A/N: Hey, everyone! Here's another chapter for you all! ENJOY! And an early happy Thanksgiving!
P.S.: This was originally going to be released a day earlier, but I unfortunately found myself sleeping in for that entire day, so...yeah.
Serena stepped out of the shower, wearing nothing but a pink towel wrapped around her body. She stepped into her bedroom, where she found Grace setting up her new clothes. The woman looked over her shoulder upon hearing one of the floorboards creak with Serena's footstep.
"Oh, Serena!" she said, smiling. "I'm just preparing these clothes for you. You'll be wearing them for the day while I dry out your regular ones."
"Thanks, Mom," replied Serena, smiling back.
"No problem, honey." Grace then looked back at the aforementioned clothes and straightened out the shirt. "It's a good thing the hotel I made reservations for has its own laundromat."
"Yeah...that's good to know..." However, the honey-blonde started to stare through her mother, as she became lost in her own thoughts.
While she was in the shower, her mind had settled back on her worries about Ash and this Dawn character. Did she really just waste almost a year trying to get Ash to realize that she liked him? Did she underestimate him and his perceptions about love and romance? Was it all over for her in regards to her future with him? What was Dawn like? How good of a person did she have to be if she had Ash's attention so much?
"Alright, then!" Grace exclaimed, bringing Serena back to reality. "All finished!" She looked back at her daughter and noticed her worried look. "Serena, are you alright, honey?"
"Yeah, I'm fine, Mom. It's just..."
Her voice trailed off, prompting Grace to ask, "Is it about Ash?" When Serena blushed intensely and opened her mouth, the former jockey quickly interrupted, "Don't think I don't know about your thing with Ash! Trust me, I pay attention to you more closely than you think! And every time I see you looking at him, I see it in your eyes. The light." She smiled. "You don't have to be embarrassed, Serena. Love is a wonderful thing."
Serena sulked. "It's not wonderful if he doesn't know about it, though..."
"Then what are you waiting for? Tell him how you feel, honey!"
The Performer chuckled dryly. "It's not that simple, Mom..."
Grace crossed her arms. "Oh, don't tell me you're waiting for some sort of invitation! You shouldn't be so fancy and dramatic about that, Serena!"
"It's-It's not like that, Mom! I...I keep trying to clue him in on it, but no matter how obvious I can get, he's so DENSE!" Serena's expression turned forlorn. "And...I think...I think he might have...someone already..."
It pained her to say those last two words, but she had to anyway. She had to get it off her chest somehow.
"Oh..." Grace's eyes softened. "I see..." Then, she approached her daughter and placed a hand on her shoulder. "Then you still need to tell Ash about how you feel. That way, you can let all of that pent-up emotion go. Trust me, no one can keep something as personal as that bottled up inside. If you do that, you'll explode one day."
"Well, I can't tell him now. It could weigh on his mind and interfere with his Kalos League goals."
"Then wait till that's over with. That way, he'll have nothing important on his mind. I mean, there's no rush, right?"
Serena smiled a little and nodded, knowing her mother was right about that. It wasn't the end of the world if she didn't tell Ash her feelings right now.
"I guess that's true..." she said.
"Good. You see, Serena, that's why you should listen to your mother!"
Serena rolled her eyes. "Yeah, right. The last time I listened to you, Mom, my face got wrecked."
Grace rolled her eyes as well. "I see you haven't lost the sass I mentioned." Then, she seemed to remember something, and she took a look at her wristwatch. "Oh! I gotta go get the tickets! You get changed, honey. I doubt being dressed in a towel is within Showcase dress ethics."
The Performer giggled as her mother quickly left the bedroom, closing the door behind her as she did. Then, she gazed at the clothes Grace prepared for her: a ruffled pink camisole, a red scalloped skirt, white-and-pink-striped over-the-knee socks, and a beige cycling cap with a pink artificial flower-pin. Serena smiled at the knowledge that her mother could finally understand her style of clothing.
Then, she frowned.
"You still need to tell Ash about how you feel. That way, you can let all of that pent-up emotion go."
"But what happens when I do tell him how I feel, Mom?" she thought. "How will he react to this? Will he tell me if his heart already belongs to someone else? Even if he doesn't have a girlfriend, will he still accept my feelings? What if he doesn't? What then? I...I only have room for Ash in my heart... There was never anyone else for me...and I don't think there ever will be..."
Serena sighed sadly as she proceeded to change into her new clothes.
A few minutes later
"You're a keeper! Please take care of my brother!"
Those were the first words Serena heard when she stepped out of the house, wearing the new set of clothing her mother selected for her. At first, the honey-blonde girl thought Bonnie was making another one of her adorable and innocuous "proposals" to a random woman on the street.
To her surprise, however, she saw Bonnie kneeling before her Aunt Layla.
"C-Come again?" Layla asked, utterly perplexed by the little girl's sudden act. Moose was right behind her, blinking rapidly, unsure of how to respond to this...move on his own wife.
"I know you're already someone else's wife," replied Bonnie, her voice unflinching, "but my brother really needs a wife who can take good care of him, and there's no one better than someone who's gonna be taking care of babies soon!"
"Dedenne!" Dedenne squeaked, the Antenna Pokémon nodding its head in agreement.
"Bonnie!" Clemont cried, his face going completely red. "I told you to stop this a million times!" He activated his Aipom Arm, which grabbed Bonnie by the back, and the inventor proceeded to drag his little sister away while the others watched. "You're being very rude, asking something like that to a woman who's already married!"
But Bonnie was completely oblivious about the nature of the whole thing. "Think about it, okay Layla?!"
"Dedenne!" squeaked Dedenne.
"Oh, my goodness!" Serena cried. She immediately ran up to her aunt and bowed her head to her in embarrassment. "I'm so sorry about my friend, Auntie Layla! She's just a kid; she doesn't know much about romance-"
"Oh, it's okay, Serena honey," Layla replied. There was a look of adoration and amusement on her face. "Your friend's just adorable."
Upon remembering Bonnie mentioning kids, Serena looked at her aunt's stomach. "I just realized, it's been a while since we last talked on the phone. Is the baby a boy or a girl?"
Layla looked down at her abdomen and smiled fondly. "Actually, your Uncle Moose and I realized we are now blessed with two children. Girls, actually."
Serena looked up in amazement. She was going to have twin cousins?! "Both of them?"
"Yes, both of them." The young woman looked at her teenage niece with a look of pure, unadulterated happiness. "What do you think, Serena? Think you can be a role model to two little girls?"
The Performer was quick to envision two adorable little girls standing before her, eager to learn something new from their older, more experienced cousin. She could imagine herself teaching them the wonders of Pokémon Showcases, the art of fashion, the appeal of adventuring across their home region and meeting new friends and Pokémon... And the undeniable magic of love...
For some reason, Serena also started to envision a featureless man with unkempt hair standing by her side, assisting her in teaching their children-
"I'd love to, Auntie Layla," she quickly replied, dispelling her thoughts.
"Thank you, Serena," the woman replied. "After all, the girls need someone to look up to, and there's no one better than you. I'm counting on you to be a good cousin to them."
"I will, Auntie Layla, I promise."
"Don't make promises you can't keep, Serena," Moose said seriously, seconds before receiving an elbow to the chest.
"Moose!" Layla exclaimed jokingly. "Don't put pressure on her!"
Moose chuckled and rubbed the back of his head nervously, just before Grace emerged from the house carrying several tickets in her hand.
"Alright, everyone!" the former Rhyhorn Racer announced. "Let's get going! We don't wanna miss the next train to Kiloude City!"
"Man, Kiloude City," Ash said in wonder. "I wonder what it's gonna look like..."
"Pika, pika," added Pikachu.
"Well, looks like we're gonna find out, won't we?" Calem replied as he took out his Poké Balls. "Okay, everyone, return."
His six Pokémon were all recalled back into their respective containers. Then, Grace walked out of the Gabena yard first, followed by the others. Serena was the last to leave, saying goodbye to the now-depressed Rhyhorn by patting its head beforehand. Then, with Grace's Fletchling in the lead, the group proceeded through Vaniville Town.
As they continued, Serena examined each of her companions in turn.
Calem had begun to tell Shauna, Tierno, and Trevor a story about his adventures in the Johto region after his Sinnoh League challenge. Tierno and Trevor were both impressed by the details, but Serena was more focused on Shauna. She couldn't help but notice the absolute awe in her rival's eyes, not to mention the faint blush in her cheeks. Serena stifled a giggle, unsure why Shauna would be falling for her idiot of a cousin.
Bonnie was having a conversation with Layla and Moose about their unborn twin children. She also predictably continued the topic of claiming Layla as Clemont's "wife" while Dedenne was being supportive of the idea and Squishy was purely nonchalant of the whole thing. Fortunately for Serena, her Aunt Layla was always receptive to kids; she played along a little with Bonnie's misconceptions, while Moose just laughed and Clemont simply blushed and trembled in embarrassment beside them.
As for Ash and Pikachu, well, they were admiring the sights and sounds of Vaniville Town.
"Wow, so that's how the people in Vaniville live!" the raven-haired Trainer exclaimed in amazement. "And look at those streams and fountains! And all of the people and Pokémon! I wish Pallet Town was a little like that!"
"Pika, pikachu!" Pikachu chirped in agreement.
Serena instinctively caught up to Ash and asked, "Do you like what you see, Ash?"
"Yeah!" her crush replied. "For a small town, Vaniville has a very nature-y feel to it! I like it! And it's in the middle of a very wide field! Where I come from, Pallet Town is in the middle of a valley. We have some fields and plains, but mostly it's just mountains all around. It's not like I hate how Pallet Town looks, but..." Ash took in a deep breath as he relished in the scenery. "I do wonder what it's like to live in a different place such as this."
The Performer blinked, unsure why Ash was saying that stuff. In fact, she realized something: ever since he learned they were going to have to pass through Vaniville Town to get to Kiloude City, he had been displaying an almost unhealthy interest in her hometown. What was it about the town that was attracting his undivided attention so much? There's simply no way a simple town like her own could be that interesting to a mobile guy like Ash, right...?
It didn't take long for the group to arrive at their intended destination: a small, humble-looking monorail station. Serena remembered the construction that had been going on in her hometown before she left, and assumed this was what they were building.
"This monorail will take us to Kiloude City," Grace said. She then held out the tickets for everyone to see. "Take one ticket each."
As soon as everyone got their own ticket, Grace approached the quaint little toll booth, which was being manned by only one person and his Klang. The collector, a serene-looking old man who almost resembled a withering flower, looked up at the former jockey with squinted eyes and smiled.
"Ah, Grace," he greeted with a quivery voice. "Very nice to see you."
"Hi, Willy," Grace replied, smiling back as her Fletchling landed on her shoulder. "It's good you've got something to do every day now."
"Fletch, fletchling," chirped Fletchling.
"Ehhhhh, I still prefer watering the garden and watching the young'uns play." He then looked out of the window. "It's a nice day out here, isn't it?"
"It sure is. Listen, I've got eleven tickets for a one-way trip to Kiloude City."
"Ah, Kiloude City! Of course, of course..." Willy took the ticket from Grace. "And I'm gonna need the rest of 'em tickets..."
One by one, the others gave Willy their respective tickets. Once it was Serena's turn to give her ticket, the old man smiled widely, showing off his disturbingly few, yellowed teeth. The honey-blonde shuddered in disgust; she remembered how Willy was quite an obnoxious, stereotypical old countryman, even when she was little. Yes, he was pretty nice, but certainly not someone to be around for more than a few minutes at most.
"Ahhhhh, Stella!" he exclaimed. "It's been so long since I last saw your little button of a face!"
"Hi, Willie," Serena replied quickly as she gave him her ticket. "And...it's Serena..."
The old man seemed to ignore her, for he was now tapping his chin and lost in thought. "You know, a few hours ago, I saw a girl who looked a lot like you, but with pink hair-"
Serena's eyes widened in concern. It wasn't like she hated Willy, but every time she was forced to talk to him, he would always go on and on and ON about every single thing in existence. Stories about his childhood, comments about the most uninteresting things, remarks on the weather...there was always something he had a word to say about. And once he opened his mouth for a casual conversation, there was just no stopping him. He would ramble on and on for days if he had to, like a senile old man...
Oh, who was she kidding?! Willy was a senile old man!
"I'm sure it's very interesting, Willy," she said quickly, "but I think you have a job to do. We'll take about it some other time."
Willy continued accepting the group's tickets, and once he received the last ticket from Moose, he laid back on his chair and prepared to take out a newspaper.
"You all have fun at Kiloude City," he said. "I hear there's some fashion show going on there."
"I know, right?!" Grace replied. She then pointed to Serena with pride. "And my little Serena's going to be in it!"
Willy's eyebrows shot up. "Really, now? I once knew a lovely gal in my neighborhood who took part in those shows. She was quite a beauty-"
"Okaythat'sverynicetoknowbyeWilly!" Serena exclaimed in one single breath before she ran off to the station platform.
A couple of minutes later
Serena rocked her legs back and forth and took a sideways glance down the single railroad, waiting patiently for the train to Kiloude City to arrive. Right now, she was sitting on a bench with Clemont, Bonnie, and Grace. Clemont was fiddling around with a wristwatch, Bonnie was busy grooming Dedenne, and Grace was merely sitting idly, not having anything to do to pass her time. The others were gathered around Ash and Calem, listening to them exchange stories about their many adventures across several regions.
"When's this train supposed to come again, Serena?" Bonnie asked. Her tone was one of slight impatience as she continued stroking Dedenne's tail, to the satisfaction of the Antenna Pokémon.
"In five minutes and twenty-three seconds, Central Kalos Time," Clemont replied after inspecting his wristwatch.
"I wasn't asking you, Clemont." The girl then stared at the wristwatch suspiciously. "And why am I supposed to trust that watch of yours?"
"It's one of the most, if not the most, accurate watches in the world." Clemont chuckled proudly, and his glasses shone brilliantly from the sunlight. "I would know because I invented it myself, for occasions such as this! The future is now, thanks to science!" He thrust his wristwatch into the air for everyone else to see and admire. "The Amazingly Accurate Wristwatch! It tells you what time it is all around the world, with a 100 percent accuracy!"
"Ohhh, does it now...?" Serena asked, pretending to be impressed while she instinctively scooted away from Clemont's position, as did Bonnie.
"Yes! All the times displayed here were calculated through the most precise calculations of our position on the earth, as well as the current temperature! And it doesn't require any bothersome regulations or adjustments!"
"Wow!" Ash exclaimed, his eyes wide and sparkling with awe. "Science is so amazing!"
"A 100-percent accurate watch, huh?" Calem replied, raising an eyebrow as he looked at the aspiring inventor. "That sounds like a really handy watch."
Clemont's grin widened even more at the praise, and he started to get carried away with pride in his invention.
"Yeah, it sure is!"
"So I assume inventing is your area of expertise?"
The Lumiose Gym Leader nodded. "I hope to become one of the best inventors out there!"
"One of the best, huh?" Calem eyed the wristwatch. "You probably should start selling that thing, Clemont. I think it'll be an instant hit with the watch manufacturers."
"Yeah, and clown colleges too," Bonnie deadpanned quietly enough so that only Serena and Dedenne could hear.
"You think so?!" exclaimed Clemont. "Well then, I guess I'll consider it!" He looked at the Amazingly Accurate Wristwatch, all the while beaming proudly. "Yeah, I think people will love this!"
Fifteen minutes later
The monorail train rolled into the station and slowed down to a stop. By that point, Serena was already up on her feet, having expected the train to come at that time. Once the train stopped, Bonnie and Grace stood up from the bench as well, followed by a glum and evidently disappointed Clemont.
"The Amazingly Accurate Wristwatch, huh?" Bonnie asked sarcastically.
Clemont's eyelid twitched, but he merely sighed sadly as he fell in behind Shauna.
Somewhere in southern Kalos
About an hour later
Serena stared out of the window, watching the lively trees, beautiful fields, and jubilant people and Pokémon as the train whizzed past them. Eventually, the honey-blonde caught sight of something interesting: a man proposing to his girlfriend on the middle of a bridge over a glittering river, with their River Pattern Vivillon flying overhead to bear witness. Before her view could be obstructed by another few rows of trees, Serena could see the awestruck, teary-eyed woman happily embracing her boyfriend...
The Performer smiled longingly...
Her thoughts quickly dispelling, Serena turned her gaze towards Bonnie, who was looking at her with an adorably expectant expression.
"Yes, Bonnie?" she replied.
"Look at this flyer!" Bonnie exclaimed excitedly, quickly pointing at the aforementioned sheet of paper. "I found it at the train station!"
Serena took the flyer from the little blonde girl and read it. It was an advertisement for the Exhibition Showcase in Kiloude City, featuring none other than Kalos Queen Aria and her trusty Pokémon Delphox, Aromatisse, and Vivillon.
"What about it, Bonnie?" she asked.
"Read the bottom of the paper! You're not gonna believe it!"
"Okay..." Serena's pupils flitted to the bottom, and the Performer read it. "'Celebrate the end of a beautiful season of Showcases with Aria in'..." Her sapphire-blue eyes widened in surprise. "'Her hometown'?! Wow, I don't believe it!"
"What?" Ash asked, his attention diverted from the conversation he was having with Trevor. "What don't you believe?"
"You guys, Aria's from Kiloude City!"
"Well, of course she is," Shauna replied, her eyebrow raised. "You didn't know that?"
"O-Oh, no, not really..." Serena looked back down at the photo of the smiling, joyful Aria. "...To be honest...I never knew anything about her personal life..." She then flashed back to the time she first met Aria in person (even though she didn't know it was Aria because she was in disguise at the time), and thought, "I didn't have the chance to ask her..."
Her gaze deepened, and she began to recall all of the times she saw Aria perform so gracefully and flawlessly, without a care in the world, and always with that smile on her face.
"I've always thought Aria was so perfect, just like everyone else, but...now that I know this very personal detail about her, I realize she was just like me at one point... She had to have been..."
"A Pokémon Performer always has to wear a wonderfully radiant smile! That's the way you make everyone in your audience happy!"
"I wonder...who would've given her that advice? I don't think she came up with that on her own. Was it something Palermo told her a long time ago...?"
Clemont's sudden outburst caught the attention of everyone else in the train carriage.
"What's finished, Clemont?" Bonnie asked, though she could already tell what the answer was going to be.
"Dede..." Dedenne sighed out.
"The Amazingly Accurate Watch!" the inventor proclaimed proudly, showing the watch for his friends (and any other interested passengers) to see. "And now it's amazingly accurate!"
But Bonnie wasn't convinced. "Really? What's the time?"
"That's easy! 12:00 AM, Central Kalos Time!"
"Wait a minute, 12:00 AM...?" Trevor deadpanned.
"Yeah," Clemont replied proudly. "Central Kalos Time."
"Isn't 12:00 AM supposed to be midnight?"
Clemont nodded proudly. "Yep."
"So you're saying it's midnight right now," said Tierno.
"I adjusted the wrong time..." he said.
"I thought so," Bonnie replied, patting her older brother's thigh consolingly.
"Ladies and gentleman," a voice suddenly announced over an intercom, "welcome...to Kiloude City."
Upon hearing this news, the eight Trainers, plus Bonnie, all gasped in wonder as the train rounded a corner behind a grassy hill. Immediately afterwards, it gave them, and the other passengers, a perfect view of their destination. It was a city as big and majestic as Lumiose. It was literally divided in half by a river originating from a nearby mountain, with the water running across its midsection. The most noteworthy building was a large castle, no doubt the place where the Exhibition Showcase was scheduled to be held.
"Wow, so that's Kiloude City..." Serena breathed out in awe. "It's...It's beautiful! And to think I've never, ever visited it before!"
"It's amazing, isn't it?" Shauna asked, her eyes shining with amazement.
"Man, I can't wait to see what kind of Trainers Kiloude City has over there!" Ash exclaimed, his fist clenched.
"Pika, pikachu!" Pikachu added in agreement.
In the skies, Team Rocket continued to follow the monorail from a safe distance. James and Meowth were taking turns inspecting the train with binoculars, both of them looking glum in the process. As for Jessie, she was already dressed in her Showcase dress, and she was now admiring her reflection with a handheld mirror. Wobbuffet and Gourgeist were both out of their Poké Balls.
"Ooooohhhhh, it looks like I'm gonna be the prettiest in the ball!" Jessie squealed with excitement. "Just you wait, world! Jessilee is ready to prove once and for all who is the most beautiful and elegant of the Performers! I will be so beautiful, even Kalos Queen Bella will grovel before my shining feet!"
"Hooray..." James and Meowth both deadpanned at the same time.
However, Jessie was too engrossed in her own narcissism to detect the complete absence of her comrades' enthusiasm. "Oh please, James, Meowth! You're too kind! I know it must be humbling to be in the presence of such a talented and stunning Performer-"
"Wind!" Meowth suddenly shouted.
"Yes, yes! I'm so drop-dead gorgeous that everyone will be blown away like a wind-"
"No!" The talking Scratch Cat Pokémon pointed out of the hot-air balloon. "I mean wind!"
Jessie and James saw it for the first time: a strange vortex of wind in midair, concentrated in one area. Upon closer inspection, it seemed as if the air itself was being rapidly absorbed into whatever was in the center. And Team Rocket's balloon was hovering dangerously close to the strange phenomenon.
"AAAAAGH!" James shrieked, his voice cracking. "ABORT, ABORT!"
"Get us outta here, James, pronto!" Jessie snapped desperately. "I'm too pretty for this!"
But it was too late: before Team Rocket even had enough time to maneuver their balloon, the vortex exploded in a flash of light. The shock-wave of air generated by the explosion was so concentrated that it was akin to a blade shot out of a cannon. It ripped straight through the hot-air balloon, slicing it in half and sending the lower half (which included the basket Team Rocket was riding in) tumbling through the air.
"AAAAAAAAAAGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHH!" the wannabe criminal trio screeched as they whizzed through the air, further towards Kiloude City. "TEAM ROCKET'S BLASTING OFF AGAIN!"
"WOOOOOBUFFEEEEET!" cried a terrified Wobbuffet.
Back in the monorail carriage, Serena, Ash, and the others saw Team Rocket's balloon shoot past them, the air comically sputtering out of its tattered fabric, the screams of the trio trailing out of it. Serena, Ash, Clemont, and Bonnie all sweat-dropped, being quick to recognize the fabric of that hot-air balloon.
"What was that?" Layla asked, trying to squint her eyes so she could get a better look of the disappearing balloon.
"Nothing," Serena replied bluntly.
A couple of miles away, in another portion of the forest that surrounded Kiloude City, there was another spot where air was being absorbed into a strange vortex. It exploded as well, shredding apart nearby trees and vegetation and forcing wild Pokémon to flee in fear...
Laurier Maison, Kiloude City
Aria and Paris strolled through the vast backyard of the Laurier Maison. The latter's Lopunny walked right behind them, making sure to keep a safe distance from the two sisters. At first, the two were quiet; after all, they hadn't seen each other in person for over a year, not to mention the last time they talked on the phone was months ago. They were unsure of what to say after that long. But finally, Aria chose to break the silence.
"I didn't have time to watch the Goldenrod Collection on TV. How was it, sis?"
"It was good, very good," Paris replied. "The Stylists all did their best." She then looked down at her younger sister. "How about you? I hear it's been an interesting year for Showcases."
Aria smiled fondly. "It was, actually. The Performers were all great in their own way. Especially this one Performer named Serena. She reminds me of me, a very long time ago..." She sighed heavily. "Looking at her was a trip down memory lane."
"Serena, you say?" Paris closed her eyes as she searched through her memories. "Oh, yes, yes, I remember her too. The one with the Fennekin that evolved into Braixen, right?"
"Yes, that's her."
"Ah, yes, I can see why she'd remind you of yourself back then. Innocent and naive, a pure novice searching for her proper place in this new world that she immersed herself into... She reminds me of my apprentice too." Then, Paris stopped and looked at Aria, who had also stopped and was now absentmindedly gazing at the distant mountains. "Is she the reason why you chose to come back home?"
Aria smiled sadly. "Yeah..."
Then, Paris looked ahead of her and smiled upon seeing a farm nearby. There, she could see two farmhands, one a teenage boy and the other a young woman, attending to a few Pokémon, some of which she could recognize.
"Well," the Pokémon Stylist replied, "I think this will your spirits."
The sisters continued towards the farm, and once they were close enough, they heard a cheerful squawk. An Altaria that was in the group of Pokémon attempted to fly towards them, but it turned out to be more of a large hop. It landed near the wooden fence and chirped at Aria, whose eyes lit up at the sight of it.
"Hi, Sylvia!" she greeted, bending down to scratch the Humming Pokémon's chin. "It's been a while since I last saw you! How are you doing?"
The Altaria merely chirruped happily in response as it continued to accept Aria's comfortable scratching.
"Ar?" a voice called. "Is...Is that you? Is that really you?"
Both farmhands were approaching Aria and Paris, accompanied by a Zangoose; the boy, who was around Aria's age, was giving her a smile of amazement. Aria stopped scratching Altaria's chin and smiled back at him.
"Hi, Foster," she replied.
"Hi yourself." The farmhand continued to smile, unsure if what he was seeing was real or not; his eyes were sparkling with a mix of emotions. "I can't believe it... You're actually back!"
Aria shrugged. "Well...yeah. I mean, unless Lysandre Labs found a way to invent life-sized holograms, I don't see how I'm not actually here..." She then pushed her true emotions back and gave him her signature smile. "It's so good to see you again, Foster!"
Foster opened his mouth and tried to say something, but words couldn't come out, so he turned away and scratched the back of his head in embarrassment. The female farmhand giggled at her younger partner's antics before looking at Aria and Paris.
"Don't mind my silly brother, guys," she said, pretending to whisper to them. "He hasn't seen a real girl in a while."
"AMARA!" Foster shrieked, startling the Zangoose. His face was completely red with embarrassment, and his outburst prompted both the other farmhand and Paris to laugh a little.
"Oh, it's been a while, hasn't it, Mar?" Paris asked.
"Yeah," Amara replied before she gave the Stylist a hug. "So you guys are here for the Exhibition Showcase, right?" When both Aria and Paris nodded, the farmhand continued, "We've been hearing about it all around town. I know you probably know this already, but it's proving to be a really big event. Especially since our beloved Kalos Queen grew up here." She patted Aria on the top of her head. "You know, my mom and I are both very proud of you."
"Really?" Aria asked.
"Yeah! We watch your Showcases all the time! We especially enjoyed the latest Master Class competition." She then shot Foster a playful look. "And he will not admit it, but my little bro has a shrine dedicated to you too."
Paris struggled to hold back her laughter, while Aria looked at the red-faced Foster in shock and surprise. She didn't know Foster followed her that closely and devotedly; she always thought he would dismiss Showcases as girly stuff that should be avoided at all times, like the plague.
"I'M GONNA FEED THE RHYHORN, SIS!" Foster announced in an unusually loud voice. He then stomped off, the sweat practically dripping from his chin already.
Once Foster disappeared into the barn, Aria looked at Paris and Amara, only to find them deep in conversation. They were apparently talking about some homeless girl they found in the barn earlier today. She then looked at her sister's Lopunny, which had gotten itself acquainted with the Zangoose.
The Kalos Queen sighed sadly at being left out, but her worries were alleviated when the same Altaria, Sylvia, approached her and chirped happily at her. Aria smiled and stroked Sylvia's head, causing it to coo. But as the minutes passed, Aria's smile faded away, for the memories were starting to occupy her mind again.
"Remember this, Aria: a Pokémon Performer always has to wear a wonderfully radiant smile. That's the way you make everyone in your audience happy."
Aria somberly gazed back at the distant mountains.
"I know how to make everyone in my audience happy," she thought. "But after all this time, I still don't know how to make myself happy. How do I do it...?"
A/N: And thus concludes this newest chapter! So, it looks like a strange phenomenon is happening all around Kiloude City, and Aria's not the happy, joyful Kalos Queen we knew! What will happen next? Find out, in the next chapter!
On a side-note, I will admit that things are going to be a little slower when it comes to addressing the time-travel theme. See, in the original story, the first three chapters were already set in the future and followed how the time-travel incident would come to pass. Then, the next three chapters set up things in the present time a little before Ash and Serena met their future child. In this story, the only time the future was explicitly addressed, so far, was in the small prologue in the first chapter. And even then, I made that reference vague!
Well, guys, it's intentional. See, I was going to try and follow the same format of starting this story off in the future and depicting how Ash and Serena's child would get into a time-travel crisis, before going to our heroes in the present day. Unfortunately, every time I tried to draft such chapters, they always ended in miserable failure. So, to combat writer's block and give myself more time with those chapters, I decided to go in reverse, starting off in the present day, setting up the current cast of characters, and building up a little mystery about this whole time-travel thing before going into the future. And how exactly will I do it, you ask? That, my friends, I won't give up. You'll have to read the story to find out for yourself.
But to those who are starting to fret about the alarming lack of time-travel concepts, don't worry! We'll find ourselves back in the events of the prologue in Chapter 5!
Now, I'd like to thank the following for reviewing:
-Amourshiper35: I'm glad you like those parts.
1) Yeah, I'm not sure if you mentioned it back then either. But I'm glad you think so. I too am a sucker for connected storylines.
2) Well, it'd pretty much kill me not to throw Alola in somehow even though the story is still set in Kalos. It also gave me a great opportunity to foreshadow Ash eventually going to Alola. Not that I particularly enjoy knowing that (no offense if you like the SM anime).
3) Oh, Aria...Aria's going to have a VERY vital role in this story. ;)
-MythGirl the Pokemon Master:
1) I'm glad you like the Calem-as-Serena's-cousin angle. I personally was getting tired of the cliche of him being Serena's childhood friend and therefore Ash's rival for her affections. So, I gave him a role in which he is strictly a friend of Serena's.
2) I'm not sure if you read or remember anything about the original, but I chose Layla and Moose as additional relatives for Serena because I noticed how much Layla resembled Grace. I mean, try looking at their photos side by side and then telling me you don't see any similarities! Yes, it's more likely the animators slightly recycled character models, given how long the show's been running, but I love taking advantage of that for my own storytelling purposes! :D
-Rajiv A. Rajaram:
1) Well, I'm not expecting reviews that are akin to a college essay, but I do want reviews that are more than a couple of sentences. It gives me a better understanding on what the readers want and what the readers do not want, if any.
2) Bringing Layla, Moose, and Paris back from the DP saga is quite a treat for me, since DP's my second-favorite saga of the anime (behind XY, of course). And just like I told MythGirl the Pokemon Master, the reason I made Paris Aria's older sister is because I noticed some resemblance between the two characters, even though it's definitely the product of character model recycling. And let's not forget Paris' name and catchphrase of "Très bien"! I knew she had to be a Kalosian citizen after learning about her.
3) No, Lysandre has absolutely nothing to do with Aria's dream, I'll tell you that. But I can tell you, with confidence, that it's about a Pokémon. ;)
-Dragon King Rouga: Probably, if the scene is important enough to warrant a mention.
-Emily (guest reviewer):
1) Yes, they were in "Giratina and the Sky Warrior". They were the young couple aboard the train who was delivering the bouquet of Gracidea flowers for Layla's great-grandmother. If that still doesn't ring a bell, it's their bouquet that triggers Shaymin's first transformation into Sky Forme in the movie.
2) I'm actually debating if Adam and his cronies are going to be in this one. The story already has a large cast (even larger than the original version, actually), and I don't want anyone superfluous. But if I do give them roles in the story, I will definitely be rebooting them, because I want the story to be a PG-rated adventure and their original characters are definitely more suited for a PG-13 story.
1) Why exactly do you dislike Palermo in this story?
2) Can you please focus more on reviewing the story itself? I already know you're an AmourShipper, otherwise you wouldn't be reviewing this fic. Thank you very much.
-ultragreenyellow56: Imagine Serena's rage if Calem chose Chimchar as his starter and Chimchar treated her the same way. XP
-RougeClyde: Yeah, a Flamethrower or a Thunderbolt would've done more wonders to her clothes than a Hydro Pump.
-Phantomorion (guest reviewer): Thanks! :D
-retroGrape: Would you mind being a bit more specific, please? What is it about their hilarity that pleases you?
Well, hope you enjoyed this chapter! TheCartoonFanatic01 is out. PEACE!