A/N: Yes, your eyes do not deceive you. Two chapters for this story in the same month! HOORAY! Sadly, I was unable to post this in time for the fifth anniversary of the time I posted the first-ever chapter for "The Way We Will Be" (at least the current version that you're reading right now), not to mention the sixth anniversary of the XY saga's final episode (where a certain kiss occurs). I was planning on doing so, but work had me severely tuckered out last night and I just wound up sleeping through the entire night. Indeed, the writing process and updating schedule for this story have been full of ups and downs, for sure, but hey! We made it this far, and I have no intention of stopping now!
Oh, and speaking of ups and downs, we're in for quite a rollercoaster ride for this final stretch of this fic! ;D ;D ;D
Now, before I begin with the chapter, I wanted to take this moment to reiterate something that I went over in the ending Author's Note of the previous chapter, just in case any of you missed or glossed over it. This is in regards to the rumors that I've heard about this site shutting down. Right now, I am not too convinced of their reliability, since the admins have reappeared on Twitter after a long hiatus to provide some updates on what exactly they're doing for the site. Whether or not those updates pan out like they are supposed to remains to be seen, but I will take the admins' word for it for now.
Anyway, regardless of what ultimately happens, I do intend to stay with this site till the bitter end. Call me a suck-up and an FF sycophant, but I've been here for over ten years, and I've become too attached to it to jump off the ship.
But if the shutdown does happen, whether it's in the near-future or not, don't worry, everyone. That won't be the end of me and my projects. For those of you who don't know by now, I've been active on Archive Of Our Own since 2019. Many of my stories (at least all of the ones that I do intend to continue at some point) are also posted on there, and any new chapters and stories that I post on here will automatically be posted on AO3 as well. Glitches that plagued the site back in 2020 convinced me of the importance of having backup copies of my stories posted on other fanfiction sites. So, here we are!
And yes, I go by the same username of "TheCartoonFanatic01" at AO3. It shouldn't be hard to find me over there.
So once again, don't worry, everyone. Rest assured, I've been on top of a potential shutdown of FF for years. My stories are safely stored elsewhere. If the end of this site is near, let's all just kick back and enjoy the memories we made here. :D
In other news, I almost had a close call when it comes to COVID-19. One of my coworkers at my new workplace tested positive for the virus, and contact tracing determined that I had close contact with them at the time they were sick with it. My workplace instructed me to go take a PCR test to check if I was positive for the virus as well, which I naturally did, and I got my test results back within twenty-four hours.
I tested negative. PHEW! That goes to show the importance of exercising anti-COVID mitigation measures whenever you can! :D :D :D
Alright, that's enough of this unnecessary rambling! On with the 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.
"Welcome back, ma'am."
Kay groaned as her eyes slowly fluttered open in response to the voice. The first thing that she saw was the holographic computer system that her colleague Inezia had personally designed. The feeling of her leather luxury seat was returning to her. Groaning in exhaustion, the green-haired Pokémon poacher looked around to check if all of her machine's systems remained functional. After confirming the affirmative, she looked back at the central screen in front of him, her emerald-green eyes emotionless, almost hollow shells of themselves.
"How...How long...?" he asked. His voice was extremely hoarse, as if he hadn't used it in a long while.
"Nine years, eleven months, twenty-eight days, fifteen hours, and fifty-four minutes," the computerized voice responded.
Kay grunted almost inaudibly, and she clasped a hand over her face. She couldn't believe that she had been out for that long...
"W-Why...? W-WHY was I in s-s-stasis...for s-so LONG?"
"We were unable to move from our previous position. It only took a miracle to dislodge us, a miracle in the form of an excavation operation."
The poacher growled, gripping his pant leg tightly. "Accursed kids...interfering with my...precious affairs..."
"Fortunately for you, ma'am," the voice continued stoically, "the excavation operation is being led by Parker, it seems."
Kay lowered her hand in slight surprise. "Parker?"
"Yes. That aside, the two of you were transported to a period in the past by Celebi. Unless you wished to see any historical events unfold for yourself, then you have not missed anything of significance. There is no need to indulge in any distress."
"Wha..." The Pokémon Poacher's memory was slowly but steadily returning to her. "...What about...Celebi...?"
"It is located approximately fifty-nine miles away, somewhere within Kiloude City." The screens began showing Kay pictures of the city. "And yes, ma'am it is indeed the Kiloude City of ten years ago. At this point in time, its population is more akin to that of Coumarine or Laverre City, heavily reliant on tourism that revolves around its history of Pokémon Showcases and its association with Mt. Kiloude. Greatly isolated in Kalos's southern region and accessible only through few means. There's no need to worry about any real interference if you simply decide to reclaim Celebi there and then."
Kay closed her eyes as she removed her hand from her face. Exhaling softly, she opened her eyes.
"What...What is our current power level?" she asked, her voice recovering.
"Our primary and secondary generators have been fully depleted. As for our tertiary generator, we're below ten percent power. But as soon as Parker fully extricates you, you two should be able to acquire a means of recharging the machine's power."
Kay grunted again, this time more loudly. "This whole operation is a disaster..." She spent a moment ruminating her next decision. "Open up the hatch."
"As you wish, ma'am. Oh, and ma'am?"
"During your decade-long stasis, several of our systems were exposed the elements for the entirety of that time."
"Inezia designed this to endure any and all harsh conditions, right?"
"Yes, she did, but not with the expectation that the system would endure ten years of constant exposure. It would appear that this machine has been tested to its limits."
Kay growled and rubbed her forehead in exasperation. "Go and run primary and secondary diagnostic scans on the entire system. See how exactly the elements affected the machine."
"As you wish, ma'am. It shall be done. Opening up the hatch...now."
With that, Kay could hear a long, mechanical groan, the sound of metal moving and grinding against metal after years of inactivity. She let out a long groan of her own and laid her head back against the leather headrest. As she waited for the hatch to fully open up, the poacher started to recall her encounter with the former Kalos Queen Aria at a young age, and her battle with Aria's famed mother Elle. Kay may not have paid attention to the history of Pokémon Showcases, but she was aware of the fact that Elle died from unexplained circumstances at Mt. Kiloude...
And now, she knew exactly what those circumstances were.
"I traveled through time, to the past..." she thought. "To think that the legends about Celebi were actually true. To think that my client wants to use it to achieve her own self-centered goals. It's too powerful to be used for one thing and one thing only... If I didn't think about it any better, I could just take Celebi for myself..."
Northern Kiloude City
"Kay?" Ash asked incredulously. "You mean...the Pokémon poacher who Nate said was ten times as worse as Parker?"
"Yes..." Yancy replied with a whisper and a soft nod. "Although...ten times is putting it mildly..."
"What do you know about her?" asked an intimidated Serena.
Yancy took a deep breath and gazed out towards the Laurier Maison. "She's a ruthless poacher. She's the leader and the founding member of the Eight-Headed Seviper, a group of high-end, extremely dangerous Pokémon poachers that have captured hundreds of Pokémon over a number of years. They have an exclusive clientele, and they're household names in the black market. Most of all, they are always one step ahead of law enforcement, to the point where even if it seems like their operations are close to getting shut down, they've always got an exit plan. Every member of the Eight-Headed Seviper is at the top of every most wanted list that's out there in the world...
"And as their leader, Kay is considered the most wanted poacher in the whole world. She will stop at nothing to get what she wants, even if it costs innocent lives. She once put Nate on the brink of death while trying to capture a Magearna..." Yancy's face fell in somberness. "And now, she's responsible for Elle's...Elle's..."
Her voice trailed off, but Ash and Serena knew what she meant. Hardening his face with resolve, Ash took one of Yancy's hands in his, and Serena followed suit with the other hand. Both parents held their future daughter's hands in theirs, and they stared into her blue eyes with determination.
"It's gonna be alright, Yancy," Ash said confidently.
"When Kay shows up," added a positive Serena, "we'll take her down. Her and Parker. And we'll do it together. For Aria."
"Pikachu!" Pikachu squeaked in agreement while giving the pink-haired teenager a raised fist of encouragement.
"But...But how?!" Yancy exclaimed in despair.
"I don't know how, to tell you the truth," Ash replied in an earnest tone, "but however we do it, we never give up till the end." Then, he chuckled in modesty. "But I'm sure my grownup self's already told you that many times, has he?"
Yancy's cheeks went as pink as her hair in admiration. "Yes... He has... But...no matter how many times I hear those six words, I'm inspired to put in my all and keep reaching for my goal..."
"Yeah, that's the spirit!" With a wide and bold smile, Ash raised a balled fist. "As long as we never give up till the end, we can do anything!"
"Pika, pikachu!" Pikachu cried.
However, he and Serena were dismayed when Yancy's grim and despairing look suddenly returned. She averted her gaze from them and looked down at the ground. Her eyes became teary, and she fidgeted with her hands, as if she was trying to tell them something but couldn't in fears of embarrassment or punishment.
"But...I never gave up till the end to protect Selene from Kay..." she said in a low voice. "I never did, and it cost Aria her mom... It's...It's all because of me!" She screwed her eyes shut. "Of me, of us, of our meddling of the timeline, that Aria doesn't have her mom with her anymore! It's our fault!"
"It's not your fault, Yancy!" Serena exclaimed. "It never was! It's all Kay's fault! All you were doing was trying to protect your sister and Celebi! The same goes for Nate and Evelyn!"
"Yeah!" Ash nodded in agreement. "Serena's right, Yancy! If it weren't for her and her evil plan to capture Celebi, none of us would be in this mess to begin with! You and Selene and Nate would still be back in your own time. But we're all here now. We're here, together, and everything that's happened is in the past now. The only thing that we can do now is make it right, by waiting for Celebi's wound to heal. And once it does, Celebi can take you all home!"
"Pi-kaaa!" added Pikachu.
"And hopefully send Kay and Parker to the ends of the Earth," Serena snarled. "As punishment for threatening us."
Finally, Yancy looked back at the past versions of her parents, and they were relieved to see a small, bashful smile on her face, a smile very much like Serena's.
"Yes..." the pink-haired teenager said. "That's right." Resolve started to fill her fair face, hardening it. "You two are right. We have to make it right, for Aria and everyone else that Kay's actions have affected! And we're gonna see to it that Kay, Parker, and their friends pay for what they've done!"
"There we go!" Ash patted his future daughter's shoulder in a fatherly act of consolation that surprised even him. "I sure raised you well, huh Yancy?"
Yancy shyly giggled in response. "Well, I couldn't have asked for a better dad..." She then turned to Serena and beamed at her. "O-Or a better mom..."
"Well, now that we solved your problems, Yancy, we should get back inside the Maison and sort out your other problems! Come on!" He grabbed Yancy's wrist with his left hand, while his right hand latched onto Serena's own wrist. "We've got no time to waste!"
With that, he started guiding both girls back into the Laurier Maison, ignoring how Serena in particular was blushing.
"Didja hear dat?"
"Hear what? There's so much people talking in this glorified castle!"
Meowth sighed and shook his head. He let go of James's wrist and looked up at his blue-haired teammate in disbelief. As for James, his exhaustion was visible through the illumination of the Kalosian sunlight; his shoulders were drooping, and there were bags developing under his eyes. All in all, he looked as if he only had a couple of hours' worth of slumber last night.
"Ya alright in da head, James?!" Meowth snapped.
"Yeah..." deadpanned the Team Rocket agent. "But not so much in the body..."
"We baley walked a pint in dis place!"
"Well, yeah, if you don't count all the running around we had to do with those sideshow twerps. You know, the one that the twerpette has a beef with, the chunky-"
"I know who yer talkin' 'bout!" Meowth interrupted. He looked through the crowd of civilians and saw Ash guiding Serena and Yancy back into the Laurier Maison. "Awwww, great! Now we gotta back inside da glorified castle. And just when we learned someting really spicy 'bout da newest twoipette!"
"Mind recapping for me...?" James asked dumbly.
"Huuuuuh?!" Meowth's eyes nearly popped out of his skull. "A recap?! Ya know everyone hates recaps, James!"
"I know, I know." Nevertheless, James was wagging his fingers at his colleague. "Just lay it out on me."
Meowth rolled his eyes before explaining, "Well, for one ting, da newest batch of twoips are from da future! And dere's a Celebi involved!"
"A Celebi?" James asked, though his tone was more of disinterest than incredulity, something that Meowth didn't register.
"I know what we can do in addition ta capturing Pikachu taday!" the Scratch Cat Pokémon exclaimed. "We can go capture dat Celebi and hand it over ta da boss!"
"Really?" James slightly crooked an eyebrow. "What use would a Celebi be for the boss?"
"Imagine dis! Team Rocket's executed deir mission ta conquer da woyld! However, dey're losing ta da cops and Pokémon Rangers and da like! When da grunts cry and beg for deir savia', den dat's when da boss uses Celebi, takin' us all back in time ta redo our conquest oparation wit our mistakes in mind! And wit dat Celebi on his side, he will be able ta lead Team Rocket ta great victory! And once Team Rocket's conquered da woyld, subjugated its population, and become all da wiser, guess what da boss will say next? 'I would love ta tank Meowth and 'is friends for giving me dis Celebi that helped us wit da conquest. For dis honorable service, I'll reward dem with special promotions!'"
"Special promotions...?" James asked, the disinterest unwavering in his voice.
"We'll be at da top of Team Rocket!" shouted Meowth. "TEAM ROCKET SHALL TRIUMPH!"
"I-I don't get it..." The blue-haired man scratched his temple in confusion. "I thought we were already at the top of Team Rocket...?"
"Well, tink about it, James! Can't get any higher dan da boss's right-hand peep!"
"The boss's right-hand man...?" James tapped his chin in thought. "But...that's Matori's position..."
"Exactly! So, once we impress da boss wit our catches, he'll give dat grumpy ole woman da boot once and fer all and put us in her pasition! Capieche?"
The realization finally dawned on the blue-haired man. "Ohhhh, I get it now! So once we show the boss our captures, we will-" Meowth's diction quickly set off alarm bells in his head. "Wait, captures, you say?"
"Yeah! We prasent da boss wit Celebi and Pikachu!" Meowth crossed his arms with pride. "Pretty ingenious, if I do say so mahself!"
"James? Ya dere? Earth ta James!"
James finally broke his silence with a heavy sigh. "So we're still setting our sights on Pikachu..."
"Well...yeah," the Scratch Cat Pokémon replied earnestly. "Isn't dat da plot to every episode?"
The blue-haired Team Rocket agent sighed. "Honestly, Meowth, we really need to rearrange our priorities."
"Rearrange our priorities?!" Meowth repeated in shock. "Whaddaya mean rearrange our priorities?"
"Well...isn't it always like this whenever we try to capture the twerp's Pikachu, or some other Pokémon, or pull off some con?"
"Always like what?" the disguised Scratch Cat Pokémon asked.
"Don't tell me you don't see a pattern here! There's always a pattern to these kinds of things, Meowth! First, we come up with a plan, a marvelous, ingenious plan! Then, we put it into action and dupe lots of clueless folk into giving their money and Pokémon. Everything's going all fine and dandy until, all of a sudden, the twerps show up and somehow see through our plans!
"Then we try to make off with our reward, and it seems like we're still gonna triumph! But then the twerps get the better of us in a battle, and before we know it, we lose our hard-worked, well-earned reward and then get blasted off with some powerful move, mostly the twerp's Pikachu's Thunderbolt! After thousands of times of this, it makes you wonder, doesn't it? It's like we are the main villains of some Japanese cartoon show that's been going on for over twenty-five years and relies on basic formulas in its episodes. But we're not cartoon villains! We're real people, see!"
Meowth had been watching on with deadpan faces as James poured out his soul. Finally, after the blue-haired man finally finished, Meowth responded.
James opened his mouth to respond, but a strange sensation of otherworldly familiarity washed over him, and he looked around.
"Déjà vu?" he asked.
"WILL YA FOCUS UP HERE?!" an irritated Meowth snapped. He landed before James's feet, leaving his colleague to suffer from the fresh, reddening scratch marks all over his cheeks.
"AAAUUUGGGHHH!" James howled, attracting the attention of several passersby in the process. "MY FACE!"
"I can't believe I'm hearing dose words from ya mouth! We're Team Rocket, James! And here ya are goin' on some spiel about all of our blastoffs and all of our schemes, a-and cartoons and stuff!"
James briefly whimpered while rubbing his scratched cheeks before replying, "What I was trying to say, Meowth, is that, well...maybe we should...quit...doing Team Rocket stuff..."
"Meowth, I do think it's-"
"ARE YA OUTTA YER MIND?!"
This time, it was Meowth's turn to attract the attention of several passersby. They shot awkward, fleeting glances at the duo before proceeding on their way.
"I'm not, Meowth!" protested James. "L-Like I was gonna say, we've been doing a lot better doing non-Team Rocket stuff than we have doing Team Rocket stuff! I mean, look at Jess! She's blown away the audiences during this past Showcase season, and she is gonna do it again, one last time, for this Exhibition Showcase! Don'tcha think we should be spending this time supporting her and letting her see this Showcase through to the end, instead of just focusing on another Team Rocket scheme that's just gonna end with blasting off again?"
"Well, yeah!" Meowth replied sympathetically. "I mean, we can most certainly nab Pikachu and Celebi once dis Showcase is over, and then-!" At that moment, he noticed Ash, Serena, and Yancy passing through the doorway and reentering the Laurier Maison. "AGH! Come on, James, we're 'bout to lose 'em!"
The Scratch Cat Pokémon started running off after the trio, leaving a stunned and depressed James behind. Sighing yet again, he drooped his shoulders and followed after his comrade in a sluggish, stumbling gait.
"I was thinking we should officially hang up the Team Rocket uniforms..." he mumbled in defeat.
The door slammed open with a resonant bang, attracting the attention of the occupants of the special observation booth. Aria's and Paris's eyes broadened in surprise at the new arrivals, Palermo blinked unflinchingly with crossed arms, Davis impulsively reached for a Poké Ball before stopping himself, Diable shot a nasty scowl, and Earl arched an eyebrow with a mixture of astonishment and admiration at the guts of the youth that was now approaching him.
"We're back!" Ash hollered defiantly. "And we're here to tell you that we're not backing down from this at all!"
"Pika, pika!" Pikachu shouted boldly in agreement.
"You need to hear us out on this!" Serena urged. "Hear Yancy out on this! Because this is her future at stake here!"
As for Yancy, she mustered the willpower to take the lead, outpacing her parents and stepping before the group of six on her own volition. Aria and Paris watched in brimming anticipation, Palermo started rubbing her chin with her thumb and index finger, Davis furrowed his brow at Yancy, Diable pronounced her scowl at the pink-haired girl, and a corner of Earl's lips twitched into an impressed smile.
"I understand why you take security very, very seriously," Yancy said. "I really do. After what I just heard..." She swept her gaze across the six and settled her sights on Aria in particular. "I'd probably expect the best measures to be in place for an event like this."
"Don't think of it as personal, young lady," Davis replied. "We must always have the well-being of all our Performers here today in mind."
She nodded. "Yes, I know. But if what I know about this event is correct, then I know this as well." Yancy swept her gaze through the group again. "Elle wouldn't have wanted this."
Davis suddenly narrowed his eyes ominously at her. "And what do you know about her?" he snarled defensively.
"D- Davis, please!" wheezed Paris.
But Yancy wasn't intimidated, and she replied, "I know that she would've wanted everyone to smile. No matter what the context. This is what this Exhibition Showcase, and all of Pokémon Showcases, are all about, right? To bring smiles to the faces of everyone? To let them know that there is beauty in life, especially in the harmony of people and Pokémon? Am I right?"
The first thing that she saw was a tiny but noticeable light blossoming somewhere in Palermo's cold eyes. Then, she saw Earl subtly nodding in agreement, while Davis's posture relaxed and Diable pursed her lips in uncomfortable agreement. It was the opening that Yancy needed.
"Elle wanted everyone to be happy. And how can we do that if we take the smallest worry and construe that as a threat to the event's security? That's not being safe. That's being paranoid."
"You..." Davis hesitated. "You don't understand-"
"All I did was perform onstage," Yancy interrupted. "All I did, Elle could've done tenfold without missing a beat. I brought wonderfully radiant smiles to the smiles of everyone down there. Look!" She quickly bypassed the group of six and held a hand out across the balcony, gesturing to the audience below. "Do you see anyone worried?"
Davis, Diable, and Earl gazed out of the balcony and at the audience. Palermo and Paris continued to stand to the sides, with both of them watching Yancy with interest. Aria too was observing Yancy, but unlike her sister and her mentor, she was gazing at the girl in awe.
"No!" Yancy continued. "And do you know why they aren't worried? It's because my Florges and I brought smiles to their faces with our performance! They know that I'm not a threat! Why would I go through all of that trouble, participating in a Theme Performance and performing for a wide audience, just to do...threatening things later on?"
"You still aren't a certified Performer with a Showcase pass," Palermo commented, though her intrigue of the girl did not waver in the slightest. "You participated in that Theme Performance without the Showcase's backing."
The girl took a deep breath and nodded. "Yeah, I know. That was wrong, and I admit that freely. But..." She clenched her fist tightly in ironclad resolve. "I don't regret what I did, Palermo ma'am. I don't regret it one bit, and if I had to go back in time to change anything, I wouldn't change this. This..."
Yancy's heart started to beat faster and faster. She could feel a cathartic euphoria dawning upon her, like she was on the verge of solving one of life's greatest mysteries. This euphoria drove her to stand firm and strong, and continue with her speech.
"This is what I want to do. I want to do what Elle wanted to do, what my mother wanted to do, and that's bringing smiles to the faces of others!"
"Oh, really?" Palermo crossed her arms, but once again, her intrigue in Yancy didn't disappear; in fact, she seemed quite aware of Yancy's dawning catharsis. "And did you forget the advice that I tried to impart on you, young lady?"
Yancy's blue eyes grew wide. "Advice?"
"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."
Those same blue eyes narrowed with resolve. "Yes, I do."
"Then surely you'd know by now that your issues with being under the shadow of someone who you're trying to follow is just asking for more trouble."
"I know. Which is why..."
Yancy raised her hand, which was trembling. Ash and Serena eyed her movement, concerned that she was going to just break down from the pressure. Then, relief filled their hearts when their future daughter clenched her hand into a balled fist that didn't quiver in her brimming, overflowing determination.
"I'm going to do it on my own terms," the pink-haired girl continued. "My terms and no one else's. I don't want to just do what my mother and Elle had done for others in the past. I want to surpass them. I want to take what they've done and make it my own, take it past the limits and create new ones. I want to bring wonderfully radiant smiles to people's faces by being me with my Pokémon! I want to define myself with my Pokémon! ...That's what I've always wanted to do, and I realize it now!"
At that moment, there were five flashes of bright light that filled the booth and almost blinded everyone else in the room. Once the light faded away, five Pokémon were standing by Yancy's sides: her Florges, Quilladin, Alolan Ninetales, Tundra Pattern Vivillon, and Spinda.
"Flo," Yancy whispered incredulously whilst surveying her team. "Chestnut, Blanche, Vivi, Ditzy..."
All five Pokémon looked up at her, even the timid and unconfident Ditzy, and they nodded at her in agreement. Yancy bit her lower lip in emotion, before smiling and looking back at the Pokémon Showcase Committee members.
"And it's just not me that wants to do this!" She held out her arms, gesturing to her Pokémon. "So do my Pokémon!"
"Flo," Flo replied with a soft, cool nod.
"Quill-quill!" Chestnut cried while beating a paw against its chest.
Blanche barked softly.
Vivillon crooned while landing atop Yancy's panama hat with a flutter of its graceful wings.
"S-Sp-Spin!" Ditzy stammered out.
"So please..." Yancy clasped her hands together. "Just...J-Just give me this one chance and allow me to participate in the Freestyle Performance! With my mom by my side!"
Serena had to stop herself from gagging in surprise, while Ash's lower jaw dropped open in shock. But none of the others seemed to notice this reaction, for their eyes were all upon Yancy and her Pokémon. Aria, Paris, and Earl were captivated by the girl's speech; Davis and Diable did not look as mightily impressed; and Palermo continued to examine her and her Pokémon, one by one.
"So you wish to continue on with the Exhibition Showcase," Palermo replied in an ambiguous tone, "instead of doing the logical thing by waiting for the next Showcase season to arrive."
"There's no prize to this Showcase, right?!" responded a passionate Yancy. "So I've got nothing to gain by continuing on with this event!"
"Hmmm... Even when you've been outed as a crasher?"
"Yes! Even in spite of that! I know I should've waited for the next Showcase season to come around the corner, but I just could not wait any longer! As you could tell, Palermo, I really needed to find myself, and I was hoping that this Exhibition Showcase was my biggest opportunity! And now that I know what I want to do, I...I..." Yancy placed a hand directly over her heart. "I cannot just stop now! Not when I've come this far! I need to see this through to the very end! I need to see and show that all of my efforts and all of my soul-searching were for something and not nothing! As someone who I love very dearly once told me, never give up till the end!"
Ash issued a soft gasp, and then he beamed at his future daughter. He could feel his chest swelling up with great pride.
"And that's what I'm gonna do! I'm never giving up till the end!" Yancy planted her feet more firmly to the floor while her five Pokémon stood closer to her. "We're never giving up till the end! And we will work to bring wonderfully radiant smiles to everyone's faces! No matter what!"
Palermo narrowed her eyes at Yancy, making her freeze up in intimidation. Then, she closed her eyes and exhaled.
"Very well, then. It's settled."
"Are you gonna allow Yancy to participate in the Freestyle Performance?!" Serena asked hopefully.
The producer shook her head. "No."
"What?!" yelled Ash. "But-"
"You didn't let me finish, young man. We're going to leave the future of Yancy's status in this Exhibition Showcase up to a vote."
"A vote!" Diable exclaimed gleefully. "Excellent! Then I vote 'no'!"
"As do I," Davis added gruffly.
"I'm afraid I'd have to disagree with my colleagues," replied an earnest Earl. "The young lady's speech was exceptionally compelling."
Diable sneered at the monocle-wearing man. "Still, that's two-to-one on 'no'. Sorry, Earl, but I'm afraid that democracy has spoken-"
"I'd beg to differ, Countess," Palermo interrupted while shooting a bitter glare at Diable. "I was thinking we should leave the vote to the ones who matter."
"Oh, really?" The older woman returned Palermo's glare with one of her own. "And who would that be?"
"Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls!"
The entire audience erupted into cheers and applause as Monsieur Pierre reentered the stage. He held his microphone in one hand while stretching out his other arm in a grand gesture. Everyone's eyes were trained on him, with most of them eagerly anticipating his commencement of the next Theme Performance. However, a select few were waiting with bated breaths and hammering hearts regarding a certain pink-haired girl.
"I know that you've all been waiting for the next Theme Performance to get underway!" Pierre announced. "However, I've received special instructions from Palermo to present you all with this little intermission before we all begin."
As quickly as their cheers and applause arrived, a collective groan of disappointment swept through the audience. Some of the more eager members started to boo the host and hurl complaints and even insults his way.
"Come on!" one voice shouted. "Let's get on with the show already!"
"We wanna see more Theme Performances!" whined another voice.
"Show us the girls, show us the girls, show us the girls!" chanted a third.
"Folks, folks!" Pierre replied; though he sounded calm and collected, the beads of sweat emerging on his forehead were a swift betrayal of his composure. "I understand that you all want to go this show underway, but this concerns the incident involving the girl who crashed this Showcase."
This quelled the complaints and the irritation, but gossipy whispers took their place, making the rounds throughout all of the audience members.
"The girl who crashed this Showcase?" repeated one voice.
"He must be talking about Yancy!" another voice exclaimed.
"Yeah!" a third replied. "The one with the Florges and the flashy performance!"
"In spite of her...ahem, unethical means of participating in this event," Pierre continued with a twitching eyelid, "Palermo has come to the belief that her future in this venue should be decided by a vote. A vote only you, our esteemed audience here and all around the Kalos region, can make."
Up in the seats, Selene, Nate, Evelyn, Clemont, Bonnie, and the others gasped and looked at one another in surprise.
"They're leaving it up to the audience?" Nate asked incredulously.
"Something must've happened behind the scenes!" Clemont concluded.
But Selene's bubbly face was beaming with pride and expectation. "Yancy must've told them something that made them change their minds! She might not be getting kicked out after all!"
"Pichu-pi!" her Pichu squeaked happily.
"Biiiii..." Celebi chirruped quietly in awe.
In the dressing room, Ash and Serena stepped through the doorway and found all of the Performers watching the screens intently. Shauna, Miette, and Nini sensed their arrivals and turned around.
"Serena!" Shauna whispered in surprise. "Do you know what's happening?!"
"Why're they letting the audience decide Yancy's future here?" Miette asked suspiciously.
"I'm on the edge of my seat here!" Nini squealed quietly.
But Serena gave her rivals a warm smile of confidence. "Yancy had a word with the Pokémon Showcase Committee...and Palermo."
"Palermo?" Shauna asked incredulously.
"Yeah." The honey-blonde cast her gaze towards the nearest TV screen. "I have faith in Yancy, though. I know she can do it. She won't give up till the end. She knows that."
Ash only nodded in agreement.
In the Showcase Committee's special booth, Aria, Paris, Palermo, Davis, Diable, and Earl all observed the proceedings in unison, each of them wearing a reaction of their own. Diable gnashed her teeth together and glowered at Palermo, who was calmly leaning against a wall while looking down at the stage.
"Now why would you let the audience decide whether that little girl should stay or go?" Diable demanded. "You should've left it up to the Committee like procedural rules state!"
"It's just like she said," Palermo replied coolly. "Pokémon Showcases are about bringing smiles to the faces of everyone, and to let them know that there is beauty in life, especially in the harmony of people and Pokémon. And, in the midst of all our procedures and our rules, we seem to have forgotten that simple, basic concept."
Diable scoffed nastily. "So?"
"Showcases were always about the audience, first and foremost. And Yancy has already proven herself to the audience in both positive and negative aspects. So now, it's time to see if the audience will determine that the positives outweigh the negatives...or vice-versa."
Yancy took a deep breath and clasped her hands together, over her heart. She could feel the soft rattling of the platform beneath her and the presences of all five of her Pokémon beside her. But moreover, she could feel the spiritual presences of her family and friends beside her. Her parents, Selene, Evelyn, and most of all, Nate...
"Never give up till the end," she thought, holding onto the six words like they were a special mantra. "Thank you, Dad... Thank you, Mom... Never before have those words been in a special place in my heart. Now...no matter what happens, I will treasure them forever and ever..."
Just then, there was a blast of warm light, but Yancy didn't flinch or grimace. Instead, she smiled confidently and opened her eyes, baring her sapphire-blue pupils, very much like her mother's, to the audience that was now before her.
"And here we are, folks!" Monsieur Pierre announced. He gestured to Yancy and her Pokémon, who had just risen to the stage and were now being illuminated by the spotlights. "Now, for this, uh, special occasion, we will be handing out Glow Casters to you all. We know that an Exhibition Showcase's Theme Performance doesn't require Glow Casters, but...given the unforeseen circumstances, we felt that it would be an appropriate method to gauge the audience's opinions."
At that moment, the doors to the lobby opened, and several Laurier Maison employees, Foster included, started strolling down the staircases. With every row of seats they passed by, they handed out dozens and dozens of Glow Casters to the audience members.
"As for all of you audience members who are watching at home," Pierre continued, "you do not have to leave your sofas and couches to do this. You can vote on Yancy's fate with the help of your phones or Holo Casters. The process is similar to the one employed during the Master Class Showcase, so do not worry about going in blind. Everyone has five minutes to make their decision and submit their vote. No exceptions whatsoever."
All around Kalos, people were using their phones or Holo Casters to access the voting website.
In Santalune Gym, Viola was fiddling with her phone, while Alexa was operating with her new Holo Caster.
At a cliff near Cyllage City, Grant was calmly scrolling through his phone with one hand while holding on to the precipice with his other.
Within the Tower of Mastery in Shalour City, Korrina was trying her best to explain to Gurkinn how to operate the phone.
Underneath the Pledging Tree in Coumarine City, Ramos and several other civilians were operating their phones or Holo Casters while an assortment of Pokémon, primarily Grass-types, watched on.
In a private booth at a fashion show in Laverre City, Valerie, Linnea, Kali, Blossom, Katherine, and several other Furisode Girls were hard at work on their own phones.
In Anistar Gym, Carrie, Charlene, and other Psychics were already on their phones or Holo Casters, while Olympia simply watched on with a calm, knowing smile.
At a snowy field outside of Snowbelle City, Wulfric was watching on his Holo Caster while several wild Pokémon observed.
In Lumiose City, Professor Sycamore, Mairin, Sophie, and Cosette were already voting on their phones.
On separate trails in the region, Alain and Sawyer were watching on their Holo Caster and phone, respectively.
And somewhere else within the Laurier Maison, Moose and Summer were looking at their own phones.
"Now, then!" Monsieur Pierre held out his unoccupied arm. "Does everyone have their Glow Casters?!"
His query was met with a collective cheer from the audience. With that, the announcer gestured towards Yancy, just as a holographic keyhole-shaped symbol appeared above her. The heart-shaped key hanging from the girls' neck glittered and gleamed from the spotlights illuminating her.
"If you think Yancy should continue in the Exhibition Showcase," Pierre continued, "then do activate your Glow Caster, or otherwise vote 'Yes' on your phones or Holo Casters! If not, well, don't activate your Glow Casters, or vote 'No' if you are home!"
He twirled his staff around for a moment, then pointed its tip at the keyhole symbol suspended over Yancy. That motion prompted everyone's eyes to turn towards it.
"If that symbol is more than halfway full," he explained, "then that means you've cleared Yancy to continue onward with the Exhibition Showcase-" Pierre briefly turned his mouth away from the microphone. "Against all Showcase Committee-sponsored rules and regulations..." He returned to the microphone. "If the symbol is not halfway full, well...we all know what that means!"
The audience cheered with eager anticipation. With a wide, festive grin, Pierre held out both of his arms, embracing all of the positive attention.
"Now then, without any further ado, voting...BEGIN!"
Yancy had completely phased out Monsieur Pierre's explanations. Instead, she swept her gaze back and forth through the audience, trying her best to take in every individual member, one by one. She saw the mixed reactions that her presence got: many spectators were supportive of her and were overjoyed to see her back onstage, while just as many were quite bitter over the fact that she participated in the Exhibition Showcase without a pass. She knew the vote to keep her in the competition or officially kick her out would be decided on a razor-thin margin.
"Everything's going to be alright, Yancy."
With a gasp, Yancy looked at her right side and saw Flo looking back at her. The Garden Pokémon nodded at her, and she smiled and nodded back.
"I know, Flo," the girl replied. "No matter what, we're in it to win it."
Flo nodded once again, before both Trainer and Pokémon looked back at the massive audience. As soon as they did, the voting had officially begun.
They and the rest of Yancy's Pokémon saw hundreds upon hundreds of Glow Casters lighting up and getting raised high in the air, illuminating their owners in a hot-pink light. These Glow Casters generated a flurry of small, luminous balls of hot-pink light that floated towards Yancy like minuscule spirits. They eventually reached her and connected to her heart-shaped key, prompting the keyhole-shaped symbol above her head to slowly but steadily fill up like a gauge.
"I don't believe it," Yancy whispered in awe. "We're getting so much votes!"
"Flo," Flo replied.
"Quiiiiill!" Chestnut added, its eyes wide at the sight of the balls of light.
Blanche barked in excitement.
Vivillon chirped excitedly while fluttering its wings.
"Spiiiiin..." Ditzy squeaked with childlike awe.
Yancy turned her attention back to the audience, but she saw that her prediction was turning out to be true. Only half of the audience appeared to have activated their Glow Casters, and she couldn't see anyone in the masses who was on the brink of changing their minds.
Her only hope of real success would have to come in the form of votes coming from spectators outside of Kiloude City.
"And my, oh my, will you look at that!" Pierre announced. "The symbol is almost...halfway full for Yancy! I don't see how that's possible but- I-I mean, wh-what an astounding development! Tr-Truly magnifique!"
"Come on, Yancy!" Nate hollered while wildly waving his Glow Caster around. "I know you can do it!"
"YAAAAAY!" Selene and Bonnie cried in unison while waving their own Glow Casters. "GO, YANCY! GO, YANCY!"
"Pichu, pichu!" Pichu squeaked.
Squishy just garbled incoherently.
"Bi!" Celebi squeaked in excitement.
In the dressing room, the opinions amongst the Performers about Yancy's fate were evenly divided.
"I hope Yancy makes it!" Kazalie cried. "I hope so!"
"So you'd support a crasher mingling with the rest of us?" asked a disbelieving Shulin. "Unbelievable."
"I think she deserves a second chance," the Performer with the Pansage, Pansear, and Panpour said.
"No, I think she deserves the BOOT!" barked the Performer with the Honchkrow.
"Ugh, I can't believe they are even entertaining this nonsensical charade!" Amelia exclaimed in disbelief. "If it were up to me, I would've had the stupid little girl thrown out long ago!"
"Hush down, Amelia," Sara Lee snapped. "Your input is doing any of us no good."
Blanche simply remained silent.
Meanwhile, Ash, Serena, Shauna, Miette, and Nini had their eyes trained attentively to the TV. Shauna and Nini had their hands clasped together as if in prayer, Miette had her hands on her hips while she pursed her lips, Serena was just silent in her fond gaze, and Ash's entire body was trembling like it was about to explode at any moment.
"Guuuuuhhhhh..." the Pallet Town native groaned.
"Pikapi?" Pikachu asked in concern.
Serena looked at her future husband. "Ash? You okay?"
"I can't do anything..." Ash replied through clenched teeth. "I can't do a single thing to help... I don't even have a phone that I can use to vote for her! It's unbearable!"
The honey-blonde swiftly took his hands in hers and held them firmly. "It's okay, Ash! It's all gonna be okay! Remember what you always say!"
This reminder calmed the boy down somewhat. "You're right... Y-You're right. Never give up till the end."
"That's the spirit!"
Then, the two of them realized that Serena had Ash's hands in hers. But this time, neither of them bothered to tear away from the other, and they simply looked into each other's eyes with a fondness that could only be rivaled by their partner. Ash immediately found himself captivated by Serena's eyes, while she was swiftly captivated by his...
The two broke away, their faces redder than the ripest of Cheri Berries as they looked at the smirking Miette.
"Jeez," the blue-haired Performer commented. "Get a room, you two."
"Mi-Miette!" wheezed an embarrassed Serena.
But her rival ignored her. "After we see what the audience has decided for Yancy's future here."
"You voted, Aria?"
The redheaded Kalos Queen looked up towards her older sister. Paris stared back down at her in surprise, which was only magnified when Aria stood up from her chair and stared out of the balcony.
"Of course I did," Aria replied. "After what Yancy told me about Showcases, it reminded me of something very important. Something that I thought I hadn't lost track of when I became Kalos Queen, but it turned out that I did in the end."
"And that is?" Paris asked curiously while following her sister and stepping beside her.
"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."
The younger girl smiled at the stage's direction. "That it's not just the Performer who must have the wonderfully radiant smile on her face..."
Unbeknownst to either her or Paris, Palermo was watching the former. As such, it would've surprised them to see the tiny but genuine smile of relieved happiness forming on her own face.
"But will Yancy meet the threshold to stay in the Exhibition Showcase?" Pierre asked dramatically. "It will depend on how many 'Yes' votes she receives in the next couple of minutes!"
Yancy trained her eyes on the audience, watching as more balls of hot-pink light continued to float from the audience and into her key. Unfortunately, the measured level of 'Yes' votes was slowing down quite significantly on the keyhole symbol above her, just as it was about to approach the halfway point. Her chances of remaining in the Exhibition Showcase were dwindling fast.
Even so, the girl maintained her cheerful smile and continued to sweep her gaze through the audience.
Meanwhile, Pierre had procured his phone and was looking at it. "And it looks like the votes are also coming in from the viewers outside of Kiloude City! Truly magnifique! What are the numbers?" He took a closer look at the screen. "Oh my, oh my, they're at a dead heat too! Fifty-fifty! Will Yancy prevail?!"
A raucous cheer of support erupted from the audience, which made Yancy's heart swell with pride and joy. Without even a second thought, she lifted a hand and waved at all of the spectators, which served to amplify the flowing excitement of her supporters. Her action was joined by her five Pokémon, all of whom waved at the audience as well, or otherwise let out a friendly howl or give a soft flutter of their wings.
"So this is what it's like to bring smiles to people's faces," she thought. "It's just like Mom said. The happiness of one can never be completed without the happiness of all..."
Eventually, Pierre's voice echoed through the Showcase Theater with a firm tone of finality.
"Aaaaannnnnd...time's UP! Let's all take a look at the results!"
The keyhole symbol lifted itself high in the air and grew larger in size for the audience to see clearly. Then, it transformed into an actual gauge, actively tallying the total number of votes that Yancy received and calculating the percentages. She watched, as did everyone else, while the numbers continued to be crunched and the gauge was quickly filling, the total of 'Yes' votes climbing steadily towards the denoted halfway point.
A collective breath was held while the gauge continued to climb and climb and climb until...
Ash and Serena closed their eyes and exhaled at the same time.
Pierre couldn't contain his horror at the results before him. He lost his entire composure and nearly keeled over while his eyes almost popped out of his skull. Acting on instinct, his Klefki had to detach himself from his staff and fly around him, hoping that his Trainer was alright.
"I...I don't believe it!" Pierre gagged out. "By a margin of SIX VOTES, Yancy...remains?!"
Nate's holler of joy, emitted at the top of his lungs, led the massive, celebratory cheer for Yancy. The acclamation proved to be so gigantic in nature that it made the walls of the Showcase Theater shake.
As for Yancy, she gasped and looked up at the holographic gauge.
"W-Wow..." she thought. "So many people voted for me! 1,096,864 'Yes' votes and 1,096,858 'No' votes! That...truly did come down to the line!"
"This...T-This is unacceptable!" Pierre wheezed. At that point, it was clear that he was not talking to the audience, but to someone in his earpiece. "Something must've gone wrong with the website we used! O-Or we gave out some faulty Holo Casters! O-Or that girl bribed people or something! She cannot continue with the competition! I-I will NOT allow it! I will- W-Wait, what? H-Hot mic?!"
The announcer broke out into a hot sweat and looked at the audience. Fortunately for him, a number of spectators were still cheering for Yancy, and no one noticed his tirade. With a twitching eyelid of displeasure, Pierre held the microphone closed to his mouth and cleared his throat loudly, dispelling the celebration.
"A-Alright!" he exclaimed, all hints of decorum and showmanship gone from his voice. "Clearly, the very, very, VERY tight margin of victory for Yancy warrants a recount." He ignored the outraged uproar this caused and cleared his throat again. "And as the announcer of Pokémon Showcases, I hereby order a re- Huh?"
Yancy looked at Pierre, who was adjusting his earpiece. Though she couldn't hear who was speaking to him on the other side, she could already tell who it was judging by how pale the announcer's skin went after a brief period of silence.
"Y...Yes, ma'am..." he mumbled in defeat. "U-Understood, ma'am... I'll drop the issue, ma'am, don't worry..." He took a deep breath of somberness, then he forced a smile onto his face and turned back to the audience. "W-Well, the powers-that-be have struck down my wishes for a recount. Against my express wishes. The results will be uncontested. Yancy..." He reluctantly gestured to the pink-haired girl and her Pokémon. "Will continue participating in the Exhibition Showcase."
Many in the audience cheered again, and it was much louder this time. As for Yancy, she could only stand directly in the middle of the stage and heave out a sigh of relief.
When Yancy returned to the dressing room, she was nearly tackled to the floor by two unstoppable forces.
"Man! I was on the edge of my seat with that vote! Not that I was sitting-"
"I knew you could do it, Yancy! I just knew it! I had faith in you!"
The pink-haired girl could only smile and return the giant hug that she was given.
"Mom..." she whispered. "Dad..." She parted from them and looked at them straight in the eye. "I couldn't have done it without you two. Or my Pokémon."
Ash and Serena looked at Flo, Chestnut, Blanche, Vivi, and Ditzy, all of whom barked, chirruped, and crooned in delight over their Trainer's success. But the celebration between the family was short-lived, for the other Performers approached them. Yancy suddenly found herself in the center of a larger group-hug.
"Ohhhhh, Yancyyyyy!" squealed Shauna. "You have no idea how close I was to having a heart attack! No idea!"
"Meh," Miette said nonchalantly, even though her face was red. "I had a feeling in my gut that you'd pull through."
"We so gotta take you out to dinner after this!" Nini exclaimed. "To celebrate your continued participation!"
"I'm in, I'm in!" chimed Kazalie. "I'll pay for it all if I must! Anything for my new friend!"
Yancy's eyes started to water from the overwhelming support. "You girls..." She broke away from them and scanned each of them in turn. "Thank you... Thank you so much. You've all been such good friends..."
At that moment, Yancy sensed another presence, and she reluctantly looked over Ash's and Serena's shoulders. Standing behind them were many of the other Performers, Amelia, Clarice, Shulin, Sara Lee, Concetta, and Jessilee among them. Most of the Performers glowered disapprovingly at her, a few beamed at her with pride, and a couple were wearing more ambiguous looks on their faces.
"Well, well, well," Amelia said tauntingly. "Not only are you a crasher, but you're willing to stoop as low as bribing people into voting for your continued participation!"
Yancy narrowed her eyes, but she didn't bother to respond. To her lack of surprise, a number of other Performers agreed with Amelia's sentiment.
"YEAH!" the Heliolisk Trainer cried with a pointed finger. "You're not just a crasher! You're...You're a CHEATER!"
"Cheater, cheater, cheater!" chanted the Marill Trainer.
"You don't deserve to grace the stage with the rest of us!" snapped the Trainer with the Teddiursa and Ducklett.
"Well, guess what, genius?" Miette asked mockingly. "She will. So deal with it..." She stood between Yancy and the other Performers to give them an extremely dark glare. "Or you'll have to deal with me."
"And me!" Shauna added.
"And me!" chimed Nini.
"Same here!" Kazalie squeaked.
All three Performers joined Miette's side, stunning the others.
"Kazalie?" Shulin asked incredulously. "You...You serious about this, cuz? She lied to us!"
"She lied to Blanche too," replied Kazalie, "but guess what she did when she found out? She forgave her and covered for her, because that's what friends do! They never give up on one another!"
Yancy gasped at the mention of the other Performer, her first actual friend in this timeline.
"Blanche!" she cried.
"Huh?" Kazalie glared at her suspiciously. "What about her?"
But Yancy immediately ignored her. Instead, she scoured the crowd of Performers, searching for Blanche. Eventually, she found her sitting on a bench with no one to accompany her but her two Meowstic. She was clearly deep in thought with a somber look on her face.
"Blanche..." Yancy whispered.
"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!"
"I have to admit, I've had my eye on you for some time, Blanche. But unfortunately, this newest development has left me terribly disappointed in you."
"But to get the praise of the most famous Showcase producer out there, and a former Kalos Queen at that, is nothing short of a prize in of itself. If I am going to get some inroads as a Pokémon Performer, then I need Palermo's acknowledgment. I know something like that isn't important to you, but it is to me."
"Blanche?" Yancy uttered again.
The other girl didn't respond. Her two Meowstic quickly, instinctively reacted in unison, standing in-between the two girls and defending their Trainer.
"I...I just wanted to say thank you, Blanche, for standing up for me back there. B-Both on the stage and in the dressing room. It...It couldn't have been an easy thing for you to do."
Still, there was no response from the girl.
"And...I know that by doing so, you threw away your shot at Palermo's acknowledgment. I remember how much it meant to you, deeply so. But that doesn't mean it's over, Blanche! You should never give up till the end! And now, now that I'm back in the Exhibition Showcase, I'm going to make it up to you! I'll make it all up to you, and then some!"
This finally elicited a reaction from Blanche. Her eyes grew slightly wide, and she looked up at Yancy with a meek sort of curiosity. But that was all that Yancy needed to see, and she smiled down at her with all of the brightness that she could possibly muster.
"We're gonna participate in the Freestyle Performance together, and we're gonna give Palermo a show the likes of which she had never seen! We're gonna redeem ourselves of what had just happened earlier today! And we're gonna bring the most wonderful, radiant smiles on everyone's faces in the process!"
Yancy could feel Ash and Serena's beaming faces staring at her with pride, but she didn't need to look back to confirm it. She instead held out her hand towards the other girl, who eyed it like a wary, uncertain Growlithe in the process of being rescued.
"So what do you say, Blanche?" the pink-haired girl asked. "Will we do this together?"
Blanche stared at the hand for a few moments longer. Then, her lips curled into a soft smile, and she took Yancy's hand.
"Yeah," she said. "We'll do it together."
With that, Yancy helped Blanche up to her feet, and they then shook hands with a firm grip. Meanwhile, Yancy's Pokémon approached Blanche's Meowstic. The two Constraint Pokémon smiled kindly at the quintet, and they returned the gesture with smiles and cheers.
"Alright!" Ash exclaimed jubilantly. "You two girls made up!"
"Pika!" Pikachu squeaked.
Ash then approached Yancy and Blanche and patted their backs proudly, like a father congratulating two children. Yancy could only smile in embarrassment at her father's move, while Blanche's lips twitched as she quirked an eyebrow at him.
"Alright now, mister!" Miette exclaimed. She walked up behind Ash and grabbed him by the collar of his shirt. "Now that we've got the making-amends part out of the way, I think it's time for you to skedaddle! This is the girls' dressing room, after all!"
She proceeded to half-drag the helpless raven-haired boy through the room, towards the doorway, with Pikachu in tow.
"Huh?!" Ash exclaimed in confusion. "Hold on, but I thought you were okay with me being in here?!"
"Well, we all gotta change for the Freestyle Performance, after all," Miette deadpanned.
"Yeah..." Ash looked away from anyone and everyone remotely resembling a female, while an intense blush erupted onto his tanned face. "I think I shouldn't be around for that..."
"You think?!" Amelia snapped.
"EWWWWW!" Kayleigh squealed. "Lowlife!"
"Wretch!" the Sylveon Trainer cried.
"Creep!" the Swirlix Trainer shrieked.
"Do you have any idea what Palermo and the Showcase Committee would think if they learned that a boy had been with us in this dressing bathroom this entire time?!" demanded a furious Shulin.
Serena stared at her fellow Performers flatly. "You know what, you girls? I think you're overreacting on the simplest and most childish of things. Ash isn't what you think he is, and Yancy most certainly isn't a cheater. How can you all expect to be great Performers and potential Kalos Queens if all you do is jump to silly conclusions?! And besides, I certainly would not have minded him watching me change!"
The last sentence, apparently borne from the one truly thriving cell within Serena's brain, finally caught up to her higher brain functioning. As Ash and the girls watched on in disbelief and, in Miette's case, slyness, steam jettisoned out of her orifices with the force of geysers, while her entire body turned as scarlet as Tamato Berries.
"Alriiiiight..." Miette commented sardonically while finally pushing Ash and Pikachu through the doorway. "You should be getting back to the others now."
"M-Ma-Maybe I sh-should..." Ash stammered severely. He too was fully red with stunned embarrassment and disbelief at his future wife's words.
"And I'd suggest not coming back to this dressing room until the Freestyle Performance is over, at the very least." Miette teasingly winked at him. "Seems like Serena's getting ready to gobble you up faster than a Nidoqueen upon a Nidoking!"
She closed the door on Ash's heavily red face with a bang of resonant finality, giggling all the way.
A couple of minutes passed in awkward silence for Ash and Pikachu. Then, after a while, he finally turned to his partner Pokémon and gave him a stilted, awkward smile.
"Girls," he remarked. "Am I right, Pikachu?"
But Pikachu simply shook his head in dismay. "Pika-pikachu, Pikapi."
Knowing that his attempt at humor had failed to beak the ice, the raven-haired boy sighed and looked back at the door. Behind it, he knew Serena, Yancy, and all of the other Performers were getting ready for their Freestyle Performance.
"It's really a shame," he said, almost to himself. "I would've liked to watch her change too."
That single sentence, apparently borne from the one truly thriving cell within Ash's brain, finally caught up to his higher brain functioning. As Pikachu watched on in mortified horror, steam jettisoned out of his orifices with the force of geysers while his entire body turned as scarlet as Tamato Berries.
"There is a legend out there about Kiloude City. It goes like this: many, many generations ago, the people of Kiloude City, then a town, worshiped Mt. Kiloude with the same reverence as Arceus. After all, it was where the Titan of Ice would nest upon the waning of winter and the advent of spring. Its summit was far from the warmth of the Earth and therefore a place of everlasting winter. A perfect place for a mighty Titan to rest."
"Sooo...the legend of Mt. Kiloude was true, after all. The Titan of Ice, in the flesh..."
An earsplitting cry, one unlike any another-
A sudden flash of bright, blinding light.
"Get that out of her face this instant."
The beam of light moved away from her field of vision.
"Kay," the second voice said. "How are you feeling, ma'am?"
Once her eyesight was properly readjusted, the green-haired poacher slowly opened her eyes, and the first thing she saw was the boot-clad feet of her trusted underling Parker. With a soft rattle of an exhale, the woman slowly turned her head, taking in the sight of her colleague for the first time in what was supposed to be a very long time in the watchful eyes of Arceus.
"Like I just woke up from a ten-year period of stasis, Parker," Kay replied dryly. "Just like that."
She then swept her gaze across her surroundings with narrowed, analytical eyes. The woman was currently sitting on the edge of the access hatch, at the top of her machine. Parker stood before her, his feet planted against the slightly rounded sheet of metal. In her immediate sights, she saw nothing but the signs of a crude excavation operation, with everything in the area being uprooted, torn down, and shoveled away. In the background of this excavated area, she could see a sea of green, fertile trees, undisturbed and tranquil as usual.
And then, she saw the source of the light that had interrupted her musings. It was a flashlight attached to a hardhat that was being worn by a small, rotund, orange-haired man who distinctly reminded Kay of a Dedenne. The Pokémon poacher immediately stood up from the edge of the hatch and assumed an aggressive position, causing the Dedenne-like man to squeak in fear and flinch, as did his two comrades, both of whom Kay noticed for the first time. Parker sighed and shook his head.
"At ease, Kay," he interjected calmly. "They're not a threat. They can't even be a remote resemblance to a threat even if they tried."
"H-Hey!" cried one of the Dedenne-like man's comrades, a man with blue hair covering one side of his face.
"We resemble that mark!" misspoke the other comrade, who resembled the blue-haired man sans his mirrored, red hair.
Kay's look of pure aggression immediately changed to one of scornful derision, convinced by her underling's description. Then, once she scanned the three men from head to toe, she slowly glanced back at Parker.
"You brought these civilians into the operation?" she snarled.
Parker tightened his lips in exasperation. "Not willingly. They bumbled their way in, thinking it was by force."
"Y-Yeah!" squeaked the Dedenne-like man. "We bumbled in, whatever that means!" Then, he chuckled and scratched the back of his head sheepishly. "Man, you guys like to use pretty big words! I'm still trying to catch up with your lingo!"
"Ummm..." the blue-haired man said, "I think they're insulting us, Nick..."
"Wow, you catch on pretty quickly," deadpanned a sardonic Kay. She then glowered at Parker again. "You know the rules. We don't get any third parties involved in the operation! I don't care if their participation was against your wishes as you say. You're allowing them to stand by your side."
"Consider this an exception borne from unforeseen circumstances," Parker replied, calm and unflinching. "We are twenty years in the past, Kay. Even if this part of the timeline is socially and technologically inferior to ours, there's still a whole lot of culture shock to navigate through." He gestured to Nick's group. "These men, as incompetent as they are, are still familiar with Kiloude City in this point of time, for they are locals. Therefore, their assistance may be crucial in navigating us through this phase of the operation."
"I see..." Kay momentarily looked at Nick and his compatriots again. "Then I assume we'll take care of them once we've concluded the operation?"
"Yes." Her fellow poacher nodded ambiguously. "That was the plan this whole time."
"By taking care of us," Nick said, "I assume you mean making our lives more awesome than we'd ever imagine?!"
"...Yeah. Yeah, that's what we meant."
Kay coldly averted her gaze from everyone else and stared out into the vast, sprawling Kiloude Forest, her eyes burning quietly with fury even as her lips were pursed into a straight line of neutrality. She could see the Battle Maison far away, defined by its castle-like exterior and distinct towers that could be seen even from a long distance.
The Maison's elegant, regal appearance did nothing but evoke feelings of anger and irritation within Kay's heart, however. It was where the EHS was supposed to exchange Celebi with the bounty that Countess Diable promised them. All of that cash was now out of her reach once again, just like with several recent operations that she and her colleagues had been trying to undertake in recent years.
All because of a certain group of kids...
"Parker," she said.
"Yes, Kay?" Parker asked, standing at attention like a loyal soldier.
"You're here with me, which means you got sucked into the Time Ripple as well."
"Yes, that's correct, ma'am."
"Time Ripple?" the blue-haired man asked while turning towards his redheaded twin. "What's that, Lloyd?"
"Does it look like I know, Floyd?" the red-haired man replied.
Parker ignored them and continued on. "And unfortunately, ma'am, so did some of those meddling kids."
Kay's eyes darkened considerably, and she gritted her teeth while feeling her anger build up even more. "Which ones?"
"Gray, both Ketchum girls, and one of Aria's daughters."
"Gray..." The green-haired poacher narrowed her eyes. "That eternal accursed thorn in my side. And on top of that, that Ketchum girl. The one with the Florges. She takes after her parents really well..." Then, Kay realized something. "Parker, which one of Aria's daughters was transported here?"
"The blue-haired one. Evelyn, I believe the name was." Parker quirked an eyebrow at his superior. "Why?"
"Heh..." Kay's lips twisted into a malevolent smile that sent shivers down Nick, Floyd, and Lloyd's spines. "So now I know where that Evelyn girl got her looks from..." Her grin widened. "If there's something I love better than taking all sorts of Pokémon and auctioning them away on the black market, it's exacting glorious revenge..."
"I'm afraid I don't follow, ma'am," Parker piped up.
"Parker, do you remember the story of Aria's mother Elle?"
"Elle?" This time, it was Nick who had spoken. "Hmmmmm... The name does ring a bell..."
"She wasn't asking you, idiot," spat Parker.
Nick obliviously ignored him. "But I'm not coming up with anything-"
"Wait, hold up!" Floyd interjected, frowning. "Really, Nick?! How could you, a citizen of Kiloude City and the Kalos region, forget the name of Elle? Elle?!"
"I'm sorry..." Nick scratched his inner ear in confusion. "It's been a while since I've checked out the gossip channels."
"Heh, yeah, well that's 'cause you're always obsessing over those Kalosian Fried Combusken commercials that they keep showing!"
The reference caused Nick to start drooling in hunger. "Mmmmm... Kalosian Fried Combusken..."
"You do know that that food of theirs is synthetic and not legit, right? Ah, whatever!" The blue-haired man proceeded to rummage through his pockets. "Now I know that I've got something on Elle..." After pulling out and discarding the many, many items within his pockets, he finally procured a small magazine and began flipping through the pages. "Hold oooon, hold oooon... Ah-ha! Found her!"
"Found who?" Lloyd asked as he peered across his accomplice's shoulder.
"Her!" Floyd displayed the page for his comrades to see; it depicted an old photo of Elle during a photo-shoot in Laverre City, happily standing beside her Altaria. "She's Aria's mother, and a famous Kalos Queen! I remember following all of her exploits in the Kalos Queen Gazette when I was a wee lil' lad! And I most certainly remember when they announced the news that she died! I was bawling my eyes out when I- H-HEY!"
Kay had grabbed the magazine from Floyd's hands and proceeded to tear it in half. Then, a toothy grin appeared on the Pokémon poacher's face.
"That's correct," she said cruelly. "She's dead...by MY hand."
"By...By your..." Floyd blinked in disbelief. "W-Wait a minute, whaaaaa...?"
"Tell me, what do you remember about how Elle died?"
"N-No-Not sure... J-Just that she suffered some accident w-while on a photo-shoot at Mt. Kiloude that she did to sponsor some research operation." Floyd blinked again. "What're you trying to tell me...?"
"That her death was no accident." Kay's sneer became more pronounced. "Tell me, how do you think I ended up trapped here at Mt. Kiloude, the very same place where your so-called idol died?"
There was a brief but cold silence at first. Then, Floyd finally connected the dots, and his skin paled. Kay scoffed callously at the reaction.
"Now you and your friends should know to take me seriously..." she hissed. Then, she stood up from her seated position, towering precariously over the trio. "Now, Parker, do you have access to your Beta Mecha?"
Parker reached into his pocket and pulled out a small, charcoal-gray marble. "Yes, Kay. It's ready and on standby."
"Excellent." The green-haired poacher stared out into Kiloude Forest. "We proceed with the mission as planned. But know this: I personally have had enough of those kids and their meddling in our plans. I've stressed to you and the others the importance of making all of our operations extremely impersonal...but I'm going to make an exception here, today." Kay raised a trembling clenched fist. "I'm going to RUIN those kids for putting me into this debacle. And I'm going to enjoy it. Immensely." She stuck out her chin slightly. "If my...uncharacteristic outlook...perturbs you, Parker, then I understand if you-"
"No, Kay," her colleague interrupted. "I understand completely..." He narrowed his eyes. "And I share your sentiments. I will stay dedicated to the mission...but seeing the looks on those kids' faces as we exact vengeance and tear that stupid, irritating Celebi out of their hands is going to be better and more glorious than the payday Countess Diable has promised us."
Kay smirked coldly at those words. "Excellent. That's exactly what I was hoping to hear from you, Parker..."
"Indeed, Parker and I will exact our terrible vengeance upon those accursed kids," she thought ominously. "And once I've made sure they are dealt with, along with all witnesses, I shall get to the bottom of these time-travel shenanigans..."
A/N: Aaaaannnnnd...fin! And that marks the end of that chapter! Yancy is able to earn her continued participation in the Exhibition Showcase, all thanks to the votes from her audience, in Kiloude City and all over Kalos! And now, the Freestyle Performance will be underway in the next chapter! You can expect to see a lot of grace and beauty in that event! But, in the meantime, Parker has officially rendezvoused with Kay, at long last, and they're now plotting their revenge with Nick and company in tow. Whatever will happen next, now that two evil Pokémon Poachers are on the loose out there?! Stay tuned to find out! ;D ;D ;D
Anyway, to recap everything that you may have forgotten since the last time you read this fic:
-Flo is Yancy's White Flower Florges, and her signature Pokémon
-Chestnut is Yancy's Quilladin, which she obtained as her starter Pokémon
-Blanche is Yancy's Alolan Ninetales, and yes, it shares the same name as the Performer Blanche for reasons still unclear
-Vivi is Yancy's Tundra Pattern Vivillon
-Ditzy is Yancy's Spinda and her newest Pokémon in the group
Now, before I get on with the reviews, in other news, I'm currently brainstorming a new "Pokémon" fic. For the first time in a long time, I'll be writing something that's NOT explicitly AmourShipping-related (though the shipping will still play a role in some form). It'll incorporate everything that's happened in the anime to this point in time, along with a number of elements from the "Pokémon Masters EX" gacha game, and...that's all I have to say about it at this point. Don't worry, I plan to get myself closer to finishing this fic first before I actually start committing to the new one Consider this a special announcement from yours truly!
Alright, now that THAT'S out of the way, I'd like to thank the following people for reviewing:
1) Thanks! I wish you the best of your luck on your own story!
2) Is there anything that you'd like to specify in your review? Anything that you loved about the chapter? Anything that you might have disliked? Any questions or other comments? It'd be greatly appreciated!
1) Oh, really? I thought I was making it clear in my profile updates. I guess not. But either way, yes, this story's back. It is indeed back, and I am intent on finishing this final leg of the race without any additional pit-stops! :D :D :D
2) Yeah, it's really refreshing to take a second look at everything that you have done so far after a several-month hiatus, constructive criticism and all.
3) Yep! I sure foreshadowed a bunch of important plot points early on! I wonder what else I foreshadowed that has not come to fruition yet... ;)
4) Yeah, and she felt the ramifications of it all too. Fortunately, she had her parents (or at least their past versions) there to guide her through the fallout.
5) Nah, Countess Diable actually wants Celebi for more vain reasons...
-king nintendo (guest reviewer): Thank you for your comment! Now, is there anything that you would like to specify in your review? Anything that you liked about the chapter? Anything that you might have disliked? Any questions or other comments? It'd be appreciated!
1) Yeah! Now you have to wonder what will happen once more people affected by the time-tampering learn about what's actually happening. Like...Aria, for example...?
2) Oh, whoops! Let's just say Ash put them on the wrong wrists. He may be all grown up, but he's still Ash, after all! XD Nice catch, though!
3) Here's the next chapter for your reading pleasure! I hope you enjoyed it!
Well, hope you enjoyed this chapter! TheCartoonFanatic01 is out. PEACE!