A/N: Hey, everyone! I sincerely apologize for the lateness of this chapter. I originally planned for this to come out at the end of September, but I just got so, so busy with school and personal family matters that I could barely devote my time to this story. Plus, I had some problems regarding Internet access, but that's resolved now.
In addition...I am starting to really get into "My Hero Academia". I really want to write a fic about it but I need to finish one of my ongoing fics first. :/
Anyway, this will be the chapter where Serena competes in her Theme Performance alongside Amelia and Sara Lee! So expect some rivalry and drama ahead! Also, expect some AmourShipping moments at the end! ;D
P.S.: Hey, remember when I informed you all, in the last chapter, of a little problem going on that's affecting users on this site, and that you all should read my profile for more information if you have an account here? Well, that problem is snowballing into a bigger one by the day and more users are coming into the forums with complaints. This is becoming a very serious situation and I urge all of the users reading this to proceed with caution with their stories. You never know if you are or will be affected as well.
Nick and Sons Oil and Construction Company
Pauvre Avenue, southeastern Kiloude City
Parker stepped out of the van and felt his feet hit hard dirt. At first, he was greeted with a strip of land so barren that it awkwardly stood out from the rest of its green, natural surroundings. Then, he watched his newfound compatriots step out of the van as well and head towards...a dilapidated, seemingly abandoned petroleum field.
Eyes widening with shock and revulsion, Parker tapped Nick's shoulder as the rotund man passed him.
"E-Excuse me," he said hesitantly, "but...what is this place...?"
"Huh?" Nick looked at the petroleum field and then smiled lovingly. "My life's work."
"I see. But...what is this place?"
"Nick and Sons Oil and Construction Company, of course! Kiloude City's leading supplier of oil and gas! And also its top-rated construction company!"
"Leading supplier of oil and gas?" repeated a blue-haired man, whose name Parker remembered as Floyd. "HA! Nick, the last time we extracted petroleum from this dump was over a year ago, and it was only in a couple of drops!"
"Yeah, man," added a red-haired man, Floyd's twin Lloyd. "And we were paid two dimes for that hard work."
"And let's not forget, no one needs gasoline anymore! Everyone walks nowadays!"
"And...top-rated construction company? Really, Nick?" Lloyd shook his head. "We only have one client, and his name is Adam Glazing!"
"Oh, come on, guys!" Nick exclaimed, grinning from ear to ear. "It doesn't hurt to be optimistic!"
"Optimism can only get you so far, Nick," commented a serious periwinkle-haired man wearing an eyepatch. Sid, Parker believed the name was. "There comes a time when we must face the reality of the situation."
"Yeah," Floyd replied, "and the reality of the situation is that we're all a bunch of losers who can't get anywhere in life!"
But Nick's smile widened. "Not anymore!" he exclaimed. He then patted Parker's shoulder, causing the normally serious Pokémon poacher to grimace. "We've got this guy on our side! Once we're done helping him, and once he's done helping Adam, we'll be rich, rich beyond our wildest imaginations! Nick and Sons will be at the top of the food chain now and no one will be any wiser!"
"We can't hold onto a single penny even if our lives depended on it!" Lloyd snapped loudly.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa, Nick's got a point, you guys," replied the only woman in the group, a cinnabar-haired one named Cecile. "Unlike all of us, this Parker guy's a professional and we need an actual pro in our fold. Who knows what kinds of awesomeness he can bring to the table? Now, let's all just settle down and get our bearings together while we wait for Adam to call with our next instructions. Then we'll see about our chances..." She then looked at Parker. "For now, let's give our guest something to eat and a bed to sleep in. Maybe he can watch that Exhibition Showcase thingy with us."
Parker's face didn't change at all, but in his head, he was becoming a little fearful of what these people might've defined as food and shelter...
"What in the world have I gotten myself into...?" he thought.
Northern Kiloude City
"Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, let's welcome our next trio of Performers!" Monsieur Pierre announced loudly with a twirl of his staff.
Ash, Selene, and the rest of their group exploded into a loud cheer alongside the rest of the audience as they watched Serena, Braixen, and Sylveon complete their ascent to the stage on their assigned platform. Once the platform was done rising, the honey-blonde and her Pokémon looked at the audience with identical bright smiles.
"YEAH, SERENA! WHOO!" Calem roared with excitement.
"THERE'S MY LITTLE JOCKEY!" clamored Grace, her voice filled with pride.
"YOU'VE GOT THIS, SERENA!" Ash called. "YOU CAN DO IT!"
"PIKA PIKA-CHU!" Pikachu added loudly.
"GO, SERENA!" Bonnie shrieked at the top of her lungs.
"NENENE!" Dedenne squeaked.
"GO, MOMMY!" Selene cheered with a raised fist of determination. "GO, MOMMY!"
"PICHU-PI!" Pichu added enthusiastically.
Serena seemed to hear their cries of encouragement, for she looked towards their direction and gave them the brightest smile possible. All of a sudden, her sapphire-blue eyes met with Ash's auburn ones, on a random whim, and the Pallet Town Trainer immediately felt something linking them together in that small, seemingly infinitesimal moment. He could see Serena's face turning a little pink even if she was onstage, illuminated by bright lights.
Not that he blamed her, though. He could feel himself blushing as well.
"Do you want to marry Serena? Like, do you want her as your wife?"
Nate's questioning words filled Ash's thoughts and stubbornly remained there like a leech, prompting the Trainer's blush to strengthen noticeably. In a desperate attempt to avert her gaze and avoid any further awkwardness, Ash glanced at the other Performers competing alongside his friend...and immediately recognized them.
"Hey," he said, tapping Clemont's shoulder to get his attention. "Isn't that Amelia and Sara Lee?"
The inventor briefly adjusted his glasses to get a better look at the other two girls. It didn't take long for him to nod in affirmation.
"Yeah, that's them," he replied. He then looked at Ash. "Two new, bitter rivals competing against her at the same time? Serena's gonna have to be at the top of her game if she's gonna win this Theme Performance."
"Whoa, the stage is changing again, Daddy!" Selene suddenly squeaked, pointing excitedly at the stage.
Indeed, the entire stage was changing: the entire wall holding the small mezzanine and identical staircases was turning around, revealing a mock-skyline reminiscent of Lumiose City. A multitude of props were emerging from the walls, all of them relating to cities, such as quaint trees, fire hydrants, cobblestone streets, and so on and so forth. Once the whole transformation sequence was complete, Monsieur Pierre stood in the front and center of the stage, and held out his arms dramatically.
"Now that the stage is set and ready to go, I'll go over the rules for everyone watching at this moment!" he announced. "I'm sure you all remember the Pokémon Search-and-Rescue Theme Performance from the Brindille Town Showcase?"
"Pokémon Search-and-Rescue?" Ash asked, raising an eyebrow with curiosity. "I've never seen a Theme Performance like that..."
"That's exactly why I had you guys come over right away," Clemont replied. "This was definitely in a Pokémon Showcase that we didn't have the time to go to. It looks like Serena's in completely new territory. Not to mention it's supposed to involve Pokémon battling."
"A Pokémon battle?!" Ash's auburn eyes lit up with excitement. "That's a first! I'm doubly interested!"
"But this seems very unique for Pokémon Showcases." Clemont narrowed his eyes. "Let's hope Serena's got this..."
"Oh, it doesn't matter, Uncle Clemont!" exclaimed Selene. "Mommy can do it, no matter what! 'Cause I believe in her!"
"Pichu pichu-pi!" squeaked Pichu.
"Bi!" Celebi added.
"For those who are unaware of what it is," Pierre continued elegantly, "this is a test of wits for Pokémon Performers, to show how quickly they can solve a situation!"
The announcer gestured towards the stage, and at the same time, three steel cages emerged from the ceiling and were slowly lowered to the stage floor by robotic arms. Ash and the others in his group noticed movement in the cages, and were quick to realize there were Pokémon inside. Indeed, the large screen aimed at the audience switched to a split-screen of the Pokémon that were seemingly being held captive: a Budew in the left cage, a Happiny in the right cage, and a Togepi in the center cage. However, none of them looked fearful in the slightest.
"We've crafted a unique scenario for these Performers to enact, in which criminals have kidnapped these poor, helpless Pokémon and plan to sell them all on the black market. These Performers must free their assigned Pokémon from their cages, and then battle the captors' Pokémon using everything they've got, until all three are defeated. All the while, the Performers must take care of the Pokémon they're saving and keep a constant eye on their well-being. The first girl to complete all of that is declared the winner of this Theme Performance."
All of a sudden, Pierre held up an index finger in warning. "There is one other important thing. The enemy Pokémon will prioritize recapturing the captive Pokémon. If a Performer's assigned Pokémon is touched by the enemy Pokémon in any way, then the Performer is immediately disqualified, for it indicates a Performer's inability to defend what is meant to be precious in a high-stakes situation."
"Huh," Clemont remarked as he tapped his chin with his index finger. "So it looks like Serena has to battle a small army of Pokémon in order to defend one of the other Pokémon in those cages. That sounds...pretty familiar..."
The inventor glanced at both Selene and Celebi, but they didn't seem to notice, for the audience cheered mightily again.
"Pokémon Search-and-Rescue, huh? ...It was a dull and uneventful Theme Performance back at Brindille Town. Rather unnecessary and violent..."
Up in her private viewing booth, Palermo stared at Serena, who was gazing determinedly towards the audience as they all cheered for her and her fellow competitors. The Showcase producer blinked idly, and then leaned in slightly to get a better look at the three Performers.
"Hopefully she will lighten this Theme Performance up a little..." she remarked.
"I think she will," a voice replied. "She always does."
Palermo didn't need to look over her shoulder to know who it was. "You returned in the nick of time, Aria." She lowered her arm back down on her lap, away from her wrinkled face. "That girl's turn has just begun."
"I see," Aria remarked as she sat down beside her mentor. "So, what's the Theme Performance this time?"
"The one from Brindille Town."
"Pokémon Search-and-Rescue?" Aria's red eyes lit up with understanding. "Ohhh, I remember seeing that on Pokévision! It's probably the only one I've heard of that requires battling. It's not really the typical Showcase style, but it's practical in some ways. Either way, it sure is quite the tense Theme Performance!"
"Something tells me we watched two different Showcases, dear..." Palermo replied dryly.
Aria ignored her mentor and remarked, almost to herself, "I don't think Serena's done this one before. And it's such an atypical Theme Performance round. Let's see how she handles it..."
In his own viewing booth, Adam Glazing smirked as he observed Amelia. His niece was sticking her chin up higher as she relished in the audience's excited uproar, and there was a certain smirk of her own on her makeup-coated face. She had a look that could only indicate her willingness to win, no matter what the cost was.
He was definitely going to enjoy this Theme Performance.
"And now," Pierre said, as the cheering died down, "let me read this, uh, this required disclaimer..." He pulled out a card from his breast pocket and read it aloud. "In accordance with League Competition Committee rules and regulations, the Pokémon Showcase Committee and the Kiloude City Exhibition Showcase Supervisory Team hereby affirm their ongoing commitment to the safety of all Pokémon involved in this Theme Performance. In no way are these Budew, Happiny, and Togepi being held against their will. They have all been trained and appropriately prepared for this mock scenario, and they have all consented to the terms of their participation."
Then, the Showcase announcer seemed to hold back an annoyed sigh as he crumpled up the card and casually tossed it aside. "Now then, time to begin the third round of our Theme Performance! Protect those Pokémon, girls!"
SERENA VS. AMELIA VS. SARA LEE
"Alright, Braixen, Sylveon!" Serena exclaimed loudly, pointing towards the cage containing the Togepi. "Let's go free that Pokémon!"
"Get on it, Glaceon, Leafeon!" Sara Lee ordered as her Pokémon sprinted towards the cage containing the Budew. "Go, go, go!"
"You know what to do, Espeon," Amelia said calmly, her eyes closed as she nonchalantly gestured at the cage containing the Happiny. "Do not disappoint me."
Espeon used its Psychic to bend the bars open on Happiny's cage, allowing the Playhouse Pokémon to slip through with ease. Upon stepping out of her confines, Happiny started hopping up and down jubilantly.
"And Amelia has already freed her Pokémon!" Pierre announced. "What a quick and magnificent development!"
Amelia smirked as a section of the audience cheered loudly for her. "Well, it's only natural that I save my Pokémon first without dawdling whatsoever," she boasted. "Now, I'll just get the enemy Pokémon out of the way..."
Just then, she noticed the Happiny waddling towards her, a wide and excited smile on her face. Inwardly grimacing, the Performer raised a hand, prompting the Playhouse Pokémon to stop in her tracks.
"Not now," she said, ignoring Happiny's confused head-tilt. "You'll get your loving when I take care of the competition."
Meanwhile, Serena, Braixen, and Sylveon had already run up to the Togepi's cage. She looked inside and was greeted by the smiling Spike Ball Pokémon. Her heart melted at the sight of it, and she smiled back.
"Hi there!" she greeted.
"Toge, toge-priiiii!" chirped Togepi with excitement.
"Alright. Now..." Serena did a cursory examination of the cage. "I'm gonna need you to step away from the bars, Togepi. Do you think you can do that?"
Togepi nodded and walked towards the other end of the cage, away from the bars Serena had her sights on. Then, the honey-blonde Performer pointed towards the cage.
"Now, Sylveon!" she cried. "I need you to hold on to the cage with your feelers!"
"Syl!" Sylveon replied, before wrapping her feelers around the cage's sides. Togepi hopped with excitement and placed a tiny paw on one of the feelers.
"Braixen," Serena said next, "use Scratch on those bars!"
The Fox Pokémon nodded before scratching at the cage's front bars with its claws, leaving behind trails of white energy in the process. The cage rocked a little, but it was held secure by Sylveon's feelers. A second later, the bars fell over, cut as cleanly as fruit. Togepi jumped happily again before hopping out of the cage. Serena giggled as she took the Spike Ball Pokémon in her arms.
"And now Serena has freed her Pokémon!" Pierre announced. "Such a quick-thinking Performer!"
Serena heard, through the clamor of voices roaring in support of her, Ash's excited and enthusiastic cheering. She smiled and hugged Togepi a little, much to its delight.
"Now," continued Pierre, "how's Sara Lee doing?"
Serena looked at Sara Lee's direction...and stifled a laugh.
The green-haired Performer still hadn't freed her Pokémon. She was rapidly, desperately looking back and forth between her Glaceon, her Leafeon, and the Budew's cage. Apparently, her Pokémon didn't have any moves that she could use to free Budew without hitting or endangering it in the process. Sara Lee's teeth were clenched together, and her normally confident green eyes were narrowed with a combination of frustration and worry.
"Ohhh, I guess Sara Lee's having trouble on her end," Pierre commented. "Unfortunately, this Theme Performance can't wait for her any longer. It's time to send out the enemy Pokémon!"
"Wait, what?!" Sara Lee exclaimed, turning around in alarm as three doors slowly opened up in the wall behind her.
Serena narrowed her eyes at the doors, while Braixen and Sylveon stood in front of her and Togepi, prepared to protect them at any cost. Amelia's Espeon and Dragonair also glared at the doors, but their Trainer was casually checking on her fingernails, seemingly unconcerned about the threats that lay ahead.
At first, it didn't seem like there was anything behind the doors. But, a couple of moments later, three Pokémon stepped through the doorways, and Serena tightened her grip on Togepi, even though she knew the whole thing was supposed to be staged.
A Houndoom barked loudly at Serena, Braixen, Sylveon, and Togepi, its razor-sharp claws glinting in the spotlights.
A Scyther slashed a few times at the air in a show of power towards Amelia, Espeon, Dragonair, and Happiny, but Amelia was still examining her fingernails nonchalantly.
Finally, a Metang floated in the air, silently staring down Sara Lee, Glaceon, and Leafeon; Sara Lee felt her skin crawl at the sight of the Iron Claw Pokémon.
"H-H-Ho-Hold on!" the green-haired girl stuttered. Her head turned towards Monsieur Pierre with grave concern. "I-I still haven't freed my Pokémon!"
"Then you must find a way to do that while holding off the enemy Pokémon at the same time," Pierre replied. "After all, a Performer must always be prepared to do the right thing at all costs! Now, let us begin the second stage! Comme c'est excitant!"
Houndoom fired a Flamethrower at Serena's direction, but she was ready for it.
"Use Fire Blast, Braixen!" she commanded.
Braixen releases a kanji-shaped blast of yellow-orange fire from its stick, which intercepted Houndoom's Flamethrower and triggered a small explosion of flames.
Meanwhile, Scyther dashed towards Amelia and her Pokémon, its scythes ready to attack.
"Use Psychic, Espeon," Amelia ordered in a bored voice.
Scyther suddenly froze in mid-movement, its outline glowing in a pinkish-purple aura. Then, it was lifted into the air and thrown into the wall, sending small pieces of debris onto the stage.
As for Metang, it formed a stream of purple energy between its hands, causing Sara Lee's eyes to widen with concern. It then fired a purple beam of aura from its hands, which barreled towards Glaceon and Leafeon.
"Glaceon, use Ice Beam!" the green-haired girl ordered, thinking off the top of her head. "Leafeon, use Magical Leaf!"
Glaceon's Ice Beam intercepted Metang's attack and froze it, only for the powerful purple energy to easily break through seconds later. It then penetrated and dispelled Leafeon's Magical Leaf without much effort, before striking both of Sara Lee's Pokémon and sending them flying.
Serena saw this and considered helping her fellow Performer for a brief moment. But then, her attention was recaptured by the Houndoom, which was dashing towards Braixen, its fangs engulfed in flames.
"Sylveon!" she cried. "Protect Braixen with Swift!"
The Intertwining Pokémon jumped into the air and swished its tail, releasing a flurry of sparkling yellow stars. The stars bombarded Houndoom relentlessly, forcing it to abruptly stop before it could complete its attack.
"Now use Hidden Power, Braixen!"
A light-blue sphere of energy formed in front of Braixen's paws, and the Fox Pokémon fired it towards Houndoom with all of her strength. The Dark Pokémon didn't see the incoming attack through the dark, billowing bank of smoke, and it was sent flying into the wall.
"It looks like Serena and Amelia are holding their own against Houndoom and Scyther!" Pierre cried. "Which one of them will defeat the enemy Pokémon first?!"
Serena looked at Amelia, who didn't seem to be doing anything beyond examining her manicure and nonchalantly giving orders, as if the whole Theme Performance was a total bore for her. The Vaniville Town native didn't know whether to be irritated by her attitude or impressed by the fact that Amelia's Espeon had Scyther totally matched. Amelia's Dragonair didn't even join its teammate, leaving Serena to wonder how effective it was in battle on its own right.
Then, Serena noticed the Happiny that was assigned to Amelia. It was looking up at the Performer, expecting some sort of attention from her, only to not get any.
Serena looked back at Braixen and Sylveon, and saw that Houndoom had gotten back up.
"Braixen, use Fire Blast again!" she commanded.
Braixen prepared to fire the attack...only for Scyther to suddenly collide into her. Houndoom fired a Flamethrower past Braixen and hit Sylveon, who was sent skidding across the stage.
"Braixen!" Serena cried. "Sylveon!" She then glared at Amelia, whose Espeon had just completed using another Psychic attack. "Hey, you threw that Scyther into my Pokémon!"
"My mistake," Amelia replied nonchalantly as she checked her ring finger.
"And so Amelia's battle has spilled into Serena's, with disastrous consequences for Serena!" Pierre announced.
Serena looked back at her fallen Pokémon. "Are you guys okay?" she asked. Fortunately, Braixen and Sylveon stood back up and smiled at her. "Alright! Now then, Braixen use-"
Without warning, Scyther slashed at Braixen with its scythes, forcing the Fox Pokémon to jump away from it. Houndoom then followed that up with another Flamethrower, which barreled past Scyther, towards Sylveon.
"Sylveon, dodge!" Serena screamed.
The Intertwining Pokémon jumped away, with the Fire-type attack missing by mere inches. But once she landed back on the stage floor, Scyther struck Sylveon with its scythes. Braixen tried to defend her friend and teammate by using a Fire Blast on the Bug-type, but Houndoom jumped into the air and bit down on her arm with Fire Fang.
"BRAIXEN! SYLVEON!" Serena glared at Monsieur Pierre. "Is this supposed to happen?!"
"I didn't say the Performers had to fight one Pokémon and one only," Pierre replied. "You're all supposed to be defending the Pokémon you freed. Only when you defeat most, if not all, of the enemy Pokémon will you be declared the winner."
"All of the enemy Pokémon?" Serena thought with shock.
Just then, Serena's attention was caught by Houndoom again. Braixen had managed to rip herself free from its Fire Fang attack, but it then fired a Flamethrower at her. Serena narrowed her eyes at the Dark Pokémon.
"Braixen, dodge!" When the Fox Pokémon did so, Serena began, "Now, use-"
However, a pinkish-purple aura enveloped Houndoom's outline, and it was sent flying into the wall again. Serena glared at Amelia, who was now readjusting the bow on her dress. She could've sworn she saw the ghost of a smirk on the girl's face...
"Syl! Syl! Sylvie!"
Serena looked at Sylveon next, and saw that the Intertwining Pokémon was constantly dodging powerful, violent slashes from Scyther's scythes.
"Sylveon, use Swift!"
Sylveon promptly jumped into the air, avoiding yet another couple of slashes from Scyther, and released another flurry of stars at her opponent. The Mantis Pokémon shielded its face as it was bombarded several times. Serena then pointed at Scyther.
"Now's our chance, Braixen! Use Flamethrower!"
The Fox Pokémon fired a stream of flames at Scyther, and this time, the attack found its target. The Mantis Pokémon let out a howl as it fell to the stage floor. It struggled to get back up, only for Amelia's Espeon to use Psychic and propel its body into the recovering Houndoom. Serena glared at Amelia again, and was not surprised to see her almost dozing off from absolute boredom. The Happiny was still trying to get her attention.
At that moment, Serena realized Amelia's strategy: she was putting the burden of weakening the enemy Pokémon solely on her shoulders, and once these Pokémon were weak and vulnerable enough, she would then come in with the finishing blows. The honey-blonde Performer clenched her fists at the thought of being used like that.
"NO!" Sara Lee suddenly shouted, her voice filling the stage. "GLACEON! LEAFEON!"
Serena looked across her shoulder and saw that Sara Lee was having an even worse time than her. Glaceon and Leafeon were trying to hold their own against Metang, but it seemed to anticipate their attacks at every turn. Even worse, Sara Lee still hadn't managed to free the Budew from the confines of its cage. The green-haired girl's face was turning redder and redder with embarrassment by the second.
Indeed, Monsieur Pierre said, "Ohhhhh, it looks like Sara Lee is having a problem with trying to free her baby Pokémon and fight off the enemy Pokémon at the same time! Will she be able to catch up with Serena and Amelia in time?!"
Upon realizing how far behind Sara Lee was in the competition in comparison to her and Amelia, Serena suddenly felt a pang of unexpected sympathy for her.
Serena looked back at Braixen's direction and saw her and Sylveon being attacked by Houndoom, who had been firing a barrage of Flamethrowers from left and right for several seconds now. As for Scyther, it had its focus back on Amelia and her Pokémon, but Espeon's Psychic attacks were warding the Mantis Pokémon off with ease while Amelia and Dragonair were still watching nonchalantly from the sidelines.
"Braixen, use Fire Blast!" Serena commanded. "Sylveon, follow it up with Fairy Wind!"
Braixen fired a Fire Blast at Houndoom's direction, sending it flying into the air. Sylveon then pulled its feelers together, and the air around them started to glow light-blue. Immediately afterwards, the Intertwining Pokémon spread its feelers wide open, triggering a strong gust of wind that barreled towards Houndoom. Upon seeing this, the Dark Pokémon tried to recover from Braixen's Fire Blast as quickly as it could and dodge, but it was too late: it was blown away by Sylveon's Fairy Wind and sent flying into the wall once again.
With Houndoom incapacitated, Serena turned her attention towards Sara Lee.
"Braixen, use Flamethrower!" she ordered, pointing at Metang.
Braixen fired another stream of flames towards the Iron Claw Pokémon, hitting it and sending it spiraling through the air. Sara Lee gasped at this and looked at Serena.
"Wh-What're you doing?!" she exclaimed.
"Helping you out!"
"Wow, what a surprising turn of events!" Pierre cried. "Serena has decided to come to Sara Lee's assistance! But will her help be enough for Sara Lee?! And will Serena have to choose between winning the Theme Performance, or giving the competition a head-start?!"
With that, the audience started cheering loudly, their cacophony of excitement rocking the auditorium. Sara Lee looked towards the crowd, surprised that they would be accepting of this newest development. She then looked back at Serena and gave her an angry frown.
"I don't need your help!" she cried defiantly. "I can handle this on my own!"
Suddenly, Serena's eyes bulged as she pointed and shouted, "WATCH OUT!"
Metang had just recovered from Braixen's Flamethrower and was now charging towards Glaceon and Leafeon. A small, light-blue force-field was forming over its head, and white trails of energy were leaking from its body.
"Dodge, Glaceon, Leafeon!" Sara Lee ordered.
Glaceon and Leafeon both hopped out of the way, just in time to avoid Metang's newest attack. The Iron Claw Pokémon stopped, turned around, and charged back at Glaceon, one of its thick, three-clawed arms glowing a brilliant silver light.
"Use Ice Beam, Glaceon!"
Glaceon opened its mouth, and a light-blue sphere of cold energy started to form in front of it. From that sphere came a barrage of light-blue beams, which struck Metang's glowing arm and freezing it. But this didn't deter Metang, who simply raised its other arm as it started to glow, and punched at Glaceon. Fortunately, the Fresh Snow Pokémon jumped out of the way.
"Sara Lee!" Serena called, holding Togepi more tightly in her arms. "Do any of your Pokémon know any cutting moves?!"
Sara Lee looked at her reluctantly for a brief moment before replying, "No!"
"Okay..." Serena began to think quickly. "Uhhhhh...how about biting moves?!"
The Performer gave a quick glance towards Glaceon, and then responded, "My Glaceon knows Bite! But I-I don't see how that'll-"
"No, that's perfect, Sara Lee!" interrupted Serena. She then looked down at Sylveon. "Sylveon, hold on to the cage with your feelers, like last time!"
Sylveon nodded and obeyed her Trainer's orders, prompting Budew to jump repeatedly with excitement at finally being able to get out of its cage. Once that was done, Serena looked at Sara Lee, who was looking at her with befuddlement.
"Now, Sara Lee!" she yelled.
Realizing what Serena's plan was, Sara Lee pointed at Budew's cage. "Glaceon!" she cried. "Use Bite on those bars!"
Glaceon started sprinting towards the cage, its fangs elongating and glowing white. Metang saw this and hovered after the Fresh Snow Pokémon, but Sara Lee pointed at it.
"Leafeon, use Giga Drain!"
Leafeon fired a green beam from the green, leaf-shaped sprout on its forehead. The beam wrapped itself around Metang and started draining it of its energy. However, this did not last long, for the Iron Claw Pokémon was able to break itself free and charge towards Leafeon.
"Braixen, use Fire Blast!" Serena commanded.
Braixen fired another kanji-shaped blast of flames, which struck Metang and sent it spiraling through the air again. This time, it was critically wounded.
These momentary distractions gave Glaceon enough time to reach Budew's cage.
"GLAAAAAIIIII..." Glaceon howled as it dove towards the bars. "CEOOOOON!"
Using all of the force it could muster, the Fresh Snow Pokémon bit down on three of the steel bars, shattering them in a mere second. All the while, Serena's Sylveon held on tightly to the cage, making sure it didn't buck from Glaceon's Bite.
"MARVELOUS!" Monsieur Pierre cried. "Sara Lee and Serena have worked together to free Budew from its cage!"
Budew chirped happily as it hopped out of the cage and spun around a little. Smiling with happiness, Sara Lee stepped forward, picked up the Bud Pokémon, and cradled it in her arms. She then gave Serena a conflicted stare, unsure if she should take the time to express her gratitude or not.
Just then, her attention was diverted back to Metang, which had just knocked Leafeon away with a Metal Claw attack.
"LEAFEON!" she cried. "Glaceon, use-"
"Espeon, use Psychic," Amelia suddenly ordered nonchalantly.
Scyther was suddenly sent flying towards Metang, who didn't have enough time to dodge; both Pokémon were knocked down to the stage floor. Serena and Sara Lee looked at Amelia, who was smirking arrogantly as her Espeon then focused all of its strength on Houndoom. Sara Lee narrowed her eyes and pointed at Metang and Scyther.
"Glaceon, use Ice Beam!"
Glaceon fired the attack at both fallen Pokémon, freezing them to the floor. But, whereas Scyther couldn't break free and was actively being hurt by the super-effective Ice-type move, Metang shrugged off the minimized damage and hovered back into the air. Serena and Sara Lee both pointed at the Iron Claw Pokémon determinedly.
"Sylveon/Glaceon!" they hollered at the same time. "Use Fairy Wind/Ice Shard!"
Sylveon fired the Fairy-type move, while Glaceon fired multiple shards of ice from its mouth as its forehead glowed light-blue. Both attacks hit Metang at the same time, drawing out a high-pitched robotic cry from it. Just a mere second later, it collapsed to the stage floor, knocked out.
"And Metang is knocked out by the combined attacks of Sara Lee's Glaceon and Serena's Sylveon!" Pierre proclaimed. "Now, either girl must beat both Houndoom and Scyther in order to win the Theme Performance! Or will Amelia get the opportunity to steal both defeats from them?!"
Amelia gritted her teeth, realizing that she shouldn't dawdle any longer. Finally, the wealthy girl stopped paying attention to her manicure, instead raising her hand and snapping her fingers. Dragonair's head twitched towards her, the Dragon-type Pokémon now at full attention.
"Dragonair," the Fleurrh City native said calmly, "do be a dear and use Dragon Rush."
A light-purple sphere enveloped Dragonair's entire body before transforming into a blue, dragon-shaped "suit" of energy. It then flew towards Houndoom as fast as it possibly could, light-purple beams of energy trailing from it in the process. Houndoom fired a barrage of Flamethrowers at it, but they all proved to be useless. Moments later, the Dragon Pokémon slammed into Houndoom and sent it flying into the wall yet again, knocking it out.
"Happiiiiiny!" a voice squeaked with terror.
Serena looked and gasped in horror upon seeing a frightened Happiny scurrying away from stray flying debris. When one particularly big block of debris was close to hitting the Playhouse Pokémon, the honey-blonde pointed at it on reflex.
"Braixen!" she cried loudly. "Use Hidden Power to help Happiny, quick!"
The Fox Pokémon fired the attack at the block of debris, and it was shattered into smaller pieces that harmlessly pelted Happiny. Upon realizing what had just happened, a vast majority of the audience gasped in shock at the close call.
"Oh, my goodness!" Pierre cried into his microphone. "Serena and her Braixen just protected Happiny from the debris! It is a miracle Happiny wasn't hurt at all! Truly a miracle, indeed!"
Unaware of what had just happened, Amelia pointed her chin towards Scyther. The Bug-type was still weakly struggling to yank itself free from Glaceon's ice, which kept it rooted to the stage floor.
"Dragonair, use Dragon Rush again, this time on that disgusting Scyther," she ordered calmly and collectively.
Dragonair's body became enveloped in the dragon-shaped energy again, and Scyther could only watch helplessly as the Dragon Pokémon approached its position at high speeds. A few moments later, both Pokémon collided, and Scyther was sent skidding along the stage floor. The Mantis Pokémon nearly hit Glaceon and Leafeon as it went along, forcing both of Sara Lee's Pokémon to run to a safe distance. The audience groaned at the real, reckless endangerment of Pokémon that was being displayed onstage, and some even booed, Selene and Bonnie included.
Serena was also beside herself in regards to Amelia's behavior. "Hey, Amelia!" she called angrily. "You and your Pokémon really need to watch yourself out on the stage! You actually could've gotten a Pokémon hurt today! It's not right!"
"Y-Yes, Amelia," Pierre added, trying his best to compose himself in the wake of this stunning turn of events. "I can't- I-I mean, the Showcase Committee can't afford to have the LCC breathing down its neck."
"What?!" Amelia snapped angrily, offended at having been called out. She proceeded to glare at Serena hatefully. "I'm just trying to win the competition! I don't need your input, hillbilly! I-"
She was abruptly cut off by Scyther, who stood up and angrily charged at Dragonair. Before the Dragon Pokémon could react, the Mantis Pokémon slashed at it with its scythes, knocking it backward.
"NO, DRAGONAIR!" Amelia squeaked with disbelief. "MY DEAR!"
Dragonair landed beside Espeon, letting out a cry of pain in the process. Espeon looked at its teammate with concern.
"ESPEON, DON'T JUST STAND THERE!" Amelia cried, her voice cracking as she regained the Sun Pokémon's attention. "I NEED YOU TO USE PSYCHIC ON THAT SCYTHER AND WIN ME THIS THEME PERFORMANCE!"
Espeon nodded loyally and then glared at Scyther, its eyes glowing pink. The Mantis Pokémon was lifted into the air by an unseen force before being slammed into the wall.
Amelia grinned triumphantly and raised an arm. "YEAH!"
But unfortunately, Scyther wasn't out for the count. It stood up, shook its head for a moment, and then stared angrily at Espeon. The Sun Pokémon immediately cowered at the Bug-type's sharp and menacing gaze.
"DON'T JUST STAND THERE, ESPEON! USE PSYCHIC AGAIN-!"
Scyther propelled itself forward, its scythes ready. Before Espeon could react, it was slashed by the Bug-type Pokémon's weapons as well. It landed in front of Amelia's feet, seriously hurt by the critical hit. The Fleurrh City native gasped and looked up to see Scyther targeting Dragonair next. The Mantis Pokémon's eyes were alive with legitimate fury at having been attacked so relentlessly like that.
"DRAGONAIR!" she shouted. "USE-!"
But it was too late. Dragonair fell to the stage floor, defeated by Scyther's attacks. The Mantis Pokémon glared at Amelia next, and the Performer froze. There was no mistaking the irritation and hatred in its eyes.
Scyther prepared to charge...
"NOW, BRAIXEN!" Serena suddenly ordered. "USE FLAMETHROWER TO END THIS! QUICK!"
A stream of fire scorched the Mantis Pokémon. It cried out briefly and weakly before collapsing to the floor, knocked out. Amelia simply stood there, watching with wide, befuddled eyes as an awkward silence enveloped the Showcase Theater stage. Even Monsieur Pierre did not have anything to comment on, for he too was flabbergasted by the unexpected and disconcerting turn of events.
Realizing what was happening, Serena turned towards the audience, smiled widely, and gave them a charming wink and a V-sign with her fingers, whilst Braixen and Sylveon posed at her sides. As for Togepi, it chirped happily and waved its stubby arms enthusiastically.
This prompted the audience to erupt into a tremendous cheer, probably its loudest yet. More than a few leaped up from their seats, Ash and his group included, to applaud Serena's performance.
Several seconds of this passed before Monsieur Pierre realized the audience was now reinvested in the Showcase again. Clearing his throat, he proclaimed into his microphone, "A-And we have a winner, ladies and gentlemen! Serena Gabena of Vaniville Town takes the victory of the Pokémon Search-and-Rescue Theme Performance!"
The cheering intensified, and Serena and her Pokémon did a bow for the audience. As for Amelia and Sara Lee, the both of them merely gawked blankly at their fellow Performer.
"A-And now," Pierre continued, trying to stick to his script despite the unconventional Theme Performance, "we will take a brief intermission while we clean this stage up! So, uh, g-go refill your refreshments while you wait for the next Theme Performance, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls! And remember, after that, we'll have two more Theme Performances for everyone to enjoy and then we'll all be taking a thirty-minute break!"
When Serena reached the dressing room, she was immediately greeted with a tight hug from an exuberant Yancy.
"You were so amazing, Mo- uh, Serena!" the pink-haired girl squealed, her blue eyes shimmering brightly like the distant ocean during a clear, sunny day. "Not only did you save that Togepi, but you helped that other girl out with her Pokémon and saved Amelia and her Pokémon from that Scyther!"
"O-Oh," Serena replied, overwhelmed by the praise from her future daughter. "Th-Thanks, Yancy-"
"Wow, Serena," interrupted Shauna as she approached her, followed by Miette, Nini, Blanche, Kazalie, and Shulin. "That was quite the search-and-rescue."
Serena chuckled with an embarrassed blush. "I know. That was a new one for me to learn. Maybe I should've paid more attention to the Showcases that I didn't have a chance to go to..." Then, she looked at Braixen and then at Sylveon. "But at least I had both of my Pokémon here to help me out."
"Braixen!" Braixen barked, and the Fox Pokémon smiled back at her Trainer in agreement.
"Eon!" Sylveon added.
"Pancham, cham-cham!" Pancham suddenly exclaimed. The Playful Pokémon ran up to Sylveon with a paw raised in the air. The Intertwining Pokémon smiled sweetly and gave him a high-five with one of her feelers.
Just then, the group of Performers spotted Amelia, Sara Lee, and their Pokémon as they too entered the dressing room. Serena's eyes met with Amelia's for less than a second before the dark-haired girl gritted her teeth, scowled, and turned her head away with a grunt. Serena felt her skin crawl at this reaction, and she realized that her image definitely didn't improve in the eyes of the teenage socialite.
Then, Serena looked at Sara Lee, who was initially staring at the ground glumly. Then, the green-haired girl seemed to sense Serena's stare, for she looked up at her and gave her a confused, conflicted expression. The Vaniville Town native narrowed her blue eyes slightly in response. She hoped to signal to Sara Lee that, in spite of how she looked down on her views of Pokémon Showcases, she, Serena, still managed to win the Theme Performance and even saved her from embarrassing herself in front of a massive audience.
She did not know if Sara Lee got the message, for Concetta suddenly leaped up from her chair and waved frantically at Sara Lee, beckoning her to join her. Sara Lee looked towards her friend for a brief moment, then back at Serena, before acquiescing to Concetta's request and walking away from Serena. As she did, her posture was noticeably slouched, and a certain light was absent in the girl's green eyes.
Serena watched Sara Lee go for a moment. Then, her lips curved into a small but proud smile.
About an hour later
It did not take long for the Laurier Maison staff to clean up the mess Amelia's Dragonair made on the stage. Afterwards, the remaining two Theme Performances preceding the break were executed without a hitch.
The first of the two Theme Performances was a Poké Puff Baking competition, which proved to be rather dull compared to the one at Dendemille Town. The Performer with the Honchkrow from the Fleurrh Showcase, the Performer with the Smeargle from the Couriway Showcase, and the Performer with the Kirlia from the Coumarine Showcase were selected as participants. But through a twist of fate, all three of them were terrible cooks, and the judging panel (Poké Puff maker Gena, Showcase expert Delilah, Pokémon Connoisseur Santo, and their Pokémon, once again) were burdened with the task of evaluating which of the three Performers was the least worst cook with a straight face.
Then, the second Theme Performance was another competition that Serena had never heard of, Pokémon Nursing. Much like Pokémon Search-and-Rescue, the three Performers were assigned to a baby Pokémon, but unlike Pokémon Search-and-Rescue, it didn't involve any battling. Instead, the Performers had to fill a Nurse Joy-like role and take care of their baby Pokémon in lieu of their mothers for a set amount of time. Their performances were thoroughly evaluated by Santo and two other S-Rank Pokémon Connoisseurs, and the one who scored the best rating from them won the competition.
To everyone's delight, Miette was randomly chosen to participate in that Theme Performance, alongside Kayleigh and the Performer with the Pansage, Pansear, and Panpour from the Couriway Showcase. Miette was assigned a Cleffa, Kayleigh a Tyrogue, and the third Performer a Chingling.
Miette outperformed her fellow competitors with great ease, being able to charm Cleffa with just a few soothing words and rubs. The Star Shape Pokémon even became comfortable enough to play with Miette's consenting Slurpuff. However, Kayleigh didn't fare as well as Miette, for Tyrogue was distant and aggressive, and she couldn't figure out a way to break through his shell. As for the third Performer, her ability to take care of Chingling was constantly hampered by a strangely emotional, blue-haired man in the audience, who reminded Serena of James. He kept trying to shout tips to her from his seat, eventually prompting Laurier Maison staff to kick him out of the auditorium.
Not unexpectedly, Miette won that Theme Performance, much to the delight of Serena, Yancy, and their group.
"Whew!" Miette exclaimed as she stretched out her arms. "I gotta say, taking care of that Cleffa was a lot of hard work!"
"What're you talking about?" Shauna asked. "You did great out there, Miette!"
Serena, Yancy, and their friends had just exited the dressing room, and they were wearing their original uniforms. They were followed by some of the other Performers, who were exuberant at the opportunity of taking a little break from the Showcase proceedings.
Miette shrugged in response to Shauna's compliment. "I don't know. I've never really given a lot of thought about raising anything, be they human or Pokémon. I only won that round because I had my sights on winning." She briefly fell silent as she stared at Blanche, Kazalie, and Shulin, who were out of earshot, fortunately. "Hey, Yancy..."
"Yes, Auntie Miette?" Yancy replied.
"What am I like as a mom?"
Yancy's eyes widened, and her face turned into a bright shade of pink. At that moment, Serena remembered her future daughter's earlier description of the future Miette.
"W-W-We-Well, y-you're, uhhhhh..." the pink-haired girl stuttered. "Y-You see, A-Auntie, y-you're, uh-"
"Serena!" a familiar voice called.
Serena and the others were quick to see Ash and his group approaching them. Before she knew it, Serena found herself being embraced by...
"A-A-ASH?!" she squeaked loudly, her face turning just as pink as Yancy's hair.
Ash broke the hug, smiled widely at her, and said excitedly, with one breath, "You were awesome onstage! The way you helped out Sara Lee and saved that Happiny from Amelia's recklessness?! That was, just, astounding, Serena! It-It was just so, so...so..." Ash's auburn eyes started to shine with intense passion, overwhelming the poor honey-blonde. "I just can't find the words for it! That's how awesome you were!"
"O-Oh!" Serena's blush deepened at her crush's praise, and she started fidgeting with her fingers. "Th-Th-Thank you v-v-very much, Ash..."
All of a sudden, the excitement in Ash's face faded away in an instant, leaving Serena puzzled by the sudden shift. Now, he was staring deeply, yet distantly, into her eyes. Serena's blush faded away as well, but a rosy-pink tinge was left on her cheeks. Nevertheless, she did not back down. Instead, she stared back into Ash's own eyes, and she suddenly was able to tell that her crush was now thinking of something more...personal...
But what could it be...?
"Hey, lovebirds," Miette said, her singsong tone teasing and her expression crafty, "are you gonna stare at each other all day long? Or are we gonna check out the Laurier Maison?" She crossed her arms. "We still have an Exhibition Showcase to worry about, you know."
Realizing what they were just doing, Serena and Ash looked away, their faces pink. Everyone stared at them with poker-faced expressions, Bonnie and Selene especially. Dedenne and Pichu also looked at each other and nodded knowingly.
"Alright!" Blanche exclaimed suddenly, clapping her hands together. "Now that we're all set up, let's go exploring!"
"Ooh, ooh, I wanna see what else the Laurier Maison has to offer!" squealed Kazalie, her fists clenched with enthusiasm.
"I just can't wait to check out the boutiques..." Shulin remarked longingly.
Shauna's eyes suddenly lit up as she said, "Oh, I know what I wanna do while we wait for the break to be over!"
"And that is...?" Nini asked, looking at her fellow Performer with curiosity. The nearby Calem suddenly felt a cold bead of sweat breaking out on his forehead.
"Ohhhhh, I think I know the answer..." a voice replied knowingly.
Serena's eyes widened with surprise. "That voice..."
The Performers looked further down the hallway towards the dressing room and saw...
"Aria!" Serena cried happily. Then, upon seeing the Kalos Queen's peculiar glasses and outfit, she quickly added, "Na!"
"Ariana...?" Shauna, Miette, and Nini asked at the same time.
The disguised Aria waved at Serena with a charming smile, and the honey-blonde suddenly felt a little humbled by her presence.
"Hi, Serena!" she replied. "Long time, no see!"
A/N: And this concludes the newest chapter! Sorry about the minimal AmourShipping hints here, guys. I realized from your previous reviews that was why the review count was getting lower with every new chapter. But don't fret! Now that we're taking a break from the Exhibition Showcase, the next chapter will be full of AmourShipping hints. AmourShipping hints galore to come, everyone! :D :D :D :D :D
Now, as you can see in this chapter, there were two original Theme Performances that I made up on my own. Since the amount of Showcase-centered episodes in the anime was a bit low, even though there definitely had to have been many Showcases held around Kalos, I decided to get a little creative with the Theme Performance phase. Now, before anyone can point it out in their reviews, yes, I actually realized midway into writing down the scenario that the Pokémon Search-and-Rescue Theme Performance wasn't exactly cut out as Showcase material, since there was quite a heavy emphasis in battling. I couldn't start from scratch, though, so I ultimately chose to keep it in the fic. But I plan on there being many repercussions from this unconventional Theme Performance. ;)
Alright, I'd like to thank the following for reviewing:
-Dragon King Ryouga:
1) Indeed, Ash is the king of denseness. Archimedes wouldn't have been able to found the law of density without Ash.
2) That's because Selene is an innocent little child who doesn't know any better. The fact that so many people know all about the secret already (Ash, Serena, Clemont, Bonnie, their families and friends) also gives her the impression nothing is going to happen even if one extra person gets in on the secret.
-Guest reviewer #1: Sorry, but I am afraid I cannot do that. I have every intent of keeping Ash and Serena's future selves, and how they're like, a secret until the climax. But you will see a little bit more of Clemont and Bonnie's future selves.
1) When you say "fautrw", I assume you mean "future", am I correct? If that's true, then yes, you get to learn a little bit more of what Ash is like twenty years down the road. Intriguing, huh?
2) Indeed, Amelia is pretty bad news on the Showcase stage.
-King nintendo (guest reviewer):
1) Don't worry, I intend to continue this all the way to the end this time.
2) Yes, Ash and Serena's future selves will appear in a major role during the climax. So I guess you've got that to look forward to. ;)
-bankerrtx01: Hopefully this Theme Performance was indeed fun for you as you had predicted.
-kirbykid13: Nope. Amelia may be a conceited Performer with an extremely warped view of Showcases (and her fellow Performers in general), but she's not above killing the competition. Her uncle Adam, on the other hand...
1) Oh, thank you very much for reviewing! It's very much appreciated.
2) Not only will that conversation with Nate help Ash finally sort out his real views and feelings towards Serena, but it'll also do the same with Nate. It's a win-win for both sides!
3) Well, I couldn't have Ash respond right away. He needs to deal with those feelings first, since he's never been inclined to think romantically about a girl he's traveled with for so long.
4) Thanks! Of course I have to be good at foreshadowing; it helps reel in views and the reviews for the next chapter.
5) It's okay if you can't find anything to criticize. Your evaluation of your overall enjoyment of the chapter should also matter in whatever you have to say in your review.
6) I hope you enjoyed the AmourShipping cuteness in this chapter! There were only a couple of scenes, but I hope they were juicy enough for you to anticipate the next chapter, which should definitely be chock-full of it.
7) Looks like you've got the next chapter to look forward to when it comes to Aria's storyline integrating with the main one! After all, Aria's joining the group for a bit!
8) Alouette? Don't you mean Odette?
-Guest reviewer #2: I guess so. Though I thought I figured Parker would still be an interesting enough antagonist for the readers to latch on to for a bit.
-RougeClyde: Indeed, Ash has the ability to kill brain cells with his next-level denseness. XD XD XD XD XD
-Fire4Heaven: I sent you a PM regarding your remarks about a month back. You haven't responded to it yet so I'm not sure if you saw it. Please make sure your next review is at least partially on-topic next time, unless you're asking to get blocked.
1) It's okay if you fell behind. If you had IRL issues to attend to, then you should prioritize them. I can wait for you. I'm just asking more reviews in general.
2) Don't worry, Yancy's learned her lesson.
3) It's also the reason why I didn't really show the Rhyhorn Herding Theme Performance. Without Serena doing it, there really is no other reason for that part of the Showcase to be entertaining.
4) Hahaha, I love your little pun there. XD
5) Looks like you now know why Clemont sounded so concerned.
-WaqueKoala 2.0: Hey, you were right! It was a battle-themed Theme Performance, though not in the way you were probably thinking of.
-Rajiv A. Rajaram:
1) Thanks a lot! I watched the Pokémon Quiz Showcase episode while I was writing that sequence and it helped inspire the questions that were asked in this fic.
2) You'd think Ash would easily see through a disguise by now, since he has to deal with disguises every other day. XP
YAY! I got more reviews like I asked for! They helped me out a lot, guys. Hopefully this keeps up!
Well, hope you enjoyed this chapter! TheCartoonFanatic01 is out. PEACE!