A/N: Wow, I'm REALLY spoiling you guys with brand-new chapters for this story! It makes me wonder if I should take a little break from writing for this...
Nah. I'm enjoying this way too much, no freaking joke. :D :D :D
ENJOY YOUR START OF FEBRUARY!
P.S.: The newest school semester just started for me, so this could ruin my updating streak. :( Don't worry, though, I'll keep you guys updated on my current progress on my profile page.
Alouette stepped out of the train station, her Furfrou loyally following her every step of the way. She took in a deep breath of fresh air, and smiled at the sight of Kiloude City. It was such welcoming scenery to the black-haired Pokémon Performer, a definite contrast to the tough season of Pokémon Showcases that just concluded. After all, once again, it was another failure for her...
Alouette shook her head to clear it of all the dark thoughts. Then, she started walking further into the downtown area, where many pedestrians where.
"Wow!" the girl exclaimed as she examined the storefront windows of multiple boutiques. "There's so many clothes and accessories here! And I can see a Stylist shop! I guess it isn't Aria's hometown for nothing!"
"Furf-furfrou," Furfrou grumbled, nodding its head in agreement.
"What do you think, Furfrou? Wanna get your fur groomed?"
The Poodle Pokémon's tail started wagging in excitement. "Furfrou!"
The two began to proceed towards the Stylist shop when they overheard the voice of a reporter on a nearby television monitor.
"And here's a recap of my one-on-one interview with Kalos Queen Aria."
Alouette and Furfrou both stopped and looked at the monitor. It had attracted a considerable crowd, though she and Furfrou could still see and hear it from the distance they were at. And they could definitely see the redheaded, beautiful Kalos Queen, sitting on a luxurious chair and with a microphone close to her face. Her Delphox and Aromatisse were standing on either side of her, while her Meadow Pattern Vivillon was perched on the head of the chair.
"So, Aria," the reporter said, "how does it feel knowing you are returning to your hometown after so many years? I'm sure you must be feeling a whole lot of joy and nostalgia from this."
Aria smiled serenely as always, nodded, and replied cheerfully, "Of course! I made a promise to myself to return home once in a while, but I guess I've become more and more preoccupied in recent years. All the new challengers to battle, all the new events to go to, all the smiles to give, it's just been so extraordinarily busy for me! But with the season over and a huge clearing now in my schedule, it brings me great happiness to know I'm going back home to Kiloude City." She then directed her smile at the camera. "Kiloude City, whose citizens are always kind, sweet, exquisite, and keep on shining!"
The redhead winked charmingly at the camera's direction, eliciting a massive roar of joy and excitement from the crowd, mixed with several males shouting, "AAAAARRRRRIIIIIAAAAA!" Alouette couldn't help but roll her eyes at the fanaticism of the citizens.
"Come on, Furfrou," she said. "Let's go- OOF!" The black-haired Performer had walked into someone; she gasped and stumbled backward. "Oh! I'm so sorry, sir, I didn't see where I was going!"
However, the man didn't respond. Instead, he started staring strangely at her. Closely inspecting him, Alouette saw that he had a muscular body, blond hair cut in a buzz-cut, and beady dark eyes so sharp that one stare could pierce through her soul. He also wore 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. He almost reminded Alouette of a soldier returning home from a war.
At that moment, Furfrou started growling menacingly at the man, who met its gaze. The three stood still for a minute or so, though it felt like an eternity to Alouette. Finally, the strange man merely turned his back on her and started walking away, his footsteps loud and imposing. The Performer could only stand still and watch him go in befuddlement.
"Um... What just happened...?" she asked.
Meanwhile, the man was fiddling with a black, futuristic wristwatch, which then materialized a 3D map of Kiloude City, though it flickered lightly with static. He narrowed his eyes at a green marker on the map, which was just a couple of miles from his current position. Then, he reached into his left pocket and pulled out a strange-looking, pyramid-shaped device that was glowing a sickly green color.
"I'm coming for you, you accursed Celebi..."
The local Pokémon Center
Serena closely watched Selene from her bedside, as the seven-year-old slept contently in her bed. Explaining the circumstances of her time-traveling and giving the descriptions of Yancy, Nate, Evelyn, Parker, and Kay had sucked all of the energy out of Selene, hence why she was now sleeping.
The two girls were the only ones in the room at the present time. The others left moments earlier for various reasons: Ash, Clemont, Bonnie, Shauna, Tierno, Trevor, and Miette were out in the lobby to discuss their next moves; Grace, Calem, Layla, and Moose returned to the hotel to process the overload of shocking information; and Summer and Nurse Joy were having a private conversation in the latter's office. Serena volunteered to be the one to watch Selene because of her strange motherly intuition towards the girl; no one argued against that one bit. And now that she was alone with the strange little girl, Serena had the opportunity to mull over these revelations.
A part of her told her she really shouldn't believe this girl's claims, that she should rationalize it as the ramblings of a poor girl desperate for attention. But Serena knew there was no way a girl like Selene, who she and the others had never met before, could've come up with such a complex story about them and other characters in the future. And what about that Celebi? That Celebi surely explained a lot. Not to mention that explosion in Kiloude and all the others in the surrounding forest.
It all just seemed so implausible to her, yet she was aware of all the evidence that pointed to otherwise.
Perhaps it was all just so hard for her to accept as truth. After all, she just met a child who called her "Mommy" with utmost confidence, with no proof that she was just seeking attention. Who wouldn't be shocked?
Suddenly, Serena heard Selene moan in her sleep, and the girl shifted a little uncomfortably, her brow furrowed. She seemed to be having a nightmare about something.
"Probably those Pokémon Poachers..." Serena concluded in her mind.
Instinctively, the honey-blonde teenager placed a hand over Selene's raven-black hair, much like Ash's, and started stroking it gently. As soon as she did that, Selene started to settle down, and her expression became calmer. There was something about that expression that made Serena's heart flutter a little. It was just...glowing with innocence...
"She risked her life to protect that Celebi. She experienced things no child should've experienced in one day. And now she's here, in a time that she doesn't know at all. ...Poor Selene. She must've been scared out of her mind..." Then, Serena's expression hardened.
"You have no reason to be scared anymore, Selene," she whispered with determination. "I'll see to it. I'll protect Celebi for you. We all will. Until this situation is resolved, that will be my top priority. I promise you."
"Wow, you're really taking this whole mother thing seriously, Serena."
Serena let out a surprised squeak when she saw Ash in the doorway. Pikachu wasn't on his shoulder.
"Oh!" the Performer exclaimed. "A-Ash! My goodness, I didn't notice you!"
"Oh, don't worry," the raven-haired Trainer replied. "I just got here. We're all going back to the hotel, just so you know." He looked at Selene for a moment, then back at Serena. "Do...Do you wanna come...?"
"Huh?" Serena looked at Selene, then at Ash, and then back at Selene. "I-I... I, uh... I don't know-"
"Summer promised me she'd be staying her twenty-four-seven, watching over her and Celebi. After all, there's people after Celebi; it's her job to stop that from happening." Ash took a couple of steps forward. "But...if you're really worried about her, Serena, then you can stay here."
Serena blinked in complete surprise. "R-Really?"
"Well, yeah. I mean, she's your future daughter, after all. And I know a concerned mother when I see one."
"Y-You do, huh...?"
Ash chuckled. "Well, I was raised by one for ten years. And she did it all by herself, might I add!"
"Oh, yeah." Serena chuckled as well. "You did tell me about your mother a few times..."
"So... If I'm your mommy, then who's your daddy?"
Serena clenched her fists at that memory. She was so close to finding out the answer to that. But now, she would have to wait for that till tomorrow at the earliest. What was Selene going to say? Was Ash her father? Or was it someone else? Clemont, Tierno, Trevor, and Sawyer were quickly ruled out as candidates for her future husband when Selene called all of them her uncles. Even Calem was an uncle, thank goodness for that.
But that didn't narrow down the playing field at all! For all she knew, Serena had yet to meet her future husband! And was their marriage happy? Or unhappy? Or was she the only one suffering and she was just hiding it from the rest of her family to preserve the dynamic? It was a shame her future self and/or her husband had yet to arrive at that future Pokémon Showcase when the time-traveling incident happened.
There were so many questions and so few answers! It was racking Serena's brain, just thinking about it!
Suddenly, Ash said, "You know, we know you're the mom, Serena, but Selene never did say who her dad was. I wonder who it could be..."
Serena's face turned into the reddest shade possible. "Y-Ye-Ye-Yeah..." she stuttered in response. "Oh, I w-w-wonder..."
"Well, whoever the dad is, I hope you're happy with him in the future. He is gonna be your husband too, after all."
Steam might've as well been shooting out of Serena's ears and nostrils like a steam locomotive, because her shyness and embarrassment just reached critically high levels. She couldn't believe Ash was talking about this so casually! Then again, this was ASH FREAKING KETCHUM she was thinking about! Did he even think for a second about the possibility that HE was the father?! After all, Selene's hair was pretty reminiscent of his own... Not to mention her smile and eating habits...
But then again, Ash could've just been a better father figure to her than her own father, so she just picked up those traits from him...
"Yeah..." Serena replied, settling down from her embarrassment. "I hope so too..."
"Well, I'll be going back to the hotel." Ash started to walk out of the room. "See you tomorrow, Serena! Or tonight, if you plan on leaving that time-"
"Wait a minute, Ash."
Ash stopped and looked back at his honey-blonde friend. "Yeah, Serena?"
Serena hesitated for the longest time, thinking about her next words carefully, before replying, "Your dream is to become a Pokémon Master, right?"
The raven-haired Trainer smiled determinedly and raised a fist. "You betcha! I can't think of any other dream better than that!"
"Well...did you ever think about...what you'll do after you become a Pokémon Master...?"
"What I'll do after?" Ash was silent for the longest time as well; he too considered his next words carefully. "Well, I guess I'll start a Pokémon ranch!"
"A...Pokémon ranch...?" repeated Serena.
"Yeah, like the one Professor Oak has at his lab! It's full of Pokémon, including all the ones I've caught over the years! But my ranch is gonna be ten times larger! Maybe even larger than that! I'll probably have to talk to Clemont about any inventions that can decrease the space but still allow it to fit in all the Pokémon that I plan to have."
"I see. That...That sounds great, Ash! It sounds just like you to start something like that."
Ash chuckled and scratched his cheek sheepishly. "Well, a guy can dream, right? I mean, to be honest, I never really thought about it much, what I'm gonna do after I become a Pokémon Master. But now you've got me thinking! Thanks, Serena!"
"Y-Y-You-You're w-w-welcome, A-Ash..." Serena stuttered. Then, she cleared her throat and continued more smoothly, "Anything else you're thinking about doing at that time...?"
"Anything else?" This time, it didn't take Ash long to provide an answer. "Well, I'll start a family, I guess."
"A family, huh?"
"Yeah! Like your family!"
The honey-blonde suddenly laughed dryly. "What, you mean the one where my great-grandma has twenty kids?"
"No, I mean the one with you, Selene, Yancy, and all the others! You all sound like a really happy family."
Serena's small smile nearly turned into a frown. "Yeah... Yeah, I guess we do..."
The room was silent for a moment. Then, Ash asked, "Do you have any other questions for me, Serena?"
"No," Serena replied politely, shaking her head. "I'm fine, Ash. Thank you for being honest and straightforward with me."
"Hey, good friends never lie to each other, right?" Then, the teenage boy noticed Serena's expression. "Hey, Serena?"
"Y-Yeah...?" Serena's eyes started to shimmer; her friend and crush looked uncharacteristically serious again, like last night at the hotel balcony.
"I know things are very weird for you right now. Trust me, I'd also be out of my mind if a girl like Selene said I was her daddy and told me this story, with all the proof to back it up."
"Yeah." Serena cast a look at Selene. "Things are pretty weird right now..."
"So...if you ever want to talk about it, just call me. You know the number to our hotel room, right?"
"Yeah, but...what if I call you in the middle of the night? I don't know how long I'll be staying here-"
"Then I'll have my Pokémon keep an eye on the phone. They'll take turns sleeping and watching. And don't worry about me. If it's you, I'll talk to you about anything."
Ash nodded. "Anything. Just give me a call, and I'll be there."
Serena looked at her crush for the longest time, and all of the awkward tension was gone. The Performer smiled widely.
"Thank you, Ash," she replied. "I'll take you up on that offer."
Unbeknownst to either Serena or Ash, Selene was secretly awake and overheard their conversation. She turned over on her side to mask her developing smile.
"I'm glad Mommy and Daddy are getting along so well..." she thought.
Unbeknownst to absolute everyone in Selene's room, a certain trio had been eavesdropping on all of the exchanges that had been going on inside. They were in the shelter of bushes and using high-tech devices that allowed them to detect the voices.
"Whoa," James said. "So there's a girl who came from the future..."
"And she's da twerpette's daughter!" exclaimed Meowth.
"And that girl has a Celebi!" Jessie added. "Triple the surprise!"
"And triple da reward!"
"Come again?" James asked, looking down at the Scratch Cat Pokémon.
"Tink about it, James!" Grinning, Meowth cleverly placed a paw on his chin. "First, what we 'ave ta do is ask dat girl about our futures, see where we are! Tink about all da possibilities!"
The blue-haired man's eyes widened with wonder. "We...We could be celebrities..."
"Our names could be renowned all across the world..." Jessie said, swooning.
"Den," continued Meowth, "we snatch da Celebi and give it to da boss! Ya both know what dat means!"
"Promotions..." James said, his eyes sparkling. "Pay raises..."
"Recognition from the boss!" exclaimed Jessie, clapping her hands together with excitement.
"And finally, we use da girl ta catch Pikachu!"
"YAY!" Jessie and James hollered out simultaneously. "TEAM ROCKET WILL WIN AND NO ONE WILL BE ANY WISER!"
Then, all of a sudden, James frowned. "But wait a sec," he said. "There's a Pokémon Ranger watching over that girl and Celebi..."
"Yeah, that's true..." replied Jessie. "And our experiences with Pokémon Rangers have been less than fortunate..." Then, she remembered something else. "Not to mention I have to practice for the Exhibition Showcase!"
"Wha...?" Meowth said. "Ya still on dat...?"
"Of course, Meowth!" Jessie raised a clenched fist of determination, as stars were shining brightly in her eyes. "After all, I have a crowd of adoring fans and I can't afford to not be in tiptop shape when the Showcase happens!"
"So whaddaya suggest we do, Jessie?"
"We prepare for the Showcase, that's what! And when I win, we use my influence to get that Pokémon Ranger to back off so we could get Celebi and Pikachu! HAHAHAHAHA! It's a flawless, ingenious plan if I do say so myself!"
"B-But...I thought that Showcase was just an-" James began, but he stopped speaking when he saw the excited look on his comrade's face. After taking a moment to consider his course of action, he sighed and shrugged. "It works for me, I guess..."
Wobbuffet immediately popped out of nowhere and cried, "WOBBUFFET!"
That was the first question Bonnie asked Ash when he approached her, Pikachu, Clemont, Shauna, Tierno, Trevor, and Miette at the lobby. He looked at Selene's room for a moment before turning back to his friends and rivals.
"She's decided to stay here and watch over Selene," the raven-haired Trainer replied.
"She is?" Clemont asked, surprised.
"Yeah. I guess she's decided to take the whole mother thing seriously. Not that I blame her, though. This girl's relying on her for safety and comfort, and Serena can't turn a blind eye to that."
"That's true," Bonnie replied sympathetically. "Serena's a very nice person. She cares for a lot of people." She then smiled from ear to ear. "I'd like to have her as a big sister!"
"A-A b-big s-s-si-sister, h-huh...?" Clemont stuttered, blushing brightly at the implications, though his younger sister didn't seem to catch on.
"Nenene!" Dedenne squeaked, while Squishy just chirped softly.
"Speaking of which," remarked Miette, "we all know Serena's the mother of that girl. But..." She couldn't help but cast a crafty glance at Ash, as did Shauna. "Who's the father...?"
"Yeah, I wondered about that too," Ash replied, totally oblivious to Miette and Shauna's stares. "I even talked to Serena about that. But hopefully we'll find out the answer to this mystery tomorrow."
"Y-Ye-Yeah..." Clemont stuttered, still thinking about the shocking possibility of him being Serena's husband. "H-Ho-Hope-Hopefully..."
"Hopefully," Shauna said, still looking at Ash craftily.
"Well, come on!" exclaimed Ash, as Pikachu hopped onto his shoulder and the Trainer started to walk out of the lobby. "Let's give Serena some space and go back to the hotel, shall we?"
Everyone else followed him out of the Pokémon Center and into the streets of Kiloude City. But when the group was just a few feet away from the Center, Ash instinctively stopped and looked behind him, towards the building. He didn't know why, but there was this strange feeling in his gut. It appeared...the moment he left the Pokémon Center. It was as if...his intuition was telling him to stay there with Serena and Selene...
But he didn't understand this feeling. He knew Serena could take good care of herself and a little girl, and that Summer, a competent and very skilled Pokémon Ranger, was also there, watching over Celebi. So why did he feel like something horrible was going to happen in his absence...?
"Pikapi?" Pikachu asked.
"Ash?!" Tierno called, catching the Trainer's attention. "Yo, are you coming or what?!"
"Huh?" Then, Ash forced a confident smile upon his worried face. "Y-Yeah! I'm coming!"
As he followed his friends, a wave of dark clouds started to spread in the skies of Kiloude...
Room 30001, the Blue Suns Deluxe Hotel
The following night
"And now for today's headlines."
Amelia stopped looking at herself in the mirror and turned her head towards the massive ultra-HD television set. Lying lazily beside her foot was her Espeon, while her Shiny Dragonair was right behind her, emanating a somewhat pompous aura.
"Authorities confirmed earlier today that the unexplained explosion in Kiloude City's downtown district only left 33 people and Pokémon injured, none of them severely. Many were taken to the local Pokémon Center for treatment. But the area where the explosion occurred has now been taped off by police and access is strictly forbidden until the scene is fully processed.
"A spokesperson for famed Pokémon Showcase producer Palermo also confirmed that the disaster will not interfere with tomorrow's Exhibition Showcase."
"Well, that's good to know," Amelia remarked. Espeon let out a noncommittal huff, while Dragonair looked even more smug.
"Though some of the people and Pokémon injured were participants, they have already finished treatment, and only a couple are staying overnight at the Pokémon Center. This, I feel, is a huge relief, because this reporter knows which Performer she's rooting for, and she doesn't want the Showcase schedule all muddled up!"
"That Performer had better me," said Amelia, snobbishly sticking her chin up a little.
At that moment, the door to her room opened, and a woman's head stuck itself inside.
"Miss Amelia," she said with an elegant voice, all the while presenting a large cup of ice cream, "here's the ice-cream sundae you ordered."
"There aren't any peanuts in it, right?"
Amelia's eyes widened, and she frowned angrily. "What'd I tell you?! I'm allergic to peanuts! I thought I made that clear a million times! NO PEANUTS!"
"I-I told th-the chef that," the woman replied, struggling to maintain herself; her face was paling. "I-I swear, M-Miss Am-Amelia-"
"Now the whole sundae is ruined! Get it out of my sight!"
"I-I can remove the peanuts for you-"
"WHAT'D I TELL YOU?! GET IT OUT OF MY SIGHT! CONSIDER YOUR OVERALL SALARY DOCKED FOR THE WEEK!"
The woman immediately left, and sobbing could be heard. But Amelia ignored it and refocused on the TV, all the while making a mental note to have the entire kitchen staff fired and replaced.
"And now, we focus on the heroes of that day: a group of Trainers who selflessly ran towards the scene of the explosion rather than away from it, and provided aid to the injured. Here's some footage of them."
The screen changed; the footage was a bit shaky, but Amelia could make out her fellow Performers Shauna and Miette, along with some boys, helping people and Pokémon lying on the ground. Then, the black-haired heiress's eyes widened in shock when she also recognized none other than Serena helping a fellow Performer.
Amelia quickly took the remote, nearly dropping it in the process, and paused the screen on the image of Serena helping the other girl. She gritted her teeth hatefully at it, the gears in her mind whirring at high speeds as they were simply overwhelmed with anger and envy. Her brain struggled to comprehend the honey-blonde's ability to get more attention than her even if she wasn't trying.
"This. Is. Unacceptable," she snarled. "Oh, I'll be sure to bring you down, Serena. I'll bring you down GOOD."
"That's the spirit, my dear..." a suave voice replied.
Blushing a little with surprise, Amelia twirled around to see Adam approaching her. The green-haired man had just hung up his cellphone and was now smiling down upon his niece. Though Amelia was pleased by his arrival, both Espeon and Dragonair trembled a little and shrunk an inch every time he got closer.
"Always keep your eye on the goal and always treat everyone as an obstacle to be utterly destroyed," Adam continued. "That's the family way."
"Yes, yes, that's correct," Amelia replied, a gleeful smile appearing on her face. "I just didn't have my eye on the goal well enough back at Fleurrh City! But my eyesight won't waver this time! This time, I'll show the audience they should've voted for me back then, not that hillbilly! I'll show them all! Hahaha!"
"Yes, indeed." Adam's eyelid twitched a little. "Well, forgive me for not leaping for joy, my dear Amelia. I've got a little bad back at the moment. A lot of...secretarial duties..."
The green-haired man approached a sofa and collapsed on it. At that moment, Amelia asked, "Hey, Uncle Adam?"
"Yes, my dear...?" Adam replied dryly.
"Thank you, for being so supportive of me." The black-haired Performer looked down at the floor softly. "You were the only one in my family who listened to me. Everyone else was so...so..." Amelia narrowed her eyes spitefully. "Busy. Father's always running the hotel chain... Mother's always off in some region modeling... Grandmother's way too old." Then, the smile returned to Amelia's face, and she looked at her uncle with adoration. "But you've always listened to me, given me advice, being there for me during my loss... I promise you, Uncle, when I inherit this hotel chain, I'll give you an administrative position! You'll no longer have to work that unpleasant job of a secretary!"
Adam was silent for a moment, absorbing Amelia's thanks and praise. Then, he looked at his niece and gave her a sneer, although Amelia was so happy about her uncle that she didn't notice its devious appearance.
"Thank you for the courtesy, Amelia," he replied, "but that won't be necessary."
Amelia blinked in surprise. "Are-Are you sure, Uncle...?"
"Yes, I am 200 percent sure. In fact, I say this because I am expecting a better promotion in a couple of months."
"A better promotion? In a couple of months?" The Performer raised her eyebrow. "I don't think I've heard of any discussions about that..."
"Trust me, Amelia, it's all hush-hush at the moment. After all, your father is my older brother, and we need to clear up any potential issues of nepotism. But it's a guarantee, my dear. You do not have to worry about me." The secretary's sneer widened. "Just focus on winning that Showcase and demolishing the competition."
Amelia didn't respond for a brief moment, instead trying to take in the news. Then, she smiled.
"Yes, Uncle," she replied loyally. "I will. I promise you, I WILL win the crowd over that hillbilly and all of the other Performers! I'll even win over Aria! I'll be the star of the night!"
Adam looked away, his sneer still in place. "That's the spirit..."
"In other news, a small rainstorm has fallen upon Kiloude City, as meteorologists predicted..."
Aria, Palermo, Foster, Paris, and Amara were all seated at the oblong table in one of the Laurier Maison's many rooms, eating the dinner served to them by the staff. Aria's Pokémon, Paris's Lopunny, Foster and Amara's Zangoose, and Sylvia the Altaria were also in the same room, eating specially-prepared Pokémon food.
The air was festive, for everyone was talking to one another, discussing future Showcase seasons, debating on which Performers were the most impressive in Showcases, and getting caught up on stuff, both personal and professional. The only person who wasn't engaged in a conversation was Foster, who merely ate his food in silence while shooting the occasional look at Aria.
It was almost twenty-four hours since their last private conversation in Aria's bedroom. During that time since, Aria hadn't initiated another conversation with him, and every time he tried to approach her, she managed to find an excuse to avoid him. It was really boggling his mind. After all, Aria didn't seem to blame him for what happened ten years ago, so why was she now acting like he was the plague?
Suddenly, Foster heard Palermo address him. "Foster, you haven't spoken even once. Please, tell me all about yourself. Paris tells me you're Aria's childhood friend."
"Y-Ye-Yes, th-that's correct," the farmhand replied, still startled at being addressed by a famous producer and Aria's mentor.
"Hmmm, interesting..." The old producer lowered her fork and knife. "I've only heard Aria mention your name a total of five times during the years I've known her, and yet she never goes into specifics every time."
"Really...?" Foster shot Aria a glare of suspicion, which the redhead averted her gaze from. Aria's Delphox noticed this and stared warily at the farmhand.
"Yes, of course." Palermo leaned forward a little, rubbing her chin with her index finger. "I'd love to learn a little about the boy who kept my best student entertained during her childhood."
"W-Well..." Foster gave Aria another glance before explaining, "We've known each other forever. She...She means the whole world to me."
Palermo's eyebrows shot up a little at the admission, while Paris and Amara both struggled to hold in their squeals of delight. As for Aria, her cheeks turned slightly pink.
About an hour later
Once the dinner was over, Palermo, Paris, and Amara left to attend to their respective businesses. The Maison staff were left to gather and wash the dishes and silverware, but Aria, Foster, and their Pokémon volunteered to stay behind and help them. As such, the two Trainers were in the kitchen, washing some of the dishes.
"The food was great as usual," Aria commented after a long period of awkward silence. "Remind me to give the chef a tip."
Foster chuckled warmly. "I remember you always used to do that here," he replied. "Tip everyone. You always brought a smile to everyone's faces."
"I guess I was just born to be Kalos Queen, then."
"Yeah, I guess..."
It was silent again, and Aria's Delphox, Aromatisse, and Vivillon turned their gazes towards the couple of teenagers. Finally, after a couple of minutes of washing, Aria chose to break the silence again.
"Did you mean what you said back there? That I mean the whole world to you?"
"Well..." Foster blushed as he put his newest clean plate away. "Yeah..."
"Awww. That's pretty sweet of you, Foster." Aria put her own newest clean plate away as well. "I'm glad."
"That's good. I guess..." Foster scratched the back of his head for a second. "Look, Aria...I'm sorry for what happened between us last night. I should've been more sensitive about your emotions."
"Wha..." Then, the redhead's eyes widened. "Ohhhhh, I see. It's okay, Foster. I've moved past it already."
"You...You did...?" Foster's eyes widened too; he didn't expect such a response from his childhood friend. "Then...why were you ignoring me all the time today?"
"Oh, that?" Aria chuckled a little. "My goodness, I'm sorry, Foster! I was busy planning for the Exhibition Showcase! Did you not notice me practicing with my Pokémon out in the rear courtyard?"
"Come to think of it," Foster thought when he started to reflect on that, "she was doing some moves with Delphox and Aromatisse when I went up to her one time..." Then, he said aloud, "So...you were never mad at me the whole time?"
"No, not at all!" Then, Aria's expression hardened a little. "Foster, please don't worry about me. I'm fine, I really am!"
"Are you sure? I mean...last night proved to me you're not ready to be home-"
"Tell me, Foster, do you see my crying right now?"
"N-No, but I-"
"Then I'm okay. Please, let me be." Aria crossed her arms. "I mean, you of all people know how important this is for me, and not just on a Showcase level! This could be therapeutic for me!"
But before he could continue, Foster paused and hesitated as he realized that Aria was right. This could be the thing she needed to move on. But then again, she really did break down last night...
"I guess," he finally said.
Aria smiled. "Thank you for understanding, Foster."
The redhead chuckled again and lightly slapped her friend's shoulder. "Jeez, Foster! The way you're talking makes it sound like you have a crush on me or something!"
"You do, don't you?" In the background, Delphox, Aromatisse, and Vivillon sweat-dropped at their Trainer's slow thinking.
"Whaddaya think I meant when I said you meant the whole world to me?!" Foster cried.
"I thought you were just being nice!" Aria started to blush brightly. "I, uh, I..." She scratched the back of her head in embarrassment. "Oh, dear... Heh heh heh... This is pretty new to me..."
"What, you've never gotten any confessions from male fans before?"
"Of course, Foster! I'm the Kalos Queen!"
"...But you've never gotten any serious confessions..." the farmhand concluded. Aria's blush deepened, which was good enough of an answer for him. "So...do you, um...do you have an answer for me, Ar...?"
Aria was silent for a few minutes, which left Foster really nervous. Ever since she returned to the Laurier Maison, he was hoping his childhood friend wouldn't catch on to his crush on her; he hoped he would just eventually confess to her on his own accord. But now that the Delcatty was already out of the bag, Foster could only hope now that Aria would, at the very least, be kind about her rejection. After all, he didn't want things to be any more awkward than they already were.
Finally, the redheaded Kalos Queen replied, "I'm sorry, Foster."
"I figured as much..." Foster said, his shoulders slumping sadly with defeat.
"I don't have an answer for you yet."
"Yeah, to be perfectly honest, a part of me had a feeling I wouldn't be good enough for you."
"I mean, you're the Kalos Queen, for crying out loud! And me, well...I'm just a simple farmhand."
"What would everyone else think if they saw us together?"
"This would probably ruin your public image. The Kalos Queen, being all lovey-dovey with a dirty farm boy whose only good skills are cleaning up after Pokémon and feeding slops to them-"
Foster stumbled a little, startled by Aria's outburst. "Y-Yeah?"
Aria stifled a giggle and replied, "You misheard me. I said I didn't have an answer for you yet."
The farmhand blinked. "Re-Really...?" When Aria nodded, his eyes widened. "So...is that girl talk for yes, or for no...?"
A comically dissatisfied look came upon the Kalos Queen's face. Her friend was really putting too much thought and emotion into this discussion.
"It means I don't know yet."
"So..." Foster looked down at the floor shyly. "When will you know...?"
"Hopefully after the Exhibition Showcase."
"Oh. I see..."
It was awkwardly silent yet again. Foster wasn't sure if Aria's response was good news or bad news for his crush, or their relationship. Finally, after a couple of minutes, Aria spoke up again.
"Look, if it's any comfort to you, Foster, it doesn't matter what I will say to you, or what happens leading up to that moment." She gently placed a hand on his shoulder. "Know this: you'll always be my friend. No matter what."
Foster looked up at her, smiling a small smile. Immense relief from Aria's words was washing over him like a tidal wave.
"Wow. Thanks, Aria," he replied. "I'm...I'm glad you don't hate me at all."
Aria frowned. "What have I been telling you?"
"Heh heh heh, yes, yes, I know." Foster resumed washing the dishes; all the while, his smile was widening considerably. "I'm so sorry, Ar. I was just afraid that being Kalos Queen has gotten to your head."
"It would be unbecoming of a Kalos Queen if that were so!" Aria joined her friend in the dish-washing as well. "And besides, I don't think you're not a dirty farmhand."
Foster looked at her hopefully. "You think so?"
Aria smiled. "Uh-huh. I think what you do is fantastic."
The farmhand looked back at the dishes, though his demeanor was now absentminded. Though his crush was revealed to her prematurely, the resulting conversation was going even better than he had ever anticipated. The boy started to bob his head to an unheard tune, as he washed his latest dish with surprising finesse.
Meanwhile, Aria looked down at her latest dish, but the redheaded girl was not washing it. Instead, she looked at her reflection in the grimy glass, and exhaled sadly.
The local Pokémon Center
Selene looked out of the window of her room, watching with awe as the raindrops coated the glass and the leaves of the bushes outside. Through the misty fog of rain, she could see some pedestrians running for cover, laughing heartily as they went along. Then, the seven-year-old girl looked behind her, where she saw Serena sleeping soundly on a sofa; her Braixen, Pancham, and Sylveon were all out and sleeping as well. Just a few minutes ago, she woke up to that scene.
After doing some thinking, Selene chose to walk across the room, towards the door. Taking one last look at her mother, the girl then opened the door as slowly and quietly as she could, and tiptoed out of the room. She looked around, quickly recognizing the Pokémon Center lobby, where several people were still at, awaiting updates on the condition of their poor Pokémon.
Then, Selene followed the signs pointing to the medical room and eventually found it. After looking over her shoulder to see if Summer, Nurse Joy, or Wigglytuff were around, the girl then entered. Inside, she found shelves and shelves of Poké Balls, in addition to a few beds holding what she presumed were wild Pokémon that were being treated for injuries.
Walking past these beds, Selene was able to find her beloved Pichu within a matter of seconds. She approached the Tiny Mouse Pokémon's bed and stared fondly at her as she slept contently. Still sporting a number of bruises, Pichu had a couple of tubes taped to her chest so they could monitor her heart rates, which sounded good, fortunately. Selene gently stroked Pichu's spiky ear for a quick moment before proceeding to the next bed.
On that bed, Celebi slept. Its right arm was bandaged and in a tiny sling, leading Selene to assume that it broke its limb after hitting that tree during the battle with the Pokémon Poachers. It looked as if the Time Travel Pokémon wouldn't be flying just yet.
"Hi, Celebi," Selene whispered fondly. "I just wanted to see if you were alright. I'm glad you weren't hurt that bad." She started to stroke one of its green antennae with a great amount of care and kindness. "Now don't you worry. I'll watch over you and keep you safe until you get all better. And then we'll all go home. I promise. And believe me, I never break my promises. After all, it's bad if you do."
"Biiiii..." Celebi whispered in its sleep, looking more comfortable now that it was feeling Selene's touch.
Selene smiled, all the while feeling an instinctual urge to cuddle the Pokémon, as she would always do with any Pokémon she perceived as adorable. But she remembered her parents' lessons on treating injured Pokémon with utmost care and caution. So, she just continued stroking Celebi's antenna for several minutes. Finally, once she was satisfied about the Time Travel Pokémon's condition, she stopped and quietly left the medical room, giving Pichu one last look as she did so.
She quickly found her way back to her own room and entered. As she prepared to close the door behind her, she thought she saw what appeared to be a Skiploom with a miniature flashlight and something else attached to it, levitating upward and away from the window. At first, Selene wanted to dismiss it as an illusion caused by the misty showers outside, but a horrible feeling swept over her, and she nervously peeked through the door as it lay ajar.
At first, she didn't see anything in the lobby. Then, the doors slid open, and in stepped...
Eyes widening with terror, Selene whimpered fearfully and held her legs together. She was nearly about to wet herself. She was hoping she would not see him again so soon.
"Good evening, sir..." droned the exhausted secretary, not intimidated by Parker's appearance at all. "Welcome to the Kiloude Pokémon Center. What can I do to help you today...?"
"My daughter and her Pokémon are here, ma'am," Parker replied. His voice was still stern and professional, though the secretary was way too exhausted by the earlier workloads to exhibit any sort of other reaction. "I would like to see them, please."
"What is the name of the patient...?"
"Selene. Selene Ketchum."
Her teeth chattering with fear, Selene slowly and quietly closed the door, ran over to Serena's side, and started shaking the Performer's body.
"Mommy, please wake up!" she whispered urgently. "Mommy, Mommy!"
"H-Huh...?" To Selene's relief, it didn't take long for Serena to wake up, though she was quite groggy. "Oh, Selene... Wh-Wha... What time is it...?"
Selene's lower lip quivered as she held back her tears. "Mommy, he's here... The bad man is here..."
"Wha...?" Then, Serena's mind properly processed the words, and all sleepiness immediately disappeared from her face. "Wait, what?!"
Selene just pointed towards the door with a shaky finger. Serena's expression hardened with seriousness, and the Performer walked towards the door, just as Braixen, Pancham, and Sylveon were all starting to awaken as well. She slowly cracked the door open a little and peeked through it.
Parker was still in the lobby, waiting with growing impatience as the secretary continued to sort through the patient list. The water from the rain was still dripping from his body, the noises of it unsettling to any mind. Serena quickly closed the door again, momentarily wondering where Summer and Nurse Joy were. Then, the honey-blonde teenager looked at Selene.
"Hide under the bed now," she ordered in a low voice. "Hide under the bed now!" Selene nodded and immediately did what she was told. Then, Serena looked at her three Pokémon. "Are you all ready?" Braixen, Pancham, and Sylveon all smiled and nodded loyally. "Alright, good. Then let's get this poacher. Together."
A/N: Aaaaannnnnddddd...CLIFFHANGER! Whatever will happen next?! Stay tuned to find out!
So here we have a chapter that takes a little break from last chapter's action and updates you all on the present-day shenanigans. We actually have a developing romance between Aria and Foster, Amelia and Adam continue to plot behind Serena's back, and we finally have confirmation that Ash is Selene's father! Surprise, surprise...
And to top it off, Parker has found the place where Celebi is staying at, with only Serena standing in his way, apparently! Now, you can expect another action-packed, adrenaline-filled sequence in the next chapter!
Oh, and in case any of you didn't know, the girl at the beginning of the chapter, Alouette, is yet another one of Serena's fellow Performers! Yes, I'm trying to fit the ENTIRE peanut gallery into this story somehow. And yes, she's the one with the Furfrou who was introduced in "A Showcase Debut!".
Alright, now I'd like to thank the following people for reviewing:
-LightSpecter141: Oh, I intend to make it informative. ;)
-Rajiv A. Rajaram:
1) Thank you! I love my deadly villains and intense Pokémon battles. :D
2) Actually, Yancy's pink hair is natural. Once again, I will provide an in-universe explanation as to why this was so. Hopefully it'll make sense.
-Dragon King Rouga: Well, you'll find out eventually, won't you?
-Amourshiper35: Thanks for the review!
-Emily (guest reviewer):
1) Yeah, I've seen "Moon" tossed around as well, but I didn't like that as a name for Selene so I chose the other option.
2) Perhaps someday. XD
3) You're welcome! :D :D :D
4) Yes, it is a reference to Yamata no Orochi. I've always been intrigued by that legend and decided to incorporate it into the fic in some way. Other names I had for the group were "Seven Sevipers" and "Eight-Headed Zygarde", but I didn't go with them because I had eight poachers in mind, obviously; and Seviper sounded like a more fitting choice of Pokémon name over Zygarde, given the group is supposed to be extremely infamous in the future timeline.
5) No, those two Blanche are obviously separate characters. Just so you know, I have no intention of referencing anything from "Pokémon Go", especially since I don't play that game.
6) Well, I've never played "Fire Emblem Awakening" or any other related games, so any similarities between them and this fic are purely coincidental. ...Wow, I sounded like a disclaimer there...
-RougeClyde: Yes, now THAT would be quite a bad mix!
-Guest reviewer: Thanks for the review!
1) Okay. I'm glad we're on the same page now.
2) I can only hope things don't get too complicated and overstuffed. That was what ended a prospective fic of mine a couple of years ago. I hope to balance overall simplicity and reader satisfaction as much as possible when it comes to the mish-mash of interactions.
3) Yes, those poachers will be difficult to counter against. And yes, Kay was supposed to remind you of Pokémon Hunter J! All the way down to the name style, actually. I'm glad you caught it!
4) And that was only the beginning of Parker's arsenal, let me tell you!
-Phantomorion (guest reviewer):
1) Yep, that's about right. :D
2) No, Delia will just be one character too many for this massive cast. Sorry.
Well, hope you enjoyed this chapter! TheCartoonFanatic01 is out. PEACE!