A/N: Welp, it's been exactly one year since I last updated this, so I thought now was a good time as any to resume work on this. It's time to celebrate, everyone, for "The Way We Will Be" is making its triumphant return! :D :D :D
But, before we begin, some updates on how I've been this past year. In case you haven't been following any of my other activities on this site, I filled up some lost AmourShipping time by writing a three-shot set in the exact same universe as this fic, titled "Serena's Family Reunion". You do not have to worry about spoilers in that story; I made sure to avoid any overt references to "The Way We Will Be". If you want some more world-building for the universe I set up here, feel free to check "Serena's Family Reunion" out!
Outside of "Pokémon", I've been really, really, REALLY getting into "My Hero Academia". I just can't stop thinking of new ideas for fics for that fandom. Even if I have one fic ongoing, I just want to do more!
From a real-life angle, if you have been following my profile, then you will know that I came down with an ear infection that left me out of the game for quite a bit. I had it for a few days since the tail-end of 2019, and I think I caught it due to a combination of a seasonal allergy that I caught days earlier and me just liking to scratch my ear-hole with my dirty fingernails. So yeah, it was bad for a bit, and I had to take some medication to make sure I recovered a lot quicker. What a way to start off 2020, am I right?!
In further news, I am in the home-stretch when it comes to my academics. I'm currently in my last semester at college, and in May, I'll be graduating with a Bachelor's Degree in Literature and Writing Studies! Wish me the best of luck, y'all! I'm probably going to need it!
Also, I celebrated my 24th birthday a couple of months ago in 2019! It was pretty fun.
There's more that I want to say, but at this point, the beginning Author's Note is becoming unnecessarily lengthy, so I'll just save it for the Author's Note at the end. So, if you want to know what I have planned going forward, just scroll down to the end.
Alright, I think I'm done rambling! On with the long-awaited chapter. ENJOY!
P.S.: In order to make up for lost time on this fic, this chapter will set up an exciting action sequence that'll be featured in the next two chapters! I can guarantee lots of excitement is up ahead! :D :D :D
P.P.S.: The fic's overall length has been expanded again! Earlier, I said it would be 30 chapters long, but now, it'll be 35, in order to better accommodate all the stuff I have planned for the plot. I have a very good idea of how things are going to end up from here on out, and I don't expect the total amount of chapters to change anymore. So, rejoice! 35 chapters of AmourShipping goodness!
"This place hasn't changed one bit."
Parker peered at the Laurier Maison with a nonchalance that almost bordered lifelessness. The drawn hood of his sweater obscured the better part of his facial features from public view, and his calculating eyes were concealed behind a pair of dark sunglasses. People walked past him as they traveled to and from the Laurier Maison; every pedestrian was engaged in excitement about what the Exhibition Showcase had to offer next. In their enthusiasm, no one paid the motionless and uninterested Parker any mind.
"Hey, hey, Parker!" a voice called. "Yo, man, check this out!"
Behind his sunglasses, Parker rolled his eyes in irritation as he shot a side-glance to his right. Running up to his position, like toddlers who had just bought ice cream, were Nick, Floyd, and Lloyd, all of whom were wearing giddy looks on their faces; the latter was holding an extra-large plastic cup in his hand and sipping out of a large, red plastic straw. Then, the Pokémon poacher's eyebrows shot upward.
"What...are those?" he asked.
"Oh, these?" Nick replied, gesturing to his, Floyd's, and Lloyd's poorly-made mime costumes. "They were on sale! Floyd bought 'em!"
"Yeah!" Floyd added. "It was a good sale too!"
"Okay," Parker said, slightly taken aback. "So, tell me...why?"
"Why, you ask?" Floyd puffed out his chest with pride. "Well we figured we'd need disguises for when we nab that Celebi! That way, those kids that have been giving you trouble, they can't and won't see us coming!"
"What's the point of that? They know who I am, but not who you are. Your only purpose in the plan is to funnel Celebi to me. You're not gonna do anything else!"
"Really?" Lloyd replied with disappointment. "Aw, come on, man! We want in on the action too!"
"And risk jeopardizing the entire operation?" Parker glanced at the Laurier Maison again. "I don't think so."
"Come on, Parker, my man!" exclaimed Nick. "We can be tough and villainous when the situation calls for it!"
"Heh, heh, Nick, a tough and villainous guy," another voice drawled. "When that happens, I'll throw myself off the Prism Tower."
The quartet looked behind them and saw Sid and Cecile approaching their position. Unlike the others, they were wearing more casual civilian clothing.
"Hey, you guys don't have any disguises!" Floyd exclaimed with disbelief.
"Yeah," Cecile replied. "Like we'd be willing to spend an unnecessary amount of money on disguises that'll make us look like silly clowns more than anything else." Then, she eyed the large plastic cup in Lloyd's hand. "Or a soft drink that I'm gonna assume you bought with a special coupon?"
"Not a special coupon," corrected Lloyd. "The special coupon." He procured a slip of paper with his free hand. "Whenever I show this to any of the vendors around this place, they'll give me an extra-large cup of Pokémon Showcase Committee-sponsored sodas and soft drinks!"
"Wow. How invigorating."
However, Sid had his eyes on a wagon that Floyd had been wheeling behind him. "Uhhhhh...what...is that?"
"Oh, this?" Floyd asked. He too eyed the wagon, which was carrying a water tank full of golden Magikarp. "Only the very thing that'll grant all of us prosperous futures!"
"Oh, do enlighten me," Sid drawled sarcastically.
"So I found this guy who was selling all these rare golden Magikarp! He told me they're valuable, and people would pay a lot of money for one of these! Then he offered me a business tip! Hey, hey, listen! If you breed these Magikarp, then you will get even more golden Magikarp that you could sell for fabulous prices! He offered to sell me one of the Magikarp for half the regular price, but..." Floyd gestured to the tank. "I swindled the sucker and bought the whole tank! HA! Now, in addition to having that Celebi, we have an endless supply of golden Magikarp that'll serve as our cash Miltank! With them on our side, we'll be the richest people in the whole Universe!"
Sid blinked slowly. "How much did that tank cost?"
"Well...I dunno. I had to give my whole wallet, my Holo Caster, a-and even my grandmama's family heirloom necklace to the guy-"
"Whoa, whoa, whoa, w-wa-wait a minute!" Lloyd interrupted, his eyes widening with incredulity. "Floyd, y-you gave away grandmama's necklace for that?!"
"Yeah, I did, and I sorta regret it..." Then, he flashed a wide smile. "But hey! It was worth it in the long term!"
"Right," Sid said. "You do know those Magikarp are just a scam, right?"
"Yes, I-" Floyd's mind suddenly became blank. "Say what now?"
"That..." The other man pointed at the Magikarp tank. "Is a common scamming method, Floyd. You sell weak, worthless Pokémon like Magikarp, hyping them up as being magical or lucky or having special properties or what-have-you. A poor sucker falls for it and pays out their life savings to get one of those. Now they're stuck with a useless Pokémon that can't actually do anything worthwhile. As for the vendor, he just gets away with all the money."
Floyd and Lloyd stared at Sid with horror, while Nick and Cecile stared awkwardly at the Magikarp tank.
"Wh...What?" Floyd asked. "B-But he offered me one for half the price!"
"You really think a smart businessman would sell a so-called valuable Pokémon for half the price?" replied Sid.
"B-But...h-he said they were valuable..."
"Shiny Magikarp aren't as rare as you think. Besides, that golden color is clearly painted on."
"Okay, how do you know that?!"
Sid angrily pointed at the tank. "You can see the paint peeling off and showing the red underneath!"
Floyd looked at the tank and nodded in acknowledgment. "Oh, yeah. You're right, man." Then, after a minute of awkward silence, he collapsed to his knees. "I was RIPPED OFF!"
"Good going, idiot. You just fell for one of the oldest tricks in the book."
"That's something amateurs tend to pull off," Cecile added jeeringly.
"GRANDMAMA!" Floyd hollered into the sky, startling several pedestrians within earshot. "I'M SO SORRY! I FAILED YOU!"
"HOW COULD YOU DO THIS TO US, FLOYD?!" Lloyd roared at his twin brother. Then, he paused for a minute to take yet another sip of his soft drink. "GRANDMAMA WOULD BE SO ASHAMED!"
"I HAVE DISHONORED THE FAMILY NAME!" Floyd immediately started punching himself. "I MUST BE PUNISHED!"
"What family name?" Cecile whispered while rolling her eyes mockingly.
"Quiet down, you imbecile!" Parker snapped, causing the hapless Floyd to freeze mid-punch. "I am not going to have my operation taken apart all because you dimwits decided to spend too much money on a whim! Now, gather around!"
Nick, Lloyd, Sid, and Cecile looked at one another hesitantly before following Parker's orders, one by one. However, Floyd still remained on his knees and was now looking at the Magikarp tank with an expression of misery, grief, and loathing.
"Okay," Cecile said, "notwithstanding that idiot-"
"HEY!" Floyd snapped.
"What's the plan?"
Parker simply grinned at them.
Unbeknownst to Parker and everyone else in his group, a certain figure had walked past them and was strolling towards the Laurier Maison. Civilians and tourists nearby stood clear of this person, feeling wary of the sight of her grimy-looking, olive-green cloak, which seemed too big for their figure and therefore concealed most of their features.
Once they were midway to the Laurier Maison, the figure slowly inched their head up...revealing a mat of blue hair and a pair of eyes just as blue, shimmering hopefully underneath the drawn hood.
"Almost there..." Evelyn thought. "Hopefully Yancy and the others are somewhere here..."
"...I mean, what's there to think about? I-It's gonna be a thing, isn't it? Whether we like it or not, we will be married and have kids and be happy together, the whole package... It's inevitable, as my mom would say."
"...How do you feel about it?"
"How do I feel about it? ...I...I feel great about it! I mean, you've seen me interact with Selene and Yancy!"
"Yeah, but...how do you feel about having them with me?"
"I mean, how do you feel about marrying me? Having me as your husband? Is that something you want? I-I mean, there are so many guys out there in the world, guys you could have as husbands! ...I know we already know what's ahead of us, our future, and Selene and Yancy are good people. But I ask this because I want this whole thing to be on our own terms. I want us to decide our own future-"
"Of course! I'd like to have you as my husband!"
"Ye-Yeah! ...W-Well, I mean... I... I..."
The raven-haired boy looked down and was met by Selene's youthful eyes. She was still wearing the flower-topped toque that she bought in the Laurier Maison boutique, while Celebi was still in her arms, clad in the Sewaddle vest. Ash couldn't help but fleetingly think about how cute Selene looked right now.
"Y-Yes?" he replied awkwardly.
"You look sad," Selene commented, stroking one of Celebi's antennae as she spoke. "Are you okay?"
"I'm-I'm alright, Selene. It's just...I've...I've got a lot on my mind..."
"About the future...?"
"What about you, Ash?! Do you want to marry Serena?! ...Like, do you want her as your wife?"
Ash hesitated briefly. "Ye...Yeah..."
"Oh." Selene stared ahead, watching as her Pichu scurried alongside Pikachu and Dedenne, clearly having the time of its life. "I bet you're still feeling all weird, huh...?"
"Well, of course! I'm still learning a lot of stuff from you and Nate. To think the world is gonna be like what you just said in twenty years is...is...is-"
"Awesome, isn't it?"
And then, Selene smiled from cheek to cheek, her energetic optimism almost blinding. Ash soon realized how much of a close resemblance her smile was to his. It was an odd sight, but also a pleasing one.
Nevertheless, he honestly said, "Actually, I was gonna say it makes me...oh, I dunno, a little nervous..."
Selene tilted her head in curiosity. "Huh? Why're you nervous, Daddy? You know you're gonna do it, and you know you're gonna do fine, just like you always do! Everything Natey and I told you was the truth!"
"I know that, Selene. It's just that...I feel like I shouldn't have learned about this stuff. It...It feels like cheating."
Selene's eyes widened a little. "Ohhhhhhhhh... That's right..." Then, she smiled again. "Then you can just try really hard to forget about all of it, Daddy!"
Ash couldn't help but smile in spite of the subject of their conversation. Though Selene took on most of Serena's looks, she definitely inherited his bright yet clueless personality. Put all of that in a girl the same age as Bonnie, and the result would be a bundle of innocence and cuteness.
"If only things were that simple, Selene..."
"That's all I've got, Daddy. I'm sorry." Selene then ran over to her father's teenage counterpart and hugged his legs. "But I don't want you to forget me. I like you! I mean I like the young you; the you from my time, I love! Very, very much! As much as a Munchlax likes food! And you like me..." She looked up at him with pleading eyes that were just like Serena's. "Don't you?"
Ash chuckled and ruffled the top of the girl's head. "Well, of course I like you, Selene. Everyone here likes you."
"Well..." Selene's gaze shifted to Bonnie, who was coddling an unhappy, restless Squishy. "Except Auntie Bonnie..."
Ash followed her gaze, and his own softened. "Oh yeah, that's right..."
"Auntie Bonnie hates me." The raven-haired girl looked down glumly. "I wanna be her friend, but she won't let me. She's so much nicer in the future..."
"Well, I can't exactly blame her. You did try to touch Squishy without her permission. You should always ask someone for permission."
Selene looked up rebelliously. "Hey, don't blame me, Daddy! She always lets me touch Squishy! B-Back in the future, I-I mean!"
"Well, people never stay the same across time, Selene. They change all the time..." Ash looked at Selene and gave her a wise smile. "I'm sure if you traveled back to when I was just setting off on my Pokémon journey, then you'd be surprised by how different I'd be."
"Yeah, that's true." Selene focused on Pikachu. "You told me how Pikachu hated you at first."
"Mm-hm." Ash smiled nostalgically upon recalling the moment he protected Pikachu from the flock of Spearow. "And that should be something to think about, Selene. Don't you worry about Bonnie not liking you, 'cause she's bound to warm up to you eventually. She's a very nice girl; she can't stay mad at you forever."
"Yes, that's true, Daddy!" Selene started bouncing on her heels while wearing the widest and brightest of smiles. "I'll be patient and wait for Auntie Bonnie to like me!"
Ash chuckled in response. Then, with his face hardening, he trained his sights on the back of Serena's head. The girl was busy talking with Shauna and Aria about the vast amount of clothes they bought from the Maison's boutiques.
"Anyway...it just takes some getting used to, knowing what the future has in store for me." He then pursed his lips as he recalled Nate's awkward question. "Make that a whole lot of getting used to..."
"But you can do it," Selene replied. "You always make lots of friends after all, Daddy! This is the same thing!"
"I guess..." Then, Ash smiled a little. "Yeah, I guess so."
"Hooray!" Selene held out her arms and jumped with joy, with Celebi bouncing comfortably a little in her arms. "Daddy's feeling all better!"
Ash smiled and then sighed as he watched Selene resume her gentle ministrations of Celebi. He didn't know why exactly, but Selene's happiness and overall bubbly nature provoked from within him an extreme surge of paternal protectiveness over her. If anything happened to make her cry, he would stop at nothing to find the source of her grief and make it pay.
Then, upon realizing what he was thinking about, Ash shook his head in surprise.
"Jeez!" he thought with disbelief. "First I'm starting to have a new view of Serena, a-and now fatherhood's getting to my head! What's gotten into me today?!"
"Well, well," a voice said, "aren't you two just the sweetest?"
Ash looked across his shoulder and saw Trevor, who had slowed down so he could join his side. The young photographer was looking down at Selene, who was coddling Celebi while unconsciously groping at Ash's pant leg.
"Mind if I take a picture?" Trevor asked.
"Ooh, ooh, a picture!" Selene cried in response. "Sure! Let's take a photo, Daddy!"
"Well," replied Ash with a fond smile, "if that's what Selene wants, that's what you'll get."
Ash knelt beside Selene so they could be at an equal height. They leaned their heads against one another so Trevor could have an easier time fitting them within the field of his camera.
"Alright, you two!" the orange-haired boy called. "On three! One...two...three!"
"Cheeeeese!" Selene said.
Trevor took the photo and then checked on his camera. Once he smiled proudly, a curious Ash walked up to him.
"Hey, lemme see, Trevor," the raven-haired Trainer said.
Unbeknownst to any of them, someone had been eavesdropping on the entire exchange. Miette's smirk widened slightly as she pretended to admire the contents of her shopping bag.
"Heh heh heh..."
"There! That must be them."
"Yep! They match the photos that Parker guy took, alright."
"Hmmmmm... These are some pretty good photos..."
Sid and Lloyd lowered the photos they had of Selene, Ash, and the rest of the group, but Floyd continued to admire his. The two men continued observing the group from a distance for a couple more moments before the trio retreated behind the pillar they had been using as a cover. Lloyd was still suckling at the straw, the slurping sounds becoming increasingly audible.
"Alright," Sid said. "Now, remember the plan, guys."
"Oooooh, I can't wait to do some evildoing!" Lloyd exclaimed giddily once he was done drinking. "Let's do it now!"
Before Lloyd could burst out of their hiding place, Sid grabbed him by the shoulders and held him back.
"No, you idiot!" Sid snapped between clenched teeth. "Were you even listening to what Parker was saying?!"
"Ummmmm..." Lloyd furrowed his brow in concentration. "He lost me at... 'Now gather around'."
"You idiot!" Sid slapped him in the cheek, stunning him. "Alright, I'm gonna repeat this once and ONLY once!"
"O-Okay," replied Lloyd, nodding meekly.
"Now, I don't know how, but Parker calculated the peak hour for the amount of people that'll be in this place."
Lloyd nodded. "Okay."
"That peak hour's about to start in five or so minutes. And once it does-"
Lloyd nodded as he began sipping his drink again. "Mm-hm."
"Cecile and Nick are gonna cause an emergency in the food court-"
Lloyd nodded as he continued to sip his drink. "Mm-hm."
"That'll create a bit of a panic, and then-"
Lloyd nodded as he continued to sip his drink. "Mm-hm."
Sid frowned angrily, his mind reeling from Lloyd's audible sipping. "Are you listening to me, Lloyd?"
Lloyd nodded as he continued to sip his drink. "Mm-hm."
Sid pursed his lips and crossed his arms. "Okay, what'd I just say?"
Lloyd nodded as he continued to sip his drink. "Mm-hm."
"Okay, where'd you lose me?"
Lloyd nodded as he continued to sip his drink. "Mm-hm."
"For the love of!" Sid whipped his head towards Floyd. "Floyd, are you- STOP LOOKING AT THOSE PHOTOS!"
"AGH!" Floyd nearly dropped his photo in a panic. "Sorry, I'm sorry! I-It's just, that girl with the blue hair looks r-r-really cute and sweet! I think I'll be rooting for her during the Showcase-"
"Will you pay attention?! 'Cause your brother here sure won't!"
"Oh, Lloyd? Pffft! You probably lost him the moment you started explaining the plan. I mean, you did for me-"
Lloyd nodded as he continued to sip his drink. "Mm-hm."
Sid clutched his hair in anger. "I swear, if you two don't start paying attention to me within the next thirty seconds, I am gonna explode like a Voltorb!"
"Well, isn't that the point?" Floyd asked. "To create an emergency that'll stir up a panic?" Then, his eyes lit up. "Oh, you know what, the salesman that sold me the tank of Magikarp, he's also been selling Voltorb! Just wait here, you guys! I'll buy one so we could have it use Explosion and-"
"HAVE YOU LOST YOUR FRIGGING MIND, FLOYD?!"
Lloyd nodded as he continued to sip his drink. "Mm-hm."
Then, he burped.
"Dere da twoips go."
The disguised Meowth lowered his binoculars and bared his fingers in a malevolent snicker. He was currently sitting in the middle of the cafeteria and positioned a few yards away from Ash's group.
"Now's da poifect oppertunity ta snatch Pikachu!" he declared triumphantly.
"UGH!" another voice huffed, startling Meowth with its sternness. "You're still thinking about Pikachu, Meowth? And at an inopportune time like this?!"
Meowth hesitantly looked up to see an equally disguised Jessie looking into a hand-mirror while applying makeup on her face. Her Wobbuffet and Gourgeist were beside her, loyally waiting for their Trainer's next command.
"W-W-Well," Meowth replied in a slight stutter, "w-we haven't seen any action in dis story since, like, Ch-Chapta 3! Team Rocket needs der time ta shine!"
"Oh, I'll tell you who needs their time to shine, Meowth, and that's me!" Jessie lowered her mirror and stuck her chin out snobbishly. "This Showcase has been going on for a while, but I still haven't gotten my turn on the stage! It's a disgrace, I tell you! And speaking of disgraces..."
She cast a deadly look towards James, who was lovingly staring at a photo of a Chimecho. The blue-haired man failed to notice he was now the subject of his teammate's wrath.
"James!" Jessie barked, finally catching his attention.
"AGH!" James nearly dropped his photo, but managed to catch it in time. "Y-Yes, Jess?"
"I heard about your shenanigans during the Pokémon Nursing round! Apparently, you've been trying to shout tips to one of those twerpy Performers?!"
James was horrified by the fiery look that erupted in Jessie's eyes. "AAAGGGHHH! I'm sorry, Jess, I'm so, so sorry! I-It's just, well, th-th-that girl was taking care of a Chingling, a-and it just reminded me of my precious Chimecho, a-and-"
"Enough!" Jessie interrupted, drawing a terrified squeak from her teammate. "I do not wanna hear anymore of it! Know this, James, and know this well: the only Performer you're gonna be shouting for is ME! Do you understand?!"
"Good. Now then, where was I? Oh, yeah!"
Jessie pulled out her hand-mirror and began applying additional finishing touches on her makeup. Her distraction allowed James to turn his head towards Meowth, who too was terrified into silence by Jessie's outburst.
"Jess is really taking this Showcase seriously, huh...?" James whispered.
"Yeah," the Scratch Cat Pokémon replied. "I tink she forgot dat da Showcase doesn't require a winner..."
Unbeknownst to Team Rocket, a pair of people passed by their table without giving them a second thought. Looking over her shoulder, Cecile kept a lookout while she and Nick ventured towards one of the food court kitchens. However, as they were getting close to their intended destination, a savory waft of a scent caught Nick's olfactory senses, and he couldn't help but stop and sniff at the air like a hungry Lillipup.
"Mmmmm...smells like barbecue..." he said to himself.
He was about to wander off in the opposite direction when Cecile noticed and yanked him backward.
"No, you idiot!" she snapped in a hushed voice. "Remember what Parker told us! We can't be off-schedule even by a few seconds!"
"Aw, come ooooon, Cecile!" moaned Nick. "I'm hungry! Can't I just get a quick sampler of something? I thought I saw a vendor giving out some-"
"NO! For the love of Arceus!" Cecile then shook Nick slightly. "If you're gonna be awesome and cool like Parker, then you gotta think, feel, and breathe like Parker, okay?! And you can start by not!"
She lightly slapped Nick in the right cheek.
She lightly slapped Nick in the left cheek.
She lightly slapped Nick in the right cheek again.
She lightly slapped Nick in the left cheek again.
She lightly slapped Nick in the right cheek yet again.
"All the time!"
She delivered a slight jab at Nick's lower jaw, stunning him.
"C-Ca-Capieche..." Nick mumbled.
"Good! Now, then..."
She pulled out two Poké Balls and triggered them into opening up without throwing them. There was two small beams of light, and once they subsided, two minuscule Pokémon were standing by her feet, looking up at her expectantly. One was a yellow, spider-like Pokémon with sky-blue eyes; while the other was a white-and-periwinkle, candle-like Pokémon with a flickering purple flame.
"Joltik, Litwick," she instructed, pointing towards a door that led into one of the kitchens, "I need you to get inside there. Once you do, Joltik, find an electrical socket that already has a cord plugged in. Once you do, feed on its electricity, and when you have enough, discharge enough electricity into the cord and socket until you spark a fire."
Joltik nodded, whereupon Cecile focused on Litwick. "As for you, Litwick, check on the fire's progress and use just a little Will-O-Wisp to strengthen it. Once the fire's big enough, you two run for it and come back to me, okay?"
Joltik and Litwick both nodded. However, before they could scurry off, Cecile stopped them with a raised palm.
"And remember," she warned, "above all, the fire needs to look electrical. You two can't attract suspicion to yourselves."
The two miniature Pokémon nodded again, then they scurried towards the door their Trainer pointed out, taking shelter in the corner. Once it opened, and a server emerged with a tray of steaming food, the duo stealthily entered the kitchen before the door could close on them.
"Awesome!" Nick whispered giddily. "Ooooooh, this is so exciting!" He clapped his hands together in delight. "Okay, okay, so what's my role?"
"Your role is to keep watch with me," Cecile replied flatly.
"Keep watch?! That doesn't sound cool or awesome! Can't I just send out any of my Pokémon and stir up a lil' trouble-?"
"No, absolutely not! We're supposed to play innocent bystanders and keep everyone's attention on us!"
"Keep everyone's attention on us? How're we supposed to do that if we're also supposed to play innocent bystanders?!"
Cecile sighed and shook her head with disappointment. "...Have you ever heard of the phrase 'shouting fire in a crowded theater', Nick?"
"AGH!" Clemont collapsed to his knees with a girlish moan. "I'm tired!"
"Same here, man," Tierno replied. "In fact, I'm more than tired; I'm wasted!"
Clemont and Tierno weren't the only ones to be bogged down by exhaustion. Nate, Calem, Trevor, and Moose all dropped the many shopping bags they were coerced into carrying. Once they were relieved of their burden, the four boys started clutching their sore arms with relieved looks. The girls stopped and glared at the males with disbelief.
"Ohhhhh, come on!" Shauna exclaimed. "Are you serious right now, Tierno, Trevor?! You two have been traveling around the region for months, but you can't be trusted to carry a few bags for me?!"
"A-A few bags?!" Tierno replied, his eyes bulging. "Shauna, we're all carrying, like, twenty bags each!"
"Twenty bags each," remarked Shulin with a roll of her eyes. "Ah, grow some spines, you guys. You're not carrying that much."
"But it's still a lot!" Calem cried. Then, he spotted Serena and gave her a pleading expression. "Please, Serena! Give your good ole cuz a break and lighten my load a little, will you?"
"Aw gee, lemme think about it, Calem," replied Serena. She put a fingertip on her chin, furrowed her brow, and then said a second later, "Nope!"
"You can't bargain with the girls, Calem," Trevor commented, sweat dripping down his temples. "They're like tyrants. The moment they buy something, we have to carry it for them. It's the law of the land."
"Well, it's 'cause you guys need to be gentlemen and help the ladies out!" replied Kazalie.
"Help the ladies out?! You girls aren't even doing anything but talk about what clothes to buy next!"
"Aw, come on," Meyer suddenly said. Unlike the other males in the group, he had no difficulty carrying the bags assigned to him. "Suck it up and be men. There's nothing wrong with taking on a heavy payload."
"Easy for you to say, Dad!" Clemont wheezed. "You're 110 percent muscle and negative 110 percent skin and bones!"
"110 percent?" Bonnie repeated with an arched eyebrow. "Wow, Clemont's really lost it now."
"Nenene," squeaked Dedenne, while Squishy just garbled something unintelligible.
As for Meyer, he pursed his lips at his son. "You know, son, this is a perfect opportunity for you to start building up your musculature. You should never neglect your duty of maintaining and improving your physique. Now, I know you're gonna marry this Korrina girl in the future, but how're you gonna accomplish that with that body of yours? Not to mention that resolve of yours. Girls like a guy who will help them out and lighten their load, no matter how tough and scary the task looks." Then, he widened his gaze to accommodate the other exhausted boys. "The same goes for all of you."
The boys simply moaned with disbelief in response, but Layla, who was standing nearby, nodded sagely in agreement.
"That's true," she said. "True indeed." She looked across her shoulder and gently elbowed the approaching Moose. "Hey, maybe you should listen to him, Moose."
"Guhhhhh..." Moose moaned. His arms continued to strain from the combined weight of the bags he was carrying.
However, Grace shot Meyer a suspicious glare. "Okay," she said. "Is that why you don't have a problem with all the bags I keep shoving into your arms? 'Cause you're trying to charm me or something?"
Meyer looked down at her and smirked playfully. "I dunno. Your words, not mine."
The former Rhyhorn Racer scowled nastily at him. When she was met with another smirk, she gritted her teeth, grabbed some of the bags slung over Meyer's arms, and yanked them away from his grasp.
"You think you may be a Casanova, Mr. Hotshot Electrician, but your wily methods of seduction aren't gonna work on me! Now, gimme more of those bags!"
As Grace continued to yank more bags out of Meyer's arms, Layla stared at the scene with a crafty smirk.
"Wow," she said. "Spoken like a real tsundere."
"I heard that, Layle!" Grace snapped without looking at her.
"Ooh, ooh!" Selene cried as she and Ash joined the others. "There's that word again! Tsunadery!"
"It's 'tsundere', Selene," corrected Layla.
Selene promptly tugged Ash's pant leg. "Daddy, what does that mean?"
Ash blinked slowly with confusion. "I...I really don't know..." He looked at Yancy. "Hey, Yancy, Selene wants to know what 'tsundere' means."
"Still?" Yancy looked at her younger sister. "Selene, I told you I'll tell you that when you're older."
Selene puffed out her cheeks angrily. "But I wanna know NOW!"
"Biiiii..." Celebi added pleadingly.
"Pichu-pi!" Pichu squeaked in agreement.
Very soon, the group became engaged in several conversations. Most of them were locked into another argument about the ethical responsibility of the men carrying the bags for the women. The only ones who didn't participate were Blanche and Nini, both of whom were standing awkwardly to the side. Meanwhile, Yancy was trying her best to placate Selene's mounting curiosity about the term "tsundere". While all of that was transpiring, Aria approached Serena from behind and tapped on her shoulder to catch the honey-blonde's attention.
"O-Oh!" Serena exclaimed. After looking around, she furtively whispered, "Yes, Aria?"
Aria took one last glance at the squabbling group before asking, "Is this...something your family does often...?"
"Huh?" Then, Serena smiled and gently shook her head. "No, not really. But don't worry about it, Aria. No one's really at each other's throats." She looked over her shoulder to observe the conflicts. "I guess this is all because this is everyone's first time in Kiloude. They wanna do lots of things, and then conflicts of interest pop up because of it. We girls wanna go shopping, while the boys want to do battling-related stuff. But once the Exhibition Showcase starts up again, everyone's gonna forget this ever happened."
"Oh. That's a relief." Aria heaved out a relieved sigh. "I was worried this was gonna be a bad impression..."
Serena's eyebrows shot up in surprise. "A...A bad impression? Of what?"
"Huh?" The redheaded Kalos Queen looked at her. "What?"
"What do you mean by 'bad impression'?" Serena blinked slowly. "Are...Are you trying to study my family or something?"
"Wh-What?! N-No!" Aria started waving her hands. "No, no, no! I-I didn't mean it like that, Serena!"
"Oh... W-Well..." Serena felt like she shouldn't ask something like this to her idol, but her curiosity was overwhelming her now. "What did you mean, then?"
Before Aria could respond, they, along with everyone else in the lobby, heard a small explosion coming from the direction of the food court. Soon, they heard a couple of voices yelling out, "FIRE! FIRE! FIRE!"
"Whoa, what's going on?" Ash asked.
Everyone's heads turned towards the direction of the food court, where two people were panicking and flailing their arms in an overly exaggerated fashion. One was a woman with cinnabar-colored hair and reddish-pink eyes, who was wearing a raspberry-pink T-shirt and tight-fitting beige shorts with tawny-colored suspenders. The other was a small, rotund man with orange hair and beady eyes that gave him the overall semblance of Dedenne; he was also wearing a rather poorly-made mime costume that made him stand out too much.
"FIRE!" the two shouted at the top of their lungs. "THERE'S A FIRE!"
At that moment, a small fireball erupted from one of the restaurants. Ash, Serena, and the others watched as the doors to that restaurant flew open, allowing the cooks and servers to flee the kitchen in terror. Two of the cooks' clothes bore a number of burn-marks that emitted small wisps of smoke. Nervous murmurs broke out amongst the crowd of onlookers.
"Oh, my gosh!" Layla cried, clasping her hands over her mouth in shock. "This looks bad!"
"Quick!" Meyer shouted. "Someone get a fire extinguisher!"
But before anyone could react, another, larger fireball bloomed out of the restaurant, showering the food court in flames and heat. The civilians eating in the area fled screaming, and Serena saw Jessilee shrieking and running for her life while her friends tried their best to put out the flames burning on the tip of her hair.
"I'm-I'm calling the fire department!" exclaimed a fearful Aria. But before she could procure her cellphone, Ash held out his arm, stopping her in her tracks.
"We can't wait for the firefighters to come," the Pallet Town native said, keeping his auburn eyes trained on the fire. "Not anymore. If we wait a second longer, the fire's gonna get bigger." He reached into his pocket and pulled out a Poké Ball. "We have to work together and put it out ourselves. Go, Greninja!"
Ash threw the Poké Ball into the air, summoning the Ninja Pokémon in a flash of light. He flexed his arms in preparation upon seeing the blazing inferno. Calem smiled knowingly and stepped forward, his hand holding a Poké Ball of his own.
"Right behind you, Ash!" he said. "Come on out, Empoleon!"
"Same here!" Tierno cried before throwing his own Poké Ball. "Blastoise, help the others out!"
Upon seeing the three summon their Water-type Pokémon, a number of onlookers followed suit. Within seconds, a small variety of Water-types advanced into the food court, led by Greninja and Empoleon. A third fireball blasted out from the restaurant, causing several to flinch. However, Greninja, Empoleon, and Blastoise stood their ground.
"Greninja, use Water Shuriken!" ordered Ash.
"Empoleon, use Hydro Pump!" Calem commanded.
"Use Hydro Cannon, Blastoise!" Tierno cried with a graceful spin.
The three moves were fired into the smoky restaurant, towards the direction of the fire that had been quickly spreading inside the kitchen. These were followed by many other commands and many other Water-type moves.
Once the sweltering heat of the fire began to die down, leaving the kitchen entirely dominated by thick, dark smoke, an enormous cheer erupted from the crowd, overwhelming the entire room in their relief. Many of the onlookers applauded Ash, Calem, Tierno, and the others who had decided to step forward and take the initiative, while Serena and the others watched with pride. Clemont, Trevor, Meyer, Yancy, Nate, Miette, Nini, and Blanche walked over to join Ash, Calem, and Tierno.
"Huh, wow..." Aria said, impressed as she scanned the onlookers. "Is this, uh... I-Is this a common occurrence in your journey, Serena?"
"Yeah, pretty much..." replied Serena. Her gaze was transfixed on Ash, who was not paying attention to the celebratory reaction and was instead focused on making sure the last flames were put out. "That's Ash, alright. Always stepping up to help in a situation..."
"I'll say," added Shauna, even though she was entirely focused on Calem.
"HOORAY, DADDY!" Selene hollered, the girl bouncing up and down on her heels in enthusiasm while she continued to hold onto Celebi. Fortunately, her cry was drowned out by the crowd's cheering, preventing it from reaching the ears of Aria, Blanche, Kazalie, Shulin, and others.
Unfortunately, this also allowed someone to sneak up behind her while in plain sight. Before she knew it, a large, hammy hand reached down and thrust a damp cloth into her nose and mouth. Selene tried to cry out for help and struggle, but the cloth muffled her voice, its heavy odor overwhelming her sense of smell. Celebi gasped in realization and tried to do something, but it found out its movements were still debilitated by its injuries. It couldn't do a thing to break free from Selene's grasp. Within seconds, the little girl fell limp, but before she could collapse to the floor, a muscular arm caught her.
As for Celebi, once Selene's grip on it slackened, it nearly slid off her body and fell to the floor, only for another muscular arm to catch it. Celebi became paralyzed in terror as a familiar face stared down at it, relishing in having it in his grasp.
"I've got you now, Celebi," Parker snarled in satisfaction. "Don't even think about resisting. If you do, well..." He nudged Selene's body. "Use your imagination."
"Biiiii..." Celebi whimpered fearfully, but it did nothing else.
Parker sneered triumphantly before glancing at Serena and her group. They were just inches apart, and yet, the crowd's celebratory cheers prevented them from hearing a thing that had just transpired. Not even Selene's Pichu had noticed its unofficial owner's predicament, for it was standing beside Pikachu and Dedenne, watching as Ash extinguished the last of the flames.
"Yes," the Pokémon poacher thought. "Celebrate all you want, fools. Celebrate while I snatch your precious little girl and this Celebi right under your nose."
With that, Parker lifted the motionless Selene into his arms and began carrying her like a father would do to his child. As for Celebi, it held onto Selene's chest, as if its proximity to the girl was its only source of comfort. Parker made his leave, and as he did, Sid, Floyd, and Lloyd moved in to take his earlier spot, obscuring him from the view of anyone else. Floyd and Lloyd watched as Parker left with Selene and Celebi before snickering mischievously and fist-bumping each other.
"Wow, Ash!" Grace said, smiling with her arms crossed. "You sure did a good job putting out that fire!"
"Pika-pikachu, Pikapi!" added Pikachu.
Ash chuckled and humbly scratched his cheek. "Ahhhh, don't thank me. Calem and Tierno did their fair share of the work too, not to mention all those other people who joined in."
"Y-Yeah!" Shauna added exuberantly. Before she could stop herself, she ran up to Calem and grabbed his hands, startling him and the others. "You were awesome, Calem! You were one of the first to take that stand!"
"W-We-Well," stuttered Calem, overwhelmed with shock at the praise being heaped upon him by Shauna, "I-I was just f-f-following Ash's lead... D-Do-Don't see how sp-special I was..."
"N-N-No! I-I mean, i-if it weren't for you, Ash probably would've had to handle that fire all by himself! J-Just because he was the first to step up to the plate, it doesn't mean other people were guaranteed to follow! It was only because of your willingness to help out that other people became just as willing!"
At that moment, Shauna realized she was holding onto Calem's hands...a little too tightly for comfort. She squeaked with surprise and let go of him, allowing him to unconsciously rub his hands in stunned confusion and embarrassment.
"A-A-At least th-that's what I think!" she blurted out as an addendum.
"Ohhhhh, my, my..." Miette suddenly said, her eyes glinting mischievously. "Seems like someone has a cruuuuush... And for the first time, it's not Serena!"
Shauna glared at her fellow Performer. "C-Cu-Cut it OUT, Miette! That's NOT funny! A-A-And for your information, I don't have a crush!"
"Oh, really? Well, then..." Miette ran up to Calem and hugged his arm. "Maybe I'll just steal him from you, then!"
"Wh-Wha-What?!" Calem blubbered helplessly.
But it wasn't Shauna who had spoken. With a face flushed with deep scarlet, Serena charged at Miette, grabbed her, and pried the Performer off of her cousin's arm with all of the force she could muster.
"As if making fun of me and my crush wasn't enough!" the honey-blonde snapped. "Now you're picking on Shauna too?!" She stared deeply into Miette's eyes, and the flames of burning fury raged in her sapphire-blue pupils. "W-Well then, how 'bout this?! When you have a crush on someone, then I'll start making the moves on that unlucky boy! How about that?! Let's see how you react to that, Miette!"
"Wait, crush?" Ash suddenly asked. "You...You have a crush, Serena?"
All of the rage receded from Serena in an instant, and steam started jettisoning out from every orifice in her face. As for Miette, she smirked playfully.
"Whoops!" the blue-haired girl exclaimed. "Looks like the cat's out of the bag!" She then shot Ash a knowing glance. "For the umpteenth time."
However, Blanche, Kazalie, and Shulin shot Ash confused and dissatisfied looks.
"You...don't remember, Ash?" Kazalie asked.
"R-Re-Remember what, Kazalie?" Ash replied innocently.
"Our conversation in the changing booth!"
"Hey, uh, speaking of guys and their love of battling, I think I now understand why you're having such a tough time with Ash, Serena."
"Uhhhhhh...s-sorta...?" replied Ash, as memories of himself being locked in a stall with a bikini-wearing Serena returned to his mind.
"Pikapi..." Pikachu groaned while shaking his head in disbelief.
"Jeez," Blanche remarked, her mind boggled by Ash's response. "Miette was right, Serena. No wonder you're having such a hard time with this guy. He's a dork!"
Ash narrowed his eyes. "H-Hey! I'm not a dork!"
"Pika, pikachu!" squeaked Pikachu, this time taking his Trainer's side.
"Says the guy who's still clueless even after all this time," Bonnie said out loud.
"What's that supposed to mean, Bonnie?!"
Meanwhile, Calem approached Serena as she continued to observe the conversation with disbelief.
"So, uh..." he said to her, "this is the guy I'm gonna have to call my cousin-in-law?"
"Apparently..." Serena replied ambiguously.
"Jeez." The dark-haired Trainer watched as Ash continued to converse with Blanche, Kazalie, and Shulin. "Ummmmm, no offense, Serena, and it's not like I don't think Ash is a cool guy and all, but...I feel like you could do better."
Serena gasped and looked at Calem in shock, causing him to hold up his hands as a peace offering.
"Hey, hey, it's just my opinion, cuz! I-I mean, Ash may be nice and all, a-and it's not like he's a bad friend to any of us-" He looked back at Ash. "But seriously, how has he not caught on to your feelings yet?! Even if your future with him is set in stone, his obliviousness alone is gonna muck up that future!"
"Well, Selene would beg to differ," Serena spat back. "Right, Selene?"
She looked over her shoulder but didn't see Selene anywhere amongst the group. The honey-blonde felt her heart skip a beat as she looked around frantically.
"Did any of you guys see Selene?" she asked, trying to keep herself calm and composed.
"Huh?" Aria looked around her sides and was stunned by the empty space. "Oh, no! I-I thought she was standing next to me!"
"I thought she was standing next to me too!" Yancy cried with concern.
"P-Pichu?!" Pichu squeaked, stunned by the sudden absence of its unofficial owner. It scurried onto the top of Ash's head, perched itself atop his cap, and looked around in desperation. "PICHU-PI?! PICHU-PIIIII!"
"Selene?!" Serena called, her voice echoing over the sounds of the visitors and tourists milling about. "Selene, where are you?!"
"PIKACHUUUUU!" called Pikachu.
"Oh, no..." Nate said, his eyes darkening. "Hopefully she just wandered off..."
"Come on, guys!" Ash cried determinedly. "Let's go look for her!"
"But how?" Nini asked worriedly. "Who knows how long Selene's been missing? She could be anywhere by now, and the Laurier Maison's huge!"
"Don't worry about it!" Aria exclaimed, her glasses twinkling from the ceiling lights. "I've got a map of the Maison in my phone! I can share it to all of you who have phones. Do any of you have phones?"
"We do!" cried Blanche, her hand shooting up in the air while Kazalie and Shulin nodded in agreement.
"Same here," Meyer said. He reached into his hand and pulled out an older cellphone.
"Auntie Grace and Uncle Moose have phones too," added Calem.
"HAHAHA!" Clemont cried triumphantly. "All of you may have phones, but it is nothing compared to the ingenuity of new technologies! The future is now, thanks to science!" The inventor boldly, proudly displayed a familiar-looking wristwatch for everyone to see. "The Amazing-"
"Oh no, not that stupid watch again!" Bonnie interrupted with despair. "Clemont, it's not even a phone!"
"Nenene!" Dedenne squeaked in disagreement, while Squishy simply squirmed in the girl's arms.
"That's you think, my dear little sister! But the Amazingly Accurate Wristwatch isn't just your ordinary wristwatch! It has a number of other amazing applications as well!"
"Like what? Blowing up in our faces and giving us bad hair-"
"Will you just believe in me this one time, Bonnie?!"
"Clemont," Serena said, her eyes becoming teary with fear, "I appreciate the thought and effort, but we don't have time to test out your invention! Selene's missing, and we gotta find her before something bad happens to her!"
"Okay," remarked a focused, determined Ash as he removed Pichu from his head and held it in his arms. "We gotta move quickly. Since the Laurier Maison's big, we have to split up into groups. That way, we'll be able to cover more ground. At least one person per group needs to have a phone so Aria can send us her map."
"Pikachu!" Pikachu cried in agreement.
"Yeah, tha-that sounds like a good idea, Ash!" Aria replied, all the while eyeing the others nervously to see if any of them had caught on to Ash's accidental slip of her real name. Fortunately, it didn't seem like anyone had caught on.
"So that means the people with the phones should lead their own teams!" Kazalie cried. "So, since I'm the leader of my team, I'll pick the people who'll come with me. Uhhhhh...Tierno, Nini, why don't you two come with me?"
"Sure thing!" Tierno replied with a wide, ear-to-ear grin.
"You got it!" Nini added.
"Sounds like a good idea, Kazalie!" responded Blanche. Then, she looked at Miette and Trevor. "You two, come with me!"
"O-Oh!" Trevor exclaimed, stunned by the attention Blanche placed on him. "S-Su-Sure!"
"Sure, why not?" Miette replied nonchalantly.
"Ohhhh, I think I know who I wanna pick for my team," Shulin said slyly while eyeing Nate. "Natey, why don't you come with me?"
She batted her eyelashes at him, prompting Nate to stutter, "S-Su-Sure, I guess-"
"Th-Then I'm coming too!" Yancy screamed, her voice cracking in the process. "Th-The more in a group, the merrier!"
Shulin pouted disapprovingly at Yancy's intervention, but she didn't verbally protest against it. Meanwhile, Grace stepped forward and handed her phone to Serena.
"M-Mom?" Serena asked, confused.
"You take my phone," the former jockey replied. "I don't need it. Plus, I know who I'm gonna be with."
She eyed Layla and Moose, both of whom nodded at her in understanding. At that moment, Meyer approached Clemont and handed his own phone to him.
"You take my phone too, Clemont," he said. "I'll be accompanying Grace and the others."
"You just don't know when to give up, do you?" Grace grumbled, her eyebrow twitching nastily at the electrician.
Before the conversation could escalate, Aria announced, "Well, since I am the one with the quickest access to the map, I think it's only right that I bring Serena and Ash along with me." She looked at them and smiled. "Don'tcha guys think?"
"You got it, Aria!" Ash replied with a valiant grin.
"Sure, Ariana!" Serena added, all the while giving her crush an irritated side-glance.
"Well then," Clemont said, "I, uh, I guess that leaves me with Bonnie, Shauna, and Calem."
"Well," replied Bonnie, "at least we're not using your silly watch."
"Dedenne..." Dedenne squeaked softly in agreement.
The inventor sighed and hung his head. "Bonnie, will you please have a lil' more faith in me and my inventions?"
"Alright, then!" Ash declared. "It's settled! We'll all go our separate ways and search around the Maison for Selene! We'll contact each other for updates every..." He glanced at the nearest clock. "Five minutes."
"Well, what're we waiting for?!" Shauna exclaimed. "Let's go look for Selene!"
"And remember, everyone!" added Aria. "We need to act quickly! The Exhibition Showcase is due to start up again at any moment now!"
"Right!" everyone else chorused.
"Pika!" Pikachu cried.
"Pichu-pi!" Pichu squeaked determinedly.
"Nenene!" Dedenne chirped.
Squishy just chirruped.
Sid gagged as he, Nick, Floyd, Lloyd, and Cecile watched Ash and Serena's group break off into their assigned teams and fan out across the lobby. Then, he looked back at his teammates, his face etched with worry.
"I didn't expect that," he said.
"Those kids are right," replied Cecile, her brow furrowed. "The Laurier Maison's a pretty big place. But now that they're in smaller groups, they're gonna find Parker much faster."
"Where did Parker go, anyway?" Sid looked around. "I know he said he had to isolate himself and Celebi from that group before they'd notice the girl's absence...but he should've called us by now to tell us where exactly he is."
"Maybe he stopped for a bathroom break," Nick suggested with a shrug.
"Man," Lloyd said to himself. "I could use a bathroom break." He started rubbing his belly. "I think I drank too many soft drinks today..."
Sid face-palmed in disbelief. "Will you two please just focus?! Just for one sec! You too, Floyd! Stop admiring those darn Magikarp!"
"Huh?" Floyd tore his eyes away from the Magikarp water tank. "Wh-What?"
"We gotta find a way to give Parker some more time so then he can do whatever he needs to do to that Celebi!" Sid shot a glare at the direction of Ash's and Clemont's groups. "If Parker said he was worried about those kids, then it's gotta be for a good reason! We need to stop 'em before they ruin our second chances at a good future!"
"A good future..." Nick repeated. "Alright, I'll bite. Whaddaya suggest we do, Sid?"
"We do what they did! We split up and go after a group!"
"But Sid," Cecile said, "they have six groups of people, and there's only five of us."
"Plus we can't afford to be arrested," added Floyd.
"Arrested?!" Nick exclaimed, mortified. "I'm too pretty to be in prison!"
"Crud, that's true," Sid muttered. "Well then, I'm at a loss for w-"
"What's this I'm hearing about prison?" a new voice hissed.
Sid, Nick, Floyd, Lloyd, and Cecile turned to see Adam Glazing approaching them. His wavy, green-and-golden-streaked hair gleamed from the ceiling lights, and his yellow eyes shone with a menacing aura. Nick, Floyd, and Lloyd immediately recoiled at Adam's scrutinizing gaze, but Sid and Cecile stepped forward.
"We have a bit of a problem, Adam," Cecile said.
"A problem?" Adam repeated slowly, the calmness in his voice chilling. "How in Arceus's name d'you five have a problem when you're teamed up with someone that you-" He shot Nick a piercing glare. "Described as a 'cool buff guy'? Speaking of which, where is he?"
"H-H-He has th-the C-Ce-Celebi, Adam," Nick stuttered in response. "B-B-Bu-But th-th-there are s-so-some k-k-kids!"
"Really? Our operation is under jeopardy because of a bunch of kids. Kids..." Adam mockingly cleaned out his ear canal. "Am I hearing that right, Nick?"
"Well, they're not just any kids!" Sid cried, stepping in for Nick. "Apparently, Parker knows them pretty well! Says they've been a nuisance to him for Arceus knows how long!"
"Oh, really?" Adam scanned his inferior accomplices one by one, before leaning his head in. "Alright, fill me in on all the details. I'll come up with a plan that'll solve all our problems."
"Okay, man," Lloyd said, "but first, I need to go to the bathroom! I drank too much soft drinks!"
"And I need to find that jerk who ripped me off good!" added an outraged Floyd. "The dude left me with a tank of useless Magikarp!"
Adam stared on blankly, while Sid and Cecile just slapped their foreheads in disappointment.
A/N: And that just about does it for this long-awaited chapter! To be honest, I'm glad to be back writing this. I find it to be quite a refreshing change of pace compared to these last couple of months.
Now, onto what I said I was going to announce in the beginning Author's Note.
As you all can probably tell, I've been falling a little out of favor with the anime ever since the Sun & Moon saga. I know it has its share of fans, and I don't mean to offend any of them, but I personally cannot understand its likability. Even if the original formula was repetitive, stale, and cumbersome, it still made sense considering the context of the "Pokémon" franchise as a whole. Unfortunately, they changed up too much of it in the Sun & Moon saga, and it looks like they're still shaking too many things up with the Sword & Shield saga. I was hoping for a return-to-the-roots sort of thing, but now, it looks like the writers and producers want to incorporate "Pokémon GO" (a highly overrated game, in my view) into the anime as well. And I strongly doubt we'll be returning to the anime's roots for a while now.
After all, Ash is a Champion now, spoiler alert. There's no going back now.
As such, I feel like I'm in the final homestretch when it comes to writing "Pokémon" fanfiction. Once I'm done with this, I will be getting on with the "Judgment's Fall" rewrite project that I've been teasing for so long. It'll incorporate everything in the anime, even the more recent parts that I don't really like, because there are still some good things that I can find in them. I originally planned it to be larger in scale, so large, in fact, that it was going to take two years to finish. But in recent months, I became very doubtful of my ability to commit myself to that kind of project within that amount of time, so I've decided to dial it down considerably. It'll still be an epic, but hopefully it takes a year at most to finish.
Outside of that project, I'll also post some one-shots and perhaps one other multi-chapter fic that's smaller in scale. But once I finish "Judgment's Fall", that'll be it for me. I'm going to retire from "Pokémon" fanfiction after that.
In other news, I'm REALLY becoming invested in "My Hero Academia", which is also another reason why I'm planning on retiring from "Pokémon". There's just so much to write about for "My Hero Academia". I've got so many projects that I'm keen on doing! So yeah, there's that too.
Plus there's my prospective graduation and me getting an actual job that I have to devote my precious time to. That'll be quite the damper on my time.
Well, that's all I have to say for now! Thank you for taking the time to listen.
Now, I'd like to thank the following for reviewing:
1) Thanks. Real life can be a pain in the butt sometimes, huh?
2) Ohhhhh, trust me, Aria's backstory is something to look for! ;)
3) I hope you've read enough of "Hero Club" to get a sense of what I was talking about. :D
-Amourshipper35: As you can see, Serena confessing her feelings to Ash is still going to be a difficult task to take, not to mention stopping Parker from getting to Celebi.
1) Last semester of college, huh? By this point, you should've graduated. :D How're things going for you nowadays?
2) Thanks! I'm so glad you like the unique setup for this story! And I hope you continue to like how this story progresses further down the road!
3) Yes, Selene is such a sweetheart to write! Just writing and reading her scenes gives me diabetes. 3 Anyway, she's so similar to Bonnie in terms of cuteness because she sees her a lot back in her timeline, and sometimes Bonnie takes care of her when Ash and Serena aren't around, so the cuteness definitely rubbed off on Selene.
4) Yancy is indeed her mother's daughter, all the way down to the hopeless crush! XD Yes, the origin of her pink hair will be explained near the end of the story. I don't know what kind of theories you have about the pink hair, but...I think it is safe to say it's not what you think. ;)
5) Indeed, Parker is quite an unstoppable force. He'll be something Ash and his friends must reckon with as the fic goes along.
6) Don't worry about the lack of battles! The next two chapters should make up for that, and then some! :D :D :D
-kirbykid13: Really? That's all you have to say? Maybe just a quick comment on what you actually did like? Or maybe a small observation of something you think needs to be addressed?
-Ash Jason: Thanks, but would you mind giving me some specific examples? Is there anything in particular you found to be quite enjoyable in the story? I don't mean to be picky or pushy, but specific feedback is the key for me to write even better chapters for you!
1) You're welcome! And ooh, review time! :D
2) You're welcome! These scenes where the boys are pitted against the girls, even if it's just for the sake of humor, are quite a blast to write! XD
3) Wait, I'm not sure what you mean by the Ash vs. Pikachu scene. It's been a while, so I'm not up to date on what we discussed. Clarification, please?
4) Although Ash and Yancy are in separate groups, I think you can expect a Tag Battle between the two in the following chapters! :D
5) Ooh, neat suggestion! I'll see if I can fit it in.
6) I know, but if the anime had a bit of a bigger budget (or if they'd stuck to the original plan for Movie 20), then there's a good chance they could pull it off! Somehow... Anyway, there'll be no backup in this fic. It's just Ash and all of his Kalos friends, with some supporting roles from other regions.
7) I'll see what I can do in that regard too. Honestly, though, I see a good opportunity for some indirect cousin bonding since I paired Calem up with Shauna, Serena's rival. I'll keep that under consideration. ;)
8) Thanks! I have Movie 21 on standby right now, actually! I'll give it a first watch and see what I can apply. Thanks for the recommendations! :D
9) It's alright. I need all the feedback I can get, and yours was just as precious and valuable as anyone else's. :)
10) I'm sorry for not understanding this, but what do you mean by "my class"?
-Z (guest reviewer):
1) Ha ha ha, well, better luck next time, I guess. XP
2) I'm sorry. It looks like I was a year too late in that regard... But I hope this chapter and the following ones invigorate you!
3) Well, at least I had Ash and Selene interact in the first half of the chapter, so I listened to your concerns.
-SILVERE ESPADACHIN: I'm sorry to have disappointed you. Hopefully this comeback is just what the doctor ordered!
-AraumC (guest reviewer): Well, people do know about "Pokémon Ranger". I've seen more than a few fics that have incorporated them into the storyline. But yes, that franchise is so underrated nowadays. It's a shame Game Freak hasn't made more of them yet.
-Jeannot2978: Okay... I'm not sure if this is meant to criticize some part of my writing process. Would you please mind clarifying what you were trying to address, or if what you said was actual criticism or just a miscellaneous comment?
-elementblack: Hey, now, I'm back, so there's no need to get your panties up in a bunch! Learn to exercise a little more patience, please. We all have lives to attend to.
-Hashirama 1710: Would you please be a little more specific on your comment? Sorry, I don't have time to look back at what exactly you were trying to comment on.
Well, hope you enjoyed this long-awaited chapter! TheCartoonFanatic01 is out. PEACE!