A/N: This chapter has been brutal to me, and yet seeing it here now, it doesn't look like it's as long as I thought it was. It certainly felt much longer to write. On top of that I keep tweaking it, adding on things, changing dialogue, and somehow, I still feel a bit let down by my own words. Maybe because I know it's over now? Oh well. Hopefully it's better for you than for me.
Anyway, this brings a close to my Pokemon fanfiction series, though I still plan on throwing a few tidbits towards A Chance Meeting every now and then. But for full on stories? I think it's time to set it down. It's been fun, though, and frustrating at times, but mostly fun. Till then, enjoy all the great fanfics that are written by other wonderful authors too!
Rui fiddled with the napkin on the table as she waited for her parents to finish ordering dinner. The Dragonair Elitist restaurant was one of the most chic and pricey restaurants in Zirconia City, a place to go to really show prospective marriage and business matches that one had the cash to spend on them. It was often a deal-maker to meet and eat there, so the place enjoyed great reviews and constant business. The Roanes were there to 'cheer Rui up', after they listened to a heavily revised and planned out version of events that happened with her on Chronos Island.
As far as they knew, Apolo had charmed them into letting Rui out of their sight, where he then kidnapped her from Orre while drugged and proceeded to add her to his little harem of regional power girls. Flannery, Leaf and Silver each added their piece of testimony to back that claim. Seth had gone after her once Silver's fiancé alerted him to the kidnappings and, upon arriving at Chronos Island, was demanded a ransom in exchange for Rui's well-being. Through Rui, Apolo had learned of Seth's secret, a secret that was hidden to keep him safe until the day he could come forward and make his claim and be safe from the rest of his estranged family.
"Likely story. I believe you once said he was an orphan, was raised by thugs and thieves for that ghastly corporation." her father mused aloud, scoffing at the notion as he pointed at a menu option to the waiter. Rui sighed, trying to keep her irritation to a minimum. She had dressed in her nicest clothes for the dinner, hoping to make a good impression for Seth, just to help him in the eyes of her parents.
"That was part of his cover story. Now that the corporation's gone, he's free to be who he really is." she returned and looked to the doorway again. Seth was taking an awful long time getting here. The idea for a dinner meeting to reveal how he met her parents' conditions had been hers, and Seth just shrugged and went along with it. He had looked nervous but Rui wasn't sure why; she'd asked him and he would only shake his head and say he'd tell her later.
The girls and Red helped to get Seth made over for the dinner, pulling out suits and combs and all the accessories, dragging him kicking and fuming into the next room, and Red told her to go ahead of them. The Snagger would join them once he was ready, and the rest of them would take up places nearby in the restaurant -Red was paying- just in case she needed some support and to keep an eye on Seth. Last thing anyone wanted was for something to go sour and have him do something he'd regret later.
Though during that makeover Flannery had whispered to Rui, with a wink, that she was hoping he'd jump up and run off with her to elope, as that would be utterly romantic and perfect. Rui liked her new friend, but eloping like that would be fun only for a while; they still had to worry about Seth's long-term relationship with her parents and people in general. Orre still seemed a little skittish around the concept of a Snagger running free.
"I suppose we'll be paying for his meal then? Assuming he makes it past the maitre d', of course." Mrs. Roane murmured archly and Rui gave her mother an affronted glare. How dare she say things like that, especially after everything Seth went through, after all she went through, to have everything arranged so they could finally be together?
She was just about to tell her parents off about the whole thing -that eloping idea was sounding so very tempting now- when a hand dropped on her shoulder to still her. Rui froze, feeling that against her skin; a roughened palm, the hand of someone who had a hard life. She relaxed, letting a smile grow on her face. He had come, he had made it.
"Actually, I'll be paying for your dinner." Seth returned in a carefully coached dark purr. Rui quelled a little shiver at that. Ooh, when did he learn to do that? Red must have taught him; she could completely see Red teaching Seth to exude dark, rich, handsome mystique, drilling charm into that stubborn Snagger brain for this night. Speaking of Red, was he here now? With Flannery and Leaf and Silver? Were they watching? She turned her head to look for them, but instead found her eyes drawn to Seth.
He was dressed in one of the suits she'd picked out for him, a deep blue so dark it was almost black, with a paler blue dress shirt underneath. The Snag Machine kept its place on his arm as always, glinting in the candlelight and blending with the suit. It looked like it belonged on Seth, even in the clothes of a socialite. His hair was still spiky -Rui could imagine the amount of fighting and threats he must have put up to keep his hairstyle the way he liked it- but he traded in his favored silver visor for a pair of aviator glasses, similar to the ones Wes had worn the night before his death, captured in a photo that Rui had seen almost an eternity ago. No white strip of zinc oxide painted his face, which did look a bit odd for him, but Rui could forgive him for that because he just looked stunning overall.
Her parents were quiet, sizing him up and appraising him warily. This was a new development. The clothes had the marks of good money, he had made it to the table without any fuss at all from the staff... Was this a scam, putting on airs just to get them to let their precious daughter marry a con man?
Seth took a seat by Rui, giving her a small smile -encouraging, but still somewhat nervous- before holding up a hand to signal a waiter. There was a brief moment where Seth seemed to freeze up at the entrées, or maybe at their prices, then he took a calming breath before pointing at one dish to make his choice. The waiter nodded, noted it quickly, then hurried off with the menu.
"This is... unexpected." Mr. Roane remarked, watching the teen sitting by Rui with barely veiled derision, "But I suppose you invited yourself to our dinner to make some remark. Perhaps to corroborate this ridiculous story of you hiding some fantasy secret that would make you ideal to pay a ransom on our daughter..."
"I came to relay the news of my efforts." Seth told him firmly, eyes narrowing at the subtle jab. He gave Rui another quick smile, and she was beginning to think that it was more for the sight of her to reassure him than the other way around. Poor Seth. He turned back to the adults and gave them his usual impassive glare. "The fact is, Rui was right about me hiding something from you." the Snagger admitted, "Since everyone else in this city seems to know the name, I'm going to assume you know it too." He rubbed a fingertip over the forearm covering of the Snag Machine before continuing. "Rui has only ever called me Seth after finally getting some name confusion sorted out. That was mostly my fault." he told the Roanes in a neutral tone, "My full name is Seth Evice. The rest of my family had me sent away to be raised as a thief and a Snagger." He shrugged carelessly, "I think they were trying to use me in some lame world domination plot."
"Evice... that name does strike a chord." Mrs. Roane murmured, eyebrows furrowing together as the waiter brought their meals to them.
"Ah, the Prince of the Desert?" the waiter exclaimed brightly, picking up on that and little else, "Oh my gosh, the whole city's been talking about him!" Seth's face blanched and Rui quickly reached over to grab his hand, giving it a reassuring squeeze as she plastered on a fake little smile of obliviousness. Her parents stared at the waiter, dumbfounded.
"They... have?" Rui's father questioned hollowly. Her mother seemed to have gone pale, one hand fluttering up to her throat delicately.
"P-prince? Of the Desert? You mean," she echoed and pointed vaguely over her shoulder, "this desert? Orre desert?" The waiter fanned himself, uttering a little romantic sigh.
"It's just the most magnificent thing! The last heir of Orre's corporate royalty finally came out of hiding and showed up here to claim his inheritance!" he gossiped on gleefully, "Just today! Heard it through the grapevine and," Here, the waiter bent to whisper almost conspiratorially to the four of them, "it seems he's worth quite the bundle, a-hem hmm! Last anyone saw of him, he'd been touring Zirconia with an illustrious entourage of lovely young ladies. Seems some families might have caught wind of his arrival and are trying to set up a match."
"A match?" Mrs. Roane nearly squawked, eyes wide and disbelieving. Her finger shot around, nearly clipped her husband's ear, and pointed directly at Seth, the Snagger freezing in place. "With him? Outrageous!" The waiter turned, as did several other dinner guests who couldn't help but overhear the whole incident, and all eyes fell on the silver-haired teen. Rui wanted to sink into her chair; she couldn't imagine how Seth must be feeling.
"Ho-Oh, help me." he moaned softly, hunching his shoulders in an attempt to hide. This was not going according to plan; he was just supposed to reintroduce himself, show them the bank statement and a document proving his true identity, then the Roanes would roll over in shock and while they were still reeling, he would scoop up Rui and bolt for the door. Well, the last part was his plan; everyone else told him to just propose on the spot while they were stunned by the papers.
"It is him!" a woman exclaimed in surprise, "Marielle! Go and introduce yourself!"
"Ah! Ah! The Prince of the Desert! Mummy, the match with Heath isn't final, is it? I might have a chance!"
"Why do I get the oddest feeling that I've been through this before?" Seth mumbled under his breath as Rui shot glares all around her in an attempt to intimidate the other girls now making their way over to the table.
"It's not a scam..." Mr. Roane only said in a tiny and shocked voice, looking around himself before finally settling his eyes on Seth, "It really isn't, is it? I just saw the McDylans send their twin daughters this way."
"Who wouldn't?" the waiter gasped, clasping his hands together girlishly, "He's royalty! And he's sitting with you and look how he and little Ms. Roane are holding hands, aren't they darling? You certainly have a head-start on setting up a match!"
"I'm starting a new terraforming project to take over the job Cipher had promised to complete when the Evices first started." Seth managed to say quickly, watching the other girls waver at Rui's glare before steeling themselves and marching for the table again, "My inheritance is going to finish what my family originally wanted for Orre; the revival of our forests." He glanced at the redhead by him, then turned a determined expression on the Roanes. "And I love Rui with all my heart. It was she who rescued me from following the dark path my father and sister took, and I would give anything to have her at my side while I have Orre terraformed." Rui's parents gave him matching wide-eyed looks, dumbfounded by the circle of girls closing in on the table.
He chose that moment to pull the statement from his coat pocket, unfold it, and lay it on the table before them, watching as their eyes dropped quickly to take in the numbers and totals.
"My God..." Mr. Roane whispered numbly, reaching out to touch the paper gingerly, as if it were going to leap up and attach itself to his face, "That's more money than even we possess."
"I have here a document from the mayor of Phenac, detailing my ownership of a house there," Seth went on, pulling another paper out to set beside the statement, "and the title to a desert rover that was bought just today for Rui," another paper joined the growing pile, "and a document on the Pokémon Research Laboratory's intentions of studying the Shadow Pokémon process, of which I'm an active expert on, so I'll be working with them as part of my career." The last paper settled into place and Seth felt much better for having all that off of his shoulders now. He grinned; the two of them just kept gaping at the papers, faces turning more pale with each one he set down.
"He's fulfilled all the requirements for courtship you put on him." Rui added coldly, that little smile growing on her face that appeared only a few times before, back when she took Seth's place as a Snagger, and again in the stand-off against Apolo. "Seth is a proper suitor by your rules now. You can't stop him from dating me." The Snagger shifted in place, hand dipping into his pocket at those words.
"Actually, that's not entirely true." he murmured and brought out the little ring he'd had fashioned to hold the now cut Desert Diamond. Just the sight of it had the encroaching circle of girls cry out in dismay, the sound drawing the Roanes' attention to the ring in Seth's hand. Rui's face turned red, eyes wide with disbelief and then sheer joy as her smile grew more warm and elated. The Snagger gave her a small grin, almost shy but just as warm and heartfelt. "Rui, the day I saved you from those Cipher goons in Phenac, I had no idea how far we'd come together. No idea that you would wind up being the one saving me from so much more." he murmured, weaving his fingers through hers and gripping her hand gently, "Whatever happened, whatever traps were set before us, all I needed to know to push through and keep fighting was that you would be at my side at the end of the day, even when I didn't realize that's why I fought at all."
Rui dared a glance at her parents; what were they thinking of this new turn of events? They stared at Seth with a strange new wonder on their faces, as though finally seeing him the way she did, hearing in his words his true intentions. Her mother managed a tiny, tremulous smile, eyes softening, and her father wrapped an arm around her shoulders, watching them in silence. Not far from them, Red, Leaf, Flannery and Silver all gave thumb's-ups in encouragement.
"So, Rui, I'm asking you, not as a Snagger, not as the Prince of the Desert, not as the Weather's Master," Seth went on, opening himself up to his most vulnerable just for her and Rui nearly cried at how much trust and love he was placing in her for this, "but as a once-lost man you led back to the right path...
"Will you marry me?"
The restaurant erupted into a mix of cheers and wails as Rui launched herself at Seth, laughing and exclaiming 'Yes! Yes! Yes!' as loudly as she could, hugging him tight and smiling widely at his own laughter and return embrace. Her parents beamed, finally swayed by the display of emotions before them and nodded in eager approval. By the time the waiter finally got over himself enough to set their meals down on the table before them, Rui and Seth were back in their seats, foreheads touching and eyes only on each other, the Desert Diamond shimmering beautifully on Rui's finger.
The next few months were a whirlwind of wedding plans and deal-making, which had Seth looking almost shell-shocked at times. Rui and her mother and the high-society ladies of Zirconia City handled just about everything to do with the wedding, with Seth making only the single demand that it take place in Agate Village. Only Rui understood why he wanted it there; Agate Village had been the scene of some harsh memories for the two of them, from the first time Seth attacked Rui reflexively to the tragic moments of his death before the Relic Stone, just before Celebi restored him to life. A happy and momentous occasion like a wedding would wipe them clean and bring new memories in their place.
In the meantime, while the planners and designers went on with Rui, the Snagger found himself seeking Mr. Roane's help in choosing a company best suited for picking up the task of terraforming Orre. The elder man raised an eyebrow at the request but went along with the search, finding himself nodding in approval as Seth scrutinized every company that placed a bid for the task, bringing forth an unwavering intimidation factor that weeded out the more unscrupulous ones until he finally settled on the Terra Corporation.
It was a new company, young and eager to prove itself to Orre and the only survivor of the Evice Family, and it stood fast under Seth's golden-eyed glare to earn his respect and win the contract. Satisfied with his choice, Seth turned his attention to his Pokémon, spending much needed time restoring them all to full health. They'd suffered silently and without complaint because of the financial strain, less food, few healing items, long periods of time with status effects or injury; the Snagger couldn't forgive himself of it all until he was sure that all his Pokémon, from his loyal pair of Eons to the reformed Shadow Pokémon he rescued, were at the top of their game once more.
When the date was decided for the wedding, invitations were sent out to all the people who mattered. The Kids' Grid, Red and Silver, Leaf and her brother, Flannery, May and Brendan, friends who had helped through so many battles against Cipher and in the investigation against Apolo; they were all sent heartfelt invitations and were replied with eager anticipation.
Agate Village was soon flooded with droves of attendees, the elderly citizens welcoming the youthful visitors with cheer as they helped with decorating for the main event. Pokémon flitted and bustled all over, helping out where they could. And during it all, Rui and Seth were kept separated as per the tradition of not letting the groom see the bride in her dress before the wedding.
"It's a stupid tradition." the Snagger muttered halfheartedly, leaning against a tree as he watched the Relic Stone be carefully cleaned. It was going to be the altar where he and Rui would be married, and Beluh had taken a few of her friends to the task of sweeping the leaves from around it and dusting it off as best they could. In the shadows beside him, Red mirrored his pose, his eyes closed and a content smile on his face as Pikachu remained perched on his shoulder.
"Let the women have their way. A wedding is an event that only comes once, so they tend to go Primeape-shit crazy over it." the older man quipped, "I'm half looking forward to the day Silver does the same for our own wedding." He opened one eye lazily to glance over at the Snagger. "Do you have a tuxedo? Or do you plan on getting married in the clothes you have on?" he asked. Seth grimaced at the question.
"Rui's father took me to one of the fancy tux places in Zirconia so I could get stuffed into one." he grumbled sourly, "So, yes. I've got a tuxedo. By the fires of Ho-Oh, please tell me I only have to wear it that one time." Red gave a half-shrug in response and Seth sighed in resignation. "I suppose burying it in the desert after this isn't going to happen either."
Red just laughed.
It was a clear spring day. People for years afterward would say they saw Ho-Oh fly over Agate Village as Seth and Rui exchanged vows before the Relic Stone, their friends and family watching on with joy and pride. Nearby, Red looked out over the crowd with a firm gaze, as if daring anyone to rise and protest the union. Seth had named him best man and the mercenary took his duty seriously, even with Pikachu still perched on his shoulders, looking over his head with a tiny black tie around his neck. The other groomsmen, Brendan and Nett, looked a little uncomfortable in their tuxedos but grinned at the newly wedded couple. Rui's maid of honor, Silver, looked happy for them, finally appearing true to herself as a girl in the pale green dress she and the other bridesmaids wore. May, Flannery and Leaf clutched their tiny bouquets tightly, beaming so brightly they may as well have tried to outshine the bride. Pokémon took seats in the trees and on stones, adding their cries to the cheers of the people when the Desert Prince kissed his Desert Princess.
They ran out of the forest, laughing, followed by the crowd that tossed flower petals and confetti and rice into the air after them. Seth grinned broadly, teeth bared as he held Rui's hand and led her up the path to the center of the village, the redhead hoisting her beautiful white gown up to keep from tripping on it and her train. Once there, surrounded by cheering villagers and decorations on the houses, colorful fireworks bursting in the sky and balloons being released, he turned and lifted her into the air, spinning her around with a laugh.
"We did it, Rui!" he exclaimed, setting her back onto her feet, "Cipher's gone, I'm free of them all, and the two of us are married! We're together forever!"
"Now you're starting to sound like me!" Rui teased happily, face flushed with excitement and joy. Her hair had been lifted into a tight bun on her head, strands of hair framing her face. She looked like a genuine princess, her dress flowing and full and shimmering with tiny gems. Her eyes sparkled and Seth couldn't help but to kiss her again, savoring the feel of her lips against his, his hands holding her waist and pulling her close.
"If it means no one can ever take you from me, I'll skip and prance around like the twins over there." he growled playfully and glanced over at the Eons. Jupiter and Pluto were both wearing little black bow ties, dancing about wildly and yipping happily, the females Neptune and Saturn leaping about with them, their tiny white veils flying behind them.
A stage had been built to put them both on display while accepting their wedding gifts, and Seth tugged Rui towards it while dropping another kiss onto her upturned mouth. They took their seats, smiling at one another as a line of their friends and family began moving up the steps to present them with wrapped gifts.
"That reminds me." Seth murmured thoughtfully and reached into the pocket of his tuxedo, "I have something for you. I saw it in a jewelry store and for some reason I thought of you and that day in Indigo Stadium, when I stopped that storm and nearly let it end me." He pulled out the necklace with its raindrop pendant and held it up to her. Rui's eyes widened at the sparkling jewel and she cooed in delight before blinking, recalling that day herself.
"You mean, when you disappeared and all the legendary Pokémon had declared you to be the Weather's Master?" she asked him, eyes tearing a little, "I was so scared for you back then, Seth. I didn't know if you would come back to me." She smiled a little, shakily. "And that's when I called out to you. I told you to let the rain fall, and you came back. It took a while, but you came back to me." He nodded and carefully clasped the necklace around her neck, touching his forehead to hers and smiling.
"I did, because you had the strength to find me again, just like when you rescued me from Sera in the Pokémon Laboratory." Seth agreed softly, "Rui, I don't know if I could have survived as long as I have if I had never met you, but I can say this. Even if I could have, even if I could have chosen to just look the other way in Phenac and let Trudly and Folly take you to Evice, I would only be surviving." He ran the back of his fingers along her cheek, smiling as she leaned into the touch. "With you, I'm living."
"And now we'll be living together." Rui murmured with a smile, "I'm so happy, Seth. Everything's perfect. The future is ours. We're free of Cipher." Her smile grew wider as she stood up, pulling Seth to his feet with a laugh and leading him to greet May and Brendan, the first of many well-wishers bearing gifts and smiles for them.
"Now come on and let's finish the wedding reception!" Rui declared brightly, winking up at him, "I want to get on to the honeymoon!"
While Seth and Rui celebrated their union in Agate Village, on the distant Citadark Isle a trio of men gazed upon the foundation of their fortress with smiles. One of them, the leader by the way he held himself, pat his hands almost affectionately on the cases of the two hard disks he'd acquired. The black disks bore the logo of the Cipher Corporation, a logo and name that they decided to take on themselves.
Already they had scientists working on improving the methods of the Shadow process, and they were confident that they could succeed where the first Cipher had failed. They had their sights set on a Pokémon to be their ultimate weapon once the process was enhanced.
They planned to call it... XD001.