A/N: Here you are, my loyal readers, another chapter for y'all! And I made sure this one arrived as quickly as possible to make up for the two-month-long wait you guys had to endure for the last chapter.
Also, ever since I posted the last chapter, it has come to my understanding that Generation VIII games for the Nintendo Switch are slated for release in the latter half of 2019! HOORAY! I'm so jubilant right now. :D
Edit: I had to fix a small but embarrassing error a guest reviewer pointed out. Thanks for the good catch!
"Good morning, citizens of Kalos! I'm Mandy Buzzington, reporting live from the lovely, bustling Kiloude City! Of course, today is the day of Kiloude's long-awaited Exhibition Showcase, the first Showcase-related event held in the city in ten years!
"For those of you who do not know, an Exhibition Showcase is like any other regular Showcase, having a Theme Performance and a Freestyle Performance. However, it is entirely informal and unofficial, meaning there are no Princess Keys as prizes, and no audience voting with Glow Casters. And let's not forget the final performance headed by Kalos Queen Aria, featuring all of the participants!
"After the conclusion of this Showcase, there will be an outdoor dance party scheduled for midnight, to be attended by the Performers and partners of their choice! Because of this, the Performers are encouraged to leave room for some well-deserved sleep in their schedule. Also, I have just received information that there will be a surprise in store for everyone at the end of the party. Whatever this surprise may be, this reporter hopes it'll be an inspiring speech and/or dazzling performance from Aria herself!"
"Who in Arceus's name leaked that information out to the press?!"
"I have no idea, ma'am, but I promise you, we've got the local police department all over it."
"I sure hope so..."
Aria watched as her mentor Palermo pursed her lips and tapped the armrest of her chair, a telltale sign of her irritation and annoyance. The red-faced assistant bowed politely and left the living room, leaving the two females alone. Exhaling calmly, Aria redirected her gaze back to the TV screen, which was still displaying the smug, self-absorbed face of Mandy Buzzington.
"And this event is shaping up to be one of the most anticipated in recent Kalosian history! I've heard the attendance rates are spiking to unprecedented levels, and it's only been ten minutes since the ticket booths opened! Look, there's a booth operator!"
Mandy and her cameraman advanced towards a sweating, overwhelmed elderly man who was most likely on his break. However, before Aria could hear the ambitious reporter's first question, the TV suddenly turned off.
"Reporters," Palermo said disapprovingly, as she set the remote down on the nearby table. "They're all just a bunch of Mandibuzz. Especially that Buzzington character."
"I'M NOT A MANDIBUZZ!" Mandy's voice suddenly shouted from a distance, but Aria and Palermo both disregarded it.
"Oh, I'm sure they're just doing their job, Master," Aria said politely.
"I've had decades of experience with these characters, Aria. They'll leave each other to the Houndoom if it means getting the first scoop on a big story." Palermo looked at Aria with a serious, almost stern look. "You had an exclusive interview with this Buzzington person yesterday, isn't that right?"
"That's correct, Master."
"I see. Then tell me, did she persist in asking a question that was extremely uncomfortable for you to answer?"
"It is my understanding that you've never really talked about your childhood and your old life here, not once during your career as a Performer. Now, forgive me for sounding like a Mandibuzz, but it's been a whole ten years, and all the news stations and the biographers and the paparazzi are starving for details!"
"And we at Kalos Now want to be the first to know everything! Trust me, it's better if you share it all with us rather than with some paparazzi agency that's on the lookout for the smallest scandal in every corner..."
Palermo furrowed her brow as she said, "You do not have to answer that. Your face says it all, Aria." She closed her eyes, and her face became filled with a mixture of concern and disappointment. "Just because you're expected to make people smile doesn't mean you should make yourself gullible and vulnerable to the selfish and voracious expectations of others. Do you understand, Aria?"
The redhead looked away with a soft exhale, and as she did, she started to mull over her interaction with Mandy before Foster intervened. Sometimes she wondered what would've happened if she acquiesced and given Mandy the full scoop she wanted. A part of her believed telling the whole story would've been therapeutic for her...
...But then again, doing so would've also been too painful for her, and perhaps Mandy would've gotten more than just an in-depth story full of scandalous revelations...
"Run, Aria! RUN!"
Aria blinked twice and looked towards the living room doorway, where she saw Palermo, Paris, and a secretary standing there.
"Please come," her mentor said, her brow still furrowed. "The Showcase is about to begin."
"C-Coming!" Aria exclaimed, surprised by the sudden turn in events.
The Kalos Queen stood up, quickly brushed her skirt, and followed the three older women out of the room and into the hallway. As the quartet started walking, Aria noticed Foster and Amara being among the many employees and volunteers cleaning and straightening out all of the Maison's decorations in the hallway. Her eyes met Foster's for a brief second, upon which Aria swiftly averted her gaze. Despite that, she could still feel her childhood friend's concerned gaze boring into her as she passed him.
The three advanced out of the private section of the house and into a mezzanine that overlooked the lobby, which was completely packed with people: Pokémon Performers, their proud families and friends, Showcase fans, intrigued tourists, rabid reporters, possible deviants, the complete package, all waiting to get their tickets processed in multiple lines. But before anyone could spot them, Aria noticed Palermo and Paris moving away from that crowd, towards another door that seemed to be guarded off, and she quickly followed after them.
Before the balcony could obstruct her sight of the crowds below, the redhead saw Serena among the crowd of eager and excited Performers. As usual, she had that bright and cheerful gleam in her sapphire-blue eyes, more potently than the others. Aria sighed ambiguously as the guards opened the door for her and the others.
Right after Aria left with Palermo and Paris, Serena looked up towards the mezzanine, having sensed the Kalos Queen's stare. However, before she could think about the sensation she just felt, she felt someone tugging at her skirt. Looking down, she found herself staring at Selene's bubbly face.
"Yes, Selene?" she asked.
"Nothing," the little girl replied. "It's just, well..." Her smile widened as she focused on the others in their group, who were all in different lines. "You have movies of yourself performing when you were younger, and I'd always watch those."
Serena blinked in surprise. "I have movies, huh...?"
"Yep! But I never thought I'd get to see the young you performing up-close, Mommy!"
Nearby, Yancy turned towards them and added, "Oh yeah, that's true!" Her cheeks became slightly florid as she stared at the younger version of her mother. "And I'm gonna be performing right beside you, Mom... Even if this isn't an official competition, it still feels so weird..." The pink-haired girl looked down at the floor bashfully. "I...I honestly don't know how I'm gonna compare to you..."
Serena blinked again. For some reason, Yancy looked quite adorable when she was shy and bashful. Perhaps those looks were inherited from her? Did she really look like that when she'd react to Ash's words of praise and encouragement...?
"You don't have to worry about comparing with Serena, Yancy," Ash suddenly said, the Pallet Town native now looking at his future teenage daughter with his usual optimistic smile. "All you need to do is just have fun while you're performing! Have fun and ignore everything else! And then, you'll be able to dazzle the crowd in your own way!"
Yancy smiled knowingly. "Yeah, that's true..."
"Besides, I'm sure you and Serena will do just fine! Like you said, it's not even an official competition with no Princess Key up for grabs, so what's the big deal?"
"Big deal?" a voice suddenly asked in an affronted tone. "Big deal?!"
Ash, Serena, Selene, and Yancy turned their heads; upon seeing the speaker, Ash and Serena both frowned.
"The Exhibition Showcase is more than just a means to, quote unquote, have fun," Sara Lee continued snobbishly as she approached the group, with Concetta trailing at her heels like a meek and loyal Lillipup. "It's one final sendoff by all of the Performers of the season, meant to showcase all of the objective qualities of the performances and styles that they had been using all year. In layman's terms, it's a succinct presentation of all the hard work you put into the past season. Definitely a far cry from just, quote unquote, having fun..." The green-haired Performer scowled at Serena and Ash. "But I don't really expect you guys to understand such a significant meaning."
"It's good to see you again, Sara Lee," Serena replied, her voice dripping with bitter sarcasm.
Yancy blinked. "W-Wait a minute, you guys know each other?" she asked, looking between her mother and the other Performer.
"Aaaaand who are you?" Sara Lee asked, slowly shooting the pink-haired girl a haughty look.
Yancy blinked again and frowned at the green-haired girl's unpleasant tone. "I-I'm Yancy, Serena's dau- sister, sister."
"Ooh, you're her sister?!" Concetta suddenly exclaimed, her face shining brightly with excitement. "Wow, I didn't know Serena had any siblings! But it figures, 'cause you sure do have her looks!" She then grabbed Yancy's hands, startling the pink-haired teenager. "Tell me, what's it like having a sister who reached the final round of the Master Class on her first season as a Performer?!"
Fortunately, Yancy didn't have to answer that, for Sara Lee pulled her friend away from her.
"Don't associate yourself with people of a lower class, Concetta," the green-haired girl said. "It's not good for your moral and physical health."
The increasingly tense conversation was starting to attract the attention of Shauna, Tierno, Trevor, and Calem. Affronted Sara Lee's confrontational nature, the quartet stepped beside Ash and Serena defensively.
"Hey, who in the world do you think you are, calling my cuz low-class?" Calem asked.
"Yeah, who're you calling people of a lower brass?!" Selene squeaked, her cheeks puffed out with outrage. "It just so happens that Mo- uh, Serena is the bestest Performer in the whole world!"
"Pichu-pi!" Pichu squeaked angrily and with agreement. The Tiny Mouse Pokémon had just scurried up her owner's shoulder and was now staring Sara Lee down.
"Bi!" Celebi added from Selene's arms.
"Bestest?" Sara Lee stifled a nasty giggle. "HA! Seems to me she was just lucky."
"Serena wasn't lucky," Shauna snarled. "She worked hard to overcome all odds and make it that far in the Master Class. No one can accomplish all of that in their first season through pure coincidence."
Sara Lee smirked at Shauna. "Wow. I'm legit surprised you of all people are saying that to my face." Her smirk widened slightly. "If I can recall, you shed more than a few tears when you got voted out of the Master Class. And I know for a fact this wasn't your first Showcase season-"
"Serena's my friend," interrupted the tan-skinned Performer; her fists were clenched and trembling with tranquil fury. "I will not sacrifice our friendship for something so selfish, no matter how hard I worked on my performances as well."
Upon hearing this, Serena looked at Shauna in awe. She had no idea her friendly rival had been in the Showcase biz for longer than a year. Then again, she didn't really ask. She had been so focused on becoming Kalos Queen herself. But it brought warmth to heart, knowing that Shauna didn't take her defeat in the Master Class so personally.
"Yeah, you tell her, Auntie Shauna!" Selene exclaimed.
"Hey, stay out of this, pipsqueak," Sara Lee snapped. "This doesn't concern you."
"Don't you dare call my sister a pipsqueak!" Yancy snapped angrily.
"Yeah, that's not very nice!" added Selene.
Sara Lee scowled smugly at both girls before taking the time to scan them from head to toe. Once she was done, she asked with an air of suspicion, "Are you really Serena's sisters?"
Yancy's eyes widened, but she replied calmly, "And what makes you ask that?"
"...There's something off about you two..."
Yancy started to feel her heartbeat quicken. Was Sara Lee starting to see through their simple lie? Were they already exposed...?
"Alright, alright, what's the problem here?" another familiar voice asked in a chipper voice.
Yancy mentally thanked the heavens for Blanche and Kazalie's good timing. Both Performers joined her side and glared at Sara Lee and Concetta, prompting the former's scowl to become even more pronounced.
"Hello, Blanche..." the green-haired girl greeted bitterly.
"Hi, Sara Lee!" Blanche replied, though there was something about her happy-go-lucky voice that sounded blatantly engineered. Even her smile clearly looked fake and forced. "I'm so glad that you're here for the Exhibition Showcase!"
"Yeah... Of course you are..."
"Ohhhhh, I hope we have so much fun for the event!"
Serena and Yancy both noticed Sara Lee's eyes narrowing slightly with disgust, and they couldn't help but wonder why Blanche of all people was eliciting such a reaction from her.
"But in the meantime..." Blanche's tone changed slightly, but it was still enough to bring chills to the others' spines. "Lay off on my friends, 'kay? We all need to be at our very best for the performances ahead!"
Sara Lee gave Serena, Shauna, and Yancy one last stare of disapproval before replying, "Whatever. Come on, Concetta. We need to get changed."
Sticking her chin up slightly yet snobbishly, the Performer gracefully turned around with a twirl of her heel and walked away. Concetta looked from her friend to Serena's group for a brief second, before ambivalently following Sara Lee as quickly as she could. Once the two Performers were out of sight, Yancy sighed with relief and looked at Blanche and Kazalie.
"Wow," she said. "Thanks for stepping in. I owe you one, Blanche."
"Yeah, thank you, Blanche!"
"You're welcome, Yancy," Blanche replied, and this time, the bright cheerfulness in her voice was legitimate. "If you or your sisters are still having problems with Sara Lee, just come to me, okay? We go waaaaay back, so I can handle her just fine."
"You guys go way back, huh...?" Serena asked, intrigued by this admission.
"Ye...Yeah..." All of a sudden, an uncharacteristically gloomy look shadowed Blanche's eyes for the quickest moment, and it did not go unnoticed by Serena, Shauna, and Yancy.
"Well, Blanche and I will be seeing you girls at the dressing room!" Kazalie abruptly exclaimed, dispelling the awkward air. "We already had our tickets processed!"
"Alright, we'll see you there," Yancy replied. Then, she suddenly remembered someone. "By the way, where's Nate?"
"Oh, he's over there."
The departing Kazalie pointed over Yancy's shoulder, and she turned around. A split-second later, her jaw dropped open, and her blue eyes bulged to comical levels.
"So, Nate..." Shulin said slowly, giving Nate an entranced stare, "where are you from...?"
"Oh, I'm from Aspertia City in Unova," the brown-haired Trainer replied sincerely, still oblivious to the look the Performer was giving him.
"Unova, huh? I've been to Unova before. It's no wonder..."
Nate blinked with curiosity. "No wonder?" he repeated. "What do you mean by that?"
"I've always liked the guys over there. They're always so strong, but not the super-muscular kind of strong. Just...strong in the modest way..." Shulin's smile widened slightly, and she had a dreamy look on her face. "You get what I'm saying, Nate...?"
"I think..." But poor Nate looked more confused than anything.
"Hey, when this Showcase is over, maybe you can be my partner for the dance party."
"There's a dance party?" Nate asked, surprised.
"There's a dance party?" Ash asked as well.
"Yep! I still don't have a partner-"
"NO WAY, JOSE!"
Yancy suddenly stood between Nate and Shulin, catching the attention of everyone else in their group. Her face was as pink as her hair, her fists were clenched and trembling, and she had a strange aura about her.
"Nate's taken!" the pink-haired girl exclaimed.
"I...I am...?" Nate asked, his head now spinning.
Shulin scowled at Yancy. "Really? It doesn't sound like he is..." she replied.
"Well, he is!" Yancy turned around and stared deeply into Nate's brown eyes. "Are you, Nate?!"
"I-I guess," he said, blushing a little, "but-"
Yancy looked back at Shulin with triumph. "See!"
Shulin's frown became even more pronounced, and she stared at Yancy with an air of suspicion, but she shrugged and replied, "If you insist...Pinkie." She then looked towards the ticket booth. "Well, if you'll excuse me, I need to get myself signed in."
The green-haired Performer walked away, whereupon Yancy sighed with relief.
"You okay, Yancy?" Nate asked.
"I've never been better, Nate!" Yancy replied, giving her friend a forced smile.
"You sure? And...w-what was that all about? I didn't know there'd be a dance party-"
"Well, there is, and it's after the Showcase. It's been all over the news."
"Oh." Nate scratched the back of his head. "Sooooo...I guess that means...I'll be your partner, then?"
Yancy nodded vigorously. "Uh-huh!"
"Oh. Cool!" Nate then noticed the next available ticket booth. "Oh, it's my turn! I'll see you on the other side, guys!"
The Trainer walked off towards the booth, and that was when Yancy's face started to turn into a deep shade of red.
"Are...Are you okay, Yancy...?" Clemont asked.
"Y-Ye-Yep! N-Ne-Ne-Nev-Never b-b-b-been b-b-be-be-bet-better!"
Now it was Serena's jaw that dropped open. She couldn't believe what she was seeing right now. But there was definitely no mistaking it. Her future daughter had a crush of her own...and it was THE SAME EXACT SITUATION she was having with Ash! A huge part of her was rejoicing in the fact that she now had someone trustworthy to talk to about her boy problems...
Hopefully Miette wouldn't get a hold of this development-
Serena turned around and saw none other than Miette approaching the group. Even more surprising was the fact that she was accompanied by...
"N-Nini?!" the Vaniville Town native stuttered. "Mi-Miette?!"
"That's us!" the rotund Performer replied. Then, she noticed Selene and smiled sweetly at her. "So this must be your daughter! Selene, right?" As Selene nodded, Nini noticed the Celebi in the girl's arms. "Oh, my goodness! A Celebi!"
Serena's blue eyes widened in shock, and the others looked around to see if anyone else in the massive crowd heard that while she said, "H-How-How'd you know-?"
"Miette told me," Nini responded, as if the answer was as obvious as day. But with that, everyone else stared daggers at Miette.
"You blabbed?!" Shauna exclaimed.
"You've gotta be kidding me, Miette!" added Serena.
"Well, we were in the same hotel when we saw that report about what happened last night!" replied Miette, her hands raised defensively. "Nini saw you guys on the TV, and then I let something slip, and then it all just went from there!"
"Don't worry, you guys," Nini said, placing an index finger on her lips. "I have no intention of telling anyone else."
"Hopefully..." deadpanned Calem. "It's not really a secret if a lot of people know about it in the first place..."
"You got that right, dude..." Tierno added.
Immediately afterwards, Selene ran forward and hugged Nini with one arm, since the other was still tucking Celebi.
"I'm so glad to see you, Auntie Nini!" she exclaimed cheerfully.
Nini blushed a little at the girl's undeniable adorableness. "Auntie Nini, huh...?" She reached into her pocket and pulled out a purple lollipop. "Here, I snatched this from the hotel. You can have it."
Selene's eyes sparkled with wonder at the sight of the treat. "A Bluk Berry-Pop! My favorite! Thank you so much, Auntie Nini!"
The girl took the candy from Nini's hand, and Pichu helped her rip off the plastic wrapping. Then, she started licking and sucking at the hardened, flavored sugar. Nini, Shauna, Tierno, Trevor, and Calem smiled with adoration as they watched Selene enjoying her treat.
Meanwhile, Miette looked at Ash with her reddish-orange eyes, causing Serena's insides to boil like soup as usual. "Speaking of what happened last night..." she said. "I must say, you're quite the valiant fighter, Ash. Hopefully I'll be able to have you as my dance partner again."
"NO WAY, JOSE!"
Before she knew it, Serena stood between Ash and Miette. She quickly disregarded the sensation of déjà vu she had from this act and said quickly, "You're not hogging Ash today, because I'm having him as my dance partner this time!"
"You...You are?" Ash replied, surprised.
"Ah, taking the initiative, I see..." Miette said, smiling with approval. "Good for you, Serena."
Serena blinked with shock. "You're...You're not upset with that...?" she asked.
"Nope. It's alright. I always have a backup plan." Before anyone knew it, she took Clemont's arm and leaned her head against his shoulder. "Isn't that right, Clemont?"
Poor Clemont was reduced to a mere stuttering mess, and Bonnie and Dedenne both shook their heads in disapproval.
Then, at that moment, Miette spotted Yancy and Nate and noted how close in proximity they were to Ash and Serena. "Oh, who're you guys?"
Despite recognizing her Aunt Miette almost immediately, Yancy prepared to lie when Serena replied, "Oh, that's right! Miette, these are Yancy, Selene's sister, and her friend Nate!"
"Yancy and Nate, huh? Yeah, I remember those names." She scanned both teenagers from head to toe. "Yeah, you guys do look like a Yancy and a Nate."
"Wh-What's that supposed to mean...?" Nate asked, confused.
However, Miette was now fully focused on Yancy. The pink-haired girl became rigid, being aware what her aunt's future self was like, and awaited any remarks from her. Eventually, she did get one.
"Hm. Aside from the hair color, you really do look like Serena..."
"Th-Th-Thank you!" Yancy exclaimed, her voice cracking in the process. "I-I get a-a lot!"
Miette then smirked. "You can even be fidgety like her. It's cute."
Yancy's face turned bright-pink with embarrassment, her lower lip quivered, and her knees buckled, just a little. Serena was quick to see this, and her eyebrows shot up with a mixture of curiosity and concern. However, Miette disregarded their reactions and half-dragged the still-unfortunate Clemont towards the ticket booth.
"Come on, dear!" the blue-haired girl exclaimed. "The Showcase awaits!"
"Help meeeee..." Clemont wheezed pathetically.
"Oh, brother..." Bonnie replied with disappointment as she followed the pair. "With that attitude, you'll never find a girl to keep, Clemont..."
"Nenene..." Dedenne squeaked in agreement.
When the three of them disappeared into the crowd, Serena approached Yancy, who was still trembling and pink-faced.
"I'm sorry about that, Yancy," she said. "Miette always finds a way to get under your nerves." She then let out a hollow, forced chuckle. "But I assume you already know that."
"Oh, she's that, and then some..." Yancy replied, her voice trembling slightly.
"Huh? What do you mean by that, Yancy?"
"Well...in the future, Miette's a producer involved in Showcases. She trains potential Kalos Queens."
Serena's eyes widened with surprise. "You mean like Palermo?"
"Uh-huh. Just like her. And..." Yancy bit her lip gently. "Though she always means well, the Miette I know always has an opinion of a Performer that this girl must know about, along with everyone else around them. Usually it's negative. And she doesn't really hold back with the criticism. Unfortunately, that tendency of hers always tends to seep into her normal conversations."
"Yeah. She's made a career staple out of publicly humiliating Performers that she disapproves of."
Serena suddenly had a nightmarish vision of being approached by an adult Miette while in the middle of her Freestyle Performance. The older Miette, towering over her by several feet and wearing her usual smug look, amplified tenfold, was doing an in-depth evaluation of her style that took up hours and had nothing positive to mention. Because of that, the entire audience, Ash, Clemont, and Bonnie included, were booing her to the point where she fled the city in tears and wound up becoming fat from consuming too much sweets in shame-
"I'd hate to be on the receiving end of one of her evaluations, then..." Serena said.
"Yeah, it's not a fun experience. Trust me, I've gotten a couple of those evaluations from her before. I was in tears the first time."
"I'm sorry to hear..."
Yancy shook her head. "It's okay. That was a while back...or a while forward, I guess. I've learned to apply her criticism to my future performances since then." Yancy's lips then curved into a soft smile. "Plus, I had Nate supporting me all the while, so it was a pretty good balance..."
Serena looked at Yancy, and immediately remembered the jealousy she displayed when Shulin started flirting with Nate.
"Yancy..." the honey-blonde said, hesitating for a brief moment to make sure she chose her words carefully, "do...do you like Nate...?"
Yancy's face, once a light shade of pink, darkened to a deep shade of red within a split-second. "D-D-Do I l-l-l-li-like...?" She looked over her shoulder to see if Nate was watching before replying, "Wh-What makes you think-?"
"I'm your mother, Yancy," Serena interrupted. "Don't think I don't know about your thing with Nate! Every time I see you looking at him, I see it in your eyes! The light!" She suddenly retched a little. "My goodness, I can't believe I just used Mom's lines..."
"Yeah, you're right, Mom..." Yancy looked at Nate again as he was talking with Selene and patting her head while she cooed, and the teenager smiled a tiny smile. "I do like Nate... A lot..."
Serena felt her heart flutter a little at being called 'Mom', but she remained calm and replied, "It's okay, Yancy. Trust me, it's perfectly natural to have those feelings." She then cast a dreamy glance towards Ash, who was now preoccupied with Selene and Celebi. "After all, I know exactly how it feels..."
"Having a crush on a guy who knows next to nothing about romance, is so preoccupied with Pokémon and battling, and can never catch on to your hints no matter how obvious you make them?" Yancy rolled her eyes, as did Serena. "Yeah, we're definitely in the same boat."
At that moment, Serena looked at Yancy, and Yancy looked back. There was a glint in their eyes, one that indicated a certain understanding. It was a good feeling for the both of them: Serena finally had someone she could relate to, while Yancy felt like she had reached a whole new level of understanding with her mother.
"Hey, Serena, Yancy!" Ash called, catching the girls' attention.
"Why're you two holding up the line?!" added Nate. "Come on, we've gotta move along!"
Serena and Yancy looked at each other, and then they giggled.
Outside the Laurier Maison
Surprisingly enough, Serena and Yancy's group was lucky to have arrived early in the day. Compared to the Maison's lobby, there was a gargantuan crowd that had assembled outside the Showcase theater over the past hour or so. It had reached a point where employees had to set up positions and control the crowd by redirecting them into long lines on the concrete bridge that had been built over the Maison's deep moat.
At this point, every last civilian was aspiring to make it into the Maison and get their tickets processed in time for the Exhibition Showcase, but it seemed their hopes might be dashed sooner or later. After all, the unprecedented size of the crowd made it clear that the Maison would not accommodate absolutely everyone.
In front of the bridge, a black limousine with tinted windows approached, catching the eye of everyone nearby. Inside the elongated vehicle, Amelia scowled nastily at the pedestrians.
"Look at all of those commoners, Uncle Adam," she spat, her eyes narrowing with disgust. "Most of them are probably here rooting for their all-time favorite Performers, not knowing that I already have the grace and finesse to outmatch them all. That much has to be true if even that stuck-up producer at Fleurrh cannot approve my skills as a Performer." She looked away. "They do not understand true talent even if it hit them in the face. It's unacceptable."
Adam smiled. "Do not focus on the commoners, darling," he replied. "As people of a lower class, they inherently cannot know any better. What you need to focus on is the source of the commoners' misguided opinions. And what do you think that is, my dear?"
Amelia paused for a moment to mull over her answer. "The competition...?"
"That's right, dear. The competition." Adam placed a hand on the Performer's shoulder and gestured to the pedestrians with his outstretched palm. "Look at all those people. They're not born artists. They're just here to see a show of lights and sparkles and dancing Pokémon. That's all they expect in any sort of Pokémon competition. And that is exactly what the competition is giving to them. Lights and sparkles and dancing Pokémon. It doesn't matter what kind of style these other Performers are using. They'll eat it all up like candy."
"Then what exactly should I do to make the audience notice me over the other Performers...?" Amelia asked hopefully.
"Make your performance flashier and more sparkly than everyone else. Push your Pokémon to their limits and beyond. If the audience wants that, then you need to increase your efforts tenfold." Adam's smile widened. "And, of course, knock your opponents down a peg or two. Forcefully, if you have to. Subtly, of course."
"Yes, yes, that's right..." Amelia sneered. "I'll knock them down hard if I must. No mercy."
"That's the spirit, my darling."
At that moment, the limousine stopped in front of the bridge, and the chauffeur unlocked the doors from his seat. Adam patted his niece's back halfheartedly as she opened the door and got out, followed by two assistants who had been in the limousine with them the whole time.
"Blow them away with your dazzling performances, dear," he said.
Amelia turned around, puzzled. "You're...You're not going to be in the audience...?" she asked.
"What, and mingle with those commoners? I think not." He chuckled for a brief moment. "I reserved a special booth in the Maison. That way, I can watch the entire Showcase from the comfort of luxury. There's no need to sully my new and expensive shoes with that dirty and uncleaned floor, now is there?"
Amelia blinked, then immediately smiled, almost with relief. "O-Of course! That's true!" Her eyes sparkled with absolute admiration. "I-I want you to know, Uncle, I'm dedicating my performance just to you!"
Adam blinked slowly and ambiguously. "Isn't that sweet of you? I look forward to it."
Amelia waved at her uncle, trying her hardest to control her excitement. Once one of her assistants closed the door for her, the Performer turned around and looked towards the Maison, her grin exhibiting all of her smug determination in its glory.
"I'll knock all of you low-class Performers done, just like my uncle would've done," she thought. "Especially you, Serena. I'm so gonna save you for last..."
Once Amelia's assistant closed the door for her, Adam glanced at the chauffeur.
"Take us to the Maison parking garage, pronto," he ordered. "I need everything to be timed exactly right."
"Yes, sir," the middle-aged, muscular man replied.
Once the limousine began moving again, Adam began tapping his foot impatiently. He was expecting a call, but it was supposed to be coming in right now. Things were already seconds behind schedule...
In just a couple of minutes, the pedestrians were now out of sight, and the limousine was approaching an underground entrance at the western side of the Maison. At that moment, Adam finally felt his cellphone vibrating in his pocket.
He quickly responded to the call and was about to snarl something when he heard the caller say, "Hey, Adam! Hey! Hey, man! Yeah, it's me, Nick."
"Really?" Adam snarled sarcastically. "And all this time, I was so excited, thinking it'd be Santa Claus."
"Oh." There was a pause. "Wait, you have Santa Claus's phone number?!"
Adam sighed and shook his head with disappointment. "I'm assuming you haven't heard of sarcasm before..."
"No, haven't heard of it. Sounds like a dish they serve in Hoenn. Why? Have you tried it before?"
"Yes, I did, and it tastes like your sorry butt being carted off to prison because you are wasting my precious time right now and you are two minutes and sixteen seconds behind schedule, SO I SUGGEST YOU FILL ME IN ON YOUR CURRENT PROGRESS ON THE THING, OR I'LL HAVE OFFICER JENNY ON THE PHONE BEFORE YOU CAN SAY SIMISAGE!"
"We're all ready to go..." Nick replied meekly. "We're just waiting for your approval to go on ahead..."
"Good!" Adam exclaimed hoarsely. "That's much better!" He took a moment to clear his throat, his voice still recovering from his startling outburst. "Go on ahead, Nick. Remember, you need to be in and out of there within thirty minutes. And remember, no screw-ups."
"Oh, when have I ever let you down before, man?!"
Adam blinked slowly. "Mossdeep City."
"Oh, come on! That was five years ago, for heaven's sake!"
"I still feel like it happened five minutes ago, Nick! And you know what happened to you and the other guys after THAT mishap!"
"You don't have to remind me, man..."
"Then LISTEN to me for once in your life. And I will repeat myself for you. No. Screw. Ups."
"G-Got it, Adam. Bye-"
Adam hung up before Nick could finish his sentence. He then leaned back on his seat and let out a sigh of irritation.
"You just can't rely on anyone these days..." he thought.
A/N: And this concludes the latest chapter of this story, ladies and gentlemen! The Exhibition Showcase is now about to be underway and Serena is having a reunion with more of her rivals, both good and bad. The next chapter will depict the start of the Exhibition Showcase, as well as a small teaser of more that's about to come. :D
Now, before I move on to my responses to the reviews, I would like to announce a small but highly beneficial change in plans for this story. I'm not sure if I mentioned this before (I'm too lazy to scan through the previous chapters to see for myself), but my original fic was to write a total of 26 chapters. But with my vision for the plot evolving and becoming even more finalized, I have ultimately decided to increase that total to 30. It could increase a bit more as time goes along, but for now, it'll be 30 chapters. So yeah, you've got more reading material to look forward to. Hopefully that's a good thing for you guys! ;D ;D ;D
I'd like to thank the following for reviewing:
1) Well, what can I say? She takes after all of the role models in her life. XD
2) HA! I'll tell you this, Nate should be prepared for his official match with the future Ash, because he's gonna need it...
-Amourshipper35: Oh, I'm pretty sure you loved it. :D :D :D
-Dragon King Ryouga: Actually, that was not supposed to be Serena's chest. It's a K+ story, remember? The words I chose were meant to imply that he was subconsciously hugging her body in general. But I guess you could say that too. I like the way you think. XP
-Rajiv A. Rajaram: I'm glad you enjoyed the chapter and its fluff! :D
-Guest reviewer #1: Well, I do apologize for the delay with the last chapter. If you read the opening Author's Note, then you would understand why it took me that long to update the fic. Fortunately, this chapter came rolling around much earlier this time, so that means more enjoyment from you, right? :D
-bankerrtx01: Yep, the gang's (mostly) all here! Let's rejoice!
-Guest reviewer #2:
1) No, Ash didn't touch any inappropriate places. They just realized Ash has an arm around Serena's body.
2) Both Ash and Serena fell out of their bed in the most uncomfortable way possible. That's why they have bruises on their faces. :P
-Emily (guest reviewer):
1) I'm glad you liked the battle between Ash and Nate! I feel like the only show-accurate thing I did was include a VS. screen in the story to the best of my ability.
2) Well, there was obviously no need and no concern of awkwardness for Yancy. After all, Ash, Serena, and the others were already filled in on the situation and have already accepted it as fact.
3) Well, Game Freak did just confirm that the 2019 games are indeed Generation VIII games. It's okay, though; as long as I know when to begin my "Judgment's Fall" rewrite, I'm a happy camper. It actually gives me a lot of time to plan it out, because it's going to be a HUGE PROJECT. (Hint: I'm using "Avengers: Infinity War" as inspiration.)
4) Sorry, but I plan to set the rewrite in the Gen VIII storyline, whatever it may be. Pray to Arceus that the storyline in the main anime is good.
5) I'm 1,000% confident we're getting a new Eeveelution. I mean, it has a starring role in Movie 21, and it has its own Switch game. Plus there's a newspaper leak of new Japanese toys for Movie 21 that has a censored slot RIGHT NEXT to Eevee; there was another censored slot that has since been confirmed to be for Zeraora. If it doesn't turn out to be a new Eeveelution, I'm going to be SO TICKED. Either way, we're getting a Generation VIII Pokémon early, no doubt about it, and whatever it may be, I'm DEFINITELY going to sneak it into this story somehow.
-MTWKing: I hope you enjoyed the taster I provided in regards to Yancy's dynamics with our present-day heroes!
-Shirony (guest reviewer):
1) They did not notice any changes from their presence around Ash, Serena, and the others, so they thought it was all okay.
2) I'll admit I'm not well-versed with the manga continuity, but we'll see about that.
1) I'm so glad I was able to provide you with a gift. :)
2) I'm also glad you enjoyed the battle between Ash and Nate, as well as Yancy joining the team. Pichu's participation in that scene was a last-minute addition, I must admit. I thought I'd try my best to fit in more humor with this story.
3) Yes, I'm saving that last round for later.
4) Oh, you will get spicy interactions, and the spiciness will be REAL. :D
Well, hope you enjoyed this very early chapter! TheCartoonFanatic01 is out. PEACE!