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  1. I entered my cabin in Snowpoint and instantly let out a breath of relief, though it did a fine secondary job of warming up the air around me. Vanilluxe floated next to me and quickly floated off to the kitchen to warm some tea. I stripped off the mountainous mish-mash of coats and mittens and boots that made me look like an obese astronaut until I was in nothing but a black T-shirt, some jeans and fuzzy down socks that had an adorable pattern of Plusle and Minun all over them.
  2.  
  3. I walked quickly to my comfy chair and the glorious fire my saintly fiancé had started before he went to bed, which was apparently recent, the fire still being a good size. I sunk into my chair and sighed, as if I released all the responsibilities, stress and work I’d been given that day, along with a pinch of Carbon Dioxide. I rubbed my arms as I snuggled against the chair, despite being near a decently sized fire. Why? Because Snowpoint’s crisp air has an interesting ability to penetrate three damned layers of coats and chastise you for wearing a shirt instead of a sweater.
  4.  
  5. I looked over to my left and found Vanilluxe floating behind a small, round wooden table situated next to my comfy chair. On the table was a small mug filled an inch below the brim with no doubt perfectly made Earl Gray tea. The mug had a cutesy design, a Delibird in a flying sleigh guided by eight Stantler. Hey, I didn’t say it had an original design. I said it had a cute one. The two traits are often mutually exclusive.
  6.  
  7. Oh, and before you ask, the answer is no. I have no idea how he made tea, and I have no idea how he placed the mug on the table. He’s done stuff like that whenever I wasn’t looking since we first met and, despite my best efforts, I never caught him in the act, the quick little guy. Well… he was little. Way back when I first found him in my home, over in Driftveil City. We were both practically babies then. I was 7 and according to a vet (I showed him a picture of the Vanillite when I met him), he wasn’t a day over 4 weeks old.
  8.  
  9. I grabbed the mug that was probably designed by a cup-making company’s 5 year old daughter and blew on the brew before taking a very cautious sip. As I did, an innumerable amount of old memories suddenly rushed into my mind, and with it, a chillingly (no pun intended) massive wave of nostalgia. At the simple, affectionate thought of “Oh, Vanilluxe. You’ve pulled this crap ever since you were a little Vanillite,” I lit a gunpowder trail of memories. That thought led to me thinking about Vanilluxe as a baby, and THAT thought led to memories of my old hometown. And I haven’t thought about those things in literal YEARS, which, I won’t lie, made me feel a small pang of guilt.
  10.  
  11. After the slideshow of brief, summarizing images and thoughts flashed through my head, I took a less careful sip of tea and smiled to myself. I’d been working hard for the past few weeks. I’d had just finished winning a tournament being viewed by THE Cynthia, a gauntlet comprising of 128 trainers and 7 matches. That was a Mount Olympus of preparing teams, formulating strategies and, of course, battling. So, damn it all to hell, I earned myself a bit of reminiscing.
  12.  
  13. “Moooom!” shouted a teenage girl with long, almost black hair. My sister and I were standing at the doorway of our old house in Driftveil. She was gorgeous, by any guy’s (and some girl’s) standards. And she was a goddess by the standards of any boy that was old enough to drive, but not old enough to drink. She wore a white tank top and dark blue capris with faded, light blue knees. She had Latin, dark brown skin that she inherited from our Dad, and her dark hair fell down her back in a very well-groomed, but unstyled length. “Me ‘n Jenny are gonna go play near Cold Storage, okaaaaaay?”
  14.  
  15. The voice that came back carried a very mellow, happy and even a bit of a sing-song tone. You know: the kinda voice that, if it was written out, would have a tilde at the end of EVERY sentence. Our mother was one of those perky Moms who were simply unable to process the thought that their kids might do anything wrong unless it was an honest, ignorant mistake. “Jenny and I, Nina! And alright! Make sure you and Jennifer take your parka and boots! And NO walking in tall grass!”
  16.  
  17. “Okay, Mom!”
  18.  
  19. “And be sure to shake all the melted snow out of your boots before you come back!”
  20.  
  21. “Okay, Mom!”
  22.  
  23. “And if you get attacked, remember the correct position t-”
  24.  
  25. “MOM!”
  26.  
  27. A stifled laugh and a snort popped out of the kitchen. “Sorry, dear. I get carried away sometimes.” There was an uncomfortably long pause before she added, very quietly, “You know how your mother gets.”
  28.  
  29. It sounded like a normal phrase, a self-deprecating line used by Moms coast to coast. But it wasn’t. Dear God, it wasn’t, not to us. See, at that time, when I first found Vanillite, we were three years fresh of being a three-person household. My Dad was killed when a drilling went South over in Twist Mountain. He was a relatively high-ranking and well paid miner that worked for Clay. At the excavation, he got tasked with setting up a network of lights in one of the designated digging sites. It was a Beartic cave. When they found him, there was nothing but disembodied limbs and a bloody husk of what was left of his torso. When he was buried, the coffin was completely covered, to fool my 4 year old self into thinking there was a completely untouched, spick-and-span Daddy in a tuxedo being buried. I didn’t hear the actual circumstances of his death until I was 14, when Mom finally sat me down and told me.
  30.  
  31. Two and a half years later, our Mom began dating this archeologist named Howard. He used to work for the Pewter Museum. However, when Mount Moon became an archeological ghost town, he got the boot, hooked up with Clay, and subsequently moved to Driftveil. And there we were, in a very awkward situation with our mother. Don’t get me wrong, Howard was a great man, and despite the both of us coldly regarding him, ended up marrying our mother anyways. And I am very pleased to say they are still living in that quaint house as I’m sipping Earl Gray now.
  32.  
  33. But, we were kids for God’s sake. Having a complete stranger shuffled into your house and being told, “Here’s your new Daddy!” would definitely throw us through a loop. Especially Nina, who was 16 when our Mom went on her first date with Howard (and on the day I’m recalling, when I first met Vanillite). After that first date, Nina became distant from Mom. And Nina practically exploded on Howard when she was 17, my Mom became distant right back at her. It’s friggin’ complicated. Being a half-orphan sucks.
  34.  
  35. But, before all of that, and despite the discomfort between the two, Nina’s face softened when she heard Mom’s little side-note. She bit her lip and looked at the floor for a moment, then nodded, even though our Mom was in a different room, which I thought was silly at the time.
  36.  
  37. “… Yeah. I understand.” She shook her head and knelt down to tie her boots, a good excuse to look away from me and straighten up her face and nasal cavities. When she stood back up, she opened the door and pivoted slightly. “Thanks, Mom. We’ll be careful, we promise! We love you!”
  38.  
  39. “Love you too, dears! Stay safe, Jenny!”
  40.  
  41. “Mmkay, Mom! Love you!”
  42.  
  43. And so we began our 15 minute walk to Cold Storage. I, of course, was forced to carry the jump rope, chalk, giant blue-and-green bouncy ball, and bag of jacks we always took with us. Nina, on the other hand, had to carry the backbreaking load of a brown sack that fit in her palm, which was a first for whenever we went out to play. She knew I was curious about what was in it, so starting halfway through the walk, she started looking inside the bag and mumbling to herself happily and looking at me and recoiling the bag away from me. Good thing I never heard of the word “bitch” at that age.
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