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Thread: Ships, Schemes and Other Sweet Sights (Amourshipping, PG)

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    Default Ships, Schemes and Other Sweet Sights (Amourshipping, PG)

    Hello all, new and old alike to our very special collaboration! *fireworks* Epicocity speaking here, kicking off our brand new project in style. As most of you know, myself and potat lasaro have collaborated on this newest fic which we hope to be very entertaining. We certainly enjoyed coming up with it. For now, I won't say much, but I will say this first chapter was written by myself. After this, however, don't expect any freebies as to who wrote a chapter. And yes, this is also published on fanfiction.net. Well, without further ado…

    Authors: Epicocity, potat lasaro

    Rating: PG

    Pairings: Amourshipping (could you imagine any other?)

    DISCLAIMER: Unless I make so much money I can buy up all their stock, we don't own Pokémon at all.

    Ships, Schemes and Other Sweet Sights

    An Amourshipping Pokémon Story

    Chapter 1

    A Voyage of Discovery

    Pidgey! Pidgey!

    Ash groaned to the sound of the intrusive alarm clock. He was certain he had broken that thing years ago, yet here it was, making an all too incessant racket in his room. Groaning as he turned over in his bed, his hand went to smack against the wall, only to slam into the dozing Pokémon at his side. That quickly proved to be a mistake.

    "Chuuuuuuuu!" Ash bolted upright at his partner's cry, convulsing with the electricity that Pikachu was giving off. As he did so, he heard the sound of his infernal alarm clock tumbling off its perch and onto the ground. Not recognizing where he was a moment, Ash jumped out of bed quickly and raised his fists, reaching for his non-existent belt all too suddenly.

    "Hawlucha, I choo…" Ash blinked as his surroundings very quickly came into focus. Blinking again, he turned back to the bed he had been sleeping on. Bed. Not a sleeping bag. Rubbing the back of his head in embarrassment, Ash finally remembered that he was no longer on the road, sleeping under the stars and in tents. He was no longer awakening to the smell of Clemont's cooking (or perhaps the smell of smoke from his newest invention gone bad). No longer hearing Bonnie chasing Dedenne and Pikachu around a meadow.

    No longer seeing Serena smile at him the second he finished waking up for the day.

    "Huh…?" Ash suddenly blurted out, like he didn't know why his thoughts had gone there. Over on his bed, Pikachu tilted his head in either confusion or curiosity (or both).

    "Pikapi?" he asked, causing Ash to wrench his attention away from the decorations of his room and onto his best friend.

    "Nothing, Pikachu," he told him, suppressing a yawn behind his hand. Pikachu decided to take that for granted and leapt off the bed before scurrying under it. Ash folded his arms, having a more than vague idea of just what his partner was doing. As he did so, Ash decided to get dressed for the day, scooping up his once more broken alarm clock and placing it on the desk in the room. As he looked up, he noticed all off the pictures on the dresser next to his achievements. Pictures of him and Brock, another of him and Misty alongside the former Gym Leader, one with May and Max, and, of course, he couldn't forget Dawn. Then there was one of all of his Pokémon. Oddly enough, there was nothing with Cilan and Iris, but he shrugged it off in favor of the picture with him, Clemont, Serena, Bonnie, and Korrina from the Shalour Gym, taken in Geosenge Town. It was a nice picture, illuminated by the morning rays.

    Ash couldn't help but smile upon looking at it when he noticed something upon it. Or rather, in it. Serena was close. Incredibly close. Closer than he certainly remembered; almost like she was trying to take hold of him. He wondered why he never noticed that before when a very different memory entered his brain. One less visual and more…tactile. Something soft, fleeting, would have been air if not for Pikachu and the others' reactions behind him. It was still a positive memory, but something he'd never experienced before, and he wasn't sure what it all meant. It was also something he'd refused to share with his mother, or anyone else, really.

    After all, Serena had kissed him.

    "What was that all about…?" Ash muttered to himself, finally tearing his eyes away from the picture and sweeping them along to his closet. As he did so, he caught sight of his Poliwag pencil sharpener, and couldn't help but remember the now fond memory of the Poliwag that had first brought him and Serena together. His smile blossomed, though at the same time, the confusion over Serena's last action was still there.

    Like always, however, Ash decided to ignore it and quickly got dressed in the clothes he wore through Kalos. Making sure everything was on properly, Ash took a step to leave his room. Pikachu darted out from under the bed, licking his paws before leaping onto his shoulder as they exited.

    "Oh, good, you're up!" he heard his mother's voice call. Ash stopped when he finally caught sight of his mother. "I was about to wake you up. What was that banging I heard up there?"

    "Oh, just the clock," Ash chuckled out, back to rubbing the back of his head. Delia shook her head with her own chuckle. "And Pikachu. Sorry for waking you up, buddy."

    "Pika!" Pikachu said, touching his face to reassure him it was okay.

    "Anyway," Delia interrupted, drawing Ash's attention back onto her with a smile. "Made you some breakfast on the stove. I'm off to Professor Oak's."

    "Huh?" Ash said, now tilting his head alongside Pikachu. This all seemed rather sudden. Since when was his mother heading off to the professor's first thing in the morning? Had he completely missed something? Sure, he'd been in somewhat of a daze since returning home from Kalos, doing little more than visiting his Pokémon and training with all of them. But going to the professor's was his thing, not his mother's. "Why are you heading there?"

    "Samuel said he had something he wanted to give us. Called just this morning," Delia insisted, pointing at the phone. Over in the kitchen (where the phone was), Ash saw Mimey humming a tune while he swept up some of the floor. "Make sure you join us later, okay? I know you don't have your next journey all lined up, but you can't sit at home all day."

    "I don't do that!" Ash protested, but he still nodded to ensure his mother that he'd be along sooner or later. Patting him on the shoulder, Delia quickly grabbed her bag. At the same time, the clatter of a broom against a wall indicated that Mimey was dashing right after her. Ash watched the duo go with a little bit of amusement, and then a shrug that he shared with Pikachu. "Let's get some breakfast!"

    "Pipikachu!" Pikachu agreed, the two quickly dashing over to the kitchen where a griddle sat, pancakes resting upon it. Ash quickly swiped them onto a plate, dashed to the table and ladled syrup over them. Pikachu, meanwhile, ran to the fridge and opened it, pulling out yet more ketchup. Ash hardly paid him any mind; the thought of his mother's cooking always enticed him. He was so quick to shovel the pancakes down that he didn't take note of the remote on the table, knocking it off just like he had his clock. Instead of breaking, it happened to turn on the TV in the living room, blaring some news program loudly.

    "…Corporation is very happy to help with the excavation of this project," a spokesman for some company said clearly. Ash stopped with his fork sticking out of his mouth to lean back and look at the television. An older, familiar man with the title "President, Devon Corporation" was the one speaking. "After my son informed me of the events in Kalos, we feel it's important for us all to be vigilant for any possible relics of the past, be they Pokémon, human or otherwise. We plan to make sure it gets to a safe facility on a secluded island for study, sending our best possible recruits with it. Any questions?"

    "Mr. President," called a reporter, but Ash was already uninterested. Looking to Pikachu, who couldn't really care less (since he did have his ketchup and all), Ash finished chewing his pancakes before reaching down and flicking the TV off before more questions could be asked.

    "All right, buddy, let's head to the professor's!" Ash said, bouncing out of his seat. He was about to leave the kitchen when he remembered the plate sitting there and a little voice, Serena's voice, quickly spoke in his head. Ash, always remember to clean your plate before you train. It's easier for the rest of us, too. Nodding a little, as though she were there to see it, he nabbed his plate and rinsed it off in the sink before running out of the house, Pikachu clinging tightly to him.

    It felt weird, being alone again these last couple weeks. After being on the road with Serena, Clemont and Bonnie for so long, being a part of that little family, he could admit that being with just Pikachu took some getting used to again. At the very least, however, he had all of his Pokémon by his side. Dashing along the road, Ash saw Professor Oak's lab approaching quickly. As it did, he began to think of the good professor's grandson, and wondered what Gary was up to these days. Had he been busy with his work in Sinnoh? Had he seen what had gone down in Kalos? There were a lot of questions he could have asked, but as the Pokémon researcher wasn't there, Ash opted for making the final sprint into the laboratory.

    "Hey, I'm here!" Ash called out, Pikachu's voice resounding beside him. Professor Oak's voice was not the first to greet him.

    "Hey, Ash, the professor and your mother are out in the back," Tracey's voice called to him from a nearby tank where he was sketching a Seaking. Ash waved his hand in thanks and proceeded to the back garden, practically waiting for the inevitable stampede of Tauros to come his way. They had become less rambunctious since he'd visited every day, but they still liked to greet him in ever the same fashion. Sure enough, Ash had just enough time to catch sight of his mother and the professor before the Tauros came barreling through the area and ran over him.

    "Pikapi…" Pikachu commented, shaking his head.

    "Luchacha?"

    "I'm all right, Hawlucha," Ash assured his Pokémon, who had come over to greet him with a series of manly poses. A sudden roar also joined in the well wishes as wind flapped around him, all of his birds zipping off through the sky at fast speeds. Talonflame was no doubt winning, though it might have been cheating by using Flame Charge while Noivern tried to keep up with the speeding birds.

    Rawr! Charizard roared out, suddenly next to him as he let off a jubilant flame that nearly singed Ash's face. He laughed it off and patted Charizard on the chest. As his Flame Pokémon helped him to stand, he now saw his mother and Oak approaching their little group.

    "It looks like all your Pokémon are as exuberant as ever. Especially Hawlucha. He, Charizard and Buizel have surprisingly been sparring all morning. I think he has some excess energy to work off," Oak said with a waved hand.

    "Yeah, he does!" Ash commented, putting a fist out towards Hawlucha, which the Pokémon returned by bumping it. Looking back at the human duo, Ash noticed his mother clasping something to her chest. "So…uh…what's going on?"

    "Well, Delia was mentioning that you haven't been doing much, and as you haven't left for another journey yet, I thought I found the perfect solution." Ash felt entirely lost, but decided to nod his head to let the professor continue on his way. "You see, all the Pokémon Professors were invited to a conference of sort…well, not quite a conference but more of a little gathering."

    "Okay…" Ash commented, trying to see where the professor was going with this. To the side of him, Hawlucha had donned his costume from his semifinal battle against Sawyer and was running at Charizard. He had no idea where the wrestler had gotten it from after their battle.

    "But I'm incredibly busy right now!" Oak seemed to finish, as though the result were obvious. "In fact, I'm not the only one. Professor Rowan has said he's short staffed and Professor Birch is collating data with me, but it just seems such a waste that none of us are able to go."

    "And you want me to stand in for you?" Ash asked, thinking he could see where this was going. The professor took a sudden step back.

    "My goodness, no! No, I…no…" Professor Oak proclaimed with a light, nervous chuckle. Ash narrowed his eyes but said nothing. "No, simply, where it's held seemed like it could be a fun experience for you all. I have it on good authority that where the conference was being held was meant to only be a small part of the experience."

    "What are you saying, professor?" Ash asked, Pikachu having once more regained his place on his shoulder. Suddenly, his mother stepped forward and thrust something in his face. Ash leaned back and saw that something sparkling in the sunlight.

    "Samuel gave us tickets to a cruise!"

    "A cruise?"

    "Pika? !" Pikachu asked in surprise alongside him.

    "Yes!" Delia exclaimed enthusiastically. Mimey instantly jumped in air and scurried away from the lab. Ash watched him go in a cloud of dust and he could only blink. "It seems like a wonderful opportunity aboard the S.S. Ambrosia, coming from Kalos in less than a week! It's been awhile since we had a family vacation, too."

    "A cruise, huh?" Ash said, pursing his lips a bit as he looked at Pikachu who smiled. "What do you think, buddy?"

    "Chaaa!" Pikachu chirped happily. Ash continued smiling, looking and thinking about the shiny tickets in his mother's hand. It had been so sudden; something he never expected. Then again, a lot of things in his life were unexpected, and he always took them in stride. Besides, a cruise seemed like a fun time: an adventure without all the walking that could hurt people's feet (though certainly not his own…nope). And his mother would be there, which was a fun plus.

    Ash's smile grew as he looked over his Pokémon gamboling around the area, including Hawlucha, his costume gone, wrestling with Buizel on the ground. He hadn't even noticed the Sea Weasel Pokémon approaching, especially with his attention now on the discarded fabric, the one made by Serena. The memory once more assailed him. Serena's parting kiss had been on his mind more often than he thought it should be, barely granting him a moment of rest from…whatever it meant. Maybe this cruise will help me forget about it. After all, some peace and relaxation for the team might be just what we need.

    "All right! Sounds like fun!" Ash proclaimed, fist pumping. Delia seemed absolutely over the moon at this.

    "Excellent!" she trilled happily. "Thank you very much, Samuel! Now let's get packed! We'll have plenty of shopping to do, and I'm sure Mimey's waiting for us!"

    "Have fun, you guys! Let me know how the professor's conference goes, Delia…assuming it isn't canceled!" Oak called out with a laugh before seemingly yelling at Rotom. Ash was unsure as he was dragged off by his mother. At the same time, he didn't mind, already grinning alongside Pikachu at the thought of another adventure.


    Ash was genuinely surprised at how much preparation there was to do for a simple cruise trip. Whenever he went on an adventure, he would usually just take whatever was in his backpack and things would work themselves out. Of course, he also realized that he usually had friends who picked up the slack for him along the way, but that was rather unimportant. Still, he never thought there could be so much planning for a simple cruise trip.

    "Mom, don't we already have enough swimwear?" Ash asked as his mother continued searching for her own sundresses alongside swim trunks for him.

    "Oh, Ash, you can never be too prepared," Delia sang out, handing a floppy straw hat over to Mimey. "You should be more like Mimey and just help out!"

    "Mime! Mr. Mime!" Mimey responded with a smile. Ash just shook his head and continued to smile, shifting the rest of his mother's vacation materials in his arms while Pikachu licked at an ice cream cone. As they finally checked out that day, Ash noticed that his mother had kept the straw hat, and when they left, his eyes subconsciously wandered over to those woods from years ago. His thoughts, meanwhile, tracked over to Serena, wondering if she was doing well in Hoenn.

    "Pika?" Pikachu suddenly questioned, having obviously noticed how distracted Ash was becoming. Ash just smiled and scratched him behind the ears.

    "I know it's a lot of work, but this is exciting, right?" Ash beamed out at his companion. Pikachu clearly agreed, patting at his cheeks while they sparked with enthusiastic electricity.

    Unfortunately for Ash, choosing just what clothes to take on vacation and whether any baubles or whatnot could come along was the least of his problems. Everything else paled in comparison to deciding what Pokémon he should bring along on the cruise with him. Of course, he had an idea, but that became all the harder once he was actually picking them out from his rambunctious group of Pokémon.

    Rawr! Charizard said, smiling with flames curling from his nostrils. He looked like he really wanted to go on vacation, and even Krookodile was nearby, attempting to act cool; Ash could tell that he was itching for a chance to go, though. In the far back were Sceptile and Infernape, neither looking like they cared much. Out of all of them, however, Bayleef seemed to want to go the most, nuzzling up against his side.

    "I know you all want to go!" Ash laughed out. "I wish I could take you all, but there's only so much room on a ship, so…I've decided to take the guys who just finished traveling with me!"

    Rawr? ! Charizard snorted, almost like he was miffed that he wasn't chosen and he turned away like a child pouting. Pikachu ran over to him and patted him (as best as he could) on his backside consolingly. Even Bayleef didn't look too happy, her head drooping. Ash felt a little bad that he had denied so many of his Pokémon the chance to join him on the trip, despite the two open slots, but he had really given it some thought. After two departures and the intense rigors they had been put through in their last month in Kalos, Ash felt they needed the chance to rest most of all.

    He should have known it wouldn't always go over well with the others. Some, like Buizel, most of his birds and Snivy, were very amicable about it, with Buizel even fistbumping Hawlucha to part ways. Others, like Snorlax, couldn't care less. Then there were those who took some work, like Bayleef and a despondent Charizard (who he made some promises to in order to make him feel better) and especially Oshawott, who kept trying to sneak his pokeball into Ash's bag (before getting caught with a seemingly innocent "Osha!"). When he had finally settled all of them, Ash was able to take Hawlucha, Noivern and Talonflame away from the lab.

    "Thanks, Professor! See you when we get back!"

    "No problem, As-aagh!"

    "MUUUUUUUK!" Muk called out from atop Professor Oak to say his goodbyes to Ash. Ash just laughed and waved, returning home for what turned into a restless night. He was far too excited about this trip to sleep, and when his mother's early alarm clock went off, he was straight out of bed and dressed before she'd even made breakfast.

    Everything at the point quickly felt like it was stuck on fast forward. Their entire family was rushed into overdrive between making breakfast, ensuring that everything was as packed as it could (and all into three suitcases, no less), eating breakfast and then ultimately renting a car to drive them all the way to Vermillion City by noon. Ash instantly started looking around the port when they arrived, but caught no sight of the ship.

    "Here, Ash," Delia said, handing over some pamphlets and brochures to her son. "It's information about all the events on the cruise. Looks like we're not the only ones who will be departing from Vermillion."

    "Sure," Ash said, taking the pamphlets and flicking through them idly, mostly disinterested. His mother sat down on a nearby bench, some Pidgey flying away after being startled by her action. Ash decided to glance around the port once more, noticing some dressed for the vacation on the cruise ship while others appeared to just be looking at those who would be going on it. Part of it reminded Ash of his trip on the S.S. Anne and the absolute disaster that had turned into. He once more shrugged it off with a smile, deciding to not worry about it; there was no way this trip would turn out the same, not with all his dependable Pokémon by his side.

    "Pikapi! Chu chu pika!" Pikachu said, pointing furiously at one of the random brochures in his hands. Ash diverted his attention back onto them, noticing Pikachu pointing at a particular brochure with a sign of two clashing pokeballs on the cover and big words emblazoned upon it in rather bold letters that could catch anyone's attention:


    CRUISIN' TAG BATTLE!
    "A battle? !" Ash shouted excitedly, drawing some looks from those around him. "Great catch, Pikachu! Man, this trip just got even better! How about you, mom?"

    "Certainly looks like some fun activities," Delia commented. Mimey agreed, tucking a brochure for what looked like a nice pool on the ship into the pocket of his floral-patterned shirt. "Though I don't think Professor Oak's conference will be garnering very many people. Guess they should have checked who would be attending before sending the tickets out."

    "Oh…what'll you do, then?" Ash asked, hitching his backpack a little up, his eyes flicking over to the sea for a moment. His mother tilted her head a bit, touching a finger to her lips.

    "Oh, probably just some relaxation. Looks like there's a massage parlor and a nice pool on the deck. You'll obviously be battling anyone you run into."

    "I'm not like that," Ash said, flinching inside because she'd mostly been on the mark. "I'm sure there're lots of other activities, like…like…" Ash's hands fumbled through the brochures in his hands when a loud horn suddenly sounded and they tumbled to the ground in a complete mess. Pikachu leapt down to gather them up, Ash catching a brief sight of some tourist locations on a pamphlet and one with a girl and her fancy Altaria. He was less focused on that, however, to the sight of the great white ship pulling into the port.

    "Pika…chu…" Pikachu gasped out at the sight of the ship. Ash was right there with him, dazzled by the absolutely mammoth ship rolling in before him.

    It looked like it was made of alabaster, it gleamed so perfectly in the sunlight. Stretching almost the entire length of the port, it looked to be bigger than even the S.S. Anne or the ships he had taken through the Decolore Islands. Smokestacks were evenly spaced along the top of the ship, puffing out steam and what looked like a captain's bridge was visible through near-reflective windows, a Pokémon seeming to be inside. In the back was a large pool with some people playing inside it, while on the front there looked to be a battlefield as a Scizor dueled with a Carbink. Ash's eyes lit up at that and over all of these things wafted the smell of what seemed to be delicious food. Painted on the side of the ship, in golden letters, were the words, S.S. Ambrosia.

    "This is awesome!" Ash shouted happily, bending down to take his suitcase while Mimey did the same for his mother's and the family started forward. There was a slight rustling from a bush behind him and Pikachu turned back, but when nothing came of it, his best buddy bounded forward onto him as they ran to where they would board the ship. As they skidded to a stop, the ramp that led upwards lowered to allow the passengers to board.

    All at once, that surge of passengers pushed forward and the Ketchum family struggled to find a place in the line, being shoved aside by a trio of individuals who looked to be dressed as janitors. While it miffed him a little, his mother's hand on his shoulder helped Ash to not yell at those who had pushed them aside as they moved closer to the boarding. Ash's own thoughts were proven correct as the trio from earlier were given work IDs to work as janitors aboard the ship and tossed a look back at him and Pikachu before being shooed off. Before long, they reached the man checking tickets.

    "All right, you're cleared to go. Please enjoy your stay upon the S.S. Ambrosia," the man said, but Ash was already moving off. "We'll be making a couple stopovers before getting underway, but please enjoy the ride until then."

    "Thank you," Delia said as Ash began wandering to the battlefield. "Ash, remember to put your stuff in our room when you're done!"

    "Okay!" Ash called out, Pikachu yelling beside him as they dragged their suitcase away as quickly as possible. "All right, Pikachu, let's find someone to battle with right away!"

    "Pipikachu!" Pikachu agreed wholeheartedly. Skirting around the corridor that stretched between the front and back of the ship, Ash noticed the doors that led to the interior of the ship, passing by sleeping quarters and then looking into what appeared to be a dining hall with the heavenly smell radiating out. Grinning to himself, Ash ran forward and dropped his suitcase in a visible place, ready to break onto the battlefield and challenge the first person he saw.

    BOOM!

    "Wha-?" Ash barely had the time to choke out before he was hit with a wave of smoke from something on one of the battlefields. It completely dazed him and Pikachu as they waited for the smoke to clear so they could see their way forward.

    "Clemont, what was that?" screeched a voice, and for a moment, Ash thought his ears had deceived him.

    "I was only monitoring the potential power of a Pokémon…I have no idea why it would do this…" whined another voice, filled with absolute disappointment.

    "That's the third one in as many days," chimed in another, rather tired, female voice. "Honestly, it's nice to be around friends, but not when they're going to kill me."

    "See, even Miette knows how dangerous your failed inventions are, brother!"

    "But failure is the mother of success…" Clemont argued back, sounding like he had tears in his eyes at what was no doubt his latest invention failure. Ash's smile grew even bigger as the smoke began to clear, and sure enough he caught sight of three rather familiar faces. One was the blond-haired, bespectacled form of one of his best friends, kneeling in overexaggerated tears over the charred remains of what looked like another mini-Clembot. Next to him was Bonnie, hands on her hips with puffed cheeks. Next to them, and most surprising of all, was the blue-haired Miette, hands folded across her chest as she surveyed the whole scene with a toss-up between amusement and annoyance. None of them had yet to see Ash.

    "Man, science is really amazing!" Ash decided to say as he approached them. His one line turned heads in an instant. Bonnie was the first to react.

    "Ash! Ash!" she cheered loudly, jumping up and down quickly. "Wake up, Dedenne, it's Ash!"

    "Ne…?" Dedenne said drowsily but hardly woke up as his caretaker ran forward to suddenly embrace Ash around his midsection.

    "Hey, Bonnie! How've you guys been?" Ash asked suddenly. Clemont blinked disbelievingly and made to clean his glasses with a cloth Miette had begrudgingly handed him. "Clemont, I thought you were helping Clembot at the Lumiose Gym?"

    "Oh…" Clemont commented, almost like he still thought he was hallucinating. He seemed to decide against that when Bonnie pulled back, gleaming up at Ash. "Well, there haven't been many challengers lately after…well, after what happened in Lumiose. So, we've been kind of bored lately and then Professor Sycamore offered us these tickets to take this cruise. He's been too busy to come thanks to Alain and Mairin finding all sorts of data for him. So-"

    "So, we decided to come...though daddy couldn't come with us," Bonnie pouted. "It's been a lot of fun! Right, Dedenne?" Dedenne didn't answer, preferring to sleep. "Well, he's had fun, too. But anyway, daddy didn't want to come because of his whole 'keeping the streets of Lumiose safe' thing after Team Flare."

    "Makes sense," Ash chuckled out, rubbing at his nose. Clemont had finally stood and walked over to clasp Ash's hand in a handshake. Ash nodded. He really didn't think he'd ever see the two of them again so soon, but now that they were here, it was like they never left. "Glad to see you guys are both doing well. It'll be great to have you on the trip, too!"

    "Ah, so you are taking the cruise, then," Clemont noted. He turned back to clean up the debris from one of his inventions when Ash felt a sudden pressure on his shoulder.

    "Don't forget about me," said a voice right in his ear. It honestly made him a little uncomfortable to feel Miette's hot breath on his ear, but he ignored it. "You're looking well, Ash."

    "Yeah, you look great, too, Miette," Ash noted, drawing away from the Performer with a smile. She simply righted herself like she hadn't been affected by his movement one way or the other. "But, if Clemont, Bonnie, and I got the cruise tickets from the professors then…?"

    "Happened to win them at a baking contest," Miette passed off with a wave. "Didn't expect it, but it looks like it'll be fun. Especially with the Contest Spectacular."

    "Contest…Spectacular?" Ash asked. He was a little confused on that one. Sure, he'd heard about Contests, having traveled with more than his fair share of coordinators, and even participating in them, but a "Spectacular" was something else entirely. He didn't get his answer, though.

    "Just something for fun. Which, speaking of…" Miette said, a small smirk stretching across her face. "I'm surprised I haven't seen Serena here. She's usually attached at your hip."

    "Well, last I remember, Serena was heading to Hoenn," Ash answered without even thinking. Miette's face dropped a little, but before long the sly smirk was back on it.

    "Oh, guess you two broke up, then…And here I wanted to ask how you two were doing," she commented with the smirk never leaving her face. Ash tilted his head to the side once more, not understanding quite what Miette was getting at with a rather audible "huh?".

    "Yeah, Ash, how are you and Serena doing ever since that ki-" Bonnie started to say, sidling over to his side and elbowing him.

    "Ash, let's have a battle!" Clemont's cry was a rather welcome interruption in the grand scheme of things. Ash nodded his head, hoping to shake the thoughts that Bonnie was now putting in them; thoughts of honey blonde hair blowing out, crystal blue eyes so close, and the touch of-

    "Sure thing! Pikachu, you ready?" Ash asked of his partner. His answer caused Bonnie to frown and glare in her brother's direction while Miette stifled a giggle. Clemont looked a little flushed, himself, but quickly made his way to the other end of the battlefield as a sudden voice called out alongside a horn that boarding was closing.

    "Chespin, let's go!" Clemont called, tossing his pokeball into the air. From it emerged the green spined Pokémon that was Clemont's rather gluttonous partner. He quickly saw Pikachu and greeted him happily, though Pikachu was on all fours, prepared to battle. "Pin Missile!"

    "Use Quick Attack and dodge it!" Ash ordered. Chespin reared back, the spines on his head glowing bright white before shooting forth green projectiles, streaking white lights behind them. Pikachu bounded forward, dodging each of the attacks as they slammed into the battlefield. He then slammed into Chespin and sent him sprawling backwards. "Now, Electro Ball!"

    "Pika! Pika pika pika pika pika pika chu pi!" Pikachu cried, leaping into the air and firing the crackling ball of pulsing electricity towards Chespin. The Spiny Nut Pokémon instantly answered by whipping his vines outward to hold the Electro Ball in place and cause it to explode. The collision of attacks seemed to catch the attention of the other passengers in the area, who ambled over to watch the battle. Even the Scizor and Carbink stopped battling.

    "Oh, well, guess I'll ask later," Bonnie sighed out, pricking Ash's hearing.

    "Ask about what exactly?" Miette asked, leaning in conspiratorially. Ash shook his head as Pikachu was pushed backwards by a Tackle. Shaking it a little more vigorously, he put his attentions back on the battle. Just like always, it turned into just what he wanted: a chance to clear his head and think about nothing but the moment. No Serena. No Bonnie and Miette. No kiss that lingered on his brain when he had nothing else to think about. And with the cruise that started as the ship pulled out of port, he was certain it would be just what he needed to clear his head of all those excess things.

    After all, nothing cleared his head more than another adventure.



    Author's Note: And there's the first chapter! I know! Shorter than usual from both of us! But, of course, it was an introductory chapter so not a lot really happened (and it's not like it's in the middle of a trilogy…) But we've gotten things underway, just as the ship has, and I hope you're all having fun with it, because I know I, personally, had a blast with it.

    potat lasaro: Well, things have started out rather nice for Ash. Hopefully he enjoys this little cruise with his mom and friends since he really deserves some sort of vacation. Blue skies, crystal clear ocean, good friends, what else could make this cruise even better?

    So, naturally, we'll both ask you to leave us your thoughts and Review, and, well, as I always do, Dare to Be Silly.
    Dare to Be Silly!

    Ancienverse AU Fanfiction

    Love in the Time of Teamwork
    Once every seven years there was a tournament celebrating the bonds between people and Pokemon. Of course, Serena expected Ash to want to take part, but she had no idea the ways in which it would change their lives for good or ill. She was confident, however, that by the end of that week, something between herself and Ash would be different. Amourshipping.

    Remaining stories can be found in this community here.

  2. #2
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    First chapter a success? A chapter as a Christmas present? What can get better? Hope you guys all enjoy Chapter 2 and Merry Christmas!


    Chapter 2

    A Reunion of Friends

    "Chespin, use Vine Whip on Pikachu and throw him into the air!" Clemont issued as he fixed his glasses. Vines emerged from the sides of Chespin's neck and shot off at Pikachu. The Electric Mouse Pokémon managed to leap over the first of the vines before finding the second wrapped around his feet. Whipping his one vine upwards, Chespin launched his good friend up into the sky as Clemont adjusted his glasses. "And now, Pin Missile!"

    "Chespin pin!" The Spiny Nut Pokémon cried out as the spines on his head glowed white prior to the familiar barrage of attacks firing off. The green projectiles cut across the blue skies and straight for Pikachu as a direct hit seemed imminent.

    Watching on with patience as the attack was about to reach Pikachu, Ash had already thought of a perfect counter. With the Electric type flailing around due to his lack of balance while airborne, it allowed for his idea to work perfectly. Throwing his fist up into the air, Ash called out his next command. "Pikachu, use your Thunderbolt attack!"

    Pikachu, doing his best to stop his constant flailing, focused on charging up an electrical burst of energy as his body slowly glowed from the gathered electricity. As he released the attack, Pikachu realized just what Ash had wanted to do as his electricity flowed all over the surrounding area and deflected the Pin Missile attack. Landing back on the field, both Ash and Pikachu were ready with the next move as he sprinted across the field, a white light trailing behind him.

    "Chespin, watch out!" Clemont called out, but it was too late as Pikachu had already rammed his entire body into the gluttonous Grass type. Chespin felt the full force of the attack as he rolled backwards along the field, dirt being kicked up along the way. Chespin, however, was far from finished as he immediately jumped up onto his feet while Clemont commanded a Pin Missile, only for it to be canceled out by another Thunderbolt.

    "Alright, Pikachu, use Electro Ba-" Ash began to say, only to be interrupted by the sound of applause. Both trainers looked in the direction that the sound was coming from and saw a rather professional looking man standing alongside a man dressed in all white and wearing a captain's hat; no doubt the captain of the ship.

    "My son was right about you, Ash," the man dressed in the captain's outfit spoke as he finished applauding, his several medals shining in the sunlight. Seeing the confused look on Ash's face, the man began to rub the back of his neck. "Sorry, allow me to introduce myself first. My name is Ryker and I'll be your captain for the duration of this cruise," he explained while placing a hand across his chest and bowing slightly before speaking again. "I didn't mean to interrupt your battle, but after everything I had heard about you, I just needed to see you in action. You see, my son was a huge fan of yours during the Lumiose Conference and he was pretty upset when you lost."

    "That was actually the furthest I've ever made it in a League Conference before. Both myself and my team had a lot of fun during it. It would have been nice to win for once, but Alain was just a little bit stronger than us," Ash responded while rubbing the back of his neck in an embarrassed manner. It wasn't every day he ran into a fan of his. Taking a look at the captain, he appeared to be a younger man and just a little taller than Ash, if not the same height as himself. Ash also noted how the man appeared to have a tanned complexation, no doubt an effect of having worked on a cruise ship for so long. He had brown hair that was being pushed underneath his captain's hat and his face was one of sternness, but also friendliness. The others used this short and brief moment of silence to introduce themselves to the two gentlemen before them.

    "Well, son, sometimes it isn't about the outcome of the battle but the journey that was taken to reach it," the other gentleman stated as he let off a hearty laugh while shaking Ash's hand. "Mr. Cecil is the name and it is quite the pleasure to meet a dashing young trainer such as yourself. All the ladies must be after someone like you," he mentioned as both Bonnie and Miette let out a light snicker at that comment.

    Having a chance to notice the features of the second man for the first time, Ash noted the neat, brown suit he was wearing, along with a monocle and he actually felt a little intimidated by the man's size. If Ash didn't know better, he would be brought to believe that it would take just under two of himself standing on top of each other to reach his height. The man appeared to be graying a little as his mustache showed. The rest of his hair, however, was a salt and pepper mixture while being combed neatly off to the side.

    "You see, I once competed in the Kalos League many, many years ago and even though I lost, it was quite the experience for myself. Though I did come into a small fortune shortly after my loss and decided to build a small business that plans events. This entire cruise is from the help of that business. Plus, we've decided to assist the Devon Corporation with their latest project."

    "Hey, Mr. Captain," Bonnie began to say as she pulled on the captain's pant leg. "If you're down here with us, who's watching over the boat and making sure we're on track?"

    Captain Ryker let out a small laugh before getting onto one knee and looked Bonnie in the eyes while smiling. "That's an excellent question there, little girl. You see, I have a very special friend of mine help me out. You could say we're more like co-captains as we take turns running the ship." The captain then turned and pointed one of his tanned fingers up to the captain's quarters where there someone appeared to be moving. "Can you see him up there, Bonnie? That's my good friend, no, my best friend, Watchog. Together, we watch over the seas and make sure this ship is headed in the safest direction and remains on track for our next destination."

    "I can see him!" Bonnie cried out happily as she waved alongside the captain. The duo managed to catch the Normal type's attention as he waved back to Bonnie before taking off what was his own captain's hat. "He looks so cute steering the ship!"

    "Haha, I'll have to give him the compliment from you, Miss Bonnie. Watchog always enjoys making our passengers feel welcomed," Captain Ryker responded as he tipped his own cap in the direction of his friend.

    "Um, excuse me sir," Clemont began to say as he fidgeted with his bag. "You said that Watchog helps keep this ship on course for our next destination, but we're heading towards the port of Olivine City. That location wasn't on the brochure at all."

    The captain nodded in understanding as he listened to the inventor speak. It all made sense for one to think they were off course with their current destination not being on the list. "Well, we actually have a few stops to make before heading to our final destination. There're passengers waiting in Olivine City that we need to pick up before shuttling over to Hoenn. From there, we'll be able to properly begin the cruise. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to get back to Watchog. It's his break time and if he doesn't get it, he'll get a little cranky. And Bonnie, anytime you want to come help us steer the ship you're more than welcome to!"

    "Aye, aye, captain!" Bonnie gave a mock salute as Ryker waved goodbye to the group. As she did so, however, Bonnie noticed a young boy about her age wave to her with a smile on his face. The boy then appeared to have vanished just as fast as he appeared, making Bonnie question if he had been there in the first place or if she had merely been seeing things.

    "Ah, well, it's best that I get going as well then," Mr. Cecil stated as he gave a slight wave of his hand. As the man walked off, Ash couldn't help but notice he was walking like he was in a rush to get somewhere, though he quickly shrugged it off as his mind quickly drifted back to the thought of stopping at Hoenn and then back to that moment.

    "Hoenn...that's where Serena is..." Ash muttered as he pictured Serena smiling towards him just as she used to during their journey through Kalos. Ash had to admit: he missed those moments of the four of them traveling together. They were more than just a traveling group to him, they were a family...He began to wonder just what Serena was up to at that moment only to stop when he saw Miette smirking at him. "What? Is something wrong?" Ash asked in confusion as the blue-haired Performer continued to smirk.

    "Oh nothing, just the way you seem so deep in thought is kind of funny. You thinking about something, or someone, important?" she asked while placing her hands behind her back and walking towards Ash.

    "What? No!" Ash quickly replied as his response was too quick for Miette not to realize he had been. Ash watched on as the girl didn't seem to drop her gaze at all from him, and he wondered just what she was up to. "I'm just thinking about all the amazing battles Pikachu and I will be having on this cruise! There has to be a lot of strong trainers on here for us to battle!"

    "Pipikachu!" Pikachu cried out in agreement as electricity shot out of his cheeks due to his excitement. Ash was glad that Pikachu was able to help him out of this situation, having believed just what Ash had said now. Letting out a light sigh, Ash walked over to the edge of the boat and leaned against the railing. How he hoped that watching the ocean and any wild Pokémon that could be seen would clear his mind.

    I wonder how she's been... It has been a while since we last talked and even then, she kissed me before leaving, Ash thought to himself as buildings could be seen in the distance. Ash paid them little thought as his mind continued to race back to that one scene. He didn't mean to, and he wondered why it was having such a lingering effect on him, but that kiss was constantly on his mind. In fact, he had become so concerned over the memory that he missed the boat pulling into the Olivine City port.

    "Clemont, I'm bored," Bonnie whined as the three Kalos natives watched Ash lean against the railing and sigh. None of them were quite sure as to what Ash was thinking about, but Bonnie had a good idea. "Dedenne and I are going to explore the ship for a little."

    "Okay, but be careful, Bonnie. People will probably begin boarding soon and you don't want to be caught in the commotion," Clemont warned his sister as she ran across the deck of the ship. Sighing at her hyperactivity, the young inventor stole one quick glance at Ash before pulling out an invention to begin working on. Miette, in the meantime, had vanished to go check out some of the other areas on the ship in hopes of avoiding another exploding invention.

    Ash, however, just ignored the commotion going on all around him as he continued to stare out at the ocean while the boat docked itself and prepared for the newest passengers. He was so preoccupied that he had even missed the announcement that the boat had begun boarding and was shaken from his thoughts by a familiar sounding cry. It was short and to the point, but Ash knew that cry from anywhere and couldn't help but smile at it.

    Turning around, Ash noticed a man who was a very familiar (and welcome) sight for the Pallet Town native as his brown spiky hair blew in the wind and the rest of his body dropped onto the floor. It was a comical sight for him while other passengers on the ship looked on in concern as the man was dragged by a Croagunk over towards Ash.

    "I guess you never change, do you, Brock?" Ash asked as he offered a hand to help his heartbroken friend up onto his feet following his painful…"rejection" was the best word Ash could decide to use for Croagunk's action. The small Poison and Fighting type appeared to enjoy his job of keeping Brock under control. Ash didn't really see the point of Brock reacting the way he always did, though he had grown quite accustomed to the action. Though, there were a few occasions where Ash did notice that Croagunk would stop himself from jabbing Brock and wondered if perhaps the Toxic Mouth Pokémon viewed the woman in question at the time as a suitable mate for his trainer.

    "I... I didn't even talk to anyone yet..." Brock mustered out as he took ahold of Ash's hand and rose up onto his two feet. Once he was steady, Brock appeared to be perfectly fine, a trait Ash had been used to from his many years of traveling with the breeder turned doctor. Ash looked on in a confused manner as he knew that Croagunk would only jab Brock if he went out of control while talking to a girl, so what was the reason for this time?

    "Croagunk decided to jump to conclusions as I praised the ever talented and beautiful Lisia! Who, by the way, will be appearing later on to host her Contest Spectacular! Oh, how that beautiful woman moves around the stage, captivating the audience's eyes; yet she fails to realize that she's captivated my heart! And with the two of us confined to such a small area, I just know that by the end of this cruise, I'll have won her heart and together we'll become soulmates for all of time! How I can already picture the two of us spending ou- aghhh!" Brock cried out at the end before dropping onto the ground once more. Croagunk then removed his purple, glowing hand from Brock's rear end, all while Ash looked on in sympathy for the guy. He may not have ever felt it for himself, but Ash had a feeling that twice in a short span may have been too much for Brock as the doctor was taking his time getting back up.

    "Croa...Gunk..." Croagunk croaked out as Brock recalled the devious Pokémon back into his Poké Ball before standing firmly on his two feet again. Ash smiled nervously at his oldest companion before they clasped their hands together and embraced in a brotherly hug. He had to admit, even if they weren't really related, Ash looked up to Brock as the older sibling he never had growing up. The man was always there for Ash, teaching him any and everything that he could to help him become the trainer he was today.

    "So, I saw that you made it all the way to the finals in Kalos. That's quite the accomplishment, though I didn't have a chance to watch the awards ceremony as I was called in to help with a surgery. I see Pikachu is as strong as ever and that Greninja was unlike any Pokémon I had ever seen before," Brock spoke as he released from the hug before rubbing Pikachu from behind his ear, the Electric type letting out a soft cry of joy.

    "You could say that Greninja and I were like one during that battle," Ash joked as he thought back to his Ninja Pokémon who he had helped reach his latent power. He quickly wondered what his friend was doing only to be brought back to reality by Brock. Looking at the doctor, he noticed that the man was nudging him a little in the side, an action Ash was confused about. Listening to what was coming from his friend's mouth, Ash realized that Brock had been talking to him the entire time. "Huh?"

    Brock shook his head in a joking fashion as he appeared to be playing around with his friend, a trait Ash had picked up on from their constant travels. "Come on, you can tell me, I won't be too upset," Brock repeated as Ash continued to watch on. "So, are the rumors true that Kalos is filled with beautiful women? I just have to know since if there are, I should travel there and study abroad for a while. Imagine me, the handsome and talented Brock surrounded by all the lovely ladies of Kalos!"

    Ash just let out a nervous laugh as he should have figured Brock had been mentioning something like that. Though, the thought of the ladies of Kalos did bring up one familiar person for Ash yet again as the thought of Serena performing with her Pokémon ran through his mind. Not responding to Brock's question, the older trainer knew that something was up and decided to change the subject.

    "Who needs Kalos girls," he said while throwing his arm around Ash's shoulder and then using his free arm to point around the deck. The action had caught Ash by surprise at first but now he was following where Brock was going with this. "I have this entire cruise of lovely ladies. There's no way all of them will say no to a date with the dashing and charming Brockster."

    "The S.S. Ambrosia will be leaving shortly. All passengers who have yet to board, please do so immediately," Captain Ryker's voice echoed through a loudspeaker system on the ship. As he said this, Ash and Brock both turned to look down at the dock to see if anyone was still running late when they then saw a small, blue Piplup running towards the boat.

    "W-Wait! I'm coming, I'm coming!" A familiar voice cried out as both Ash and Brock looked down the ramp to see none other than Dawn sprinting towards the boat with Piplup right ahead of her. Ash could hardly believe his eyes when he saw her. When Ash had decided to go on this cruise, he had no idea that so many people he knew were coming along. Though, he had to admit, Dawn looked funny in the way she rushed across the dock and to the boarding area. It reminded him of his Tauros as they stampeded around the fields back at Professor Oak's Lab.

    "Did you know that Dawn was coming?" Ash asked as Brock just shook his head back and forth. This was clearly a surprise for him as well as they watched her get in line with the other boarding passengers. Deciding to go wait for her at the boarding section, Ash and Brock passed by Bonnie who appeared to be with a child her own age as they scurried through the area. "Pikachu, why don't you go on ahead and surprise them," Ash decided while his best friend nodded in agreement.

    Scurrying ahead, the Electric Mouse Pokémon ran through the boarding passengers and collided with an equally hustling Piplup as both Pokémon fell backwards. Piplup was the first to get back up however, holding his fin against his head as a few tears formed in his eyes. "Piplup! Pip, piplup, lup!" The Penguin Pokémon cried out angrily as Ash noted that a small bump had formed on his head.

    "Piplup, watch where you're going," Dawn chided Piplup as she picked the angry Water type up into her arms. Walking over to the other Pokémon, the duo were both surprised to see a Pikachu standing there, holding his head. "Wait...is that...?"

    "Piplup!" the rambunctious Water-Type cried out before leaping from Dawn's hold. Running over to Pikachu, the two Pokémon embraced happily in a hug as Dawn began to put the pieces together.

    "Wait, so if Pikachu is here then that means... Ash should be as well," Dawn stated as she looked up to see her friend standing alongside Brock, waving. "Ash! Brock!"

    "Why don't you stop standing down there and join us on the boat!?" Ash asked jokingly as Dawn and the two Pokémon quickly made it up the ramp and onto the boat. Ash had to admit, despite it being a while since they last saw each other, Dawn hadn't changed one bit. She still looked like the girl he called his best friend. Raising his hand up above his head, Dawn realized exactly what he was hinting at before she extended her arm skywards and clapped it against his own, the duo smiling at their little action.

    "It's great to see the both of you, but why are you two here?" Dawn quickly asked as she dropped her bag onto the ground and sat in a nearby chair. Elsewhere, Pikachu and Piplup chased each other around as the trainers all talked.

    "Professor Oak was given tickets to this cruise, but he couldn't come so he gave them to my mother and myself," Ash explained happily as he suddenly realized that in his excitement he had left Clemont behind. Though Ash knew the inventor may have rather wanted to work on his next creation for the time being and figured he wouldn't mind being left alone.

    "And I was asked to come and give Nurse Joy an extra hand if anything got out of control. Although, by the looks of it, I might not have much work to do. It seems that the Nurse Joy on this ship might not have to worry about many Pokémon; most of the vacationers don't seem to be trainers of any sort," Brock explained as the group all looked around. Ash noted how his friend was right, as outside of the battlefields, no one else here seemed to have a Pokémon with them that he could see at that moment.

    "This is great, the three of us back together again. It's been too long since we all said goodbye," Dawn continued on, only to stop when she heard a rumbling sound. Looking over at Ash, the Pallet Town native appeared to be rubbing the back of his head as everyone knew what that sound was. "Some things never change with you, do they Ash?"

    "I can't control when I'm hungry," Ash replied as a second rumbling sound was heard, this time coming from Dawn. Ash realized this immediately and started laughing as Dawn's face reddened from being slightly embarrassed. "I guess your stomach is just as loud as mine."

    "It isn't funny, Ash!" Dawn whined out in embarrassment as she felt her face heat up a little more.

    "Hey, why don't we go get something to eat. We can catch up that way," Brock butted in as the two trainers agreed with his idea. Making their way to the dining hall, Ash realized that he should probably go get Clemont and the others so that they could all be properly introduced. Otherwise, Ash knew that he would continue to work all day without stopping if someone didn't make him take a break.

    "Hold on a second, guys," Ash called out as the others realized he had stopped walking with them. "I'll meet you at the dining hall, but first I need to go find my friends from Kalos so I can introduce you all to each other." Not waiting for a response, Ash then broke off into a sprint in hopes of finding Clemont quickly. Leaving Pikachu with Piplup so that the two could play a little, Ash ran back onto the deck where he noticed Bonnie with the same boy from before. He seemed to be about the same size as Bonnie, or about up to his own waist as Ash would put it. He wondered where they could have met, but decided to ignore that for now to go and find Clemont.


    "Dedenne, why are you always sleeping?" Bonnie asked as she tickled the small Antenna Pokémon's stomach. She was disappointed, however, as all he did was roll over inside her purse so that his back was facing upwards. Having recently broke off from her brother and Ash, since they were both just standing around doing nothing, she had hoped to find something fun to do but wasn't able to find much at the time. So instead she decided to explore the ship a little and have some fun of her own, however, she wasn't able to just yet since Dedenne was sleeping.

    Walking along the main deck of the boat, Bonnie looked out towards the ocean just as a Gyarados emerged from the depths of it and caused some sea water to spray onto her. The young child laughed at the Water and Flying type's actions as she felt refreshed from it. Though, it made her realize that it might not be safe to swim in parts of the Olivine City Port if a Gyarados just randomly appeared while they were docked there. Luckily they wouldn't have the opportunity to do so since they were leaving in a short amount of time. Wondering what to do next, Bonnie figured that the main deck would have something fun to do and made her way towards it.

    Instead, she quickly heard the sound of what appeared to be a stampede of tourists as the boarding passengers ran across the deck. Caught in the middle of it, Bonnie could only watch as people pushed right past her and one knocked her down onto the ground before continuing on their way. She couldn't believe so many people would be this rude! In fact, Bonnie could have sworn she heard a grown man cry out in pain before collapsing on the ground himself.

    "Over this way, quick!" a voice called out to Bonnie as she looked through the crowd of people to see a young boy offering a hand. She hadn't seen him before, so he must have just been passing by at that moment. "Come on, grab my hand! Before it gets even worse!"

    "O-Okay," Bonnie replied as she grabbed ahold of the boy's hand as he pulled her out of the crowd. Landing in his arms, Bonnie looked up to see just who had rescued her. Smiling down at her was a boy no older than she was with messy brown hair that covered part of his face. Looking back to see that she was now hugging him due to the way she had been pulled away from the crowd, Bonnie leapt backwards as a slight blush appeared on her face. They were in one of those poses she saw on the romantic shows she watched or how she had seen Professor Sycamore holding girls while he was out and about Lumiose City.

    "T-Thank you," she managed to cough out as the heat started to leave her face. She peered at him, now getting a better image of the boy, one who was about the same height as her and had blue eyes. As he smiled, Bonnie noticed how he was missing a tooth on his bottom row of teeth and his clothes appeared to be like ones worn for traveling on an adventure: a gray jacket with a red undershirt combined with blue jeans.

    "No problem," he shot back before wiping his hair out of his face. Pointing his thumb at himself, the boy let out a toothy grin before speaking. "The name's Viggo. I saw you caught in that stampede of tourists and couldn't leave you just sitting there so I helped out."

    "Well, I could have handled it on my own," Bonnie replied as she opened her purse up to reveal the still sleeping Dedenne. "My brother lets me train Dedenne here, so if we got in trouble he would have attacked them all."

    Before Bonnie knew it, Viggo was right in front of her, his eyes wide with excitement from the sight of Dedenne. "You have your own Pokémon? ! That's so cool! I wish I had one," he stated while watching Dedenne sleep. "You think I could pet him?"

    "Well, I guess you could, just be sure you don't..." Bonnie began to say, only to be stopped as Viggo grabbed Dedenne by the tail, causing the duo to be shocked by the upset Antenna Pokémon, "grab him...by the tail..." Her words had become mutters at the end before both of them fell over from the electrical shock.

    "S-Sorry!" Viggo cried out as he helped Bonnie up before wiping the dirt off of her clothes. "I just get real excited around Pokémon that I don't think before acting!" He explained while Dedenne looked to be a little upset from the situation. Bonnie just nodded as she understood the feeling before handing him a piece of Pokémon food and apologizing to the Electric and Fairy type. She then noticed Ash and who appeared to be an older man walking by them as Pikachu sprinted ahead, but decided to ignore them for the time being.

    "I know what you mean. I just want to play with all the Pokémon since they're all so cute," Bonnie replied as Dedenne happily munched away at his piece of food. "I can't wait to become a real trainer and go off on all sorts of adventures!"

    "Me neither, but at least you have one that you can take care of. I'm not even lucky enough to have that," Viggo replied, sounding somewhat sad at that thought. "I've always dreamed of becoming the strongest trainer in the entire world!"

    "Well, to do that you'll have to beat me and I'll make sure it doesn't happen," Bonnie replied as the two kids began laughing at the situation before she grabbed him by the wrist. "Come on, let's go do something fun!"

    "Yeah!" he replied happily as they ran off to go explore the boat. Making their way around the cruise ship, the two children noticed Ash alongside not only the man from before, but also a blue-haired female as well. Bonnie eyed them as the duo had never been seen by her before, yet they appeared to be quite friendly with Ash as they joked about something. Suddenly, a rumble could be heard, and Bonnie noticed the girl's face heat up immediately after it. She tried to piece together what may have happened, though she was then distracted by Viggo.

    "So, Bonnie, are you from Kalos as well?" he asked as he tried to start up a conversation, hoping to keep them occupied as they ran around the boat. Looking over the edge of the railing, the duo saw a school of Remoraid swim by the boat as a flock of Pidgey led by a Pidgeotto soared into Olivine City. "You see, I'm actually from Lumiose City."

    "Really? Me too," Bonnie said in a reply as the boat began to pick up steam and move out of port. Watching the mainland vanish, the two kids managed to see many Pokémon in the sea as the boat passed by a colony of Corsola and then a flock of Wingull and Pelipper flew by the boat before one came to a rest on the cruise's loud speaker. "When we get back, I'll have to show you my brother's amazing inventions! Actually, he's here now! Clemont would love to show you some of them!"

    And with that the duo began walking back to where Bonnie had last seen her brother as Ash passed by them, now all by himself. Deciding to follow the Pallet Town native, Bonnie and Viggo came to see Clemont covered in soot, another of his inventions having exploded.

    "Viggo, that's my brother Clemont. He may not look it, but he's a really tough trainer and even runs the Lumiose Gym," Bonnie explained as she watched Ash walk over to her brother, the boy crying over his latest failure. If Bonnie knew Clemont the way she did, he probably believed that this was going to be his next great invention. "Here, come on, I'll introduce you to them."

    "N-No, it's alright, you don't have to do that," Viggo shot back as he waved his hands in front of his face. Unfortunately, Bonnie didn't listen as she grabbed one of his hands and dragged him towards the two older males who noticed them immediately.

    "There you are, Bonnie, I was wondering when you'd be back," Clemont answered as he took his glasses off of his face to clean them. For the first time since traveling with Clemont, Ash made a note to himself that those glasses had to be indestructible with everything they went through on a daily basis. "It's a good thing you're back too, Ash was just looking for all of us. He wants to introduce us to some of his older friends from a previous journey."

    "Oh! I hope they have a lot of cute Pokémon with them!" Bonnie cried out happily as Dedenne finally woke up with a cheerful cry and a slight stretch of his arms. She was so excited about the prospect of seeing a large group of Pokémon that she had forgotten all about Viggo, someone that Ash had picked up on being there.

    Looking at the boy, Ash could tell he seemed familiar from somewhere and that was when he realized that this Viggo was the same boy Bonnie had been playing with earlier. "Hey...you're the boy from earlier," Ash stated as everyone's attention turned towards the young boy who slinked behind Bonnie. It looked as if the boy was trying to use her as a shield of sorts from their stares, though it didn't last long as Bonnie moved out of the way to reveal him once more.

    "That's right, I almost forgot!" Bonnie cried out happily as she pointed to Viggo with both hands having their palms pointed upwards. Smiling towards Viggo, everyone noticed how he appeared to be slightly nervous from all the attention. "Ash, Clemont, this is my new friend, Viggo. He helped me out earlier when I was in a situation. It turns out that he's from Lumiose City as well."

    "H-Hi..." the boy muttered out as he looked at the two older boys before him. Neither of them seemed hostile and Ash did his best to try and help the boy seem welcomed by extending a hand out to him. "M-My name's Viggo. It's nice to meet you."

    "It's an honor to meet you, Viggo. Thank you for helping my sister out earlier. Sometimes she gets herself into situations she shouldn't," Clemont spoke up as Ash shook hands with the young newcomer. "I'm Clemont and if anytime you want to come play, feel free to stop by Prism Tower."

    "And I'm Ash," the Pallet Town native stated while releasing his hand from the handshake. "We can do some more introductions later, but there's some people I'd like you to meet. They're some really good friends of mine. And Viggo, you should come as well."

    "I...I don't know, I really should be getting back to my room," the young boy explained as he rubbed the back of his head. A few drops of sweat formed on his forehead as he noticed everyone staring at him and so Ash decided to try and help calm him down.

    "It's alright, maybe another time you would like to meet them," Ash stated as he placed a hand on Viggo's shoulder and smiled at him. "Besides, your parents are probably looking for you right now. You don't want to make them worried."

    "Alright!" Viggo cried out happily as a large grin crossed his face while nodding in agreement. Turning back in the direction he had come from, Viggo began to run off that way as he went to search for his parents.

    "You seem to be a natural with children," Miette's voice rang in his ear as he felt her breath again. This time jumping backwards, Ash was a little embarrassed by Miette sneaking up on him like that. He had to admit, it may have happened only twice to himself, but he didn't like it and wasn't sure how Serena was able to put up with it every time they met Miette in Kalos. Laughing at Ash's embarrassment, Miette walked towards the direction of the dining hall before stopping to face the three friends. "Well, are you coming?"

    Not sure as to what to do, the three friends decided it was best to just follow the Performer as they made their way across the boat's deck and back towards the dining hall. Once inside, Ash looked quickly to see that the janitors from before were now helping the chef in kitchen. Glancing quickly at the chef, Ash noticed that he was an ordinary man who was just a little taller than him, perhaps the same height as Brock, and he was dressed in his white chef's outfit for the time being. He had short black hair and what appeared to be a cooking utensil in his hand. The young trainer then found it amusing that those three janitors had quite the wide assortment of skills to do various tasks such as cleaning the ship and cooking with the chef. However, he shook the thought off before sitting down in a seat that was in between Dawn and Clemont. Once everyone was settled down, he then began the introductions.

    "Everyone, this is Dawn and Brock, two of my closest friends that I've ever traveled with," he began saying while standing up. "Brock is an aspiring doctor who wants to help as many Pokémon as possible and Dawn is a Coordinator. They're a kind of trainer that competes in Contests, winning Ribbons in hopes of qualifying for the Grand Festival where they all compete for the title of becoming a Top Coordinator."

    "Ohh, that's what Serena's doing in Hoenn now! She's trying out Contests!" Bonnie stated as Clemont made sure she didn't fall out of her seat from her excitement. "I wonder how she's doing in them."

    "If I know Serena, she's giving it her all!" Ash stated confidently as he did his best to suppress that image in his mind. Managing to suppress it for the time being, Ash then turned his attention to his Kalos friends. "And Brock, Dawn, these three are some of my friends I made in Kalos. Clemont is an awesome inventor who also is the Gym Leader for Lumiose City. He's really strong and I just barely beat him during our Gym Battle. Bonnie is his younger sister, but don't let her age fool you, she's already taking care of a Pokémon and is going to be a great trainer! And Miette is a friend of ours. She didn't travel with us, but she was a rival for our other friend, Serena!"

    "It's so nice to meet you all," Dawn said as she smiled at the three Kalos natives while Piplup stood up on the table proudly and slapped his chest with one of his flippers. "So, I don't know if you've paid attention to the brochure, but Lisia is going to be on the cruise when we stop over in Hoenn."

    "Yeah, I heard she's only the biggest star in all of the Contest Spectacular world! I wonder if I could get any pointers from her to use in my performances," Miette stated happily as Dawn agreed with her.

    "I know, they may be a little more flashier than a normal Contest but the fact that a star such as Lisia takes place in them is still too cool! Once I heard she was holding a small informal one on this cruise I just had to go! So, I bought my ticket immediately," Dawn explained as Ash pondered what made this Lisia so famous. All he understood was that she was a Coordinator that took part in a different type of Contests.

    "I'm happy that you two are excited for this Contest Spectacular thing, but those aren't really my strong point. I've competed in a few Contests for fun, but I'd rather stick to the battling," Ash said as he folded his arms over his chest. "That's why I can't wait for the Tag Battle Tournament!"

    "Ah, you seem like quite the determined type," a soft voice spoke as a dish of soup was placed in front of Ash. Looking up at the man, Ash realized that the chef was already delivering them the food that Brock and Dawn must have had ordered for everyone. Having a good chance to look at him close up, Ash took a note of his features. He had a squared face as his jawline was very prominent and Ash also noticed that his eyes looked fierce, like those of a trainer in a fight, despite just serving food. "The name is Jasper, and I'll be your chef for the evening and the remainder of the cruise. I didn't mean to barge in, but from the way you've been talking it sounds like you're all Pokémon trainers."

    "Well, almost. Bonnie here is too young to be training Pokemon but I'm allowing her to take care of one," Clemont explained as he grabbed a dish out of Jasper's hands and placed it in front of Bonnie.

    "Ah, starting at a young age is always a great training idea. I remember when I first received my best friend, Electrike. Since the day we began, the two of us always dreamed of becoming the best in whatever we tried our hand at. Though, over the years Electrike grew into a Manectric who helps me select only the freshest ingredients for all my meals."

    "Now though, I heard that between the Tag Battle Tournament and the Contest Spectacular that there's going to be quite the number of trainers competing. Though, I haven't seen many on the ship sadly. It is a shame if they missed our boarding process since who knows when the next time a cruise like this will take place," Jasper continued on as Ash began to eat his soup. Bonnie, meanwhile, was growing bored of the conversation as she wouldn't be able to compete in either of these events. Instead, she finished her soup off in a short span of time that even Ash was amazed at before getting out of her chair.

    "I'm going to see if Viggo wants to go play since this talk of these activities are boring," she explained before walking away from the group. Clemont however saw an opportunity to get his sister back for all the times she annoyed him and he wasn't going to let it pass.

    "I'm impressed, Bonnie," Clemont said as the young girl stopped in her tracks to see what her brother meant. "I mean, after all this time you still haven't found a keeper for myself and yet you've managed to find yourself one on this very boat. I'm sure the two of you will be very happy together."

    Bonnie felt her cheeks heat up a little bit from the embarrassment of Clemont's words but she had played this game for too long to let Clemont win. "Clemont, I don't know what you're talking about. He's just my friend. Besides, I'm too young for anything like that, but now you've given me the thought of finding a keeper for you on the ship. Perhaps Viggo can help me. With the two of us searching I'm sure we'll find someone for you."

    "B-Bonnie! D-Don't even think about it!" Clemont cried out as Bonnie stifled a laugh while walking away. Even Ash had to laugh at Clemont's unfortunate situation. What began as a joke on Bonnie turned into him having to stop his sister from asking every girl on the ship to take care of her brother.

    "My, that was quite the peculiar event," Jasper stated in confusion as he took the empty dish that belonged to Bonnie and placed it on his carriage of dishes. "That young girl is quite the spinstress at such a young age. I wouldn't want to get into an argument with her, she'd be having me tell myself I'm wrong," he joked before letting out a laugh. Taking his leave, Jasper returned to the kitchen with the empty dish in tow.

    "So, according to the itinerary, we'll be stopping in Hoenn first thing in the morning before the cruise really begins," Brock explained as he looked over the brochure one final time. "I wonder what this cruise will be like."

    "Hopefully no Gyarados," Ash muttered and Brock agreed while everyone else looked on in confusion. The two had their fair share of Gyarados attacks when they first started traveling together and didn't want a similar situation to the one on the S.S. Anne.

    "Either way, this cruise is going to be great! I can't believe we'll meet Lisia, herself. And in person," Dawn joined in as the two boys dropped the thought of a swarm of Gyarados attacking them on a makeshift raft.

    Ash nodded in agreement as he thought of the possibilities for the cruise. After how Kalos ended with Team Flare's attack, he needed this. He needed a vacation to rest and try to forget everything that was bothering him. Pleased with that notion, he dug into his food with a smile.



    Author's Note: Yay for the second chapter here! I think it's going great, don't you? We've got lots of friends on board now with Brock and Dawn joining the group, two we debated over for some time and are happy to include, and next up is Hoenn...well, we know of at least one person boarding there...but there may be another...Also, yes, quite the assortment of OCs, but what's a story without some OCs to serve roles a canon character cannot (after all, we can't have Ash steer the ship).

    potat lasaro: Yep, this second chapter helped introduce us to quite the colorful group of characters from old friends to new acquaintances. But next chapter is the one I think you've all been waiting for since we all know a certain someone is off in Hoenn… Though, I think the additions of Brock and Dawn will make this story great. Though that's for all of you as readers to decide. Hope you all enjoyed!

    We're all grateful to have you with us and hope you'll continue along. Next update is Wednesday, so until then, please Review and Dare to Be Silly.
    Dare to Be Silly!

    Ancienverse AU Fanfiction

    Love in the Time of Teamwork
    Once every seven years there was a tournament celebrating the bonds between people and Pokemon. Of course, Serena expected Ash to want to take part, but she had no idea the ways in which it would change their lives for good or ill. She was confident, however, that by the end of that week, something between herself and Ash would be different. Amourshipping.

    Remaining stories can be found in this community here.

  3. #3
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    It's my (Epicocity's) final chapter of 2016...hard to believe we've all come so far. I hope to share 2017 with all of you as well. But for now, Chapter 3!

    Chapter 3

    An Assembly of Companions

    "Man, Pikachu, doesn't that breeze feel great?" Ash asked, arms thrown out wide at his sides while he listened to the soft spray of the surf cutting along the ship. He took a breath in alongside his best partner and inhaled the wonderful ocean breeze. The sun was just rising on the horizon, illuminating Mount Chimney in the near distance, indicating their close arrival at Slateport City, as expected. Ash's stomach suddenly grumbled.

    "Pika…" Pikachu said, almost ashamed of him before his own stomach started to rumble as well. Ash laughed.

    "Guess we should go get some food," he told him before suddenly remembering that he'd left his other Pokémon in his room. Quickly diverting away from the location of the dining hall (despite smelling Chef Jasper's delicious breakfast), Ash made his way down the narrow corridor to where his room was, catching a glimpse of Brock down at the other end. He offered a wave, which Brock didn't see, before entering into his room. His mother was awake, as was Mimey.

    "Oh, there you are, Ash," she said, placing a large brimmed hat over her head. "You got in so late last night, I'd almost wondered if you'd fallen overboard."

    "Seriously?" Ash asked, almost hurt by his mother's faith in him. Though, he figured she must be joking, given his involvement in so many dangers in his journeys. Delia gave a giggle behind her hand and shook her head.

    "No, but it would have been nice if you'd let me know what you're up to," she answered him, standing up and grabbing a book from a nightstand. Ash bent down and grabbed his pack, fishing for his three pokeballs and joining his mother as they exited from the room. The door next to them opened at the same time, slight smoke billowing out of it.

    "Clemont, you seriously need to stop!" Bonnie screeched from the room as she came out coughing. "We're in too small a space to get blown up!"

    "It was just an alarm clock, Bonnie!" Clemont insisted, coughing himself. "It's worked fine the last few days!"

    "Well, it's not working now…Hi, Ash!" Bonnie suddenly switched topics. Her proclamation instantly drew the attention of Clemont, who finished wafting smoke out of the room and came to join them all in the rather cramped hallway, wearing nothing but a pair of shorts and an undershirt. He looked ready to go swimming in Ash's opinion, but the trainer also knew that wasn't the case.

    "Oh, Clemont and Bonnie, right?" his mother suddenly asked, drawing attention onto her. Having finally noticed that Ash's mother was standing there, both Bonnie and Clemont immediately went rigid with attention and bowed to the woman. "I had no idea you two were on this cruise."

    "Y-yes, ma'am," Clemont stuttered out before rubbing the back of his head. "Ash didn't tell you?"

    "Didn't have the chance," Ash chuckled out, feeling just a little mortified that he had forgotten to tell his mother that some of his friends were aboard the cruise as well. "Yeah, Clemont and Bonnie are here as well, along with Brock and Dawn."

    "Well, that's wonderful!" Delia exclaimed, reaching forward and dragging all three into a hug. Pikachu and Dedenne both tried to escape the rather vice-like grip of the Ketchum mother but were pulled back in until she finished her motherly smothering. "I'm so glad my Ash has friends he can enjoy the cruise with!"

    "Of course!" Bonnie chirped. "We're all having fun together! Right, Dedenne?"

    "Nedene!" Dedenne agreed as they were all released from Delia's hold.

    "So…er…what do you plan to do today as a family?" Clemont asked, adjusting his glasses before digging into his bag and dressing in his jumpsuit. Ash tilted his head, adjusting his hat on his head. He really hadn't thought that far ahead, and wondered if perhaps his mother had any plans for the day ahead.

    "Oh, nothing big," Delia waved off with a smile. A door slammed down the hall and the quartet decided it was time for them to move along to the dining hall. Fitting into pairs that were side by side (with Ash next to his mother, no less) they proceeded along as their conversation continued. "Mimey will join me by the pool later before we check out the professor's conference...or whatever there is of it. What about yourself, Ash?"

    "Oh, well…I didn't really think about it," Ash vocalized. Delia nodded, as though that were the most obvious and likely response he would have given in general. "I guess I'll hang out with my friends and battle some trainers on the deck."

    "Probably harder than you think," Clemont admitted. The quartet broke out of the corridor and back into the salty sea breeze while they turned for the doors that led to the dining hall for them to eat. "I've noticed there aren't too many trainers here."

    "You don't need to be a trainer to have fun," Bonnie said while they broke through the doors to the dining room. Ash noticed there were more people there than he had seen the majority of yesterday, each of them getting breakfast. Behind the cook's station were the three janitors…or whatever they were, working furiously to keep up with the large orders. His mother was the first to find a table and sit at it, Ash joining her with Clemont and Bonnie mere seconds later. Bonnie looked around, no doubt for her friend Viggo, but slumped in her chair when she caught no sight of him.

    "The ship's stopping in Hoenn soon, right?" Ash asked. "I saw Mount Chimney in the distance."

    "I'm surprised you were able to notice a landmark like that so easily," Clemont observed. Ash was about to answer as a waiter stepped up to the table to take their orders. Noticing the menu in front of him, the raven-haired trainer flipped through it before deciding on their Breakfast Supreme, complete with all kinds of food. The waiter bustled off once he'd gotten all their orders, right over to the chef's station. There didn't look to be too many waiters, though the cooks looked to be handling it all efficiently enough. In fact, Jasper easily took the order and sent their table a wink, as if to say he had this handled.

    "I'm not surprised to find you here, Ash," Dawn's voice said, thumping him suddenly on the back. Ash turned as the bluenette walked around the table and took a seat. "You're always hungry!"

    "Well, when you eat, it means you can be even stronger! Pikachu agrees with me."

    "Pi chupi!" Pikachu said, nodding positively. Dawn giggled as a rather tired Miette ambled over to the table, collapsing into a chair. Ash ignored her as she glared at the water pitcher on the table. In no time at all, their food had arrived, including a sizeable order for both Dawn and Miette, despite the fact they hadn't ordered. That made Dawn surprised.

    "Huh, this looks really good and all, but I didn't even order…" Dawn expressed. Ash followed her gaze to Jasper, who waved this time. Ash would have laughed, but he felt too impressed that the man had managed to guess at Dawn's taste in food. He was certainly an ace chef, no doubt aided by the Manectric that Ash saw standing proudly at his side. It barked at the trio in the kitchen a moment later, causing them to work faster. "Well, no need to worry! Time to eat!"

    "It certainly smells good," Miette yawned out before moving to gingerly prod at her eggs. Deciding it was okay to eat, she began to put it in with far more finesse than Ash was showing, shoveling hash browns by the forkful. As he finished far ahead of his friends (though Pikachu finished around the time he did and was busy nursing a ketchup bottle), Ash took to patting his belly and watching the different people on the cruise.

    It was really a wide and eclectic variation of people aboard the ship, which should have come as no surprise given the number of regions the ship had stopped in. Some were dressed in all their finery, as though they were of the upper class, while there were some younger people dressed in t-shirts and swim trunks, obviously looking to take full advantage of the swimming pool. Ash also happened to notice the obscene amount of couples on the ship, including one rather obnoxious pair that was feeding each other eggs while their pair of Chingling floated around them. Feeling a rather unfortunate pit form in his stomach, Ash averted his eyes and turned to a different part of the area.

    He quickly caught sight of Mr. Cecil, dining at a table with Captain Ryker as he dabbed at his mouth with a napkin. Ryker looked to be talking animatedly, though Cecil genuinely didn't seem to care, consistently checking at his watch as if to see when they'd be making port in Hoenn. It wasn't all that unusual, given what he had mentioned the day before about his venture with the Devon Corporation. Bonnie suddenly stood as she saw something and Ash noticed the sight of Viggo from near the captain. The boy appeared to be waving, though the captain didn't react. Ash had to wonder if the boy was actually the captain's son, but the thought was proved pointless as Bonnie and Dedenne left their seat to join the boy and leave the dining hall. Her seat was taken seconds later by Brock.

    "You know, there're a surprising number of Pokémon medical issues despite only having been on here less than a day," Brock chuckled out, pulling Bonnie's uneaten plate towards him without even thinking. "I've been there, helping Nurse Joy almost all morning except for a break to wash up a little. Good thing she's giving me the rest of the morning off so I can meet the beautiful and wondrous Lisi-"

    "Gunk!" Brock suddenly stiffened and then collapsed upon his plate of eggs, hash browns and ketchup. Clemont and Miette looked immediately worried while Ash and Dawn laughed nervously from underneath their napkins. Delia appeared to smile at the older boy.

    "I'm glad to see you haven't changed, Brock," she stated kindly, looking like she wanted to pat the older boy on the back soothingly. Brock waved a weak hand in greeting.

    "Good to see you, too, Mrs. Ketchum…" he wheezed out as Croagunk laughed next to him. It sounded creepy, but seeing the Toxic Mouth Pokémon looking so alert and ready gave Ash a great idea, and he stood.

    "Brock, what do you say to a battle before we get to Hoenn?" Ash asked eagerly. "I know Hawlucha would love to battle Croagunk if he's up for it."

    "If we have the time, no problem," Brock replied, finally straightening and cleaning the ketchup from his face. Dawn's eyes appeared to light up alongside Clemont's.

    "I'd like to watch," she said enthusiastically. "You both have probably learned a lot more in your travels, and it would probably give me some great ideas to use for the upcoming Contest Spectacular."

    "But it's a battle…" Miette noted, as though she couldn't understand the concept of improving her own craft from watching a different one. Clemont held up a finger as if to correct her.

    "That doesn't mean you can't learn something from it," the inventor noted. "In fact, Serena learned a lot of skills from watching Ash battle. Maybe she didn't really incorporate them in her routine, but it came in handy during the incident with Team Flare."

    "Yeah, and I learned lots of stuff from Dawn's Contest routines," Ash said. "You should watch us. Hawlucha is always ready to put on an entertaining show." Miette contemplated the offer before sighing in resignation. With a shrug of her shoulders, the girl accepted their morning activity before the stopover in Hoenn.

    "Well, don't get too rambunctious, Ash," his mother told him before scooting out of her own chair. Ash noticed Mimey at the entrance to the dining hall with a basket, some towels and an umbrella. "All of you take care! Wonderful to meet and see you all."

    "Have fun, mom," Ash noted as he watched his mother disappear from the hall with a smile. After that, chatting at the table became the usual lighthearted affair while the others ate at a steady pace. Ash could admit to being anxious about battling Brock, both as a way to test his own skills and to see how his old friend had improved, and it was certainly evident by his near jiggling leg. Thankfully, none of them took too long and the group of five exited the dining hall to the battlefields.

    One or two trainers were already there, though they didn't appear to be battling and were instead running their Pokémon through dance routines. It was pretty obvious what exactly they were up to, especially when Miette and Dawn's attentions were on them. Brock walked to the other end of the battlefield and Ash looked beyond him to see Mount Chimney practically looming over all of their heads. He knew he'd have to make this quick.

    "Hawlucha, I choose you!" Ash cried, tossing out his pokeball. Hawlucha emerged and immediately began posing, like he sensed there was an audience. Dawn clapped her hands with a laugh, obviously enjoying the sight of the rather theatrical entrance.

    "That's one animated Hawlucha," Brock admitted. "You've raised him well, Ash."

    "Thanks, Brock," Ash told him, adjusting his hat while Pikachu looked determined, down at his side. "But let's put that to the test in a real battle. Hawlucha, use Kara-"

    BWAAAAAAH! BWAAAAAAH! The sudden sound of the ship's foghorn cut Ash's command short and he looked out with exasperation to see the Slateport City docks approaching. Clearly there was no time for an actual battle anymore.

    "Aw, man…" Ash groaned out, though he was hardly heard over the foghorn. Hawlucha turned to him.

    "Lucha?" he asked before folding his arms. Ash shook his head, indicating to his beloved Pokémon that they'd have to have a battle later on in the cruise. He looked to accept that and turned towards where the docks were, numerous cheers sounding out. Judging by Brock's reaction to all the cheering (here meaning he ran over with all the speed that one could possibly muster), Ash had a more than ample guess as to what was happening at the docks. Dawn and Miette were right at his side, no doubt just as excited to catch a sight of the famed Lisia.

    Clemont turned to him with an arched eyebrow, as though he didn't quite understand it all, either. Ash even noticed that he looked rather bummed at having not been able to watch a battle between the two. Ash would have laughed, but instead he made his way over to the inventor and slung an arm around his friend's shoulder. "So, do you know exactly who this Lisia is?"

    "I've heard rumors that she was some famous idol from Hoenn, but that's about it," Clemont answered while the two walked over to join their group at watching the pier. "Never seen her, though."

    "Well, guess we'll get to see her here," Ash laughed out. Clemont agreed with his own laugh while Pikachu leapt onto Ash's shoulder and Hawlucha ran to the edge of the ship, jumping on the railing to peer down. It was certainly a sight to behold, and not for the reasons that Ash expected it to.

    There were certainly a lot of people gathered on the docks there, with streamers and balloons around the entire place waiting for the celebration of Lisia's arrival. There were also banners to celebrate this famed idol's arrival to the cruise, reading such things that Ash would expect from Brock's mouth like "You spectacularize my heart, Lisia!", "Marry me, Lisia!", and the strange "I want to have your and Ali's babies!" Ash really wasn't sure what to make of that last one.

    "Huh, I wonder what that is…" Clemont noted. Ash shifted his gaze over to what exactly his friend was talking about, his sight moving along the railing to do so. Bonnie and Viggo were there, both gripping over the railing and kicking their legs to get a good look at what was down below. Dedenne was jumping up and down. More important than the younger kids' antics, however, was the object Clemont had been talking about: a large cloth covered object, wrapped up on a wooden plank and tied with ropes. Upon squinting at the object, Ash could see that the wooden plank had wheels and was guarded by people in rather official looking outfits while one of them was speaking to unknown figures obscured by the crowd of people.

    "I trust the room is prepared and ready, Captain," Mr. Cecil's voice echoed across the battlefield, drawing Ash's attention to the older man. Clemont seemed to be intrigued as well, even if the rest of their friends weren't, and they looked to see Ryker and Mr. Cecil walking together, the latter now holding onto a cane.

    "Of course," Ryker dismissed with a hearty laugh. "We've been ready since the cruise got underway. And the line gets quite the hearty profit from this venture, so they picked the best captain for the job."

    "Well, as long as you're sure of yourself," Mr. Cecil joked, a light twinkle in his eye. The older man approached the ramp that suddenly lowered itself from the ship, touching down onto the dock. Ash now officially turned his body all the way towards the ramp while Pikachu leapt onto the railing, watching with interest.

    Mr. Cecil made his way down the ramp, ever the gentleman even in his gait while he approached the people surrounding the odd object. His approach garnered some attention, though the majority were still facing away, waiting for their famed idol. All the people guarding the object, however, saluted and closed ranks while Mr. Cecil nodded at them and made his way over to the obscured individuals. Ash frowned, watching the scene, though unable to actually see much of anything, until Mr. Cecil appeared to have finished his business and was pointing up the ramp. Just like that, the object began to be rolled along by the uniformed individuals.

    "Wonder what it is…" Clemont breathed out, clearly just as interested as Ash in the proceeding of just whatever it was being rolled up the ramp. "Hmm…didn't Mr. Cecil mention the cruise being a joint venture with the Devon Corporation?"

    "Oh yeah," Ash noted with his friend, "he did say something like that…"

    "Maybe it has to do with that new project they announced they were undertaking a week or two ago," Clemont proposed. Ash didn't know, and really didn't necessarily care, but he was certainly drawn to what was being moved aboard the ship, tracking its movement as it came up the ramp slowly. Surprisingly, despite its dearth of speed, it didn't take long for the object to reach the top of the ship.

    A strange sensation passed over Ash's body. It was an odd feeling, like he was being submerged in water, and lost with a vortex of swirling emotions and feelings that blended together in some strange cocktail. He couldn't take his eyes away from the object, like it was some long lost piece that yearned to be touched. Ash blinked and shook his head, drawing himself out of that stupor as the object moved along. He wasn't the only one staring, as numerous people along the deck were watching it, even Jasper, who had popped outside with his morning break after breakfast.

    "Pika…chu…" Pikachu shuddered out and Ash turned to his best friend. The electric mouse looked almost concerned, shivering in his fur. Ash reached over and scratched him behind the ears, hoping to calm him down. At first, Pikachu didn't, and Ash watched the foreign object move further across the deck and to a large set of doors that were opened on the other side of the ship; ones that Ash hadn't noticed before. Once it was wheeled in there and the uniformed men were walking away from the presumably now locked door, Pikachu seemed to relax.

    "You okay, buddy?" Ash asked in concern. Even Clemont was looking at him with a frown.

    "Cha!" Pikachu declared, pumping his tiny fists to let him know that he was absolutely okay. Ash smiled at that and turned back to the dock, where Mr. Cecil was making his way back up the ramp, followed by two all-too-familiar faces. The grin grew wider and Ash ran to the edge.

    "Gary! Sawyer!" he yelled, waving furiously at the pair of them. The former's name seemed to prick Brock and Dawn's ears for a moment and they waved at the well-known brunet ascending the ramp. Meanwhile, Clemont joined him at the edge to get a good look at the green-haired Hoenn native.

    "Well, well, if it isn't Ashy-boy," Gary responded, a traditional smirk on his lips as he lazily waved at him. "Didn't expect to see you here."

    "Your grandfather gave mom and I tickets for a Pokémon Professor conference. Is that why you're here?" Ash asked without even thinking. Mr. Cecil finally finished leading their trio up the ramp, and paused, watching all of them with curiosity. Then he adjusted his monocle and made his way back to where the object was being stored, his coattails flapping out behind him.

    "Nah, I'm here on a favor for Professor Rowan," Gary answered, pointing over at the object. "Working as security for that thing. Not the most glamorous of jobs, but I was interested and took the job."

    "What is it exactly?" Clemont interjected. Ash rotated his head at the blond's question, noticing that Brock and Dawn were already back to ignoring Gary (who had spared them but a glance) and watching the dock. Gary's own eyes were settled on Clemont. "Oh, sorry, I'm Clemont."

    "Pleasure," Gary answered, the same smirk on his face while he shook the hand of the Lumiose Gym Leader. "In any case, I can't tell you. Top secret and all. In fact, I signed a nondisclosure agreement with the Devon Corporation to not reveal the details of it until it arrives safely at its destination."

    "I did, too," piped in Sawyer's voice, the younger trainer finally stepping forward to take part in the conversation. Ash nodded at him, and the green-haired trainer nodded back. "Steven asked me to help escort it on behalf of Devon."

    "That's right, I forgot you were working for the Hoenn Champion," Ash admitted, scratching at his chin just a bit. "But…what's a nondis…whatever that is?"

    "It essentially means we can't talk about what's in there," Sawyer answered with a bit of a laugh. Ash raised his eyebrows for a moment, wondering what was so secretive about the object being escorted by two very top-tier trainers. It clearly had to be something important if both Sawyer and Gary were tasked to protect it by prominent figures. Regardless, though, Ash decided that it didn't really matter; especially not when he was on vacation. "But Steven also said I needed a break since I'd been working so hard to look for the Megalith. I didn't want to, but this cruise actually sounded fun after a while. A nice break after all the heavy research we'd been doing at Lysandre Labs…well, and Steven had to take on a challenger here in Hoenn, so we wouldn't be getting much work done. Guard work's pretty easy after all, right?"

    "Well, it's great to have you both aboard, I guess," Clemont said, offering them a proper greeting, despite the rest of their friends being distracted elsewhere.

    "Great to be here. Maybe we'll have a fun battle later, Ashy-boy…you know, when we're not on duty," Gary said almost teasingly. He offered a wave to Ash and turned around to head towards the contents he was keeping secure. Sawyer quickly realized he should obviously follow and offered a bow before scurrying after him. Ash couldn't help the smile, feeling like the cruise had just gotten even better while he turned back to the dock. Bonnie was still hovering over the railing while Viggo was struggling, his gaze torn between the blonde beside him and the events taking place both on and off the ship.

    "Wonder who else will be on the cruise, huh?" Clemont laughed out, as if finding it funny that Ash was reuniting with so many old friends. He found it funny himself, but opted not to comment on it, mostly because any response he would have given was suddenly drowned out by loud cheers, whizzing fireworks and cascading streamers from the direction of the port.

    "Lisia!" Dawn yelled out, thoroughly excited as she changed positions to get even closer to the dock and the ramp. Ash let her pass by and drew to the railing once more with Pikachu at his side, interested to meet this famous Lisia.

    At first, it was completely impossible to tell what was going on, other than the black limo pulling up at the edge of the docks. Unfortunately, like with the object loaded earlier, everything was so obscured by the crowd that it was impossible to tell where this Lisia was, or what she looked like. Either way, Dawn looked beyond excited, bouncing up and down on the balls of her feet. Brock looked just as excited, if a little wary as he seemed particularly attentive in regards to Croagunk. Miette, for her part, hung back with a smirk; her eyes were shimmering, but she reined in her enthusiasm.

    "Lisia! Lisia!" someone in the crowd shouted, jumping up and down with a rather decorative t-shirt. The crowd attempted to swarm in, but men in black suits with sunglasses stepped in to push them all away. A man followed, dressed in an impeccable blue suit with nicely styled blond hair. Ash could only figure this wasn't Lisia, especially with how disgruntled he looked (and the fact that he was a guy). He turned back.

    "Are you serious about this, Lissi?" the man asked, waving his hand dismissively. Ash once more leaned in as Dawn gripped at his arm, breathlessly asking for him to pinch her. Ash obliged her, if only to get her off his arm.

    "Of course I am, Chaz! You'll just have to take care of the Contest Spectacular while I'm away…for my fans!" radiated a sweet voice that was almost melodic to the ears. A Pokémon's cry, which Ash registered as that of an Altaria, sounded out, making the entire crowd mellow at it's wonderful sound. That was when the crowd parted away and revealed the form of the girl that was around Brock's age who had spoken. She had bright turquoise hair, tied up top and was wearing puffs of cotton on her arms, legs and around her neck. Her top rode up a bit, revealing some midriff that was topped off by her shorter skirt. Not that Ash cared about that, more focused on the beautiful Altaria floating at her side.

    "She's amazing!" Dawn jabbered out next to him. "Did you know she's Wallace's niece? Not that she wanted it to impact her when she started the Contest Spectacular. I just wanted to meet her and take part in this firsthand with no hard feelings. Apparently, she scouts out trainers she thinks would be a great fit for the Contest Spectacular and recruits them just to compete against them. Exciting, right?"

    "Sure, that's one word for it," Ash chuckled out. Dawn ignored his rather flippant comment to continue squealing in Lisia's direction. Ash laughed and shook his head, but joined her (though not in the squealing part) as Lisia bid farewell to the stuck up blond and continued to dance along the docks towards the ramp while a few other stragglers boarded the ship. Someone seemed to be hanging behind her, but whoever they were was lost in the crowd, like before. Finally, Lisia reached the end of the ramp and spun, reminding Ash of Tierno for a moment.

    "Thanks for all your support everyone! I'll let you know all about the exhibition Contest Spectacular when I get back! And remember, Contests should be fun!" Lisia said, throwing her hand into the air elegantly and winking. The Altaria gave a cry and then Lisia turned to race up the ramp. Dawn quickly pushed Ash away, drawing his attention away from the dock and into not falling on top of Clemont when Lisia's feet hit the ship's deck with a rather decided thud. Soon after she was on, the foghorn sounded again to indicate departure. The turquoise-haired coordinator turned to wave to all her devoted fans, cheering louder than ever as Ash felt the ship begin to move.

    "Looks like we're getting underway, at last," Clemont noted, pushing his glasses up on his face. "Certainly seems like it'll be a lively cruise."

    "Well, yeah, especially with a celebrity on board," Brock noted, finally joining them as he gawked at Lisia's presence. "Just look at her. That hair. Those hips. Those clothes. Every man's dreamboat right there! Ironic that we are on a boat, and she will take me on the seas of love!"

    "Better be careful there, Brock," Miette drawled, having obviously grown familiar enough with the boy in such a short time in order to address him. "Wouldn't want your Croagunk to hurt you."

    "Erk…right," Brock said, looking like he'd swallowed something made from Energy Powder. "Either way, she almost makes me want to be a Coordinator. How about you, Ash?"

    "I think I'm good with just battling, Brock. Pikachu agrees." Pikachu nodded his head like it was obvious that Ash was right, something he felt grateful for.

    "Did I hear the name 'Ash'?" pierced the highly enthusiastic voice of Lisia. This caused all of the boys and Miette to blink before looking straight in Lisia's direction. Hurried footsteps behind them told them that Bonnie and Viggo were also joining their group now.

    "Um…yeah?" Ash said, really not sure how else to respond to that. Though that had nothing on a few seconds later when he suddenly found himself being smothered by the girl who had asked the question, the puffs around her neck making it difficult to breathe. Ash's mind went blank, pretty much empty as he tried to contemplate just what was happening. When Lisia pulled back and Ash could breathe again, he saw Brock biting furiously at his shirt, but he still had no idea what was going on. "Uh…what just happened?"

    "Sorry, sorry! It's just, I've heard so much about you!" Lisia exclaimed brightly. Now that she was closer, Ash could see her features radiating happiness and smiles. It reminded him very sharply of one girl who tried to do nothing but share her smile with everyone. "Once I heard your name, I had to meet you in person! Runner-up in the Kalos League, right? You must be a pretty great trainer! You ever think of getting into coor-"

    "Um, excuse me," Clemont interrupted shyly, as though not feeling right interrupting the moment, but doing it all the same, "but can I ask…how have you heard of Ash? Other than the Kalos League, I mean?"

    "Because I might've mentioned a thing or two about him…and you, of course, Clemont!" Ash's smile stretched his face instantly, and he could tell that Pikachu was doing the same. He knew that voice all too well. Had heard it waken him for days on end (when it wasn't Clemont's alarm clocks exploding). Had listened to it call out commands on the stage as its owner danced around with her Pokémon. Clemont and Bonnie obviously recognized it as well, because their eyes began to shine. Dawn and Brock just looked confused while Miette began to smirk. Bonnie was the first to react.

    "Serena!" the young blonde cried, pushing through their group (and abandoning Viggo in the process) to blaze past Lisia and practically tackle the honey blonde standing just out of sight. Lisia moved, and at last Ash got his first glimpse of Serena since they'd parted ways. She was smiling as she hugged Bonnie, her usual clothes fluttering around her in the ocean breeze.

    "It's wonderful to see you, too, Bonnie!" she laughed out, sounding like windchimes in the breeze. Ash found himself and his smile fixated on her. She looked older somehow; more mature. Not that it was a bad thing. In fact, he found himself liking it. Maturity looked quite good on her. Clemont was the next to move forward, in part to remove Bonnie from the Performer, and also to quickly embrace Serena in greeting. When those two had drawn away, Serena turned to Ash, letting him grin back at her for just a moment.

    "You're joining us for the cruise, too, Serena?" Bonnie asked cheerily. The honey blonde looked away from Ash in order to answer Bonnie's inquiry.

    "It looks like I am," she laughed out. "Though I didn't expect to meet up with all of you here. I was just here because…"

    "I invited her!" Lisia finished with enthusiasm (a clear constant when it came to this girl). Lisia continued her habit of touching people as she placed an arm around Ash. "I met Serena when she stopped by the Contest Hall in Verdanturf Town. We hit it off instantly. I could tell she had great potential and I was right! First Contest Spectacular and she made it to the Top Four! After that, I knew she had to come with me on the cruise! I had to get to know her better! And when I asked her where she had learned to be such a great trainer…well…she mentioned you."

    "Lucky…" Brock muttered behind Ash, causing him to chuckle nervously. Dawn quickly interrupted with a smile, leaning in towards Serena, Piplup lounging on her head.

    "Well, hi Serena, my name's Dawn!" Dawn introduced herself. Serena smiled and quickly took her hands in greeting. The bluenette turned to Lisia once she and Serena had officially introduced each other. "And I'm a big fan, Lisia! Once I heard you would be here, I-"

    "Attention ladies and gentlemen!" boomed the voice of Captain Ryker across the ship's deck. Ash looked around and noticed that he and Mr. Cecil were no longer together, the latter busy instructing Sawyer and Gary harshly. "Now that we've picked up our passengers in Hoenn, it's time for the cruise to get underway! Our cook staff is prepared and an afternoon and evening-long banquet to kick off our voyage will start shortly!"

    "An all-day banquet?" Ash asked. "Man, if that involved battling, I don't think I'd ever want to leave."

    "Looks like you haven't changed at all, Ash," Serena's voice cut across. "Though that doesn't surprise me."

    "I never change," Ash laughed out, rubbing the back of his head and putting his gaze back onto Serena. Wisps of her hair trailed along her face, captivating Ash a moment and making his throat dry. She stepped forward, hands behind her back to speak with him properly. Lisia moved aside at this, latching onto Dawn's arm, and then a rather smitten Brock's.

    "Well, I need to take a tour of the ship and help set up the Contest Spectacular stage for tomorrow. Do you two want to help me?" she asked with cheer.

    "Aye aye, ma'am!" Brock said with an all-too-enthusiastic nod that caused Dawn to roll her eyes but squeal happily inside at being asked to do something with Lisia. She waved for the both of them as the three headed off into the ship. Another breeze of wind blew across them and Ash watched the ribbon on Serena's chest move with it.

    "How have you been, Ash?" Serena asked, still smiling with a slight pink tinge to her cheeks. "I haven't heard from you since I left Kalos."

    "Oh, I've been…um…well…what have we been doing, Pikachu?" Ash asked, feeling a little tongue tied. Pikachu shook his head in exasperation with his hands in the air. "Well, sorry for not calling or writing."

    "It's okay," Serena insisted. Then she just stood there, smiling, as if not sure what to say. Even Ash wasn't sure what to say as his smile began to slip. He just watched Serena, her rosy cheeks seeming to steam a little while her brilliant and mature features held him in thrall. That was when he noticed her breathless and slightly parted lips. He had no idea how he was noticing these little details he hadn't seen before, but at the same time, didn't mind it.

    Like a sledgehammer, that ever-present reminder slammed into his brain of those self-same lips touching his. And her words; words that he really didn't understand, especially in combination with her actions: You are my goal. And the next time we meet, I'll have become a much more charming woman. All of that grinded his mind to a halt, and no matter how much he wanted to ask her just what she meant…

    "Aah!" Serena suddenly shrieked slightly, tumbling forward and straight into Ash. He caught her in his arms and the two looked at each other for a moment before casting their gazes elsewhere.

    "Wow, boat's really rocky, huh?" Bonnie said and Ash looked to her, noticing a little mischievous smile on her face.

    "It sure is. Hope it doesn't shake too much, right, Serena?" Miette asked in a simpering tone. Serena finally looked up to her rival and squeaked a little. Ash noticed he was still holding onto her and he let go. "After all, if it did, we wouldn't be able to compete in the Contest Spectacular on an even level."

    "Yeah…" Serena said, unsure exactly what to say, though Ash noted that she appeared to be steaming a little, though likely not from anger. "But I don't plan on losing to you."

    "Neither do I…no matter which way…even if I take Bonnie's words as truth, your little action hasn't changed anything, you know?"

    "Miette! What…I…" Serena spluttered, but Miette just gave a laugh and began to walk away, hooking into Bonnie, who quickly grabbed Viggo as they made their way to the dining hall.

    "Um…what was that about?" Ash asked, though he found himself somewhat unable to meet Serena's eyes. He seriously had to wonder what was wrong with him that he couldn't. Or he was hungry. Yeah, that was it…even if he had just eaten, all the excitement must have made him hungry again.

    "Oh, n-nothing," Serena laughed off before settling into a somewhat uncomfortable silence. Thankfully, it was broken handily by Clemont.

    "It's nice to have the group back together again," he said. Ash shook his head, taking him out of his stupor, and without thinking placed his arms on both Clemont's and Serena's shoulders.

    "Sure is! Now let's have some fun!" Ash said. Without thinking, he called out his Pokémon, with the others following suit. It was like the departure from Kalos all over again. Hawlucha instantly ran over to Luxray and hugged his leg with tears while Pikachu and Sylveon greeted Bunnelby. Most notable were Chespin and Pancham instantly diving for each other and beginning to grapple until Chespin smelled the food and began to lead them all there. Ash took that as the cue for them to all head into the banquet.

    Captain Ryker's announcement certainly seemed to have done the trick as the dining hall was filled with people bustling around for either a dance or just to eat. A band had set themselves up in the area and were playing some tunes. Ash noticed Piplup spinning along the dance floor, having separated from Dawn. Pikachu went after him. In a small corner were Miette, Bonnie and Viggo, clearly conspiring something that Ash ignored.

    "You hungry again, Ash?" called the genial voice of Jasper. "You ate quite the bit yesterday…"

    "Ah, yeah," Ash said, once more nervous. He sat down at the counter while Jasper worked quickly to slide three milkshakes across to Ash, Serena and Clemont each.

    "Strawberry?" Serena asked in surprise. "How did you know it's my favorite?"

    "I have a knack for knowing people's tastes before even they do. Isn't that right, Manectric?" Jasper commented, rubbing at Manectric's fur. The Discharge Pokémon barked a little while the chef laughed. "Just watch. Expect an order for filet mignon!"

    "We're on it, boss!"

    "Wobba!" Ash watched as the cooks in the kitchen frantically worked to serve up a filet mignon. To all their surprises, a man with a woman on his arm walked up seconds later to order a filet mignon as his favorite food. Serena was obviously impressed.

    "That's really cool!" she exclaimed. Jasper winked at her.

    "And that's just the tip of the culinary iceberg," he admitted. "By tonight, I'll have all of your preferences memorized. Isn't that right, Mr. Cecil?"

    "You're a chef, not a bartender, Jasper," Mr. Cecil's voice rumbled out, but it still had a tint of congeniality to it. "But you're so efficient at your job, it's no wonder Captain Ryker hired you. Keep on, good man. And you three, I trust you to have the most excellent of times."

    "We will." The three replied. Mr. Cecil, who had appeared very suddenly, disappeared into the dining hall's depths just the same. Deciding there was nothing else for it, Ash smiled and hummed a little while he sipped on his milkshake. As Clemont discussed recipes with Jasper, Ash watched Serena lightly sip on her strawberry milkshake. It was strangely captivating and Ash, for the life of him, couldn't figure out why.

    But I will figure it out, Ash promised to himself. His hand surreptitiously slid outward and accidentally brushed against Serena's, jumping away at the contact. I'll figure out whatever she meant and whatever's confusing me before the cruise is over. That's one thing I won't give up on until the very end.


    Author's Note: And now all of our characters are gathered! I know some of you may be disappointed that, say, May isn't aboard the ship, but we had to make decisions over who to include and their roles. Can't overstuff the story, after all. Regardless, we're happy with what and who we chose. How will the story go from here? Will the action pick up? Well, you'll find out in the future! After all, Ash and Serena are now stuck on a small location, with the kiss lingering on at least one of their minds!

    potat lasaro: Yeah, we would have liked to include May, but then it would have been to just include her without a role. Everyone in this story was chosen for specific reasons which hopefully you all enjoy. Anyways, with all the passengers on board now, time for some fun and relaxation to begin for Ash and everyone, though not without some uncomfortable conditions for Ash and Serena. Thanks for reading and see you all next chapter!

    We hope you'll continue to enjoy now that Serena is here, and until the next chapter, please Review and Dare to Be Silly.
    Dare to Be Silly!

    Ancienverse AU Fanfiction

    Love in the Time of Teamwork
    Once every seven years there was a tournament celebrating the bonds between people and Pokemon. Of course, Serena expected Ash to want to take part, but she had no idea the ways in which it would change their lives for good or ill. She was confident, however, that by the end of that week, something between herself and Ash would be different. Amourshipping.

    Remaining stories can be found in this community here.

  4. #4
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    The first chapter of the new year! What could be more exciting? The both of us hope you'll enjoy our works (and this in particular) in the year ahead! For now, Chapter 4 time!


    Chapter 4

    An Appeal of Beauty

    "That was delicious," Ash cried out while rubbing his stomach in content. Letting out a light sigh, Ash noticed that Pikachu himself was imitating his action, the duo were stuffed from all the food. "I couldn't eat another bite even if I tried to."

    "Piiiikaaaa," Pikachu replied happily as the Electric Mouse Pokémon smiled up towards his trainer. Ash could tell Pikachu was in the same condition, as both could only smile at each other now that they were fully content. Slowly getting up and off of his back, Pikachu scurried off to go find Piplup as Ash watched Clemont carry Bonnie back to their cabin. It was late now, and most of the others had already gone off to bed for the night. Except for himself and Pikachu, of course; the two still eating away until just recently.

    Deciding that it was best to get some sleep, Ash quickly called for his buddy and told him that they would play with Piplup tomorrow. For now, Ash decided it would be best for them to get some rest, especially with the cruise officially beginning the next day. Plus, though he would never admit it to anyone, Ash felt a little exhausted from running into everyone the past couple days. Especially Serena. He had been excited about seeing her, yet, something seemed off to him and caused him to be a little quieter at dinner; something that he thought was odd for himself. Not paying attention to the room numbers, Ash was about to pass right by his own room if not for Pikachu calling out to him.

    "Pikapi! Pikachu!" The Electric type cried out as Ash stopped in his tracks. Turning around, he quickly noticed that he had passed his own room and let out a light chuckle.

    "Thanks, Pikachu. I guess I lost track of where we were since I'm so tired," Ash quickly stated as he opened the door to their room. Moving softly, he quickly noted how both his mother and Mimey were already asleep. He also noticed that his mother had started to get a light tan from today. Deciding it was best not to disturb them, the young trainer motioned to Pikachu as they tiptoed across the room and slipped into their bed.

    Lying down across the warm, soft, mattress, Ash found his eyes starting to grow heavy. However, as he laid in bed, he soon found himself unable to sleep, much to his annoyance. His brain was running at a thousand miles an hour, something he noticed only happened during an intense battle for him. Yet here he was, trying to sleep while his mind made it impossible for him to relax. Watching the clock, minutes turned to hours as the time changed from around eleven at night to close to one in the morning.

    "Why can't I sleep? !" he quietly hissed out while running his hands through his hair, making sure not to wake up his mother, Mimey or Pikachu at all. Tossing around slightly, but not enough to disturb his buddy, Ash got out of his bed and slipped his sneakers back on. He figured the best way to clear his head was with a late night walk on the main deck. He hoped the fresh ocean breeze would help.

    Making his way back onto the main deck, Ash noticed Dawn making her way over to the lady's bathroom. Exchanging a friendly smile, Dawn walked into the bathroom as Ash continued on by, the Kanto native making his way towards the railing. Looking out into the ocean, Ash watched as the ship passed a few small islands that were off in the distance. The smell of the sea filled his nostrils as he allowed the light breeze of the night to flow through his hair. Letting out a content sigh, Ash felt more at ease now than he had at the beginning of the night.

    "Mind if I join you?" a familiar voice asked as Ash lightly jumped. He hadn't been expecting anyone to be out here with him, yet when he heard that voice, not only was he surprised, but also a little bit happy. Looking to his right, Ash saw Serena standing right next to him as the light created by the moon bounced off of her body. "I couldn't sleep, so I decided to come get some air. And when I saw you, I figured I'd join you… If that's alright."

    "Sure," Ash responded quickly and simply, unable to think of a better reply. The two friends smiled at each other before casting their glances back at the ocean. "You know, it's been weird without you, Clemont and Bonnie around."

    "I know what you mean," Serena responded as she placed a hand on the side of her face to keep her hair out of her eyes. "Some days I'll wake up and wonder what you three are all doing now that we've gone our own ways. I never would have expected to see you all so soon, though."

    "Well, I really haven't been up to much myself. Just helping my mom out around town, whenever I'm not off training with my Pokémon, of course," Ash responded happily as he thought about all of his Pokémon back at Professor Oak's lab. They had been happy to hear he had made it to the Finals of the Kalos League, even if they weren't the ones responsible for it. Ash watched as Serena let out a light giggle from the unsurprising news.

    "So, how's Hoenn been?" he finally asked as they both leaned against the railings of the boat.

    "It's been interesting," Serena explained as she thought back to her arrival in Hoenn. Ash had been wondering how she had been doing by herself. He knew she would be fine, but a part of him was still thinking of her. "Like Lisia explained earlier, during my first Contest Spectacular I made it all the way to the Top Four. Of course, Lisia won that competition, but since then Braixen and the others have worked really hard. We've even won once since then."

    "That's great, Serena! I knew you would do well in Hoenn," Ash said as the Performer blushed slightly from the compliment. The sight of Serena's blush brought back the image of her riding down that escalator back at the Lumiose Airport in Kalos as the scene replayed in his mind.

    "Well, it was thanks to all the help you and the others gave during our travels in Kalos. I really took your advice to heart, Ash. I know you'll never give up, and that determination...that determination fuels me to continue on no matter what hardships will come before me. When I first reached Hoenn and took part in a Contest Spectacular, I felt overwhelmed by how much better Lisia and the others in the Top Four were. Almost...almost like I didn't belong there. But," Serena began to say as she smiled at Ash. Seeing her warming smile, Ash couldn't help but smile back as he felt it was contagious. "But I just thought of what you would do and knew I could never give up on my dream. And so I pushed on through all the hardships and grew stronger because of it. Because of you."

    Ash just nodded his head slowly as he listened to Serena go on about her travels through Hoenn. He knew that they had helped each other out in Kalos and that his determination meant a lot to her, but to be her driving force in Hoenn took him aback slightly. Once more, the scene back at Lumiose Airport played through his mind. You are my goal. Serena's voice rang through his head as he remembered those words. Ash still wondered to a degree what that meant and began to think that perhaps she wanted to be just like him. Ash, though flattered at the thought, would rather Serena be herself instead of copying him.

    "Serena?" Ash began to ask, wanting to figure out what she had meant back in Kalos. The young trainer watched as his friend turned her head to look at him, her eyes shining in the moonlight. He began to get distracted by them and nearly forgot what he was going to ask, only to be cut off by another voice.

    "What are you two doing up at this hour?" a voice Ash knew too well as Gary's asked. Turning around, Ash saw the yawning figure of his oldest rival walk out of a storage room and approach them. "Isn't it a little late to be up in the main deck?"

    "Shouldn't I be asking you that," Ash shot back as the two rivals smiled at each other before clasping their hands together. Pulling away, Ash couldn't really remember the last time they had met, only that it had been so long ago. Ever since Gary began to work for Professor Rowan, the old man had him running around on all sorts of activities to help with his research.

    "I'm working," the researcher responded before covering his face as a yawn escaped once more. "That box needs to be guarded since inside is a very rare object."

    "An object?" Serena asked as both Ash and Gary looked at her. Gary then looked at the young girl with a quizzical expression on his face, unaware of just who she was. It was at that moment, Ash realized he had never introduced the two of them at all.

    "Gary, this is Serena. She went to the summer camp your grandfather hosted when we were kids. I actually ran back into her while traveling Kalos and we caught up. Though, I might have forgot who she was at first," Ash explained as he rubbed the back of his neck at the thought of having forgot Serena.

    "Gary Oak," the researcher stated as his eyes traveled from the girl and back to Ash. "Ash, since no one is out here, I guess I can let you in on what's inside the box. After all, you have helped me out in the past quite a bit. I can't say what it does, though," he decided before looking around to make sure no one else was nearby for sure. Once it was safe to speak, Gary leaned in close to the two trainers as he explained what he could to them. "Consider this as a sort of thanks for all the times you've helped me out before. Inside that box is an ancient artifact that has powers you would never imagine possible. Or so they say. In any case, I'm helping escort it in the event anyone tries to steal it.

    "You see, the Devon Corporation recently dug it up and Professor Rowan and Cynthia want to study it, so they've agreed to ship it to Sinnoh following the cruise and its sojourn at the island laboratory. From what I've been told, its powers are not something to mess around with, though," Gary explained. Ash continued to look on, hoping for a little more information, like what it could do or the name of it, but Gary wouldn't budge. "Listen, I would love to talk more to you two, but I have to get back to the artifact. Even if everyone is sleeping, I can't take any chances at all. You better be ready for a battle the next time we meet, though. Smell ya later, Ashy-boy." Turning back around, the grandson of Professor Oak softly waved at the two trainers before he returned to his post, leaving the two alone on the main deck once more.

    "So, Ash, what was it…you...were going to ask?" Serena asked in between yawns that cut up her sentence. Seeing how tired she was, Ash knew it wasn't best to ask now. He didn't want to keep her up any longer and he too felt a little tired, himself.

    "Oh, it wasn't important," he quickly fibbed as he ran one hand through his hair. "I do know that we should get some sleep. You have a Contest Spectacular to compete in tomorrow and you'll need your rest to beat everyone! I'll be cheering for you and everyone else with everything I've got!" he stated happily, though a part of him felt like cheering for Serena just a little bit more than the others. He would never let anyone know about that, however.

    "Sounds like a plan," Serena replied as she smiled one last time at Ash. Turning around, Ash watched her retreating figure as she appeared to be illuminated by the moonlight.

    "I think I'm going to need some sleep as well!" Ash managed to yawn out as he turned around and made his way back to his room. Making his way past the bathrooms once more, he quickly noticed Dawn leaving the restroom and called out to her. However, she appeared to have not heard Ash, since she walked by without giving him their usual high-five. He quickly chalked this up to her being exhausted and decided to shrug it off before making it back into his room. Climbing under his covers, Ash managed to quickly fall asleep as he thought of seeing Serena perform live again.
    *Chapter continued in next post...
    Dare to Be Silly!

    Ancienverse AU Fanfiction

    Love in the Time of Teamwork
    Once every seven years there was a tournament celebrating the bonds between people and Pokemon. Of course, Serena expected Ash to want to take part, but she had no idea the ways in which it would change their lives for good or ill. She was confident, however, that by the end of that week, something between herself and Ash would be different. Amourshipping.

    Remaining stories can be found in this community here.

  5. #5
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    Chapter continued from last post.

    Morning came a lot sooner than Ash had expected as a few rays of light passed through the window in the room, waking him up. Sitting up in his bed, Ash looked around the room and noticed that his mother, Mimey and Pikachu had all left and he quickly assumed that they had gone to go get some breakfast. Quickly getting changed, Ash threw his hat onto his head and grabbed his backpack before walking out into the hallway and heading straight for the dining hall to join the others for breakfast.

    "What a lousy night," Ash moaned out to himself while stretching his back. Despite managing to fall asleep late into the night, he still didn't have the best of sleep as his mind continued to wander all over the place. And yet, most of the time his thoughts had found their way back to Serena. He just couldn't understand why this was happening now. Yes, he had had dreams about his past companions before, but not the amount that he had of Serena, and it personally confused him. "Hopefully we don't do anything too crazy today. Otherwise I might fall asleep."

    "Ash, you'll never believe this wonderful news!" Brock's voice rang out as the young trainer walked into the dining hall. Ash hadn't even took a step towards their usual table when he noticed his oldest friend making his way over to him. "My dream is slowly becoming true! Yesterday, Lisia asked for my help to show her around the boat! And today she's asked me to help be an honorary judge for the appeals round of her Contest Spectacular!" he cried out as Ash could have sworn Brock's eyes turned into hearts. The young trainer attributed it to his lack of sleep the night before and continued to listen on as the former Gym Leader entered into one of his usual spiels about love.

    "I'll just have to continue to wow her with the old Brock charm, since no lady can ignore that. Soon, she'll be asking me to be her official partner when she competes at the Lilycove City Contest Hall. Oh, how the two of us would make an excellent pair and I'm sure Nurse Joy wouldn't mind giving me some vacation time in Hoenn to follow my love. Oh, the way her hair moves in the wind and how her voice sings to me. I could be a deaf man but her voice would return my hearing; that's how talented she is," he continued on as Ash just continued to listen before Croagunk appeared behind Brock. Ash waited to see if the Toxic Mouth Pokémon would do anything, but just as Brock stopped talking, Croagunk lowered his hand, seeing that his trainer was finished rambling for the time being.

    "That's great to hear, Brock," Ash replied despite not really caring about who judged the appeals round. With his empty stomach, Ash knew it would only be a matter of seconds before it would rumble, and he needed to fill it up before any of the other passengers mistook the noise for an emergency with the ship. "But, if you don't mind, I need to go and get something to eat."

    "Okay..." Brock replied weakly as he clasped his two hands together and walked off. "Oh to be young and in love! I just know our children will be the most beautiful and talented kids in the entire world," he muttered on before Ash heard a small yelp that was quickly followed by a thud. Chuckling a little, Ash didn't even need to turn around to know what had happened and instead made his way over to the table.

    "Good morning, Ash," Serena said. Ash pulled a seat right next to her as Dawn returned from the bathroom and sat right next to him on his other side. "Did you sleep well?"

    "As well as I could," Ash replied in a half-joking mood as a plate was placed in front of him. Looking up, Ash saw that Jasper was already giving him his breakfast, the same exact thing he had ordered yesterday, only this time the pancakes that had been a part of the plate had been replaced with waffles. Ash was confused, as he had never ordered his breakfast and yet once again Jasper knew what to get him. Ash had to admit, this guy was an excellent chef to have picked up on his clients' tastes in just a few days.

    Seeing that Ash was looking at him in surprise, Jasper just smiled at the young boy and winked at him before speaking. "Well, after what you ate all day yesterday, I figured you'd want a similar meal. Only today I replaced the pancakes with waffles and kept the eggs and hashbrowns. Besides, you're my best patron, so I figured I'd deliver to your table personally. Bon appetite!" he cried out happily before making his way back into the kitchen where Ash could have sworn he saw the three workers getting barked at by Manectric for eating some of the food.

    "I can't wait for the Contest Spectacular later today," Miette said as she broke the silence that was created by Jasper. "I just know I'll be the one winning the entire thing by the end of the day. Especially after all my training since the Master Class. I won't be losing to anyone this time."

    "Sorry, Miette, but I'll be the one winning," Serena replied as Ash noticed the two rivals glaring slightly at each other before he took a bite of his food. "I'll have you know that a Contest Spectacular is much more difficult than taking part in a Showcase. It doesn't rely on fan voting and the Pokémon are considered the stars of the show instead of it being equal between them and us. So, you better be ready for a fight."

    "If anyone is winning, it'll be me," Dawn replied as Piplup chirped in agreement. Both girls looked at Dawn. "I'm the one who'll win this Contest Spectacular and earn the right to challenge Lisia. Then I'll beat her as well," she continued on. Ash was a little surprised by her sudden demeanor of being so sure that she would easily win against a star like Lisia.

    "Well, that's what I like to hear: some friendly competition," a voice sang out graciously and Ash could have sworn he heard Brock cry out in joy from across the room. Looking behind them, Lisia walked up to their table graciously. Ash had to admit, despite never knowing her, she did carry an aura of a superstar just by the way she walked alone. "I've always believed that when you have a great rival to push you along, a Coordinator will always rise up to new heights. And so, to see just how much I can push you three, I'll be entering the Contest Spectacular myself."

    The three girls grew silent as they watched Lisia run a hand through her flowing hair and smile at the group before her. Looking at everyone's reactions, Ash soon realized that both Bonnie and Clemont hadn't been at their table at all. A fact Ash hadn't noticed as he had immediately begun a conversation with Serena.

    "Yes, I was only meant to host the competition, but after this friendly competition between you three, I just had to enter. Besides, I can't let my rival get too far ahead of me, now can I?" She asked while winking at Serena. "And so, I'll have to find someone to host now. I'm sure it won't be too hard to find someone willing to help out. I'll be seeing you all at the competition later today! Toodle-loo!"

    The four just watched on in shock as Lisia left their table and the entire dining hall without issuing another word. Instantly looking over at Serena, Ash noticed she seemed a mix between excited and worried, and without thinking placed a hand on her shoulder.

    "Hey, don't worry, Serena, I'm sure you'll do fine. Besides, Clemont, Bonnie and myself will be cheering you on with everything we've got!" Ash said, smiling at the Kalos native. Serena didn't speak anything in reply but instead just nodded in an almost hesitant manner before smiling in agreement.

    "And what about me, Ash Ketchum?" Dawn asked in a voice Ash had never heard before. She sounded almost hurt, yet Ash wasn't sure if he had heard correctly and ignored the thought as he watched her glaring at him. "Are you saying that I won't be able to win?"

    "What? !" Ash stuttered out in nervousness. He didn't want to get Dawn upset, especially since she could make his entire day a nightmare. "O-Of course not, Dawn. I know you'll do great, as well. And I'll be cheering for you, too!" he quickly replied in a defensive manner while waving his hands. His answer appeared to calm Dawn slightly as her glare turned into a neutral expression. Deciding it was best to leave the three girls alone until the Contest Spectacular started, Ash looked down to Pikachu in a manner that told the Electric type they were going to go train.

    "Pikapi, pipi, cha," Pikachu said happily as he leapt off of the table and onto Ash's shoulder. Standing up, the young boy threw his backpack over his shoulder and picked up his empty plate before dropping it into a pile of dirty dishes. Rushing out of the dining hall in a flurry, Ash made his way out to the battlefield where he sat on a nearby bench.

    "Pika?" Pikachu asked, as he had expected some training for the time being, judging from Ash's words. Jumping from Ash's shoulder, the Electric Mouse Pokémon sat on the bench next to him as they just watched the ocean pass by them. Ash had finally realized they were really far out at sea now, as the islands were less frequent and were much further away than before. He shortly wondered where exactly the cruise was headed to, only to be interrupted by the ship's loud speaker.

    "Attention, mateys!" Lisia's voice sang out over the loudspeaker. Looking up to the captain's quarters, Ash noticed the young girl up there as Captain Ryker steered the ship safely along course. "If I could have your attention, please! Could all those competing in the Contest Spectacular please make their way over to the stage and register if you haven't already. That would be greatly appreciated. We'll be starting right at ten, so please hurry," she sang out happily as the connection was cut. Ash had noticed she had recently put the radio down and realized that there was obviously a short delay between the radio and the speaker system. He shrugged it off as he just a little observation; something Clemont might have found interesting.

    Looking up at the clock, Ash realized that the Contest Spectacular was to begin in just about ten minutes as the clock read 9:50. "Pikachu, we can't be late. Everyone's expecting us to be there to watch!" Ash yelled out as the duo jumped up in shock. Running across the deck, the duo ran past some other vacationers who weren't aware of the upcoming competition and saw Gary and Sawyer switching off to watch the artifact. Waving at the two, the former nodded while the latter waved back to Ash while smiling at him. Ash didn't pay much attention to them as he picked up the pace and rounded a corner as he came into view with the stage.

    It wasn't anything special at all. In fact, it was just a plain stage that had been built just for the Contest Spectacular. A few curtains flowed down and the area that the competitors stood on was all carpeted, but otherwise it was not much different than the normal deck. Standing up there, to his surprise, was Mr. Cecil. Ash assumed right away that he had been picked to host the competition upon Lisia's decision to join in on the fun and he had to admit, the man seemed like quite the natural as he heard him speak.

    "Firstly, I would like to thank Ms. Lisia for choosing myself to be the host of her wonderful competition," Mr. Cecil's voice rang out as Ash looked around to try and find his friends. However, despite his best to find them, they appeared to still be missing. "This looks to be quite the Contest Spectacular as fourteen Coordinators have signed up to compete in such a fun and prestigious event. Allow me to read off the rules for the first two days before introducing you to our special judges."

    "With a total of fourteen competitors, we cannot allow all of you to advance into the final four, as that would be impossible since, well, it's the final four, not the final fourteen," he began to say as Ash hoped the man was going for a joke. Moments ago he seemed comfortable up there, yet if that hadn't just been a joke like Ash had hoped, he wondered if the older man could handle hosting the event. "And so, ten of you will be eliminated based on our judges rulings until there are four of you left. Seven of you will advance onto tomorrow and from there the four with the highest scores will move onto the finals which will be held two days from now! And to judge you on how well your Pokémon perform for the crowd are these four wonderful volunteers!"

    Upon that cue, Ash was shocked, to say the least, when he witnessed his mother, Brock, Bonnie and Captain Ryker walk out and sit down at the four makeshift judge seats. Clemont, likewise, was with them as it appeared he had tried to keep Bonnie under control. But with her now sitting down, he made his way over to Ash.

    "Can you believe who they got to be judges?" Clemont asked while rubbing the back of his neck out of embarrassment. "Lisia tried to get me to be a guest judge all day, but, I don't feel comfortable judging them all. And so, Captain Ryker helped me out by offering to fill in the last spot."

    "Well, I think they have a good set of judges," Ash joked as he watched the first Coordinator begin, a male and his Honedge slicing up pieces of wood and tiles to show off its extremely sharp blade as well as the duo's excellent timing and precision. It looked like to him as if Bonnie was gushing over the Pokémon with joy in her eyes, and his mother likewise was praising everything about the entire appeal. Brock, however, appeared a little out of it as he waited for Lisia to go on stage. Clemont had told him how excited Brock was upon hearing Lisia herself was going to compete, after all. And Captain Ryker looked to be just having a lot of fun, or so it looked like it to Ash.

    "I guess you could say that," Clemont agreed while fixing his glasses. "I don't know how much of a good idea it is to have Bonnie judging anyone at all. She might be a little too excitable for it. Plus, with our friends in it she might play favorites just a bit."

    "She'll be fine. Bonnie knows that she can't play favorites here. Besides, I know they'll all make it through to the end. I know it," Ash replied as the second contestant ended her appeal with her Sunflora using a Sunny Day and Hidden Power combination to light up the entire stage while the Grass-Type danced around. Ash thought it looked well done, but not to the degree he was used to seeing. He was extremely confident that Serena, Dawn and Miette would all advance to the very end at this rate.

    "Quite the display if I do say so myself," Mr. Cecil's voice rang out as the audience applauded the young girl while she left the stage with Sunflora. "Now, please give a warm welcome to our next participant, Dawn!" With quite the loud welcoming, Dawn ran out onto the stage, dressed in her usual pink outfit for Contests and raised a small pokeball up towards her face as a smile formed.

    "Buneary, spotlight!" She cried out as the capture device was tossed upwards and over her head, opening up to cause thousands of tiny hearts to rain down over the stage as Buneary appeared in front of Dawn. Ash could tell she was taking this seriously, despite it being just a friendly competition and wondered just how much she had improved.

    "Buneary, start off with an Ice Beam and then go right into Dizzy Punch!" Dawn called out while pointing her index finger forward as the Normal type hopped around the stage. A streaky, blue beam shot out of Buneary's mouth as the object froze all over the stage, glistening in the sunlight. The crowd appeared to enjoy it, considering that Ash heard them immediately clapping for the small display, but that was soon drowned out by the 'oohs' and 'ahs' he heard as Buneary destroyed the ice displays and made it look as if it was now snowing on the ship."

    "Perfect job, Buneary! Now, use Bounce and dance around the stage!"

    "Buneary!" She cried out in agreement as she hopped all around. Ash had seen this before, having been close to what Dawn had used in the Hearthome Collection and wondered just what she was up to. However, before he could try to predict her next command, he overheard her issuing an Ice Beam that covered the entire stage and made it seem like a winter wonderland while Buneary slid around on it.

    "And let's finish this with the big one, Buneary!" Dawn continued on as Buneary jumped from her wintery slide and up into the air where she spun around, almost like a ballerina in Ash's opinion, before landing in front of the entire crowd. Opening her mouth once more, the familiarity of an Ice Beam attack soon formed before a large frozen heart was created in front of Buneary. Moving in front of it, the Normal type struck a pose before winking at Pikachu. Ash laughed a little as his best friend rubbed the back of his head from Buneary's display of affection.

    "Fantastic! I've never seen such a performance like that!" Mr. Cecil cried out happily as he clapped away. The crowd appeared to agree as they cheered at their loudest while Dawn and Buneary bowed before leaving the stage. "Well, I'd hate to be the next contestant to follow up that routine. Quite the balance between technique and just having fun. It might be hard for the judges as well, based on their looks."

    Ash then turned to see the judges, both his mother and Bonnie seemed speechless from the display and he figured they were going to give Dawn a high ranking from it. Even Captain Ryker looked extremely impressed from it as he nodded his head up in down while smiling. Yet, Brock seemed confused and Ash couldn't help but wonder why. Perhaps he was thinking the same thought as Ash was. They had traveled with Dawn and she never seemed like the kind of person to take the easy way out by repeating an appeal.

    Yet, despite his inner thoughts, Ash decided to just shrug it off for the time being as another Coordinator made his way up onto the stage. Though Ash seemed a little worried for the boy since he appeared to be extremely nervous up there, even dropping his pokeball onto the stage floor by accident. Turning his attention away from the stage, as he figured it would be quite a while until Serena came up, Ash put his focus on Clemont and the two immediately caught up on lost time. As everyone competed in the background, the two boys told stories about what they had been up to since separating. To what seemed like Clemont's surprise, the young trainer explained how he had been taking it easy around Pallet Town for the most part. Though, he did enjoy hearing about Clemont's crazy adventure through Lumiose City a while back. He found it amusing how Clemont had to race through the subway system with the help of a man he had just met to rescue Bonnie (the name of the man having slipped Clemont's mind at that moment in time).

    One by one, the Coordinators went. Ash stopped talking briefly when Miette's turn came up to give their friend the same respect he had for Dawn and planned to do so for Serena. Her appeal was no different than what she did for the Master Class and Ash could tell she was having a little difficulty allowing the majority of the spotlight to be on Slurpuff compared to how in Showcases the Performer was the star of the show. However, the blue-haired Performer managed to turn it around and finished it up with a dazzling combination of Fairy Wind and Cotton Spore. Ash began to clap for his friend, only for his pace to pick up speed as he watched Serena make her way out onto the stage next. It was finally her turn and he could hardly wait to see how much she had grown on her journey.

    "And next up we have a newcomer to the Contest world," Mr. Cecil read from a notecard (no doubt having been given it by Lisia). "Despite her relative newness to the world of Contest Spectaculars, Serena is quite the competitor! Now, give this young girl a round of applause!"

    Ash watched on in interest as he wondered who she would use for this round. She was up on the stage in none other than the same outfit she used in all of her performances in Kalos and Ash noticed she was holding a pokeball up to her chest. "Alright, Sylveon, let's show them what we can do!" With a bright light, the Fairy type appeared on the stage with a light cry as her feelers whipped outwards and released a light Fairy Wind without the need of a command. Ash could tell they had practiced some sort of routine with this as the opening.

    "Alright, that was great, Sylveon. Now, break off into a Swift and aim them for the Fairy Wind! Then follow it up with one concentrated gust of Fairy Wind!" Serena's voice echoed out, and Ash could pick up on her happiness. With quick and successive movements, Sylveon launched off a barrage of the golden stars as they danced through the original Fairy Wind and captivated the audience with their little dance. Then, before anyone even knew what was coming, Sylveon released off a small twister comprised of nothing more than a Fairy Wind attack as it collided with the original combination. In a display of colorful lights and sparkles, the two combinations collided while Sylveon danced underneath the falling remains, much to the crowds amusement.

    As Ash watched, he found himself clapping along to each and every movement as Sylveon soon jumped from Serena's arms and twirled up in the air before landing gracefully on the stage floor. To Ash, the duo appeared to be in complete sync with each other. However, he soon found his eyes trailing over to Serena herself, and he couldn't help but smile while watching her have the time of her life up on the stage. He didn't really understand why, though, but whatever was making him continue to stare wouldn't let him look away, and he didn't mind it.

    Snapping from his trance, Ash noticed that both Serena and Sylveon were bowing as the duo were finished with their appeal. Seeing that someone he didn't know was coming up now, Ash decided it was best to go and get a quick snack from Jasper; he had felt himself growing hungry during the other appeals. Explaining to Clemont where he was going, Ash offered the inventor a snack but Clemont declined. And with that, Ash was off to see Jasper. Making his way back down the side of the boat, Ash could hear the crowd applauding for the current Coordinator but it was nothing compared to what he had heard for Serena and Dawn. Knowing they were safe to advance made Ash feel good for them as he entered the dining hall and made his way right over to the counter and waited for Jasper or one of his helpers to come out.

    "Ah, young Mr. Ketchum," Jasper's voice rang out as he walked back into the dining hall. Ash hadn't even thought that the man may have been away when he made the decision to come see him for something to eat. "I must say, your friends are quite the skilled Coordinators. You can see from the way they competed that they're no beginners. I snuck away for just a few moments to see the talented Lisia in person when I got caught up in watching the other contestants as well."

    "Lisia already performed?" Ash asked, unaware that he may have missed the young star's turn.

    "Why yes, she was quite captivating with the way her Altaria moved around the stage. She really has earned her popularity. The fact that she's helped Contest Spectaculars become something more than just a different form of Contests is not easy, yet she makes it look flawless. How I wish I could perform like that! Oh, the world isn't ready to see my skills in a Contest just yet; perhaps after a few more rehearsals," Jasper joked around as he put his apron on and made it around the counter to take Ash's order.

    "I'm sure you and Manectric would do just fine if you tried," Ash reassured him as he grabbed a menu that was resting on the counter. Looking it over, Ash decided on having just a grilled cheese sandwich with a side of french fries. Upon handing the menu back over to Jasper, Ash watched the chef yell something into the back and a rattling sound could be heard. Within moments, he could see Jasper's three assistants cooking up a storm while Manectric watched them closely.

    "Well, I'm not quite sure about that. We're not the best when it comes to combinations like the one your friend Serena pulled off. She was quite captivating. The way her Sylveon controlled the entirety of the stage through the use of just Swift and Fairy Wind was quite the feat for anyone to witness," Jasper stated happily before a smirk crossed his face. "Though, from what I saw, it seemed like you were captivated by the girl herself," he added in with a snicker while handing Ash his food.

    "What?" The Pallet Town native replied, somewhat confused by what was being implied by the chef. "Of course I would be watching, I want to cheer Serena on with everything I've got."

    "Yes, yes, I understand, but you should really just talk to the girl alone. A stare such as the one on your face said more than just wanting to cheer her on. Perhaps you don't understand now, but over time it'll all make sense. Just make sure you don't regret anything, Ash. Feelings are such a weakness for some, letting their lives be controlled by them. And time...well, time is a most fickle thing. None of us want to lose it, and if it were snatched away from you...Well, don't miss out on life because you're afraid," Jasper told the young trainer, who began to lose his appetite as the thought of feelings and that same moment back in Lumiose entering his mind yet again. How he wished he knew why that one moment was always coming back up.

    "You know what, I'm actually not that hungry anymore. You think I could get this to go?" Ash asked in an apologetic manner as Jasper just nodded before handing him a small container. Placing the contents of his order in it, Ash thanked the chef and made his way back towards the Contest Spectacular in hopes of seeing Serena and the others. However, he was soon distracted by the sounds of a battle that was happening nearby and decided to go check up on it. Making his way out to the battlefield, Ash watched as a Golduck launched off a Scald attack that crashed hard into the opponent's Lairon and defeated the Steel type.

    "Ah, looks like we missed it, Pikachu," Ash said as he placed his container down on a nearby table. Not hearing a response, Ash looked around, only to realize that Pikachu wasn't there with him before remembering that his best friend had run off to watch the Contest Spectacular with Piplup. Deciding to just sit there for the time being, Ash watched as the two trainers shook hands before heading off in their separate ways. A smile crossed over his face, remembering all the times he was in similar situations of making a new friend thanks to a battle.

    "Brings back a lot of memories, doesn't it?" a new voice asked as Gary was soon recognized as the owner of the voice. Ash, not quite understanding what his rival meant, just looked on in confusion. "The joy of battling against a new opponent. It always got my adrenaline going and it still does. The thrill of meeting new friends through our same enjoyment of Pokémon. All of it. It brings back good memories, such as our battles. Speaking of which, I'm still leading two wins to your one," he teased as Ash smirked at the researcher.

    "Well, why don't we have a battle right now," Ash offered before standing up. He had already made up his mind and figured a battle would do them both good. It would allow him some time to get his mind clear and allow Gary the chance to do something fun while on the cruise. "We can have a quick one-on-one right here!"

    "Hmph, still the same Ash as always," Gary muttered while smiling at his longtime rival. Running a hand through his hair, Gary reached for a pokeball with his free hand and raised it up to his face. "Sure, why not? Sounds like a good idea Ashy-Boy. Why don't you show me one of your Kalos Pokémon that Gramps been talking about? They have to be well trained to get you through the entire Kalos League on their own."

    "Well, you're in luck since I brought them along with me!" Ash cried out in agreement as they made their way over to the open field. Gripping a pokeball, Ash was extremely excited with the prospect of facing Gary again and knew just the right Pokémon to use. "Hawlucha, I choose you!" He cried out, excitement filling his voice as the capture device exploded open to reveal the Wrestling Pokémon.

    "That's a Hawlucha!" Gary called out in excitement as he watched the Flying and Fighting-Type striking his poses. "I've only ever heard about them and have really wanted to study one. This will be a great chance for me as a researcher to get the necessary information I need." Gripping his own pokeball, Gary tossed it outwards before Umbreon appeared from it. "We'll take the first move, Umbreon use Quick Attack!"

    "Umbre!" the Moonlight Pokémon cried out mightily before dashing right at Hawlucha, a white light trailing behind him as he ran. Ash watched as the Dark type approached at an alarming rate and had no time to command a counter attack. Hawlucha felt Umbreon crash hard into his stomach.

    Rolling backwards, Hawlucha skidded to a stop as he used his knees to slow his momentum. Looking up at the field, both Ash and Hawlucha were surprised to see Umbreon charging right at them. But, the duo remained calm and, thinking quickly, Ash managed to come up with a counter.

    "Hawlucha, drop on your back, quick!" He yelled out while clenching his two fists. Doing as his trainer commanded, Hawlucha dropped backwards right as Umbreon would have smashed into him once more. Now underneath his opponent's body, Ash smirked as he looked at the situation Hawlucha was in. "Alright, now use High Jump Kick from that spot!"

    "Lucha!" Hawlucha cried out energetically, his right knee glowing a bright white. Moving swiftly, Hawlucha pushed his knee upwards and right into Umbreon's stomach as the Moonlight Pokémon was shot up into the sky. Jumping back onto his feet, Hawlucha spread his arms out wide while waiting for Umbreon to fall back onto the field.

    "Hmph, don't think it'll be easy for you, Ash," Gary taunted while watching Hawlucha pose. Ash knew it wouldn't be easy; Gary had been one of his hardest opponents ever, and he knew that both himself and Hawlucha would have to be prepared for anything. "Now, Umbreon, use Double Team and then Shadow Ball!"

    Umbreon glowed a bright white for a second as multiple clones of himself soon appeared to be falling around the field. As they all fell, the clones managed to form a sphere of energy in their mouths before launching the attack off at Hawlucha. The Wrestling Pokémon didn't know which one to block and so, the entire attack landed perfectly. It was just as Ash had expected from Gary, which was one of the reasons he chose Hawlucha.

    "Lucha, lucha, haw, hawlucha," the Wrestling Pokémon could be heard while the smoke around him faded. Ash could tell that Gary was shocked to see Hawlucha was perfectly fine from the attack, seeing as the researcher's mouth was wide open as he stared at his healthy opponent.

    "Gary, it'll take a lot more than just a strong attack to take us down. You see, Hawlucha likes taking his opponent's moves head on. It allows him to heat up, in a sense, and use those attacks to his advantage," Ash explained Hawlucha's little quirk as the Flying and Fighting type hopped on his feet. "Now, let's show him our strength! Karate Chop and use it continuously!"

    "Haw!" Within less than a second, Hawlucha had appeared right in front of one of the clones and slashed downward with his glowing forearm. Ash felt good for how surprised Gary seemed, since it looked like the researcher could barely keep up with Hawlucha's movements. Every time he appeared, he would just as quickly destroy one of the clones before vanishing. Within no time at all, all of Umbreon's clones had been destroyed, leaving just the original to battle.

    "Alright, let's try out X-Scissor now!" Ash called out while throwing his right fist forward.

    "Umbreon, counter with a Quick Attack!" Gary decided upon as he threw his left fist forward.

    Both Pokémon dashed forward as a white light trailed behind Umbreon while Hawlucha crossed his arms and formed an 'x' shape with them before they glowed a light blue in color. With a hard crash, both opponents rammed into each other, neither overpowering the other. Soon, sparks began to fly off of the two attacks as both Pokémon were putting everything they had into it. Hawlucha, however, had a trick up his sleeve.

    "Alright, Hawlucha, let's use your legs to our advantage! Use High Jump Kick!" Ash commanded while fixing his hat. Nodding slightly, the Wrestling Pokémon managed to use his free legs and kicked upwards, making Umbreon lose his footing. With his traction gone, the Moonlight Pokémon was now no match at all as the X-Scissor crashed into his body.

    Jumping backwards, Hawlucha appeared ready to end the battle, and Ash knew it based on the look on Hawlucha's face. Nodding, they duo decided it was time to pull out their finisher. "Hawlucha, time to end this match! Flying Press!" he issued, while punching forward with his left hand.

    "Haw!" Hawlucha cried out before jumping upwards into the sky. Spinning around quickly, the Flying and Fighting type's body had a light glow to it as he spread his wings wide open. Soaring downwards right for Umbreon, the match looked to be over, but Ash knew better and realized this was all set up by Gary once his rival smirked.

    "Umbreon, stop him with Flash!"

    "Um. Umbreeooon!" The Dark type cried out with great strength as the yellow rings on his body released a bright light. Soon, the light covered the entire field, and even Ash had to cover his eyes. Knowing that he couldn't see, Ash knew that Hawlucha was in trouble and his thought was proven correct as he managed to make out the image of Hawlucha smashing into the ground.

    "Hawlucha!" Ash called out as he squinted through the blinding light to make out the image of a worn out Hawlucha and a just as worn down Umbreon. Both Pokémon had taken a beating, even with their short battle and Ash felt that it would be best to end it now before Gary could come up with another quick counter. "Alright, let's end this now! We'll make sure this attack lands, use-"

    "There you are, Ash! We've been looking for you!" Bonnie's voice screamed out as she interrupted Ash's command. As she did so, it caused both Ash and Hawlucha to lose their concentration by looking over to see the young girl standing with Clemont and Serena, allowing Gary the opening that he needed. Issuing another Quick Attack, Umbreon crashed into Hawlucha, defeating the Wrestling Pokémon.

    "That was a good battle, Ashy-boy. However, it isn't complete, you were distracted at the end," Gary explained while recalling Umbreon to his pokeball. "We'll have a rematch during the tournament that's taking place in a few days." With a wave of his hand, Gary didn't allow Ash a chance to reply and walked off to another part of the boat. Ash assumed that he needed to get back to his job and allow Sawyer a break, but he wasn't entirely sure.

    "Uh, sure, Gary," Ash said after the researcher had already left. Praising Hawlucha for his excellent battle, Ash recalled the defeated Pokémon into his pokeball and turned to his friends. "Hey, sorry about that. I went to get something to eat and one thing led to another and before I knew it, Gary and I were having a battle."

    "Sorry for interrupting," Bonnie apologized in a sad voice. She was upset for ruining Ash's battle. "We just had amazing news and needed to tell you right away."

    "Hey, it's alright, Bonnie. Hawlucha and I both know you didn't mean to distract us," he explained while smiling at the young girl. Feeling better, Bonnie smiled back at Ash as he was glad she wasn't going to hold this against herself. "So, what's this amazing news?"

    "Everyone advanced onto the second round of the Contest Spectacular," Bonnie explained as Serena rubbed the back of her neck a little. "Lisia also advanced which wasn't much of a surprise, but if you don't include her, Serena scored the highest out of everyone! Dawn, Miette and her will have to face three other Coordinators along with Lisia where they all are on the stage at once and do another appeal, but this time they can interfere with the others or use their moves to help out their own appeals. It seems like a lot of fun!" Bonnie rambled on as Ash began to lose track of her words. All that he really remembered from that spiel was the fact that Serena and the others had advanced and he was glad for it.

    "That's great, Serena!" Ash cried out, having forgotten about the ending of his battle. Standing back up, the young trainer smiled at Serena as he was truly happy for her advancement. "Next round, you'll advance onto the final four alongside the others."

    "Well, I'll also have to beat Lisia, and the other contestants who advanced. I'm not already qualified for the last round. I'll just have to go out there and give it my all," she replied as the group of four turned to head back towards the main deck to go do an activity together.

    "You'll be fine, Serena. I know you'll advance easily," Ash told her happily as he placed a hand on her shoulder. Smiling once again at her, Ash didn't understand what Jasper had meant to him earlier, but he decided that it would be best to take the man's advice. Starting tomorrow, he was going to spend time with the girl, since he had no idea when he would see his friend after the cruise. For now, that promise was enough.


    Author's Note: Well, we've certainly got a kickoff going now, don't we? The Contest Spectacular has started with some impressive showings, Ash is still wondering about Serena's actions and there's a mysterious artifact aboard the boat...What will become of all this? Who knows? Well...except for us. But you get to wait to find that one out. Next chapter should be pretty fun, though.

    potat lasaro: Hopefully the first round of that Contest Spectacular was interesting to everyone. Though, the big parts are yet to come. Though, how it all plays out is still up in the air. Any one of our three main girls could win, you'll just have to come back and read the next chapter. Have a Happy New Year and thanks for reading the story so far, it's only going to get more interesting as we continue on!

    We really appreciate all the support this story has gotten so far. It's floored us! So, even now, we hope that you'll Review and Dare to Be Silly.
    Dare to Be Silly!

    Ancienverse AU Fanfiction

    Love in the Time of Teamwork
    Once every seven years there was a tournament celebrating the bonds between people and Pokemon. Of course, Serena expected Ash to want to take part, but she had no idea the ways in which it would change their lives for good or ill. She was confident, however, that by the end of that week, something between herself and Ash would be different. Amourshipping.

    Remaining stories can be found in this community here.

  6. #6
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    Well, looks like the holidays are over, so let's really ramp up this story for everyone! Please enjoy Chapter 5!


    Chapter 5

    A Moment of Attraction

    Just like the morning before, Ash awoke to crisp cool skies and sun on the deck of the S.S. Ambrosia. Yawning alongside Pikachu, Ash found his thoughts of the previous evening all jumbling together in a blur. From his battle with Gary to his conversation with Serena and the odd promise he'd found himself making in his head. That kind of promise lasted through dinner, where everyone discussed the exciting second round of the Contest Spectacular that would start today. During that time, Ash couldn't help himself looking over at Jasper, the man more often than not serving a customer that his waiters couldn't reach. When he did catch him staring, the cook would look pointedly at him and then wink a little.

    At one point, Serena had asked him what was wrong, but Ash all too quickly passed it off as nothing.

    "Oh," Serena had commented, stirring at her melted strawberry parfait. "Well, you know…you can tell me if something's on your mind."

    "Thanks, Serena," Ash said, offering her a fistpump. On the other side of him, Dawn suddenly humphed, crossing her arms. This sole action made Ash frown. She'd been grumpy ever since the results of the first round had been announced. Maybe it was scoring lower than Serena, or maybe she felt seasick. Ash wasn't sure which, and he didn't want to get involved. It was the exact reason he'd chosen not to bring up her rather repetitive performance. And Brock was too busy ogling Lisia as she sat at the table with Captain Ryker and Mr. Cecil (who was feeding his Arcanine).

    That was fine by Ash, and after some games on the deck (during which Clemont would have almost fallen overboard if not for Sylveon), they had all retired. Now, Ash was all rested and ready to go forward with the day.

    "Wonder what the schedule will be like for the day," Ash noted to Pikachu as they left their room. This time, his mother was still getting ready for the day as he left, bidding him a hearty farewell. "Other than seeing Serena perform in the contest."

    "Pikapi? Pikaka, chu Pipika cha chu?" Pikachu asked him from atop his shoulder when they emerged back on the deck.

    "Huh? Oh, well, of course I'll cheer for Dawn, too!" Ash reminded his best friend, laughing at such a silly mistake (and hoping Dawn hadn't been there to overhear it). After a quick look to make sure she wasn't, Ash breathed in relief and went over to the dining hall. Bonnie and Clemont were already there, though with one odd detail about them. "Uh…why are you guys wearing swimsuits?"

    "Because we're going swimming!" Bonnie cheered happily.

    "Dede!" Dedenne said in response, swaying back and forth atop Bonnie's head happily. Ash didn't know exactly what to say to that, taking a chair. Like usual, Jasper was there in seconds with a plate of sausages, hash browns and an omelet. By this point, the raven-haired trainer just passed it off.

    "I guess we haven't had the chance to check out the pool yet," Ash noted, instantly shoveling the sausages into his mouth. To this, Clemont shook his head.

    "No, not the swimming pool," he made sure to correct him. A piece of egg hanging out of his mouth, Ash looked to his friend. "The ship is stopping over Rainbow Reef today, which is said to be a really friendly place teeming with all sorts of aquatic Pokémon. A perfect chance to test my newest fishing rod!"

    "Clemont, you're so boring…why don't you come with us in the water? Viggo and I have lots of plans to meet new and cute Pokémon!" Bonnie said, kicking her legs back and forth happily. "After we watch Serena perform, of course!"

    "Yeah, she'll do great!" Ash insisted, his egg still hanging out of his mouth. He found a napkin suddenly pressed up against his lips, and for a moment, Ash thought it was Serena who had done it, and was surprised to see Dawn there with pursed lips. He smiled sheepishly, and gulped the egg down, not wanting to incur any of Dawn's wrath. "By the way, have any of you seen Serena?"

    "I'm pretty sure she was on the deck practicing with that blue-haired girl," called Sawyer's voice. The short, green-haired boy was walking in as he rubbed his eyes. He looked utterly exhausted, like he'd been on guard duty all night. "Mi…whatever her name is."

    "Oh, sounds like she's hard at work, then," Ash noted while Pikachu suddenly ate up the hash browns he had accidentally drowned in ketchup.

    "Hey, I can work hard, too. No need to worry, right?" Dawn insisted, standing from her chair without even taking a bite from her food. Jasper, who had just set her plate and glass down, looked surprised, and stepped away before moving to fulfill the captain's order.

    "Yeah, you can! You always put in a lot of work, Dawn," Ash assured her, wondering if she was still upset about yesterday's results. He certainly hoped it wasn't the case, preferring that all of his friends got along no matter what. Dawn frowned at him before nodding. Then she guzzled down her drink at the table and walked off, presumably to get more practice in. Ash and the others watched her go, but shrugged. "So, Sawyer, will you be joining us for swimming?"

    "Probably not. The thing can't guard itself," Sawyer answered, taking Dawn's abandoned plate and digging in. "Though the captain has tried to think up ways to watch it during the tag battle competition, so myself and Gary can take part in that...I hope."

    "Sounds awesome," Ash said to his rival, hopeful to have the chance to compete against him again. Sawyer nodded with some exhaustion, and continued to eat as a bell rang, calling for the seven remaining coordinators to make their way to the stage. Ash stood and pushed his chair out, determined to not miss a second of the next round. He wanted to cheer Serena, er, all of his friends on in the best fashion that he could. Stretching his arms wide, Ash left a scrambling Clemont and Bonnie behind to run out onto the deck. There were less judges this time, with only Ryker, the blue-haired janitor and the ever-smitten Brock set up as the officials. Not as many people had gathered quite yet, and Ash took the chance to nab the perfect seat for himself near the front row. Pikachu hopped over to reserve the seats for their friends.

    "You look excited," Brock noted, turning around in his chair as the seven contestants were standing in a row on the stage, waiting for the event to begin. Some joyful screams called out from the rear of the ship, some kids obviously enjoying the pool. It reminded Ash that not everyone was here to watch the promotion of a Contest Spectacular.

    "Of course," Ash insisted, looking at his friend. "I've always kind of enjoyed watching Contests, right?"

    "Unless they were May's," Brock noted with a little snicker. Ash felt a flush of embarrassment at one of his less proud moments creep up his neck. "Though a little Pokémon told me that you delayed a gym battle for one of Serena's Showcases. Is that true?"

    "Who told you that?" Ash asked, wondering just what kind of relevance it held. He stared up a little bit, noticing Serena with Pancham out as she nervously adjusted the bow on her outfit. Even after all this time, she still held the same tentative anticipation she'd held on her very first Showcase. It brought a warming smile to Ash's face, especially when she caught sight of him and smiled back. It was like an electric moment between them, one he didn't want to end, but when he looked back towards Brock and his knowing smirk, it did. "Er, yeah, I did. It was the Master Class, and my Snowbelle Gym Ba…"

    Ash trailed off as Mr. Cecil walked up to the stage, clapping his hands loudly for all to hear. As he did so, Bonnie and Clemont had arrived, the young Viggo in tow as they sat upon their chairs. Bonnie's Ducklett swimsuit ruffled against Ash, but he was too busy thinking. Brock's questions of him delaying his gym battle had sparked something. He had never done that before. But more than that, as he thought back on it, he realized all the things that never would have happened if he hadn't. He wouldn't have met Alain again, lost to Sawyer, lost to Wulfric. He would have never gotten that snowball to the face that had woken him up. Perhaps he never would have even reached runner-up.

    And it was thanks to Serena.

    "Earth to Ash. You paying attention?" Bonnie's high-pitched voice asked and Ash drew himself away with a smile. He nodded, and focused back on Mr. Cecil, the older man reading off his notecards.

    "Ehmm," he started off, adjusting his monocle slightly, "welcome spectators and Coordinators alike to the second day of our special Contest Spectacular! At present, we have only seven trainers remaining, which will be whittled down to a mere four by the end of the day. I have, as yesterday, been given the great pleasure of announcing the rules of today's portion, following which we will arrive at Rainbow Reef, an opportunity for all to get off the ship for some crisp, fresh air and marine wildlife."

    "I can't wait for that," Viggo whispered across Clemont to Bonnie. "It'll be great to play with all the Pokémon."

    "I hope they're all cute! Let's find a Wailord," Bonnie whispered back mischievously. Ash chuckled under his breath and looked back up, his gaze almost magnetically moving to the Coordinators, all standing there at the ready. Clemont shushed his sister as Mr. Cecil continued along.

    "The rules for this competition are simple and fast paced," the older proprietor rumbled to the crowd. "Each Coordinator before you is allowed one to two moves. Those moves can be used to either appeal, jam a prior opponent's appeal, or set up for a following appeal. The order is randomized each turn. At the end of three turns, the judges will have determined their points and the four with the most points advance!"

    "Ooh, I hope Serena makes it."

    "I'm sure she will," Clemont told his sister confidently.

    "Of course. Serena's the best there is," Ash insisted to Pikachu's rather sagely nodding. Bonnie looked up at him, and Ash noticed a rather leering grin flash across her features, but he decidedly ignored it…even if she stood, pushed Clemont next to him and made conspiring whispers once she was next to Viggo.

    "Now, you'll see the order of the first round's competitors!" As soon as Mr. Cecil said this, he stepped off the stage as a small screen lifted out from behind the coordinators; Ash hadn't even noticed it was there before. Clemont gushed a little as the faces appeared on the screen, showing that Serena was the first up, followed by a boy named Mickey, then Miette, Lisia, a girl named Sarabeth, a boy named Donny and finishing with Dawn. As soon as that had shown up, Serena smiled to the crowd, those around them cheering after her performance the previous day.

    "Okay, Pancham! Use Stone Edge!" Serena called. Pancham grinned, spinning on his back like he was breakdancing. Next to Ash, Chespin popped out of Clemont's pokeball to watch the event that his rival was partaking in. Pancham now flipped forward and slammed down upon the stage, the large line of stones surrounding him in a circular fashion. Ash wondered just what Serena was up to for the first round as a bell rang, indicating the next coordinator could take part. "Show off your strength with Arm Thrust!"

    "Panchamcham!" Pancham called out, slamming a fist upon the ground and sending the stones flying suddenly into the air. Without even a word from Serena, he then bounded upward, hitting one of the stones with Arm Thrust. In a domino effect, all of them crumbled away in a line, glittering into fine dust.

    "Smeargle, use Sketch! And then Stone Edge!" Mickey called out, the boy with brown hair and nondescript features throwing his hand upward. Smeargle grabbed his tail and brandished it like a paintbrush before somehow drawing the Stone Edge in midair that prepared themselves like a bulwark around the Pokémon. The audience grumbled a little at that and even the judges looked unimpressed, especially Brock.

    "Let's make use of that Slurpuff! Cotton Spore, and then Energy Ball!" Slurpuff didn't move very much, and Miette looked stiff in her movements, but Ash noticed that the beauty she carried out with her attacks was bar none. Slurpuff wrapped itself in cotton and then shot it out to the row of resting stones before firing the crackling green orb at it. The stones exploded and the cotton sparkled with glitter and green sparks, earning a gasp of appreciation from the crowd.

    Brock suddenly perked up as Lisia stood up on the stage, winking at the audience down below. Ash could swear that Brock was almost fainting when Altaria rose up and giant puffs of cotton surrounded him. Unlike Miette's appeal, however, the cotton never left Altaria's body, instead adding even more fluff to his wings and making him look far more majestic than prior to the move. Following this, as the bell rang for Sarabeth to begin her appeal, a blue shield wrapped itself around Altaria, bathing it and its cotton in brilliant light.

    "Flaaffy, Discharge!" the pink-haired girl said proudly. Flaaffy's wool lit up, brimming with electricity before shooting all over the place in a dazzling display. However, instead of making her own appeal look amazing, Ash noticed that Altaria was looking even more stunning than before with the Protect active. This seemed to dumbfound Sarabeth, who lost her attempt to make another move with Donny calling for his Spinda's Teeter Dance on Dawn's Quilava.

    "Smokescreen, Quilava!" Dawn cried proudly. Ash narrowed his eyes. That was odd for Dawn. He'd have thought she'd call for a Swift or Flamethrower to attack Spinda directly. His wonders and fears were soon allayed as Teeter Dance missed its mark, the musical notes vanishing in the smoke before stars came bursting out of the smoke, trailing it with them to reveal Quilava and striking Spinda to end its dance. The bell rang, ending the first round suddenly.

    "They were all quite skilled," Clemont noted. Ash nodded his head. It was nice to watch a Contest again, though he wondered if Serena planned to interfere with her opponents if she wasn't slated first for the next round. "Not that I know much about Contests or anything…"

    "Yeah, they were all pretty good," Ash insisted, folding his arms as he watched the pictures on the screen shuffle themselves around to reveal a different order with Dawn going first, followed by Lisia. Miette and Serena took the back two slots. Had Mr. Cecil not said the order was random, Ash would have wondered if it meant Serena had done poorly, but he knew that couldn't be the case; she was too good a Pokémon trainer for that.

    "Quilava, use Flame Wheel!" Dawn called out, this time having her Pokémon summon flames all around it. Like always, the bell immediately rang out for Lisia to also begin her appeal. Just as Quilava once more began to fire a Swift out (this time combining with the flames) Lisia chose to give her commands.

    "Ali, use Draco Meteor!" she cried cheerily, infecting the audience with all of her enthusiasm. Even Ash could find himself grinning at it, despite Dawn's surprise and Brock's overzealous attitude. Altaria reared back, still covered in fluff as the bright orange light emerged within his beak. Then it fired out in a glorious orange arc that burst off into numerous meteors, cascading down around the stage. The next coordinator was so in awe, he didn't realize it was his turn to move. Ash wondered if he and his Spinda were rookies. Some of the meteors crashed harmlessly into the ocean, but Lisia wasn't finished. "Dazzling Gleam!"

    "Altar!" Altaria cried out, bright light of brilliant colors surrounding him and then bursting. Some lights impacted with the meteors, making them sparkle in the hue of a rainbow, while others brushed Altaria's now glowing cotton away. It was truly no wonder that Serena looked up to her as a fellow Performer...or Coordinator. Even the other Coordinators were in shock, with only Mickey and his Smeargle making a move. Smeargle's attempt to sketch Dazzling Gleam didn't go over nearly as well and the luster of it was only half as, well, dazzling as Ash supposed it should be.

    "Slurpuff, Cotton Spore, one more time!" Miette commanded, making sure to not be caught in the same trap as those who had come before her. The bluenette offered a slight smirk in Serena's direction, and Ash watched the honey-blonde return it with a determined smile as the cotton puffs floated out, some looking to encroach upon Pancham. "Now, Fairy Wind!"

    "Dance on your back and use Dark Pulse!" Serena responded with her own brilliant smile as soon as the bell rang. Slurpuff was suddenly carried upwards, floating on the pink-tinged wind that carried the spores up like pieces of cotton candy. Pancham took advantage of it easily as the Dark Pulse rolled around the stage like a shining laser that hit the Fairy Wind and made it explode into beautiful sparkles, contrasted with both light and dark, once more. Serena seemed to decide that it was enough, for Pancham flipped back over and did a handstand with an Arm Thrust before landing back on two feet.

    The crowd around them cheered happily and proudly, and Ryker looked the most animated of them all. Brock was grinning and clapping in Lisia's direction while the blue-haired janitor appeared to be doodling on some kind of notepad. None of that mattered to Ash as he kept laughing and smiling. Serena was making it look so effortless.

    The faces shuffled again, with very little difference in the order: Miette, followed by Serena, then Dawn, the three other coordinators and finishing with a likely powerful act from Lisia.

    "Energy Ball barrage and Psychic!" Miette said. She looked more determined, like she was used to now making the Pokémon the stars. Slurpuff spun around quickly as a dozen or so Energy Balls hung in the air around it before being imbued with a blue glow that floated upward and then spun to make a shield around Slurpuff. Ash quickly turned to watch Serena, wondering if she'd take advantage of Miette just like last time. He was surprised to see that she didn't.

    "Use Dark Pulse on the stage," Serena cried, raising her hand to the air with a smile. She tilted her head a little and Ash locked his gaze with hers, both of their grins mirroring one another. For a single moment, as Pancham was launched into the air from the force of his glittering Dark Pulse that sent a small haze into the air, Ash forgot about that kiss on the escalator. All that mattered was that Serena was there, with her brilliant smile. Pancham flipped through the air, aiming for the ground.

    "Flamethrower!" Dawn called to Quilava. As if knowing what its trainer wanted, Quilava suddenly puffed out rings of fire. Pancham saw them, looking at Serena for a moment before tumbling through the air in a somersault, right through the rings to land upon the ground.

    "Stone Edge," Serena said positively. Pancham's hands touched the ground and the stones jutted upwards in seconds before dispersing into more glitters, this time a light blue that made the embers mixed in all the more evident. Ash watched Serena, flush with excitement, and noticed her chest falling up and down while Dawn salvaged her failed attempt at stopping Pancham with another Swift combo on the flames. She really didn't look too happy about messing the timing up.

    Glad that all three of his friends had done so well, Ash sat back with a nod as the three clear novices did their appeal with another poor attempt at Sketch, Flaaffy using Signal Beam and Thunderbolt in an unimpressive mix and Spinda doing a strange dance that did little more than put Mr. Blue-Hair to sleep until Ryker jostled him. Thankfully, Lisia was the most captivating of those remaining, firing another Dragon Pulse into the air before having Altaria use Protect. Then he soared straight up and into the Dragon Pulse. He was still quite visible but glowing with an unearthly lavender glow that continued until Altaria landed with another powerfully energetic pose from Lisia, the draconic beam dispersing around him in its usually dazzling display of color.

    "And that's a wrap!" she shouted to crowd. All around Ash, Lisia received a sudden, standing ovation from the crowd. He could admit to being surprised at the reception, but she had given a knockout of a performance. At the same time, Serena and Dawn had done just as well, at least to the point that Ash could understand why and how Lisia had picked Serena out. It was obvious that all of her performance work had led her to this. With all of the Coordinators leaving the stage, Ash and Clemont finally stood to approach their friend.

    "You guys all did great!" Ash noted, smiling at both Serena and Dawn.

    "Of course we did!" Dawn said with a thumbs up in Ash's direction. Ash wanted to hold out a hand for her to high five, but the fact she was folding her arms stopped him from doing so. Serena just nodded, her golden locks flicking back and forth momentarily. In seconds, she was suddenly pulled in towards Lisia, wearing a smile even brighter than on the stage.

    "You were both super great! Really Contest Spectacular superstars!" Lisia informed the two girls. Serena blushed faintly at the praise but said nothing. Dawn looked just a little smug, obviously happy to have received such high praise from a great Coordinator. Ash just nodded in agreement with Lisia while catching Bonnie and Viggo chatting with Miette, the Performer's eyes gleaming as she leaned down to listen.

    "All right, the judges' final scores are in!" Mr. Cecil said, tapping his cane on the surface of the stage. All of the different Coordinators turned back to the older man, bristling with a rather pompous sense of self-importance. Everyone in the area allowed him that moment of basking in his own limelight. "I'm pleased to announce those four coordinators moving onto the final round of the Contest Spectacular!"

    "Wish they could hurry it up and just tell us," Dawn muttered. Serena shook her head, obviously in a sense of agreement.

    "The four proceeding on to the final round are…Miette! Serena! Dawn! And, of course, the lovely and charming Lisia!" Mr. Cecil said. As expected, Ash heard a great cheer from the crowd behind him. Whether it was for all four of the Coordinators, or just Lisia, Ash had genuinely no idea, but he liked to believe it was for all of his friends. "All four of these Coordinators have shown exemplary skill and beauty with their Pokémon. Such a fantastic spectacle to pay witness too. As a result, they'll proceed on."

    "Great job, you guys," Clemont said with a nod, though he was looking a little nervous. Ash had to wonder why as he caught sight of deep blue waters with glimmering colors. A wide arch of a tree hung over in the distance like a willow, different sparkles like Volbeat or Illumise glistening in the area. It was quite the scene to pay witness to, and Ash realized they were almost at Rainbow Reef. No wonder Clemont was so nervous; swimming was most certainly not his forte.

    "Now, I've been informed that there will be a special rule for the final round tomorrow, but as I'm unaware of the nature of this rule, I'm not at liberty to say. Either way, I ask the final four coordinators to be here promptly and on time. That is all. Captain."

    "Er…right," Ryker said, standing hastily from his chair. Ash found it slightly humorous how dismissive they were of the Contest Spectacular; like it was a fun event, but not the main point of the cruise. Regardless, he bowed a little, adjusting the captain's hat on his head. "We have almost arrived at Rainbow Reef, site of today's activities! If you're hoping for a swim with some water Pokémon, we'll be dropping anchor for a couple hours there. Get your swim gear on! I must attend to taking over from Watchog…mostly because I'm worried he'll completely smash into the reef somehow."

    With that and a laugh, Ryker took his sudden leave. Ash glanced back over at the incoming reef, and an idea instantly came into his head.

    "Hey, let's all go swimming together. I'm sure there's lots of things we can do with the Pokémon there."

    "Pika!" Pikachu said happily, instantly diving into Ash's backpack to pull out a pair of little flippers, some goggles and a little snorkel, which he instantly attached.

    "Looks like Pikachu's ready," Brock commented. He seemed normal, evidenced most acutely by the fact that Lisia had somehow slunk off and disappeared, likely with Mr. Cecil. "I think it sounds great. I can check on the Pokémon in the reef while I'm at it. Would make for a nice project."

    "All right, how about we all meet on the deck in fifteen minutes?" Miette suggested. Bonnie and Viggo were running off as she said it, leaning against a railing with a little smirk on her face. Ash would have wondered just what they were talking about, but his stomach began to grumble.

    "Sounds like a good idea to me…I'll get us some food to go," Ash quickly acquiesced. A general murmur of agreement passed around them, and with the consensus that they would all meet back together in a quarter of an hour, Ash stretched his limbs and went straight for the dining hall. Pikachu bounded off to join Piplup, the two almost looked like twins with Pikachu decked out in his scuba gear. At the same time, Serena was walking off with a giddy smile before Ash noticed her being snatched away by Bonnie and a mischievous looking Miette. Paying no heed to it, Ash turned his mind towards food and the man who could give it to them.

    "Hey, Jasper, mind if I get a snack package for Rainbow Reef?" Ash asked, without even paying a thought to what the man could be doing. Jasper didn't jump, but looked up with a raised eyebrow as he finished throwing some food to Manectric. In the meantime, the blue-haired man returned to the back where the short man was holding the magenta-haired woman back. She seemed to be saying something about wanting to be on stage with the rest of the Coordinators, but was drowned out by the rest of Jasper's booming voice.

    "Planning a little adventure?" Jasper asked with a chuckle. "I've just the thing for you and your date."

    "Date?" Ash asked, confused by what exactly the man meant. For a moment, Jasper looked torn between amused and confused.

    "Aren't you enjoying a little day with that girl of yours?"

    "We're all going," Ash insisted. Jasper frowned a little, but then shrugged like it was none of his business. In less than a minute, however, he had prepped a small, waterproof basket of tasty delicacies.

    "Well, enjoy yourselves. And don't miss the opportunity. I hear nothing is more beautiful than Rainbow Reef at this time of year," Jasper insisted. Ash still didn't get exactly what he was saying, but chose to just indulge in the moment. He returned to his room and quickly deposited his things to change into his swim trunks, only taking the lunch basket and a towel along.

    "That was fast, Ash," Brock commented, stretching a little once the older boy caught sight of Ash on the deck. They were pretty much on top of Rainbow Reef now, and the ship was drawing into a gradual halt. "Then again, you always have been."

    "You know I like adventures," Ash said, reaching out and clasping Brock's hand. The older boy nodded as Dawn suddenly came up from behind them, slapping them both on the back.

    "That's one thing that never changes with you," Dawn admitted. "I'm surprised you haven't gone and explored the ship, yet."

    "Well, there've been a lot more interesting things so far, like…" Ash trailed off. Partially because he couldn't think of anything. Partially because Bonnie and Viggo were both dragging someone from a corridor; someone who looked slightly embarrassed. It could have been because she was being dragged along by little kids, grinning at each other, but also because she was wearing…well, more revealing clothing than Ash had really seen her in.

    "Like Serena, huh?" Brock asked, a knowing smirk on his face (though with a slight despair, or perhaps exasperation, behind his eyes). Dawn appeared to puff her cheeks at this and turned back towards the water. Ash shook his head a little, but still watched as Serena stepped out. For just a single moment, he couldn't help but stare at the girl, dressed in a light pink bikini, adorned with little frills that could only accent her innocent and cute nature. Um, what? Ash said to himself in his brain. It was like the Fennekin costume all over again. Having no idea why that popped in his head, Ash decided to stop staring at Serena, tying her short hair back.

    "You look great, Serena," Ash said, getting his mouth to start working again. Serena jolted, but smiled back. Suddenly, Ash felt himself pressed into a sandwich by both Bonnie and Viggo.

    "So, Ash, isn't Serena super cute?" Bonnie asked him. Ash would have responded, but Viggo tried to beat him to the punch.

    "Isn't that sort of a redundant question? I think you two should hang out in the water. Bonnie and me will do some exploring…though I don't care for the water. Tend to sink like a rock."

    "We'll get ourselves a Lapras," Bonnie waved off, smirking up at Ash. "Won't you please hang out with Serena?"

    "Well, I was planning to," Ash admitted, rubbing his nose a little in embarrassment. He certainly hoped the very eager little girl hadn't quite caught him staring.

    "Great," called Miette's voice from behind him. Ash jumped, freaking out a little before he felt three pairs of hands on his back pushing him forward. He stumbled, briefly catching sight of the three looking as innocent as possible before he slammed into Serena.

    "Ah! Ash!" she gasped as his head slid onto her shoulder. Another sharp memory flooded his mind, this time of the day he was sick and how he'd latched on to Serena. Only now he remembered something else that he'd forgotten in the delusion: how he'd pushed Bonnie aside and made his way straight for Serena. Some mortification filled him, but he decided to not let it show.

    "Sorry, Serena," he said, straightening himself. "I was just talking with Bonnie and…uh, well…"

    "It's okay," Serena admitted, shaking her head. "Um, do you…do you want to hang out in the water?"

    "Sure thing," Ash agreed instantly. After all, he would have asked the same exact thing regardless, so he was glad that Serena had sort of done it first. She'd come a long way from the girl who'd appeared all too tentative in asking if he remembered her. She smiled at him, that beautiful uptick of her lips entrancing Ash for just a moment. It reminded him of the question he wanted to ask. "So, Serena, I've been meaning to ask. Back in Kalos, at the airport…uh, what was that all about?"

    "Oh, that," Serena said, giving off a nervous giggle in the moment. "Um, how do I put it? It was something I needed to do."

    "Okay, but why?" Ash asked, pressing the issue a little further. Serena's cheeks reddened, and for a moment, Ash thought he had angered her by asking the question. "Sorry, I don't want to-"

    "No, no, you didn't do anything wrong, Ash," Serena told him, reassuring him that he hadn't messed up. "It's just…when I did it…well…I wasn't expecting to see you again so soon and I just…"

    "You just…?"

    Serena said the next part in a mumble under her breath, voice high and scared, "I just wanted something to remember you by…and so you could remember me."

    "Oh." It was a simple response, but Serena's answers had almost fueled more questions. "Well, it worked. There were times I couldn't stop thinking about it!"

    "R-really?" Serena asked, surprise written in the blush on her face.

    "Well, trying to figure it out and all, but now it makes sense…kinda."

    "Sorry," Serena apologized, adjusting the strap on her bikini a little. "It's kind of hard to explain."

    "That's all right. You can tell me when you want to. At least now I kinda get it," Ash admitted, putting a hand on her shoulder. She jumped, and even Ash found it odd how her skin felt underneath his fingers. She was warm, but soon relaxed into the touch.

    A loud shuddering noise soon pervaded the area and the ship shook a little, having obviously laid anchor. They had arrived at Rainbow Reef. No sooner had the ship done so than Ash caught sight of Dawn leaping up onto the railing and diving over the side. Bonnie and Viggo attempted the same, but Clemont held them both back to take the slide that was extending from the ship for them to all go safely, a Lapras waiting at the edge.

    "Come on, Serena, let's go!" Ash called out, taking his hand from her shoulder and gripping her own hand. She looked surprised but smiled back as they reached the railing. It sounded like she wanted to protest a moment, but had little time to. Ash leapt off the railing, taking Serena with them as they dived into the beautiful waters below. Plunging underneath the ocean, Ash could see Pokémon as far as the eye could see. His hand was still clasped with Serena's as they saw a pair of Luvdisc flit by, followed by a school of Basculin. Smiling, Ash swam back up with Serena and they emerged. Her hair was matted to her face, but she wore such a brilliant smile that it made her glisten in the coastal sun.

    "Ash, I think I see a pod of Wailmer over there…with Pikachu, no less," Serena giggled out. Ash looked around and saw Pikachu and Piplup atop a resting group of Wailmer, pouring out water from their spouts as the duo danced happily atop them. Ash nodded and reached for his pokeballs, tossing them into the air for Hawlucha, Noivern and Talonflame to enjoy the reef with them. Hawlucha avoided the water, but decided to rest next to a group of Shellder.

    "Hey, those look like Clamperl!" Ash pointed out, squinting into the waters below them. Not waiting for a word from Serena, Ash kept ahold of her hand and kicked forward, gliding through the water.

    "Look out!" Viggo cried out as he and Bonnie went racing past, clinging desperately to a Sharpedo that chased away some of the Corsola and Chinchou in the area. Ash pulled to an abrupt stop, Serena colliding with him before they separated. Bonnie sent a sudden wink at them as Sharpedo pulled to a sudden stop. Bonnie went flying off to land amidst the Wailmer. "Bonnie, are you okay?"

    "These Wailmer are so cute! Just like giant dolls!" Bonnie cheered happily, especially once Pikachu and Piplup jumped onto her head. Dedenne also seemed to be there, sleeping.

    "You had me worried…" Viggo breathed out, freezing up a moment. Ash figured he must have been embarrassed by Bonnie treating the Wailmer like dolls but he soon directed the Sharpedo towards Bonnie, the Brutal Pokémon smiling at the Wailmer kindly. Ash was glad Bonnie had found a friend that cared so much about her.

    "You two having fun?"

    "M-Miette?" Serena shrieked for a moment. Ash turned back, seeing Miette lazily doing a backstroke in her own purple bikini. Somehow, Ash didn't have problems seeing her in it.

    "Did you two see any Luvdisc?" Miette said with her usual little smirk. Ash still didn't understand what the smirk meant. "The rumors have it that if a couple sees a Luvdisc, they're promised everlasting romance and love."

    "Wh-what?" Serena squeaked out. "Th-that's…"

    "Isn't that just a superstition made up by those romance novel people?" Ash asked, shrugging his shoulders. Miette and Serena looked at him like he was crazy, or had grown another head. "Mom reads that weird stuff."

    "Superstition or not, there's gotta be some merit to it. Do you want to try it Ash?" Miette snickered out. Serena's body went rigid and Ash felt her move close to him.

    "W-well, as a matter of fact, Ash and I did see some Luvdisc underwater," Serena assured her rival. Miette blinked a moment and then smiled.

    "Well, good on you. But it is just a superstition." She then started laughing as she swam off, leaving Serena steaming. Ash just watched her go, slightly dumbfounded at what to say. He'd never put much stock in those kinds of things, but at the same time didn't mind if there was some "eternal love" or whatnot with Serena. He did like spending time with her, after all.

    "Why does she have to tease me like that…?" Serena asked, puffing her cheeks out in frustration. Ash had to admit, though only in his mind, it looked cuter on her than on Dawn.

    "It just means you're great friends! Now come on, let's go," Ash said, once more grabbing her hand. She relaxed into it and they continued swimming, past a fishing Brock and Clemont until they reached the spot Ash had seen the Clamperl. Then he dove underwater and Serena went with him.

    Under the clear water, Ash opened his eyes and saw the nesting Clamperl all relaxing in the water. Serena reached out to touch one, her skin rippling a little. With a flush accenting her face and cheeks, Ash thought she looked very nice, the frills of her bikini floating a bit in the water. Her fingertips grazed a Clamperl who smiled up at her and chattered a bit. Ash thought of doing the same as her, but caught sight of something next to one of the Clamperl. He reached out slowly and tentatively. The nearest Clamperl tensed, but seemed to decide he wasn't a threat, letting him take the tiny pearl nestled there.

    Ash turned around to hand it to Serena underwater when he caught sight of Dawn underneath the ocean as well. She was swimming around the edge of the ship, knocking at its hull. It was such an odd sight, especially without Piplup by her side. Occasionally she seemed to surface for air, but was otherwise wholly preoccupied. That was when Ash noticed he needed air as well and he swam up to surface. A small embankment on the reef presented itself to him when he did and he swam over, seating himself upon it. Serena joined him, shaking her wet hair.

    "Here," Ash said, holding his hand out, the pearl resting in his palm. Serena looked at it curiously. "I want you to have it. We found it together, after all."

    "Ash…" Serena's voice sounded breathless, and for a very brief moment, Ash wondered if she was going to kiss him again. Instead, she reached forward and clasped his hands, the pearl between them.

    "Then let's hold it together. It'll be ours." Ash liked the idea of that; something for only he and Serena to share. Turning back to the bulk of the reef, Ash and she sat upon it, continuing to clasp hands with the pearl between them. Even as Ash broke out lunch for them, they didn't stop, continuing on until the orange glow of the sunset began to shine over them.


    "Well, you seem happy, Ash," his mother said the next morning after they'd woken up. Like their first day on the ship, Ash and his mother hadn't intersected at all the previous day, with Delia preferring to spend her time in the pool or at a small garden they had on the ship with Mimey (turned out that the Professors' Conference had, in fact, been canceled). Ash paused for a moment, thinking to himself. He supposed he did feel happier for whatever reason. Spending the day with Serena, and getting some form of answer as to that kiss helped him to really feel lighter. Not that he minded all of his other friends, but spending some extra time with Serena was…well, refreshing.

    It helped that her face had so lit up when she clasped the pearl to her cute bathing suit when they'd separated. He hadn't seen her the rest of the evening, only catching sight of Sawyer and Gary playing a card game as they had their guard shifts, but the memory of the day was more than enough.

    "Guess I kind of am."

    "Might it have something to do with a certain girl?" his mother questioned. She wasn't subtle, though it wasn't like Ash picked up on it, rubbing the back of his head.

    "Well, I am having a lot of fun with Serena."

    "You certainly seem to be from what Brock tells me," Delia said with a singsong voice. Ash blinked a little; was talk of him and Serena just circulating everywhere around the group of people that he knew? "She looked very beautiful up on the stage during the first day of the Contest Spectacular. They asked me to be a judge again today!"

    "Oh, yeah, I guess she was," Ash admitted. Not that it needed saying. Ash had always felt Serena was beautiful, though he was perhaps thinking more about her actions than her looks or anything. She had a beautiful soul, perhaps shown best by the way that she had offered for the pearl to be something between them, rather than taking it for herself. Suddenly, Ash found his musings interrupted by his mother smothering him.

    "Oh, Ash, I'm so glad you've found a girl!"

    "Wha-? Mom, it's not like that!" Ash insisted. Delia would hear nothing of it, and only when his attempts to escape had knocked Pikachu off the bed, causing a Thunderbolt in their room, was he finally allowed free. Clemont and Bonnie were the first to see him. "Don't ask…"

    "Pi," Pikachu responded, looking just a little too pleased with himself. The Lumiose siblings didn't say a word, simply accompanying Ash to breakfast. Brock was in tears.

    "Ash, it's too horrible for words!" he moaned upon sight of his best friend, suddenly moving to cling to him. Ash was still too dazed from the Thunderbolt and into eating his breakfast to waste the energy necessary to push the older boy off. "Lisia says that she doesn't want me to judge the final day! Did I do something wrong? Was it my breath? Was I not good enough? What should I do? !"

    "Um…eat breakfast?" Ash said, genuinely confused. He didn't really get why Brock was so worked up about this, though he did have the forethought to pull his friend's chair out of the way just as Croagunk jabbed forward. Sure, Brock was used to it, but he'd taken too many Poison Jabs in the last few days to be healthy.

    "Good point! Maybe Lisia just hadn't eaten yet!" Brock said sagely as he shoveled down some eggs. Ash looked at the others, but they all appeared as clueless as he was. Or, they did for a moment, until Bonnie elbowed him.

    "Did you have fuuun with Serena yesterday?" she asked him.

    "Yeah, we had lots of fun. Can't wait to watch her compete today. She'll win it all, right?" Ash said, grinning. Bonnie looked a little disappointed, but shrugged her shoulders.

    "You're so clueless, Ash," Bonnie sighed out. He had no idea what she meant. "We're all stuck on a ship together and you still don't get it. No wonder you and Clemont are best friends…he's just as clueless. Which reminds me…I need to ask Lisia to be a keeper!"

    "Don't you dare, Bonnie!" Brock suddenly growled out.

    "I agree!" Clemont wheezed out in embarrassment. "Though likely for entirely different reasons than Brock has."

    Seeing the scary argument that this was going to turn into, Ash finished eating his breakfast and joined with Pikachu to head for the stage. He yawned a little, stretching his limbs as he saw Serena and Miette appearing to have a mock battle while they waited, dressed in full Contest regalia. Dawn was standing by herself, having Piplup practicing his best Contest moves. As Braixen created a wall of fire, Serena turned and Ash caught sight of her, the pearl from yesterday having found its way perfectly into the beads atop her head. She gave a small wave, and he waved back. She turned back to her battle and Ash watched with his hands in his pockets while the chairs began to fill in.

    Unlike the day before, it filled up much faster and with more people. Obviously, being the final day of the Contest Spectacular was attracting a lot of attention. Just like the day before, however, Ash took a seat with all of his friends in the front row, including Brock (still looking dejected…and Poison Jabbed once more). The four Coordinators made their way to the stage, brimming with confidence, and Ash noticed that even Sawyer had come to watch the event, his notebook out with a wave. Mr. Cecil, like always, stepped onto the stage.

    "Mmhmm," he cleared his throat (again, like always, Ash noticed), "welcome to the final day of the Contest Spectacular!" The crowd around them cheered, vibrating the deck significantly. "Today, we are down to only four Coordinators in what would appear to be a very simple show. The competition itself is…Contest Battles! Each Coordinator will battle it out in a two-on-two fashion! The winners of each battle will face each other for the ultimate prize! However, I've been informed that this will involve a twist: the finalists must choose a partner with which to battle from the crowd!"

    "Well, that's different…" Clemont said, adjusting his glasses a little. Lisia hopped forward on the stage before Mr. Cecil had the opportunity to explain anymore.

    "We decided on this because it's lots of fun and allows the crowd to get into the mix!" Lisia said, posing a little. Brock lit up at the mention of this, increasing all the more when Lisia pointed at him. "And that's why I'll choose to battle alongside you!"

    "Yes!" Brock hissed under his breath. Ash turned to him with a light laugh on his lips when he suddenly heard his own name being called.

    "Then I'll partner up with you, Ash." Ash held a smile, turning to who called him, in the process noticing that Miette had walked up to Sawyer (the boy having dropped his notebook). Only, he was really surprised to who it was…because it wasn't Serena who had claimed him as her partner.

    It was Dawn.



    Author's Note: I'm sure the first thought most of you might be having is "Agggh! Why didn't Serena just tell Ash she liked him?!" The simple answer: because it took a lot of courage to plant that kiss, and outright telling him might not be so easy. Still, he has some semblance of an idea now, right? Regardless, hope you enjoyed the Contest Spectacular this time, as well as the...er...rather romantic time at the reef. But what's this about Dawn? Guess you'll find out next time...and boy, is it a ride.

    potat lasaro: Poor Ash. All he wanted to do was spend some time with Serena. Although it happened, everyone else figured they would play a role in it as well. As for the end of the chapter...well...it'll make next chapter interesting. Hopefully you all like where the story is heading. Thank you for reading the chapter and enjoying it so far!

    You guys have really made this a phenomenal success for something so different from both of us! So, until next time, please Review and Dare to Be Silly.
    Dare to Be Silly!

    Ancienverse AU Fanfiction

    Love in the Time of Teamwork
    Once every seven years there was a tournament celebrating the bonds between people and Pokemon. Of course, Serena expected Ash to want to take part, but she had no idea the ways in which it would change their lives for good or ill. She was confident, however, that by the end of that week, something between herself and Ash would be different. Amourshipping.

    Remaining stories can be found in this community here.

  7. #7
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    There may be some...er...controversial things this chapter (not ridiculously so, but thought we should warn), but I just want to remind you to consider just who's writing the story. If you know us well enough...well...you might figure it out. Time for Chapter 6!


    Chapter 6

    A Display of Feelings

    Ash didn't know what to do with Dawn's request. On one hand, he really wanted to be partnered with Serena and decline Dawn's request, hoping that he could fulfill his personal promise to spend time with her. While on the other, Dawn was his best friend and it wouldn't have felt right to blow her off for someone else. Plus, he would still have an entire cruise to fulfill his promise. Standing up out of his seat, Ash nodded in agreement as Dawn smiled happily. "Sure, Dawn! It'll be just like in Sinnoh!"

    "Great! With the two of us teaming up, there's no need to worry about losing at all," Dawn replied as she wrapped her arm around his and pulled him up to the stage. Ash was taken by surprise at the move since he had been expecting their usual high five, but instead he shrugged it off.

    "This isn't how it's supposed to go at all," Bonnie muttered as she crossed her arms across her chest and frowned. "Serena was supposed to ask Ash and then they would win by working together."

    "Hey, we still have more time on this cruise, Bonnie," Viggo reminded the young girl as he placed a hand on her shoulder. "There will be plenty of time to get them to spend it all together. Right now we just need to focus on cheering for everyone."

    Standing up on the stage, Ash wasn't as excited for competing as he had been a few moments ago. He wondered just how a team made up of himself and her would have done before he looked over at Serena. He watched on as the young girl made her way over to Clemont and asked him to be her partner. He was glad that she was at least with someone she knew. Ash couldn't help but let out a small laugh when he watched Clemont stiffen up by the request only for Bonnie to push him forward and up towards the stage with a rather annoyed expression. Looking at the gathered partners, Ash found it funny how all of them were his friends. It would certainly allow for some interesting battles.

    "Uh hmmm," Mr. Cecil stated as he coughed into the microphone to gather everyone's attention. Turning to look at the older man, Ash watched as he got into the act of hosting the final round, spinning his cane around in his hand. It reminded Ash a bit of Monsieur Pierre in Kalos. "Now, for those unaware of how a Contest Battle works, both sides will have a set of points. The agenda of a battle like this isn't to defeat your opponents' Pokémon but rather have more points remaining than them at the end of five minutes. In the unfortunate event of a Pokémon fainting, then the side who still has at least one Pokémon remaining is the winner. As for the battle itself, according to Ms. Lisia, the objective is to lower your opponent's points through the use of displaying your moves and Pokémon in a creative way while also ruining your opponent's attempts to do the same."

    Pausing for a split second to place his cane back onto the stage, Mr. Cecil turned around to point towards the large screen as it turned back on. "Now, the first round matchups will be randomly selected behind me at this very moment. The two teams who win their battles will advance onto the final round to decide the winner of our wonderful and exquisite Contest Spectacular! So, let's see those matchups!" he cried out excitedly as the screen flashed the four finalists' pictures before flipping them over to blank squares. As the cards spun around, Ash knew he would have to face a friend no matter who he was matched up against and waited in anxiety to see who it would be.

    "No way!" Ash muttered out dumbly as he looked at the screen. Right in the first round it was Dawn against Serena. He couldn't help but feel a little nervous going up against Serena right away; she had improved quite a bit since heading to Hoenn. Ash also realized it meant that if he and Dawn won, they would have to face the winner of Miette and Lisia's teams. Either way, it wasn't going to be easy to win this entire competition.

    "And with that, the matchups have been decided!" Mr. Cecil stated, snapping Ash out of his thoughts. Listening to the crowd's applause, Ash knew they were just as excited as the four contestants. "But before we begin, all teams will be allowed the chance to do a wardrobe change into the outfits provided behind the stage. I mean, honestly, we can't have just the ladies dressed up here! How fair would it be to let the boys get away with not getting into the fun?" he asked as Ash could swear he heard Clemont gulp from hearing they would have to dress up as well. Ash, too, was surprised by it, but he wasn't as nervous thanks to his past experiences.

    "All teams will have roughly thirty minutes to decide upon what they'll wear for their matches before we start with the very first Contest Battle!" Mr. Cecil finished up before he took a seat down in the front row. Ash had no time to even think about what he could wear as he felt a tug on his shirt. Shortly after, he was being pulled by Dawn behind the stage.

    "Look at all these clothes back here," Sawyer could be heard saying as Ash noticed him and Miette digging through a rack of different costumes and outfits they could go with. He noticed that Lisia was already dressed in the same clothes that she used the past two rounds while Brock was already wearing a brown and green suit that made him resemble a Sudowoodo in the same way that Lisia looked like an Altaria.

    "Good luck out there, Ash. I'm looking forward to having fun battling against you," Serena said as Ash turned to see the Kalos native behind him and looking through a rack of outfits. "Though, don't expect me to go easy on you. I still plan to win this entire competition."

    Ash smiled as the two locked eyes for a moment. "I wouldn't want you to go easy! I want to see just how much you've improved," Ash answered truthfully as Dawn came around the corner carrying a few outfits.

    "I found a few ideas we could go with and I'd like you to try them on, Ash," Dawn said, pausing for but a moment. She looked up to see Serena standing there and smirked at her opponent. "Good luck out there, Serena. I hope you give it your best."

    "I will. You better be ready for it as well," Serena replied back in a friendly, but confident, tone. Ash liked hearing that tone from Serena and he smiled from it. He personally enjoyed it since it showed she wasn't as timid about her own abilities as she had been before. He wondered just how much she had gone through during her short time in Hoenn. "Let's both give it everything we've got!"

    "I plan to," Dawn answered in an overly confident tone. Ash frowned; he had noticed that she'd been using that tone all too often recently. He didn't really enjoy hearing Dawn be so confident in her abilities. Yes, she was one of the best Coordinators he had ever seen compete, but she knew better than anyone to never take something for granted. Especially a Contest. However, his thoughts were cut short when he felt an arm wrap around his waist. "As long as Ash is by my side, I know I'll never lose!" she declared as she pulled him towards her and into a lopsided hug. Pressed up against Dawn's body, Ash found himself unable to move as he could feel the warmth from Dawn's body. It was a very uncomfortable situation for him.

    His head was placed on Dawn's neck in a similar position as it had with Serena. However, in comparison it felt uncomfortable for Ash as he could feel Dawn's breath on him, tickling his hairs. It just didn't feel right for him. The entire situation just wasn't right! Dawn was his best friend! "Ash, come on, we have to get ready," Dawn sung out as she dragged him away to get ready. Looking back, Ash glanced at Serena, who was just watching in confusion at what had just happened before waving to Ash. The young boy quickly waved back as well before Serena was out of his sight.

    Sitting down in front of one of the changing booths, Dawn laid down the clothes she had planned for him. Ash knew she had already decided upon something for the both of them based on the fact that he wasn't the best when it came to a fashion sense. If it wasn't for his mother giving him new clothes before his next adventure, Ash knew he would probably still be wearing something similar to what he wore throughout his first travels through Kanto and Johto.

    "What did you have in mind for us?" Ash asked as he looked at the outfit. It looked to be like a black tuxedo of sorts, which he knew immediately was for himself.

    "I thought a formal look would be best for you. It would be something the crowd wouldn't expect at all. You in your dashing tuxedo and me in my elegant Contest outfit. We'd captivate the crowd by looking like the perfect pair," Dawn stated happily as Ash nodded in agreement. He wasn't going to argue with Dawn's idea since he had no sense for fashion at all. "Now, I need you to go and get dressed quickly. They'll be calling for us in a few minutes."

    Tossing the tuxedo at Ash, the young trainer caught it the best he could without wrinkling it and walked into the changing booth. Taking off his normal jacket and undershirt, he placed the tuxedo on and immediately didn't feel comfortable in it. He wasn't thrilled one bit about the movement restricting clothing. Sighing, he knew he had no choice, however, and quickly changed his current pants for the dress pants that came with the tux. Walking out of the changing booth, Ash could have sworn he heard someone whistling, but when he looked around he noticed Dawn was the only one around.

    "Wow, you look very handsome, Ash," Dawn replied while checking him out. The Pallet Town native then thought he could see the faintest hints of pink on her cheeks, but Ash shrugged it must have been tired from running around looking for an outfit for him. Off in the distance, the duo could make out Mr. Cecil's voice and they knew they were about to begin. "Ready, Ash?"

    "You bet, Dawn! Let's go give it our best shot and win!" Ash replied back confidently before raising his hand up real high. He wanted to start things off with their high five. Nodding in agreement, Dawn raised her hand right up next to Ash's and she clasped it with hers, holding on tight. The act surprised Ash; he was expecting their simple high five, but before he could respond, Dawn was pulling him towards the stage, a light laughter escaping from her mouth. As they approached the stage, Ash heard the sound of spectators clapping loudly in anticipation for the main event to begin. Tugging at his collar, Ash had to admit he was a little nervous to be heading out there for a Contest Battle. Had this been for a normal battle, he knew in his mind he would be more than all right.

    Walking out onto the stage (or rather dragged behind Dawn as she refused to let go of his hand), Ash saw Pikachu out in the crowd sitting next to his mother and Piplup. He signaled for the Electric type to come up onto the stage. Dawn then copied his motion as Piplup made a direct line for the stage alongside his best friend, the two of them ready to battle.

    "Clemont, don't worry about making your moves flashy. You handle what you do best and I'll make sure it looks good. Braixen, come on out!" Serena stated while taking the lead for her team. With a bright flash from her pokeball, the Fox Pokémon appeared and she landed gracefully on the stage. Nodding, Clemont allowed her to take command as he pulled at the collar of his shirt. It wasn't anything too fancy, Ash seemed to notice. Just a plain plaid, shirt.

    "Alright, Serena. I'll follow your lead and then go from there," he stated while grabbing ahold of a pokeball. "Bunnelby, I need your assistance!" he cried out as the capture device revealed none other than his trusty Normal-Type. Bunnelby appeared ready for battle, flexing his ears in anticipation.

    "As a quick reminder of the rules, the team which has the most points remaining by the end of five minutes, as per the judges' decisions, will advance onto the final round," Mr. Cecil stated happily as he pointed over towards the judges' tables. "Joining us today are Delia, a very lovely lady who helped judge on the first day. Our very own Captain Ryker, and last but not least, as a special guest judge, it's none other than our cruise's chef, Jasper!" Ash watched the three judges wave to the crowd as they soaked in the applause. Jasper appeared a little sheepish from it while both his mother and Captain Ryker laughed it off. "With that out of the way, I announce this first match to begin!"

    "Alright, Pikachu, let's start off with a Quick Attack on Bunnelby!" Ash called out as he tried to swing his arm forward, only to be unable to due to Dawn still holding his hand. The lack of motion annoyed him a little. He usually enjoyed getting into his commands, but decided it was best to not bother Dawn during the battle. He would just have to tell her to not do this next round.

    "Piplup, provide some cover with a Bubble Beam attack as well! Make it like a pathway for Pikachu!" Dawn cried out happily as the Penguin Pokémon opened his mouth real wide. Letting out a sound of chirps, a barrage of bubbles shot out to cover the field.

    "Pika!" Pikachu cried out as he leapt onto a few of the bubbles. Sturdy enough to jump on, the Electric Mouse Pokémon hopped across the balloon-like bubbles as a white light trailed behind his body. The Bubble Beam began to pop behind him, the water remnants sparkling from the white light Pikachu left behind him. Then, with one swift movement, the Electric type dove off of one of the bubbles and rammed his entire body right into Bunnelby.

    The Normal type skidded to a stop only a few feet away from Clemont as Ash watched his opponents' bar drop by a few points It wasn't a lot, he thought, but it was a start. However, Ash's thinking was interrupted as Serena's voice cut through to him. "Alright, Clemont, now's our chance! Braixen, use Flamethrower!"

    "Piplup, block that attack with another Bubble Beam!" Dawn countered as she threw her free hand forward and grit her teeth together. Ash wondered if she was upset he had fallen into such a simple trap.

    "Pip! Luplupluplup," Piplup cried out as another round of Bubble Beam erupted from his mouth and collided with the encroaching Flamethrower attack. The two elemental moves crashed into each other and steam formed from them, covering the field in a light mist.

    Ash tried to watch on in anticipation, but the mist made it impossible for him to see anything. Or, at least, it did until Clemont issued a Wild Charge attack. An electrically charged Bunnelby was then slightly viewable before the Digging Pokémon rammed himself hard into Pikachu. He didn't stop there however, instead continuing on until both Pikachu and Piplup were caught in his attack. Both Ash and Dawn could only watch as their Pokémon felt the electricity surge through them. Pikachu, however, was able to recover quickly as he stood back up.

    "Quick, launch a Thunderbolt attack at Bunnelby while he's still in the air," Ash called out happily before stealing a quick glance at the screen. Their total amount of points lost was just under a fifth; still enough to now trail Serena and Clemont.

    Pikachu followed through on the order as his entire body surged with electricity before concentrating it towards a single point on his body. Once ready, the Electric type let his attack fly up into the sky.

    "Here it comes, Bunnelby, brace yourself!" Clemont warned his partner. The order confused Ash. He had been expecting Clemont to try and counter his attack, if not dodge it completely, so seeing Bunnelby take the electrical blast head on was a shocker for him. It was especially confusing as they lost a few points. That was, until he saw Serena smiling. However, it was different to Ash; it seemed she had been expecting a situation like this to happen. Looking over at Piplup, Ash realized that the Water-Type still hadn't recovered from that Wild Charge attack and Pikachu was now an easy target.

    "Braixen!" Serena cried out as she raised an open palm up towards the sky, a smile crossing her face. "Launch off a Fire Blast and then follow it up with a round of Hidden Power!"

    "Braixen, brai," the Fire-Type yelled back before she danced around the stage while twirling her wand. This alone caused Ash and Dawn to lose some points, and that was before the large five pronged fire attack came right for Pikachu. However, five smaller orbs of energy appeared to fire out from Braixen's wand and circle around the Fire Blast. The effect of doing so lit up the Fire Blast in multiple different colors and caused their points to drop to just above half now.

    "That was a great combo, Serena!" Ash called out as the blast exploded on Pikachu and caused the Electric Mouse Pokémon to land on the stage with a soft thud thanks to landing on his feet. "And, Clemont, that was smart to lure me into an attack to leave Pikachu wide open!" Smiling, Ash flinched for a second as the feeling of nails dug into his skin. Glancing down at his hand, Ash noticed that Dawn had apparently tightened her grip, now apparently nervous of the outcome of this match.

    "Alright, Dawn, now it's our turn to show them what we can do!" Ash reassured her with his trademark smile. Ash noticed that her grip loosened up after that to the point where he could wrestle his hand out from her grasp and move it freely. "Follow my lead and I know we can win. Pikachu, run right for Braixen with a Quick Attack!"

    "Piplup, follow right behind him with a Drill Peck!" Dawn issued as she threw her hands across her body. Pikachu broke off into a lightning fast sprint as the usual white light that trailed his body now encased Piplup and hid him from the others while he ran just behind Pikachu.

    "Pika, pika, pika, pika, pika," Pikachu continued to cry out as he raced across the stage. Looking at the time left, Ash saw that it was now getting to about a minute and they needed to make up some ground. Following the combination move landing on Pikachu, their points had dropped to under half while Serena and Clemont still had three-quarters of their own remaining.

    Waiting until Pikachu got in close enough, Ash then threw a fist forward and he issued the second part of his command. "Quick, jump onto Braixen's branch and use it as a springboard! Then use Thunderbolt on the entire stage!"

    "Pika!" Pikachu yelled in agreement. He stopped sprinting and instead leapt high on to Braixen's branch. Catching the Fox Pokémon by surprise, Pikachu managed to distract her long enough to let Piplup crash right into Braixen and knock her straight into Bunnelby.

    "That was perfect, Ash!" Dawn cried out as they both looked at their remaining points. It was almost neck and neck: Ash and Dawn were just behind Serena and Clemont and both sides knew it was coming down to the wire. With only thirty seconds left, Dawn felt like making a move despite Ash having just issued a rather risky Thunderbolt command. "Piplup, wash them all away with a Whirlpool attack!"

    "Dawn, not now!" Ash cried out in surprise as the proud Water type lifted his arms above his head and started to form a rather large and impressive collection of water that soon turned into a whirlpool formation. Water swirled around in the collection before taking on the shape of a giant spinning top. Unfortunately, it was at this moment that Pikachu fired off his Thunderbolt. And instead of heading for Braixen and Bunnelby, the attack veered off course and straight for the drenched Piplup.

    "Pika!" Pikachu cried out in concern but it was too late. The electrical attack crashed right into Piplup and electrified him to the point that it made him lose concentration with the Whirlpool attack, dropping it on himself.

    The mistake had cost the duo quite the amount of points, with them being down to about a fifth of their total points. The clock rang, signaling the end of the match. Everyone was speechless as Pikachu landed back on the stage with a sad expression. Ash knew it wasn't Pikachu's fault at all; they just had bad timing.

    "Piplup, are you okay?" Dawn asked while gently lifting the blackened Piplup up into her arms. The poor Water type had been hit hard by the attack and cost them the match. If he landed the Whirlpool attack, it would have knocked Serena and Clemont's points down to under theirs.

    "Pip...Piplup," he managed to wheeze out before Pikachu patted him on the back. Ash smiled at the action as it showed just how close of friends the duo really were. Had it been any other Pokémon, Piplup may have grown upset at them. Fighting his way out of Dawn's arms, Piplup stood up with his own strength while Mr. Cecil made his way up onto the stage to get the competition moving again, obviously wanting to stay on schedule.

    "Well, that was quite the interesting conclusion if I do say so," he joked as a few members of the crowd laughed while those who wanted Dawn to win glared slightly. Ash could tell they were not amused by the outcome at all. "Well, um, yes, anyways," Mr. Cecil stumbled through his words before calming down once more. "The next match will take place in just a few minutes. You won't want to miss it since the young and talented Ms. Lisia will be battling it out. And if it's like the last few rounds for her, it'll be quite the show. So, grab a snack from one of our three talented workers!"

    Turning to his left and in the direction that Mr. Cecil pointed in, Ash noticed that the three cooks (or janitors, he wasn't really sure by this point of the cruise) were busy preparing meals and snack orders with a station having been set up on the main deck so that no one would miss the final round of the Contest Spectacular. Hearing his own stomach grumble slightly, Ash decided it was best to go and grab a quick snack before their group's dinner celebration. Making his way over, Ash lost sight of the others as they all quickly took any open seats they could find, Pikachu joining Piplup, in particular, to watch the next match that was beginning. Waiting in line, Ash watched the match, himself. Lisia and Brock had chosen Ali and Sudowoodo, respectively, while Miette and Sawyer (who was dressed in a chef's outfit, much to Ash's amusement) went with Slurpuff and Sceptile.

    Truthfully, Ash didn't care as much for this matchup, since he had a feeling as to who would win and he certainly didn't have a good feeling for Miette and Sawyer. While waiting in line, Ash watched on with half-interest as Ali easily avoided the speedy Sceptile and his constant barrage of Dragon Claw and Leaf Blade attacks. It seemed like no matter what they tried, neither Slurpuff nor Sceptile could land a blow. At this rate, Ash knew their points wouldn't last for long. Already, he noticed that their points' bar had dropped by at least a quarter of their total amount due to the constant misses. It was now his turn to order as he heard Brock's voice call out a command.

    "Sudowoodo, use Double Edge now! Aim right for Sceptile!" With that order, the Rock type lowered his shoulder and sprinted right at the Forest Pokémon, who was panting from exhaustion. Ash could tell that Sawyer was surprised by the speedy movements from Altaria and it had ruined his entire plan as Sceptile, who was too tired to dodge, was smacked hard by Sudowoodo.

    "This isn't good at all!" Miette cried out nervously as everyone watched their points drop to below half. The entire battle was one sided and Lisia hadn't even issued a command besides dodging.

    "Brock, dear," Lisia began to say as her partner turned towards her, hands clasped together as he looked at her happily. "Do you mind giving us a hand here? Have Sudowoodo use Mimic right when I issue my first and last attack. Okay?" she asked while winking at the Pokémon doctor. He immediately nodded his head up and down excitedly. Ash assumed everyone was surprised that Lisia believed she could win in one move, based on their rather shocked expressions.

    Grabbing his food from the three cooks, he quickly turned around in time to see a majestic Dragon Pulse shoot up high into the sky and within seconds was joined by another one produced by Sudowoodo's Mimic attack. The two Dragon Pulse attacks appeared to combine together as they intertwined in the air before crashing down, right into Sceptile and Slurpuff. Although the Fairy-Type was unaffected, Sceptile had been knocked out from the attack, a site that truly shocked Ash since Sceptile had given him one of his hardest fights ever back in Kalos.

    Lisia is something else. She managed to overpower Sceptile by drawing it into attacking. But really, she only had him tire himself out...so that when she attacked it would only take one blow, Ash thought to himself as the buzzer went off. Though the time limit hardly mattered at that point since upon Sceptile fainting, Miette and Sawyer's points were reduced to zero. All that while Lisia and Brock's had stayed at full. Making his way back to his seat, Ash watched as Miette seemed to huff a little before sitting down next to Bonnie and Viggo, obviously upset over her performance in the final round. Sawyer, meanwhile, was already gone and Ash assumed he had left to switch with Gary to guard the artifact.

    Sitting down in between Dawn and Viggo, Ash watched as the two remaining teams made their way up onto the stage to bring the final round of this Contest Spectacular to a close. Dawn seemed to shift a little closer to him, but he ignored it, focusing on the upcoming battle. He had been expecting a break of sorts for Lisia, but it seemed like the Coordinator wanted to keep it moving. Ash was both surprised and happy to see that despite going up against Lisia, Serena didn't appear that nervous. She still carried a slight degree of nerves, of course, as he watched her grab ahold of the large red ribbon on her dress before letting out a sigh, but it was nothing compared to how anyone else in her situation would have reacted. Waiting for the four to choose their Pokémon, Ash wasn't surprised in the least when they all chose the same ones they used in the previous battles.

    "Serena, dear, I've been looking forward to facing you again. It's been so long since Altaria and I have battled you. We want to see how much you've grown," Lisia said while placing one hand on her hip and the other in the air. "But no matter what, always remember to have fun!"

    "Of course, that's what's important. Having fun with your Pokémon while helping to spread smiles to everyone watching along. Our job is to help out those in rough times by providing even the slightest amount of joy and happiness through our performances," Serena replied as Braixen spun her branch around in her hand, obviously waiting for a command.

    "Well, now that that's out of the way, it looks like this final matchup of the Contest Spectacular is about to begin!" Mr. Cecil declared before sprinting off of the stage. As soon as he did so, both Bunnelby and Sudowoodo collided, a Wild Charge meeting with Double Edge, both sides losing points from the initial clash.

    "Your Bunnelby has been raised really well. I can tell just by the electrical output that you two have put a lot of time into mastering it," Brock stated as Altaria flew into the sky and started to perform a dance of sorts. Looking at the screen, Ash noticed that Serena's points dropped ever so slightly. Unlike Sawyer, Ash knew Serena wouldn't be baited into fighting Altaria and he was proven right as she went after Sudowoodo instead.

    "Braixen, use a Flamethrower to give Bunnelby some room! Then follow it up with a Fire Blast attack!" Serena commanded as Braixen jumped backwards while twirling her wand. Neither side looked ready to back down at all and the match was just starting to heat up based on the crowd's approval of it.

    "Brai...Braixen!" The Fox Pokémon cried out with all her might as a jet stream of fire erupted from her branch and slammed into Sudowoodo, knocking Lisia's points down by a sliver. The Rock type was momentarily caught off guard by the attack and it gave Bunnelby all the room he needed to burrow underneath the ground and get away.

    "Sudowoodo, block the Fire Blast by using Hammer Arm on the ground!" Brock quickly called out. His trusty Pokémon smashed his glowing arm down onto the ground. Raising up a part of the stage to create a shield for himself, Sudowoodo managed to block the powerful Fire type attack and lower Serena and Clemont's points by a small margin.

    Now's our chance, Bunnelby!" Clemont called out as the Digging Pokémon reemerged from underneath the stage. Jumping upwards, Bunnelby spread his ears nice and wide and Clemont issued a Mud Shot attack that rained down nice and hard onto Sudowoodo covering his face in mud.

    "Ooh, ooh, ooh, that was a wonderful combo. Using Dig to keep Bunnelby hidden until the right time. Sweetie, you should be a Coordinator," Lisia stated as Altaria flew straight down and next to Sudowoodo. Clemont rubbed the back of his head out of embarrassment for the compliment as Ali offered a few of his feathers and helped to clean Sudowoodo off so that he could see. "But you'll need to do better than that to beat me! Dragon Pulse!"

    "Tariaaaa!" The Dragon and Flying type screeched out as a large draconic shaped beam fired from Altaria's beak. Launching into the sky, the attack appeared larger than what they had used against Miette and Sawyer and both Clemont and Serena seemed to worry slightly as Ash watched them gulp.

    "It's so large," Clemont mumbled out as he took a step back. Ash knew that the size of the attack alone had dropped Serena's points and the screen affirmed that as they had dropped to roughly half of the original amount. "There's no way we can block something like that!"

    "Clemont!" Serena called out as everyone saw her determination while staring down the incoming blast. Ash had to admit, she looked unwavering despite the attack, and he smiled at the sight. "We can't panic, otherwise it's all over. Braixen and I can stall the attack, but I need you to have Bunnelby use Dig."

    Clemont just nodded in approval as he listened to Serena's orders. Calling out the command, Bunnelby quickly spun like a drill before burrowing underneath the ground to hide from the Dragon Pulse. Looking over at Braixen, Serena smiled at her partner and the Fox Pokémon twirled her wand.

    "Alright, start off with Fire Blast and aim it right for the Dragon Pulse! Put everything you have into it, Braixen!" Serena called out as the Fire type called out in agreement. "Then, add Hidden Power to it, just like we've been working on!"

    "Serena, a technique we've seen before from the last round won't surprise us much," Lisia pointed out as the two smiled at each other. As they did so, everyone watched on while Braixen did a few flips around the stage and launched off a majestic Fire Blast. The attack shined brightly from the scenery behind it. "Even with an attack of that proportion you'll need something else to stop Ali."

    "Who says it's the same combination?" Serena asked as Braixen finally fired off the Hidden Power attack. Three clear spheres of energy shot upwards and right into the Fire Blast, causing it to glow brighter, and even enlarge itself. The two attacks now collided and caused a stalemate before exploding.

    "The power behind a combination like that is amazing," Brock muttered as he covered his face from all the incoming dust. "She had no plans to actually beat the attack but to just cancel it out. But if that's the case, why have Bunnelby use Dig?" Brock asked as both teams had their points drop. However, right as he realized the reasoning, the ground beneath Sudowoodo gave way and out came Bunnelby, the Normal type launching Sudowoodo up into the air with ease. Watching on, Ash noticed Lisia's points had dropped even more from Serena's counterattack and then Bunnelby's Dig.

    "Perfect timing, Bunnelby," Clemont praised his ever reliable partner as the Digging Pokémon landed on the field with a soft thud and watched a now flailing Sudowoodo fly upwards. "I had a feeling once Serena told me to use Dig what her plan was, so we went ahead and finished it off. Now we'll finish this match! Bunnelby use Mud-Shot!"

    "Braixen, merge it with your Hidden Power!" Serena joined in as the two friends nodded in agreement. Ash also nodded from his spot. Their idea to send Sudowoodo into an uncomfortable area worked. The Rock type was useless up in the air, and now Lisia and Ali were forced between saving Sudowoodo or attacking back. It really was a perfect plan.

    "Brai!"

    "Bunnel!"

    The two Pokémon fired off their spherical moves as they quickly circled around each other and formed a rather stunning light show, the combination shining around the entire stage and even causing Lisia's points to drop a little, as well. The amount of points were neck and neck, Serena and Clemont had roughly a quarter left while Lisia and Brock were just above a fifth. They needed to land this and they needed to do it quickly since Ash noted that the timer had just dropped to under one minute remaining.

    "You two have shown me just how much talent is really out there in the world of Coordinating," Lisia spoke up as she started a small applause for her opponents. "Serena, I've known you for a while now, but your partner there has been able to work seamlessly with you and it's brought some joy to me as not only a famous idol, but as a Coordinator. I hope we have a chance to do this again real soon," she spoke, almost as if she knew this was the end. Ash wasn't sure why she would start assuming it since this wouldn't be enough to finish off either side. Yet, he had a bad feeling with how this was all going.

    His feelings were soon proven correct as Ali flew right in front of the incoming orb and glowed blue as a shield formed around his body. Lisia's voice could be heard issuing a Protect and Ash now understood why she talked like that. Looking at the screen, Serena's points were now under a tenth of what she originally had and her team couldn't risk any more slip ups.

    "And now, give us your dazzling display of Draco Meteor, Ali!" Lisia's voice sang out and her partner chirped in agreement. He quickly opened his beak as the large orange light soon formed before launching off into a huge arc. Bursting at its apex, the orb turned into multiple orange streams as both Bunnelby and Braixen barely avoided them.

    "Quickly, both of you hide underground!" Serena called out as both Bunnelby and Braixen (much to the latter's discontent about getting her fur covered in dirt) jumped down one of the multiple holes left over from Bunnelby's use of Dig.

    "It won't work this time, Serena," Brock's voice could be heard over the crashing Draco Meteor and Serena looked up to see Sudowoodo straightened out and soaring right for the ground. "Hammer Arm!"

    "Sudo!" the Imitation Pokémon cried out in an obedient fashion. Raising his right arm up over his head, Sudowoodo waited as the appendage began to glow before moving it forward again. Slamming it right into the stage at the same time as he landed, Sudowoodo sent out shockwaves that forced his two opponents out of their hiding place.

    "That's it! Stop the battle!" Mr. Cecil declared while running out onto the stage. It was such a sudden ending, yet everyone knew what had happened. The screen had changed and was now showing just Lisia's face on it, much to Ash's disappointment. He had wanted Serena to win so badly, yet she had given it her best shot and that was all he could ask for. "With that last move by Brock, the team of Serena and Clemont lost all of their remaining points and have been eliminated! And so, with all my honor, I'm ecstatic to announce the winners of our Contest Spectacular are Lisia and Brock!"

    "Oh, we did it, Brock! I knew picking you would be the best choice," Lisia stated happily as she pulled the doctor into a quick hug. Even if it lasted for just a few short seconds, Ash could tell that Brock was beyond excited as his entire face was red and his mouth had the largest grin on it that Ash had ever seen from him. It appeared that his friend didn't know how to respond and instead he made his way over to the center of the stage where Lisia and Mr. Cecil were already standing, mumbling some incoherent noises.

    "And now, since this was just an exhibition, there is no trophy or ribbon for the winners. But, we do have a special prize of a sunset dinner for two up on the main deck for you," Mr. Cecil declared happily. Ash watched Brock a moment. He looked ready to pass out from the news, since it would allow him an entire evening with just Lisia.

    "Oh, that prize isn't needed now, Mr. Cecil," Lisia replied with a quick smile. Taking the microphone from his hand, Lisia made her way right to the front of the stage and waved to all those watching. "Instead, all of those who competed the past few days are invited to a dinner up on the main deck!"

    The remaining Coordinators let out an excited cry as instead of the small group dinner being held inside the dining hall, they were now going to have a dinner outside on the main deck with Lisia herself. Brock, however, wasn't as excited as Ash could have sworn the older man had tears going down his face from his disappointment. It seemed to Ash that every time Brock had a chance, it always got stolen from him. Laughing to himself about the situation, Ash caught sight of Serena, who was talking happily with Lisia. A light blush was on her face and Ash was happy to see her still so cheerful even after losing. She gave it her all, and even in the face of defeat she fought on to the end. Ash liked that about her: she never backed down and she never gave up.

    The rest of the afternoon was uneventful for the most part since the group couldn't do much. Brock had left to go help Nurse Joy until dinner and the main deck was closed off as the staff were busy dismantling the stage and getting tables and chairs all set up for the dinner tonight. Even Serena, Dawn and Miette were gone since Lisia had dragged them away to spend, as she put it, "girl time" with her fellow final four. Ash didn't know what she meant by that, but now it left him, Clemont, Bonnie and Viggo by themselves to pass the time, after they had changed, of course.
    *Chapter to be continued in next post...
    Dare to Be Silly!

    Ancienverse AU Fanfiction

    Love in the Time of Teamwork
    Once every seven years there was a tournament celebrating the bonds between people and Pokemon. Of course, Serena expected Ash to want to take part, but she had no idea the ways in which it would change their lives for good or ill. She was confident, however, that by the end of that week, something between herself and Ash would be different. Amourshipping.

    Remaining stories can be found in this community here.

  8. #8
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    Chapter continued from last post.

    Making their way to an open part of the deck, the small group sat down at a table. Clemont began to tinker at his latest invention while Bonnie and Viggo watched the wild Pokémon in the sea pass by them. Piplup seemed to have separated from Dawn and was gambling about the deck with Pikachu and Dedenne. Ash wasn't even sure what he wanted to do. Looking around he noticed a few trainers over on the battlefields, but it didn't interest him today, something that even Bonnie pointed out as shocking. Instead, he decided to lay down on one of the lounge chairs and quickly fell asleep as he waited for dinner that night.

    Hours passed by, and Ash was unaware of the time that passed by around him. Finally, though, he felt someone nudging him to get up and he slowly opened his eyes to see Dawn standing over him with her hand on his chest.

    "Hey, sleepy head, time to get up," she said sweetly with a small smile. He wondered why Dawn was here and where everyone else had gone off to, but she quickly answered his question. "You're late for the dinner. I was on my way to the bathroom to freshen up when I saw you sleeping and decided to wake you up. I can't let my partner miss out on our dinner."

    Ash was confused by her wording; what did she mean by "our dinner"? He thought everyone was going to be there. Before he could even speak, though, she quickly ran a hand through his hair and ruffled it lightly while moving closer to him. Slowly, her hand slid down the side of his face and rested on his cheek as she held it softly.

    "You know, I really enjoyed being your partner today. Even if we lost, I still had a lot of fun battling beside you, Ash. I wouldn't trade that experience today, even for the victory," she said in a soft tone before moving her hand from his cheek. Putting her hands behind her back, the Sinnoh native gave Ash a light wink as he could have sworn her cheeks had a slight tinge of pink again. "I'll see you in a little, Ash!" she sung out happily while walking away. Ash couldn't help but think that was odd. Dawn had never acted in that manner before and he wondered if she was trying to mess with him in a way.

    Shrugging it off, Ash put his hat back onto his head and made his way down towards the main deck. As he did so, music and chatter could be heard the closer he got. Streamers and balloons filled the area as some of the staff workers scrambled around, making sure everything was all set. Looking around the area, Ash soon caught sight of his friends at one of the tables. It looked packed considering there was only one chair left. Making his way over, Ash waved to his mother who was sitting at a table with Mr. Cecil and Captain Ryker, the three of them having conversations about the Contest Spectacular.

    "There you are, Ash," Serena said as Ash sat down in between her and Clemont. Pikachu greeted him from the tabletop and Ash suddenly realized how he'd lost track of his best buddy, but he shrugged it off. Across the table, Ash noticed that Bonnie and Viggo were whispering about something. Ash frowned; he had recently come to the conclusion that those two were no good when together. Ignoring it for the time being, Ash turned his attention back to Serena, who was smiling at him. "We didn't know where you were at. But, we all knew you wouldn't miss a meal."

    "You've got that right," he replied back quickly as his stomach let out a light rumble. Everyone, including Ash, laughed at the fact his stomach had reassured both Ash and Serena that he wouldn't miss a meal.

    "I heard tomorrow we'll be stopping at the site of some old ruins following the opening of the Tag-Battle Tournament," Sawyer spoke up as everyone turned to look at him. Ash assumed that these ruins must have interested his rival since he had become Steven Stone's assistant. "They're called the Temple Baca. I've never heard of it so it'll be a great chance to study them and learn about their history. Gary plans on taking the shift while we're there...though I might have to skip the Tag-Battle Tournament to do it."

    "It sounds like a perfect place to explore with someone," Bonnie said while smirking at Ash. The young trainer tried to ignore the grin as he looked in a different direction only for his eyes to meet the smirking grin of Viggo.

    "I agree, Bonnie. They say it's an excellent place to take someone on a nice walk through the ruins," the young boy went along as Ash decided it was best to just ignore the both of them. For some reason, his brain kept telling him that they were always up to no good when together. Instead, Ash turned his attention to the bowl of soup that the blue-haired cook had just placed in front of him. Taking his first bite, Ash really enjoyed the food and went right for his second spoonful only for a voice to interrupt him.

    "It looks like we're one chair short," Dawn's voice stated sadly. Everyone looked at her. Ash appeared confused by the fact she was dressed differently than when she had woken him up. Gone were her usual clothes, replaced with a white dress that reminded Ash of the one she had worn in the Hearthome Collection, only this one was shorter. Even her hair was done differently. Gone were the hair clips and now her hair ran straight down her back. Ash wondered why she dressed up like how she did at the Hearthome Collection but shrugged it off. "I'll just go and pull up another chair. Ah...ah, ah!" Dawn cried out as she turned away from the table to go and grab a chair only to lose her balance. Swinging her arms around to try and keep her balance, Dawn soon found herself falling backwards and right onto Ash's lap while placing her hands around his neck.

    Ash felt slightly embarrassed by the situation due to how close the duo were once more, but Dawn continued to keep her arms wrapped around his neck while gazing into his eyes. He had no clue as to what she was up to and believed that she was waiting for help. Moving his body, Ash helped Dawn sit up straight up straight and she removed her hands from his neck. "Are you alright, Dawn? You seemed to lose your balance there. You can have my seat; I'll go get another one. This way you won't fall again," Ash offered as he tried to stand up, only for Dawn to stop him.

    "That's very sweet of you, Ash," she began to say while running a finger across his chest and smiling at the boy. "But, I'm fine just the way we are. I was just feeling a little lightheaded. I'd feel a lot better if I stayed here with you by my side."

    "Uh...sure, Dawn. If it helps you feel better," Ash answered in a hesitant tone. He didn't want to be rude to his best friend, but this was starting to feel like just a little too much even for him, even if he didn't say anything. It was then he felt her entire body pressed up against his as she moved closer to him, sitting completely on his lap. Watching her snuggle into him (for a lack of a better description in his brain), Ash couldn't help but feel uncomfortable with this.

    "Thank you, Ash," Dawn replied back softly while continuing to sit comfortably with Ash. The others decided to ignore what was happening altogether, looking away with embarrassment as they went back to their own meals. Meanwhile, Dawn continued to watch Ash as he did his best to eat his meal, making sure not to spill it on Dawn.

    "Here, let me help you, Ash," Dawn offered as she took ahold of his soup spoon and began feeding him, herself. Once more Ash noticed that her cheeks were slightly pink as she did so and he couldn't help but wonder why. They reminded him of when Serena's cheeks would turn pink and he wondered if the two events were similar. "Oh, Ash, you should be more careful," Dawn chided him as he closed his mouth too soon and the soup splashed against his face. Licking her thumb, Dawn ran it across his lip, washing away the traces of the spilt soup before rubbing the side of his face slowly. "I'll be back in a few minutes. I just need to go and grab something to drink," she stated while getting up slowly. As she did so, her hair flew in the breeze and passed by Ash's noise, the slight hint of perfume filling his nostrils. Ash coughed a little at the scent. As she walked away, Ash and the others just watched in confusion as they all wondered what was up with her.

    "Alright, Ash, as your longest friend here, you have to tell me what's going on between you and Dawn. Is there something you've been wanting to tell us?" Brock stated as he placed his hands onto the table, an almost interrogative expression on his face. That's what I'd like to know, Ash thought to himself, but figured that responding with an "I don't know" wouldn't be the best thing to do.

    Shrugging his shoulders, Ash figured he would answer with the only thought he had since Dawn first woke him up. "I think she's a little upset from losing this afternoon. I mean, she's been doing all this stuff to make me really uncomfortable, just to get back at me for Pikachu shocking Piplup today. I mean, I know she's not that petty, but I think she really wanted to impress Lisia, and couldn't, so she's holding it against me by doing this stuff to annoy me. And it's working. She's my best friend, be it's been really uncomfortable with some of the things she's been doing today."

    "Maybe you should go and tell her that. If she's really your best friend then she'll back off," Miette proposed, looking at Serena for the briefest of moments. Ash nodded slowly, taking a liking to the idea. Perhaps if he offered to do something for her then she would stop acting this way.

    Ash decided that perhaps Miette's advice was best and he slowly pushed his chair out before standing up. "I think I'm going to go and talk to her. See if I can get her to stop all of this," Ash told everyone as he turned towards the area with the drinks. Standing there with a plastic cup was Dawn as Jasper poured one of his many beverages into her cup. Walking over to her, Ash grabbed his own cup and poured a beverage of his own.

    "Pretty thirsty as well, I see, Ash," Dawn said while patting his arm before gripping it with her hand. "You must get exhausted all the time from how much you work out with your Pokémon. These muscles of yours didn't just appear overnight."

    Letting out a nervous chuckle, Ash moved backwards until Dawn's hand was removed from his body and gave her a small smile as her own turned into a frown. "There...there was actually something I needed to talk to you about, Dawn. And, it's pretty important. Do you mind if we talk somewhere... a little more private?" he said while grabbing ahold of her hand, unaware of the small squeak of joy that came from Dawn as he did so. Making their way across the boat, the duo found themselves in a secluded area as Ash let out a deep sigh.

    "So... What did you want to ask me, Ash?" Dawn asked playfully as she batted her eyes and moved closer to him. The sun was now setting and a few passengers had already called it a night following the busy Contest Spectacular. "Because I have a question for you as well."

    "Well, you see, Dawn," Ash began to say as the Coordinator cut him off by placing her finger over his lips, forcefully pressing into them as he felt a slight pain.

    "Shh, you don't need to say anything, Ash," she told him while smiling at the Pallet Town native. "Let's just stand here and enjoy the sunset in silence first. Alright?" She asked before quickly forcing his arm around her. Pulling herself closer to him, Ash felt as though this talk wasn't going in the direction he had hoped and noticed that Dawn was now pressed against his chest once more as she leaned her head against it.

    "Dawn, this can't wait! This is serious!" he managed to shout out while removing her from his body. His best friend appeared to be slightly hurt from this action, but he ignored it to make sure he could get his message across. "It's about all of this. What you've been doing all day. I know you're doing it to get back at me a little for how our battle ended today, and failing to impress Lisia. But, if you'll stop I'm willing to do anything."

    "Anything?" Dawn asked playfully as her eyes looked almost sultrily at Ash. He didn't like this look, as he figured she was going to make him do something embarrassing, like dressing up in one of her old Contest outfits. "Well, I think I've got an idea for something."

    "You do? That's great, just let me know what it is and I'll do it," Ash answered while Dawn just smiled at him. Signaling for him to come closer so that she could whisper it to him, Ash was caught off guard as she moved towards him as well with puckered lips. Unable to stop himself, the two trainers' lips met and Dawn continued to push forward while pulling Ash towards her. Finally able to pull away, he did so with a confused expression settling on his face and an old memory playing back in his mind. The sound of passengers in the background rang through his head as honey-blonde hair danced before his face and the sight of Serena approaching him made him subconsciously smile.

    "That was what Serena did to me..." Ash muttered with that same delirious smile as he continued to picture the kiss with Serena, unaware that Dawn was now fuming.

    "What? ! Ash Ketchum, are you going to ignore everything between us because of some...some girl? !" Dawn cried out angrily as she pushed him further away from her. Ash wondered what he did that made Dawn so upset. After all, he had done what she asked him to. She should have been treating him like prior to the Contest Spectacular now.

    "Dawn, wait up!" Ash cried out as he followed after his best friend, noticing that they were headed right near the artifact. "Dawn, you'll always be my best friend. I would never do anything to hurt you, never!"

    "You don't get it at all, Ash! You're just as dense as you were in Sinnoh and you'll always be! I don't know how much more obvious I can make it for you!" Dawn yelled out as a few tears formed in her eyes before she wiped them away. "And all you think about now is Serena!"

    "What is going on out here? !" Gary yelled as both Ash and Dawn slightly jumped at his question. To Ash, it looked as though Gary hadn't slept since before the battle they had yesterday and he was in dire need of some rest and fast. His hair was drooped and lacked its usual shape while the bags underneath his eyes had their own bags and it was a miracle that he was even still awake. "It might be early for the two of you, but some people on the ship would like some sleep, as much as we can get having the change shifts every couple of hours. I know as soon as Sawyer comes back, I'll be resting and I would greatly appreciate it if you two don't ruin it for me! You two are best friends, so whatever is causing this, figure out a way to stop it and soon. Otherwise you'll have a very tired and cranky Gary to put up with."

    Turning towards Dawn, Ash smiled at her as she too slowly formed a smile. "Gary's right Dawn, there's no need for you to be upset over anything. You'll always be my best friend and no one can ever replace you. We've had too many memories to lose our special bond."

    "I-I'm...sorry, Ash. I guess it's been so long since I last saw you and I couldn't help myself. I saw your new friends and got worried. Worried that you'd found a new best friend," Dawn stated while crying, her eyes flicking over to Gary and the room beyond him a couple times. Seeing that the situation was fixed to a degree, Gary closed the door to the artifact and returned to his post but not before letting out a light yawn. "You mean a lot to me, Ash, more than you could possibly imagine. I don't know what I would do without you in my life."

    "Hey, it's alright. I was really excited to see you as well," Ash responded as he moved a piece of Dawn's hair from her face kindly. Both trainers were now smiling at each other, Ash not even noticing Serena and Miette walking down towards their rooms past the two of them. "Listen, why don't we put all this behind us. Okay?"

    "O-Okay?" Dawn continued to softly sob while rubbing the tears away from her face. As she did so, she caught sight of the two girls off in the corner and seemed to decide and try something. Looking up at Ash, Dawn just couldn't control herself and once more lunged forward while the boy was distracted with something else. However, at that very moment that Dawn tried to kiss him for the second time, Ash turned his head slightly to the side where her lips made contact with the side of his cheek. Pulling back from it, Dawn sighed as she figured her best chance was now gone and decided to leave without even saying bye to Ash. Watching Dawn head back to her cabin, Ash figured it would be best to pick up Pikachu and for the both of them to head back as well.

    "That was odd. Even after I ask Dawn to knock it off, she continues anyway," Ash muttered to himself as he nearly bumped into Serena and Miette, unaware of them being there. "I wish she would just quit doing this. It's really uncomfortable and strange," he continued on as he passed by the two back to the kitchen area where Pikachu was, his mind conflicted between worry, confusion, and the constant memory of the kiss at the airport.


    "What do you think that was all about?" Serena asked nervously as she gripped the blue ribbon near her chest. "Do you think there's something more between Ash and Dawn than he's letting on?" Miette looked at her with a sly expression, but soon answered her in a rather dismissive tone.

    "You saw how he turned away, Serena. Anyone who has something going on with another doesn't turn from a kiss. I can safely assure you that there's nothing between them. Besides, you heard him just now, it's uncomfortable for him! He wants Dawn to knock all this off!" Miette reassured her rival and friend before turning her in Ash's direction. Serena breathed a little in relief, though she was still a little perturbed. More than that, she was confused by Miette's actions, especially given her taunts the previous day However, from the smirk in her tone and her following words, Serena happened to find some solace...at least before Miette suddenly pushed her. "Now, why don't you go spend some nice quality time with him before he gets too far away!"

    "Miette!" Serena screamed as she ended up being pushed down the hallway and back towards the main deck where Ash was headed. Shaking her head once she'd regained her balance, she decided to nevertheless take Miette's suggestion. As she approached the main deck, she could hear Ash talking with an individual and wanted to listen, but also knew it would be a violation of Ash's privacy. Having no other option, she did anyways.

    "And you see, no matter what I tell her she doesn't stop," Ash spoke as Serena could see two other men with him. One she recognized as Captain Ryker while the other was harder to distinguish. "She's my best friend and I don't know what to tell her at this point."

    "Pikapi…" Pikachu commented dolefully.

    "Oh, to be young and in love. Though in your case, you're in quite the sticky situation. Two girls, yet only one of you," Jasper's voice rang out as Serena realized it was him. "Listen to your heart, young lad. The rhythm of one's heart is never wrong and is said to guide you on the right path in life. Listen to it, it'll guide you on the path to happiness."

    "But, I don't think it's like that at all," Ash responded truthfully as he misunderstood Jasper's advice. "There's only one girl and it has nothing to do with me. She's just upset about losing today and is getting me back for it...at least, I think. I don't know. All I know is that she's upset, and then when one of her pranks failed, she got even more upset."

    "Ah, the talk of love is in the air tonight," Ryker spoke as Ash continued to look confused. "Allow me to give you some advice. Do as Jasper said and follow your heart. Not for love, but for what makes you happy."

    "Happy..." Ash muttered as he smiled to himself. Fixing his hat, Ash smiled at the two older men before walking away. "Thanks, I think I've got an idea now."

    Here he comes. Try not to look like you were listening! Serena told herself as she watched the Kanto native walk near her. In fact, he was actually heading right for her, Pikachu once more affixed to his shoulder. Swallowing, she chose to engage him in conversation. "Hi, Ash. Did you fix whatever you needed to with Dawn?" she asked nicely, despite not knowing what to really say.

    "Kind of. She was still acting a little strange, though. But that's not important right now, something else is. Serena, I was hoping to find you. Luckily, it was easier than I thought," Ash joked as he scratched under his nose before he fixed his hat once more, despite just doing so. "So, after we weren't able to partner up at the Contest Spectacular, I was thinking we could do the Tag-Battle Tournament tomorrow as partners."

    "Sure, that sounds like a wonderful idea, Ash," Serena said happily, her eyes lighting up with joy and her heart almost bursting as Ash smiled at her. He may not have known that she saw what happened at the end with Dawn, but thinking about being partners with her must have helped him smile. At the very least, it certainly allowed her to spend more time with him.

    "It'll be a really fun time. And after that we can explore the ruins, just the two of us, since we haven't had much time to just hang out between the Contest Spectacular and Lisia wanting to spend time with all of you this afternoon," Ash added in as Serena was instantly interested in the idea of just her and Ash for the afternoon.

    "That's a wonderful idea, Ash. I'll be looking forward to it all night," Serena stated with a light giggle before she turned back towards her cabin. "But for now I'm going to head back to my cabin."

    "Well, at least let me accompany you," Ash offered kindly as the two of them walked in silence towards Serena's cabin. Neither needed to say a word as they both enjoyed the other's company more than anything they could have said. Serena had a sudden feeling that tomorrow was going to be an interesting day and yet she couldn't help but feel slightly nervous for it after everything that she had witnessed and done today. Yet even so, calling back on the memory of what she'd done in Lumiose City, she was filled with confidence, bidding good night to Ash and Pikachu, and dreaming of the adventure tomorrow.



    Author's Note: Well...that happened. Now, I know what you all must be thinking: "OMG love triangle, back off, Dawn you hussy!" For one thing, yeah, no, Dawn isn't a hussy. For another...remember this is first and foremost an Amour story and the events we have planned here are events we've planned. No, they're not drama for drama's sake...maybe...I'd be lying if I said it was all explained next chapter, though. Ah well, hope you enjoyed...or as I've said, hopefully you either got really angry (within reason) or laughed your asses off.

    potat lasaro: Well, some interesting things happened for sure this chapter such as Lisia winning the Contest Spectacular with Brock. Too bad for Serena though. Oh, and that whole thing with Dawn...wonder how Ash and her will be able to fully put all of this behind them. Though, just remember who you're reading before jumping to conclusions.

    Without all of you, who knows where we would be in this collaboration. So, until the next juicy chapter, please Review, and Dare to Be Silly.
    Dare to Be Silly!

    Ancienverse AU Fanfiction

    Love in the Time of Teamwork
    Once every seven years there was a tournament celebrating the bonds between people and Pokemon. Of course, Serena expected Ash to want to take part, but she had no idea the ways in which it would change their lives for good or ill. She was confident, however, that by the end of that week, something between herself and Ash would be different. Amourshipping.

    Remaining stories can be found in this community here.

  9. #9
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    So, last chapter seems to have given plenty of people the wrong impression, so we sort of want to clear this up now: we realize and knew Dawn was OOC when we wrote the chapter. It was an intentional move on our part and was, in no way, meant to make Dawn look bad. Can't say much more beyond that to try and clear up the misconception. For now, we hope you can still enjoy Chapter 7!


    Chapter 7

    A Date of Ruins

    Serena felt like an absolute mix of emotions, really running the gamut. Well, it was more that this cruise had decided to wreak havoc with her sense of feelings (she was pretty sure that even her capacity to blush had been played with at this point), even if she didn't tell anyone else. But there was one thought she felt most distinctly upon returning to her room that night: utter happiness. She tried to keep it underneath, but that joy kept bubbling to the surface in unadulterated waves. She hadn't felt so joyful since…well, since she'd kissed Ash on the escalator. Even now, that event seemed like a complete dream to her.

    So did whatever was going on with Dawn and Ash.

    From that thought alone, the myriad of emotions was completely ushered back into her mind. She hadn't wanted to say anything for fear of offending Ash in some way, but Dawn was far different from what she had expected. Sure, sometimes he had talked about all of his old friends, but from Serena's estimation, Dawn had been a very kind girl. Lively, energetic, a brilliant coordinator and kind to a fault (unless it was early morning, apparently). She'd even gotten that estimation of the girl when they'd first met on the ship boarding in Hoenn.

    Now, however, while a little worried that perhaps Ash had left some details out about his and Dawn's, for lack of a better word, relationship, Serena was more convinced that something else was going on. After all, even Miette had said so. Much as the girl annoyed her to no end, she appreciated the sentiments given. Pausing outside her shared room with Lisia, Serena looked down the hall and noticed Dawn stalking at its opposite end. She looked really angry, prepared to burst at anyone, no more evident than when a stray Furret ran by and she appeared to screech at it, though Serena was too far away to comprehend the words.

    Thankfully, the rather manic coordinator didn't catch sight of her and Serena was able to enter her room in peace. Lisia wasn't there, most likely off doing something else on the cruise now that her time was more free. Serena took that chance to flop upon her bed, glancing across the small space to a chesser and the tiny pearl situated upon it. That warm feeling returned, though by now, so many were coursing through her she wasn't sure which was the most prevalent.

    "Don't give up," she muttered to herself. She wasn't sure why she needed to mutter this to the silence around her, but delighted in the fact that she could give encouragement and let that one memory bring a smile to herself. If she could do that, then maybe her future actions would also bring smiles to others. Satisfied with that, Serena let off a yawn and felt herself drifting off into sleep. If there was anything between Ash and Dawn (which seemed less likely the more Serena stared at the pearl), she'd deal with it tomorrow.

    Dreaming of that brush of her own lips against his in the airport, that silent confession that he'd yet to understand, and of the time they'd spend together the next day, Serena fell asleep content. It was such a deep sleep that Serena had never heard Lisia return…or perhaps she had never returned. Serena really wasn't sure which, because the turquoise-haired Coordinator wasn't even there when she awoke, and her bed was as pristine as when she'd left it.

    Letting off a yawn, Serena went and made sure she didn't look like she'd just rolled out of bed. Then, she unconsciously grabbed the pearl and left the room. Miette appeared to be waiting just outside.

    "Sleep well," she said with the faintest of smirks. "Dreaming of Ash, were we?"

    "I-I was not!" Serena protested, though her voice going up an octave pretty much said everything. Miette's smirk widened a little bit. "A-anyway, are you battling in the Tag-Team Tournament?"

    "I am," Miette answered, falling into step alongside her, hands behind her back. "I was going to pair up with Sawyer again, but it seems like he's on guard duty. Think I'll just ask Clemont, since someone told me you've already paired up with Ash."

    "I am," she responded proudly. Now that she thought about it, the way Miette made it sound was like they were already a couple. Of course, as much as Serena wished that were so, she was also happy to simply have what she could. Being in such close quarters with Ash, and him still being Ash around her, was the greatest joy she could ask for. The kiss might not have moved them too much forward, but at least it hadn't set them back. The same couldn't be said for whatever was happening with Ash and Dawn when the two girls entered the dining hall.

    "Dawn, I teamed up with you yesterday!" Ash was yelling, drawing some eyes onto him. Though there were some that were averting their eyes, namely Clemont, who looked embarrassed. Bonnie and her friend Viggo were, meanwhile, glaring at the bluenette opposite Ash. Brock was over with Lisia, something Serena had decided to not be surprised about after the first few days on the cruise. "Besides, I already asked Serena to team up with me for the tournament."

    "Of course," Dawn said scathingly. Her tone was low and Serena decided to hang back, not wanting to be caught in whatever crossfire was resulting from these two. "It's always about Serena, huh? You just never shut up about her. Well, did she help you when Paul kicked your butt? Did she help you become a better trainer?"

    "What's that got to do with anything?" Ash asked, folding his arms angrily. Serena glanced around and noticed Pikachu and Piplup having backed away, looking a cross between mortified and terrified at their trainers' actions. "Dawn, I thought we figured this all out last night."

    "All right, you two, stop arguing. People are staring," Jasper said, a bead of sweat rolling down his forehead as he tried to placate the two. Ash had the decency to look embarrassed, but Dawn was anything but. She was seething, and Serena found herself shrinking.

    "Well, fine. If you didn't want to see me, you should have said so Ash Ketchum!" Dawn snapped. "I won't be taking part in the tournament today, so you can have all your fun with Serena. Thanks for the drink, Jasper."

    "You're welcome. Any time," Jasper said, his eyes narrowed just a little. Dawn nodded, like she'd take him up on that offer, before almost screaming and stomping away from Ash. Serena hung her head, letting her hair cover her face. Through the parting in her locks, she could see Dawn's lips twisted into a scowl. More importantly, she noticed the state of the girl's eyes; they looked completely beyond exhausted. It was almost like she'd just been staring angrily at a wall for the whole night instead of getting some sleep. She also wasn't wearing any shoes, the Performer noticed, and her toes looked a little roughed up.

    "Sorry about that, guys," Ash said, chuckling as he rubbed the back of his neck. "I don't know what's wrong with Dawn. I mean, how many times do you apologize to someone for screwing something up?"

    "Pikapi…"

    "Lup…" Piplup said, gazing dolefully up at Ash. Serena finally straightened and pulled a chair out next to Ash, looking at how upset the Penguin Pokémon looked. Pikachu patted his best friend and Piplup nodded, hugging Pikachu lightly before waddling off after his trainer.

    "Women. What can you do, Ash?" Brock said, tossing an arm around him. It seemed like this topic of discussion had actually entertained him. Serena looked over in time to see Jasper carrying plates of pancakes for her and Miette, the man deftly moving Dawn's glass aside so its lime-green contents didn't spill all over the place. He placed them down and offered her a nod, looking like he didn't want to talk about the outburst earlier.

    "I don't think that's it, Brock," Ash said, poking around at his hash browns with a fork. Sucking in her breath, Serena reached out to lightly touch Ash on the shoulder. He jumped a second, but relaxed with a smile as he saw her.

    "Just give her some time, Ash. Maybe something happened back in Johto and losing yesterday just made her feel worse. I could talk to her if you'd like, but…" Serena paused, her tongue sticking out a little between her teeth as she thought of what to say. "It's just like Snowbelle. You needed a break away. Give her a day."

    "Yeah…" Ash said. He started nodding, like he agreed with the idea. "Okay, that makes sense. Thanks, Serena. You always know what to say!"

    "Th-thanks," Serena said, fighting down the next blush that was coming. I think you're the one who really knows what to say…Pikachu looked between the two of them, smiling a little, but also shaking his head. The honey blonde just turned towards her breakfast; she was pretty sure Pikachu understood the meaning of her kiss more than Ash did. Heck, she was sure everyone but Clemont understood more. And if Bonnie's expression as she went down the escalator, along with her little schemes here, were any indication, she was more than determined to make something happen between the two. Serena hadn't the heart to tell Bonnie she wanted it to happen naturally. On her own terms.

    "Great, this really fires me up!" Ash said, happily downing his hash browns now without a care in the world. Seeing the speed with which he was eating, Serena quickly started eating her own breakfast, having more than a good idea where this was going. Next to her, Miette arched an eyebrow, but Serena tried to pay her little heed, some syrup leaking out of the corners of her lips.

    "You two really are perfect for each other," she drawled, almost like it was sickening. Ash didn't hear while Serena finished swallowing. To her surprise, she wasn't blushing. Normally, she wouldn't eat so fast, but she barely had time to finish wiping her mouth before Ash grabbed her hand. She felt it heat up, almost on fire, as he began to drag her off with a grin. Serena tamped down on her hat as they rushed along, briefly looking back to notice Bonnie grinning as Clemont chastised his sister about syrup dripping to the floor.

    "All right, Serena! Let's win this whole thing!" Ash proclaimed. Pikachu skidded up behind him, having raced out of the dining hall with them. Serena took a moment to catch her breath, but gripped at one of her pokeballs.

    "Yeah!" she said with a smile. Ash smiled back and looked at her. Pikachu stood between them, swiveling his gaze back and forth. Serena blinked a little, holding her gaze with Ash. She felt there was a connection there, the wind blowing across the both of them. Whatever scene had happened in the dining hall mattered little. It was just the two of them in that moment. Some of Serena's hair dipped in front of her eyes and the honey blonde watched as Ash seemed to move on autopilot, brushing her hair back behind her ears. She swallowed. "Ash, I…"

    "Yeah?" he asked, his voice sounding just a little deeper, more serious.

    "About Lumiose," Serena began to say, clutching at the ribbon on her chest. "It…well, what I wanted to tell you was that…" Inside, she was beginning to get frustrated, unable to get the proper words out. How difficult was it to tell the boy you were in love with that you were? It was maddening! "After our journey, you were so amazing, and you still are…always have been. That moment, I wanted to show you just how much you meant to me, and-"

    "What do you mean?" Ash asked, tilting his head to the side. A small noise was heard behind her, and Serena turned to see Bonnie, Viggo and Miette poke their heads out from behind a wall, watching her.

    "I mean that, Ash, I kissed you that day because I lo-"

    "Miette, I thought you wanted to partner up for the tag battle, so what are you doing?" Clemont's oblivious voice seemed to break the spell held over them as Ash shifted his gaze to the quartet behind Serena. She breathed in, trying to steady her now fried nerves, but reaffixed a smile to her face. There was still time before the end of the cruise. It wasn't like they could avoid each other very well.

    "Ugh, is your brother always this clueless?" Viggo could be heard complaining. "I swear, he's not observant at all."

    "Tell me about it…" Bonnie said with a pout. "Well, whatever, let's go to the pool."

    "But the Pokémon," Viggo said, pointing at the small group of trainers that had clearly gathered for the competition about to take place. Bonnie just waved them off, running towards the back of the ship. Viggo followed after, briefly hesitating by Jasper, who had come to the entrance of the dining hall to watch the gathering trainers as he dried his hands.

    "Right, Serena, who are you going to go with?" Ash asked. Serena finished watching Bonnie and her friend disappeared before turning to Ash.

    "I think I'll used Pancham," she answered. "At least…for the first round."

    "Sounds like a plan," Ash agreed, Pikachu hopping onto his shoulders. Serena reached over and scratched the electric mouse behind the ears as the loud clomping of a cane was heard. Serena adjusted her vision and, as expected, saw Mr. Cecil standing prim and proper.

    "Well, we have quite the modest amount of trainers here. Sixteen teams, thirty-two trainers…not a bad turnout. Well, guess we should get this underway," the older man grumbled, his monocle jiggling with the movement. "Ehmm! Attention all participants in the Tag-Battle Tournament! Our event for the day is about to begin, if you'll turn your attention to the screen."

    Serena did just that, seeing the screen that had been used for the Contest Spectacular suddenly light up. She was surprised to find her and Ash's pictures already next to each other, almost like they had known the two of them would team up. It could have been random coincidence, or perhaps something passed through the ship's grapevine. Either way, she was glad to not have to fuss over it. There were other pictures on the screen as well, from Miette and Clemont, to Brock and Lisia (once again). Perhaps most surprising was the older pair on the screen of Captain Ryker and Jasper. Serena had to wonder if they had decided on this after talking with Ash the previous evening. Though at the same time, she noticed that Gary's face seemed to be missing, no doubt the very thing that accounted for Ash's crestfallen and confused expression. He didn't say anything, though.

    "Now, the rules for the tournament are very similar. Each team will face each other in a double battle," Mr. Cecil continued on, making sure he had each trainer's undivided attention. "All trainers are only allowed the use of one Pokémon each. The winners of the match are decided when the other team's Pokémon go down. Naturally, there will be four rounds for a championship, but we'll only have the first two rounds today before we arrive at Temple Baca. Now, let the Tag-Team Tournament, begin!"

    "Can't wait!" Ash said happily, bouncing up and down on the balls of his feet. It was like all that earlier aggression from the morning had faded away. The whole thing made him seem like a giddy schoolkid. Serena giggled behind her hand, glad to see him so happy. On the screen, the thirty-two pictures swirled around before aligning themselves. "Awesome!"

    "That's certainly something," Serena said, eyebrow arching at just who they were paired up against.

    "Yet another tag battle we're facing each other in, huh?" Brock said, and their own pair turned to the approaching Brock and Lisia. Ash smirked just a little and leaned forward, holding his fist up.

    "Yup, and just like last time, I'm gonna win!" Ash proclaimed. Brock gave a hearty chuckle.

    "Well, don't count our team out. Isn't that right, sweet Lisia? !" Brock asked, suddenly spinning around and getting down on one knee. It was like a combination of Bonnie and Tierno, and literally just as successful.

    "That's right!" Lisia said cheerily, practically ignoring Brock (even if the older male didn't seem to mind). "We get to face off again, Serena."

    "But this time it isn't a Contest battle," Serena reminded her. Lisia nodded, but didn't seem concerned about this. Suddenly, Serena felt Ash's arm hanging over her shoulder, his face so close to hers. She had to resist closing the distance.

    "Which means we don't have to worry about all the fancy stuff. I can't wait to see how you've improved as a battler, Serena!" Ash said to her. She nodded her head, Pikachu sticking himself between them. There was a slight clanging and the two teams noticed everyone moving off of the battlefields to make way for the first teams. The Performer could instantly see that multiple battles would be running at once, no doubt to make everything move faster. Most interesting was that both the captain and Jasper were in one of the first rounds, their Watchog and Manectric on guard against their opponent's (some trainers named Bruce and Trent) Sawk and Braviary.

    Next to her, Ash looked beyond excited at the battles around them. Serena just watched him with a smile a moment before joining him in the event. It had been a long while since she'd attempted a tag battle; not since Anistar City, and it was a lot of fun seeing all the combinations. It was excellent material for the Contest Spectaculars she would take part in for the future. Most in particular was watching Ryker and Jasper battle. One could have easily thought they'd constantly battled by each other's side. Between Hypnosis followed by a very accurate and well-placed Discharge or using Electric Terrain to obscure Watchog's movements for a Super Fang, they mopped up their first round quickly. It served to get Ash all the more excited for when their match was finally called.

    "Noivern, I choose you!" Ash called, the second they were standing opposite Lisia and Brock. From the capture device emerged Noivern, who caught sight of Serena and flapped his wings, clearly happy to see her.

    "Pancham, it's your turn!" she called, tossing Pancham out of his pokeball. The two Pokémon caught sight of each other and greeted one another with a cry.

    "Your Noivern looks well-raised, Ash, but there's no way we're giving up," Brock said, smirking across the battlefield towards Ash. The raven-haired trainer didn't respond as Croagunk popped out of his pokeball to take the battlefield. "All right, Croagunk, let's win this thing. So focus on the battle and not my wonderfully budding-"

    "Gunk…" Croagunk threatened, causing Ash to chuckle a little while Lisia predictably sent Ali out.

    "Our budding partnership. Time to battle," Brock corrected himself. In that brief second that their referee lowered his flag, Brock's face shifted from smitten to serious, and Serena knew they'd have to pay attention every second.

    "We'll take the first move. Noivern, use Dragon Claw on Altaria!" Ash cried. Serena narrowed her gaze to the field, and made a snap decision on how to handle the battle ahead.

    "Pancham, use a Stone Edge, straight ahead!" Serena ordered. Next to her, Ash was grinning, filling her with a lightness. Pancham tumbled forward and slammed the ground. The line of stones raced out, parting the field in two and separating Croagunk from Altaria. At the same moment, Noivern reached its fellow Dragon type.

    "Protect, Ali!" Lisia cried out. Noivern's green claws slammed into the blue shield, rebounding off of it.

    "Now, Croagunk, aim a Poison Sting at Noivern!" Brock called. Croagunk, despite being separated by the row of stones, aimed his mouth upward and fired out small purple stingers towards Noivern.

    "Blast them back with Boomburst!"

    "And Pancham, use Dark Pulse!" Serena said. The two both threw their hands out, fingertips lightly touching one another as their Pokémon leapt into action. Noivern spun in midair, twisting in order to point his ears right at Croagunk. Then he sent the soundwaves cascading out, scattering the stingers. Pancham, meanwhile, called the swirling dark-purple energy to his hands before shooting it out at Croagunk.

    "Dodge it and use Brick Break on the stones," Brock called. The Boomburst impacted with the ground and left a small indent in the dirt field while Croagunk ran. The impact of the Boomburst allowed a small air to push the Toxic Mouth Pokémon upward. The Dark Pulse followed right as Croagunk spun in midair and slammed his glowing fist into the rocks. The brief second allowed him to be nailed by the attack, but at the same time, the barrier was destroyed.

    "Now, Dragon Pulse, Ali!" Lisia called. Serena flinched; she had temporarily forgotten about Lisia. It seemed, however, that Ash hadn't, grinning.

    "Supersonic!" he yelled in triumph. Noivern barely even moved, but sent the soundwaves radiating outward. Altaria stopped his attack, cringing from the loud sound until Lisia ordered a Cotton Guard. Even that didn't seem to do very much, allowing a well-commanded Dragon Claw to come roaring in and across Altaria. Croagunk was also getting to his feet.

    "Use Arm Thrust!" Serena called. Croagunk turned slowly towards Pancham as he ran at the opposing Fighting type.

    "Poison Jab!" Brock commanded. Croagunk's fist glowed purple as Pancham reached him and he thrusted forward. So did Pancham, and their fists met, combating with one another as Altaria and Noivern circled through the air. Serena could hear Ash giving Noivern commands, the Dragon Pokémon circling around with a Dragon Claw before breaking off into an Acrobatics, maneuvering effortlessly. Even Lisia looked impressed. Serena was less impressive as Croagunk got a Poison Jab off into Pancham's chest.

    "Ah! Pancham!" Serena cried while Pancham rolled back. "Use Stone Edge!"

    "We won't let you split the field again, Serena," Lisia warned the pair of them. "Time for Draco Meteor!"

    "Serena, have Pancham get on Noivern's back," Ash said, turning to her. She nodded, and quickly relayed the instructions to Pancham. The Playful Pokémon nodded as Noivern descended, lowering his tail for Pancham to climb aboard. Ali's body glowed brightly and the orange light coalesced out into brilliant streams. "Use your sound waves and get above it!"

    "Vern!" Noivern cried, zipping through the air. Serena watched Pancham hold on for dear life as they zipped through all of the meteors until getting above it. Suddenly, Serena saw just what Ash was planning.

    "Pancham, now spin down at Croagunk with Arm Thrust!" she cried.

    "Noivern, you use Acrobatics!"

    "Cham pan cham!" Pancham complied, suddenly leaping off of Noivern and spinning in a freefall through the air, his fist glowing white hot. Croagunk prepared himself for the attack with another glowing, pulsing purple fist. At the same time, Noivern's body was bathed in turquoise as he zipped downward with his body aiming right for Ali, who was just finishing his attack.

    Pancham finally got within range of Croagunk, who jabbed forward. The attack grazed Pancham, and then Pancham's first fist struck out, knocking the rest of the fist away. Simultaneously, Noivern slammed right into Altaria's body. "Now, Dark Pulse!"

    "And Dragon Claw!" Ash screamed with a grin. His hand threw itself out, managing to clasp onto hers. She was so caught up in the heat of the battle that she didn't notice, only seeing the nexus of swirling dark energy form and slam right into Croagunk while Noivern tore across Ali with his Dragon Claw. There was a brief moment, and then Ali fell, right on top of Croagunk.

    "Altaria and Croagunk are unable to battle! The winners are Ash and Serena!" the referee cried, and Serena watched as their pictures moved on to the next round.

    "Yes!" Ash cried, raising his fist in the air, Serena attached to it. She suddenly realized how intertwined their fingers were, but couldn't deny how nice it was. Still, her own joy bubbled up and caused her to jump up and down with joy at having won a battle. "We made a great team, Serena! You guys did great, too, Pancham and Noivern."

    "Vern!"

    "Cham!" Pancham responded, thumping his chest. Brock and Lisia approached from the other end of the battlefield, prompting the trainers to call their Pokémon back and leave the field. Brock slung an arm around Ash, causing their hands to disengage.

    "You deserve every bit of that runner-up title, huh?" Brock said, almost ribbing his best friend. Serena thought it was a nice sight to see as the four returned to the back of the field. Lisia departed to get some food from the three cooks (their stock looked much lower than there were trainers, though, and Ash hadn't eaten yet).

    Brock and Ash turned to chatting, but Serena focused on the field, watching Clemont and Miette battle it out with some trainers. It wasn't quite as good as her and Ash's team up, but was perfunctory enough to work with. Though, it was no surprise that they moved on to the next round, which started shortly after, Ash and Serena being up in the first set against the Honedge trainer from the first day of the Contest Spectacular and a girl with a Ledian.

    Serena had to admit that it was strange how confident she felt facing off against them with Sylveon while Ash used Talonflame. Perhaps it was the infectious enthusiasm that Ash held, or maybe it was that they were standing side by side with one another, but Serena was more than happy to battle it out, and take their ultimate victory in the second battle (finished with a powerful Fairy Wind and Flame Charge combo).

    "You guys are really strong," their opponents said in awe of the two of them, causing Ash to scratch the back of his head.

    "Well, you just gotta train hard!" he told them and they quickly took his words to heart. Serena watched him with her hands behind her back, smiling softly. Of course, she was so caught up in watching him, she didn't realize he was speaking to her. With a blink, she focused her attentions back on his words. "You wanna get ready to go out?"

    "G-go out?" Serena stuttered, cursing herself slightly for doing so. For all of the courage and bravery that her kissing him had offered, she still had those moments where he caught her completely off-guard. "Oh, yeah. I'll just get some food for us, okay."

    "Awesome!" Ash exclaimed, him and Pikachu both throwing a fist in the air in triumph. With that, he seemed to run off towards his room. "Let's meet here on the deck, okay, Serena?"

    "Sure thing!" she yelled back, turning a few heads.

    "Ooh, a date…" Miette said sultrily, practically purring in her ear. Serena jumped a little while Miette laughed, patting her on the back. "I'm only joking, Serena. You two should have fun. Just make sure you find a more appropriate place to lay one on him than as you're riding down an escalator."

    "What? !" Serena screeched a little, going so high in her voice that Chespin, who was walking alongside Clemont, had to cover his ears. Miette laughed gaily. "Who told you that?"

    "Doesn't matter. I'm going to tan by the pool, have fun!" her rival said with a wink in her direction. Serena's hands just gripped at her dress, trying to stop herself from steaming inside.

    "You okay, Serena?" Clemont asked, Chespin looking up at her with a tilted head as well.

    "Just fine. Thanks, Clemont," she said, offering a smile and then walking away. There was no doubt she'd left the inventor confused, but her mind was too flustered from Miette's comments. There was no doubt in her mind that Bonnie had been the one to say something, likely encouraged by her friend, Viggo. Those two had been a whole host of trouble so far.

    Not that it had mattered much. She still hadn't been remarkably plain and straightforward with Ash, and he was still…well, she wanted to assume he was still dense. It didn't bother her too much, however, and she shrugged the issue off to go and get some food for their trip into the ruins, which she could now see approaching while the final teams for the day finished. The matchups for the next day were up on the screen already, and somehow, Serena wasn't surprised to find they'd be up against Clemont and Miette.

    "Here you are," Jasper said, winking at her, having returned to his duties after his battle. Serena blinked yet again and noticed the basket of food in front of her. "For your day."

    "But I didn't…" Serena started to say before laughing a little. By this point, it was useless to question Jasper and his psychic ways of predicting their food consumption. Either way, Ash would be happy.

    "And here comes another hungry customer," Jasper commented. Serena looked down to see Piplup, all on his lonesome, coming up to the chef. Serena bent down and picked Piplup up. He turned to her and smiled, a much better state than his master was currently in. "Guess your trainer needs some food, huh? Got a specialty right here."

    "Lup lup!" Piplup said gratefully. Serena took the plate containing a sandwich and the closed glass of what she presumed was lime soda before also taking Jasper's package.

    "Why don't I help you, Piplup? I have a few minutes," Serena told the Penguin Pokémon. He beamed at her, hopping out of her arms to the ground and waddling forward, leading the way forward towards Dawn. Serena could admit to being a little apprehensive about approaching the girl who had been so…well…she'd been rather loud, Serena supposed. But still, she kept a smile on her face as she walked down one of the halls and towards a closed door. Piplup pushed on it and opened the door, revealing the bluenette, seated upon a bed tying knots out of ribbons.

    "Luplup pip!" Piplup announced their presence, making Dawn look up from her repeated activity to see Serena there. The two girls looked at each other silently before Serena held up the plate.

    "Brought you some food since you practically missed breakfast," the honey blonde said. Dawn said nothing at first, but then nodded, surveying her carefully. Serena moved a little closer, placing the plate near her and stepping back. On closer inspection, Dawn really did look exhausted; it was a possible explanation for her behavior the last twenty-four hours. "Um…so…"

    "Don't you have a date to be getting to?" Dawn asked. Serena swallowed at the harsh dullness in her tone. Not that Dawn seemed to care how she sounded, ripping open the plastic on the plate and beginning to eat and drink at an alarming pace. Serena frowned, thinking of the words to say.

    "Dawn, I don't want to be in the middle of you and Ash's friendship," Serena said, her hand subconsciously traveling to her ribbon. "He used to talk about you and how nice of a person you were, and you really are. Can't we be friends? At least so we don't drive Ash crazy?"

    "Maybe," Dawn said indifferently, polishing off her food and downing her drink. Serena watched her, worried she would start yelling at her, but she ended up doing no such thing. Her eyes widened a little though, like she was in realization of something.

    "All right," Serena decided to say, realizing they would head nowhere at this rate. She stopped on her way out the door. "We're stopping at the temple ruins soon. You should come with all of us. It can't be any fun cooped up in your room all day."

    "I'll think about it," Dawn answered, rubbing at her eyes just a little. "Right now, I'm pretty thirsty. Jasper must have put peppers into that sandwich. We'll talk later, Serena. No need…to worry…" The bluenette trailed off a moment, like the words tasted foreign on her tongue, but she shrugged it off and just sprung from her bed, pushing right past the Performer and into the hall. Piplup raced after her, leaving a befuddled Serena behind.

    Hitching her and Ash's lunch with a shaking head, Serena decided to follow the very strange girl out of the halls and back onto the deck. The area was a little more packed than before, everyone wearing some modicum of traveling outfits, ready for their adventure. Ash was nowhere to be seen yet while Clemont looked to be working on something she heard being called a "Ruin Structure Examiner". Bonnie and Viggo watched him with bored expressions. Serena continued to look around for Ash and caught sight of Dawn inside the dining hall, drinking something at the counter and muttering under her breath it seemed. Jasper appeared to watch her with amusement before barking at his three chefs, who almost looked disappointed that they couldn't go slinking off on the trip. On the other side of the boat was Sawyer, the green-haired boy casting his gaze around with interest, and a slight worry, as he checked a small pocket watch he'd been given, a frown on his face.

    "Hey, all set!"

    "Pipika!" Pikachu confirmed, telling Serena that both Ash and his best friend were there. He looked no different from before, besides wearing a slightly fuller backpack and looking refreshed for the adventure ahead. The honey blonde Performer smiled at the pair, and they both turned to their incoming destination: a small island with vine covered ruins, a gate placed at the entrance into the strange structure. The closer they got, the more Serena could see, and by the time the ramp was lowering to the island, she could tell it was multitiered, almost like a pyramid that was almost pearlescent in the sun's glow.

    "Aah!" Serena suddenly vocalized as all around her the different tourists on the ship began to move in a wave towards the ramp. Clemont, Bonnie and Viggo were among them, and Serena could swear she caught sight of a Brock-less Lisia (though she was far less sure of that). They all disappeared in the mess of the crowd. She felt her body jostled around a little bit until she was held firm by Ash, smiling at her. He then tentatively reached down and placed his hand around hers.

    "Maybe we should hold on to each other so we don't get lost," he suggested with his usual grin.

    "Sounds like a good idea," Serena agreed, and the two stepped off the ship and down the ramp to the jungle-esque forest below. Numerous people were passing through the entrance gate while still others hung slightly back. Owing to that, Serena had enough time to take a brochure before they had approached the woman at the gate and gotten a stamp on their hands to let them through. Still holding onto Ash's hand, Serena opened the brochure with her other hand to peruse it. "This is interesting…"

    "What is?" Ash asked as the two passed under the archway into the ruins. Some of the walls had crumbled a little, letting light stream in and illuminate the vines draped over the walls. There were the depictions of some drawings on the wall, but Serena was too interested in the brochure. Even Pikachu was looking in to examine it with her.

    "Apparently, this temple is one of two," Serena pointed out. "Temple Baca, which reached into the expanses of space; and Temple Arvum, whose details were lost to time. I guess they were both places of worship in ancient times, though Temple Arvum was soon lost, vanishing in the mist at sea."

    "Sounds pretty cool," Ash admitted, continuing to aimlessly lead them along through the ruins' twists and turns. It seemed he was just following the path where the light led in order to constantly know their direction. They came to some stairs and began to ascend. As they rounded the corner up them, Serena thought she saw a flash of blue, but ignored it.

    "Yeah, they used to offer something called the Clavis Initus and it would bring much blessings upon their tribes…or something like that. They claim Arceus had something to do with it and their ensuing bounty," Serena continued to note. She looked up from the brochure, suddenly noting the warmth that came from Ash's hand. He looked back at her, his eyes lighting up with an idea.

    "Maybe they used to place it somewhere inside the temple. Wanna take a look?"

    "Sure thing!" Serena stated confidently, and they increased their pace. Once more, there was a flash of blue as they turned a corner, mixed in with a familiar flash of pink. Shaking the thought from her mind, Serena kept pace with Ash as they broke out into sunlight on an upper level of the ruins. "Oh, wow…"

    Sprawled before them was the true Temple Baca, glimmering in the bright coastal sun. Without even thinking, Serena let go of Ash's hand and fished out the pearl in her pocket, holding it up to the sun. The temple and the pearl in her pocket both shined with the same hue, as if illuminating a path forward. Ash's knees were bent a bit as he stared out over the ruins. Finally, he pointed towards something on the lower level, shrouded in trees where some of the tourists were gathering and taking pictures.

    "That must be it!" he said before looking around and finding more stairs that would take them down. Of course, it turned out that they had to go back first, and Serena turned with him to take the stairs. Both of them paused.

    It was just a brief moment, but Serena's unfortunate suspicions were proving correct. They had seen Dawn staring at them, watching them just below, not saying a word before she vanished behind the wall. Ash ran forward a little, but looked utterly confused once he'd reached the spot where Dawn was...or had been. "Um…I'm not crazy, am I?"

    "No, I saw her, too," Serena said, stepping forward slowly. "I went to talk with her, but I thought she didn't seem interested in coming."

    Ash folded his arms and shared his thoughts with a, "Well, she doesn't need to hide from us. We may have argued this morning, but she's still my friend."

    "Mine too…or, I'd like to think so," Serena noted, joining up with Ash as they made their way over to the set of stairs they wanted to get to. "I mean, we both like Pokémon and fashion and…well, isn't that what matters?"

    "I think so," Ash said, his face taking on an uncommon thoughtful expression. "But she's still been acting really weird. I mean, trying to feed me is something I wouldn't even let Pikachu do…"

    "Pikapi, chu pika cha!" Pikachu instantly chastised his friend, causing a giggle from Serena. In truth, she felt more elation than amusement; that Ash felt as uncomfortable as the scene was to watch made her feel a bit better. For another second, she contemplated reasserting her feelings, but chose against it. Instead, they aimed for the brightening passage to the stairs.

    Serena continued turning her head, looking around and once more catching sight of the disconcerting bluenette staring at them from behind a wall. She also thought she caught sight of Viggo running into a darkened corridor, but he was gone before she could confirm it. Just before they reached the stairs, she heard the sound of loud footsteps.

    "Ash! Serena!" yelled Bonnie's voice, and the two turned to see the lemon-blonde approaching. Clemont was huffing and puffing behind her. "Have you two seen Viggo? We lost him in the crowd and can't seem to find him."

    "Oh, I think he went down that corridor," Serena pointed out. Bonnie instantly whizzed off after him, leaving Clemont to catch up (and to catch his breath).

    "We've done…nothing but…look for him…" Clemont wheezed out before straightening. He looked past Serena with a curious expression on his face. "Uh, was that Dawn I saw?"

    "Yeah, for some reason she keeps following us but doesn't say anything," Ash told him. The confused, and concerned, look didn't leave Clemont's face. Serena breathed in, deciding to say what was on her mind now that Clemont was here with her.

    "I'm a little worried about her," she voiced honestly. Ash turned to her, surprised. "Well, you said yourself, Ash, that she's usually more social than this. I certainly don't mind having her around, and I know she's one of your best friends, but she keeps avoiding us…"

    "Maybe she's just tired?" Ash suggested. "Like you said, Serena, maybe she just needs some time to work through something." Serena nodded, but didn't even believe her own words; had Dawn not been practically stalking them since their time in the ruins, she would have agreed, but as it was now…Then again, Ash, too, looked a little disconcerted, but had no time to think about it.

    "Come on, Clemont!" screeched out Bonnie's voice, the little girl coming into view. "I haven't found him yet, but if Serena said he's down this way, then let's go!"

    "Coming, Bonnie…" Clemont sighed out, offering a very small smile before chasing after them once more. Serena and Ash watched him go before shrugging and continuing on their own way. As they proceeded through the nature-filled and open interior of the temple, Serena noticed there were far less tourists there than she thought, replaced with some wild Bellsprout and Zigzagoon that were skittering away. The three drew closer to the dais that appeared to be in the middle of a walled area (yet still covered in the telltale vines).

    "This is pretty cool, huh?" Ash noted, running up to the top of the dais. Serena was right behind him and saw what looked like a dull, gray spire sticking up from an elaborate setting. It was hard to truly describe what it looked like as so much had eroded with time, but she had a feeling that this one spot at some point held much power. In her observations, she caught sight of a small patch of grass under a tree, and in the shade of the wall, that looked perfect for a picnic.

    "What do you say about having some lunch, Ash?" Serena asked, holding up the basket of food. Ash's eyes lit up and Serena was the one to take the initiative this time in grabbing his hand and pulling him over to the shade of the tree and wall as they sat upon it. Serena wasn't surprised at the eclectic variety of food, nor over Ash's enthusiasm towards it. Jasper had even packed plates for them! They both quickly took food on their plates and Ash wasted no time in eating.

    Serena watched him a moment, glad to be able to have this time with him. It struck her that one could certainly construe this as a date, something she'd refused to admit even with Miette's teasing. Either way, as she began to eat, it made her happy. At least, she was happy until she once more saw Dawn watching them. That unsettled her appetite a little.

    "Something wrong?" Ash asked and she looked at him with a shaking head.

    "Just not as hungry as you, I guess," Serena answered, not wanting to share the worries on her mind with him. "Thanks for this, Ash."

    "For what?" Ash asked. Without thinking, Serena leaned forward and kissed his cheek. There was a very brief second where she felt she'd done something wrong until Ash's hand was somehow on her face, his eyes looking into hers with a mixture of clouded confusion and inexhaustible softness. There was a sharp noise, like something cracking, and Ash's eyes widened. "Move!"

    "Wha-?" Serena shouted before she felt herself pull away just as a large chunk of the wall crumbled away, smashing into their picnic spot. Serena swallowed, realizing she was on top of Ash, but twisted her body to see just what had happened. The wall appeared to have crumbled, though not by force or from old age and decay. Serena had to wonder just what had happened when Ash's stomach growled.

    "Aw, man…that was our lunch…" he said, grabbing onto Serena once more and helping her up. The second he let go of her, however, her ankle buckled and she found herself falling into him. "You okay?"

    "I…I think my ankle is sprained. Nothing serious…just hurts to stand," Serena admitted. Ash nodded while Pikachu looked between them with worry. For a moment, Ash looked to be thinking before clapping his hands together. He dragged his bag out and dug in it before pulling out a handkerchief. Well, it wasn't just a handkerchief, and Serena was certain he knew that.

    It was confirmed when he knelt down, tied it around her ankle and said, "Pain, pain, go away! How's that?"

    "Much better," Serena laughed out, recalling their old memory.

    "Think you can make it back to the ship?" Ash asked, quickly taking her arm and slinging it around him. Their bodies pressed up against each other, and Serena couldn't help her blush this time, hoping Ash wouldn't see it and mistake it for a fever.

    "I can manage. Shame we couldn't explore more of the ruins though…they sounded really interesting. Makes me wonder what that Temple Arvum would have been like…or any of them in their prime," Serena said as she tentatively limped forward with Ash supporting her weight.

    "Yeah…but you're more important than some ruins," Ash told her, making her wonder if he had truly said something that sounded so…romantic. He didn't follow it up with anything, though, and focused more on making sure she didn't fall again before they finished navigating the ruins once more and were passing the gatekeeper to make their way to the boat. Thankfully, Ash caught sight of Brock (having likely returned, if he'd indeed left at all) treating some Pokémon from the Tag-Battle Tournament on the deck. "Hey, Brock! Serena's hurt! Think you can help us out?"

    "I can try," Brock called over as he finished spraying some potion onto a Furfrou. Ash helped Serena over to a bench on the deck and sat her upon it while Brock finished approaching. It was a strange sight for Serena to see him all business instead of gushing about Lisia. The older male kneeled down and held up Serena's ankle. He then reached into his pack and pulled out a bag of ice, placing it there. "Hold this for about an hour or two and you should be good."

    "Thank you, Brock," Serena said gaily. Brock winked at her.

    "Anything for Ash's girl," he chuckled out. Serena knew he was most likely joking but couldn't help the flutter in her heart at the sound of it. Ash, meanwhile, was too busy getting food from Jasper to hear it, though he did return with some ice cream and soda. Pulling her leg up, Serena got comfortable and watched the waves roll back and forth.

    "Did you have some fun?" Ash asked her after a little while.

    "Mmhmm, lots of it," she told him. "Like I said, thanks for this."

    "Well, you're important to me," Ash admitted, rubbing his nose a little. "And…uh…I really like spending time with you. Just the two of us. Well, Pikachu, too, I guess."

    "Chaaaa…" Pikachu cooed out, too busy with his ice cream. Serena wasn't sure what to say, so she said nothing, just taking Ash's hand and tentatively deciding to lean her head against his shoulder. To her surprise, he didn't stiffen like he had with Dawn, but allowed her to ease into it. That gave her some relief as her ankle began to feel better.

    Sooner than later, the passengers for the ship began to return in droves, including a secretive Dawn, who tried to act like she hadn't been following them creepily through the ruins (though she disappeared to her own room seconds after arriving). This was no more noticeable than when Bonnie's group returned, the young girl seemingly pouting at her good friend.

    "We spent the whole time looking for you, Viggo!" Bonnie was complaining as she tromped up the ramp and onto the deck.

    "Well, I was spending the whole time looking for you guys!" Viggo admitted, to Bonnie and Clemont's groans of exasperation, particularly Clemont's.

    "And here I wanted to examine the ruins…" he said sadly, but still continued with ushering them off to get some food. Serena perked up a little at that, deciding to try her foot again. Ash helped her immediately, and she tested her weight. Everything seemed to hold correctly and she breathed in. The foghorn went off and Serena saw the ramp retracting once more, the ship pulling back out to sea. Ash's stomach rumbled again.

    "Man, I'm hungry. Wanna get dinner?"

    "Sure thing," Serena responded and the two made their way towards the dining hall. Only, Ash stopped at the sight of Sawyer, running towards them, looking just a little frantic.

    "You okay, Sawyer?" Ash asked as his green-haired rival turned to look at him with wide eyes.

    "You guys haven't seen Gary anywhere, have you?" he asked in trepidation. "Was he in the ruins or…?"

    "No, we haven't," Serena told him, bewilderment settling on her features. "And I'm pretty sure we were one of the first ones on the boat. Why? What's going on?"

    "He was supposed to report to guard duty a couple hours ago," Sawyer answered her, his hands kneading at each other. "But he didn't show…and he's not in his room...I didn't even see him at the Tag-Battle Tournament. Plus, you guys said he didn't leave the ship. And...Guys, I…I think Gary is missing."


    Author's Note: Dun dun dun! What is this? Gary is missing? What nefarious plot could be at hand? A lot of you thought something would happen at the ruins last chapter...well, we fooled you. However, there was quite a bit of fun to be had this time around, from explorations to tender romantic moments. Even to Dawn being a creepy stalker. "Ugh, not this horrible OOC Dawn again?" you must be thinking. But you must also realize by now...well, at least please realize we know what an in-character Dawn looks like. And lastly, yes, we didn't show you much of the Tag-Battle Tournament. Why? Because it really wasn't important.

    potat lasaro: Everything is starting to happen now! Why in the world would Gary be missing? Well, you'll have to just keep reading to find out. As for Dawn, like Epicocity said, we know what an in-character Dawn is like. So take that as you will. As for the rest of the chapter, Ash and Serena seemed to have a really fun day. First they beat Brock and Lisia and then they explored the ruins together and had a nice time alone. Though, wonder how they'll be able to overcome this wrench in their little vacation…

    Thanks for your thoughts and concerns so we could, hopefully, elate them. Until the next time, please Review and Dare to Be Silly.
    Dare to Be Silly!

    Ancienverse AU Fanfiction

    Love in the Time of Teamwork
    Once every seven years there was a tournament celebrating the bonds between people and Pokemon. Of course, Serena expected Ash to want to take part, but she had no idea the ways in which it would change their lives for good or ill. She was confident, however, that by the end of that week, something between herself and Ash would be different. Amourshipping.

    Remaining stories can be found in this community here.

  10. #10
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    Glad you all enjoyed the date last chapter, but this chapter is where we go full plot mode. Hope you all enjoy, because it's time for Chapter 8!


    Chapter 8

    A Loss of Sanity

    "What? !" Ash and Serena cried out in unison as they looked on in a mix of confusion and worry. Pikachu let out his own cry of shock as he rested upon both of their shoulders.

    "Yeah... I...I thought he might have just forgotten about his shift and went off to the ruins to explore them a little," Sawyer responded as he touched his notebook that was resting in his pocket. "But...but the fact that you both said that you never saw him there...well, that just adds to the thought that he's missing."

    "We should go tell Captain Ryker immediately! Maybe he knows of any place that Gary might be!" Ash decided as he noticed the previously mentioned man walking alongside Mr. Cecil. To Ash, the two men seemed to have been having quite the friendly chat considering he overheard Mr. Cecil talking about some place Ash had never heard of before. Aloha, or something like that, but at the moment Ash knew it wasn't important at all. Instead, he hastily made his way across the main deck.

    "Ah, Mr. Ketchum, did you enjoy our stop at the ruins?" Ryker asked happily as he adjusted the captain's hat atop his head. "Ancient civilizations used to live there and it's said that rituals were held in the past."

    Ash just nodded his head as his current feelings towards the situation were apparent. Ash knew there was a sense of urgency on his face and both Captain Ryker and Mr. Cecil caught on to it. "Ash, what exactly is the matter?" Mr. Cecil asked, playing with his monocle a bit before placing it back into its spot. "You seem far too anxious to be talking about ruins. Did something happen back there?"

    "No...well, not at the ruins anyway. But we think something happened to Gary," Ash explained as the two older gentlemen let out a surprised gasp at the thought. "Sawyer said he never showed up to take over for his shift to guard the artifact. And he wasn't with us at the ruins or the Tag-Battle Tournament either. I thought it was odd that he wasn't competing."

    "How do you know about that? ! They were strictly prohibited by their contracts to disperse information about our cargo," Mr. Cecil stated angrily. Ash slightly flinched at the man's demeanor. Ash then watched as the older man pinched the bridge of his nose, a sigh passing through his slightly parted lips before calming slightly. "Oh, this is not good at all. We must find him immediately," he began to mutter to himself while pacing back and forth, sweat dripping down his forehead. "I'm willing to ignore how you knew that they were guarding an artifact, for now, due to these troubling times, but we must find young Mr. Oak immediately. That artifact is too valuable to risk being stolen."

    "And Gary is such a young and upcoming researcher," Captain Ryker added in as the three were soon joined by Sawyer and Serena, the latter moving a little slower due to her ankle. "We must search the entire ship immediately. If Gary's missing, then who knows what else might happen upon this ship. And as long as I'm the captain, it is my sworn duty to make sure all my passengers are safe! I recommend we split up into groups and search every nook and cranny of this ship until we find Gary."

    "Right, I'll go get Clemont and Bonnie and explain what's happening. I'm sure they'll want to help out, and if Bonnie is helping, then Viggo will want to as well," Ash stated as he looked over towards the entrance to the dining hall. "The more help we have, the sooner we'll find him."

    "And I'll see if that Miette girl and the doctor I saw on my way over here will help search the main deck with me. I saw the both of them talking to Lisia just a few minutes ago," Sawyer added in as he made his exit and split from the group to go and find the others.

    Ash watched as both Mr. Cecil and Captain Ryker went their own ways, the both of them agreeing to search different parts of the ship. Knowing that he had to get moving as well, Ash was about to leave for the dining room when he felt a warm hand on his shoulder. Turning around, Ash was met with the soothing sensation of Serena's smile. Despite the tense situation they were all in with Gary missing, somehow Serena's smile managed to help calm Ash's nerves down. That was when he noticed her begin speaking. "Ash, don't even think about leaving me behind. I'm coming with you and the others."

    "But, your ankle is sprained," Ash said as he pointed to the hurt area. To Ash, it looked much better as the swelling and redness had gone away, but he didn't want Serena pushing herself too hard and reaggravating it. "I would feel awful if you hurt yourself even worse by coming with us."

    "Ash, I may not know Gary like you, but he's a friend. I can't just sit around and let everyone else search for him. Besides, my ankle doesn't bother me at all now. I'm perfectly fine. Now, come on, we need to find Gary," Serena insisted as she grabbed ahold of Ash's hand and dragged him down towards the dining hall. As they entered the room, Ash noticed that Clemont, Bonnie and Viggo were all sitting at the counter and were about to begin eating when they all noticed Jasper wave at Ash and Serena.

    "There you are, Ash. We figured you would be right behind us to get food. But then you never showed up," Clemont stated as he placed his cup down onto the counter and offered his chair to Serena. Smiling at the inventor, Serena declined the offer as Viggo spoke up.

    "So, looks like you're moving at a decent pace." Ash had to agree as he had noticed that Serena was moving much better than she had a few hours ago. However, Ash had failed to pick up on just what the young boy had really been pointing out.

    "Now isn't the time, Viggo!" Serena called out as she felt a light warmth rise to her cheeks while letting go of Ash's hand. "Gary's missing and we need to find him. Who knows where he could be."

    "G-Gary's missing!?" the three cried out in unison as Ash nodded his head slowly in response. He quickly motioned for them to keep it down. Ash knew as well as anyone that if the rest of the passengers caught wind of a missing person then they would all grow worried.

    "Yeah," Ash finally spoke, hoping they could try to figure out the best plan to search. "Sawyer just told us he never showed up for his shift. And I never thought of it at the time, but the other day he promised to battle me at the tournament yet never competed. It just doesn't sit right, and since we're in such a confined space that means he couldn't be far."

    "Then let's go search! We can't just sit around and do nothing all day, come on!" Viggo called out as he grabbed ahold of Bonnie's hand, who likewise grabbed a hold of Ash's hand (as he was the nearest at the moment) before dragging them out of the dining hall, much to Ash's surprise.

    "Viggo is quite the excitable one isn't he?" Serena asked softly as a bead of sweat formed on her forehead from the over-excitable boy's reaction. "He's always running off. Though it's nice he's Bonnie's friend. They seem like the perfect fit together."

    Clemont merely laughed as the duo exited the dining hall and entered one of the side halls while their friends waited impatiently for them. "Yeah, I was surprised Bonnie found a friend on this cruise but I'm glad she met him. They seem to have a lot in common and have spent nearly every moment together."

    "Clemont, don't tell Bonnie, but I think Viggo has a crush on her," Serena replied while letting out a light laugh. Clemont wheeled around in surprise. "Now, don't get upset, but think about it. He's always following her around with whatever they have planned and they've been inseparable since they first met. I think it's cute to have a crush at their age."

    "A c-crush! ?" Clemont practically shouted before Serena hushed him. Nodding, Clemont lowered his voice as they slowed their pace for a moment. "But Bonnie's too young for that."

    "Clemont, it's just a little crush; he'll probably be over it by the end of the cruise. Besides, Bonnie isn't into finding herself a keeper just yet. Right now her goal is to find you one." Serena then stopped talking as herself and Clemont reached Ash and the others, who appeared to be standing around with confused expressions in the hallway. "Huh, what's wrong, Ash?"

    "The lights. They don't seem to be working at all," Ash pointed out as he flipped the switch to the hallway. Every time that he flipped the switch into the "on" position, nothing would happen. Ash assumed that a fuse must have blown, but it was awfully bad timing for them. "Without them it's going to be hard to see anything in here."

    "Heh heh heh, leave this to me," Clemont stated proudly as Ash let the inventor through to the front of the group. "The future is now thanks to science! Clemontic Gear on!" He cried out before pressing one of the buttons attached to his backpack. As he did so, a small lamp-like object appeared and a light surrounded by a metallic version of Heliolisk's frills appeared over his shoulder.

    "I expected this situation of a blackout to happen and improved my Heliolisk Light to have a greater range than before. With the new and improved model, we'll be able to light up the majority of this hallway."

    Both Ash and Viggo appeared to be fascinated by the contraption as they moved in close to have a good look at the machine. "Wow! Science is so amazing!" they both cried out in unison before Viggo was pulled away by the back of his shirt.

    "You're not supposed to think that's cool. That's just one of my brother's lame inventions," Bonnie muttered before she let go of him. Nodding in agreement, Ash had to chuckle a little at the way Bonnie seemed to be the leader of their little friendship.

    "Now, to just turn it on..." Clemont muttered as he pressed a second button and light immediately emerged from the contraption. The hallway was flooded with the bright, white light allowing the whole group to see down the once dark pathway. "Now we'll be able to see the entire area as we explore."

    Making their way through the hallway, the small group found no trace of Gary at all and wondered if perhaps he wasn't even in this particular area. It seemed to Ash almost as if this was leading them nowhere and instead they were wasting time. Following behind Clemont as both Bonnie and Viggo ran ahead of them all, Ash wondered just who would have wanted to take Gary out of the picture. Obviously someone after the artifact, but no one on the ship seems interested in it. In fact, I doubt anyone other than myself, Serena, Mr. Cecil and Captain Ryker actually know that it's an artifact. And those two are the ones delivering it...So why would they target Gary and not Sawyer? Ash's thoughts were interrupted as he felt himself slam hard into the inventor's backpack.

    "Oof," Ash moaned for a second only to feel something soft bump into him from behind. Hearing a soft cry that sounded like Serena, Ash instinctively grabbed out to her before she could fall backwards onto the ground. "Are you okay, Serena?" Ash asked while pulling her back up onto her feet.

    "Yeah, just fine thanks to your quick reflexes, Ash," Serena replied while wiping some dust off of her outfit. Looking ahead towards Clemont, both Ash and Serena wondered why the young inventor had stopped. "Is something wrong, Clemont? Did we go the wrong way?"

    "No, nothing's wrong just yet," he replied back while increasing the intensity to his light in order to help show them just what he was seeing. As the output of light increased, both Ash and Serena managed to see why he had stopped moving. "There're two hallways from this point on. We can either stay as one large group and take our time. Or we can break into two smaller groups."

    "I say two groups," Ash stated immediately. Clemont nodded at his choice. "We really don't have time to explore both hallways for Gary. This way we can clear them out and then meet back up at the other end. Serena and I will take the one on the right and you guys can take the path on the left."

    "Are you sure that's the only reason you want to split up?" Bonnie asked while eyeing Ash suspiciously. "Are you sure that you don't have another thought in mind?" She then moved to one of his sides and began elbowing him playfully with a smirk.

    "Yeah, Ash, haven't you ever watched a horror movie? They say you should never split up. Unless, of course, you have a different reason for going with Serena," Viggo added in as he got on Ash's other side and elbowed him as well.

    Shaking his head, Ash made his way out from in between the two kids and back towards Serena before taking her hand in his. "No, I don't have any reason other than to find Gary. We'll meet up at the end of our hallways. If one group doesn't arrive shortly after the other, just meet up at the main deck."

    Nodding in agreement, Clemont put his hands onto Bonnie and Viggo's backs before he pushed the two children forward and down the left corridor. Now alone, Ash and Serena began their descent down their own pathway and into the darkness.

    Walking in the darkness, the two trainers continued to bump into each other and stumble along in the dark due to their inability to see too well. Pikachu however seemed to have the right thought as he jumped from Ash's head onto Serena's before scurrying down her side and towards the pockets of her vest.

    "Huh, what is it, Pikachu?" Serena asked as he tapped against the pocket. Both Ash and Serena were confused by the motion as the Electric-Mouse Pokémon continued to paw at the pocket.

    "Pipika, pipika," he cried out while continuing to paw at the pocket. Finally giving up with that idea, Pikachu dropped onto the floor where he stiffened his ears slightly and scrunched up his tail. "Pika! Pipikapi!"

    "Oh, I get it Pikachu," Serena finally shouted as she figured out the Electric type's message. She then bent over and scratched Pikachu behind the ear just as Ash would do, getting an overjoyed "cha" from him. "That's a wonderful idea, Pikachu. She'll really help us see around here."

    Reaching into her pocket, Serena pulled out a small pokeball before pressing the button in the center and enlarging it. Pressing the button once more, a blue light filled the room as it was quickly replaced by none other than Braixen, who looked confused about her current surroundings, or at least she did to Ash.

    "Braixen?" she asked while looking around in the darkness.

    "Braixen, we need you to light up the area with your fire. Do you think you can help us look for someone?" Serena asked as the Fox Pokémon nodded happily before pulling her twig out of her tail and lighting it on fire. Now able to see slightly better, Ash and Serena followed behind Braixen as her small light illuminated the entire hallway. By the looks of it, it appeared like this section of the ship hadn't been used in quite some time as cobwebs covered every nook and cranny and a few of the doors were all dented up.

    "Man, I wonder when the last time anyone came down here was?" Ash asked no one in particular as he brushed a cobweb out of the way so that Serena wouldn't walk into it. Taking her hand in his once more, he helped her cross over a broken door that laid in the middle of the hallway while avoiding a pile of broken glass. "It looks to be completely deserted here. If someone wanted to hide away on the ship, this section would be perfect."

    "Mmmhmm," Serena replied as she moved slightly closer to Ash. Seconds later, she pulled a cobweb off of him. "Though, I was just wondering, Ash. With everything that's been happening, do you think something is up with Dawn? I know we talked about it earlier, but... I just mean...she sounds like such a nice person...yet, all she's done is treat you differently and stalk us. She doesn't seem anything like the girl you described to us back in Kalos."

    Ash paused for a moment as he thought about Serena's words. Looking back over the past few days, Dawn really hadn't been herself. Sure, he had slightly noticed it, but now it was becoming really noticeable. It was as if she had become a completely different person. "You're right, Serena. I've tried to ignore it a little since she's my friend and I've given her some space like you recommended, but it hasn't seemed to make a difference at all. The way she's been acting around me and everyone else isn't how she normally is. And with her short temper lately, I barely recognize her now. She's been acting more like Misty on some days than herself."

    Ash then removed his hand from Serena's as he scratched the back of his head to think. Everything that was happening just didn't seem right, yet he couldn't put any ideas together as to why they were and it really frustrated him. Looking back at Serena, however, helped to calm him down slightly and he smiled at the slightly nervous girl. "But whatever the issue is, I know if we stick together we'll be able to solve it. We've solved worse situations than a missing friend and some awkward interactions. I'm sure we'll find Gary real soon."

    Smiling nervously, Serena brushed her hair off to the side to allow herself to see slightly better as they paused for a moment. "Maybe after all of this I should talk with Dawn a little more. See if I can...well you know... Have a girl to girl talk about... stuff," Serena then stated, trailing off at the end as her eyes wandered from Ash. The young trainer had a feeling as to what Serena would want to talk with his friend from Sinnoh about, since it had been his relationships with the two girls that may have caused some of this unwarranted tension between everyone. "Like I said, I tried talking to her earlier, but it didn't seem to help. At most, it might have made things worse between us, but I'd really like to just have a chance to spend time with her. Just the two of us. That way no one can interfere and I can hopefully make peace with her...though I'm not really sure what I've done."

    Ash watched as the Kalos native looked down at the floor with what he could only assume were saddened eyes considering the lighting still wasn't the greatest. Feeling a slight pain in his own chest from seeing her this way, Ash lightly placed a hand onto her shoulder, the action causing her to look up. "Serena, you shouldn't feel responsible about anything at all. If anyone should feel bad, it's me, since she's really gotten kind of clingy in a sense. Like last night, I could have sworn I heard her outside my room's window, mumbling something about me. But, she's my friend and I'm still going to be friends with both you and her, even if she doesn't want to be friends with you. And if she doesn't, it's her loss since I think you're one of the nicest and most thoughtful people I've ever met. So...just promise me that you won't beat yourself up over anything. Okay?" Ash asked as he watched a smile form onto Serena's face, causing one to also form on his own.

    "Ash..." Serena began to say as they both then heard what sounded to be a strangled moan. Looking in the direction that it came from, the two trainers noticed a door that wasn't like the others as it looked to have been opened recently. "Did... Did you hear that?"

    Nodding in agreement, Ash moved slowly towards the door as he heard another moan coming from behind it. He wasn't sure if it was Gary or not, but someone, or something, was behind there and he was going to find out what it was. Gripping onto the door handle, Ash began to turn it slowly only to find it was locked shut, not budging in the least. Before he could remove his hand the temperature in the hallway started dropping slightly, and Ash felt his hand become frozen to the door.

    "Hey! Who did that? !" He cried out, unable to remove his hand from the door handle at all. Ash turned to Serena as he watched her make her way over to help him only for the same ice to form around her legs and freeze her in the location she was currently standing in, alongside Pikachu. Unable to move her legs, Serena struggled to free herself while Ash watched her icy restraints continue to rise up until stopping at her waist. Pikachu, meanwhile, was completely frozen in his spot. "Whoever you are, show yourself right now!"

    "Now, now, now, hasn't anyone told you never to yell at your girlfriend, Ash?" A familiar voice asked as to the shock of both Ash and Serena. Dawn appeared in the hallway now, looking nothing like herself. Ash noticed that her hair was all tangled and matted while her clothes had dirt all over them and even had a few tears in them. Her shoes were still missing just as they had this morning, but now her face had a few cuts on it alongside dirt which made Ash wonder just what she had been up to. Piplup was standing right by her side, but unlike his trainer, the Penguin Pokémon seemed scared of the situation as he raised his tiny fins up to his mouth and shook back and forth in distress.

    Scariest of all, however, was the smirk on Dawn's face that sent shivers up his spine, because in that moment, he felt almost helpless for both him and his friends.


    "Do you think a Ghost Pokémon might be playing a prank on us right now? I remember how those few we met before always loved to goof around," Bonnie asked her older brother as he appeared to be fiddling away at something in his hands. "Though, if it were a Ghost type, I would love to meet it. Maybe it could play with us."

    "Please, Bonnie, there is no way a Ghost Pokémon is onboard this ship right now. The entire crew had to inspect the vessel before taking off and as a man of science I'll prove to you just how wrong you are," Clemont stated proudly as he pulled out an invention Bonnie knew all too well. Turning around to face the two children, Clemont nearly whacked the two of them in the face with a long metal pole that had a screen attached to the front of it. "Behold, this is the Mystery Watcher Two! As you remember, Bonnie, the original model was able to pick up several signals of anything nearby. Now though, I've improved it to the point where it is also able to pick up on body heat. This way, if we happen to pass by Gary or anyone else we'll be able to locate them easily."

    "Wow, science is so amazing!" Viggo cried out happily as he tried to touch the machine. He was stopped, however, as Bonnie grabbed ahold of the back of his shirt and just glared at his slight amusement of Clemont's inventions. Quickly apologizing to Bonnie, the young boy made his way over towards Clemont and began to watch him play around with it.

    "Heh heh heh," he laughed out while walking down the hallway, his latest invention beeping as they did so. "Thanks to the Mystery Watcher Two we'll solve this case of the missing Gary in no time at all. I'll prove to you, Bonnie, that a Ghost type Pokémon wasn't involved at all."

    "But Clemont, I've always been taught that the temperature drops when there's a ghost around," Viggo explained as he noticed a sudden drop in temperature. "And since we've walked into this section of the hallway it's only gotten colder. It just doesn't seem right."

    The young inventor looked up from his screen and let out a sigh at their own naivete. He knew they were just easily spooked due to their young age and had to do something to help calm them down. "Now, let me just remind the both of you that even though there are Ghost types, there are no such thing as ghosts. Those are just made up stories to scare you." Turning away from Viggo, Clemont immediately grew worried as his little sister was nowhere to be seen at all before Viggo himself disappeared from his sight. Looking around the hallway, it seemed as though he was the only one left remaining before two small creatures jumped from the shadows at him.

    "Arghhhhhhhh!" their two voices cried out in unison and it scared Clemont beyond belief. Jumping backwards, the young inventor shrieked out in fear as he smashed against one of the many doors that lined the hallway. Rubbing the back of his shoulder, Clemont noticed smoke rising out of his light and knew that it didn't mean anything good. Pulling it forward, the young inventor began to play with the device only to see it fizzle out completely.

    "This isn't good. I must have hit the light harder than I expected when I fell into the wall," he muttered to himself while looking at the screen attached to his Mystery Watcher Two. He was satisfied that at least this one invention was still working for the time being. "Without a light, we'll have to rely on just the Mystery Watcher Two to try and find any signals of people or Pokémon on the ship. Though, from previous experience I can deduce that it isn't a Ghost type Pokémon."

    "How can you say that, Clemont?" Viggo asked as he tried to look around Clemont to see the machine in his hand, only to instead walk right into his back. Bonnie's laughter echoed off the hallways, no doubt taking pleasure in having succeeded in scaring her brother.

    "You see, Bonnie and myself once encountered a group of them during our journey through Kalos. We quickly learned they were a group of jokesters and if we had any Ghost Pokémon like those, they wouldn't have kidnapped Gary without alerting us in the process. This has got to be the work of another source."

    "A-Another source!?" Viggo replied, gulping at Clemont's news. Clemont watched as the young boy appeared to shake as he spoke. "What do you mean by that? A-are they dangerous?"

    Clemont shook his head back and forth before pausing a moment to think about that question. As both Bonnie and Viggo waited for an answer (the former stopping her giggles), Clemont's device began to buzz as it picked up a source within the hallway. "Oh! My device says someone is down at the end of this hallway! I bet if we follow it, we might find the person who kidnapped Gary! Hurry!"

    "B-B-But, they could be dangerous!" Viggo cried out while placing his hands up to his face. Clemont turned around and in the darkness he could see the frightened look on the young boy and swore he could have heard his knees shaking from fear. Before the young inventor could answer, Bonnie had already grabbed Viggo's hand, which Clemont noticed helped calm the boy.

    "You don't need to worry about that, Viggo. Clemont will make sure we're safe no matter what. He may not look it, but he's pretty tough. You don't want to mess with him, otherwise you're in trouble," Bonnie stated happily as Viggo sighed in what Clemont assumed to be relief. Before he could even say anything to them, Bonnie had already dragged Viggo down the hall and towards the source of his machine's beeping. "Come on, Clemont, keep up!"

    "Bonnie, hold up! You don't know what could be down there!" Clemont tried to warn her as he tried to keep pace with the two children. However, Clemont's own imagination began to get the better of him as he could have sworn he heard someone talking on the other side of the wall, followed by a yell of sorts. Yet, he knew it was impossible since there weren't any rooms on that side, just another hallway that should have been abandoned, not that he was entirely familiar with the ship's blueprints. Hearing a thud down the hallway, Clemont stopped focusing on the noise and instead rushed down the hallway to see Bonnie and Viggo on top of each other, splattered across the ground with Viggo's arms wrapped around Bonnie. "What happened, you two? !"

    "W-We slipped on something…" Bonnie muttered while sitting up on Viggo. The young boy didn't move at all as he allowed his friend to remain comfortable for the time being while she rubbed her head slightly. "Though Viggo took the worst of it. He broke the fall for me by landing first. Thanks, Viggo!"

    "It...It...It was nothing. You're my friend and I had to protect you. Besides, Clemont wouldn't have been happy if you had gotten hurt," Viggo replied as a light blush formed from the praise of Bonnie. Clemont watched the boy with interest (and slight displeasure) as Serena's words from earlier replayed in his head. As the two kids stood back up, Clemont quickly noticed that the floor seemed a little slicker than usual and kneeled down onto the ground to get a better look.

    "Hmm. That's odd," he quietly muttered, only to be shocked to see Bonnie and Viggo's faces on either side of his own. Moving backwards, Clemont continued to investigate the area as the substance seemed to be elsewhere as well. "Now I'm really confused..."

    Clemont appeared to be deep in thought as he looked at the walls and floor, stopping only to check his machine's readings every once in awhile. Looking over to see Bonnie and Viggo staring at him in confusion, he silently cursed himself for not explaining it all to them a bit earlier. "Don't you two think it's a little odd to have the floor be so slick right now? Especially since we just left Hoenn a few days ago and the weather still has a tropical feel to it?"

    "Well, maybe a pipe just sprung a leak," Viggo offered as an answer. Clemont shook his head at the thought. It didn't add up; water could be slick, but this was a different slick than what water would produce. The two boys were about to say something to each other only for their thoughts to be broken up by Bonnie skating by them.

    "You two should try this! It's just like ice skating," she mentioned before grabbing ahold of Viggo and gliding across the section of the hallway with him. Clemont watched his sister with interest as a new thought came to him from her skating. Speaking loudly, Clemont gathered the attention of everyone with him.

    "Of course! I should have realized this earlier! The substance covering the floor is a sheet of an ice-like material. And with the temperature being so hot and humid, there's no way ice could form from anything like a leak. So that means someone had to have formed this ice on their own." His eyes then trailed over to the walls and his hands followed suit as they quickly rubbed up against them, only to feel the same slippery substance cover them as it let off a cooling aroma. "Aha! The walls are the same. Whoever did this had to have snuck away since it's still fresh! If we can find the culprit then maybe they could lead us to Gary!"

    "Owww!" Viggo cried out in pain as Clemont watched the boy land on his behind in pain. From Clemont's limited view of the child, it appeared that he had lost his balance and fallen onto the ground from Bonnie's idea to ice skate around the hall. Sighing to himself, Clemont offered the young boy a hand up. Though, before he could react in time, Clemont felt his machine being grabbed instead of his arm, and the device was yanked from his grasp and clattered against the floor.

    "Oh no! I didn't mean to Clemont!" Viggo shouted as the device suddenly broke into dozens of pieces and scattered around the hall. Sighing, Clemont was glad, at the very least, that the device hadn't blown up. Though without it, they now had no way to find whoever might have been hiding in this section of the boat. "I couldn't see anything and just grabbed the nearest thing. I mistook it for your hand and just pulled it... And now I've broken our only way to find Gary!"

    Clemont felt bad for the kid; he truly seemed upset over his actions, and the young inventor didn't know what to do. Deciding to try his best to cheer the boy up, Clemont slowly patted him on the back, catching both himself and Viggo by surprise with his action. "It's alright, it was only an accident. Besides, I can construct a new machine before the end of the day. And once that's done, Ash and I can come back here and search. But for now, it might be best to make our way back to the main deck. So stay close to me, you two, and then we can try to figure out our next plan." Nodding in agreement, the two younger kids followed behind Clemont as they both gripped onto a piece of his jumpsuit; an action Clemont assumed was being done to make sure they didn't get separated. As they continued down the hall, Clemont could have sworn he now heard a female voice talking, followed by a slight explosion, but chose to ignore it for the time being.




    "D-Dawn, what is all of this about!? Why are you attacking us right now? !" Ash demanded as he looked over to see Serena shivering from the cold that was being produced from the ice on her body. Looking over at his other friend, he couldn't figure out why she would attack him at all. "We're friends, Dawn; there's no need for any of this."

    "Don't worry, Ash, I've been promised that everything will be fine once my job is complete. I'm saving you from this bad influence, my dear. She doesn't deserve you like I do," Dawn stated as that eerie and unsettling smirk crossed over her face once more before she licked her lips. Pointing a finger forward, Dawn issued another Ice Beam attack and the blast struck Ash's body until it was completely covered in ice with the exception of his head.

    "Once everything is finished, we'll be saved from those wanting to break us apart, Ash," she continued on as she took his hat off of his head and ran a hand through his hair. He could have sworn he heard her purring while doing it, but preferred to ignore it for the time being. "Our love is forever, Ash Ketchum, two hearts frozen forever in time. Knowing no end and willing to traverse all of space to see each other again. And because of that, I cannot allow you or anyone to enter that locked door my sweet, sweet, love," she continued to say while moving her hand down from his hair and towards his cheek. Gripping underneath his chin with all her might, Dawn forced Ash to look her right in the face and what he saw disturbed him greatly. She wasn't the Dawn he knew at all. In fact, it appeared as though she had lost it and suffered a mental breakdown to him.

    "Dawn, I don't know what's wrong with you, but you have to stop this now. Gary's missing and I think you need to see a doctor immediate-" Ash tried to plead with her but was cut off as she pulled his head straight towards hers while she tried to kiss him again. This time however, Ash fought against it as best he could, not willing to let her get away with anything else. Shaking his head back and forth, he was unable to break free from her grip as her puckered lips grew closer and closer to his, only stopping when a stream of fire shot right between them and forced Dawn to back off.

    "Great aim, Braixen!" Serena called out. Ash turned to see she was completely freed, water dripping off of the ends of her dress while Braixen smiled happily. It was at that moment Ash realized she had Braixen melt the ice around her while Dawn was talking like a mad person. "Now, I don't know what's wrong with you Dawn, but from what Ash has told me, you're nothing like yourself! You can't force yourself upon people like this, Ash doesn't see you in a romantic way! You two are best friends! Braixen, use Flamethrower!"

    "Brai...xen!" The Fire type cried out loudly as she skipped the usual dance moves and pointed her wand forward. A blast of flames soon emerged from it only to be canceled out by Piplup's Bubblebeam.

    "Pip..." The Water type stated sadly as he looked ready to cry from this entire situation. Despite his obvious reluctance to be fighting his friends, Piplup listened to Dawn's commands and he quickly fired off another Bubblebeam, which crashed into Braixen and pushed her backwards slightly.

    "What do you know? !" Dawn screamed out as her voice lowered in anger to a point Ash didn't even recognize it anymore. Dawn appeared to be anything but herself to Ash right now. He could describe her as psychotic at the moment due to her constant mood swings and her strange, pulsating eyes. "Ash and I were perfect together! Best friends who could rely on the other through thick and thin as we progressed on our separate goals in life! Others viewed us as a couple and I even thought he would make the next step in our relationship! But no! He runs off back to Kanto, leaving me devastated and broken on the docks in Twinleaf Town! And now you've appeared into the picture stealing all of his attention that should be going to me! I'm going to make you pay for all of that! Piplup use Drill Peck."

    Serena took a step back as she listened to Dawn's entire rant. By this point, Ash had to admit that Dawn lost it; he may not have been the most romantic person in the world, but even he knew that he never viewed Dawn in any way other than as his best friend. And he certainly remembered the events in Twinleaf Town quite differently...if anything, Piplup had been the one devastated and broken. He couldn't help but feel bad about it, though, as he never knew she had these feelings for him. Yet deep down he knew he could never return them back. Looking over at Serena, Ash watched as the young girl readied herself and had Braixen counter the Drill Peck with a Scratch attack. Sparks flew off of the two attacks as Braixen appeared to overpower Piplup in their short duel (though, to Ash, it looked more like Piplup backed off).

    "We'll keep going at it, Braixen! We have to not only find Gary, but we need to help Dawn out with whatever is wrong with her! Let's show them what we can do when working together! Flamethrower but add in our little flair!" Serena called out as both herself and Braixen nodded in agreement. Ash watched on as Braixen flipped through the air, easily dodging an incoming Bubblebeam before dancing around a Drill Peck. To Ash, it seemed like Serena and Braixen were in complete sync with each other while Piplup was now obviously holding back with his own attacks. The way that Serena and Braixen moved around captivated Ash and he couldn't take his eyes off of them.

    "Piplup, stop messing around! Take them down with Whirlpool!" Dawn yelled out as she grew impatient with what was happening. The small Penguin Pokémon turned around nervously to view his trainer and Ash couldn't help but feel bad for the Water type when he, too, saw Dawn's face. She looked ferocious and mad beyond words as Piplup chirped out sadly.

    "Now! Launch it like a pillar in a Showcase!" Serena called out as Braixen slammed her wand hard into the ground only for a tower of flames to burst up from the ground around Piplup and disturb his forming Whirlpool attack, the pile of water falling backwards onto Dawn. "Keep at it with Hidden Power!"

    "Piplup, freeze those orbs with your Ice Beam!" Dawn cried out angrily as she wiped her drenched hair away from her eyes. Piplup looked back at Dawn with a worried look on his face before turning around to see three clear orbs smash right into him. The small Penguin Pokémon flew backwards before landing on top of Dawn, causing the both of them to tumble onto the ground.

    "Get off of me! You're really getting on my nerves, Piplup!" Dawn snapped her partner while picking herself up. Ash watched as the two girls locked eyes together and neither seemed to move at all. Sighing, Dawn flipped her hair around as the soaked locks smacked against Ash's face and caused the young trainer to cough from it.

    Turning around to face the coughing boy, Dawn smiled at him. Ash couldn't help but feel worried from that. He assumed Dawn must have realized it as well, based on her response to how he looked. "Don't worry, Ash, I'm just going to finish this all up. And then once my job is finished, we'll be able to finally relax just like it was supposed to be. Though, someone is becoming a pain in my side!" Dawn yelled through gritted teeth as she glared over at Serena.

    "Dawn, I can't just sit back and watch this happen to you! Even if you don't want to be my friend, I'll help you through this!" Serena called back as she placed a hand over her heart and kept her stare on Dawn. Ash wondered just what Serena had in mind only to be surprised at her calling a Flamethrower out. To Ash, it appeared like Dawn wasn't worried at all. Instead she was already making her next move.

    "Please, you've got to do better than that! Piplup, use Bubblebeam! Show this Performer how us real Coordinators do things!"

    "Luplup, pip," Piplup tried to argue only to be glared at by Dawn. Shuddering from her look, Piplup turned back around to face the approaching Flamethrower and fired off his Bubblebeam. The two attacks collided in a similar fashion to the way they did at the Contest Spectacular as a light mist covered over the entire area and made it impossible to see.

    "Great job, Piplup. Maybe if you would listen to me more often, then we wouldn't be in this situation. You remember what I told you, right? If we do this one last thing then we'll be rewarded greatly with not only Ash, but also with..." Dawn began to say only to trail off at the sound of splashing. As he watched Dawn focus on an area of the hallway, Ash too began to listen in and realized he could hear the faintest sounds of footsteps running along. "Oh please, Serena. If you think running in the mist is going to help you out then you're wrong. If anything it gave away your Pokémon's location! Bubblebeam, let's go!"

    Ash waited for an order from Serena, yet nothing came at all as the spheres of liquid flew across the hallway and crashed into who he assumed was Braixen. A light moan could be heard. However, as he listened to it, he soon realized that it wasn't Braixen but actually Serena herself being hit. Worrying for her, the Pallet Town native began to struggle against his icy restraints only to fail miserably. "Serena!" he finally called out nervously as the Bubblebeam attack continued on with no end in sight. Then he saw it. A faint light, something that would have been missed had he not been looking for Braixen. The remnants of a Flamethrower attack were being used on something...or someone, Ash quickly realized as he looked down at the ground. The entire area around Dawn was completely soaked from the failed Whirlpool from earlier and Ash had a feeling as to what Serena had planned.

    "P-Pikachu, use...use Thunderbolt!" Serena called out as Ash heard a light thud and knew she had been knocked down onto the ground. However, to his amazement, a glowing yellow spot soon emerged in the mist before it flew across the entire hallway and shocked Piplup. Ash listened on as the Water type cried out in pain before the electricity surged from him and into the puddle of water that surrounded Dawn.

    "Ahhhhh!" the Sinnoh native cried out in pain while Ash flinched from the assault. Yes, Dawn had been crazy lately, but Ash had taken enough Thunderbolts from Pikachu to know that no one should have to take one at full strength. Continuing to watch the situation play out, Ash saw Dawn fall to her knees before faceplanting onto the ground with a light murmur. "I... Told was easy... Wildest dreams fulfilled...need to tell... As-aghhh," she finished right before passing out from the electrical shock, Piplup joining her on the ground as well.

    "S-Serena, are you alright? !" Ash called out as he quickly looked over at the mist to see the Kalos native walking towards him with Braixen by her side and Pikachu now on her shoulder. She seemed to have been shaken up a little as her clothes had a few rips and her hat had been thrown off during the skirmish, but otherwise Ash thought she looked fine for what had just happened. "That was amazing with the way you battled there! You and Braixen seemed like one while battling together. You've really grown."

    "Well, I took a lot of your own battle style and added it into my own for Contest battles," Serena responded while brushing a few strands of hair out of her face while Braixen began to melt Ash out of his icy prison. "The way you battle is just so captivating that I wanted to copy it and turn it into my own. I knew that there was no one else I would rather look up to when it came to battling. Though I'm still not anywhere close to your skill level yet."

    "You wouldn't know that from watching you right now," Ash replied as he began to move his now free arms while Braixen worked at thawing out his lower body. "The way you battled looked like someone who had been at it for a while now. You fought all the way to the end and no matter how bad it looked, you..."

    "Never gave up until the end," they both said at the same time while smiling. Ash had been amazed by how much she had grown while in Hoenn, not only as a trainer but also in her desire to help someone out. And that was just one of the things he enjoyed about Serena: how thoughtful she was for others and placing them all before her own self.

    "We should really get Dawn to a doctor," Serena stated while bending down towards the ground and slinging one of the unconscious girl's arms around her shoulder while lifting her upwards. "Maybe Brock can take a look at her and make sure she isn't hurt too badly. Pikachu's attack was only meant to stun her, not actually knock her out."

    "Right, Brock will know what to do," Ash agreed as he threw Dawn's other arm around his own shoulder. The two trainers began to carry Dawn's unconscious body back towards the main deck, forgetting all about the moaning coming from the door. Even if Ash had to wonder what was beyond the locked door, Dawn was more important. Making their way back down the hallway, the duo were soon greeted with the sight of Clemont and the two children (who were waiting patiently, to both of their surprise).

    "Why is Dawn with you?" Clemont asked in shock as he took the spot Serena had been in to help Ash carry the unconscious Coordinator out from the hallway. "And why is she unconscious? Did something bad happen to you two?"

    "Well, we're not quite sure what happened, but for some reason, Dawn attacked the two of us," Ash answered as the group of five trekked across the ship's deck. Serena walked alongside Ash, offering to trade places with him every so often. "She caught us by surprise and it was really strange. She wasn't anything like her normal self and she actually tried to freeze me solid. If it wasn't for Serena and her great teamwork with Braixen, who knows what would have happened."

    "It was nothing, really. We just did what had to be done. Didn't we, Braixen?" Serena asked while turning away from Ash due to a slight blush forming from the compliment. That was one thing she didn't need brought up again right now, but from the snickering coming from behind her, Serena had a feeling a certain someone was ready to try something again.

    "Brai!" The Fire type cried out in agreement as she carried the passed out Piplup carefully. The entire group had just reached the main deck as they all were blinded by the sun.

    "Serena, why don't you take Bonnie and Viggo and go find Captain Ryker. Clemont and I will bring Dawn to find Brock and the others to have her checked out. This way we can all meet up on the main deck in one spot...hopefully," Ash decided as he stared at Serena in the starting-to-set sun. Shaking the image from his head for the time being, Ash tried to focus on what was happening, but the exact spot Serena was in managed to capture the setting sun perfectly with herself.

    "Alright, I'll find them as fast as I can," she replied while nodding at the Pallet Town native. Looking over at the two young children, Serena didn't need to say one word as they were both ready to go and find everyone. Running off as Ash, Clemont, Braixen and Pikachu watched, Serena smiled to Ash and he knew immediately that she would find everyone in no time at all.

    Turning back to Clemont, Ash motioned for them to continue going as Serena and the others soon ran out of view. Knowing that they had to make it to Brock, the two boys began their trek across the ship once more.



    Author's Note: This was a rather doozy of a chapter, wasn't it? Gary missing, creepy corridors, and then a very psychotic Dawn. Of course, now that she's out of commission, hopefully she'll get the help she needs...which would also mean getting some well-needed answers for why she's been acting this way, something this chapter hinted at heavily. Other than that, I hope you enjoyed the battle along with some of the humor this time around. We've definitely got more in store.

    potat lasaro: Well, what can we say besides a lot went on. But seriously, what is wrong with Dawn? She's just completely lost it this chapter and nearly froze Ash and Serena alive. Now she at least can be inspected by a doctor, but who's to say even that can help her at this point. To add to that though, Gary's missing with no sight of him at all. Hopefully you enjoyed the chapter and thanks for reading!

    We're both really astounded by the amount of support this has gotten and hope it continues until the end. Until the next chapter, please Review and Dare to Be Silly.
    Dare to Be Silly!

    Ancienverse AU Fanfiction

    Love in the Time of Teamwork
    Once every seven years there was a tournament celebrating the bonds between people and Pokemon. Of course, Serena expected Ash to want to take part, but she had no idea the ways in which it would change their lives for good or ill. She was confident, however, that by the end of that week, something between herself and Ash would be different. Amourshipping.

    Remaining stories can be found in this community here.

  11. #11
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    Some answers will arrive this chapter, along with more questions. Either way, we hope you enjoy it. Time for Chapter 9!


    Chapter 9

    A Lapse of Control

    It didn't take long to find the Pokémon doctor, the man in the dining room with the remainder of their search party, talking with concern. Of course, Ash's appearance warranted quite a few gasps from those around him. It was no surprise, he realized. He was drenched, slight ice crystals around his pants and looked like he'd been through hell. Combined with that, he and Clemont were supporting Dawn, passed out and looking like she'd been living in a cave. That alone was enough to attract the gaze of the guests and his own mother.

    "Ash! What happened to you? And your friend?" she asked, standing from her seat. Brock turned towards their group, immediately forgetting about Lisia beside him, a look of seriousness on his face as he did so. Ash shifted Dawn's weight on him, alleviating a little of the weight from Clemont. She seemed to be in a state of semi-consciousness, mumbling words by his ears.

    "Ash…have to…no…job…" It sounded incoherent, and Ash was glad that only he and Clemont could hear just what she was saying. At least it would save her from some embarrassment. Though, now Ash realized she'd been doing a fine job of that all on her own the last couple days.

    "Sorry, mom, but we don't have time! Brock, something's wrong with Dawn," Ash insisted. Brock's gaze narrowed (well, as much as it could) while he stared at Dawn being supported by the two boys. Ash looked around, surprised to find that Captain Ryker wasn't in the dining hall (though that should have been obvious from Serena not being there...and he almost smacked himself for realizing that was the task he'd put her on in the first place).

    "What happened?" he asked, forgetting his previous conversation and instead walking around the table to join with them. Pikachu leapt to the table, looking in concern and worry towards Dawn. So, too, did Sawyer, but he didn't step any closer.

    "I don't know. We were looking for Gary, and then she suddenly attacked me and Serena. Did you guys manage to find him?" Ash asked. Brock frowned a moment and then put his hands on Ash to turn him around and lead him out of the dining hall. As Ash turned, he caught sight of Jasper and the three janitors (or cooks…or whatever they were) watching their group. Neither Captain Ryker nor Mr. Cecil were anywhere to be seen.

    "No, but let's chat in the infirmary," Brock insisted, making sure his hands were placed firmly on both Ash and Clemont's backs as he pushed them out of the dining hall. The murmurs amongst the guests followed them out as Lisia stepped up.

    "Nothing to worry about, everyone!" Lisia called to everyone in the room. "That was all the opening act of a performance meant to get your attention. Now, me and Miette, one of our Top Four in the Contest Spectacular are going to put on a show for you!"

    "Lisia will keep them calm," Brock insisted, but it wasn't in the usual admiring and simpering tone he often used. Ash could tell he had his game-face on, and that was enough to keep him alert as they broke out onto the deck, bathed in the red-orange glow of sunset. It made the wood on the deck seem almost amber as they moved along, turning towards some stairs that led to an upper deck where the infirmary was, close to one of the smokestacks on the ship. Sawyer trailed behind them, looking even more concerned than he had when this whole thing started. Quickly enough, they reached the infirmary and opened the door. Nurse Joy instantly looked at them.

    "Brock, I thought you had your time off for the afternoon and evening," she said, blinking at the Pokémon doctor's presence.

    "Sorry, Nurse Joy, but this is an emergency," Brock said. She instantly stood and went to grab a bed, noticing the state of Dawn between Ash and Clemont's bodies. In a second, she'd rolled it over and the two boys placed Dawn upon it, where she started shivering, like she was the one that was cold.

    "So…she attacked you while you were looking for Gary?" Sawyer asked in concern. Ash nodded, looking down with concern at his friend. "You didn't find him, then?"

    "No…we didn't have time before she…" Ash trailed off, thinking back to that door, the locked one he had heard sounds behind it. Perhaps there was something there, but Ash wasn't sure if it was Gary or just some random stowaway Pokémon or maybe just a hole in the room. Either way, Dawn and Piplup were the most important. The door could come later; even missing, Gary could take care of himself.

    "Nurse Joy, could you please treat Piplup while I examine Dawn?" Brock asked stoically. Ash was a little surprised at how straightforward he was being. Having been so used to Brock flirting with the nurses he met, it was a sight to see him not even think about it for a second and instead focus all his efforts on his job.

    "I'm on it," Nurse Joy said, taking Piplup in her arms from Braixen and placing him on a small gurney.

    "Braixen, Pikachu, can you two…?" Ash decided to ask. Both of them got the answer and briefly stepped outside of the door, presumably to fire off some kind of signal flare that would let Serena and the others know exactly where they were. Pikachu quickly came back inside and ran over to join Piplup, looking sadly at his best friend.

    "Tell me exactly what happened," Brock said, seating himself next to Dawn and feeling for her pulse. He may not have been a human doctor, but it was obvious that he knew what he was doing. He also frowned upon touching her pulse. "And I mean everything, Ash. Don't leave any details out."

    "Okay…well…" Ash folded his arms, trying to think of the best place to start. He quickly decided, but he wasn't happy about it. "Dawn's been acting really weird and stuff. Like...touching my face and things like that. I mean, she wouldn't even give me a high five, and she even messed up her appeals. The Dawn I know isn't like that."

    "So you noticed it, too…" Brock commented. He shifted around and lifted up one of Dawn's eyelids, looking in with a light. "I had thought it was just a misstep, but three times said something was off…and then dinner last night."

    "Uh…yeah…" Ash noted, not really wanting to think about the antics Dawn had pulled the previous evening. He found he'd much rather think about his and Serena's time in the ruins today. Which, once he had… "She was following us today in the ruins. Tried to act like she wasn't but every time we'd turn around, she was there."

    "And then she attacked you…" Brock muttered. He was looking increasingly disturbed, just as Ash had been feeling towards Dawn the last few days. The girl had not been herself.

    "Yeah, she kept saying things about her 'job' and us being together forever and love transcending time and space. I mean, she sounded crazy, Brock!" Ash insisted. Next to him, Clemont was nodding his head, as though he agreed with all of this.

    "Luplup!" Piplup suddenly squeaked out, sitting up on the bed. Pikachu looked relieved and moved to hug him. That action seemed to cause Piplup some sadness as he hung his head. Ash moved over to the Penguin Pokémon.

    "You were worried, too, weren't you, Piplup?" Ash asked of him. Piplup nodded, and that enough was cause to confirm Ash's suspicions that Dawn was not herself. Brock stood from his chair.

    "Ash, Clemont, go and get Jasper. We'll need something strong enough to wake Dawn up, and he should have the ingredients in the kitchen. I'd like to stay here and examine Dawn while you do," the doctor told them firmly.

    "We're on it," Clemont said, holding a thumbs up before running out the door. Ash gave a look to Pikachu, telling him to look after all of them, and then he was out of the door after Clemont, all too quickly catching up to his slow pace. Once he had, he slowed his own to keep them side-by-side as they went down the stairs. "I'm sure she'll be fine, Ash."

    "I know she will…but I want to know why she was acting so weird," Ash told him. Clemont was once more nodding to indicate his agreement on the subject.

    "Were you two ever…you know…an item?"

    "An item? What's that mean?" Ash asked of his friend, genuinely confused by the question.

    "Did you ever date?" Clemont asked. If Ash had been drinking something, he'd have spat it out. The thought had never crossed his mind. Was that really what people had thought of him and Dawn? More than that, did people think of he and Serena in the same way? Jasper certainly seemed to think so, at least, so…Ash shook his head to clear the distracting thoughts.

    "No," he answered easily. "Dawn's like my best friend, not like…that…I think."

    "Hmmm…" Clemont mused aloud. "Well, now that I think about it, you two acted more like siblings when the cruise started…so I wonder why she would…"

    "Ash!" The call of Serena's voice interrupted their conversation (gratefully, in Ash's opinion) and the two turned to see that Serena was running forward with a flustered Captain Ryker at his side. Bonnie and Viggo looked to be hanging back for whatever reason. "I got the Captain while he was searching a different area, but is Dawn…?"

    "Brock's looking her over," Ash answered, pointing up towards the infirmary. "He asked us to get Jasper."

    "Sounds like a good idea," Ryker grumbled out. "To think a passenger would be so harmed on the ship. I've failed in my duties as a captain…"

    "That's not true, Captain," Clemont said graciously, trying to placate the forlorn captain. The older man wore a very harsh expression on his face, one that would have made Ash recoil a little if not for his ultimate goal in finding Jasper and grabbing him to help. Ryker made a grunt that sounded like a growl and Ash decided now was his best time to leave. Straightening his hat, he looked out over the orange ocean and stepped into the dining hall. There were now less people there, the main meal for dinner having obviously finished. His mother was gone too, leaving Jasper and his three helpers wiping down the counters and tables.

    "Ah, Ash," Jasper said, calling to him upon catching sight. The other three all looked up with shrewd and calculating looks before Manectric barked at them to get working again. "How's your friend from earlier doing?"

    "Right, about that…Brock needs your help," Ash said, unsure about what else to say to the man. Jasper stopped in his wiping and placed his rag down, lifting his eyebrow just a bit. "Dawn's pretty out of it and he thinks you have the ingredients to make a kind of medicine to help her."

    Jasper continued to survey Ash a moment before sighing with what seemed to be resignation. "Never thought I'd be using food for something such as this, but there's a first time for everything. You three!"

    "Yes, sir!" the three janitors said with salutes.

    "Gather up some saffron, almonds and the coffee beans. Oh, and some blueberries as well!" Jasper stated, once more grabbing the rag to toss it into a hanging hamper. The three scurried towards the kitchen to grab the materials needed while Jasper dusted his hands off and indicated for Ash to show him the way. Nodding, the raven-haired trainer led the chef out of the dining hall to where the group was waiting. "Oh, captain…you're here?"

    "If there's a crisis on my ship, I can't just let it pass by," Ryker said harshly, almost bitingly. He certainly wasn't the usual, jovial captain that they'd all come to know. Then again, anyone would switch modes if something happened. Ash knew that all too well from the Flare Incident.

    "Ha ha, fair enough," Jasper chuckled out. Ash turned around, giving a nod to Serena and Clemont as he walked forward, back towards the stairs that would lead to the infirmary. Serena drew level with him.

    "Is…is Dawn okay…you know, physically?" Serena asked, her hands twisting together, picking at part of her dress in absolute worry. Ash saw this and without thinking, reached out to grab her hands to stop her. She did stop, looking at him with glistening eyes, full of worry.

    "Brock wouldn't tell us. But Piplup's fine, so I'm sure she will be, too. No need to worry. And no giving up," Ash told her confidently. Clemont appeared to take a step back, like he was giving them room to talk while he went to rein in the clearly conspiring Bonnie and Viggo.

    "R-right," Serena said, sucking in a breath and then smiling. He knew she was truly still worried deep inside, but decided to not press the issue. Serena had always been strong. It was one of the things he'd always loved about her. Whether things were easygoing or desperate, she'd find a well of strength, and he'd no doubt she would this time as well. He blinked as his feet hit the stairs. He loved it about her? That was weird, yet seeing the way her honey blonde hair captured the glow of the setting sun, and her blue eyes shone with crystal determination, he couldn't help but think there was no other way to put it.

    "By the way, where's Mr. Cecil? Wasn't he with the captain?" Ash asked of the girl next to him. Serena tilted her head a little.

    "He wasn't with the captain when we met up with him…" Serena informed him. "He probably went to secure the artifact. I mean, if Gary's missing and Sawyer was searching…"

    "Who's left? Right," Ash said, feeling it made sense. Still, it made him uneasy that they appeared to be in crisis mode and Mr. Cecil was nowhere to be seen. He didn't let that worry him, however, as they'd reached the top and we're aiming right for the infirmary. Ash turned his head, once more looking out over the ocean, strange rock formations like pillars jutting out on the sides of the slowly gliding ship from the sea. However, he was again far too focused on Serena and her vision of…well, the only word he could seem to use in that moment was beauty. It made him lose a sense of time and self for just a few seconds until he felt Bonnie ribbing him roughly while Serena looked at him in confusion.

    "What'cha staring at, Ash?" Bonnie snickered out. Viggo was doing a similar action while Clemont looked between the two kids, trying to figure out why they were laughing. His gaze, in particular, was focused on Viggo with a little frown.

    "The ocean," Ash insisted, though he knew he was lying deep down. "It's really, uh…pretty. Yeah."

    "Uh-huh…" Bonnie said while rolling her eyes. Ash had no retort to that and turned his attention to see Serena running over to Braixen and reuniting with her Pokémon. Collecting his thoughts, Ash walked over and grabbed the door handle to push it in. The first thing he caught sight of were Piplup and Pikachu munching on some Pokémon food while Sawyer sat and wrote furiously in his notebook.

    "Pikapi!" Pikachu cried upon seeing him, patting Piplup on the back and jumping back over to him.

    "Yeah, we're back. How's Dawn?" Ash didn't get an answer in the cramped infirmary while Jasper and Ryker bustled over to where Brock seemed to have finished examining Dawn.

    "The diagnosis?" Jasper asked, now all business himself. The sound of rustling outside the door informed Ash that the three with the ingredients had arrived and Clemont moved to open the door only to find it wasn't just the three but Miette with them as well, carrying a carton of blueberries. Lisia appeared to be absent, but Ash guessed she might have still been placating some of the passengers.

    "Not sure yet. First, I think we should wake her up," Brock told the room at large. Ash stepped back, grabbing Serena with him, while Clemont did the same for Bonnie and Viggo. Serena's body pressed up against his as they touched their backs to the wall, and Ash caught a glimpse of Miette looking like she was holding in giggles as she arched a somewhat suggestive eyebrow. He didn't quite get what she meant, but he could certainly feel the warmth of Serena's skin on his.

    "You got everything?" Jasper asked with a very clipped tone.

    "Here they are, boss!"

    "And they're available at no cost!" the blue-haired one said with a rather simpering smile on his face as he held out the ingredients. Jasper immediately took them, whipping out a small glass from the pockets of his apron. He was certainly one well prepared chef. With a speed and accuracy that even Brock and Clemont could likely not match, Jasper took his ingredients and mixed them. Ryker watched with indifference until sitting in the glass was a cup of a dark blue…substance.

    "Gross, huh?" Miette commented sidling up next to Ash uncomfortably. Maybe it had been because of Dawn's antics, but he was finding that someone coming up against him suddenly was an unwelcome surprise. "Glad I'm not drinking it."

    "Me, too," Serena voiced, though she looked more concerned over Dawn's state of well-being. Brock shifted in the chair.

    "Captain Ryker, if you would…" he said, indicating to Dawn's prone body. Ryker nodded sharply and moved over to grab ahold of Dawn's head, elevating her to a decent consumption level. Jasper handed over the fluids and Brock steadily tipped them down Dawn's throat.

    A couple seconds passed in absolute silence, broken only by the muted closing of Sawyer's notebook as he watched what would happen. Then Dawn suddenly sat up, gasping and shouting an incoherent string of words.

    "Yellow eyes! Time…time…time for…have to tell…in danger…" Ash watched with his eyes expanded as wide as they could be before Dawn slumped down, breathing evenly. Brock moved over to the bluenette once more, taking the same measures that he had as before.

    "Brock…?" Ash asked, becoming concerned with the lack of his friend's words. Brock finally finished and sighed, slumping into his chair.

    "She's fine. Just needs a little rest…and maybe a change of clothes," came Brock's response.

    "I can go get those," Miette offered simply. Piplup suddenly leapt down from the gurney he was situated on and walked up to Miette, thumping his chest proudly.

    "Pip."

    "Looks like Piplup will show you the way," Ash told her. Miette nodded, tossing a smirk towards him; though judging from the way Serena tensed against him, he wasn't sure if it was for him or her.

    "All right, I'll be back. Don't get too comfortable until I'm back," Miette said with a teasing tone. Ash frowned once more, but let the comment slide as she left. There was no reason for them to be comfortable given what Dawn was going through.

    "However," Brock began, looking at all of them sternly, his mouth set in a thin line, "there was definitely something wrong with her. When I checked her before, her pupils were shrunken and her pulse was low…almost like she should have been asleep, but wasn't. Just now, though, everything seemed back to normal…as it should be."

    "What does that mean, Brock?" Serena asked, now stepping away from the wall. Pikachu avoided her movement by hanging on to Ash's shoulder and looking over at the three janitors, who pretended to not be watching.

    "You said Dawn was acting really weird, right Ash?" Brock asked. Ash only nodded, really not wanting to relive those moments again. "I think…and this is just a guess…but maybe Dawn was controlled by something."

    "Controlled?" Clemont blurted out in utmost surprise. "By what? For what?"

    "I don't know," the doctor admitted to them. "But her erratic actions, not being herself, her whole being acting as though she were hypnotized..."

    Ash frowned. Now that he truly thought about it, he realized Dawn's weirdness had gone further than he had initially remembered. She'd spent no time with them at the reef, instead examining the ship. And at times, it almost seemed like she was interested in the artifact; perhaps a little too interested. Perhaps she had been controlled, just as Brock thought.

    "But if she's controlled, then…"

    "She's fine now. You saw the way she woke up," Brock assured him. Jasper nodded, as if lost in deep thought, a frown on his face.

    "I made it rather potent and bitter. It instantly charges the senses. I used to use it on myself and Manectric on nights of late research…" Jasper noted. "Of course, it can sully the taste buds. But it charges the brain. If there were any lingering mental effects on her brain, it's surely gone now."

    "Wow, your cooking is amazing if it can even do that!" Clemont said, gripping his fists in front of his chest. "Are there other kinds you can make with those kinds of effects?"

    "Plenty," Jasper admitted with an embarrassed blush to his cheeks. "Truth-telling foods, endurance meals…I even developed a meal that allows people and Pokémon tap into that little part of their brain rarely used. Manectric ran wild that day…"

    "Pretty amazing…" Sawyer noted, once more scribbling in his notebook about all these ideas.

    "Though not the issue here," Jasper said coldly. "If Dawn was controlled, who is to say that others aren't as well? Gary, for instance. Perhaps he disappeared because he was commanded to. And if that's the case, keeping well away from him would be the best course."

    "That can't be true!" Ash shouted, drawing all eyes onto him. "Gary's my friend, just like Dawn. Even if he is controlled, I'm sure we can-"

    "No, Jasper is right," Ryker said somberly. "You said that Dawn attacked you for no real reason. If she was under control and exhibited that kind of violent tendency…who knows what others are capable of. Keeping distance, and keeping a panic contained, should be our top priority if there is someone aboard the cruise capable of controlling them."

    "Heh heh heh, then this calls for my special new invention. The future is-"

    "Not now, Clemont! This isn't the time for an invention that doesn't work!" Bonnie yelled at him angrily. Clemont glared down at his sister, as though actually angry with her, while Viggo stepped in between like a shield, glaring defiantly at him.

    "The last one breaking wasn't my fault, and if I can figure out who's controlled and who's not…"

    "That's important…but so is not alerting everyone on the ship that something's going on by sniffing them like you're a Stoutland," Jasper reminded them.

    "The easiest way to do it," Brock began once more, "would be to make more of your concoction, Jasper, and mass distribute it. Though doing it without causing suspicion or panic is the tricky par-"

    The ship suddenly rumbled, and everyone in the room pitched forward. Ash slammed into Serena, who slammed into Sawyer as they fell to the ground with loud "oof"s. Rubbing his neck and adjusting his hat, Ash stood, groaning. He made sure to help Serena up, the girl testing her foot from earlier in the day and finding it held. Clemont, meanwhile, was helping the two children out.

    "Uh…I tink dere's a problem!" yelled one of the janitors. Ryker and Jasper were the quickest to their feet, running for the door. Ash and Serena were right behind them. As they reached the door, there was another powerful shuddering, knocking them into each other yet again. Once they'd finally pushed themselves up, Pikachu shocking them all due to Jasper landing on him, they caught sight of Watchog running across towards them with a panicked expression.

    "Chog! Watch watchog! Og og watchog!" it cried in absolute fear.

    "Translation?" the magenta haired janitor asked. One of the others appeared to begin to answer when Ryker cut him off.

    "The ship stopped…the engine died? What happened, Watchog? !" Ryker demanded. Ash stepped out and could immediately tell how wrong something was. There was no wind blowing across them, completely anchored in place. In fact, that was the very next thing Ryker confirmed. "The anchor dropped as well?"

    "What a coincidence…" Jasper laughed out, almost like he actually found the situation funny. Ash looked to him with pursed lips, subconsciously helping Serena up while he did so. His mouth and voice were tinged with amusement, but his eyes were calculating, like they were figuring out what their next move should be. "This is a very interesting quandary, no?"

    "Not one I prefer to deal with. First controlled passengers and now this!" Ryker said, his body bristling with anger. "I'll not stand for it on my ship! And I'll not deal with panic! Sawyer, Brock, could I ask you to find Miss Lisia and have the passengers escorted to the dining hall. We'll open up the floor for activities while we work the immediate problem out. I'll need you for any heavy lifting, Ash."

    "I'll whip up some treats then. Keep everyone blind to what's going on," Jasper said with a light bow. "Panicking would do no one any good at all."

    "I'll help in the kitchen as well, then, once I've helped Lisia," Brock said, packing up his supplies. He took one more look at Dawn, offered a nod to Ash and then left with Sawyer and Jasper. Ryker, still bristling with his sense of command, turned to the rest of them.

    "Clemont, you're good with machines, yes?" Ryker asked. "I'm not too shabby myself, but perhaps with your help we can get the ship up and running again quickly. Best if the rest of you come along as well…except for maybe the children."

    "I'll stay here," Serena announced. Ash turned to look at her, confidence sparking in her eyes. "Dawn needs looking after in case she wakes up."

    "Sounds good to me," Ash said with a fist extended towards Serena. She looked at it a moment, and then met it with her own. "Bonnie, Viggo, you two can come along, but stay behind us so you don't get hurt."

    "Yes, that seems best," Clemont said with a not-too-happy retort. Ryker grunted and adjusted his captain's hat on his head. Ash did the same while Clemont played with his glasses. The three janitors just huddled onto each other, whether out of fear or some kind of conspiracy wasn't clear, but as Ryker stormed off, they made to follow. Ash gave one more look to Serena and began going after the captain, Clemont and the two younger kids trailing behind him.

    For some reason, despite the tension of the situation, Ash felt his head clearing a little. Though it was more likely than not elation. He wasn't happy to hear Brock's theory and diagnosis that Dawn had been controlled, but at least it explained a lot of what had been happening the last two days. Letting the corners of his lips tug up slightly into a smile, he was grateful, knowing he hadn't lost his best friend. Dawn hadn't pulled away from him or really believed she was in love with him. No, she had been manipulated into acting that way for whatever reason. By whom and for what purpose, Ash was unsure, but it angered him. His fist clenched.

    "The engine room is down this way," Ryker suddenly said. Ash nodded, but didn't unclench his fist. He did make note of where they were going, though. They had turned into a door on the side of the ship opposite the boarding side, clamping on some metal stairs that took them down into the bowels of the ship. Ash looked back to see Clemont ushering Bonnie and Viggo inside and realized they had passed by the room that housed the artifact at some point. Frowning, Ash hung back.

    "Clemont…we passed by the artifact, right?" he asked his friend out of the corner of his mouth. Clemont turned his head a little, his eyes widening a fraction. "How come Mr. Cecil wasn't there?"

    "Good point…" the inventor murmured. A ball of worry formed in his stomach, but Ash didn't say anything to the captain, watching his back as they walked across the metal catwalk. Jasper's words kept playing over in his head: was there someone else on the ship being controlled just like Dawn? If so, who? He would have said there was no way it could be any one of his friends, but Dawn had been controlled oh so easily. Could Clemont be plotting something? Or Bonnie? Or Viggo?

    Surely not Serena; her demeanor hadn't changed at all. She was still kind and earnest and…Ash felt a slight pause in his steps at the thought. First the kiss, and now he just couldn't stop thinking about her, herself. Being in such a confined space with her was suddenly bringing all of this to the surface. Yes, he had traveled with her for months, but that single action she'd taken on the escalator had made thoughts underneath come bubbling up. Serena was different in an all too wonderful way, and he had to wonder why it took him so long to recognize this.

    Or maybe you always did, he couldn't help but think to himself. Resuming his steps after the captain, Ash felt himself warming up. There was no doubt they were approaching the engine room, though it was very silent considering that the machinery wasn't running. It allowed Ash room to think a little as he recognized all the ways he had managed to treat Serena differently without even knowing it. Like how he'd asked her to come along without any provocation, or the way Pikachu had never shocked her. How he'd put off not one, but two of his gym battles for her Showcases. Or how he'd taken her…Ash blinked.

    "Pikapi? Chuuuu…?" Pikachu asked as Ash turned to his best friend on his shoulder.

    "Pikachu," Ash whispered quietly. "Did…did I take Serena on a date?" Pikachu now had his turn to blink. For a moment, he thought Pikachu would scold him and tell him it wasn't the time to be thinking about such things, but instead, the electric mouse sighed.

    "Pikapi, chu pika Pipika pi chu," Pikachu said definitively. It pretty much felt like Pikachu was actually scolding him for not realizing this sooner. Rubbing at the back of his neck, Ash felt a little embarrassed about this. Though, he also felt more embarrassed about thinking about it now. He supposed he'd have to ask Brock for advice and then later just talk to Serena to work it all out. For now, he focused on the path to the engine room, made evident by the small red door before a hallway that split off into darkness.

    "Um…is it supposed to be open?" the blue-haired janitor said with a shaky voice. Ryker paused and everyone peered around him to see that the engine room door was slightly ajar.

    "Pikachu, get ready," Ash said, both of their bodies tensing up for a battle that could be ahead. Pikachu nodded, cheeks sparking a little while Clemont pushed Bonnie and Viggo behind him while taking out a pokeball. Ryker stomped forward and pushed the door open with one hand.

    The eerie silence pervaded the area, making a note of just how wrong everything was. No humming machines or even the sound of the surf reached them. Ash followed in behind Ryker, turning his head to see nothing moving. It felt really weird for everything to suddenly be going so wrong. It was even slightly dark in the room, only some overhead lights running on auxiliary power brightening the area. There was one truly odd thing in the room, though.

    Mr. Cecil was standing on the long catwalk that led back to the engine, next to a control panel. Beyond him was a giant steel beam, jammed in between some parts of the whirring rotors and blocking access to the engine. Clemont walked a little forward and Ash followed his gaze. The engine itself didn't look damaged, but the beam in their path made it impossible for even Dedenne to fit through. After all, part of the catwalk seemed to have been damaged in the falling of the steel beam.

    "Mr. Cecil, where have you been?" Ryker demanded of the gentleman. Mr. Cecil turned, adjusting his monocle lightly.

    "The ship stopped," he told them all evenly. The three janitors suddenly began shuffling backward, as if making a run for it. Even the hairs on the back of Ash's neck stood up. Whether it was the situation, the strange amount of heat in the room, or the weird tone with which the gentleman was speaking, it didn't matter. Ash didn't like this one bit. Nor did Clemont, judging from the way he pulled Bonnie and Viggo towards him, the animosity from earlier, gone.

    "Yes, I'm aware," Ryker stated. He stepped forward, the sound reverberating around the area. "But I've asked all passengers to head for the dining hall."

    "The dining hall, hm?" Mr. Cecil said, stroking his chin lightly. "Yes, that would be appropriate, I suppose."

    "What are you doing down here?" Ash asked suddenly. He couldn't help the slight fear pooling in his stomach, driving his words to perhaps be sharper than he meant them. Mr. Cecil turned, inclining his head a little towards Ash, his gaze piercing and insistent.

    "Well, the engine stopped, and I grew worried," the man answered. "The artifact is precious cargo, you know? And we promised to deliver it to its destination, so if the ship is stopped…well, I can only guess there would be something nefarious. I came down to investigate, but alas…the way is shut."

    "I'm sure that with a little bit of maneuvering we could take care of it," Clemont said and Ash could practically feel his gaze analyzing the steel beam. "My Aipom Arm is more than up for the task."

    "Go for it, big brother," Bonnie said, though her voice wasn't as energetic as it usually was. Ryker suddenly held his arm out.

    "No," he told them all sternly. "If we try to move it, there's no telling what kind of damage we could do to the engine. It's late and none of us should have to think about this after a long day. We'll look tomorrow morning and find a way to stop the beam from damaging any of the engine's mechanical parts. Mr. Cecil, did you notice anything else that may help?"

    "Everything's powered down?" Mr. Cecil suggested with a shrug. "Seemed like it all turned off at once, but that's as much as can be obvious. Once I saw there was no way to access the engine, I stumbled around the dark corridors for any of the ancillary ship controls before I came here and lowered the anchor on the ship. Best to not have us drifting until we can repair it all."

    "A fair point…though what should we do about the artifact? Doctor Brock and Jasper believe that-" Mr. Cecil suddenly waved his hand, cutting the captain off with a light chuckle on his lips.

    "I wouldn't worry about the artifact. I've made sure it's very well protected, even with its bodyguards missing. There's no fear of that," Mr. Cecil stated. Ash's lips twisted a little, frowning with severe displeasure. Something felt off about the man's story, but he couldn't put a finger on it. He was surprised he even got the sense that anything was wrong, but Ash supposed that Team Flare's plans had started making him just a little paranoid. "Now, shall we get out of here. The air's becoming quite stifling."

    Ryker folded his arms and proceeded to sigh. "I suppose we're anchored for now…we'll take care of things later. I'll go address the passengers on the ship. Children."

    "Oh, right…" Ash breathed out, turning around and following Clemont and the two younger children out of the engine room. The janitors were long gone, no doubt heading back to the dining hall. Ryker and Mr. Cecil followed them out.

    Ash folded his arms as he walked and Pikachu looked at him inquisitively. Mr. Cecil had supposedly come straight to the engine room after the engine had stopped…but then why had the anchor fallen so suddenly? He supposed that the man could have simply lied about using the "ancillary controls" but...It didn't quite add up, and the man being all but absent after they had said Gary was missing disturbed him. He didn't seem to be the only one as Clemont looked like he had swallowed a Bug type. Neither of them dared to say anything for fear of the adults overhearing them.

    In the silence of the stopped engine, their footsteps echoed even louder than before, occasionally punctuated with the clopping of Mr. Cecil's cane. It allowed Ash to think a little more and realize just how many things were going wrong on this trip at one time. Dawn being controlled, Gary missing, the mysterious door that took less priority over other issues like the engine stopping…he had to start wondering if it was deliberate. Yeah, a real coincidence…Ash thought savagely to himself, realizing how Jasper had found the situation to be humorous. He must have already been connecting the dots for himself. Ash looked to Clemont, who also nodded in concern, telling the raven-haired trainer that he wasn't the only one with this on his mind (and proving to Ash that Clemont wasn't being controlled).

    Finally, the group of six broke out into the sunset-tinged deck and began walking across to the dining hall, only to run into Miette and Piplup carrying a set of Dawn's clothes. "Oh…hey, Ash, do you know what's going on?"

    "Um…engine's stopped. Those are for Dawn, right?" Ash asked, feeling just a little awkward at the sudden encounter.

    "What's this about Miss Dawn?" Mr. Cecil asked, his voice cutting across the quieted waves. Ash turned to see the rather imposing man looking down at them, his monocle shining eerily in the sunlight.

    "Um…Dawn's…had some problems. She's better now," Ash said, trying to say what needed to be said without giving too much away. Something inside him told him not to tell the man everything.

    "Wonderful to hear. I'd be disappointed if she couldn't enjoy the rest of the cruise because of some issues," the gentleman chuckled out. "Would you mind if I see her? Wouldn't want a black mark on my ventures, after all."

    "I think that seems fair," Ryker stated, walking off toward the dining hall, where many people appeared to have gathered. "I'll go placate everyone."

    "Ah, yes, I have a rather entertaining idea for that, captain," Mr. Cecil said, leaning down towards the man and whispering. Ryker nodded, looking a little impressed with the man's suggestion.

    "Excellent idea. I'll make the announcement while yourself and Ash's group see to Dawn." That was the last thing he had obviously planned to say, because he turned around, his captain's coat flapping out behind him as he made a brisk pace towards the dining hall. Mr. Cecil looked at them with a smile, almost comforting in nature, and indicated for them to lead the way.

    Ash took charge, leading the group away from the dining hall and up the stairs that would lead to the infirmary. He still felt weird about this whole situation, but upon opening the door to the infirmary and seeing Serena sitting peacefully by Dawn's side, watching the bluenette's chest rise and fall with even breaths, he stopped worrying about it. When she saw them, Serena stood. Mr. Cecil was the first to speak.

    "How is she?" the man asked. Instead of Serena answering, Nurse Joy stepped forward.

    "She seems to be fine. After a little more rest, about an hour or two, she should be just fine. Brock left behind a number of energizing drinks and food," the nurse assured the man. He nodded, a smile resting softly on his face.

    "Excellent, then she should be able to attend this evening's event," Mr. Cecil said proudly, standing up to his full height.

    "Event?" came Serena's question and everyone looked at him.

    "Yes, we plan to hold a social dance in the dining hall this evening. You're all expected to attend, of course. I won't have anyone saying no. Being stuck on the oceans, we shouldn't split up and go exploring, after all," Mr. Cecil answered, as though his solution to the problem was a rather brilliant one. "If you don't have formal wear, well, you know where to find some."

    "But…a dance?" Ash asked. "Is this really the right time for it? I mean..."

    "What time is better?" the man chuckled out, waving at them as he exited. "See you all in a few hours or else I'll have to send Arcanine out to search for you! Hope Dawn gets better." Then he was gone, like a shadow which had vanished. Ash turned to his friends, seeing their myriad reactions. Clemont was blinking in confusion, Bonnie was whispering in Viggo's ear as the boy's face was stuck between smirking and shaking his head. Meanwhile, Miette was straight up smirking while Serena seemed to have paled.

    "A dance…brings back memories, huh, Serena?" Miette said. Serena vigorously shook her head, her golden honey locks flinging back and forth. "You want to go with me this time, Ash?"

    "I don't want to go at all," Ash admitted, feeling his face twisting into a slight scowl. "I really don't feel right about this. I mean, after everything that's happened…having fun wouldn't seem right…especially when we know so little. Especially with Gary still missing."

    "Then let's figure things out!" Bonnie suggested with her usual chipper tone back in action. Ash looked to the lemon-haired girl, watching Viggo try to pull her back from saying anything. "There's gotta be something about that artifact and all that stuff somewhere on the ship. Maybe we can find a way to signal someone or something."

    "Bonnie, what if we get caught? Mr. Cecil said we can't stalk the corridors or he'll sic Arcanine on us..." Viggo stuttered fearfully. "This doesn't sound like a good idea."

    "Oh, come on, Viggo, don't be a coward. We have a few hours so let's use them while the captain and Mr. Cecil are distracted! We don't have to explore the corridors, you know?"

    "Nenenene!" Dedenne chattered out in agreement. Clemont nodded, obviously thinking it was a good idea himself. The idea appealed to Ash, as well, and he grinned. Catching sight of Serena's once more glowing face, he nodded at her, the silent agreement of what she and Miette would be doing shared between them as she sat. Ash turned back towards the Lumiose sibling and put his hand out.

    "All right, guys. Let's figure out what's going on with this ship and make it back in time for that dance so no one suspects a thing." Bonnie grinned at him, dragging Viggo forward to put their hands in. Clemont joined them and they raised them high. Then, with a quick glance back at Serena and another shared, electric smile, Ash and Pikachu led their group of four out of the room and on their next mission.


    Author's Note: The truth is finally revealed: Dawn was controlled! Of course...most of you guessed this...but the question of who or what is controlling her is a mystery to be solved for another time. Plus the reason why she was controlled. Needless to say, you know can all know why Dawn was so OOC earlier in the story; it was all leading to this moment. Also, to discuss why they're not going back to the locked door. For one, it's locked, but also, all of these problems are occurring and the adults have their eye on the main characters. Makes it difficult to move around. But that's really all for now. Next time, a dance!

    potat lasaro: Of course she was controlled! I mean, why else would she act the way she did? But, now that she's freed I wonder just how she'll play into this story. And Gary, where is he? And not only do they need to find him, but they've got to worry about something even worse: a dance! We all know how the last one turned out for the duo so I wonder if they'll have a better time. Hopefully they enjoy it at least, but until then, thanks for reading!

    We're now in the back half of the story, so we hope you'll stick around with us. Until next time, Review and Dare to Be Silly.
    Dare to Be Silly!

    Ancienverse AU Fanfiction

    Love in the Time of Teamwork
    Once every seven years there was a tournament celebrating the bonds between people and Pokemon. Of course, Serena expected Ash to want to take part, but she had no idea the ways in which it would change their lives for good or ill. She was confident, however, that by the end of that week, something between herself and Ash would be different. Amourshipping.

    Remaining stories can be found in this community here.

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