Alola, everyone! And I mean that both as a greeting and as telling you all where we're going in this story…if it weren't obvious enough. That's right! I've returned with the Ancienverse on another adventure! I know, I know. I said that the last story was the finale…and it was…of what is now deemed The Kalos Trilogy. This, however, is the The Alola Trilogy. I'm sure you can guess what happens in it…maybe. Well, whatever, I've written this so even if you're new, you can enjoy it, even if some details will be lost. Anyway, enough with that, I'll tell you all more at the end of the chapter! But for now, please enjoy the first installment!
Rating: PG-13 for violence (and perhaps innuendo)
Pairings: Amourshipping, Laserbladeshipping, Maybe others
Cover done by Captain Luky Greace! Much thanks for all her hard work! (You can see it on fanfiction.net or Twitter)
DISCLAIMER: I do not own the Pokémon anime, or Sun and Moon. I own the story I'm presenting here, though.
Love in the Time of Tropics
Book One of the Ancienverse Alola Trilogy
"Stop her! Get her back here!"
Her breath rose in pants as she dashed across the metal surface, her shoes truly not made for running. The air ripped at her lungs and her unbidden tears burned at her eyes. It shouldn't have come to this. Her arms wrapped tighter around her body, feeling the slumping form of the Pokémon in her hands, its strange substance stuck between wanting to remain protected, and wanting to escape.
"Just…just hold on…" she whispered, though it did little good; they were right on her, chasing her down the hallway. "I'll get you out of here. I'll figure this out."
She turned sharply, her skirt catching briefly on the side of a wall, tearing it just slightly. She knew she'd have to sew it up later, but for now she had to focus on running as fast as she possibly could. There was a television mounted on one of the walls leading to a pair of mechanical double doors. They were airing some live report on global news; a ceremony that was taking place far, far away, in a region unfamiliar to her.
She paused for just a moment, looking at the screen with widened eyes at the names that were there. A boy with a Pikachu was on the screen, bowing to receive a fancy medal from an elegant woman who supposedly had the title of Champion. She recognized that name. Had heard it from…somewhere…her mother or one of her visitors perhaps.
"She's down this way! Hurry!"
"No," her voice said sharply and she began to run towards the double doors. She had lingered in front of the screen for far too long, placing herself and the one with her in too much danger. Freeing one of her hands, she reached into the front of her dress and picked out one of the keycards she had taken. Finally reaching the doors, she swiped the card and it opened without issue.
The girl ran inside, tossing the card to the wayside; it was no longer going to help her in her flight. The Pokémon in her hands stirred a little, directing its gaze upward forlornly and with question. She smiled down at it, like it was a small child, wanting to assure it that everything would be okay. It nodded a little before she suddenly tripped, ramming into a railing with her side.
Sunlight streamed into the giant room, surrounded with plants and beauty. Yet, for all of that, there were no sounds of gamboling Pokémon. It was as though they had been scared into submission by her presence. Massaging her bruised arm, the girl stood as her companion leapt away, towards a catwalk.
"No, don't!" she cried, but it wasn't listening. Suddenly, the room became bathed in a red-orange glow, and for a second, she feared that the alarm had gone off, alerting everyone of what she was doing. But upon looking up, she could see that the sun was sinking on the horizon, day giving way to night. More footsteps. The girl moved forward, chasing after her protectorate. It was floating along the catwalk at a surprising speed, like it was determined to make it somewhere as quickly as it could. "Please…hold on…"
"Pew?" it asked, turning towards her once it had stopped in the middle of an area. A loud chittering was heard in her ears, like the sound of many angry Bug types, ready to lash out and strike angrily, offended by the nearby presence. She was more worried by the footsteps steadily approaching.
"What do you want…?"
"Pew! Pew!" it cried, jumping up and down, like it was trying to indicate something.
"The sun?" she asked, looking at the fading red light. It looked desperate. "The moon? I don't understand…"
"PEW!" it said, wearing a smile on its face. She wasn't sure if she understood it, or simply confused it. Either way, it looked like it was calling out for something. She stepped forward to take it in her arms and noticed something odd in the sky: an odd blue light, leading to an endless space, another of the little one in her arms there and her own eyes behind it, perhaps. Once she blinked, it was gone…and she was surrounded.
"Give it up. There's nowhere to run," one of the men chasing her said. She hugged her friend closer as it tried to struggle against her arms, wanting to break free, perhaps, and find whatever it was looking for. "Come on back now, and you might be spared punishment."
"No! I won't!" she screamed, surprised at the defiance in her voice. The man that had spoken stepped forward, a nasty snarl on his face, and she shut her mouth, fearing retribution. The sound of the doors opening in the distance echoed and fear ran through her body. "I can't…I can't let you be hurt, okay?"
"Take her into custody!" the man finally yelled. The remainder of the guards lunged for her, and the clopping of heeled steps entered her mind, making her freeze. Yet time froze, a bright light eclipsing her as her blonde hair blasted out all around her. She looked down at the little one in her arms, a concentrating look on its face.
Her pursuers were blasted back by the light and she felt her own body compressing, like being squeezed through a tube, wind howling in her hair. She wanted to scream, but found she couldn't. Nor could she see anything.
Yet it only lasted a moment.
Soon, wind was replaced by the surf. Metal replaced with sand. There was no other sound but peace. Her body felt exhausted, unable to move, but she could still touch the little one in her arms. It was safe, and she was…well, she assumed she was very far away. Looking up, she realized it was now night, and the little one in her arms was asleep. Some way up the shore was a house, lights on and filtering through the boarded-up sides. She tried to raise her arms, but couldn't. She tried to raise her voice, but couldn't.
Instead, her mind flashed back to that boy on the TV, the one whose name she'd heard. Perhaps he could help her. Perhaps someone would. Either way, before her head laid on the sand and her exhausted body passed out, she breathed his name in desperation.
Ash Ketchum stepped back in shock, Pikachu clinging with his own sense of surprise to his shoulder. Turning his head to his best buddy for a moment, the two shared a single blink between them before turning back towards the sudden, and rather large, crowd that was standing before them in the backyard of Professor Oak's lab. More than that, Ash noticed numerous streamers decorating the usually proud backyard of the lab and a giant banner overhead reading "Happy Birthday, Ash!" in giant red letters. Trampled all over it were numerous hoof marks and his assorted Pokémon's prints.
"Pikachu…are we dreaming?" Ash whispered to his friend. Pikachu shook his head. Taking one step over the grass in front of them, Ash certainly felt that he was. In all his living memory, he could never remember having a party for his birthday of all things since he'd stepped out on his first journey. Not that he was complaining, considering all of those who had come to attend the party for him, but it still felt entirely surreal.
Well, the last year has been surreal…Ash couldn't help but think to himself. He didn't share the point with anyone, but looking at everyone who managed to somehow cram themselves and all their Pokémon into the backyard of Oak's lab and still have room to mingle, he couldn't help but think that. It was no more evident than because of the girl next to him, hands behind her back as she smiled at him. Ash turned his head, looking at the honey blonde he was happy to call his girlfriend in her poufy pink sundress.
"Serena, what's going on?" he asked instantly. Serena removed one hand from behind her back and touched it to her lips with a slight giggle. "I'm serious…this feels…weird…"
"It's your birthday, Ash," Serena said, moving a little closer to him with a smile and slipping her arm between his. He liked it, but it hardly did anything to quell the confusion in his brain. "So, we all wanted to celebrate it!"
"Yeah, but…I never celebrate my birthday," Ash told her. She giggled again, and though he wanted some answers about why they were celebrating this now, he actually found it too adorable to stop. Of course, thinking on this, Ash realized there were a lot of "nevers" that he had experienced in the last year alone, not the least of which was Serena.
A year ago, he certainly would not have said that he would walk away from his latest journey with a girl utterly in love with him…and whose feelings he returned. It may have taken him a while to discover them, but that moment that he did during the assault on Ancien City all those months ago was seared into his mind. Of course, if he was asked now, he'd have no problem saying that he loved Serena almost as much as he loved Pokémon (and that was saying something in his book), but he never would have thought of that a year ago. He never would have thought he'd reach the League Finals, certainly not after his disastrous results in Unova. Never thought he'd battle on par with the Champion or be invited to fight the Elite Four. Never thought he'd be involved in such a mass-scale attack…and not only that: he'd survived four.
Though that final one still left a bad taste in his mouth some days. Turning his eyes over to his mother, standing there with a beaming smile at her son, he decided to return the smile. Perhaps it was unusual to celebrate his birthday, but after everything, it was nice to have time to just relax…even if that and training with his Pokémon had been all that he, Serena, Clemont and Bonnie had been up to for the last six months. Sure, they all had dreams to pursue, but each of them had agreed to a small break to grow together without a gym battle or a threat looming over their heads. In any case, that was probably the reason why he could catch a glimpse of so many people having flown here from multiple regions to celebrate his…he thought it was his sixteenth birthday…or maybe his seventeenth…he really couldn't be sure. It could have been his eleventh for all he knew. Not that it mattered, at least not as much as the two on his arm did.
"All right," he chuckled out, using a free hand to rub at his nose. "Thanks, Serena. You're the best."
"It wasn't all me, you know," she told him, gripping him just a little closer, as if reassuring him that they were all there for them. It wasn't a dream. "Your mom, Brock, and all the others really helped put this together. And Clemont was no slouch in the whole IRCS department."
"I…I didn't do all that much," Clemont's voice squeaked out from the crowd. Looking over, Ash could barely catch sight of the head of lemon blond hair lost in the crowd. Next to him was Bonnie, who had grown a few inches taller over the last few months and now measured up to Clemont's shoulder…almost. On the other side was Korrina, wearing her basic clothes as she tried to pull up Clemont in order to make him more prominent. It reminded Ash of what a good match they were…
Just as he and Serena were a good match, he felt. There was no doubt that his mother thought so, too, considering that she had practically gushed over the two of them (which was incredibly awkward a couple months back). That, Ash found funny, since they hadn't originally told their parents to avoid the embarrassment and possible rejection, even if Ash had no idea why his mother would possibly reject Serena. She didn't, but the embarrassment was most certainly there.
Feeling like he was being just a little rude, Ash smiled at everyone there, scanning the faces of the crowd, before uttering, "Thanks a lot, everyone! I appreciate it!"
"Thank Serena the most!" Dawn called out next to a table of food where she was watching May with an amused expression. "She was the one who called all of us. I might have forgotten your birthday was coming up. I think May came for the food."
"It's good stuff!" May shot back and Ash got a slight glimpse past her to the absolutely delicious-looking spread of food that his mother, Brock, Clemont, Cilan (to his surprise) and Serena had likely prepared. They were the best chefs he knew. "You have got to try some of this…what do you call it, er, Cilan?"
"Foie gras! It is a delectable dish that I picked up in Kalos when I was journeying there quite recently. The taste is simmering with-"
"It's really good! Clemont helped him perfect it!" Bonnie said, cutting the older man off. Cilan looked a little deflated at having his usual connoisseur tendencies cut off, but managed to keep the air pleasant with a simple smile. Even if the connoisseur wasn't the closest of all his traveling companions, he still appreciated seeing him there. Actually, hearing all of his friends getting along, Ash turned to Serena.
"Well, thanks for this Serena," he said, reaching over and pulling her into a hug. She placed her hands on his chest and nodded on his shoulder. No other words were exchanged between them for that moment until they finally pulled back.
"Well, come on, birthday boy. You have to mingle!" she laughed out, grabbing his hand forward and pulling him into the now occupied crowd. A few more well-wishes for his birthday were given to him as he passed by familiar faces like Tierno and Trevor, the former putting on a slight dancing show for some of the people nearby. Shauna offered Serena a wave but said nothing as she continued to watch the two boys. Soon after that, Ash and Serena ran right into his mother and Professor Oak. Gary appeared to have finished a conversation, offering a light salute before backing away to get some food.
"Well, Ash, quite the turnout, I have to say," Professor Oak chuckled out, glancing around at the party with a drink in his hand.
"I had nothing to do with it, though…" Ash admitted with a laugh, his gaze once more slipping back over to his girlfriend. She was waving lightly at someone that looked to be Mairin, but Ash was paying too much attention to his mother and the professor to confirm it. "Serena's apparently the one who really put all this together, so…"
"Nonsense, Ash," Oak said, taking a sip from his cup. "If you hadn't done so much and met so many people, why, I don't think there'd be much of a party."
"That's my son! Always making friends," Delia said proudly, pulling Ash in for a hug. Serena was dragged in with him and it turned into his mother hugging the both of them proudly, like a boasting and doting parent. "Well, Samuel, aren't they just the most perfect looking couple? Six months, and my boy still has a girlfriend."
"Yes, it is rather nice," Professor Oak said with a slight twinkling in his eyes. Ash attempted to grin at him from underneath his mother's hold, but found his airflow slightly restricted. He knew the professor was thinking fondly of the fact that Ash was dating Serena; when they had come to Kanto just weeks after the Honor of Kalos Ceremony, he had recognized her on sight. That had come as a surprise to him. "That feeling of young love; so fresh, so pure."
"Um…yeah…" Ash said, feeling rather embarrassed about the whole thing, especially when he saw Gary walking past with a smirk, the researcher looking rather smug.
"If only my cousin could see the beauty in such love, but alas, he's a lifelong bachelor," Oak finished with a sigh. Delia finally let go of the two of them and Ash straightened up, looking at Professor Oak with a curious expression.
"You have a cousin?" he asked, certainly not having expected that. Even after all these years, there were constantly new things he was learning about the professor. He wondered if that would also be the case with Serena. Looking at her just briefly, though, he dismissed the notion; they'd spent almost every day together for the last year and a half. He was pretty sure he knew everything about her.
"Mm, yes, though we only speak on holidays. Too busy with our work I sup-ah, Rotom, what are you doing over there?" The conversation having come to a rather abrupt end, Ash watched the professor suddenly make his way over to set of speakers and stereos. The reason was obvious, considering the flying Ghost type that was buzzing around the speakers mischievously. Ash felt his mother's hand on his shoulder and he turned to her.
"Why don't the two of you go mingle? Plenty of time for these things later, right, Ash?" she said to him. Ash just nodded before turning away. He still hadn't told her, but at the same time, with how happy his mother was regarding his relationship with Serena, he felt she didn't need to know about what had truly transpired outside Geosenge. That, and he really didn't know how to find the words to say it. He kept hoping he would, but it never happened. Taking a breath, he turned to his girlfriend.
"Let's go?" Serena smiled and nodded, the two once more plunging back into the crowd. Ash had to admit that Serena had really outdone herself in gathering so many people there. Sure, Professor Oak might have said it was because he knew them all, but Ash knew it wouldn't have been possible without Serena and the way she could make even the hardest of hearts smile for just a second.
"I know you might not have wanted a lot of people or something, so I made sure to not have too many presents. We all kind of pitched in to just…well, you'll see later," Serena jabbered on for a moment. Either she was still embarrassed about what had happened with his mother or she was incredibly excited. Either way, he chose to squeeze her hand to ensure her that he was happy with it anyway when they finally reached one end of the food table and Ash grabbed a plate.
"It's awesome, Serena!" he said. Pikachu leapt from his shoulder and went to grab his own bowl of Pokémon food, smothering it with ketchup. He seemed to stop, though, as Buneary approached him. Leaving the two to their conversation, Ash turned to Serena, who was nodding.
"Well, that's a relief."
"I don't know why you're surprised," said a deeper voice, and both of the teens turned to see Alain there, himself also holding a glass. For a brief moment, he stared at Ash discerningly, but soon turned his lips upward in a smile, looking at Serena. "I'd call this party an unmitigated success by any measure. And as long as it comes from you…"
"He's right, you know," Ash pointed out, taking a sandwich and stuffing it in his mouth. Serena pursed her lips and he swallowed quickly, grinning at her. "You understand me pretty good, Serena, so I doubt you could put together something I wouldn't like."
"All right," his girlfriend said, relaxing her shoulders a little. Finally seeming happy about that, she turned to Alain with a light smile on her lips. "So, Alain, it's been a while. How are you and Mairin doing?"
"Well enough," Alain answered, a soft and graceful on his face. Ash was happy to see that; for a boy who beat himself up so much, losing himself to the abyss of strength and rage, now that he had pulled back from it, he really looked happier. Though, it might have had to do with the girl a few feet away, talking with Bonnie animatedly. "We've found a vein of what looks to be Mega Stones just the other day near a volcano in Kalos. Charizard felt antsy around it, so we feel it might…"
"I mean how are you and Mairin doing?" Serena pressed teasingly. Alain blinked, almost like he didn't understand the question, and for a second, even Ash was lost. Then he remembered how Serena had told him that Mairin held a crush on Alain when they had been on the flight home from Kalos. He didn't believe it then, but sort of wondered if Alain knew it as well.
"Um…that's…Ash, how's your Greninja doing…?" Alain coughed out, changing the topic as quickly as he clearly could. Serena shook her head, but allowed Ash to answer, giving him a slight peck on the cheek before moving off to speak with Shauna. Ash just shrugged.
"He's doing great! Fitting right in with the others…though I know he wants to battle. Truth be told, it's been a while for myself. I haven't stayed at home for this long in a while," Ash answered. Alain nodded, as though the answer was an obvious one.
"I can understand that. Charizard and I haven't been doing much battling ourselves," he said, though he didn't sound the saddest to be saying it. Ash watched him and his eyes sliding over to Mairin. Grinning at his old rival, Ash reached over and slapped him on the back before continuing down the food table. In a way, Alain reminded him of himself back when he had no idea that he had fallen in love with Serena. Not that he'd claim to know everything or most of what love was about. He was still working out some of the basics. That much was obvious when he didn't even know he was supposed to celebrate a thing called Valentine's Day (indeed, he had no idea it existed outside of selling candies).
Shaking his head and forgetting about it, Ash decided to finish loading up his plate. Looking up as he got his food, he was now able to see all of the people congregated there. It was a very wide and eclectic mix of old friends and new. In a corner, near the pond, Ash could see one of his oldest friends, Misty, talking with Iris as they chatted, her Gyarados leaping over their heads. Seeing him watching a moment, Misty turned and waved at him, slightly stoic in expression, quite deep into the conversation. Continuing to scan along there were various others like Korrina and Clemont who were excitedly speaking with the Champion of Kalos, herself, Diantha. He had to admit surprise at that one; he hadn't expected Diantha to attend his birthday party, especially when they hadn't spoken for six months.
Finally finishing with his plate, Ash looked up one more time to see his old rival, Sawyer, talking with none other than the Kalos Queen, Aria. Miette was by his side, the bluenette leaning lazily on his rival's shoulder. Ash thought about approaching them, but soon caught sight of a more interesting group of old friends. Shoving and chewing some of the food in his mouth, he approached the group of four.
"You've been pretty busy, then, it seems?" Brock's deep and resonant voice chortled out. "Though I'm hardly one to talk. Ever since I skipped out on my duties to help out at Geosenge, the Nurse Joys really like shuffling me around."
"You're not actually complaining, though, are you?" May asked with a skeptical expression and a kabob sticking out of her mouth effortlessly. As Ash finished approaching the group of four, he noticed the all-too-familiar giddy expression stretch his best friend's face.
"No, I am not! Since Geosenge, I've been stationed in Kalos, and let me tell you, the Kalos women are exotically beautiful! From Officer Jenny to Aria, I almost feel like the whole Kalos world is my oyster, and I'm gonna take it. Ash knows what I'm talking about!"
"No…no, I don't think I do," Ash chuckled out, not entirely happy with being sucked into this kind of conversation again. "Serena's not exactly just some Kalos girl…"
"That's right, she's Ash's soulmate," Dawn teased. Ash glared at her before using one hand to slap her on the shoulder. Dawn laughed at that. It still felt nice to be with old friends, though thinking about an absentee from the party made him huff a sigh for a moment. Once that was gone, he took another bite of food from his plate, watching his Charizard and Alain's arm wrestle for a moment while Hawlucha and Buizel did actual wrestling on the ground. "Teasing aside, it's nice to see her with you. She keeps you out of trouble."
"I keep out of trouble just fine!"
"Tell that to the four world-altering events in the last year," May joked. Each of them shared a laugh at the joke, though neither really found any sense of humor in it. Hoping for a change in the subject, Ash looked at his friends wildly searching for one. Dawn and May had been busy with their Contests, with Dawn having returned to Hoenn to try her luck there. Brock made his intentions plain. But then there was…
"So, why are you going to be busy, Gary?" Ash asked his brunet friend.
"Helping out Champion Steven," Gary said flippantly, like it was no big deal. "Not that I'll be alone; Sawyer also seems to be in his, uh, employ. But after the stuff I figured out during the battle at Geosenge he decided he…" Gary trailed off here, looking at Ash with an almost guilty expression. To that, Ash huffed.
"Come on guys, it's been months. I'm fine." He didn't want to begin insisting that he was fine to begin with other than the lack of words to say to his mother. Dawn broke the tension by laughing lightly and slapping him back on the shoulder.
"Right, no need to worry! Ash has Serena and Clemont and Bonnie, after all!" Dawn cheered out. "Speaking of, I wanted to ask Serena something." Offering a high five to Ash, he clapped his hand against hers and watched Dawn walk off to speak with his girlfriend. It made him grateful to have such loyal friends. May had insinuated more than once that had Serena and the others not returned to Kanto with him, she would have stopped in more often to make sure he was okay. Hearing that, knowing they were all on their journeys, though, made him feel better.
Now, he just needed to figure out his next step. Actually, they all needed to figure out their next step. While Meyer had been holding down the fort in Lumiose City with a replacement for Clembot, Clemont had been here, studying all the different lab equipment that Professor Oak used…and occasionally having problems with Rotom, who appeared to have taken a liking to him. Serena, on the other hand, decided to learn how to make even better food from his mother, but there was no doubt in Ash's mind that she wanted to go traveling and performing again, but wasn't sure what to do to further her goal in becoming Kalos Queen. She had confessed there was no way she was ready to defeat Aria yet. Ash felt the same way about the Elite Four. He hadn't even won a League yet!
"In the meantime, I'll go do another daily check on all the Pokémon here," Brock said, breaking Ash's thoughts. Gary and May only uttered words of farewell before turning back to the table for some food. Realizing the conversation with his fellow friends and Ancien Warriors was complete, Ash walked onward, straight for Clemont. His gaze whipped around a few times, hoping to catch sight of his other "Ancien Warrior" comrades, but caught no sight of Seamus and the rest of Team Nova. Thinking back to the changed blond, Ash could only realize that the boy, like usual, was probably incredibly busy with his school.
"Ah, Ash, man of the hour. How have you been?" Diantha's voice said and Ash realized he had gotten close enough to initiate a conversation with the Champion. Ash only offered a nod, unsure of what to say…or, at least, he couldn't put his thoughts to words fast enough before she started speaking again. "Happy Birthday, by the way. Any plans for the upcoming year?"
"Not right now," Ash chuckled out, before taking a little more food. "You must be busy, fighting challengers, right?"
"More than that," Diantha said with a chuckle. "I think I'm busier with League politics these days than battling anyone. President Goodshow officially stepped down a month ago and we've been busier than ever. Then there's…"
"The Champion was just telling me about a new project for the IRCS," Clemont said once Diantha had let her words trail off. Ash nodded, only somewhat understanding what Clemont meant. After all, the Inter-Regional Communications System had only been installed and working for six months, something Clemont had been busy with during his time off. "Since we've almost installed them in all the six major regions that are part of the Pokémon League at the time, we were discussing expanding the project."
"Where to?" Ash asked, finally finishing his plate off and placing it down. He seemed to do so just in time for Pikachu to run back up to him and leap once more to his shoulder. Looking at his best buddy, Ash saw Serena leaving Shauna and Dawn to speak with Aria, while in the background, all of her Pokémon (and some of his, including Bulbasaur and Greninja) were dancing to the odd beat Rotom was putting out.
"The Alola Region," Diantha answered. Ash folded his arms. It sounded familiar, though he couldn't quite place where he'd heard of it before.
"Where's that?" he decided to ask, intrigued while he wracked his brain for the answer, but came up with nothing. Diantha smiled at him a moment, like she was considering something. Before she could tell him any more, Clemont was suddenly off on a tangent.
"It's far to the south. A region filled with islands!" Clemont announced excitedly, digging suddenly into his jumpsuit and whipping out a magazine. Ash had to wonder just where it had come from, considering he'd never seen his inventor friend receive magazines before. The lemon blond quickly shoved it in his face and Ash stepped back to see it was an edition of "Science Monthly", a man with a blond goatee and large green goggles on the front cover. "It's incredible! They've built a floating island there! And this man, Faba, is the one responsible for the technology! What I'd give to meet him for it!"
"But…don't all islands float?" Ash asked, genuinely confused.
"Heh heh heh, au contraire, my friend!" Clemont announced. Ash was pretty sure he noticed a creeped out Conway slinking off somewhere at that while Korrina simultaneously rolled her eyes. "This island is entirely manmade! A paragon of manufactured product created by the one and only Aether Foundation! They've become a huge hit in the scientific world recently and I've been following Faba's research lowkey for some time now…or whenever I could get my hands on a magazine. I wonder his opinion on the IRCS."
"It certainly sounds like it," Diantha said with her own chuckle. Ash could only shake his head and mutter "science is so amazing" under his breath before Diantha continued. "Which is why I was actually going to ask you to go to Alola and install the IRCS there, yourself, Clemont."
"M-me?" Clemont asked, jerked out of his fantasies to blink dumbly at the Champion.
"We've all discussed it as Champions, and I recently contacted your father and he liked the idea. Seemed to think you could season yourself up with a bit more traveling," Diantha explained to him with a wink. Ash saw Clemont's eyes light up happily and he slung an arm around his friend, proud of him. "You're certainly the one who knows the system best, and there's no rush to install it quite yet. Not to mention the League has been in contact with some other engineers in the area and-"
"I'll do it!" Clemont burst out, his excitement permeating his entire body. He was practically shaking underneath Ash, who let go of him. "I'd be more than happy to do it! Going to Alola and meeting all the scientific geniuses there like Faba and Molayne would be such an honor. And to represent the League no less!"
"Glad to hear it," Diantha said, still with that light and airy laugh on her lips. "I'll let the League know your decision when I return tonight."
"That's awesome, Clemont," Ash said with a grin at him, Pikachu also smiling. "Though…it means you'll be leaving for a while…Me and Serena could take care of Bonnie."
"Oh, yeah…" Clemont stated, like he hadn't thought of that. That made him look slightly crestfallen about the whole thing. At least, until Diantha clapped her hands.
"Why not go with him, Ash?" This drew the raven-haired trainer's attention, his chocolate eyes looking up at Diantha. "You haven't decided on your next journey yet, right? Perhaps a new region would be just the thing…and I think you'd find it most interesting there."
"Let's just say, there are some very strong trainers in Alola. Ones that even I've struggled with in the past on the very rare chances I've met them," Diantha admitted, adding a little wink at the end. Ash turned to Pikachu, who nodded a little. A minute ago, he may have been wondering what his next step would be, but hearing from Diantha, of all people, about a region that was full of strong trainers and all new Pokémon to discover instantly got his blood pumping like nothing else. It made him excited, especially knowing he could travel with Clemont through another region; excited enough to hop a plane right then and there.
But then he saw Serena talking to Aria and stopped himself. Sure, Serena wasn't the type to get mad, but he doubted she'd be very happy if he took off to a region without telling her. I guess I could sleep on it…he thought to himself, though from the way Pikachu touched his face, his best buddy knew exactly what he was thinking.
"That sounds really cool, Diantha," Ash decided to finally answer. "Maybe I'll give it a try. And when I'm even stronger from there, I'll come back and challenge you guys!"
"I'll be looking forward to that battle," Diantha admitted, her eyes flashing challengingly. She then seemed to catch sight of something and stepped away. "If you'll excuse me, then. It would appear my time at your party has ended. Happy Birthday, again, Ash. I look forward to hearing about more of your adventures." Clasping his shoulder lightly, Diantha at last retreated from the area, heading to an official looking man in a crisp suit and sunglasses. Ash was surprised that Kathi Lee was nowhere to be seen. At the same time, Clemont was quickly moving away.
"Sorry, Ash, but I've gotta tell Korrina and Bonnie! This is exciting for me!" Clemont said, his body jittering. "Korrina! The future is now thanks to…"
His voice was drowned by Ash's chuckles and the raven-haired trainer instantly began making tracks over to Serena's group, watching the rest of his Pokémon frolicking about, except for one. Greninja had stopped dancing and was staring at him, arms folded, as though he had heard their conversation and was contemplating something. Feeling a slight twinge in his brain, Ash had a very distinct feeling as to what it was, and it brought into sharp relief what traveling to this Alola region could mean. He tried to push it away, however, in favor of joining his girlfriend, Sawyer, Miette and Aria in conversation. At his approach, he noticed Sawyer put some very small distance between himself and Miette, though their hands brushed. He could only raise an eyebrow at that, as did Serena while Aria continued to talk a moment longer.
"Palermo's been thinking of adding things to Showcases in the next year, after this season concludes," Aria was telling the two Performers standing there with her. Serena was watching her raptly, not even noticing that Ash had come up to stand next to her side. "Of course, she has to run it past Monsieur Pierre and the rest of the Showcase Committee, but apparently she's been thinking about this for a while."
"What sort of things?" Serena asked. Miette turned her gaze for a moment before putting her attention back on Aria, wanting the answer for herself.
"A weighted system of some sort," Aria was answering her. Serena finally noticed her boyfriend by her side and offered him a smile. "Apparently, she did some thinking after the Master Class and watching everything that happened at Geosenge and decided that she didn't like seeing what she now calls 'a glorified popularity contest'. So, she spoke with the Committee and they're working on a tentative proposal. Seems they'll be looking into other regions for ideas to implement…"
"Like the Alola region?" Ash piped in. The four standing there with him turned their heads to look at him. Ash locked eyes with Serena and noticed something shimmering behind her blue orbs for a second. "I was just talking about the region with Clemont and Diantha."
"Hmm, I do think Palermo mentioned something to that effect," Aria admitted. On Ash's shoulder, Pikachu's ears perked up a little before he jumped away, no doubt to play with Piplup. "Not aware of the details, but they did say something about some sort of Ceremony in the Alola region. I've never been myself…of course, I barely had the time to even come to the party, but I managed to convince some less than stellar board executives to let me have some time to stretch my legs."
"You must be keeping busy, then," Sawyer commented, taking his hand away from near Miette's and putting them in his pockets. It was odd for Ash to see him without his notebook, but the boy's sense of confidence was palpable. It inspired further confidence inside of himself.
Alola, huh? Ash thought, unable to get the idea of traveling to a new region outside of his brain. Serena was looking at him with an indiscernible expression, almost like she could tell just what was going through his mind. Shaking his head a little, Ash affixed a grin to his lips and decided to try and stop the thought of another adventure from burgeoning forth. Taking Serena's hand seemed to do the trick, though the expression behind her eyes and her following question made him really wonder if she understood all along.
"So, Miss Palermo is looking into the Alola region's Showcase equivalent?" she asked, squeezing Ash's hand lightly. Aria inclined her head with a light "mmm" but said no more on the subject. Ash had found it slightly weird, but paid little attention to it, especially when his mother seemed to suddenly call them all to attention.
Looking back on it as Ash went through the rest of the party, he could admit that he felt it was all a bit of a blur. There were a lot more people he mingled with, including Tracey and Professor Oak once again once Rotom went to routinely bother Clemont, and on top of that, Ash made sure to get his hands on as much food as possible. Then there was the large cake that Serena and his mother had baked together, though the former admitted that Dawn helped them. Presents seemed to come soon after, and though Ash didn't expect it, he was surprised with the very practical gifts he had been given. From a new set of camping gear to an invention that Clemont had built which didn't explode and even down to a joint gift of some delicacies from Nova Town which had come from the town's eponymous team. The simplest gift he had received was a picture of himself and Serena, though he had no idea when it could have been taken. Serena admitted it wasn't the biggest gift, but he was happy, in the same way that his Pokémon were happy at Brock's big batch of Pokémon food.
Though he couldn't blame them: they were just as antsy as he was. Just as he felt ready to travel instantly upon hearing about this Alola region, so, too, did his Pokémon seem to instantly know that he was about to leave again. Not that he had spoken it aloud to anyone yet, and indeed, by the time the lights had dimmed and Ash had shared one last, not-disastrous dance with Serena before everyone left, only Pikachu and Clemont seemed to know fully about any plans in his head.
Heading back to the Ketchum household amidst the starlit canopy of sky after the party, his friends that were staying at the house all jabbering in between their exhausted mumbles, Ash held onto Serena's hand and felt his body shake with slight excitement. Six months. Six months of training and enjoying the peace and quiet. And all it took was a few words from Diantha to inspire him again; he was ready to move forward and fulfill his dream yet again. The only problem was finding the words to tell Serena what he wanted to do, so that she could understand, but as the both of them yawned upon stepping inside, he decided he'd broach the topic tomorrow and, with a passing yawn, he went up the stairs with Clemont and Brock to flop upon his bed. Brock was out instantly, though Clemont appeared to remain awake.
"Hey, Clemont…" Ash muttered out from his place upon his bed. "You're gonna go to Alola, right…?"
"I hope to," Clemont said, yawning just a little. "Working on the IRCS and meeting my idols would be like a dream. What about you? I know Diantha mentioned it, but…"
"Yeah…I want to go," Ash admitted, the answer coming out in a whisper. "That way, I can get stronger, so me and Pikachu can battle Diantha and I can become a Pokémon Master." Pikachu murmured in agreement at the foot of his bed, curled up in a ball.
"Then do it…I'll stick with you. It'd be fun to have another journey together," Clemont yawned out once more, though it seemed to be the end of his journey as the inventor slipped off to sleep. Ash didn't say anything a moment, merely staring up at the ceiling of his room.
You've become a wonderful Pokémon Master.
Ash's fist clenched, his father's final words coming to him. They no longer hurt the way they used to, but still…hearing them, remembering his promise at the end of the battle, it made Ash wonder if he was still making his late father proud by just sitting around. Shaking his head with a thought, Ash laid back against his pillow and breathed a couple more words before falling asleep.
"Well, Pikachu, looks like it's time for our next adventure."
*Chapter continued in next post.