A/N: Hey, everyone! A belated Christmas and a Happy New Year to all of my favorite readers and reviewers!
Anyway, before we begin, I just want to bring all of your attention to something very important. I've already mentioned this in the previous chapter, but I am going to mention it for a second time in case no one decided to read that opening Author's Note. Email notifications all across the board, coming from this site, have apparently been disabled for certain email services. I don't know the full list of email services affected, but I do know that Hotmail/Outlook is one of them. I know this because I had been using a Hotmail/Outlook account for all of my email notifications from this site.
Acting on the advice I saw from someone on the Fanfic Help Desk forum, I decided to switch my account's email address to Gmail, since the email notifications appear to be working over there. After a couple of days of using Gmail, I am quite satisfied to say that it's not affected by whatever issue has befallen upon the site's email notification send-outs yet again. For all of my readers and fellow writers who are using Hotmail/Outlook accounts (or any other affected email services), I strongly recommend switching over to Gmail if you wish to continue receiving email notifications from this site. You could just create a fanfiction-exclusive Gmail account if you are uncomfortable using your existing Gmail account for that stuff.
Now, I don't know if the problem's been resolved as of now (I'm seeing a bunch of mixed reports on that), but if you are experiencing technical difficulties related to email notifications, then keep in mind what I just described above.
Anyway, I've got more to say, but I'm saving it for the ending Author's Note. I don't want to start out our first chapter for this fic in six months with a FRIGGING WALL OF TEXT FULL OF MORE RAMBLINGS FROM ME TO YOU. XD
Alright, enough of all of this unnecessary rambling! On with the long-awaited chapter. ENJOY!
P.S.: For updates regarding progress on my writing and just life in general, please check out my profile! I try to update it as often as I possibly can with any status update!
P.P.S.: Due to the slowly improving situation regarding the coronavirus outbreak, I am 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, get shots if you're able to, and try to get a booster shot if you're eligible
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.
"Ooooohhhhh... What happened?..."
"What else, Floyd, but a classic blown gasket?"
Nick, Floyd, and Lloyd had just recovered from their momentary incapacitation and were now standing up. The trio was dismayed upon seeing the old, rundown bulldozer that had been driving. The engine was now up in flames and spewing out dark, pungent smoke that covered the side of the adjacent mountain.
"Well," Nick concluded, "there goes that bulldozer."
"This has gotta be the ten-thousandth one we've lost in such a manner..." Lloyd remarked in a deadpan tone. "The rental company's not gonna like this."
"What rental company?" Floyd asked. "I'm pretty sure the guy behind the place was running some sort of scam."
The bumbling trio then prepared to clamber out of the incapacitated, burning bulldozer when they heard a new, familiar voice call out to them.
"What in Arceus's name happened here?!"
Cold shivers ran down the trio's spines as they heard the voice. They all turned and saw Parker approaching, flanked by Sid and a few other workers under their so-called employment. Parker took quick notice of the flaming bulldozer, and his flat expression fell into one of disappointment, contrasting with Sid's complete horror and bewilderment.
"What...is this?" the Pokémon poacher asked.
"W-W-Well, uhhhhh..." Nick replied, struggling to find a proper answer. "W-We, uhhhhh... W-We tried excavating some of that mountain, l-like you asked, P-Parker sir, b-but, ummm-"
"Their bulldozer couldn't handle all of that work."
"Y-Yeah... Pr-Pretty much."
"Oh, for Arceus's sake, you gotta be kidding me!" Sid yelled, startling the trio. He pointed a quivering finger at the yellow construction vehicle. "You three tried using a bulldozer to excavate a mountain?!"
"W-Well...yeah..." Nick replied, sounding as if it was the simplest, most obvious solution in the world.
"Using a bulldozer to excavate a...a frigging MOUNTAIN?! An Arceus-darn BULLDOZER?! Why not use an actual excavator like the rest of us?!"
Sid pointed off to the distance, where Nick, Floyd, and Lloyd saw a half-dozen excavators being used to dig out the side of Mt. Kiloude, manned by other workers who were being assisted by their various Pokémon. Despite the vehicles being in similar states of poor quality like the bulldozer, their robotic arms didn't have as much trouble in tearing apart the base of the mountain as the bulldozer's blade did.
"Because...we...didn't...think of it...?" Nick replied hesitantly.
"You didn't THINK OF IT?! You're the OWNER of a construction company, and you didn't even THINK OF IT?! UGH!" Sid grabbed the sides of his head in absolute anger. "D-Do you have ANY idea how much that thing cost?!"
"Does it look like I know the answer?" replied Floyd.
"Yeah!" Lloyd added in protest. "Ask Nick!"
"W-What?!" Nick glared at the twins, feeling utterly betrayed. "Wh-Why're you throwing me under the bus?!"
"Because it says 'Nick and Sons' on the label!" Floyd and Lloyd snapped at the same time, startling the rotund man.
"Or it used to, at least," Lloyd quickly added as an afterthought while glancing at the bulldozer.
The bulldozer's engine suddenly belched out a single loud pop of a noise, startling the group sans Parker and informing them all of its untimely demise.
Northern Kiloude City
"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."
"What I really want in life..."
Yancy sat alone and motionlessly in the corner of the Performers' dressing room, tuning out all of the external noises as she pondered over Palermo's words. Several minutes had passed since her performance onstage, and the realization that she lost the Theme Performance was still raw and scorching her mind. Though this was far from the first time she lost a Pokémon Showcase, this instance was, without a doubt, the most stunning and eye-opening of them all thus far.
All because of the words spoken to her by someone who had passed away in her timeline, someone who had become so revered in the Showcase world, akin to a historical figure of old.
"What did she mean by that...?" she thought. "I need to consider what I really want in life?! Of...Of course this is what I want! All my life, I wanted to be just like Mom. To become a Pokémon Performer, to be someone who can create beauty that shines so bright a-and inspires so much in so many! And when I finally mustered the courage to go out in the world and participate in Showcases, I thought I was on the path to achieving that dream, at long last! It may have been a very rough path at some points, but I thought I was getting to a place where my goal was within reach!
"But now...I feel like a reset button's accidentally been pushed..."
"Well, well, well," a voice said jeeringly. "Looks like the Glameow's now out of the bag."
Yancy gasped softly in surprise, and she slowly looked up. Standing before her was the same Performer that Serena had competed against during the Pokémon Search-and-Rescue Theme Performance. The one with the Espeon and the Shiny Dragonair.
"A-Amelia?" she asked in surprise, after taking a brief moment to recall her name.
"Why yes, that's me." Her fellow Performer then haughtily smirked down at her. "Huh. You know, I'm quite surprised that a lowly commoner like you would even remember my name. Perhaps you should've saved more of your mental faculties for your ill-advised decision to crash this Showcase." Then, she snickered malevolently. "I mean, what in Arceus's name were you even thinking?! For someone like you to even try to usurp the title of Kalos Queen from a radiant girl like Aria, it's simply unfathomable! It's like a Skitty trying to defeat a Wailord!"
Quickly recalling Amelia's callous attitude during the Search-and-Rescue Theme Performance, Yancy shot up on her feet, her sapphire-blue eyes narrowed into slits.
"That was NOT an ill-advised decision!" she snapped in protest. "And I'm NOT a lowly commoner!"
"Not an ill-advised decision, you say...?" Amelia crossed her arms while maintaining her smug smirk. "Then tell me, what do you think will happen now that everyone knows you're not qualified to be in here with the rest of us?"
"I'm...I'm not qualified to be in here with the rest of you?!" Yancy gritted her teeth tightly and clenched one of her fists in defiance. "Yes, I am! I worked very, very hard to get to this point!"
Amelia's smirk widened. "Very hard? Hah! Says the girl who didn't bother to actually register yourself for the past season and simply crashed this Exhibition Showcase."
Yancy prepared to protest, but the weight of Palermo's words started to drag her mind down into the muds of self-doubt.
"She's...She's right..." she thought.
"Hey, leave her alone, Amelia!" a new voice shouted.
A blur of white and periwinkle quickly positioned itself between Yancy and Amelia. Yancy gasped upon recognizing the girl who came to her defense.
"I don't know about you," Blanche continued, trying her best to remain calm in the face of Amelia's unbearably snobbish attitude, "but I've seen how Yancy and her Florges perform onstage! And it doesn't matter if she didn't participate in the past season at all! As far as I'm concerned, she and her Pokémon are just as qualified to be in here with the rest of us!"
"Blanche..." Yancy whispered, her eyes briefly glimmering with gratitude.
Unfortunately, Amelia wasn't as impressed. "Hmph! Who asked for your input, wannabe?!" With a scowl, she menacingly lifted her heels to tower over Blanche, who wasn't fazed by the show of force and simply stood her ground. "Just because you were in the running to be Kalos Queen at one point, it doesn't mean you could prance around and shove your opinion down all our throats!"
"Huh?!" Yancy looked at Blanche in disbelief. "In the running? What does she mean by that, Blanche?"
Then, the pink-haired girl realized that Amelia's words had gotten to her friend. Blanche's posture was now stiff, and her entire frame was trembling. But most of all, her normally bright face was now expressing a swirling vortex of emotions, ranging from anger to anguish to doubt.
"Bl-Blanche...?" Yancy asked hesitantly.
As for Amelia, she saw her opening and chose to twist the knife. "And speaking of which," she continued with a newfound sneer, "it looks like you blew your second chance at proving yourself. Now that everyone knows you've been covering for this crasher-" She cast her gaze upon Yancy, who hitched her breath with horror. "It's gonna be a stain on your squeaky-clean record. All the judges are gonna remember this when you participate in the next season. And you are never gonna be Kalos Queen now. All of this because you decided to be nicer and sweeter than sugar, as usual."
Yancy looked back at Blanche, and she was dismayed to see the blue-haired girl lower her face. Her attempt at hiding her tears was as obvious as day. Then, the pink-haired girl's dismay gave way to anger, anger that she directed towards the smirking Amelia through her burning, sapphire-blue eyes.
Before Yancy knew what was happening, she started to reach towards her fellow Performer, her hand stretching outward. Her mind was swimming with dark, boiling thoughts.
"If it were up to me," Amelia said triumphantly, "I'd reevaluate my entire approach to the biz, sweetheart-"
A hand grabbed the Fleurrh City native and turned her to face its owner. A split-second later, the girl was splayed across the floor, a bright-red handprint burned across her cheek. If any of the other Performers weren't observing the escalating exchange, they were now, and they were gasping and covering their mouths in utmost shock and horror.
As for Yancy, she was staring dumbfounded at the empty space Amelia had been standing on. Reality quickly returned to her like a tidal wave, and for a moment, she thought she was the one who violently slapped her and Blanche's tormentor to the floor. But then, she realized her hand wasn't stinging in pain.
The familiar voice, no matter how younger and less graceful it may have sounded, caught Yancy's utmost attention. She looked to her side and saw Serena standing in front of her, a look of sympathy dashed across her face. The honey-blonde still had her right hand halfway raised, and it was shaking slightly.
"Mom..." the pink-haired girl whispered. Then, before she could control herself, she hugged Serena tightly. "Mom!"
"It's alright, Yancy," Serena replied, her voice extremely maternal while she patted her future daughter's back. "Shhhhh, it's alright, it's alright..."
Then, Yancy noticed two certain presences looming behind Serena and quickly looked over her mother's shoulder. Upon spotting her other visitors, her eyes started top water.
"Yancy..." Ash said somberly.
"Pika..." Pikachu added gently from the raven-haired boy's shoulder.
Greninja's eyes merely softened in commiseration.
Holding back tears, Yancy proceeded to wrap both of her future parents in a tight hug, which was reciprocated by them in an act of pure parental instinct. Unfortunately, the familial moment didn't last for very long.
"You..." a voice growled. The three looked back down at Amelia, who was ready to pounce on them like a hungry Liepard. "YOU BI-!"
Six bodies quickly stood in front of Yancy, Serena, and Ash, forming a wall that stopped Amelia in her tracks.
"Get OUT of here, Amelia!" Shauna snapped furiously.
"Yeah!" Nini added. "You're absolutely not helping here!"
"Mm-hm, mm-hm!" Kazalie vocalized in agreement.
At the same time, Pikachu leaped off Ash's shoulder and positioned himself on all fours in front of Shauna and the others. His beady eyes looked up at Amelia with resolve while red cheeks crackled with yellow electricity. He was quickly joined by Greninja, who narrowed his eyes at the Fleurrh City native.
Amelia gritted her teeth and held her stinging cheek as she stood back up on her feet. "Oh, so this is how it's gonna be, hm? The whole bunch of you are gonna defend this...this..." She then pointed at Yancy accusingly. "Crasher?!"
"We're not doing it for her," Shulin growled, much to Yancy's dismay. "We're doing it for our friend Blanche."
"W-We-Well, I-I'm doing it f-for her!" stammered Kazalie. "I-I don't speak for Shulin!"
"Whatever. The point is you're being a sore loser, Amelia. Worse than that, even!"
"Yeah!" Jessilee snapped, her presence surprising Serena and even herself the most. "The only thing worse than a twerp is a self-centered one!"
"You better back off them right now," Shauna snarled through gritted teeth, while her eyes burned straight into Amelia's soul, "or else."
"Or else?" Amelia repeated while her eyelid twitched from amusement. "HA! HAHAHA! You hillbillies and peasants don't scare me! What're the lot of you gonna do to me?"
"Ohhh, I dunno," Miette replied, her voice calm and nonchalant as she stepped forward and simultaneously rolled up her sleeves. "Maybe you should stick around and find out what this peasant is capable of."
"Alright, alright!" a new voice called out.
Someone stood in-between Miette and Amelia, stopping them both before a fight could break out. By that point, all of the other Performers and their Pokémon had congregated around the scene of the disturbance. Two of them, the Honchkrow Trainer and the Litleo Trainer, had stepped forward and grabbed Miette's arms as a precaution. As for Amelia, her Espeon and Shiny Dragonair, had gathered behind her, looking conflicted over whether they should stop their Trainer or not.
"Let's all take a breather and deflate our heads, shall we?" said the Performer standing between Miette and Amelia, who Serena recognized as Lily. "So, is everyone willing to talk this out in a more amicable tone?"
"Amicable?" Amelia repeated in disgust. Then, she looked away with a jutting chin. "Hmph! As if! Why, I'd rather bathe in Tauros droppings than amicably interact with all you peasants! Now, if you'll excuse me!"
With her head still held high, the Fleurrh City native shouldered Lily aside and marched back to her old dressing booth. A foul aura hung over her, prompting the other Performers to part and make way for her and her trailing Pokémon. As soon as Amelia returned to her booth, the other Performers proceeded to direct their gazes upon Yancy next.
"Eep!" Yancy whimpered while she held onto her future mother tight.
"Listen here, crasher!" the Heliolisk Trainer snapped. "Amelia may be a jerk and a half, but she's got a point about you!"
"Y-Ya!" added the Trainer with the Pansage, Pansear, and Panpour. "W-Who do ya think ya are, buttin' inta this Showcase without puttin' in tha work beforehand?!"
"How can you call yourself a Performer if this is how you're participate in your first Showcase?!" cried the Kirlia Trainer.
"If you'd call that participating," deadpanned Alouette.
"Yeah!" Jessilee suddenly cried. With her hands on her hips, she marched over to the side of the other Performers. "They are right! For a twerpette, you've got some nerve to walk over all our hard-earned work!"
Yancy didn't have anything to say in defense of her actions. Instead, she wordlessly buried her red face in her mother's chest, feeling just as vulnerable as she once was when she was seven.
As for Serena, she quickly jumped to her future daughter's defense. "Yancy didn't know any better, alright! She...Sh-She just wanted to know what it felt like, performing onstage! You girls can't just gang up on her for being curious!"
"Well, she's got a funny idea of participating in her first Showcase," the Nidoqueen Trainer replied flatly.
"We've got rules for a reason, ya know," the Vanillish Trainer added. "You can't just break 'em all willy-nilly! It isn't fair to the rest of us!"
"Yeah!" replied Jessilee. "Not that I'm a stickler for the rules, but-"
"Wait, aren't you her sister, Serena?!" exclaimed the Lickitung Trainer, cutting off the magenta-haired woman.
"Oh, yeah!" the Dragonite Trainer replied. "That's what Blanche said she was when she was talking to Palermo onstage!"
Blanche simply hung her head even lower in response.
"That's right!" added Elma. "As her sister, you were supposed to teach her something about Showcases, Serena! Such as the Showcases passes! Unless you two are a bit estranged, but it doesn't look like it-"
"Hey, you leave Serena out of this!" Ash snapped. To everyone's surprise, he tore himself away from Serena and Yancy's grasp and hobbled over to the Performers with clenched fists. "Yancy didn't tell her anything! No one knew any better! If Yancy broke any rules, then yes, she should face some consequences. Either way, she's already ashamed of doing what she did! She knows what she did! She seriously doesn't need all of you looming over her and reminding her of it, not to mention overblowing it and treating her like some...some criminal!"
Pikachu jumped back onto Ash's shoulder, while Greninja rejoined his side.
"Dad..." Yancy whispered with shimmering eyes of awe.
At that moment, the other Performers, sans the visibly irritated Jessilee, recoiled in fear and disgust at the sight of Ash. Some took on defensive positions, while others cowered behind their Pokémon, seeking their protection.
"Ewwwww!" Kayleigh squealed. "Who let the boy in here?!"
"Boys aren't allowed in the dressing room!" snapped the Trainer with the Teddiursa and Ducklett.
"Get the heck OUTTA here!" the Vileplume Trainer shrieked.
With that, an assortment of items, ranging from cosmetics to accessories to even spare clothes, were thrown at Ash. The Pallet Town native had no choice but to hold up his arms and use them to shield his face from the barrage.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry!" he cried. "I-I didn't know I wasn't allowed in here! I-I mean, I-I figured, but-"
"EWWWWW!" Kayleigh squealed again while she threw a plastic mirror. "Lowlife!"
"Wretch!" the Sylveon Trainer cried as she hurled a thick fur scarf.
"Creep!" the Swirlix Trainer shrieked as she tossed a fabric sash that missed its target completely.
"H-Hey!" Serena yelled, pulling her crush out of the way of her fellow Performers' wrath. "C-Cut it out! Ash doesn't mean any harm, I promise!"
"You brought a BOY in here!" snapped Alouette.
"Girls rule and boys drool!" snarled the Marill Trainer.
"Yeah!" some of the other Performers chorused in agreement.
"E-Excuse me?!" Ash cried with a twitching eyelid.
"Since when were boys frowned upon so much in Showcases?!" Serena squeaked in disbelief.
"Ohhh, you'd be quite surprised, Serena..." Miette replied dryly.
Just as the outraged clamor was about to continue any further, another new voice suddenly spoke up with exasperation, cutting off the increasingly rowdy and aggressive group of Performers.
"Ohhhhh, just calm down, ladies."
Everyone turned towards the speaker, and Serena hitched a gasp of surprise upon identifying her.
"S-Sara Lee?" she whispered.
Upon hearing that name, Blanche's head instantly perked up with shock and a little interest. The green-haired Performer strolled towards Serena's group, her eyes closed in contemplation. Concetta trailed behind her, looking meek in her gait, but her face was dashed with gratitude over her friend's new attitude.
"Who brought those twerpettes?" Jessilee commented to herself.
"So she crashed the Exhibition Showcase," Sara Lee said, stopping beside Serena and Yancy. "So she lied to us and took advantage of us and all that. So she walked all over the hard work that we've all put in during this past season. So a boy is in the dressing room." Then, to everyone's surprise, she resolutely said, "Big deal."
"Big deal?!" some of the other Performers repeated in varying degrees of shock and outrage.
"Wha-What in the world do you mean 'big deal'?!" exclaimed the Psyduck Trainer. She then pointed an accusatory finger at Yancy. "She crashed the Exhibition Showcase, Sara Lee!"
"And she brought a BOY in here!" Kayleigh squeaked, pointing a finger of her own at Serena.
"Yes, and that's the Pokémon Showcase Committee's problem to contend with. Not ours. And yes, a boy is standing here in the dressing room. It's not exactly the first time a boy's been brought in here, and I doubt it'll be the last. I don't get why you girls want to be so wound up about it, unless you're all being tsunderes or something." Ignoring the Performers' stunned and horrified gags, Sara Lee narrowed her eyes at all of them. "Now then, I suggest listening to the TV. It looks like Monsieur Pierre's about to announce the next Theme Performance."
That got Jessilee and all the girls going. With stunned squeals and shrieks, they quickly scrambled away from Serena and Yancy's group and congregated around the TV set once again in anticipation, while Jessilee scrambled back to her booth to finish applying her makeup. This left Serena, Yancy, and all their friends with Sara Lee and Concetta. An apprehensive Shauna gulped slightly before taking the initiative to step forward.
"Th-Thank you, Sara Lee," the tan-skinned Performer said gently. "F-For standing up for us like that-"
"Listen here, I didn't do it for any of you girls," Sara Lee interrupted, her voice colder than the harshest Ice-type attack. She then focused on Serena and Yancy, her green eyes narrowing slightly. "Consider it...a form of...repayment...for what you did during our match, Serena."
Serena blinked in momentary confusion before remembering how she helped salvage Sara Lee's performance during the Pokémon Search-and-Rescue Theme Performance Round. Realizing her fellow Performer's intentions, she gave Sara Lee a stiff but courteous nod in response. Sara Lee did not reciprocate the gesture, but the lack of seriousness and uptightness told Serena everything she needed to know.
Then, Sara Lee turned and abruptly locked eyes with Blanche. A sudden, cold tension swept over the group of Performers as the blue-haired and green-haired girls stared one another down like a warring Zangoose and Seviper. Both Serena and Yancy became fearful of what might happen next.
Eventually, Sara Lee spoke up again. "And you girls can also consider it a heads-up. I wasn't lying when I said it was the Showcase Committee's problem to contend with." Then, she glared at Serena for a second time. "But!"
"B-But?" Serena stammered apprehensively.
"This doesn't change a single thing between us. Capieche?"
Serena didn't need to respond to the latest query. With a soft but stubborn huff, the green-haired girl turned her back on Serena and Yancy's group and walked back to her booth. A surprised Concetta watched her friend go before glancing at the others.
"I-I'm sorry!" she squeaked quietly. "I-I think this is the closest y-you're gonna get to her being n-nice to you!"
"Uh-huh..." Shulin commented while crossing her arms. "So, how do you deal with a girl like her, Concetta? How do you get close enough to her being nice to you?"
Concetta hung her head glumly. "I...I guess I don't have a big enough spine for her..." Then, she looked at Blanche, her lips curling into a smile of newfound happiness. "She talks about you a lot, Blanche. J-Just so you know."
Blanche blinked twice in surprise. "Huh?"
But before the blue-haired girl could seek any clarification, Concetta had already begun strolling back to Sara Lee. Yancy gawked at her friend's expression before looking back and forth between her and Sara Lee, all the while recalling the last time they had such a tense, awkward exchange.
"Hi, Sara Lee! I'm so glad that you're here for the Exhibition Showcase!"
"Yeah... Of course you are..."
"Ohhhhh, I hope we have so much fun for the event! But in the meantime...lay off on my friends, 'kay? We all need to be at our very best for the performances ahead!"
"Okay, now there's just no way Blanche and Sara Lee don't have history," she thought. "Not after what I had just heard! I...I have to ask Blanche what exactly happened between the two of them!"
But before Yancy could do that, she heard the door to the dressing room open. Serena's group watched as the assistant entered the room.
Accompanied by a pair of security guards with a Hitmonchan and a Hitmonlee.
"Yancy, Blanche?" the assistant called.
The two aforementioned girls looked at one another regretfully before stepping forward.
"Th-That's us..." Yancy replied meekly.
"You two need to come with us," the guard with the Hitmonchan said.
"The Showcase Committee is asking to see you two regarding the security incident earlier today," added the guard with the Hitmonlee.
"Wait a minute, the Showcase Committee?" Shauna asked.
"They're really here?" queried a stunned Nini. "I didn't think they'd be present at an event such as this..."
"This doesn't concern the rest of you girls," replied the guard with the Hitmonlee.
"Well, it concerns me!" Serena snapped. "I'm Yancy's mo- uh, s-sister! I oughta know what's going on."
"Ah, yes. The sister." The guard inquisitively scanned the honey-blonde girl from head to toe, his wrinkled face now deep in thought. "Well...considering you were a motivating factor in this security incident, I suppose the Showcase Committee would be interested to see you as well. Hear your side of the story, that is."
"Th-Then I'm coming too!" Ash cried, before he could stop himself.
"Pika!" Pikachu squeaked in agreement.
This prompted a glare from the guard with the Hitmonchan. "And who exactly are you?"
Ash clenched his fists tightly. "Who am I?! I'm Yancy's fath- eh, fr-friend! Yeah, I'm Yancy's friend!"
The guard seemed to ignore the boy's verbal stumble as he too scanned him from head to toe. "I see... And do you have any useful information about why your friend decided to crash this event?"
"I like to think I know her better than most people," Ash replied while holding back a sneer. "So yeah, I've got some info that the Showcase Committee should hear out first before Yancy gets into a whole lot of trouble!"
Yancy's sapphire-blue eyes shimmered with emotion. "Mom..." she whispered fondly. "Dad..."
The two guards looked at each other, beckoning to the other for his approval. Then, the guard with the Hitmonlee let out a sigh and glanced back at Ash and Serena.
"Very well. You may come with us. We'll let the Showcase Committee deal with you two from there."
"I can't believe it..."
"It's alright, Yancy. We win some and we lose some."
Yancy's eyes started to glimmer with a confused storm of emotions. Her fists tightened around one another as she, Ash, and Serena followed the two guards and their Hitmonchan and Hitmonlee across the Laurier Maison lobby. It didn't take long for them to reach a staircase that led to the upper mezzanine.
"I-I know..." Yancy said. "But... But..."
Her voice trailed off, prompting Serena to say, "It doesn't matter what Palermo said to you. You did great out there."
Yancy gasped and looked to her right, straight into her mother's beautiful eyes. "Really?"
"Of course! I couldn't be any prouder to call you my..." The honey-blonde took one last cautious look over her shoulder. "My daughter."
"Same here," Ash said encouragingly. "I'm so glad that I'll be having someone like you as my daughter."
"Pika!" Pikachu squeaked in agreement.
Yancy looked to her left now and recognized the all-too-familiar glimmer of youthful energy in her father's eyes.
"Dad..." she whispered.
"And it doesn't matter what the Showcase Committee plans on doing to you," Serena said in a half-growl. "Whatever the people in charge say, I'm gonna give 'em an earful of what I have to say about them!"
"Serena!" a concerned Ash cried in a hushed voice. "The guards might hear you!"
Yancy simply chuckled in nostalgic relief while her cheeks turned rosy-pink. Her mind was now swimming with memories of the first time she lost a Pokémon Showcase; after her horrible disaster of a performance barred her from moving on to the Freestyle Performance, her mother exploded like a volcano and gave the judges grief while her father tried to temper her fury.
"Ahhh, good times..."
By that point, the three had reached the top of the staircase and were now following the two guards down the hallway to their right. They passed a few doors before the guards stopped beside one marked 'VIP ACCESS ONLY. DO NOT ENTER WITHOUT AUTHORIZATION.' The guard with the Hitmonchan opened this door, and Yancy, Ash, and Serena stepped into a large booth overlooking the entire Showcase Theater. There were six people already present, including...
"Aria?!" Serena exclaimed.
The redheaded Kalos Queen turned away from the others and gasped in surprise upon seeing the arrivals.
"Yancy!" she cried. "Serena, Ash!"
"Hm...?" One of the other occupants, a stout, well-dressed man wearing a monocle, glanced at Yancy, Ash, and Serena. "Do you know these other people, Aria?"
"Yes she does, Earl," Palermo replied, stunning Serena regarding her presence. "The girl with the blonde hair is the sister that I told you about. Serena. And-" At that moment, the producer noticed Ash for the first time and narrowed her eyes. "And who are you? I don't believe we've met..."
"This is Ash, Palermo!" Serena squeaked, her eyes almost bulging out of their sockets in terror. "A-A good friend of mine and Yancy's! He's here to vouch for my sister!"
"There is no vouching."
Another one of the occupants stepped forward with a haughty gait. She was a tall, middle-aged woman who nevertheless had a great amount of wrinkles on her face. She also had cold gray eyes and strange hair: the right side was black with one white stripe, while the left side was white with one black stripe. Finally, she wore a sleek, huge, whitish-golden fur-coat that looked like it was taken directly from a Ninetales's fur.
"The Showcase Committee takes any and all security matters very seriously."
"Wait, hold on a moment, Ms. Diable-"
"Countess Diable," the woman corrected.
With that, the new speaker moved even further into Ash and Serena's view. The two adolescent Trainers were stunned by her appearance.
"Whoa!" Serena thought. "She looks like an older version of Aria! But with blue eyes!"
As for Ash, the sight of the newcomer suddenly got the gears in his head whirring at unusually fast speeds.
"Aria has a sister?!"
"Yeah, an older sister. Her name's Paris."
"Wait a minute!" Ash blurted out, pointing at the newcomer. "I remember you! You're Paris, the Pokémon Stylist!"
Paris blinked in surprise. "Oh, my. I'm surprised that you remembered me so quickly, Ash. It's been a while since we last met."
"Hmph," Diable snorted stubbornly. "So what if you two met each other before?! Personal familiarity is not a good reason for the Showcase Committee to excuse the unethical behavior we witnessed today!"
Paris glared at Diable defiantly. "But Countess-"
"That's enough, Paris."
Yancy's, Serena's, and Ash's skins all crawled at the sound of the third Showcase Committee member's voice. He stepped out of the shadows, revealing himself to be a man with graying red hair and piercing red eyes. Unlike his two colleagues, he was dressed more casually and in military-style clothing, vaguely reminding Yancy, Ash, and Serena of Parker. And it was quite clear that his appearance was more than enough to bring Paris back in line, for the Pokémon Stylist reluctantly but quickly quieted down.
But the same intimidation didn't apply to Aria, who merely pouted and stomped her foot in front of the man.
"Da- Davis!" she snapped angrily. "Please, you have to listen to what they have to say!"
Davis merely scowled down at Aria. "I believe I already heard what I needed to hear when this Yancy girl was onstage. It is unnecessary to hear any more of her sob stories."
"S-Sob stories?!" Ash shouted in outrage.
"Pika!" Pikachu cried aggressively.
The stout, well-dressed man, Earl, cleared his throat, catching the attention of the others. "What my colleague meant to say was that Yancy's account is not enough to sway our opinion, no matter how sincere it may be."
"And what opinion is that, exactly?" Serena asked suspiciously.
"That the girl is to be expelled from the premises and banned from participating in the remainder of this event."
"What?! You can't do that!"
"Yeah!" Yancy cried. All the while, her mind was quickly filling up with thoughts about the Exhibition Showcase's Freestyle Performance, and the possibility of performing together with her mother, aunts, newfound friends, and fellow Performers. "I admit that my way of entering this competition was...unethical, but I worked so hard to make it this far! You...You just have to believe me!"
Diable arched an eyebrow, her scowl unchanging. "You worked so hard, you say?"
Yancy's head swam with memories of all the Showcases she competed in thus far as she valiantly replied, "YEAH! Me and my Pokémon have striven for this moment, this opportunity to prove ourselves!"
"Well, you have a funny way of working so hard and striving for this opportunity to prove yourselves."
"Countess, please," Earl piped up, silencing his colleague. He then looked back at Yancy. "We understand your ambition, young lady. And we also understand if your sister's dazzling performances have lowered your self-confidence. This venue has had its fair share of Performers crashing and burning, sometimes pretty hard. But it's important that we preserve the security and integrity of Pokémon Showcases." He took a deep breath and rubbed his forehead. "I'm not sure if you girls have noticed it this past season, given you're both newcomers and all, but...this sport is going through a slump."
Serena blinked in surprise. "A...A slump?"
Earl nodded. "Yes." He glanced at Aria. "An unfortunate by-product of having such a talented and kind girl like Aria as the Kalos Queen for years and years now."
"Her tenure as Kalos Queen is already the longest in Showcase history," Palermo clarified. "With her uninterrupted series of victories in Master Class Showcases, people have started tuning out in favor of bigger, better things." She pursed her lips in disapproval. "This year, it's that new Mega Evolution craze, and it's proving to be quite a draw."
"Are you sure about that?" Ash asked. "The audience out there is pretty big! The entire auditorium was filled! And you're saying that's considered a low attendance record for a Showcase?"
Palermo closed her eyes with a slight frown. "Years ago, this entire auditorium used to be much larger and much grander, young man. The VIP booth we're standing in? It was once an upper level consisting of rows and rows of seats."
"And let's not forget the ratings," Davis added in a grave voice. "They were much higher back in the day. Nowadays, we'd be lucky to hit the five million viewer mark on the Master Class Showcase."
Serena blinked in stunned surprise. She just couldn't believe what she was hearing. The competition that captivated her and inspired her to truly come out of her shell, the competition that gave her Pokémon journey true meaning outside of one Ash Ketchum...about to fall in a state of shambles? It just couldn't be!
"Really? No way..."
"The past Showcase season was about to be on track to become the lowest-viewed Showcase season in history. We were lucky people started tuning back in for whatever reason, but the numbers were incremental. It won't be long until the TV execs decide to pull the plug on our show, and when that happens, the very concept of Pokémon Showcases will be done. For good."
"THAT CAN'T BE!" Serena shrieked, surprising the Showcase Committee with her devotion and determination. "You...You have no idea how much Pokémon Showcases mean to me!" Her mind started to swim with her own memories of her past Showcase competitions. "It's because of them that I am the person I am right now, the...the person I was always meant to be! And you're...you're telling me it's on the brink of...of cancellation?!"
"'Fraid so, dear," Diable replied casually.
But Earl shot Diable a scathing glare. "No, it's not. We're just...hanging by a few threads, that's all." He then looked back at Serena and Yancy with a forlorn expression. "But with the Lumiose Conference about to start, this Exhibition Showcase was planned to be an appetizer of sorts, a way to draw in pre-Pokémon League viewers and get them hyped for the main course. And, of course, we hope it will be an opportunity to evoke enough interest in those viewers to continue tuning in and spread the word."
"But now that it's known someone's crashed the Exhibition Showcase," Davis continued, "this incident will become a stain on our image, not to mention a potential regional embarrassment. All League Competition Committee-sponsored events are as good as their security, so-"
"So if the Exhibition Showcase proceeds as planned and goes out with a bang," Ash interrupted, "then hopefully it'll make more people interested in Pokémon Showcases again!"
"Correct." Then, a shadow suddenly fell upon Davis's face. "And then...there's the matter of..."
His voice trailed off, prompting Serena to ask, "The matter of what?"
"Of Elle," Palermo replied. At the sound of the name, Yancy's, Aria's, and Paris's faces all fell simultaneously.
"Elle?" Ash asked in confusion.
"Pika?" Pikachu squeaked in equal confusion.
"Who's Elle?" asked Serena.
"Elle..." Aria replied, her voice sounding hollow and distant even though she was standing a couple of feet away from the Vaniville Town native. "Elle was my mother, Serena..."
Serena's eyes became enlarged in her surprise. "Your mother?"
The redhead nodded somberly. "Yes. And one of the greatest Performers who ever lived."
Serena blinked from Aria's choice of words. "Who ever lived?"
"Yes," Paris responded. "She died ten years ago, from a...terrible security incident."
"Well, that's putting it mildly," Diable commented before flinching from Davis's and Earl's stern glares.
As for Serena, she found herself extremely stunned by the revelation. Then, after taking one glance at Yancy, she balled up her fists with resolve.
"If I may...tell me exactly what happened."
"Alright, keep it going, keep it going!"
One of the sweaty, middle-aged construction workers continued chanting as he guided some of their specialized vehicles towards Mt. Kiloude. They crawled through the wooded area, destroying everything in their path in order to achieve their goal of excavation. At the side was a company logo of a badly-drawn Dedenne holding a hammer.
Nick and Sons Oil and Construction Company
"Listen up, everyone!" Cecile hollered towards another group of colleagues, who were working hard at dislodging some of the rock making up Mt. Kiloude's side. "We've got a deadline to meet and a client to satisfy, so let's move those muscles! Move 'em, move 'em like you never moved 'em before!"
Meanwhile, Parker watched the entire proceedings with narrowed eyes and pursed lips from atop the tallest branches of a towering tree that had managed to escape unscathed from the construction company's work. He then looked over his left shoulder towards the direction of Kiloude City, and the meddling children that he knew were there.
"It won't be long now," he thought with grim urgency. "Those troublesome kids will eventually find out what's happening here and try to intervene. I must extract Kay before that happens. Her tech will be key in turning the tide against them, and when that happens, Celebi will be ripe for the taking. And after all these unnecessary hours wasted on this timeline, I will finally be getting my well-deserved paycheck-"
The Pokémon poacher grimaced and then bitterly scowled at the sound of the voice. "Oh, great," he muttered to himself. "The ignoramus makes his triumphant return..."
He then looked down towards the ground, where he saw Nick running up to him, sweat dripping down his forehead like it was the beginnings of a waterfall.
"My company's excavators and bulldozers are nearing the thing you pointed out on that cool radar thingy of yours!"
"Excellent, Nick," Parker replied in a blatantly tired and uninterested tone. "Just excellent. How long till extraction?"
Nick tilted his head in befuddlement. "Huh?"
"How. Long. Till. Extraction?"
Nick blinked. "Huh?"
Parker rolled his eyes. "How long until you get the thing out of the other thing?"
"Oh! Just another hour or so!"
Parker sighed heavily in exasperation. "Then by all means, continue onward, Nick."
The rotund man then saluted in a comical manner. "Roger that!"
With that, he enthusiastically ran off, leaving Parker behind to fully absorb the extent of his ally's incompetence. Again.
"And I will be finally able to rid myself of these...Psyduck-minded lowlifes, once and for all. There's nothing that can stop me this time. Once I have Kay and her Pokémon and her tech supporting me, not a foolish Pokémon Ranger, not a mere kid, and not even Celebi can prevent us from accomplishing our goal!"
"Parker," a voice addressed.
With a twitching eyelid, Parker looked down at the ground again. "WHAT?!"
Then, he found himself second-guessing his outburst when he identified his newest visitor as Sid, one of the very few he met in this timeline that he found dependable. The periwinkle-haired man stared up at him from below.
"Apologies, but we need to talk," Sid said.
Parker pursed his lips in reluctance before replying, "Very well."
With that, the Pokémon poacher jumped off of the tree branch that he was perched on and landed directly in front of Sid. Without so much as a flinch, the periwinkle-haired man quietly held out a Holo Caster, which was currently displaying the holographic image of a man with yellow eyes that glinted brightly, giving him a perpetually teary-eyed look; and a set of wavy, neatly-combed green hair with golden streaks.
"Greetings, Parker," the man greeted. "We haven't been properly introduced. I am Adam Glazing, the benefactor of your escape from prison."
"Pleased to meet you," Parker replied, his calm and neutral tone concealing his bubbling impatience. "What is it that you wish to speak to me about?"
"I was hoping to meet with you in person after your prison break. Unfortunately, it seems that fate had other plans...for the both of us." Adam leaned slightly closer, his brow furrowed. "I heard about your little operation at the Laurier Maison, courtesy of my, ahem, associates."
Parker mentally cursed Nick for his big mouth.
"That was a risky move, Parker," Adam continued, "and obviously, it didn't bear any fruit."
"Those pesky children and their Pokémon interfered with my mission," Parker replied in a near-snarl. "Now, I'm not sure what your, ahem, associates told you about me, but-"
"You're after a Celebi. Yes, yes, I know."
"Well, yes and no."
"Yes and no?"
"Yes, I am after a Celebi. It is my latest bounty. However, there is more that you should know about me. I hail from the future."
Adam blinked in surprise. "You...hail from the future?"
Parker firmly nodded in response. "Yes. Twenty years in the future, to be precise."
"Twenty years..." Adam spent a moment in awkward silence before finally sneering in triumph. "Heh. They did not tell me that. But, with a Celebi involved in these shenanigans, I figured something like time travel would be in play. I just didn't expect it to factor into this whole affair in that manner." His eyes started to glint even brighter in intrigue. "Tell me, what am I like in the future?"
"I have not heard of you before today."
Adam grimaced. "DRAT!" Then, his head perked up again. "What about one Amelia Glazing?"
Parker blinked idly. "And who is that?"
"Yes!" Adam raised a clenched fist in his sheer joy. "So she doesn't become something in the future! That's perfect, that's just perfect-"
"If I may, Mr. Glazing," Parker interrupted, "some of the kids that interfered with my operation at the Laurier Maison also come from the same timeline as I. They've always proven to be a thorn in the side of me and my own associates. Which is why your associates and I are at Mt. Kiloude. To regroup, and to access someone who will change the odds in my- er, our favor."
"Ahhh yes, I was wondering why Sid said you guys were doing some excavation work over there. I thank you, Parker, for your honesty."
"You're welcome..." Parker replied dryly. Then, the poacher narrowed his beady eyes in suspicion at Adam's holographic image. "Now, tell me, Mr. Glazing, what is your interest in my operations here? Your quick investment in my well-being in your timeline is as clear as day."
"Is it not obvious?" Adam clasped his hands and tapped his index fingertips together. "I wish to acquire that Celebi. That Pokémon is the key to my success."
Parker quirked his brow in amusement. "Is it now...?"
"Yes." With narrowing eyes and clenched teeth, Adam started rubbing his index fingertips together in swelling fury. "For my entire life, I...I strove for an enviable position of power and prestige that I believed...no, was convinced was rightfully mine. But...it was snatched away from me, forcibly and unexpectedly, through the most pathetic of circumstances a-and the most arbitrary of customs."
"What a pity," deadpanned an uninterested Parker.
Fortunately, Adam didn't register the tone, for he continued. "But, with a powerful tool like Celebi in my possession, I will be able to alter the course of destiny and ensure that I take my rightful place as the owner of the Blue Suns Deluxe Hotel chain!"
"Really?" Parker asked in flat disbelief. "Your goal is to become the owner of a hotel chain?"
"Not just ANY hotel chain!" snapped Adam. "Blue Suns Deluxe Hotels is one of the top hospitality companies in the world! We own destination resorts in eight different regions! We rake in millions every year! And to be in charge of all that real estate, to have that kind of power and influence in your grasp, it's enough to make any aspiring entrepreneur drool! And I...I...I was about to have all of that! I was about to become a true figure of importance! I was about to have the world in the palm of my hand! I was about to stand above everyone else, until that self-centered chatterbox of a brat that I'm forced to call my niece was born and took my inheritance rights away from me!"
Parker struggled to stifle a snicker of derision as he listened to the rant. "The Blue Suns Deluxe Hotels? You mean those one- to two-star hotels in the slums? You wish to inherit those unsightly, ghastly dumps? ...Well, it's better than nothing, I suppose. And I suppose I'll keep playing along. Until Kay is revived and we reacquire Celebi, that is."
With that, the poacher earnestly replied, "I empathize with your dilemma. And I am here to tell you that there is no need to worry any longer, Mr. Glazing. Once we're done here at Mt. Kiloude, we shall acquire that worthless Celebi for you, and from then on out, it is up to you to determine your destiny."
"Very good," Adam replied. "Very good. As long as it's in one piece." Then, he settled down and exhaled. "I'll be headed to your location. Then we can meet in person and get caught up to speed. I await the results of this entire operation."
Parker nodded. "As do I, Mr. Glazing. As do I..."
Adam nodded in affirmation before cutting off his line. Once his holographic image dissipated into nothing, Cecile ran up to Parker and Sid and called out to them.
"Yo, guys! We've hit something inside the mountain!"
"Something?" Sid repeated with a raised eyebrow.
"Yeah! Something metallic. I think it could be your friend, Parker! What should we do next?"
"You're not going to be able to penetrate that metal easily," Parker replied coolly. "Work your way around the metal and remove all the rock covering it. You'll find that it is spherical in nature. Once you get enough of it out of the mountain, I want your guys to be on the lookout for a couple of hatches. When you find one or the other, let me know. Only I know the access code needed to gain entry."
"Yes, Parker sir!"
Cecile ran off, and Sid cast one last knowing glance at Parker before following after her. Once the two were out of sight, Parker's lips curled into a malevolent grin.
"Soon, Kay. Soon, I'll be able to recover you, and then, things will be going our way this time. We'll be getting our hands on our paychecks soon enough..."
"Man! It's been hours now, and we're finally striking gold!"
"About Arceus-darn time!"
Floyd and Lloyd wiped the sweat off their foreheads as they clambered away from the scene of heavy excavation. Some of their coworkers were yelling and cursing at them angrily for abruptly abandoning their posts, while the excavators and bulldozers continued to work on removing rock and earth from a gigantic sheet of metal. However, the twins tuned out all of the loud noises as they rejoined Nick underneath a grimy white tent that was poorly set up.
"Yo, Nick!" Lloyd greeted.
"After hours of hard work, we're actually makin' some good progress!" exclaimed Floyd.
Nick observed a couple of excavators removing rocks from the metal surface, and he nodded approvingly. "I can see! It's about time this whole thing moved somewhere! And once Parker gets his friend back, we can finally kick some butt and get ourselves a nice lil' Celebi!"
"So..." Lloyd said as he leaned against Nick's rickety worktable, "what're you planning to use Celebi's time travel powers for, Nick?"
The rotund man's face lit up in delight. "Simple! I'll go back in time, to the point where I was still in high school, and I'll resolve the biggest regret of my life!"
Floyd raised an eyebrow in curiosity. "Which is?"
"Pouring my heart out to Alanna Biggs!"
"Alanna Biggs?" Lloyd repeated with incredulity. "You mean the head cheerleader? The Alanna Biggs?!"
Nick beamed nostalgically. "The one and only..."
"Dude," Floyd replied in amusement, "she'd kick your butt to the curve before you could even get five words out!"
"Of course you wouldn't understand matters of the heart, my dear Floyd." Nick began swooning in a ridiculously comical, exaggerated fashion. "Once Alanna Biggs hears the words that were meant to be said to her, she will reconsider that big, dumb hunk of a boyfriend and pick me instead!"
Lloyd snickered quietly. "Dude, doesn't she grow up to be all wrinkly and shriveled up?"
"Like a super-ripe Oran Berry," added a smirking Floyd.
"Quite a far cry from the Alanna Biggs we used to know."
Nick scowled at the taunts and crossed his arms. "Alright, Mr. and Mr. Smarty-Pants! Tell me, what are your plans to use Celebi's time travel powers for? Hm?"
Floyd and Lloyd spent a couple of minutes pondering their answers. Eventually, Floyd was the first to speak up.
"I'd go to the future," he said. "See what it's like. See how I'm doing. Maybe I'll be a successful businessman. Or maybe a famous movie star! Or maybe-"
"Knowing you," Lloyd replied mockingly, "you'd probably be having a mini-heart attack every other day from all of those sweets and fatty foods you like to eat."
"What?! It's true! Whenever you're not working, you spend your days in the shed chewing down on some fast food and watching those Pokémon Showcases or whatever! You need to learn how to diet and exercise-"
"The heck are you talking about?! You do the exact same things!"
"Hey, at least I still weigh ten pounds less than you." When Floyd's face fell, Lloyd cackled for a bit before continuing, "As for me, weeeeell...I would go back to the time we were at that Laura Mansion or whatever and stop your dumb butt from buying all those so-called golden Magikarp."
"First off," Floyd replied, "that was earlier today. You're willing to go back a couple of hours to stop me from making a lil' investment?"
"Making a lil' investment? More like falling for the most obvious con in the book!"
"It was NOT a con! First off, he said if you breed these Magikarp, then you will get even more golden Magikarp that you could sell for fabulous prices! Second off, I bought the whole tank instead of one like he wanted, which means I deprived him of his cash Miltank! So, if you think about it, I'm actually a hero!"
Lloyd quirked an eyebrow. "Are you now?"
"Yeah! He can't con more people if he doesn't have a golden Magikarp to spare! So you can say I stopped that guy from ruining other people's lives and draining their wallets!"
"...You do know that a guy like him would likely have a spare Magikarp tank or two as backup..."
"Hmph!" Floyd crossed his arms and looked away from his twin brother like a child. "You're just jealous because I've got finesse in life and you don't!"
"Finesse in life?! HA! You couldn't even weasel your way out of a bad business deal even if your life depended on it! Why do you think you're still working for a guy like Nick?!"
"Hey, I'm right here too, you know..." Nick commented flatly.
Floyd ignored him and continued to address his twin. "Hey, hey, hey, you're still working for him too! Which makes you a bigger idiot than me!"
"No, it doesn't!"
"Yes, it does!"
"GUYS! SHUT UUUUUP!"
Floyd and Lloyd immediately fell silent, and they looked at Nick, whose face was as pink as a Pecha Berry by this point.
"Look," the rotund man said, "it doesn't matter who's the bigger idiot or who'll be successful in the future o-or if Alanna Biggs would've fallen in love with me had I confessed back in high school, which she will, but that's beside the point! The one thing clear here is that this Celebi represents a big opportunity for all of us! And what we honestly need to do with it is to rearrange our priorities."
"Rearrange our priorities?" Floyd repeated in shock. "What do you mean by 'rearrange our priorities'?"
However, before Nick could respond, he was suddenly cut off by a sudden, ominous rumbling noise that drowned out all the noises of excavation and hard labor. The trio wandered out of the tent and looked towards the face of the mountain, where they noticed that their entire crew had immediately frozen in their tracks, transfixed with terror by the new sound.
"Uhhhhh...Nick...?" Floyd stammered.
"Pl-Pl-Please tell me that's your stomach or somethin'..." completed Lloyd.
But Nick's face was grim. "I don't think so, guys..."
Just then, they noticed a considerably large chunk of rock and earth, located right above the area they were excavating, slowly starting to break off the side of Mt. Kiloude, with cracks spreading all over its surface. The trio instantly held onto each other in realization and screamed, just as the rock eventually broke off, plunging down towards the excavation site and fragmenting into Onix-sized pieces.
"NICK AND SONS ARE BLAST-" began the panicked trio, but their chant was cut off when the first of the boulders landed atop the excavators closest to the mountain, just seconds before the drivers vacated the vehicles.
With that, the entire crew began running as fast as they could to avoid the storm of boulders, with Nick, Floyd, and Lloyd in the lead.
"RUN FOR YOUR LIVES, MAN!" shrieked Lloyd.
"OUT OF THE WAY, OUT OF THE WAY!" Floyd yelled as he tried to push his twin aside and gain a lead.
"NO, FLOYD!" Nick squealed, sounding like a terrified Piplup in that moment. "ME FIRST!"
"NO!" Cecile pushed all three men aside, her cinnabar hair flying wildly. "ME FIRST!"
In a matter of mere seconds, Nick, Floyd, Lloyd, Cecile, and all of their colleagues made it to the edge of Kiloude Forest. As soon as they did, they ducked behind the closest trees, just in time to avoid the thick plume of smoke that blanketed the area. Within seconds, the sounds of devastation stopped and were replaced with coughing and hacking noises.
"Arceus..." Lloyd wheezed as soon as he recovered from a fit of coughing. "Adam and Nick just don't pay us enough for this kind of stuff..."
"Yeah..." replied Nick, nodding in agreement. "We should petition for a raise or something..."
"WATER!" Floyd suddenly shouted.
"What?" Lloyd and Nick asked, not paying attention.
The blue-haired man was pointing upward, his eyes wide, and his colleagues followed the direction of his fingertip. Then, their eyes widened as well.
A torrent of water was falling towards them at high speed.
"THIS KIND OF BLASTING OFF-" Nick screamed.
"WE DON'T NEED!" completed Floyd and Lloyd as they and the rest of their crew began sprinting deeper into the forest.
"SHUT UP, NICK!"
The group dashed far enough for them to avoid the howling torrent of water as it violently splashed down the wreckage of the excavation area. As soon as they felt they had reached a safe distance, Nick, Floyd, and Lloyd stopped and looked up to see where the water was coming from. Almost immediately, they realized it was all gushing and spraying out of an enormous gash in the mountainside, left behind by both the collapsed rock and their excavation work. Eventually, all of the water stopped flowing, like a water-pipe that was shut off.
"Whoa...what was that?" asked Nick in wonder.
"Never mind that," Cecile replied. "What is that?!"
She pointed towards the bottom of the gash, where they had been excavating, and the others could see the metal object that Parker had been focused on, which was now drenched in water. However, the trio was surprised to realize that it was stirring, like an Ursaring disturbed from its slumber.
"T-Th-That is supposed to be what we're looking for...right...?" Lloyd asked in fear.
"Does it look like it, Lloyd?!" exclaimed Floyd in frustration.
"Well, whatever that thing is," Nick said, "it looks bad..."
A/N: And that concludes this long-awaited chapter! In my opinion, it's a mixed bag, how this chapter turned out. I liked some parts of my writing, but others...not so much. But, I guess this is what I get for returning to this story after, what, over six months? :P
Anyway, I am so, so, SO sorry that this chapter took a while to get out. I was originally hoping that I could post it back in mid-June, but so many things got in the way in real life since then. If you've been following my latest profile updates and the like, then you'll know that I've been holding down a part-time job since the beginning of June (around the same time that I posted the previous chapter), and it's thrown a monkey-wrench into the nice monthly schedule that I prepared for myself this year. Because of this newest development in my life, I've had to rearrange all my priorities on this site and for fanfiction in general.
And then there's my newfound preoccupation with "My Hero Academia", which has become my newest craze, as I'm sure you can tell from the pattern of my newest updates. I'm hoping I could make a splash in that fandom as I've been doing here and as I've once done with "Phineas and Ferb". So far, it's had mixed results, but I'm not giving up. I've got way too much story ideas to expend anyway. So yeah, please don't get too annoyed when you see an update from me, but it's for a fic relating to "My Hero Academia". We all have our phases, and right now, I'm in my MHA phase.
Next, there's my actual priorities on writing fanfiction. As you've all probably observed in my more recent profile updates, I've been having considerable burnout with writing "Pokémon" fics in the past few months. I've definitely given myself a little too much to work with for this fandom, both in terms of the quantity of stories posted and planned, AND the quality that I'm trying to establish for my pet project "Judgment's Fall". Everything for that fandom's been pretty overstuffed on my end, and I eventually got so burned out that I decided to take a break since July. I spent that time mulling over what to do for my "Pokémon" fics in the future and how I could balance them all. I still don't have a tentative strategy to work on as I am writing this Author's Note, so for now, expect some occasional updates for fics like this, "Judgment's Fall", and "Kubfu and the Strike of Rapids" for the first half of 2022, at the very least.
Oh, and then there's also my search for a full-time job. I've been making some inroads with a couple of prospective jobs over the past month or so, so you can expect that to occupy more of my time. Oh, woe is me.
Anyway, I'd like to thank the following people for reviewing:
1) Well, I hope I get that same reaction from you with this chapter. :D
2) Yep, it's a lose-lose situation for all three girls, even Clarice. Nothing about that Theme Performance was a real victory in any way.
3) As you can see here, they're trying their best. Unfortunately, they've been dealt with the unexpected appearances of the scarcely mentioned Pokémon Showcase Committee!
4) Yes, in hindsight, I agree with you wholeheartedly. Don't worry, a sequel is still on the drawing board, but the urgency to get to it isn't as readily available as it was six months ago.
1) Makes me wonder what that other story was...
2) Oh yes, Serena is insanely popular in the future. And she's a whole lot more than that too... ;D ;D ;D
3) Of course, there's always reason behind the madness. And every Performer in the Exhibition Showcase is driven by a desire to win, which stems from various inner motivations. You'll see what drives Blanche as much as the rest of them as we proceed with this Exhibition Showcase. And yes, "brutality" might as well be Palermo's middle name. XD
4) Yes, Ash most certainly will be.
5) Yep, it looks like that's going to be potential character development to be on the lookout for when it comes to Yancy...
-MythGirl Writes: I'm very glad that you're psyched for the sequel! Keep your fingers crossed for it, because it's still in the works!
-Dragon King Ryouga:
1) Well, no one recognized her at all, given all of the Performers participating in the Exhibition Showcase are supposed to have participated in the past Showcase season. Yancy couldn't have done that, since she's from the future and all...
2) And there's a reason behind that sudden healing too. You'll see. ;)
3) Yeah, that unlucky Performer would be reduced to a sobbing, blabbering mess, that's for sure. XD XD XD
-Rajiv A. Rajaram: Thank you so much! But is there anything that you liked about the story so far? Anything you might have disliked? Any questions or comments? I prefer specific reviews, so I know what I can improve on and what I can do to keep up the quality of this fic.
1) Yeah, that was indeed a very...unexpected turn! Yeeeeeeaaaaaahhhhhhh!
2) Whoops! I actually forgot about that pregnancy subplot! Don't worry, it'll be revisited in a couple of chapters or so.
1) What do you mean what's up with Clarice? Do note that it's been six months since I laid my hands on this story, so I may have forgotten about plot points that I set up myself. :P
2) I'm glad you're excited for the sequel! Keep your fingers crossed for it!
3) You have some association with the name Evelyn, huh? Nice.
4) Well, you don't have to get too much into specifics in your reviews. Just say what you liked about the chapter you are reviewing and bring up anything that you dislike so far. I'm keeping an open ear to any and all constructive criticism! :D
-sandymagsayo9: Don't worry. The future versions of Ash and the gang will be coming into the story soon. ;D ;D ;D
1) Yep, Palermo was merciless, alright. That's the name of her game, after all. And thanks! I'm glad you like my creative choices regarding her character!
2) And yep, Ash and Serena are finally, finally, FINALLY on the same frigging page! How cool is that?! :D
3) Little does Yancy know that Palermo's words were what she sorely needed for the Showcases of her timeline...
4) Why, of course! Blanche values friendship to a fault! And I do mean it when I say "to a fault"...
1) Oh, I'm very sorry that this didn't become a mystery fic like you were hoping. Just a little tip about me and my writing style, I've never been partial for the low-profile type of stuff and more of a theatrical guy who takes any and all clichés to the max and beyond. A lot of the stuff written by me is going to lean more towards the action and suspense genre.
2) Well, I think I can throw in a few twists here and there as we round out this story, and that depends on what exactly your expectations for the rest of the plot are. ;D
3) Oh, don't you worry. The Theme Performance aspect of the fic is actually almost over. I won't even go too much into the last round that really matters: the one featuring Shauna and Jessie/Jessilee. Then, the Freestyle Performance will be over with just as quickly, and that's when we finally get to the midnight dance phase of the event! :D :D :D
4) Huh, I never actually thought about a talk between Serena and Grace about parenting! (Or maybe I did, but it slipped my mind after all these years of trying to finish this Arceus-forsaken story!) Well, I'm definitely going to throw that scene in somehow!
-Guest reviewer: Thanks! I'm glad you really love this story. Unfortunately, writers are people too. They can't just bend to the will of their readers all the time. As much as I try to be receptive to the needs of my readers, there are just some other things that I really want to do and cannot be averted. And this applies to real life as much as it does for my stories. Just imagine yourself in my shoes for a moment. I've got a part-time job that requires my attention for about half of the week, I'm actively applying for a variety of prospective full-time jobs, I've started taking some online paralegal courses, I have to run occasional errands for my father, and I'm juggling with around five different fics for different fandoms at any given time. I'm surprised I haven't gone insane yet! 'XD So yeah, I'll try my best to churn this story out to a timely and climactic completion, but you need to consider my feelings as well. Thank you. :D
-Ellie (guest reviewer):
1) As I said before, "brutality" might as well be her middle name. XD XD XD
2) I'm so sorry that this update took so long. If you followed my profile updates, you'll know that I was BUSY! DX I hope this chapter made it up to you!
Well, hope you enjoyed this long-awaited chapter! TheCartoonFanatic01 is out. PEACE!