A/N: Well, school has started for me again, and it's my first day back at college. It's the same university I initially went to when I graduated from high school, before I transferred to a community college while switching degrees. Now that I have graduated from that college, I'm returning to the university.
Like I said before, my schedule for the fall semester is a bit packed, with REALLY crazy times on when I have to go to school and when I have to go home. But since the first week is just meant to get all of the students acclimated to the new semester, I'm not doing much right now. Plus, I already have the Labor Day weekend off, plus Tuesday, since that's the only day I don't have any classes. Therefore, I've decided to take advantage of my plentiful spare time to churn out this chapter for y'all!
Oh, and one last little addendum! I urge you all to check my profile, especially if you have an account here. I don't think I should go into any specifics here, but let's just say that there's a little problem going about that's affecting users here. It's best if you learn more on my profile.
Alright, on with this informative chapter! ENJOY!
"And here are our next trio of Performers!" Pierre shouted as he twirled his staff.
Certain sections of the audience erupted into massive, earsplitting cheering as Alouette, Elma, and Lily rose to the stage on their assigned platforms, accompanied by their Pokémon. Since they didn't recognize any of the Performers onstage, Ash and his friends merely winced and covered their ears as Alouette, Elma, and Lily's rabid fans roared with excitement all around them.
"YEAH, YOU GO, ALOUETTE!" one fan cried.
"COME ON, ELMA!" another fan screamed. "BLOW THESE OTHER GIRLS OUT OF THE WATER!"
"THAT'S OUR DEAR LILY!" a woman shrieked.
Selene couldn't help but stare at a small but tight-knit group of fans who had just stood up on the row of seats in front of her. They were clearly fans of Lily's, since they were wearing bright-orange shirts with photos of the blonde Performer both on the front and the back. The woman who apparently led this group also seemed to resemble Lily quite a bit, with her own blonde hair styled into twin pigtails, and her green eyes gleaming behind small rectangular glasses.
"YEAH, LILY!" screeched the man standing beside the twin-tailed woman. "MAKE YOUR PARENTS PROUD!"
"Wow," Selene thought. "I'd hate to be Lily. Her mommy and daddy look really silly..."
Selene then noticed the teenage boy sitting between Lily's parents. He was the only one in the group not standing and cheering with reckless abandon. Instead, he shrunk further in his seat, looking extremely uncomfortable as he continued to listen to music on his phone. His unruly mat of blond hair seemed to be covering his eyes-
Eyes widening with alarm, Selene looked down and saw Celebi squirming desperately in her arms and covering its ears.
"Daddy, Daddy, Daddy!" the girl cried over the audience's uproar, tugging at Ash's collar to catch the Trainer's attention. "It's too loud for Celebi! Can we please leave? Please?!"
Ash and Pikachu both looked at Celebi and saw what the problem was. "Alright," he replied. Then, he turned to Clemont and caught his attention. "Hey, Selene wants to leave. The noise is disturbing Celebi."
"Okay," the inventor said, nodding with understanding. "You take Selene out to the lobby. I'll find you and call you over when we recognize someone onstage."
"I'll go with you, Ash," Nate volunteered.
"Me too," Calem added, raising his hand. "I need to go to the bathroom anyway."
"We'll come along as well," Layla said, as Moose nodded beside her with agreement. "I need to get some refreshments."
Selene hopped off Ash's lap, allowing the Pallet Town local to stand up and follow his future daughter out onto the aisle. Nate, Calem, Layla, and Moose all stood up and followed Ash's lead, with Layla moving extremely cautiously so as to not disturb her enlarged abdomen.
"What about you, Grace?" Moose asked, glancing over his shoulder at his sister-in-law. "Are you coming?"
"Nope," Grace replied absentmindedly, her fascinated eyes glued to the Rhyhorn. "I think I'm going to see this Theme Performance through..."
"If you insist..."
As Ash's group left, Clemont glanced at Bonnie. "How about you, Bonnie?" he asked. "Aren't you gonna go with them?"
"No way!" Bonnie replied stubbornly. "I don't wanna be anywhere near that Selene!"
The older boy sighed. "Bonnie, you really should be nicer to her. How are you going to be a good auntie if you're going to behave that way all the time around your niece?"
The little girl looked away and harrumphed. "Maybe she should have thought about it before she went all willy-nilly and touched Squishy without asking first!"
"Nenene..." Dedenne squeaked, looking at its caretaker with concern. As for Squishy, it looked up at Bonnie with a look of disapproval.
"You're still hung up over that...?" Clemont deadpanned.
At her personal viewing booth, Aria spotted Ash and his group as they left the auditorium in a hurry. At first, she was a little confused when she only recognized Ash out of everyone else in that small group, but she then brushed it off. After all, she could tell Serena and her friends had a knack of befriending anyone they came across along the way.
At that moment, Aria flashed back to her first encounter with Serena in person. Unlike herself, Serena had the support of her friends all the way through her performing career...
"Palermo?" she suddenly spoke up.
"Yes, Aria?" Palermo replied.
The woman turned her head to look at her, and Aria suddenly felt slightly intimidated by how slowly her mentor made that movement. But she stomached her feelings and said the first thing that came to the top of her head.
"I need to step out for a bit. I have a bathroom emergency."
Palermo blinked once with surprise, and Aria knew why. She never excused herself before whenever she was a guest at a special Showcase-related event. She always had all of her personal matters and emergencies settled before thrusting herself out into the spotlight. Aria already started to regret this last-minute decision, and yet, she felt her heart speaking for her.
"I know it's a little sudden and unconventional, but-"
"By all means, Aria," Palermo interrupted, "go on ahead." She then gazed out coldly at Alouette, Elma, and Lily. "It's not like you'll be missing anything important..."
Aria narrowed her eyes slightly at Palermo's view of the Performers who conveniently weren't Serena, but nevertheless, she seized her chance.
"Thank you, Palermo."
Bowing her head for the quickest moment, the Kalos Queen then rushed out of the booth, a little too quickly for her own comfort. Now that she was out in the hallway, Aria looked around for a brief moment, quickly noticing a man with wavy, neatly-combed green hair with golden streaks talking silently on his cellphone. Once the man hung up and returned to his private booth, leaving her all alone in the hallway, Aria seized her opportunity.
She removed her fancy, long white gloves and her signature light-blue bow. Then, she procured a pair of black, square-shaped glasses and put them over her shining, dazzling red eyes.
"Alright, Ariana," she said softly to herself. "It's time for you to shine."
"Is that better, Celebi?"
Selene giggled and stroked one of Celebi's antennae gently and lovingly. The Time Travel Pokémon cooed at the seven-year-old girl's touch and snuggled at her chest even more. Ash, Nate, Pikachu, and Pichu smiled and watched all of this from the opposite side of the group's small, circular table, set up in the middle of a decent-sized food court.
"Celebi seems to like you a lot, Selene," Ash said.
"Pika pika-chu," Pikachu added in agreement.
"Well, of course!" Selene replied, looking up with the cheekiest smile. "Pokémon love me!"
"Until she starts hugging them too tightly," Nate suddenly joked. "Then she gets burned, zapped, doused, pelted, blown away, the whole works."
The girl puffed out her cheeks angrily. "They don't do that to me, Natey!"
"Yeah?" Nate smirked knowingly. "My Pyroar would beg to differ-"
"That's because it was so CUTE as a Litleo! How could I not hug it, Natey?! All cute and soft and cuddly Pokémon need to be hugged!"
Meanwhile, Ash looked at Nate inquisitively. "You have a Pyroar, Nate?" he asked.
"Oh, I have tons of Pokémon, more than just six," Nate replied, sticking up his chin boastfully. "Barbaracle, Jolteon, and Emboar are just the tip of a very big iceberg! Many of them are over at Professor Juniper's lab, though."
"Ohhhhh, Professor Juniper!" Ash instantly remembered the female Pokémon Professor he met in Unova. "That's right! How is she doing in the future?"
"Well, it's the same old, same old." Nate suddenly stifled a snicker. "She's getting a little senile, though. Her assistants are debating if Bianca should inherit the lab or not."
Ash's eyebrows shot up at the mention of his old rival. "Bianca?"
"Oh, yeah. She's still working as Professor Juniper's top assistant, even though she's clearly better at the Professor's job than the Professor herself. Everyone thinks she'll be the star of the lab if she takes over."
The Pallet Town native suddenly had flashbacks to all of the times Bianca collided into him and forced him to go shirtless for a matter of minutes each time. Upon re-experiencing those memories, Ash stifled a snicker of his own.
"I doubt it," he whispered to himself and Pikachu; the Mouse Pokémon rolled his beady eyes in response. Just then, Ash thought of a new question and asked curiously, "Hey, Nate? How many regions did you travel to?"
"Six," Nate replied. "First, I started off in Unova and challenged the League, but I only got to the Top 8. Then, I went to Kanto next, because that's where you're from and I wanted to learn all about my childhood hero's home region."
Ash arched an eyebrow and blushed with humility. "Childhood hero, huh...?"
"And then, after I got to the Top 4 of the Kanto League, I decided to go to the Johto region next, because I met a Trainer from there during the Indigo Plateau Conference and I accompanied him back out of interest." Nate suddenly chuckled. "I sure had a lot of interesting adventures there. I rescued Raikou, Entei, and Suicune from Parker and his goon friends; and I even got to see Ho-Oh."
Ash's eyes widened to the size of saucers. "Ho-Oh?! Man, I haven't seen that Pokémon in a while..."
"Trust me, you will see it again eventually, Ash. Anyway..." Nate gazed at the food court absentmindedly, a soft smile of reminiscence forming on his face. "I got Top 4 again in the Johto League, and then I decided to go to Hoenn." His smile suddenly faltered. "I...wasn't really at the top of my game that time. I think it was because of the tropical climate there. It made me a little goofy and clumsy with my decisions."
"Yeah..." Ash chuckled nervously. "I think I experienced a similar slump back when I was traveling in Unova..."
"I only got to the Top 16 in the Hoenn League," Nate deadpanned with embarrassment.
"But I guess my slump wasn't as bad as yours."
"Pika..." Pikachu mumbled.
"Then," Nate continued, "I was going to travel to Sinnoh next, but I heard about the Pokémon World Tournament being held back at Unova, so I returned home to participate there instead. That's where I met you and your family, Ash."
"The Pokémon World Tournament?" Ash's eyes started to shine with fascination. "What's that?"
"Pika?" Pikachu was also at full attention.
"Oh!" Nate's eyes started to shine as well, and there was a vibrant joy present in his voice as he began his explanation. "The Pokémon World Tournament, or the PWT for short, is a special Pokémon battling tournament that's held every ten years in my hometown, Aspertia City! I don't think it exists yet right now, but you really should look forward to it when it's announced! It's an inter-regional cultural exchange festival of sorts, and it lasts for a whole two weeks. Celebrities and representatives from far and wide gather at Aspertia to promote their home regions."
"Awesome!" Ash's auburn eyes started to shine even more. "I'd love to be a part of that someday!"
"Of course, the main attraction of the PWT is the Pokémon battling events. Participants get to blaze through a region's entire roster of Gym Leaders, Elite Four members, and Champions! For example, you get to battle all eight Sinnoh Gym Leaders, the Sinnoh Elite Four, and then the Champion Verity in one sitting! ...Or, in your case, Cynthia."
"Wow, really...?" An image of himself facing Roark, Gardenia, Maylene, Crasher Wake, Fantina, Byron, Candice, Volkner, Aaron, Bertha, Flint, Lucian, Cynthia, and their Pokémon flashed through Ash's mind. "That sounds so cool..."
"Pika..." Pikachu cooed in awed agreement.
"Uh-huh. But it's only one Pokémon at a time, and the Gym Leaders are only going to use their best Pokémon. You lose a battle to, say, Maylene, you have to start from the beginning again, no exceptions."
Ash blinked with surprise. "Whoa, sounds harsh."
"It is supposed to be a little harsh. The main point of those PWT attractions is to push a Pokémon Trainer's skill to the limits. And if you beat all of the Gym Leaders, Elite Four members, and Champions of a region, you get a prize that will allow you to advance to another region's worth of Gym Leaders, Elite Four members, and Champions."
A sly, confident grin appeared on the raven-haired boy's youthful face.
"What happens if you beat all of the regions represented in the PWT?" he asked.
"You get a special prize that allows you to advance to the Champions Tournament. There, you will battle every last one of the Pokémon Champions present, with all of your Pokémon pitted against all of theirs. Once you beat all of them, you win the Champions Tournament and get the honorary title of Pokémon World King."
Ash immediately imagined himself and Pikachu on a towering pedestal, boasting a giant, golden trophy and crown.
"Wooooow..." He focused on Nate again. "Has anyone beaten the Champions Tournament?"
"Some guy had the first Champion in that Tournament down to his last Pokémon before he got utterly creamed. That's the farthest I've heard someone go in there."
"...Did you win the PWT?"
Nate snorted. "Yeah, in my dreams. I was only able to beat the Unova, Kanto, and Johto Leaders Tournaments. Then, the PWT got interrupted by Parker and his cronies."
Ash narrowed his eyes. "Parker again, huh?"
"Yeah. Some lowlife hired them to capture a Victini because they couldn't stand to lose another battle. With your help, I managed to help Victini out, but I got a little in over my head at one point and I had to sit the rest of the PWT out in a hospital." Nate sighed sadly. "It, uh...it didn't really matter to me, anyway... I-I mean...th-the only way a-anyone would have to be crowned Pokémon World King is if they..." He sighed again. "They had no life, you know what I mean...?"
Nate sighed a third time with extreme despondence, prompting Ash to reply, "You cross paths with Parker a lot, huh?"
"Yep. I'm not sure how that's even possible."
"Hopefully Parker doesn't escape from that prison." Ash looked at Selene, Celebi, and Pichu as they innocuously played with each other. "We need to get Celebi to a safe place before that can even happen."
"Agreed." Then, the brown-haired boy smiled slightly. "But, on the bright side, at least the PWT incident allowed me to meet Yancy for the first time in a while."
"In a while...?" Ash repeated.
A lightbulb seemed to go off over Nate's head. "Oh yeah, that's right. I didn't remember it at the time, but when I was seven, I met Yancy during another PWT event. I think you were just sworn in as a Frontier Brain, so you had the new perk of participating as a PWT guest." Nate shrugged. "I've got no idea. I barely remember any of it for...some reason."
"Huh." Ash scratched his cheek. "That's weird. It sounds just like me meeting Serena at Professor Oak's summer camp back when we were kids. I barely remember any of it either."
"Yeah, that is weird..."
"Now I'm gonna have Serena as my...future wife..." Ash blushed at the mere thought of that prospect. In an attempt to clear his mind of those awkward thoughts, he laughed loudly and heartily. "Isn't that funny?!"
"I know, right?!" exclaimed Nate. "It's like you two were destined to be together!"
A nervous tone became present in Ash's laugh, but he continued, "For all we know, you're probably gonna get together with Yancy too. I mean, you met her the same way as I met Serena, right?"
"Y-Y-Yeah..." Nate's eyes started to fill with worry and apprehension. "Th-That's right..."
"I-It'd be quite funny if that happened, right...?"
"Y-Yeah, it'd definitely be quite funny..."
Both boys continued to laugh nervously while they stared awkwardly at the table. Selene, Celebi, and Pichu all overheard the conversation; and the little girl was now staring back at her father and her teenage sister's crush with the cheekiest, most know-it-all of grins. As for Pikachu, he was looking up at Ash with an extremely, EXTREMELY dissatisfied look.
After an awkward period of Ash and Nate just laughing, the latter finally turned towards his idol.
"Seriously, though," he said, abruptly breaking away from the laughter, "that wouldn't happen, right?"
Pikachu simply face-palmed.
"What do you mean it wouldn't happen?" Ash asked, confused. "Do you not want it to happen?"
"What makes you think I want it to happen?"
"I don't know! We're quite alike, and we even have friends who are girls who like Showcases and who happen to be, you know...pretty! Now, I know I'm going to have to m-m-marry Serena if we're going to have Yancy and Selene. Now, I do not know about you, but I see a little pattern..."
"Daddy's right, Natey..." Selene chirped slyly.
"Pikachu chu-PI, Pikapi!" Pikachu squeaked loudly with exasperated relief.
Nate stood up, looking a little affronted. "L-L-Look, Ash! Yancy's just a really good f-fr-fr-friend of mine, and that's that!" He started to blush intensely and ambiguously at the prospect of something beyond friendship. "Th-There's NO pattern here-"
"Are you sure, Natey?" Selene interrupted. "I smell a pattern here."
"Pichu pi," Pichu added, nodding.
"Wh-What about you, Ash?!" Nate cried, desperately wanting to veer the subject away from him and his relationship with Yancy. "Do you want to marry Serena?!"
"W-Well..." Ash started blushing as well, just as Pikachu looked up at his Trainer with a knowing look. "I-I mean...uh..." He looked at Selene, who was staring at him hopefully. "Well, i-if it means having Selene and Yancy as my kids, then I'm all in for it. They're very nice. And this Red guy, I'd like to see what he's like as a son-"
"Ignore the kids part, Ash. Do you want to marry Serena? Like, do you want her as your wife?"
Ash looked at Nate with surprise. "Wh-Wh-Why are you asking me this?!"
"I dunno! I'm just curious!" Then, Nate added in his mind, "Plus, I wanna stop talking about me and Yancy. It's weird..."
Ash looked away, his blush magnifying by the second. Certain images of Serena strolling down the aisle towards him, clad in a white wedding gown, the kind one only sees in romance movies, were flashing through his mind. Ash couldn't help but wince at them. It was so, so, SO awkward, thinking that way about his friend...
And yet, he couldn't stop thinking about their future wedding. He found himself obsessing over every last detail of it. It was like...he was...a little eager about it...
Did that mean he was...?
He strained as he replied, "I...I..."
Just then, another voice suddenly called, "Hey! Hey, you! Uh, A-Ashton!"
Ash started looking around. "Huh...?"
At that moment, a girl around his and Nate's ages, probably a year older, ran up to the trio and their Pokémon. She had sleek, flowing red hair and breathtaking eyes of an identical color; and she was also wearing a semi-formal, white-and-turquoise dress and a pair of black, square-shaped glasses. At first, Ash didn't recognize her, but then, a gear in his mind clicked back into place and his auburn eyes widened.
"Hey!" he exclaimed, now immensely relieved by Ariana's arrival. "You're that girl who battled Serena with a Delphox and Aromatisse!"
"Pika!" Pikachu cried with surprise.
Then, Ash scratched his cheek sheepishly. "Ummmmm...I forgot your name, though..."
"It's Ariana," the redheaded girl replied. Then, she gave an exceptionally charming wink. "It's so good to see you again, Ashton!"
"Th-Thank you, and it's just Ash..."
"Oh, I'm sorry! Where are my manners?!" Then, Ariana looked at Nate and Selene, who tried her best to cover Celebi's facial features with its blanket. "And you must be Serena's family!"
"You could say that..." Nate replied.
"It's so nice to meet all of you!"
"Whoa, what are you doing here?" Ash asked. "I haven't seen you in a while." Then, his eyes lit up. "Oh, don't tell me, you're participating in the Exhibition Showcase too, aren't you?!"
"In the words of your friend, you could say that," responded Ariana cleverly.
"Man, Serena would be so happy to see you again after all this time! Did you two see each other in the waiting room?"
"No, sadly. But, rest assured, she'll definitely see me on the stage soon."
"Awesome!" Then, Ash's smile faded, and he blinked with curiosity. "So...what are you doing here, in this food court?"
"Well, I'm waiting for my turn!"
Ash tilted his head a little. "But I thought they select a trio of Performers at random. What if they call your name when you're not there?"
Ariana blushed a little, looking like she was caught in a lie. "O-Oh! W-Well, I put in special reservations to go last!"
"Why would you do that? And I never knew you could make special reservations..."
"It's a little perk that I have."
"A perk, huh? How do you get those perks? Maybe Serena might find some of them useful-"
"I-It's not that easy, Ash," Aria interrupted abruptly.
"Really? Why is it not that easy?"
"Y-Yo-You need to have the r-r-right connections to the r-right people!"
"What kind of people?"
"J-J-Just the right kind of people!"
Selene immediately rolled her eyes and sighed. "Oh, just drop the act already, Auntie Aria!" she squeaked with irritation. "You're not a very good liar, anyway!"
"Wh-Wha...?" Aria replied, flabbergasted.
"W-What did you just call Ariana, Selene?" Ash asked, taken aback.
"How could you not see it, Daddy?!" exclaimed Selene. "Ariana's clearly Ari- MMPH!"
Aria immediately clasped her hand over Selene's mouth, and the redheaded teenager stared deeply into her eyes.
"How did you know it was me?!" she wheezed in a hushed whisper. "Did someone pay you to stalk me?! Did someone in the press pay you?! Was it that Mandibuzz character?!"
"HEY! I'M NOT A MANDIBUZZ!" a certain reporter's voice hollered from the distance.
"You can give it up, Aria," Nate deadpanned. "We already know who you are."
"Huh?!" Ash exclaimed. "You're saying Ariana is actually-"
"SHHHHH!" Aria interrupted, silencing the Pallet Town Trainer. Then, she sighed with disappointment. "Guess there's no point in hiding it anymore..."
"What do you mean?"
"The girl's right, Ash. I don't know how she's right, but she is. I really am..." She looked around to see if anyone else in the crowd was eavesdropping before lowering her voice even more. "The Kalos Queen, Aria."
"Ha, yeah right!" Ash said, rolling his eyes.
Aria blinked. "Say what now...?"
"Pika?" Pikachu asked, his mind going totally blank.
"I mean, there's no way you're Aria! I mean, your hair and eyes are the same color and style as Aria's, and you look just like Aria, and your name is pretty much Aria with a couple of letters added to the end..." Ash paused for a brief moment to mull over the coincidences. "...But other than that, there's no way you're her!"
"You're not being serious, right...?" Nate asked with disbelief.
"Nate, what are the chances of us meeting an actual Kalos Queen?! Those girls are all Showcase work and no play!"
"Yep, Daddy's being serious..." deadpanned Selene.
"Pichu pi..." Pichu mumbled.
"Pika pika..." Pikachu added.
"All Showcase work?" Aria repeated, looking downright offended. "No play?!"
Ash blinked and tilted his head again. "Well, isn't that right, Ariana?"
"Oh, I think I can attest to the fact that being Kalos Queen is more than just 'all Showcase and no play', Ash."
"You can?" Then, Ash's eyes bulged out. "Wait a minute, don't tell me..."
Aria nodded with relief. "Yes, that's right, I'm-"
"You're a Kalos Queen too, Ariana?!"
Selene, Nate, and Aria all fell over anime-style. Then, Aria got back up with an exasperated frown and roughly grabbed Ash by the collar.
"Come with me!" she snapped.
She proceeded to drag Ash away from the food court, with Selene, Pikachu, Pichu, and Nate following right behind them. Their faces wore expressions of absolute disbelief at Ash's staggering idiocy. Once the group reached an isolated corner of the food court, Aria shoved Ash against the wall, much to the Trainer's surprise, and removed her glasses. Ash stared into Aria's red pupils for a couple of seconds before finally realizing the truth.
"NO WAY!" he cried loudly. "YOU'RE- MMPH!"
Aria immediately clasped her hand over Ash's mouth, and the redheaded teenager stared deeply into his eyes.
"Not so loud!" she whispered. After taking a brief look over her shoulder, she continued, "I can't believe I had to take off my glasses to prove who I am! Even after your friends saw through my disguise easily for whatever reason, even after I gave verbal confirmation!"
"Daddy's just dense sometimes, Auntie Aria," Selene piped up, with Nate looking down at her with surprise and concern at her complacency. "You'll learn to deal with it."
Aria looked down at Selene with absolute confusion. "W-What? Daddy?"
"Se-Selene likes calling Ash 'Daddy' a lot," Nate lied immediately. "She never got to know her real dad, so she calls Ash her daddy because he reminds her of him so much."
"Pika, pikachu," Pikachu squeaked in agreement. The Mouse Pokémon had immediately caught on to Nate's intent and agreed with him on it.
"Oh!" Aria's eyes shone with sympathy. "Why, you poor thing!"
"What?!" Selene exclaimed, the little girl looking up at Nate with puzzlement. "But Natey, he-"
"Shhhhh, just go with it," Nate whispered between clenched teeth. "We'll talk about it later."
Then, Aria looked at Nate and asked, "Wait, why'd she call me 'Auntie', then?"
"She, uh, she's a very friendly girl. She even considers strangers to be her family."
"Awwwww, that's so sweet!" Aria looked back at Selene, who was pouting at having to lie to her. "But you gotta be a bit more careful about who you consider family, sweetie. There are lots of bad strangers who will want to take advantage of that! So always read a person before you be friendly with them, okay?"
"Okay..." Selene replied grumpily, while Pichu also pouted. Celebi simply stirred in the girl's arms, trying not to make eye contact with the Kalos Queen.
"Wow," Ash remarked, continuing to stare at Aria with awe. "I can't believe I'm meeting Serena's idol in person. Serena's going to freak out when I tell her about this..."
"Oh, for the love of..." the teenage girl whispered to herself with disbelief. Then, she decided to ignore Ash's denseness from now on and simply smiled him, releasing him from her grip in the process. "It's so nice to officially meet you, Ash."
"Wait, why're you here? Don't you have better things to do? Kalos Queen things?"
"Well, to be honest..." Aria chuckled sheepishly. "I got really bored doing...Kalos Queen things..."
"Really now?" Nate asked, intrigued.
"Yeah. Anyway, I saw you guys leaving the auditorium, and I thought I'd catch up to you as Ariana. But I guess this girl Selene is way smarter than I thought." Once again, Aria looked over her shoulder momentarily for anyone who might be eavesdropping. "But you can't tell anyone else. I'm gonna be buried alive by the paparazzi if they found out I'm mingling with citizens like you guys."
"Trust me, Aria," Ash replied, smiling kindly, "we won't tell a soul." Then, he frowned with seriousness. "But I don't think we'll have time to catch up with each other. Serena's performance might be coming up any second now, and there's no way we're all gonna miss it."
"Yeah, I'm aware of that." But Aria continued to smile warmly. "Don't worry, there will be a thirty-minute break after the fifth Theme Performance round."
"Wait, there's a break?"
"Yeah. Since there's a lot more Performers than usual, there was bound to be at least one. And half an hour is enough time for all of us to meet up and talk. And my goodness, there's a lot I'd like to catch up with Serena about."
"Oh, I'm sure Serena would love to meet you too! She looks up to you, like, a lot!" Ash's smile stretched from cheek to cheek. "I can't even begin to imagine the look on her face when she sees you for the first time!"
Aria, Selene, Nate, Pikachu, and Pichu frowned at Ash's never-ending denseness. But Aria chose to ignore it again and simply continued to smile, though the exasperation in her forced expression was more obvious now.
"I'm sure she'd be excited too." Then, Aria took a cursory look at her wristwatch. "Uh-oh, my time's almost up. I'm very sorry, you guys, but I gotta run now."
"Awwwww, really?" Selene moaned.
"I'm afraid so. If I dawdle for a second too long, Palermo will get suspicious."
"Palermo, huh?" Ash asked. "Well, you tell her that Serena's friends and family say hi!"
"I'll, uh...I'll be sure to do that, Ash..."
"But I wanna get to know the young you, Auntie Aria!" Selene protested sadly.
"Pichu, pichu-pi!" Pichu squealed.
Ignoring Selene's strange wording, Aria simply patted the seven-year-old on the head. "Don't worry, honey. We will have lots of time to get to know each other during the break. But for now, duty calls. Oh, and Ash..." She gave the Pallet Town boy a sly grin. "I don't have time to do it right now, but I'll be sure to prove to you that Kalos Queens are more than just 'all Showcase work and no play'."
"O-Okay..." Ash stuttered, confused and perplexed by Aria's stare.
"Alright! See you guys! Oh, and by the way..." Aria gave a charming wink at the bundle containing the obscured Celebi. "I think your Sewaddle is the cutest, Selene."
With that, Aria walked away, looking more optimistic and upbeat than ever before; there was a skip present in her step. Ash, Selene, Nate, and Pichu all watched her go while Pikachu scampered up onto Ash's shoulder. Selene let out a little sigh, relieved that Aria didn't deduce Celebi's true identity. Once the Kalos Queen was gone, they looked at each other.
"Wow, I can't believe we got to meet Aria!" Ash exclaimed. "Now, I'm not really an expert in the Showcase scene, but I do know Aria's a really big deal around Kalos! And to meet her in her hometown!" Suddenly, the Trainer put a finger on his chin, his brow furrowed. "You know, it makes me wonder what she's like when the Showcases are over..."
"Well, we know already," Nate replied.
"Mm-hm!" Selene added, nodding her head vigorously and with excitement.
"Oh, yeah?" Ash replied with curiosity. "How is Aria from where you come from? I mean, I do remember you guys saying she's no longer the Kalos Queen back at the hotel. But how's she holding up twenty years down the road?"
"Well, she's still as great as ever," explained Nate in response. "Even after being dethroned as Kalos Queen, she's still an active Kalos celebrity."
"Really? What does she do now?"
"She's a first-class Pokémon Stylist, like her sister."
Ash's eyes widened with surprise. "Aria has a sister?!"
"Pika?" Pikachu asked.
"Yeah, an older sister. Her name's Paris."
"Paris, huh?" Then, Ash thought, "Huh... That name sounds familiar..."
"Anyway, Aria's married and has four kids, all girls. Nita, Evelyn, Dana, and Morgan. They're all Pokémon Performers and Morgan's the current Kalos Queen."
"Like mother, like daughter, huh?" Then, Ash's eyebrows shot up. "Wait, isn't Evelyn-?"
"Yeah, Evelyn's the last person Yancy and I are looking for." Nate then stared off at the hallway Aria left in. "You know, I probably should've asked Aria if she saw Evelyn around. Chances are she probably did..." Then, he sighed with worry. "I hope we find Evelyn soon. She's not the most confident and sociable person. Being in an unfamiliar place and time such as this would definitely reduce her to a mess within seconds."
"Don't worry, Nate," Ash replied, smiling. "We'll find Evelyn for sure. Then, we'll wait till Celebi gets fully healed, and that is when you can all go home."
"Yeah, that's right." Nate smiled back. "I shouldn't worry too much. For now, I should enjoy this Exhibition Showcase."
"Yeah, that's the spirit!"
"What's the spirit?" another voice asked. Ash, Nate, and Selene looked behind them and watched as Calem, Layla, and Moose approached them. Calem and Moose both had a tray of food and refreshments in each hand, and were struggling to balance them and avoid spilling the trays' contents. Layla, on the other hand, was holding a single soft drink cup and was smugly sipping the liquid contents through a straw.
"Hey, where in the world were you guys?!" exclaimed Calem with exasperation. "We didn't see you at the table, and my hands are killing me!"
"Oh, we met Aria...na..." Ash replied, quickly adding the last part after remembering the promise he made.
"Ariana?" Layla repeated, intrigued.
"Yeah, another Performer friend of Serena's. She wants to get together with us during the break after the fifth round."
The woman smiled. "Ooh, that's lovely! I'd love to have more new faces added to the group! Especially if they're girls!"
"That's because you need more girls so you can gang up on us guys more effectively and have us be your pack mules!" Moose snapped, frowning. Then, he quickly and reluctantly added, "Honey."
"Well, honey, it's the gentleman's job to help the ladies out with all of their supplies! Speaking of which, Ash, Nate, do be good boys and help Moose and Calem out with the trays!"
Sighing with immense relief, Calem and Moose handed Ash and Nate one tray each. To Ash and Nate's surprise, however, the trays were still heavy, being loaded to the brim with various foods and refreshments. Both teenage Trainers gagged with strain from the unreasonable weight.
"How come there's so much stuff on these?!" Nate exclaimed.
"Because we're feeding an entire family, why else?" Layla replied. "We can't afford to leave even one person out. And as Serena's family, we should be courteous to her good friends."
Ash and the others saw Clemont running up to them, followed closely by Tierno and Trevor. Clemont was red-faced and panting, with beads of sweat dripping down his forehead, in spite of the short distance he had to run.
"Uncle Clemont?" Selene asked.
"Pichu-pi?" Pichu squeaked.
"What is it, guys?" Ash asked. "Is it Serena's turn?"
"Pika," added Pikachu.
"Uh-huh!" But the inventor looked flabbergasted, as were Tierno and Trevor. "But you're not gonna believe what she got as her Theme Performance!"
Ash and Nate looked at each other with confusion and surprise, while Selene's eyes widened with alarm.
Serena stepped onto her assigned platform, flanked by Braixen and Sylveon. She first looked at her faithful Braixen, who stood at her right, and the Fox Pokémon gave her Trainer a smile of confidence. Then, Serena looked down at Sylveon, who looked back up at her, from the base of her left foot, with her glittering blue eyes and her own smile of conviction. In response, Serena smiled back at both of her Pokémon, all the while proud of herself at having fostered such a trusting and loving atmosphere between her and her friends.
Then, Serena looked across her shoulders, at the two Performers who were going to compete against her in the Theme Performance. The fates couldn't have chosen any worse rivals for her.
At her right stood Sara Lee, who had her Glaceon and Leafeon by her heels. After giving Glaceon a cursory stroke on the forehead, the green-haired girl glanced across her shoulder and noticed Serena's stare. Immediately, she frowned at her with immense disapproval, prompting Serena to gasp a little. There was a fiery look of determination in the other girl's eyes, one that told Serena that Sara Lee was going to show her no mercy onstage. She was going to win this thing, no matter what.
The thing was...there was supposed to be no winner for this Showcase... It was all just in the name of fun...
Serena's look of shock faded away, and she merely gave Sara Lee a small smile of confidence. The other girl blinked with shock, before she turned her head towards the other direction with a snobbish harrumph. Her Glaceon and Leafeon also gave Braixen and Sylveon the same treatment.
Knowing that she would never reach Sara Lee's good side, Serena instead looked to her left side, where Amelia stood.
Unlike Sara Lee, Amelia chose to avoid all eye contact with Serena, but the honey-blonde knew she had to watch out for the Fleurrh City native just as much. There was a tense, dark aura around the girl of violet, which even made her Espeon and Dragonair uneasy. Her glossy lips were pursed tightly, her violet pupils were quivering slightly, and she was flexing her polished fingers like she was expecting to get into a fistfight.
From all of this, Serena knew Amelia greatly despised having to compete alongside the very girl who defeated her in her own hometown...and this made Serena uneasy herself. After all, who knew if she had something nasty and underhanded planned in retaliation? Amelia seemed like the type of person who would ultimately stoop down to that level, unlike the more focused and no-nonsense Sara Lee. She had to keep an eye out for Amelia, Serena concluded.
Just then, the three girls' platforms started to rise slowly with a mechanical hum, and Serena stood rigidly at attention. Regardless of what was going to happen, one thing was for sure to the honey-blonde.
This was going to be quite the interesting Theme Performance round.
As Serena, Amelia, and Sara Lee's platforms continued to rise to the stage, Amelia surreptitiously gave Serena a devious stare...
A/N: So yeah, this was mostly a filler chapter. But still, we have a guaranteed reunion between Serena and Aria, as well as the promise of a three-way showdown between Serena, Amelia, and Sara Lee during the Theme Performance! Don't you worry, a lot of stuff will be happening in the next chapter, obviously! So stay tuned for that!
I'd like to thank the following for reviewing:
-Amourshipper35: Is that all you have to comment on? You liking the Pokémon Quiz? Can you please be a little more specific? What exactly did you like? Was there something you didn't like? I'd really love to know if you actually read the chapter or not, because these one-sentence reviews are rubbing me off the wrong way...
1) Thanks! Like I said, I had to watch a bunch of Showcase episodes to get myself acclimated to writing a sequence like that, so it's good to know that paid off.
2) By the storylines, you mean the storyline of Ash, Serena, and the future kids and the storyline of Aria and her past? If so, then yes, those storylines will be intertwining pretty soon.
-Rajiv A. Rajaram: Was there anything in particular about the quiz or the Theme Performance sequence that was quite intriguing? I'd like to know the specifics so I can keep up the quality in the following Theme Performance rounds.
Wow, this is even less reviews than the last chapter. What's up with this slump? Am I losing people for whatever reason or is there something up with the site's login system again? I hope to see more reviews this time around because, for a "Pokémon" fic by me, this is a little disconcerting.
Well, hope you enjoyed the chapter! TheCartoonFanatic01 is out. PEACE!