A/N: Hey, everyone! I apologize if any of you felt this chapter was long overdue. As I mentioned in the previous chapter, I've been preoccupied with other ongoing projects at the time, especially "Judgment's Fall", a passion project of mine for those who don't know. Rest assured, I strongly intend to keep you all in the loop through future updates to my profile. I am also thinking about implementing new stuff on my profile estimating when I plan to update any given story. I am still working out the kinks, so hopefully you get to see what that looks like.
Also, before we begin, I just wanted to inform all of my viewers and followers who have accounts on here that there was a newly-registered account on this website that had been attempting to impersonate me for a few days. They had gone by the names of "A TheCartoonFanatic01" and "The Real TheCartoonFanatic01", and they had been registered since May 16 of this year. Since that time until the end of this month, they left trolling and accusatory reviews on two of my stories before I blocked them; I reported both reviews as well. After that, it came to my attention today that the user reviewed two "Phineas and Ferb" stories under that username, unnecessarily bashing their stories and referring them over to "Evil Phineas", claiming it was better than theirs. Those are the only reviews that I am aware of, and I'm not sure if they also left behind unflattering reviews on other stories that just flew under my radar.
Anyway, I quickly felt the consequences of this impersonation, sadly enough. One of the authors that were targeted by these terrible reviews confused me with the impersonator and sent me a PM because of it. I sent the author a response in which I explained the situation to them, told them what to do to get the impersonator off of their back, and apologized to them for getting them caught up in the situation. In addition, I PMed the other author to inform them of the situation as well, and I have reported both offending reviews.
Fortunately, by the end of May, the situation just sort of resolved itself. After I left behind a status update on my profile that addressed the impersonator directly and that said online impersonation was a crime (oh, it most certainly is based on my research), said impersonator approached me on yet another alternate account to apologize for their behavior. I've let it go now, but I still STRONGLY urge you all to be on the lookout for any reviews or PMs from someone, anyone with my own username in theirs, a review or a PM that contains any sort of harassment, unusual accusations levied against me, strange behavior, or just plain awful writing in general. Once you observe such behavior, I need you all to REPORT THEM. In fact, the same applies to anyone who you suspect might be impersonating any authors you know on this site.
The funny thing is that I had experiences with this person before they chose to set up that offending account. They used to be an unsigned reviewer active in the Marvel fandom, who thought they were some kind of gatekeeper, and therefore, they had been VERY critical and nitpicky with how I was writing another one of my stories. Ever since I began deleting their reviews through the site's review moderator function, they had an absolutely hilarious fit and trying to harass me here and at Archive Of Our Own, even though I was deleting their reviews at every turn before they could even become publicly visible. But I will repeat, it's over now, and we've buried the hatchet. I just found the whole thing more hilarious and overblown on the user's part than anything else.
So yeah, long story short, an entitled troll and gatekeeper was mad that I wasn't writing a story the way they expect me to, and that I wasn't giving them the time of day; they initially acted out on it by attempting to impersonate me; I called them out publicly on their bull; they got alarmed by my outing and apologized to me; and I still need you to report ANY suspicious activity that you see from accounts apparently impersonating authors on this site, like myself. After all, online impersonation is NOT something that anyone wants to deal with AT ALL.
Outside of that, I do have further news to announce to you all, but writing it here will make the Author's Note even more lengthy than it should be. So, I will be saving that for the ending Author's Note. Don't worry, though! I'm not planning on discontinuing this fic or anything like that. It's good news, I tell you!
Alright, that should be all at this point! On with the chapter. ENJOY!
P.S.: Due to the ever-worsening situation regarding the coronavirus outbreak, I'm going to have to remind you all about the basic steps you should take if you want to stay healthy, courtesy of my university's reminder emails:
-Wash hands often with soap and water for 20-30 seconds at a time, and/or use hand sanitizer
-Avoid close contact with people who are sick
-Keep your hands away from nose, eyes, and mouth (I can't imagine how difficult this part is probably going to be)
-Eat well, get adequate rest, and exercise regularly
-Get a flu shot if you haven't already and are able to
-Stay informed on the COVID-19 vaccines and get shots if you're able to
And if you ARE sick (I hope you get better if you are), please be a good sport and save other folks the trouble of getting sick. You can do this by:
-Covering your mouth and nose with your sleeve, elbow, or a tissue whenever you sneeze or cough
-Not sharing food and drinks with others
-Avoiding touching your mouth, nose, and eyes (Again, I understand this is probably going to be difficult)
-Avoiding close contact with others
-Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and objects
-Staying at home if you're unwell (PRIORITY NUMBER ONE!)
-Staying calm and keeping yourself well-informed (My personal advice)
If you already know this, then great! If you didn't know any of this beforehand, please keep that information in mind as we all go through this trying time. It's a realm of unknowns at this point, and I wish myself and all of humanity well.
Parker stepped through the murky, rolling fog and approached the base of Mt. Kiloude, his beady eyes narrowed and his lips tightly pursed. He gazed up at the towering mountain, imagining its snow-capped peak and all of the wild Pokémon that called it their domain. As beheld the grand splendor of Mt. Kiloude, the Pokémon poacher recalled the myths that he read about back in his timeline, myths of the rare and powerful Pokémon that occasionally visited Mt. Kiloude during the days of old. Those myths had intrigued and enthralled him so, but to his dismay, the Eight-Headed Seviper's attempt to investigate them failed to yield any fruit.
"I suppose that's all they were," he thought. "Myths..."
Then, the Pokémon poacher refocused his gaze back on the base of the mountain. He knew that the very thing he sought was very real, and that it was behind all those years-old walls of stone, moss, and earth. Extracting it would indeed be a great challenge, considering who he was working with at the moment, but Parker saw no other alternative.
If he was going to succeed in his mission, he knew he would have to capitalize on the opportunity and retrieve the very person that he thought was lost to the far-flung reaches of time.
"Don't you worry, Kay," the poacher thought. "Pretty soon, you will be out of there, and then we shall seek our revenge on those meddling kids and seize that accursed Celebi!"
Northern Kiloude City
After taking one last look of concern at Blanche, Yancy averted her gaze from her fellow Performer and refocused on Flo, who was waiting patiently for her. Recalling her strategy of prevailing in the Theme Performance, the pink-haired girl took out a sparkling hairpin with a blue, flower-shaped attachment, along with a gleaming pink bow that stood out even to the naked eye.
"Here you go, Flo," she whispered fondly. "This bow will help keep your dress together..." She clipped the white collar of Flo's glittering gown-like dress together, and then, she placed the bow on top of the clip. "And this hairpin will accentuate your facial beauty and draw all the eyes to your head!"
Yancy slipped the hairpin over Flo's right, teardrop-shaped ear, close to her bouquet-like natural collar. She took a couple of steps backward to admire Flo's beauty in all of her glory, and her chest quickly swelled with immense pride and relief at the result. Indeed, it looked like the Garden Pokémon was dressed for a formal ball befitting the high-class society.
"Alright, Flo!" she said encouragingly. "Let's take the catwalk, shall we?!"
"Of course, Yancy," Flo replied with a nod, though only her Trainer understood her.
"Oh, now will you look at that, ladies and gentlemen!" Monsieur Pierre proclaimed, enthusiastically gesturing towards the Performer and her Pokémon. "Yancy has already finished with her styling and is about to take on the catwalk!"
Yancy took one last look at Blanche, and she couldn't help but flinch at the smoldering gaze the blue-haired girl gave her. Then, she quickly swallowed her fears and marched towards the catwalk with Flo, their gaits exuding utmost confidence.
In the seats, Selene, Nate, and the others watched with eager, building anticipation as Yancy got closer and closer to the catwalk.
"Yes!" Nate cried in a hushed voice, not wanting to ruin the momentum of Yancy's last performance. "Go, Yancy, go!"
"You can do it, Yancy," Evelyn whispered to herself. "You will. I believe in you."
Meanwhile, Selene was struggling to contain her excitement, as was her Pichu. In that moment, the two of them looked more like bombs ready to go off at any second. Bonnie, Dedenne, Squishy, and Celebi all watched their friends writhe in complete eagerness to express their support.
In Ash's hospital room, he and Serena both had their eyes glued to the TV set, almost hypnotized in their investment in their future daughter's performance. They could clearly see how Yancy was Serena's daughter; her confidence, tinged in a lingering flavor of nervousness and self-doubt, matched Serena's own attitude during the latter stage of her Showcase performances to a tee.
"You've got this, Yancy!" Serena said, her fists clenching tightly to the point where her fingernails dug into her palms. "I know you can do it! Just...Just never give up t-till the end!"
Ash merely smiled at Serena before focusing back on the TV set. "What you said."
In the dressing room, the other Performers watched Yancy prepare to take the catwalk with eager anticipation. Some of them were taking mental notes for the sake of their own performances, while others were absolutely enthralled by Flo's beauty, amplified by the clothing and accessories she was wearing. As for Shauna, Miette, Nini, Kazalie, and Shulin, they all had expressions of encouraging resolute on their faces.
"Go, Yancy!" Shauna exclaimed in a hushed whisper. "You can do it, girl!"
"Just don't trip up like your mom," Miette commented mischievously, but this earned her an annoyed glare from Shauna.
She simply shrugged. "What? It's not like she heard me all the way up there."
A soft sneeze from Yancy, which managed to be recorded by the recording cameras, seemed to prove otherwise.
Up in her personal booth, Aria's head perked up as she saw Yancy approach the catwalk. She then looked at Palermo and saw her mentor's posture straightening up considerably. There was absolutely no doubt in the Kalos Queen's mind that it was Yancy's performance Palermo was anticipating the most.
"Tread carefully, Yancy," the redhead thought. "Palermo has no patience for people who keeps secrets from her, and she can force them out of you quicker than a slather of Honey attracting a Vespiquen."
Though it took her seconds to step onto the catwalk and follow after Flo, Yancy felt like time had slowed it down to mere hours. She could feel all of the audience's eyes on her, watching her closely, scrutinizing every move she made and every step she took. It didn't take long for her to feel the pressure weighing down on her shoulders and causing her knees to quake in fear and hesitation.
Yancy never thought that she would ever feel that way again, and it was shocking to realize those emotions were quickly returning to her like an instinct. The last time she felt so fearful and full of pressure was during her third Showcase back in her timeline, when she was still trying to overcome her apprehension towards being the center of attention, which was proving to be a liability for the quality of her performances. Since then, she was finally able to emerge from her shell and conduct herself better in her performances.
And she knew why she was feeling so uncharacteristically nervous all of a sudden: because she was performing in a new environment. After all, Showcases back in her timeline were undoubtedly different from the ones that her mother had to compete in. Plus, there was the fact that this was an Exhibition Showcase she was competing in, not a regular one. Even with no reward to strive for, all of the participating Performers were in hyper-competitive mode, and there were rivalries to consider in Yancy's performances. First there was Clarice and her mother, and then there was Blanche and her strange attitude when it came to getting Palermo's attention. And of course, there was Palermo herself, and the fact that she was clearly suspicious of her presence.
And finally, there was the fact that she, Selene, Nate, Evelyn, and Celebi were not out of the woods yet when it came to Parker.
The pressure and the expectations that were being placed on her, even by herself... They were all becoming too much for her to bear...
"Alright, Yancy!" Pierre proclaimed, bringing the pink-haired girl back to reality. "Show us the beauty of your Florges!"
Yancy felt her breath getting trapped in her throat. The eyes of everyone in the audience were all on her, and top of all of that, she could feel Palermo's narrowing, piercing gaze in particular. Even if Selene, Nate, Evelyn, and all her family and friends were in that audience, watching her and encouraging her, their combined presences did not seem like enough for Yancy to overcome all of the pressure that was building up all around her.
Yancy gasped and looked at Flo, who was looking back at her with concern, as was Pierre. An awkward silence had fully settled in by the time she was brought back to reality.
"Uhhh, Yancy?" Pierre asked, trying his best to remain professional despite his confused exasperation. "Sh-Show us the beauty of your Fl-Florges!"
Yancy looked back at the audience, who were all waiting for her to initiate her performance, confused and befuddled all the while. She could feel all of the blood in her body being funneled over to her head, to the point where it felt like it was about to explode like a Berry...
"I just want you to have fun up there, and not to worry about anything else that's going on right now. No matter what happens, Yancy, you'll do just fine. I know it. And remember. Never give up till the end."
Serena's parting words of advice returned to Yancy's head, and her blue eyes widened in remembrance. She realized that even if her mother wasn't in the audience with the others, she was still watching her from afar, encouraging her nonstop, even if everyone else started to lose faith.
At that moment, another particular memory started to take up the forefront of Yancy's mind, and with a deep breath, she closed her eyes in remembrance...
Eight years in the future...
The five-year-old Yancy kept her small left hand latched onto her mother's as the honey-blonde woman guided her to the newly-completed Showcase Theater. It had been a project years in the making, with a lot of money being invested into it and a lot of hype and anticipation from the public. Now that construction had finally wrapped up, the Pokémon Showcase Committee asked Serena to help give the Theater a beautiful, flashy debut to the public. And who was Serena to turn the Committee down? After all, bringing smiles to the faces of people of all walks of life was what she did best.
Unfortunately for Yancy, Serena decided to drag her over to the Theater to watch. In the woman's words, she needed all of the support that she could get for this performance, though Yancy knew her usual babysitters were unavailable, hence the need for her to come along. But who was she to turn her own mother down? So, she acquiesced.
But that didn't mean she was still okay with it. Far from it, actually.
"Mommy," Yancy moaned. "D-Do you really have to go perform? Th-There's gonna be so many p-pe-people there..." She tightened her grip around her mother's hand. "I-It'll be so s-sc-scary..."
Serena looked at her, delivering her usual bright, warm smile, the exact kind of smile that always brightened Yancy's day up. The beautiful honey-blonde then consoled her, pointing out that the attendants were going to attack her like a bunch of wild Pokémon. All she had to do was stick with her or her assistant once they arrived, and as long as she did that, she would be fine. And who knew? Perhaps she would like it, seeing her own mother perform in-person. She always watched recordings of her old performances, after all.
At Serena's words, Yancy felt herself shrinking in apprehension. For her entire life, the pink-haired girl never worked well with being around strangers, especially if there were so many of them at once. Outside of the children that she knew at school, everyone else that she saw in her life was usually so tall and mighty, and to be around people of such a height was extremely intimidating for her. It was especially terrible if any of those people were to look at her and address her; at that point, she'd sorely want to disappear...
The five-year-old had been so engrossed in her thoughts that she didn't notice the approaching Showcase Theater until her mother finally addressed her, announcing their arrival and encouraging her to come along.
Though Yancy moaned in response to Serena's words, her mother gave her another smile, smaller this time. Then, she reached into the lovely pink purse she was wearing and procured a straw hat with a pink bow on it. She then placed the hat on her daughter's head, and her grin widened as she told her how adorable she looked.
"Thank you, Mommy," Yancy replied reluctantly, though she didn't take a lot of comfort in Serena's words. She knew that if she looked adorable, then that meant strangers would be more inclined to look at her, terrify her...
Nevertheless, she immediately followed Serena towards the Showcase Theater. For a moment, Yancy's attention became overwhelmed by the majesty and grandeur that was the final product. It was a large stadium, colored in various shades of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet that almost glittered from the sunlight. The rooftop boasted a very peculiar design, giving it a resemblance to the petals of a flower that had yet to bloom. To Yancy, it looked like a cross of a rainbow and a rose.
Then, the clamor of excited voices piqued Yancy's attention. Looking around, the pink-haired girl took quick notice of all the people congregated around the Theater's entrance, comprised of inquisitive journalists, enthusiastic Showcase fans, and professional Committee staff. Yancy impulsively inched closer towards her mother, hoping she wouldn't be noticed in all of the chaos that was naturally about to ensue. Then, to her dismay, the fans closest to them noticed her mother in almost an instant and began whispering curiously amongst one another.
"Oh Mommy, why'd you have to wear that pretty dress of yours...?" she thought fearfully.
Finally, one of the fans, a teenage girl with brown hair and wearing black-and-white clothing, squealed, "OH MY ARCEUS, IT'S SERENA KETCHUM!"
Everyone who was within earshot turned their heads and noticed Yancy and her mother too. Clamoring excitedly, a crowd consisting mostly of girls instantly developed around the two in seconds. They were soon bombarded by flash after flash of camera lights as the reporters within sight ordered their cameramen to take photos and video of Serena's unexpected arrival. Frightened by the excessive, almost explosive amount of attention, Yancy held onto her mother's skirt tightly as the latter merely chuckled and kindly responded to the cries and questions of her devoted fanbase. It was moments like these that the five-year-old wished that she had her mother's courage and confidence.
"Can I have your autograph, Serena?!" one fan asked.
"Please, oh please, let me take a photo of you, Serena!" squealed another.
"I can't believe I actually came face-to-face to you, Serena!"
"I LOVE YOU, SERENA!"
"Please marry me, Serena!" This time, it was a boy who shouted that.
Serena giggled at the last remark before apologizing and confirming that she was married, showing off her wedding ring as proof. Yancy giggled for the first time of the day as she watched the boy fall to the ground, his eyes gushing out tears while he felt his heart become completely shattered. However, her happiness was cut off the moment one of the teenage girls noticed her for the first time. A newfound liveliness appeared in the girl's eyes, and she squealed in excitement and enthusiastically pointed at Yancy, causing the child's eyes to widen in horror.
"OH MY ARCEUS, YOU'RE SERENA'S DAUGHTER, AREN'T YOU?!" she shrieked.
One by one, the fans and reporters focused their attention on Yancy, causing her to release a fearful squeak.
"YOU'RE SO FREAKING ADORABLE!" a girl squealed.
"I wish I could have you as my daughter!"
"Oh, you look just like your mother! Well, except for the pink hair; I don't know where the heck that came from, but who cares?!"
"I know, right? Have you ever thought about following in your mommy's footsteps?"
"Tell us, what's your name, young lady?" asked a kindly older woman, who almost stuck a microphone into Yancy's face.
Serena nudged her daughter's shoulder, catching her attention. With a gentle smile, she told her to introduce herself.
"M-M-My n-name's Y-Ya-Yancy..." Yancy stuttered meekly before burying her face into Serena's skirt. Unfortunately, that action drew a great number of "AW!"s from the fans.
"A shy one, isn't she?" the same older woman asked, looking at Serena.
The honey-blonde agreed with the reporter's comment before addressing her hyperactive fans, thanking them for all of their unending support. Then, she walked over to the Committee representatives, with a still-terrified Yancy in tow. Once Serena joined the representatives' sides, one of them, a woman around her age with light-green hair, stepped forward to address the crowd directly.
"We at the Pokémon Showcase Committee told you there would be a surprise awaiting you all during the grand opening of the Lumiose Showcase Theater! So, we are pleased to announce that the one and only Serena Ketchum will mark this momentous occasion by giving all of you one of her trademark performances!"
Almost immediately, the crowd erupted into a raucous cheer, which Yancy to flinch and squirm uncomfortably. She then looked up at Serena, who was still smiling and had begun to wave at the crowd, like she was born to be the center of all the attention. The little girl pursed her lips, and her grip on her mother's skirt slackened somewhat.
"You're so amazing, Mommy," she thought. "You're... You're never scared of all the attention and all the strangers. But me? I can never handle that. I...I wonder if I can be like you one day, when I'm older..."
The present day...
Northern Kiloude City
Yancy's eyelids flew open, revealing a pair of shining sapphire-blue pupils. With a graceful twirl and newfound confidence that radiated through the entire auditorium, energized by her favorite memory, the pink-haired girl pointed towards the air, with Flo's posture straightening in rapt attention.
"FLO!" she hollered at the top of her lungs. "USE RAIN DANCE!"
Flo nodded and promptly lifted her arms outward, causing a cloud to develop directly over her and Yancy. The vast room suddenly became cooler in temperature, as well as slightly wetter. Soon, tiny rain droplets started to fall from the cloud, softly pelting both Performer and Pokémon. But before the rain could intensify and become more plentiful, Yancy pointed at the cloud.
"NOW USE PSYCHIC!" she commanded.
Realizing what Yancy's strategy was, Flo's eyes began to glow light-blue, almost matching her Trainer's eye color. A few seconds later, the droplets became suspended in midair, and the cool, wet air suddenly became frozen in time. Noticing these changes, the audience let out a collective noise of awe and anticipation.
"You know what to do, Flo!" Yancy cried.
With another nod, Flo began twirling her arms in complex movements, causing the rain droplets to move around in many unnatural directions. Soon, the droplets began to join together to form larger droplets, which then began to swirl around the Garden Pokémon. The stage-lights then shone upon the water, causing it to appear as if Flo was being surrounded by sparkling whitish-blue fairies. The audience gasped in further awe at this performance, and some already began to softly applaud in appreciation of Yancy's and Flo's efforts.
Then, Flo lifted one of her arms further up in the air while continuing to effortlessly maneuver the water droplets with her other one. Above her, the cloud began to swirl in synchronization with the droplets. Within moments, the cloud and the water droplets began to move at a speed comparable to a twister. The droplets sparkled brighter and quicker due to the rate of speed at which they were now going. It quickly became windy on the stage, and a gawking Pierre had to hold on to his hat to prevent it from being blown off.
Moreover, Flo's dress started to flow and flutter at the same time as the gales that enveloped her. Gone was the beautiful Garden Pokémon wearing the lovely dress and accessories that her Trainer had painstakingly picked out for her. Standing in her place was an astounding, powerful Fairy-type Pokémon that was demonstrating her very strength to the audience in a beautiful, magnificent way. Row after row of spectators started to feel the wind blow against them, causing their hair to flutter and their facial skin to ripple slightly. But it didn't seem to matter to any of them, for they remained enthralled by Flo's show of power and beauty, and the noises of approval intensified.
"Will you look at that?!" Pierre announced, his grip on the microphone growing firmer. "Flo is surrounding herself in what appears to be a...a twister of sparkles that are shining fiercer and brighter as the seconds go by! What a novel balance of beauty and strength! And to think all of that was coordinated by Yancy while flying under everybody's radar?! How...How stupendous!"
As for Palermo, she merely blinked ambiguously at Flo's performance. Then, she looked at Yancy again and noticed how she was wholly focused on her Garden Pokémon's efforts. At that, the Showcase producer quirked an eyebrow with slight interest.
"Alright, Flo!" Yancy yelled. "Let's give this audience a big finale!"
Flo nodded a third time and held her arms in place, causing the twister of air and droplets to slow to a painful crawl. The droplets quivered from the fragile Psychic hold over them, and the air itself became cooler than ever before. The entire audience drew in their breath, awaiting what the pink-haired girl had next in store.
Finally, with a serene cry, Flo made a sweeping motion with her arms, causing the water droplets and the cloud remnants to rapidly disperse through the auditorium in a cold, powerful wave. The droplets had dispersed finely enough to prevent anyone from actually feeling wet, while the air wasn't chilly enough to send shivers down anyone's spines. With that, the audience collectively gasped and murmured in approval at the final act of Flo's performance.
Then, with a giggle of elation, Yancy joined Flo's side and grabbed her hand. With that, the Performer and her Pokémon took a bow. In response, every last member of the audience shot up from their seats and began applauding, with many of them adding in several uproarious cheers of approval. The entire auditorium shook from the audience's enthusiasm of the pink-haired girl's performance.
"An-And there you have it, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls!" Pierre announced, struggling to straighten out his hat. "That marks the end of Yancy's performance! And what a spectacular performance it was! It was, without a doubt, n-no-nothing short of...of outstanding! Yancy conducted herself and her Florges like a true natural!"
But Yancy didn't hear Pierre's comments, nor the whoops and cries and applauding coming from the audience. Instead, her eyes had settled on Selene, Nate, Evelyn, and all of the others. They too had stood up from their seats and were now applauding with the most vigor and support.
"Now, then!" Pierre continued.
However, despite his newest announcement, the audience continued to clap and whoop energetically for both Yancy and Florges. This reaction caused the former to blush with embarrassment and wave at random members of the audience in acknowledgment.
"Ah-Ahem!" Pierre's eyelid twitched nastily, his mind struggling to comprehend the scenario of an audience ignoring him for once. "Now then!"
The more forceful tone of his voice prompted the audience to finally settle down and sit back down in their seats. Yancy felt her breath get trapped inside her throat, for she knew what was about to come next.
"Let's get on with our judge's opinion!" Pierre proclaimed, turning towards Palermo and becoming privately relieved that the producer hadn't fallen asleep this time.
In their seats, Selene, Nate, Evelyn, and the others watched with intense anticipation. The suspense was already proving to be too much for Selene in particular.
In the hospital room, Serena gulped nervously, while Ash, Pikachu, and Greninja kept their eyes trained on the TV. There was a silent agreement between all four of them that Yancy was likely in for a tough time, despite the astounding quality of her performance.
In the dressing room, all of the other Performers watched intently. Shauna had her eyes screwed tightly shut and both of her hands clasped in a silent prayer. Miette's arms were crossed, and she stared ambiguously at the TV screen. Nini had her hands over her heart in intense emotion. Kazalie and Shulin were holding on to one another's hands, unable to bear waiting for Palermo's final judgment.
In her personal booth, Aria was now on her feet, and she was tightly grasping the railing of the balcony. She knew, from the bottom of her heart, that Palermo's opinion was more likely than not to be no-holds-barred and unrelenting.
On the stage, Yancy pursed her lips, and she firmly stood her ground as she and Flo faced Palermo. The seasoned older woman stared back at them, her face slightly wrinkled and her lips curled into a subtle, judgmental scowl. And most of all, her cool-blue eyes were shining, a telltale sign of her being deep in thought.
They both knew that she was scanning both of them, reading their individual body languages. Any sort of movement, no matter how subtle to the naked eye, was being scrutinized. Anything that was perceived as wrong or out of place would be noted immediately.
Then, after a long and awkward silence that the audience was privy to, Palermo finally spoke up.
"You're not from around here, aren't you?"
Yancy's face turned pink in almost an instant. For a moment, she thought the producer had caught on to her true nature, and that everything about Celebi would be exposed just like that.
"H-Hu-Huh?!" she exclaimed. "I...I-I don't know what you-"
"Don't play dumb with me, young lady." Palermo's eyes narrowed even more. "I know a crasher when I see one."
A collective gasp of shock swept through the audience. Yancy nervously gave a side-glance at the spectators, just in time to see many of them looking at and muttering amongst one another. To her dismay, she couldn't detect any doubts from them, demonstrating how much of a reliable authority Palermo was on the matter of Showcases.
Pierre instantly came to attention and addressed the audience again in a pathetic attempt to save face. "U-Uh, pl-please don't fret, l-ladies and gentlemen, b-boys and girls! I-I'm sure Pa-Palermo is using a metaphor-"
"Me, using metaphors?" With an audible huff, Palermo closed her eyes and frowned angrily. "What good is the security of this place if we're gonna let someone like this girl in and take the stage like she owns it with the Performers?"
"Pl-Please, M-Ms. Pa-Palermo," Yancy stammered, her voice shaky. "I-I'm not-"
"Did you really think you could perform on this stage without someone realizing the simple fact that no one's ever seen you perform before? And already with such skill and expertise?" The producer pursed her lips and crossed her arms. "Do you take all of us for fools?"
"N-No, I don't!" Yancy started waving her hands frantically. "I-I don't mean any harm-"
"Hm, so you say." Palermo opened her eyes and delivered a suspicious glare at the pink-haired girl, causing the latter to recoil in fear. "I won't go into detail for contractual reasons, but this place has seen its fair share of odd incidents today. I can't even begin to imagine what any of this would entail, and what your presence means for the Exhibition Showcase."
"I swear, Ms. Palermo, I wasn't trying to do anything!" Yancy looked at the audience, and she was met with a number of suspicious and exasperated looks. "Honest to Arceus!"
The Showcase producer blinked. "Maybe, maybe not. But the matter of the fact is that you are trespassing, young lady. And if you're not going to be honest with us here and now, then I will have to call in security and have them throw you and your Pokémon out."
Yancy's blood ran cold, and she froze in place as Palermo stared her down like a Glameow cornering its prey. She knew that she shouldn't be invested in the prospect of staying in the Exhibition Showcase, given how it was such an informal competition, but the Showcase wasn't what mattered at the moment. It was her commitment to...
"Please, Ms. Palermo!" a new voice squeaked shrilly.
Everyone's eyes turned towards Blanche, who had run out in the middle of the stage, her clenched fists held close to her heart. The audience began to murmur in surprise again, while Pierre looked between Blanche and the spectators, unsure of what to do now.
Meanwhile, Yancy covered her lips in shock. "Blanche..."
"It's all my fault, Ms. Palermo!" Blanche cried, closing her eyes as they became teary. "I...I'm the one who let her in! I-I knew she was crashing, b-but I turned a blind eye!"
"You?" Palermo arched an eyebrow, and in that moment, she looked legitimately surprised. "And why is that, Blanche?"
"Be-Because...sh-she's the sister of another Performer, Se-Serena-"
Palermo's eyes widened, further exhibiting her shock. "Serena? Her sister?"
"It must be hard, living under the shadow of your sister. She's a first-timer, and all of a sudden she's a big star in the Showcase world, even if she was beaten by Aria in the Master Class. It's a good thing you've got family and friends who are willing to let you have a piece of that glory-"
Upon remembering Blanche's mistaken assumption about her relationship with Serena, Yancy felt a sharp pang of guilt in heart. However, despite her friend sticking her neck out for her, the pink-haired girl declined to step in on her own behalf and simply let Blanche continue speaking.
"Y-Yes!" the blue-haired girl squeaked. "A-And Yancy's been having s-some self-esteem issues be-because of her sister's success! S-So, because of that-"
"So she thought that by crashing this Exhibition Showcase and participating like she was a Performer herself," the older woman interrupted, her surprise fading away as she fully grasped the situation, "she could get over those...self-esteem issues? Even if all she had to do was...wait for the next season to come around the corner..." She then glanced at Yancy with unbridled disapproval. "Like...any logical-thinking Performer would've done."
In response, Yancy lowered her head with shame.
But Blanche didn't give up. "With all due respect, M-Ms. Palermo, it doesn't matter what Yancy should've done differently, o-or what Yancy's intentions are! Wh-What's done is done, a-and as you've already seen, Yancy gave this audience a...a spectacular performance, one that blew everyone away! Y-You even admitted it yourself! S-She has shown sk-skill a-and expertise! Those were your words, right?!"
Blanche hiccupped afterwards, realizing that she was challenging the foremost authority on Pokémon Showcases. But to her relief, Palermo seemed to take her words in stride, since she closed her eyes and exhaled in begrudging agreement.
"Yes, yes I did..."
"Th-Then there's absolutely no denying her talents on the stage, fo-for someone who crashed this Showcase and is only performing for the first time! Please, Ms. Palermo, you gotta-"
"But-" Palermo opened her eyes again, her sharp, judgmental gaze once again sweeping through the stage. "Crashing a Showcase still isn't something that this sport can tolerate. One of the core tenets of being a Performer is honesty, above all else. It doesn't matter how excellent Yancy's performance was, or how effectively she was able to prove her ability to bring out her Pokémon's beauty." She refocused on Yancy. "The fact that she lied to all of us puts her own beauty in deep jeopardy."
Then, she narrowed her eyes even further, and Yancy felt her heart drop before the woman even opened her mouth.
"And to think you're the sister of a Performer whom I held in high regard. If this is how you choose to conduct yourself in your life, then I am afraid that you are NOT the future of Pokémon Showcases."
Yancy felt as if her heart had been split into a million pieces upon hearing those words. Being criticized by Miette back in her own timeline was heartbreaking and gut-wrenching enough, but to hear such a scathing critique from the foremother of Kalos Queens herself? It was akin to being criticized by her own mother, which rarely happened, if ever!
Then, Palermo sighed, releasing all of the pressure that had apparently been building up inside her. "Alright, then. I think I've let this charade go on for long enough." She gestured off the stage. "Both of you, off the stage, immediately."
"O-Off the stage?!" Yancy exclaimed.
"Bu-But Ms. Palermo-!" began Blanche.
"No buts, girls. This dishonesty can't be tolerated, no matter how good the intentions may be. The quality of both of your performances in this Showcase has been forever tarnished because of it."
Blanche felt her heart drop to her stomach. "B...B-But-"
"Do consider yourself lucky that I didn't also revoke your Performer's pass, Blanche," Palermo interrupted, her soft voice still cutting across both girls with the sharpness of a knife. "The informality of this Exhibition Showcase would make such a decision terribly overblown and shortsighted on my part." She lowered her arm and sighed. "I have to admit, I've had my eye on you for some time, Blanche. But unfortunately, this newest development has left me terribly disappointed in you."
Yancy looked at Blanche, and her heart immediately fell at the sight of the normally upbeat girl's utter mortification. She wanted to say something, but she quickly held herself back, knowing it wasn't a good time to do so. Blanche's hopes and dreams of getting noticed by Palermo went down an entirely different route, and who knew if the girl would be the same ever again because of it?
"And as for you, Yancy..."
Palermo's soft yet naturally stern voice caused Yancy to straighten up in attention, like a soldier with a drill sergeant.
"Y-Yes?!" the pink-haired girl cried in surprise.
"The next time you try to prove yourself in a competition such as this, you need to consider what you really want in life. As daunting as I'm sure being under your sister's shadow is, I must say this: trying to get out of that shadow by being in the same competition as she is should not be priority number one."
Yancy blinked in surprise, Palermo's words hitting her harder than she had originally expected. "H-Huh?"
"If that's all you're going to think about while planning your performances, then I'm afraid you will only sink further into the depths of your own despair." Palermo exhaled quietly. "Alright. Now, then...off, you two."
So, with shaky arms and slumped shoulders, Yancy turned and walked off the stage, followed closely by Flo. Then, a few seconds later, she heard her friend follow after her with Meowstic. An awkward, tense silence had already swept through the entire auditorium, with the eyes of the audience on the two girls as they made their departure. Yancy could not even bear to look over her shoulder and try to gauge their reactions to her exposure.
Meanwhile, Pierre watched both Performers walk off the stage, absolutely astounded by the turn of events. Then, at the last second, he remembered the audience and twirled around to face them, nearly losing his balance in the process.
"W-We-Well," he stammered, trying his best to sound composed and professional, "th-that was a, uhhhh...an unexpected t-turn of events! W-We didn't even get to see Blanche's performance! A-An unexpected turn, indeed..."
Another awkward silence immediately fell upon the stage, and the announcer started to sweat profusely while trying to think of something to say. "Um, w-well, ummm...s-since she wasn't d-disqualified outright, i-it appears that Clarice has officially won this round of the Theme Performance!" He turned again, all the while trying to comprehend what had just happened. "C-Come up here, Clarice!"
The members of the audience looked amongst one another and muttered in confused, unsure gossip again. But then, one spectator began to clap out of respect for the de facto victor, and he was joined by a number of others, one by one. The auditorium was filled with the sounds of awkward, stilted clapping.
As for Clarice, it took her a moment to wrap her head around this unexpected development. Nevertheless, Pierre's final offer was enticing, and she ultimately took it, stepping back onto the stage with her Fletchling and giving the applauding audience a stiff bow.
"Talk about winning on a technicality," she thought. "Or...more like many technicalities..."
"Hmph! Let's settle the matter of who Ash should be with with our Exhibition Performance match! The one who gets the farthest or gets the most points gets to keep him!"
"I wonder...if this was even worth it in the end..."
Selene, Nate, Evelyn, and all of the others watched on with various reactions of sympathy and disappointment. Just then, without warning, Nate shot up from his seat and began edging down the aisle, with no one else even bothering to try and stop him.
Serena was watching the TV, her blue eyes shimmering with sadness. Of all the things she expected to come out from all of this, Yancy being exposed as a crasher by Palermo was a scenario she did not expect at all.
Then, the honey-blonde heard a loud creaking behind her and turned around, only to be stunned. "A-Ash?! Wh-Where do you think you're going?!"
"Where else?" Ash replied resolutely as he tried to stand up. "I gotta get to Yancy and-"
"Ohhhhh, no! You're not going anywhere in that condit-" But then, Serena froze when she witnessed Ash standing on his feet without any problems whatsoever, not even as much as a grimace. "O...Okay, then... W-Well, I guess you're coming with me, then..."
"Darn straight, I will!"
"Pika!" Pikachu squeaked.
Greninja simply nodded as he too found the energy to get out of bed without any problems, surprisingly enough.
Up in her personal booth, Aria sat back down on her seat, looking absolutely morose now. She had strongly hoped that the round with Yancy wouldn't have to come down to this, but unfortunately, there was no denying the obvious: Palermo had a sharp eye and a sharper tone.
"She didn't even give Yancy a chance to shine..." the Kalos Queen whispered to herself.
In the dressing room, most of the Performers were gossiping amongst themselves, stunned that the latest round of the Theme Performance had gone down such a surprising direction. Amongst Shauna's group, however, was a different story altogether.
"So Blanche knew all along that Yancy was crashing this Showcase?" Kazalie asked incredulously.
"Why didn't she tell us?" Shulin asked, her own voice laced with suspicion.
"Why didn't either of them tell us what was going on?"
"I-I'm sure th-they had her reasons..." Shauna replied, trying her best to look innocent in all of this.
"What? Did they not trust us?" Shulin crossed her arms and scowled. "Well, then again, of course Yancy wouldn't entrust us with that kind of information. I would've reported her before she could say 'uncle'." Then, she shrugged. "Well, on the bright side, at least Blanche didn't drag the rest of us down with her because of her silly judge in character."
"Shulin!" Kazalie cried, affronted by the other girl's words.
"What? Face it, she should've known better than to cover for a crasher. We all have Showcase passes for a reason, after all!"
"You bring up Showcase passes like they could've prevented this from happening," Miette replied dryly, her lips twitching into an amused grin, "yet someone was still able to crash this Showcase anyway."
Shulin glared at her. "Hey, are you trying to be a wise-girl?"
Miette shrugged. "Maybe, maybe not. Wanna see my real wise-girl skills?"
"HA!" The other girl flexed her fingers threateningly. "Wanna see how far I can throw you across the room with a single slap?!"
The two girls proceeded to stare each other down, and the others in the group could literally feel the electricity sparking furiously between them. Sensing something was about to go down, Nini stepped between the two, her arms raised.
"N-Now, now!" she cried. "Le-Let's not fight, you two! W-We gotta still show our support to our friends! Th-They just got kicked off the stage, after all!"
Shulin scowled and looked away with a stubborn huff. "Friends? How in Arceus's green Earth could you still consider them your friends after they've lied to you in your face?"
Shauna scowled at the green-haired girl's attitude. "Maybe the same reason why Blanche would stick her neck out for a, eh, crasher like Yancy: because we still care for them, despite all of their flaws!"
"Thank you, Shauna..." a voice whispered sadly.
Everyone turned and saw that Yancy, Blanche, and their Pokémon had reentered the dressing room. Blanche's shoulders were hanging low, and her eyes were hidden from view. As for Yancy, she was walking behind the blue-haired Performer, watching her with concern but unable to find the perfect words of consolation for her.
"Yaaancyyy!" Nini cried, springing forward and giving her fellow Performer a tight hug. "It's okay! Regardless of what Ms. Palermo said, you still did great out there! If you ask me, you definitely won that round, fair and square!"
"Thank you, Aunt- I-I mean, N-Nini," Yancy replied, almost absentmindedly.
"Yeah, I agree," Shauna said. She approached Yancy, grabbed her hands, and held them tightly. "You did great out there. It doesn't matter if you, ahem, crashed this Showcase or not. You were born to be a Performer, just like your moth- Uh, I mean, your s-sister."
"The next time you try to prove yourself in a competition such as this, you need to consider what you really want in life. As daunting as I'm sure being under your sister's shadow is, I must say this: trying to get out of that shadow by being in the same competition as she is should not be priority number one."
Palermo's words echoed in Yancy's mind, and she redirected her gaze to the floor, trying to comprehend the meaning of what was sure to be the Showcase producer's bit of advice.
"I need to consider what I really want in life..." she thought. "I...I wonder what she meant by that? I mean, of-of course she thought I was Mom's sister and was giving me advice based on that assumption, but...st-still, she's frigging Palermo, for Arceus's sake! She wouldn't have given me that kind of advice if she didn't think that there was something else going on, something that even I am not aware about! But...what could it even be...?"
A/N: Well, that marks the end of that chapter! Indeed, this was an unexpected turn, eh?!
Anyway, all of that aside, I feel like this wasn't my strongest chapter in the story, not by a long shot. I guess this is what I get for not writing too often for this fic. And the funny thing is it's not like I'm trying to avoid this story on purpose. It's just that life keeps getting in the way and rearranging my priorities. I know that everyone enjoys this story so much and wants me to keep going with it, and I am trying to keep up with the demand. I'll see if I can try better this month, but I can't make any promises anymore.
Why? Well, if you've been keeping track of my profile updates, you'll know that I just got a job. It's a part-time job, and nothing all that special, but I intend to take it seriously. Anyway, I was able to get through my first week in that job, and it's left me with a bit of a burnout. Every day, I come home exhausted from all of the manual labor that I have to do, and I go to sleep first thing. Because of that, I don't give myself a lot of time to write high-quality stuff in. It's because of my part-time job and all the burnout that I had to cut things short for this chapter, which was originally planned to be a LOT longer than what we got. And let's not forget my commitment to "Judgment's Fall" and other stories. I have to also give myself time to take care of those projects as well.
So yeah, we're diving into a realm of unknowns with my new job and all the other stuff that's going on with me. Do keep your fingers crossed for me as I try to sort things out and continue updating this fic in a timely manner. I'll keep you all in the loop as we move along. But for now, just keep these new developments in mind as you await further updates to this fic and others. Keep them in mind, and be patient with me. That's all I'm asking from you right now.
Anyway, all of THAT aside, I've also got some good news for y'all! First things first, this story's length is being expanded a little once again! I originally pegged the story's length to be 35 chapters, but now, I'm going to expand that to a more tentative estimate of 40 chapters, maximum. The fic could be shorter than that, but 40 chapters is the final cap that I'm setting for myself. So yeah, you can expect more romance, more family drama, and more shenanigans for an extra five or so chapters!
Secondly, I've got a sequel (so to speak) in the works for "The Way We Will Be"! Yes, you heard it here first, folks! This story won't be the only time we'll see the likes of Selene, Yancy, Nate, and future company! I won't give any spoilers as to what this sequel will entail, but you can expect that project to come around once this fic is over with! Or, better yet, I am considering just releasing the first few chapters within a couple of months. It won't exactly be a follow-up to this fic, anyway, so there'll be no spoilers to anticipate. We'll see! :D
And finally, well...I just wanted to wish you all a nice summer, and to remind you all to stay safe and stay healthy!
Alright, now I'd like to thank the following for reviewing:
-LightSpecter141: As you can see, Clarice's feelings about Serena due to her performance have taken an entirely new and unexpected turn. We'll see how things fare between the two girls the next time they meet...
1) I'm glad it was well worth the wait for you! :D
2) Yep! Ash and Serena finally find love between each other at long last! :D :D :D
3) No, actually.
4) Yes, most DEFINITELY. That's what the post-Exhibition Showcase dance will be for! ;D
1) I'm glad you really enjoyed this chapter! Yep, Ash and Serena finally getting together is most certainly the shit. XD
2) Yep, we all should've known that Palermo wouldn't exactly hold herself back when it comes to constructive criticism. What matters now is exactly what kind of value Clarice will glean from that constructive criticism...
3) Don't worry, more exchanges between Ash and Serena delving into their affections for one another will come soon. ;)
4) Interesting observation...
1) Well, Palermo doesn't come across as the most lenient or outwardly supportive person, so...
2) Yep, a pretty nice trade, if I say so myself. XD XD XD
1) Well, you could say it's because of Ash's Aura... ;)
2) Yeah, Clarice needs to let go of her past if she wants to embrace the future of being a Kalos Queen.
3) I'm so glad you've got a Top 5 moments for this story, specifically! Makes me wonder what the other scenes are, but I digress. And yes, Ash needs to remember that a happy wife means a happy life. XD
4) No, Yancy most certainly didn't get her peculiar phobias from Misty and Iris. You will find out more as we move along with this continuity.
5) Parker's searching for a long-lost friend. I'll just leave it at that. ;) And yes, Nick and his pals are even worse thieves than Team Rocket! I mean, copyright infringement?! How unthinkable! :O :O :O
-Ellie (guest reviewer):
1) I am so glad this chapter lived up to your expectations! That's the point when I give Ash and Serena a very romantic setup and make you guys wait so long for it. XD
2) Nope. I am DEFINITELY not making you guys wait that long for an update. At least not in the foreseeable future.
-Dragon King Ryouga:
1) Yep. As Ander Arias so eloquently put it, Palermo isn't one to mince words.
2) She'd just have a total, literal meltdown. XD XD XD XD XD
3) Yep! :D
4) *suddenly gets intense Barry vibes*
1) Obviously you don't keep track of my profile updates that frequently. I informed everyone very recently that the date of posting will be postponed again to June 5 or 6. Please keep this in mind next time you're waiting for an update.
2) Jeez, two straight days of reading this story, huh? And your first fanfic ever?! I'm pleased to know I got your attention and in such a big way! :D
1) Well, it seems like "Savage" is Palermo's middle name. XP XP XP
2) I guess Yancy had MORE than a tough time trying to impress Palermo.
3) Parker's digging up the key to the climactic final battle, that's what. ;D
Well, hope you enjoyed this chapter! TheCartoonFanatic01 is out. PEACE!