A/N: I'm very, very, VERY sorry about the long wait, everyone. My original schedule was to update my "Fate/stay night" fic before updating this, but I lost a significant portion of writing motivation for that one, and progress was very slow as a result. Plus, I was dealing with a number of personal issues. College finals, nearby raging wildfires, working on transferring to another college once I get my Associate's Degree...getting deathly sick, a small road-trip to Las Vegas with my family, looking for a suitable part-time job... The list just goes on and on and on. Like, holy chocolate-covered God, so much stuff to attend to and so little time!
Anyway, because I have a lot of motivation and ambition for this specific project, I decided to scrap my original plans and get back to writing a new chapter for this story. That way, I would get myself motivated enough to resume work on my other fics, because God knows I need to update those. So, here we are now.
Alright, I think I've done enough explaining for one Author's Note. Time to get this chapter started. ENJOY!
P.S.: I celebrated my 22nd birthday on December 8! Just wanted to let you guys know. So...happy birthday, me! :D
P.P.S.: Is everyone psyched for the new "Pokémon" movie that's going to come out next year?! Because I am! If any of you have no clue what the heck I'm talking about, they released a teaser trailer for the upcoming 21st movie on December 10. Check it out!
P.P.P.S.: Merry Christmas, one and all! :D
Kiloude City, southern Kalos
Almost an hour after the group's first view of Kiloude City, their train eventually rolled into Kiloude Station and slowed down to a gradual stop. Once it did, the doors automatically slid open, allowing Ash, Serena, Clemont, Bonnie, and the rest of their group to exit their carriage with the other passengers. As soon as they all got out and found a clearing in the train station, Serena gawked in awe at her current surroundings.
"Wow, I can't believe we're here!" she exclaimed in excitement. "Kiloude City, the very hometown of the Kalos Queen Aria!"
"It's quite a sight, alright!" added Ash enthusiastically, though his auburn eyes were glued to the appealing ice cream stand situated at the corner of the station.
"Pika-pika!" Pikachu squeaked in agreement.
"Uh, pardon me for asking, but where exactly are we going to be staying at?" Clemont asked.
"Oh, you don't have to worry about that, Clemont," Grace replied, as she gestured to herself proudly. "I managed to book ourselves rooms at the local Blue Suns Deluxe Hotel!"
Serena, Clemont, and Bonnie's jaws all dropped open with profound shock. "THE BLUE SUNS DELUXE HOTEL?!" they exclaimed simultaneously.
"The five-star hotel chain that's one of the top five most highly-rated hotel chains in the world?!" added Clemont incredulously.
"Yes, that Blue Suns Deluxe Hotel." The former jockey then raised her index finger. "And it's no joke, might I add!"
"Fletch, fletchling!" chirped Fletchling, who was now perched on Grace's shoulder.
Shauna started giggling at Serena, Clemont, and Bonnie's expressions. "Wow, Tierno, Trevor, and I had those exact expressions when your mom told us, Serena," she said.
"Wow, Mom..." Serena breathed out in amazement. "I...I didn't know you had that kind of money..."
"Oh, but it's not just my money, sweetie." Grace pointed at Calem, Layla, and Moose, who all smiled proudly at Serena. "They donated a share of the money. And it's not just them. Everyone all the way from Johto to Unova made a donation, one way or another!"
The Performer blinked twice in response. "Everyone in the family...?"
"Yep! You have no idea how many strings I had to pull just so I could pitch in," Calem replied jokingly.
"Not everyone may have been able to make it to the party at Vaniville," Grace added, "but they wanted to show their pride in you all the same."
"Wow..." Serena's sapphire-blue eyes started shimmering with awe. Her entire family, not just her cousin, aunt, and uncle, contributed to this... "Thanks, you guys..."
"Hey," Moose replied, "after all that hard work you put into your career as a Pokémon Performer, you deserve every last reward." He sheepishly rubbed the back of his head. "Even if it means making my wallet cry, we'll pay it for you."
"Wow!" Bonnie exclaimed. "You have such an awesome family, Serena!"
"Nenene!" added Dedenne.
"And a big one too, apparently," Clemont remarked, adjusting his glasses as he recalled Grace's earlier statement. "Grace, you said you've got family living in other regions?"
Grace nodded. "That's right. The Gabena family is pretty large, and we live in a lot of places. It all started with the matriarch, our great-grandmother. Believe it or not, by the time she was 45, she had twenty children."
"TWENTY CHILDREN?!" Ash, Clemont, and Bonnie all shouted.
"PIKA?!" Pikachu cried in disbelief.
"Nene?" Dedenne asked, tilting its head in confusion.
"Yes, it's true." Then, Grace arched an eyebrow in curiosity as she turned her sights to Serena. "And to think, I thought Serena would've mentioned that fact to you guys by now..."
Serena replied dryly, "I don't know about you, Mom, but I don't consider being a part of a four-generation family with literally hundreds of members something to boast about..."
At that moment, the Performer's mind started to wander. She could recall all of the family reunions she was forced to go to, all in a different region. She never liked attending any of them; they were always so suffocating because of the large attendance and all of the names she had to memorize. She was always left out somehow; Calem was the only cousin she could really become close to, while the other children would just forget about her during playtime.
And now...for once, she felt as if she secured a true place in that family...the family she was once felt ashamed of...
"Well..." she added, "not anymore, that is..."
"Well, what're we waiting for?!" Calem exclaimed. "Let's get going to that hotel! I wanna have a taste of that five-star goodness!"
The group proceeded to leave Lumiose Station together. As they did, Serena could hear Ash, Clemont, and Bonnie talking with Shauna, Tierno, and Trevor.
"Twenty children, wow..." Clemont commented.
"Yeah, I can just imagine the next two generations that would come next," Tierno replied. "That must hurt anyone's head. Must've been pretty hard on Serena, having to know who is who."
"And to think," Ash said, "I thought my friend Brock had the biggest family ever."
"Hey, let's not forget all the Officer Jennys and Nurse Joys," added Trevor.
"Wow, don't get me started on those families, Trev!" exclaimed Tierno.
"How do they even tell each other apart?" Bonnie asked in curiosity. "Their names are all the same!"
"Dedenne!" Dedenne chirped.
"One thing's for sure," Ash remarked, as he rested his head on his raised arms. "I'd hate to be a part of that family."
"Pika-pika," Pikachu added, the Mouse Pokémon nodding his head in agreement.
Serena's skin paled at that admission, and her step faltered a little. However, she managed to recompose herself and continue walking. Nevertheless, her mind started to replay Ash's sentence over and over again, and it seemed that not even the grand, magnificent sights and sounds of Kiloude City could keep her occupied.
The Blue Suns Deluxe Hotel
However, Serena was proven wrong when she and the others arrived at their hotel.
The entire group, sans Grace, Calem, Layla, and Moose, all gawked at the hotel in front of them. It was a gigantic building with dozens of stories, topped with what appeared to be an outdoor penthouse. Upon noticing their reaction, Calem's grin widened.
"I knew you guys would love it!" he said.
"Awesome!" Tierno cried, his smile as wide as it can be. "So...this is gonna be our hotel...?"
"Hey, it does say 'Blue Suns Deluxe Hotel' at the front, doesn't it?!" The Sinnohan Trainer clapped his hands together in satisfaction. "Isn't it fabulous?!"
"Yeah..." Ash breathed out in wonder. "Your family is so awesome, Serena, being able to put together all the money to pay for this stay and all!"
"Pika..." added Pikachu.
"Th-Thanks, Ash..." Serena replied bashfully.
"Well, it comes with having such a fantastic Pokémon Performer for a daughter," Grace replied proudly. "Now, come on! Let's go inside!"
Grace, Calem, Layla, and Moose started walking towards the hotel, with Grace's Fletchling flying on ahead. After taking a brief moment to admire the hotel's appearance some more, the others followed after them. As soon as they entered, their jaws dropped open again: the lobby was literally shining like gold, with a mighty chandelier hanging from the ceiling, illuminating the scarlet-and-green carpeting, the golden walls, and the fantastic twin marble staircases leading up to the first floor.
"Wow..." Shauna said, her eyes shining with astonishment.
"This...This is too much for me..." Trevor remarked. The Trainer was completely red-faced and sounded dangerously close to hyperventilating.
"Ah, good day, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls," a kindly voice greeted. Ash, Serena, and the others saw an old man with a thick gray mustache and wearing a monocle stepping out from a gold desk and approaching Grace, accompanied by an aged but agile-looking Panpour. "Welcome to the Blue Suns Deluxe Hotel of Kiloude City. My name is Turner. How may I be of assistance?"
"Hi, Turner," Grace greeted, as Fletchling landed on her shoulder. "We're with the Gabena group. We wish to be escorted to the rooms that I reserved."
"Oh yes, the ones in the penthouse! Of course, of course! Follow me, ladies and gentlemen, for I shall show you the way there."
"Panpour, panpour," Panpour said, saluting to the group loyally.
Turner led the astonished group towards a set of elevators. During the walk, Serena stared at her mother incredulously.
"The penthouse?" the Performer asked.
"Well, your Uncle Dawson was WAY too generous with his donation, honey," Grace replied, sweat-dropping after recalling the amount of money she received from him.
"Fletchling..." Fletchling chirped in a deadpan tone.
Once the entire group reached the nearest elevator, Turner pressed the summoning button before turning around to face the others.
"Sirs and madams," he said elegantly, "it is a true honor for us at Blue Suns to be your host for the week. If there is anything you need, anything at all, be sure to ask. If it interests you, I am particularly well-versed in all reserves of knowledge pertaining to Kiloude City, such as its layout, its history, and its most famous landmarks and people. As for my Panpour, its forte is water-based tricks. He's been on the job for thirty years and he has never failed to amaze anyone."
"Panpour!" greeted Panpour, saluting humbly.
"Oh, it's nice to meet you, Turner and Panpour!" Bonnie replied.
"Yeah, I do hope we all get to know each other better!" added Ash.
"Pika, pikachu!" Pikachu said.
As for Serena, she pulled out her Pokédex. "Panpour, huh?" she remarked in curiosity.
Once it scanned Panpour, her Pokédex said, "Panpour, the Spray Pokémon. The water stored within the tuft on its head is full of nutrients, and it can use its tail to water plants."
As soon as the Pokédex completed its entry, the doors to the elevator opened. Serena was prepared to step inside when she saw the person who had already been riding it: a smug-faced girl with sleek black hair and indigo eyes, who was wearing all-purple boutique clothing and accessories so flashy and first-class that one would think those hit the market a few minutes ago. Serena's eyes widened in surprise, while the girl took notice of her and stared daggers at her.
"A-Am-Amelia!" Serena exclaimed, her voice coming out as a high-pitched squeak.
"You..." Amelia growled nastily, her voice shaky and her frame trembling. At first, everyone thought she would throttle Serena then and there. But then, she stuck her chin up with a huff, and marched out of the elevator and into the lobby, followed by what appeared to be her stout, balding, sweating, unfortunate mess of an assistant.
"Oh, my," Grace said, her astounded gaze following Amelia. "Who was that, Serena?"
"Another Performer," the honey-blonde replied. "We met in Fleurrh City, during the Pokémon Showcase there. I...I won that Showcase..."
"Wow," Shauna remarked, as she too followed Amelia with her gaze. "Obviously she didn't take that loss well. It seems like you're gonna be having some unfriendly competition during the Exhibition Showcase, Serena."
However, Serena didn't hear her friendly rival. Instead, she continued to follow Amelia as the Fleurrh native continued to march off with a boiling temper that could rival a Camerupt. In fact, her poor assistant seemed to sense his superior's unbridled wrath, for he was sweating up a rainstorm while in close proximity. At that moment, Serena remembered that Amelia was not present at the Master Class Showcase in Gloire City.
"I guess she didn't get to win her third Princess Key in time..." Serena concluded in her mind.
"This is unacceptable! Mine was a much more polished Performance than hers was!"
"But I want to become a better Performer than Aria!"
Her eyes narrowed. "I probably should watch out for her..."
"Unacceptable! What is she doing here?!"
"F-F-Forgive me, Amelia; I-I never anticipated her reserving a room here-"
Amelia glared at her assistant with an expression that could easily kill a Seviper. By this point, the two had exited the front lobby and were now outside the hotel.
"How did she, anyway?!" she snapped. "I could tell from the moment I first saw her that she was nothing more than a hillbilly from the boonies! There is simply no way she had the money to afford a room here! Just like there was no way she had a better Performance than mine back at Fleurrh City!"
"D-D-D-Do you w-want that looked into?" the assistant stuttered, struggling to decipher something, anything from his superior's rage-induced rant.
"No, I want her out on the street, away from MY HOTEL!"
"Now, now, my dear Amelia," a suave voice said. "That's no way to treat our customers."
Amelia turned around to see a man with wavy, neatly-combed green hair with golden streaks. He also had yellow eyes that glinted brightly, giving him a perpetually teary-eyed look, even though he was wearing a smile of undeniable confidence. He was also dressed in a sharp olive-green suit with a green-and-yellow-striped tie.
"U-Uncle!" Amelia exclaimed.
"S-S-Sir!" the assistant squeaked, but he was immediately silenced by the man's cold, hard stare.
"My darling," the man said. "Do you remember the business motto?"
"'Always serve those who want it and can afford it'," the Performer recited. "Bu-But you don't understand! The girl I'm talking about, she's the one who defeated me in the Fleurrh Showcase and-"
"And what? Your idea for retribution is to throw her out on the street? Reduce her to a poor, sobbing, begging mess? My dear, you are the heir to the family fortune, and to this hotel chain! Imagine what would happen to the family image if the press got a hold of your behavior right now?"
Amelia gritted her teeth, but she knew her uncle was right. It would be bad for business if the public realized she was having customers thrown out just because they beat her in something earlier. And yet, she couldn't stand the thought of her family business hosting the one who beat her in the Fleurrh Showcase despite having a sub-par Performance! She just couldn't! It was like rubbing salt in the wound!
Her uncle seemed to sense her thoughts, for he approached her and patted her shoulder. "There, there, darling," he said. "I understand your frustration. After all, it hurts to be put in second place despite your talents."
"It hurts so much," Amelia replied, his fists clenched and shaking. "I know I'm a better Performer than that hillbilly! And I know that I'm fit to dethrone Aria and become Kalos Queen! I just know it! But those blind idiots just can't understand true talent even if it hit them in the faces!"
"That is exactly right, Amelia! But you cannot express your anger that way! No, it would be unbecoming! Not to mention impractical and counterproductive."
Amelia looked up at her uncle with desperation. "Then what should I do, Uncle?! I can't let this hillbilly hog all the attention again! This is my last chance to show the world how talented I am!"
"Well, you definitely don't do something as drastic and open as throwing her out in the cold. No, you need to be more subtle..."
"Yes, dear." He started looking around, his eyes glinting more brightly than usual. "Look at it this way: your reputation would be ruined if you do something to her...but imagine what you could do to her reputation..."
Amelia's eyes lit up in understanding. "I get it now! I could sabotage her, discredit her! I could leave her in ruin without having to attract attention to myself!" She looked up at her uncle with admiration. "Thank you so much, Uncle Adam!" She hugged him tightly, startling the man. "I knew I could count on you!"
"Anything for your, my darling. Anything for you." He then gently peeled Amelia off him. "Now, uh, run along and do whatever you have to do to win."
Amelia nodded happily and started walking off briskly, followed by her nervous assistant. However, before she could get a yard away, her uncle called out to her again.
"And remember, dear Amelia, it's our little secret!"
The girl nodded. "Of course, Uncle Adam!" she replied before running off.
Once she rounded a corner and got out of sight, Adam turned around and entered the hotel with a devious smirk on his face.
"Well, it's official. We died in that train and went to heaven."
Clemont was spinning around in her and Ash's hotel room, his expression one of complete awe and exuberance. Not that Ash blamed him for it. After all, their penthouse suite was just as well-decorated and spacious as the lobby, adorned with the same kind of decorations, not to mention the luxury beds, the massive TV set, and a bathroom could fit half a dozen people. Out of all the hotels he had been in during his Pokémon journey, Blue Suns had to be the best one yet.
"Your beds have the finest luxury mattresses and blankets the Kalos region has to offer," Turner explained proudly and elegantly, as the rest of the group looked around the room. "And the television set is ultra-high-definition and features hundreds of different channels. Local, regional, and inter-regional news stations. Cartoons. Movies. Sports. Soap-operas. You name it."
"Awesome!" Ash exclaimed.
"Pika!" added Pikachu.
"Awesome indeed," replied Turner. "Also, we offer room service, which has been granted five-star ratings for twenty years in a row now."
"Twenty years in a row? Man, that's a long time. That's, like..." The raven-haired Trainer started counting with his fingers. "Ten years-"
"Plus ten," Shauna completed in a deadpan tone.
Turner continued, "This room service includes food, which will be offered to you at your whim." He pointed to a small stack of tablets on one of the nightstands. "Those are your menus. Just read through them, select the food of your choice, call us at the number provided, and we will bring it to you within five minutes. Normally, you would pay us, but you do not need to worry about that because a week's worth has already been paid in advance."
"Wait a sec, so we have free food all week?!" Ash hollered, his eyes shining with a newfound glory.
"Pika?!" Pikachu exclaimed as well.
"All week, my dear Ash Ketchum. Any time, any day, every day."
"Pan-panpour," Panpour said, nodding its head.
Serena glared at Grace, and the jockey replied, "Sometimes I think your Uncle Dawson's way too generous for his own good, honey..."
"Fletchling..." Fletchling chirped in a deadpan tone.
"YEAH!" Ash jumped into the air, a fist raised. "I'm gonna start ordering some food now!"
As the raven-haired Trainer rushed over to grab one of the tablets, Turner said, "I highly recommend you examine our Special Meal of the Day. We have a different special meal daily, and it is simply exquisite."
"Pan-panpour!" Panpour added in agreement.
"Will do!" Ash replied as he started scanning through the electronic tablet, which proudly boasted his menu. He already started to drool upon seeing the wide variety of dishes being offered to him.
"Ooh, ooh, I wanna order too!" Bonnie exclaimed excitedly. Drool was also practically hanging off the edge of her mouth.
"Nenene!" squeaked Dedenne with enthusiasm.
"Me too!" Calem cried, his eyes shining just as brightly as Ash's. "I wanna see how worthy of a five-star rating your food is!" The two grabbed electronic tablets of their own and started reading the contents of the menu.
"Wow," Shauna said, raising an eyebrow at the trio. "Those three sure have food on their minds a lot, do they?"
"Yep," replied Serena. She then looked between Ash and Calem and noticed their shared enthusiasm towards the menu. "I'm surprised that Ash and Calem have a lot more in common than I had earlier realized..."
"Is there anything else this place has to offer?" Tierno wondered aloud.
"Actually, there is," replied Turner. "The penthouse features a restaurant that you'll be getting your food from, along with a spa, a swimming pool, and a private play area reserved for Pokémon. Those are all outdoors."
Tierno blushed in awe and gazed at Serena. "Remind me to thank your Uncle Dawson, Serena..."
Serena merely giggled nervously in response.
"Well, then," Turner said, examining each Trainer in turn, "it seems my job is done for the moment. I shall make my leave."
He bowed humbly at the Trainers and left the room, leaving the entire group to themselves.
"Well, now that that's out of the way," Grace announced, "we have three rooms, everyone. This is Room 30025, and the other rooms are 30024 and 30026."
"I think I'll be going to 30026," Shauna replied. "I need to get all my stuff set up."
"I'll go with you," Trevor said.
"Ditto!" Tierno added.
The trio of Trainers proceeded to leave the room. However, once she got to the doorway, Shauna stopped for a moment to look at Calem before following her childhood friends.
"I guess that leaves us with Room 30024, honey," Moose said. "Come on, let's go check it out!"
"Oh, I hope their beds are well-suited for pregnant women..." replied Layla hopefully as she followed her husband outside. This officially left Serena, Ash, Clemont, Bonnie, Grace, and Calem alone with their Pokémon.
"At least we know our rooms are at the top of the hotel," Clemont remarked.
"You got that right," Bonnie replied as she continued to survey the menu. "I'm not gonna be able to remember all those numbers!"
"Dedenne!" Dedenne squeaked in agreement.
At that moment, Squishy flopped out of Bonnie's satchel and slithered over to the nearest windowsill, where it started gazing through the glass windowpanes. Calem eyed the mysterious green Pokémon with curiosity as it continued to lay immobile, watching the outside world.
"Hey, Bonnie," he said, "I never got to ask earlier, but what exactly is that Pokémon that keeps hopping out of your bag? I don't think I've ever seen or heard of it before..."
"Oh, his name's Squishy!" the girl replied happily. "He's a brand-new species of Pokémon that we found on our way to Snowbelle City!"
"Huh... Isn't that so...?" Calem continued to eye Squishy with curiosity.
Unbeknownst to any of them, there was a hardened, serious expression on Squishy's face as it glared through the windowpanes. It had sensed something strange aboard the train, but it shrugged it off at first, thinking it was something minor. But it detected that sensation again a few seconds ago, and this time, it was stronger.
Something was happening out there... Something unnatural...
Pokémon Ranger Summer dashed through the forest as fast as she could, hopping over fallen tree trunks and ducking through low-hanging branches with ease. Half of her focus was on the trail ahead, while the other half was on the device given to her by her colleague; this device was beeping faster and faster with every step she took. She had to be getting close, she just knew it, but the female Ranger didn't know how much time she had left before-
"WHOA!" she cried upon seeing the danger straight ahead.
She stopped so suddenly that her body nearly fell over. Fortunately, Summer managed to maintain her footing in the nick of time before her body could fall over the side of a cliff, which was overlooking more of the forest. Once she was sure she wouldn't fall over, she heaved out a sigh of relief and wiped the sweat from her brow.
"Whew! That was close... A little too close..."
"Huh?" Summer looked ahead and saw, just a couple of miles away, the quick and powerful shock-wave shred apart a small portion of the forest in a few split-seconds. "Whoa! So that's what's been happening around here!" She promptly procured a Holo Caster and activated it; the 3D hologram of a bearded, dashing-looking man appeared on its surface. "This is Ranger Summer reporting to home-base!"
"This is Rand," the man replied.
Summer suddenly sweat-dropped. "I know, Rand; I can see your face from just a few inches away. You know we both have Holo Casters. That's the point of these things."
"Oh, sorry! You know, these are way more complicated than my daughter's inventions-"
"I heard that!" another voice called sarcastically.
"Anyway, did you find the source of those noises that people here have been reporting?"
"Yes," Summer replied, nodding. "But it's not some illegal construction site, or part of a Pokémon poaching operation. In fact, I don't even know how to describe it. The best I can say is that it's an explosion of air."
"An explosion of air, you say?"
"Yes. It's powerful enough to level everything in close proximity."
"Huh... That sounds like Nema's area of expertise. I think. Okay, report back to home-base. We will get to the bottom of this."
"But Rand, what about all of the wild Pokémon? Who knows how many out there are badly injured, or worse?"
"You said it yourself: these so-called explosions are powerful to rip an entire forest apart. Who knows where those things will hit next? Probably on the very spot you're standing on!"
"Yeah, that doesn't sound fun to be in..." Summer sighed reluctantly, her mind still on all of the ailing Pokémon that were most likely out there. "Copy that, Rand. Summer out."
She deactivated the Holo Caster and, after taking one last look at the destruction, quickly ran back the way from which she came from.
The Blue Suns Deluxe Hotel
Serena, Ash, Pikachu, Clemont, Bonnie, and the others stepped out onto the fenced rooftop and saw the restaurant that Turner mentioned to them. Once again, they all marveled at the sight of it. There were dozens of polished circular tables, with formal tablecloths and luxury chairs. The customers were being served by waiters and waitresses that were just as polite and elegant as Turner. The entire room was bathed in a golden glow that was coming from the first-class chandeliers above. And finally, the food that they could see was purely exquisite.
"I wanna live here," Trevor said.
"Hey!" Ash exclaimed, pointing towards a certain direction. "There's that play area Turner was talking about!"
Serena and the others saw it as well, and it was just as marvelous as the neighboring restaurant. Of course, the space was more limited because of the expanse of the restaurant, but there were still a couple of large, elaborate playgrounds, a small training area, and last but not least, a battlefield that Trainers could use. In fact, it was being used right now!
"Wow, that looks so cool and fun!" Bonnie cried as all of the Trainers ran over towards that area.
"Nenene!" squeaked Dedenne.
"'Kay, let's use it!" Ash said as he pulled out his five Poké Balls. "Everyone, come on out!"
He threw the devices into the air, which summoned Greninja, Talonflame, Hawlucha, Goodra, and Noivern. They all croaked, squawked, or cawed in greeting.
"Great, I'll send my Pokémon too!" Serena cried. She threw her own Poké Balls, summoning Braixen, Pancham, and Sylveon.
"Me too!" Clemont added as he called out Bunnelby, Chespin, and Luxray.
"Don't forget us!" Shauna, Tierno, and Trevor exclaimed at once. Shauna summoned her Ivysaur, Orange Flower Floette, Swirlix, and Gothita; Tierno unleashed his Blastoise, Ludicolo, Hitmontop, Politoed, and Raichu; and Trevor called out his Charmeleon, Aerodactyl, White Flower Florges, Scyther, and Gabite.
"Well, since everyone's doing it, I might as well do it too!" Calem said, pretending to be nonchalant as he threw his own Poké Balls, which summoned Empoleon, Gallade, Scizor, Ferrothorn, Swellow, and Alolan Golem.
Grace's Fletchling chirped in greeting, flew off its owner's shoulder, and started circling above the heads of the other Pokémon as a greeting. Several of the Pokémon, led by Pikachu and Dedenne, then began to play on the playgrounds and mingle with other Pokémon already using them. As for the others, such as Greninja and Luxray, they stood by and watched while socializing with each other. Squishy, as always, completely distanced itself from the others and appeared to be sunbathing again, even though it was strangely staring off at a random direction.
As for Ash, he glanced at the direction of the restaurant's kitchen, where he could see the well-dressed chefs and cooks making their food. His eyes went wide and started gleaming with excitement.
"Alright, it's time to get my food!" he exclaimed, running off towards the kitchen immediately after.
"Wait for me!" Bonnie called. The little girl ran after Ash, with Calem close behind her. "I want some food too!"
"Dedenne!" chirped Dedenne with anticipation.
"Bonnie!" Clemont cried in exasperation. The aspiring inventor ran after the trio as well; his forehead already started sweating. "Don't tell me you're only buying sweets from them! It's not healthy, you know!"
Meanwhile, Shauna, Tierno, and Trevor joined the Pokémon on the playground, while Layla and Moose excused themselves to find a table. This left Serena alone with her mother.
"This..." Serena said as she observed all of her friends as they had fun. "This is so amazing, Mom. All of it." She looked at Grace. "You didn't have to do all of this, you know. The party back at home was enough."
Grace nodded. "I know," she replied. "But honey...you really do deserve this."
"No, I don't!"
"Yes, you do, Serena! You have no idea how proud I am! How proud the whole family is! All this time, you've never fit in anywhere, and you've never managed to find anything that truly made you happy. I tried fixing that by teaching you Rhyhorn Racing." Grace scoffed. "Obviously that didn't go over very well." The former jockey then glanced towards Braixen, who was breaking up a fight between Pancham and Chespin. "But you've grown ever since you got your first Pokémon and started journeying with Ash, Clemont, and Bonnie."
Serena smiled gently, fondly reminiscing of all the adventures she had with her friends. "Yeah. I had a really fun time with them. I still do."
"And it shows." Grace looked back at her honey-blonde daughter. "Look at you, honey! I can barely recognize you anymore! You...You've become someone way beyond my level."
Serena snorted. "No way."
"Uh, yes way! Serena, it's always a parent's duty to make sure their child surpasses them. And you may not believe it right now, but I truly think you've become someone I wish I could surpass."
Suddenly, a voice within earshot said, "Hey, wait a minute... Is that who I think it is?"
"I think it is, Concetta!" another voice replied. "Hey! Girl with the cycling cap!"
Serena and Grace looked to their right and saw two girls approaching them. One had light-green hair styled into a side-bun with a bow that vaguely resembled a Glaceon's tail; she was wearing a loose-fitting purple shirt, blue jeans, and stylish blue sunglasses. The other had crystal-blue eyes and chin-length, brownish-orange hair; she was wearing a modest pinkish-red polo shirt, turquoise jean shorts, and a red headband. Accompanying the green-haired girl was a Glaceon, while a Scraggy tagged beside the orange-haired girl.
"M-Me?" Serena asked, pointing to herself.
"Yes, you!" replied the green-haired girl. She lowered her sunglasses to examine Serena's style of clothing. "The change of clothes fooled me at first, but now there's no doubt in my mind."
"You're Serena, aren't you?!" the orange-haired girl asked enthusiastically.
"Uhhhhh...yes, yes, that's me... Why are you asking...?"
The second girl took Serena's hands and stared deeply, and with awe, into her eyes. The honey-blonde Performer could see sparkles in the girl's crystal-blue pupils.
"You're the Performer who faced off against Aria in the Master Class Showcase!" the girl cried. "You were so awesome!"
Serena's eyes widened. "R-R-Really?!" At the corner of her eye, she could see Grace winking and walking away.
The girl nodded vigorously. "Uh-huh! And I saw your PokéVision video too! You're just so magnificent and amazing and elegant and-"
"Oh, relax Concetta," the green-haired girl said flatly, giving her companion a soft slap to the top of the head. "You're overwhelming her." She then smiled at Serena while the other girl, Concetta, rubbed her head sheepishly. "I apologize about my friend. She goes a little cuckoo when she meets celebrities." She removed her sunglasses (revealing her yellowish-green eyes in the process) and placed them on the top of her head. "My name's Sara Lee. It's nice to meet you."
"Sara Lee...?" Serena repeated. Then, her mind clicked into place. "You were in my group during the first round of the Master Class!"
Sara Lee winked in response. "That's me. It was a good Performance, if you ask me."
"It was better than good!" Concetta suddenly shouted. "It was great! OW!"
Sara Lee rubbed the palm of her hand. "Relax, Concetta."
In the meantime, Serena was starting to smile. "Thanks for all the compliments, you two. I'm so glad you really liked my Performances." Her smile then faltered, and she sighed. "Although I was hoping it'd be enough for me to beat Aria in the finals..."
"Well, to be perfectly honest, it was a lost cause, no matter how good you were. No one's beaten Aria in years. I was a participant in the last two Showcase seasons and the same results applied. The runner-ups were pretty good, but not enough to outdo Aria in the end. At this point, it's a competition to see who is second-best to Aria."
"It's that kind of negative thinking that jinxed Serena's chances at winning, Sara Lee!" Concetta snapped defiantly. She pouted in a way that reminded Serena of Bonnie whenever she was upset, which turned out to be more adorable than anything else.
Sara Lee shrugged. "Well, what can I say, Concetta? Aria's the longest-serving Kalos Queen in Showcase history. That much is true."
Serena blinked in surprise. "Wait, Aria's the longest-serving Kalos Queen ever?" she asked.
"What, you didn't know that?"
"Well, to be honest, you guys, this was my first Showcase season. I don't know much outside of the actual competition."
Sara Lee's eyebrows shot up in surprise. "You're a newbie?" When Serena nodded in affirmation, she remarked in awe, "Wow. It takes many Showcase seasons for a Performer to make it to the final stage of the Master Class competition. Some Performers have even gotten too old for Showcases before they could have a chance. To know that you made it that far in the Master Class Showcase on your first try... That's gotta take a lot of talent and hard work." Sara Lee's eyes glinted with curiosity. "May I see your Pokémon, please?"
"Y-Ye-Yeah, s-sure!" Serena stuttered, still surprised and embarrassed that she was receiving this much attention from her fellow Performers. "Braixen, Pancham, Sylveon! Come over here, please!"
Her Pokémon obeyed her command and left the playgrounds to join her sides. As soon as they did, Sylveon saw Sara Lee's Glaceon and gave it a friendly greeting, which the Fresh Snow Pokémon responded to warmly. As for Concetta's Scraggy, it immediately started sizing up Pancham, with the Playful Pokémon scowling at it.
Sara Lee proceeded to examine Braixen, Pancham, and Sylveon in turn. Braixen and Sylveon smiled kindly at the green-haired Performer, while Pancham proudly did a pose. Once she was done, Sara Lee started rubbing her chin, her brow furrowed in unadulterated seriousness.
"Funny," she said. "There seem to be no problems with your Pokémon whatsoever. There's no obvious height or weight differences, so they're in perfect health and well-fed. They're well-groomed, so well-groomed in fact that they look like the works of a Pokémon Stylist like Barry. Obviously they respond to your commands excellently. And then there's the perfectly synchronized coordination you displayed during your Performances, so you all train hard..."
"Wow," Serena replied in astonishment. "You can tell all of that just by looking at my Pokémon?"
"Sara Lee's really good at that kind of stuff," responded Concetta, smiling proudly.
"Hmmmmm... Your Pokémon are all in tiptop shape and your Performances are so well-rehearsed..." Sara Lee continued to rub her chin in curiosity as she mulled over her findings. "Your level of care and preparedness actually matches Aria's level. There's no way you could've lost to her back then. What in the world is it that could've held you back...?"
"Hey, Serena!" a voice called.
Ash and Bonnie approached their honey-blonde friend, each carrying an assortment of food and drinks that all looked very pleasing to the eye. Serena noticed that their mouths were already full, while their lips were coated to the brim with bits of various foods.
"We've got our food!" Ash exclaimed, additional bits of food flying out of his mouth; he looked like a totally unpleasant slob. "Let's go scarf!"
"Yeah!" added Bonnie. "You can share my sweets if you'd like!" Then, the young girl noticed Sara Lee and Concetta for the first time. "Who are these two?"
"Oh, these are two other Performers who were in the Gloire Master Class competition!" replied Serena. "Sara Lee, Concetta, these are some of my friends! This is Ash and that's Bonnie!"
Bonnie smiled up at the two Performers and waved at them. "Hi!"
"H-Hey..." Sara Lee replied, her expression suddenly turning into one of hesitation as she examined both her and Ash.
But Concetta was more positive. "Hi, there!" she said before her eyes settled on Bonnie's large cup of sundae ice cream. "WOW! Is that the Blue Suns Deluxe Sundae I've heard about?!"
"Yes, that's it!" replied Bonnie. She took a gulp of her food right before she taking a spoonful of the ice cream and greedily eating it. "Want some?"
"Oh, I sure d-"
Concetta was suddenly cut off when Sara Lee latched her hand around her acquaintance's shoulder.
"Don't worry, Concetta," the green-haired Performer said darkly. "I'll buy you some. Come on, let's go."
"I'll come with you two," Serena said. "I'd like to talk more about Aria and Showcases-"
"That won't be necessary," Sara Lee interrupted, shooting the honey-blonde a harsh look. "You know, I think I now know what's holding you back, Serena."
"You do? What is it, Sara Lee?"
The green-haired girl cast her glare towards Ash, who was sloppily, obliviously eating a thick chocolate bar without a care in the world.
"You should know."
The honey-blonde followed Sara Lee's gaze and realized what she was talking. She shot back an infuriated glare and replied, "Hey, Ash happens to be my greatest fr-fr-friend, and believe it or not, he's also a huge source of inspiration for me! I owe everything to him! And you think he's the problem with my performances?!"
"And you consider him a source of inspiration for you?" Sara Lee asked haughtily. "Yeah, I can see where your biggest flaw lies at. Serena, the world of Pokémon Showcases requires uncompromising beauty, talent, and perfection in all aspects of life, no matter if you're on or off the stage. That's why Aria's been so flawless as Kalos Queen in the first place. If you cannot realize that, Serena, then I'm afraid that's all you'll ever be in comparison to Aria: second-best."
Serena's eyes narrowed, as did Ash's and Bonnie's when they caught on to Sara Lee's antagonism.
"You're wrong, Sara Lee!" Serena replied. "Showcases aren't just about beauty, talent, and perfection! They're also about having fun with your Pokémon!"
Braixen, Pancham, and Sylveon all made noises of defiant agreement. However, Sara Lee narrowed her eyes at the honey-blonde.
"So that's what you view Showcases as? A way to have fun? HA! Serena, it's that kind of casual behavior that brings about the downfall of someone so promising in any competition. Trust me, think over your Showcases career, and you'll see that I'm right. In the meantime, I'm not gonna associate myself with someone with such a casual outlook on life, who believes uncultured people are bearable enough to hang out with."
"Hey, that's a very, very, VERY rude thing to say!" Bonnie snapped, pointing at Sara Lee accusingly. "And you call yourself a Pokémon Performer?! You're just a meanie!"
Sara Lee merely scowled, stuck her chin out, and marched away from the group, followed by Glaceon. Concetta looked from her friends to Serena and back with a look of ambivalence and reluctance, before ultimately choosing to follow her green-haired friend, with Scraggy by her side. Serena, Ash, Bonnie, Braixen, Pancham, and Sylveon all stared after them angrily and incredulously.
"I don't believe it!" Serena exclaimed in outrage. "She...She actually had the nerve to say that to me! And just when I thought she was a nice girl!"
"How come all the mean Performers are here?!" asked Bonnie, her cheeks puffed out. "I guess this hotel isn't as perfect as we thought!"
"I guess tensions are pretty high, even if it's an Exhibition Showcase," Ash replied. He then patted Serena's shoulder consolingly. "Just ignore her, Serena. Let's go have lunch with all the others. They're at the table."
"Okay..." The honey-blonde teenage girl took a deep breath. "Okay. Let's go eat." Then, she realized, for the first time, that someone was missing. "Wait a minute, where's Clemont? I thought he was following you two and Calem while you were all getting your food?"
"Oh, he was?" Ash looked around. "Huh. I never really noticed him."
"Yeah, I never noticed him either," added Bonnie. She then looked around in search of her older brother. "In fact...I don't see him anywhere. Heeeeey, Clemont?! Where are you?!"
"Guys? Hey, guys?"
Unbeknownst to everyone else, Clemont had gotten lost in the crowd of patrons earlier while trying to track Ash, Bonnie, and Calem, and subsequently wandered into an entirely different part of the hotel. Now that he had lost track of his own location, the aspiring inventor was attempting to navigate his way through the maze of hallways and hotel rooms, hoping to get back to the restaurant.
"Oh, great," Clemont moaned, hanging his head low in exasperation. "This is just great! How in the world did I get lost here?! How convenient!"
All of a sudden, he spotted a man standing near the elevators. This man had a muscular build; sharp, beady eyes; and blond hair cut in a buzz-cut. He was also wearing military-style clothing consisting of a tight-fitting, white tank-top; a light, jungle-camouflage jacket; jungle-camouflage pants with a thick brown belt; dark-brown combat boots; and dark sunglasses that were on top of his head at the moment. Clemont couldn't help but wonder why this man was in the hotel dressed like that, but nevertheless, he approached him, hoping to get directions back to the restaurant.
"E-Excuse me, sir?" the inventor called, catching the man's attention.
"Yes?" the man replied gruffly.
"Uhhhhh..." Clemont paused for a moment, suddenly intimidated by the hard, razor-sharp stare the man gave him. "Wh-Wh-Where's the r-restaurant...?"
"What in the world are you talking about? Did you get lost here?"
"Y-Yeah, pretty much... S-See, I was trying to find my sister and our friend a-and-"
"Get lost, kid," the man interrupted harshly, looking away. "I don't know the way around here myself, so don't even bother asking me."
At that moment, there was a dinging noise, and the doors to the nearest elevator slid open. The man marched inside and allowed the doors to shut themselves, leaving behind a frightened, miserable-looking Clemont.
"T-T-Th-Th-Tha-Thanks..." he stuttered, his voice quaking severely.
It was silent in the hallway for a brief moment, and Clemont didn't budge an inch. He had been frozen on the spot by his embarrassing interaction with the strangely-dressed man. Finally, he was pulled out of his stupor by another unfamiliar voice calling out to him.
"Are you lost here?!"
Clemont looked across his shoulder and saw a blue-haired, blue-eyed girl around his age, who was standing a few feet down the hallway. She was wearing a light-blue, polka-dotted, ruffled tank-top; a flared blue skirt with a single white stripe at the border; brown sport sneakers; and red, square glasses. Clemont also noticed that she had a fresh bandage on her right cheek, but he quickly ignored it.
"Yes!" he replied. "I got lost and am trying to find my way back to the restaurant!"
The girl blinked. "You got lost..." she said, "and you're trying to find your way back to the restaurant?"
"Well...yeah, that's right."
"Why don't you just go back the way you came?"
Clemont blushed deeply in embarrassment. "Well...the thing is...I was kinda busy admiring what the hotel had to offer, and...I guess I just...got distracted..." The inventor started chuckling nervously.
"Oh, I see." The girl giggled, and Clemont's blush deepened even more at the sight. "Don't worry, I get so overwhelmed by this hotel too. Is this your first time staying here?"
"Yes, that's right."
"Oh, whaddaya know? Mine too!"
Clemont's eyes widened in surprise. "Really?"
"Yep! I've been here for four days. And it's been quite a four days!"
"Oh." Clemont scratched his cheek sheepishly. "I literally just got here."
"So you got lost here on your first day? Don't worry; I can relate to that. I wound up on the wrong floor on my first day, and I got lost while getting back to the elevators." She giggled again. "It's a very awesome hotel Kiloude City's got here. You know, I can guide you back to the restaurant if you want."
"You will?!" The inventor's eyes started to shine with amazement. "I'd appreciate it!"
The girl clapped her hands together in delight. "Awesome! Follow me, if you'd please!"
She started walking down the direction from which she came, and Clemont quickly joined her side.
"So what brings you to Kiloude City?" the inventor asked. Then, his eyes lit up again. "Oh, don't tell me, you're a Performer too, aren't you?"
"Huh?" The girl looked at him with a puzzled look. "What's a Performer?"
"Well...I guess that answers my question..."
"I'm actually here on vacation," the girl responded. "I'm accompanying my father, who's a, uh, um...government official doing some business."
"Oh, really? Where are you from?"
"The Oblivia region."
"The Oblivia region?" repeated Clemont. "I've never heard of it..."
"It's an archipelago located south of the Almia and Fiore regions."
Clemont's eyes lit up once again, this time with understanding. "Ohhh, Almia's located on the southern tip of the same continent as Sinnoh! So your region's located south of that?"
"Yep, that's us!" The girl puffed out her chest a little with pride.
"Huh..." Clemont scratched the top of his head before realizing something else. "Oh, I never caught your name, by the way. My name's Clemont."
The girl smiled sweetly at him. "And mine's Nema. Nice to meet you, Clemont!"
A/N: And thus concludes this overdue chapter! Once again, I apologize for the delay.
So here we meet a few characters from "Pokémon Ranger: Guardian Signs", and we also get to know a bit about the luxury hotel our heroes are staying at! Not to mention we see Amelia at the hotel, plus we meet two minor characters from the Showcase arc. Yes, by the way, Sara Lee and Concetta are actual Performers that we see in several Showcase-related episodes, in case any of you didn't know. They're mere background characters in the anime, but I'm a huge fan of bringing even background characters into the shining spotlight in my fics, so we definitely haven't seen the last of those two!
Also, surprise surprise, I brought in yet another familiar face into this story! If any of you have followed my other AmourShipping stories, you'll (hopefully) recognize Adam Glazing from "Separation". He was the main antagonist there, who developed a grudge against Serena that was borderline-obsessive. He was also going to be a supporting antagonist in the planned sequel to "Separation", but that fic turned out to be a bust. When I decided to rewrite "The Way We Will Be", I had huge considerations of rebooting the character and reusing him here, and I eventually decided to go for it. So yes, this Adam Glazing is an altered character (and Amelia's uncle, no less), but he'll be just as villainous as you could see from his scene. But I don't know if I will be able to fit his lackeys, Floyd, Lloyd, and Nick, into the story as well. We'll see about that.
Alright, I'm officially rambling. On to the reviews!
I'd like to thank the following for reviewing:
-Rajiv A. Rajaram:
1) Zygarde is definitely incorrect, but good guess, though. Try thinking outside the box... ;)
2) I'm glad you're very appreciative of my not sticking to the time-travel scenario at the moment.
3) The pieces of the puzzle will fall into place starting with the next chapter, don't worry about that! :D
1) Thanks! I did find it very curious that Grace of all people didn't address her knowledge of Serena's crush on Ash. Given how well-treated AmourShipping was in the anime, they definitely should've had Serena's own mother be aware of her feelings for Ash.
2) Oh yes, I've always wanted to deal with Aria as a major supporting character. She's such an underrated character in the anime. To be honest, I was originally planning to have a separate fanfic on her, but I realized many of the plot points were pretty compatible with this story, and her subplot would definitely benefit a lot better in this story too. Thus, I just merged the two planned fics together.
3) I'm glad you also like how I'm building up the present timeline at the moment. There is definitely a lot more to build up here compared to the original fic. :D
1) Well, you were correct on one point: the Ranger, Summer, does get "introduced" here! :D
2) I actually haven't read the Ancienverse in a long, long while, so that material is definitely coincidental. And yes, Aria and Paris are involved in the story. Deeply involved. ;)
-Guest reviewer #1:
1) I'll just chalk it up to your personal dislike of Palermo's character in the anime, then.
2) Well, you can just leave a few sentences on what you like and/or don't like about the story. I'm not expecting a whole paragraph or essay in your review. I'm sure you can do it. I have complete faith in your writing and evaluating abilities. ;)
-Guest reviewer #2:
1) Well, that was supposed to be a vague AmourShipping hint for the fans and readers. The context is that Ash has taken much worse damage (i.e. Charizard's Flamethrower as you just mentioned) than Serena. Despite that, he still gets pretty concerned about her well-being to the point where he would scold Empoleon for soaking her, even though it's not that bad compared to what he suffered.
2) Yes, it really ticks me off too when the anime just cannot keep track of its own continuity. Sure, it may be long, but if a fan like me can remember even a random background character, then it wouldn't be that hard for the studio to do the same, right? Though to their defense, they did actually make a reference Dawn's Piplup in one XY episode, though I forgot which episode that was.
3) Yes, the childhood friend angle is definitely overused between Serena and Calem in AmourShipping fics. I thought that since I was introducing Serena's relatives in this fic, the same should apply to Calem.
4) In regards to Shauna's hometown, I think it was stated in the anime, but I'm not sure; I never saw such an episode. It is confirmed in Bulbapedia, though, and that was my source for that info.
-ultragreenyellow56: Yes, it is odd.
-Phantomorion (guest reviewer): Yes, there'll be some elements from the original that'll be the same.
-Maeph93: Thank you! I am pretty proud of how I write Team Rocket. They're so easy and fun to write about! :D
-Ron the True Fan: All of that will be explained in due time. Don't worry, the real fun starts in the next chapter! There's no need to be impatient. :D
-EmzyWonder: I'm glad you're welcoming of Layla and Moose's inclusion! The Shaymin movie happens to be one of my favorite "Pokémon" movies so I couldn't resist making some sort of reference.
-Arno wisp: Well, I guess this update answers your question! :D :D :D
Well, this was definitely the story's longest chapter to date! I suspect the next chapter will be a bit longer, because that's when the fun with time-travel starts! And don't worry about the time it will take for me to post that one. I intend to start work on it right away, and with winter break upon me, it will be easier for me to update the story! :D
Well, hope you enjoyed this long-overdue chapter! TheCartoonFanatic01 is out. PEACE!