grey in her poofy hair, but she smiled as warmly as ever. “Anything, hon?” she asked.



Cindi just laughed. “Nothing right now, sorry,” she said. “Just saying hi.”



Lenora nodded. “Makes sense. Be sure to tell give Miss Bianca my regards.”



“I will.” Looking around, Cindi saw the first change she had ever made to Alderland—the addition of a bronze sculpture of a boy attacking a sundae with vigor at the end of the counter. They’d used as many pictures as they could find and corroborated it with eyewitness accounts to make it as true as they could to how Alder had been as a child. “Thank you,” Cindi told the youthful image of the man who had given her everything—the man she had never met, and yet, still knew so well. She had chosen this tribute for him, as it seemed to represent his heart the best. “Thanks for everything. Really.”



Nodding to Lenora, she left the parlor.



Where to go next? She considered heading over to the Cyber City arcade to see Felix, who ran the joint (when he wasn’t busy setting all of the high scores) but decided against it. Bianca was waiting for her.



She beat the familiar path to the Dreaming Wood. After much cajoling, Nate had finally, just a few weeks back, convinced her to include proper rides here. They would be quiet and tasteful—a log plume in an old mill in the fall section, a small challenge trail for summer. He was working with Shauntal on the designs now.



But she had insisted that winter be left alone. In the back of the winter section, an old cabin glowed warmly, woodsmoke trailing out the chimney. It had once been a mere setpiece, but after electing not to take over Alder’s apartment above the parlor, Cindi insisted that it be transformed into something actually livable.



She opened the door softly, stepped inside, and pulled the latch shut, locking the door.



Her wife was waiting for her in the chair.



Bianca smiled warmly at her as she rose, and Cindi rushed over to support her. “Let me help,” she insisted.



“Oh hush,” Bianca said without malice, “I’m pregnant, not an invalid!” She pecked her wife on the cheek and waddled over to the sofa. When not staying in their penthouse flat, the two of them enjoyed cozying up here in this cabin.



Sinking down onto the sofa with a sigh, Bianca rubbed one hand idly over her belly. “So how was the walkabout?”



“Everything looks good, as usual,” Cindi said, cuddling up close to her spouse. “Lenora says hi.”



“Aww,” Bianca giggled, “she’s such a dear. It’ll be nice when I can join you on those again.”



“Mhmmm,” Cindi reiterated, cuddling close to her. They luxuriated in each other’s presence for several long and happy minutes.



“Are we still meeting Diego and Tasha tonight?” Cindi murmured.



“That’s the plan,” Bianca said. She turned and pulled her wife in for a tender kiss. “Thank you,” she said afterwards.



“For what?”



“For everything.” She glanced down at her belly again and smiled. “They were active again earlier today, you know,” she said softly.



“Oh?”



“I think they were waiting for their mom,” she said.



“I hope they have a happy childhood,” Cindi fretted.



Bianca pecked her cheek again. “Why wouldn’t they?” She gestured out the window. “Just look at their backyard.”



Smiling, Cindi rested her head on Bianca’s warm shoulder, looking out a paned window. The softly drifting snow of the Dreaming Wood’s winter section drifted low like soft down, and beyond it she could see the lights of the Ferris Wheel, which was still turning.



She sighed happily. There was still so much to do—there was always so much to do—but for now, she was content to rest here and enjoy the happiness that her life’s work brought to her and so many others.



THE END

---


And that's a wrap, everyone. This epilogue is more of a brief "where-are-they-now" sort of deal. I hope everyone liked the story. This entire project really was fun to write. Special thanks to all my readers, as well as to @cross_off and @Thirteenth for inspiring this whole deal.

If you're reading this... thank you. And stay magical.
~Dee
 

Bowser's Family Vacation

Johto League Champion
Writer
Team Delta
Pokédex No.
301
Caught
Jul 1, 2019
Messages
972
Nature
Rash
Pronouns
She/her
Pokémon Type
Dragon, Cool
Pokédex Entry
"Am I Mario's babysitter? Are you going to call me every time that guy blows his nose, or what?"
No, AJ and Alette..! Krookodile is so good for BW; she must have been great during the League Battles. I bet you had the soda scene to foreshadow Alette's (in game) death. I just thought it was funny at the time!

Felix had conjured some small gaming device from seemingly nowhere and was tapping away at it
That is what we call a pro gamer move. If I were a kid and had to wait that long that late at night, there's no way I would last otherwise! :P

Gerald Harmonia
Welp. Now I'm gonna think "Gerald" is an evil name too. Anything with even a tangential connection to Ghetsis is evil. XD

Each of you will have a few minutes to make your case.
Oh God, it's a real job interview. This is more stressful than the Pokemon League!

Yay for compromise! Cindi knows the heart of Alderland, but Nate has a real talent for understanding consumer taste.
T-T My kids are so happy, and they deserve it!
 
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rowantobias

Conqueror of the Celadon Gym
Artist
Team Delta
Pokédex No.
1616
Caught
Mar 7, 2020
Messages
39
Location
California
Nature
Hasty
Pronouns
they/ae
Pokémon Type
Water, Flying
Pokédex Entry
This Pokemon gushes about its girlfriend for hours on end.
me reading "her wife" and clutching my chest, i--

THIS NUZLOCKE... is revolutationary, imo, i absolutely adore the detail you gave to each of the lands and the research that went into them. the concept itself is novel, and i, having an eye for trans subtext, totally called it when the scene happened...

i think bianca was an excellent, if surprising, addition to the team! i was really not expecting it at all...

also, very glad cheren doesn't end up getting a redemption arc, imo. bianca was never malicious towards cindi so i'm really glad with how she ended up. but cheren... well, i think it's fine that he wasn't addressed after bianca cut him off! sometimes you don't need a complex bad guy, sometimes they're just bad people.

anyway i'm rambling a bit but i absolutely love your writing! i still need to read the darkness we carry, though i do want to say i did read some of it and i was impressed with your writing in what i did read! thank you so much for the excellent storytelling :D
 
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Reactions: Dee

Dee

THIS IS MY HAPPY FACE
Writer
Team Alpha
Pokédex No.
147
Caught
Jun 26, 2019
Messages
538
Location
Zion National Park
Nature
Sassy
Pronouns
They/Them
Pokémon Type
Bug, Clever
Pokédex Entry
A regular writer of fanfics and other works, this pokemon loves puns, bugs, and the outdoors.
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #33
me reading "her wife" and clutching my chest, i--

THIS NUZLOCKE... is revolutationary, imo, i absolutely adore the detail you gave to each of the lands and the research that went into them. the concept itself is novel, and i, having an eye for trans subtext, totally called it when the scene happened...

i think bianca was an excellent, if surprising, addition to the team! i was really not expecting it at all...

also, very glad cheren doesn't end up getting a redemption arc, imo. bianca was never malicious towards cindi so i'm really glad with how she ended up. but cheren... well, i think it's fine that he wasn't addressed after bianca cut him off! sometimes you don't need a complex bad guy, sometimes they're just bad people.

anyway i'm rambling a bit but i absolutely love your writing! i still need to read the darkness we carry, though i do want to say i did read some of it and i was impressed with your writing in what i did read! thank you so much for the excellent storytelling :D
aaaaaaaa thank you! This comment means so, so much to me; SfY was a huge passion project for me when it was running. It was inspired by my first trip to Disney World that I took the summer that I started that...

And yes, I'm so glad the LGBTQ content resonated! Being fluid myself it's so important to have queer representation, and bianca and cheren were very deliberate. I agree, Bianca isn't a bad person and her apology is heartfelt and true, and I think that forgiveness is important for her... and completely undeserved for Cheren lmao. like bye bitch

But yes, it was so touching to see this comment again... I'm so glad the run touched you in that way, and I'm glad you like it! I like your own PMD run too :>
 

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