All Roads Lead to the Grand Festival

Paul and Ash near completing prep work for their Grand Festival party when the first guests arrive. They are Professor Oak, Paul's older brother Reggie, and Paul's protégé, Jamie, a nine-year-old Scottish-Filipino orphan. Delia can't help but notice how much Jamie resembles Paul as he and Ash take Jamie up to their room.

Holly and Conway only have so much time to talk about last night's experiences as they must leave while Kenny and Zoey check out of their hotel and formally dress for a media meeting. Zoey did want to say something else to Holly during this time, but because the young swingers are so pressed for time, didn't get the chance.

Rangers Spenser, Jack, Lunick, Kellyn and Solana all had a long night of celebratory drinking for their female partner Solana making it to the top ten. This caused some chaos the morning after as Solana had to deal with some sexist remarks after Kellyn used her as a pillow for the night and she had to hurry to make sure she didn't miss the production meeting meaning automatic forfeiture.

DISCLAIMER: I do not own Pokemon, a creation of one Satoshi Tajiri, and is produced domestically (in the United States) by Pokemon USA/The Pokemon Company, and internationally by Shogakukan and OLM. I personally own nothing and make nothing by writing this. Please do not flame.

(Chapter 42- Production Fears as Showtime Nears)

The idea is nothing conceptually new. Having performers of all trades unite before a grand circular enclosure has been a staple form of entertainment for empires and unions of all sorts. Despite the fact that this has been done before and will continue to be done for millennia to come, it still takes the breath away of people who walk into a large arena, stadium or coliseum floor for the first time to witness a major event take place.

May, with Kelly, and the other fifteen competitors, with some having their own friends in tow, rounds can't believe just how grand the settings are, but are soon brought back to reality after being pelted by heavy raindrops which have continued since early this morning. They were told by those guiding them into the arena to equip themselves accordingly before they went outside and onto the arena floor. The group of sixteen was also informed not to speak or ask questions until they come back inside for a meeting.

Otherwise tense scenarios like May and Kelly confronting Savannah after her words from a night ago, Dawn just being nearby Drew given events going back at least a year and Kelly and May's insistence to just ignore Marina as best as possible are settled as the guides have wisely kept certain individuals apart from one another for the time being. They're being directed by officials to areas of relevance, including one of two civilian entrances, where some of the viewing public will watch the bouts from special folding chairs lined up in several rows and columns allowing as many people as possible to sit right by the action. Plastic tarps cover the chairs and the main stage as the rain continues to make its mark on the Slateport Stadium.

Performers of this day are not compelled to fight to the death to receive accolades like their counterparts of the past, but that doesn't make the prizes that they fight for any less worthwhile. As the group is lead through the floor, the coordinator's entrance is shown. It's shaped in the form of the Slateport City contest ribbon; colored in both green and lime green with a circular crown forming the entrance area for her and the fifteen others. The stage looks great and the contest officials have made it so that anyone from any angle can see the action as it takes place on giant television screens.

Given the inclement weather, the officials do their best to make sure that they get the coordinators inside as quickly as they can so no one ends up soaked or cold because of conditions. Usually the arena walkthrough would take about fifteen minutes, but officials concerned with the rain finished the arena tour in less than ten minutes and brought everyone back by the entranceway for further instructions.

There is some desire from the coordinators along with their friends and loved ones to engage in conversation at this time. They are well aware, however, that doing that would be in violation of the rules and are just waiting for what to do next. "Okay, everyone!" a female official suddenly speaks. "We apologize for that little delay there. Information just keeps coming to us at a lightning pace. In any case…to the sixteen coordinators and only the sixteen coordinators, you have five minutes to say goodbye to the people accompanying you or over the phone before you will be required to follow officials upstairs for the mandatory production meeting. They will not be allowed in that meeting, but after our business you can speak with them. We expect this meeting to last at least two hours. All right. Take five, people and let's get this show on the road."

The spectacular sixteen split suddenly, those who are not interested in being cramped with adversaries go into the corner to speak with friends over the phone or in person. The split was so sudden that May and her fiancée, who had every intention of going to a corner to speak, did not have to as the entrance area didn't have a person within a fifteen meter radius.

Kelly sighs, well aware of her situation and ticked off that she only has a few minutes to get this done. Gently holding onto May's shoulders and making sure that she doesn't intentionally aggravate her right hand, she says, "Well, we've reached the end of my run as your trainer. After this time, I have to entertain our family and friends in the skybox and then we can seriously, seriously talk about our future plans going forward. Nevertheless, we've been at it for the last four weeks and…It's all on your shoulders now, May. I can only hope that you've taken in everything that everyone has told you.

"God knows I couldn't have come up with half of the stuff Paul, Ash, Zoey, your folks and others have taught us. Despite that, I truly believe that your father knew what he was doing when he made me your trainer. I'm not the best coordinator; to be honest, I'm not even close, but we've learned so much together here. We've learned that you are a very persistent person while I can be a true hard ass when I set my mind to a master plan. There's no turning back for us when we're dedicated. I feel our strength—I feel your strength growing. For what it's worth, even in the midst of all the bullshit this weekend, I still see you as the prize horse to beat and if you give it your all, you'll never fail."

"Thank you. That truly means the world coming from you." This pep talk has May close to tearing up right as she has to keep her eye on the prize. She gives Kelly a toothy smile before questioning her mood at this point even in the face of many words of encouragement from her bride-to-be. "Why am I such a wuss when it comes to this?"

"You're not," Kelly assures May. "Not even close."

"Well, why am I like this right now, Kelly?"

"Because you care, May, and with so many things that have been happening, Ice Cold Marina about a stone's throw from us, Drew and Dawn's soap opera, Solana thinking she can be the next Francis Ouimet, the Van Hollens in our business—well, Savannah at least, and your…just beautiful proposal to me, you've held it together through it all. I think you're the furthest thing from a wuss imaginable. Showing emotion or crying does not make you a coward or crybaby or anything of that sort.

"You care about what I have to say about you and I care, too. You want this badly and we've worked so hard to make this a reality. We're so close, May, and even though it's on you to make your dream come true, I have faith in you, girl. You can do it. Damn it, I just know it. I feel it right here, May." At this point Kelly takes her girlfriend's right hand and places it by the center of her chest to emphasize her point. "If you have butterflies in your stomach, that's not the same as doubting your abilities. We all have them, May. In fact, I have them right now."


Before May can get out her response to her fiancée, she hears a Grand Festival official saying "One minute left until we go to the meeting, ladies and gentleman! It's time to wrap up your conversations at this time."

Balling a fist up near her mouth, May has to come up with something and quick. She looks her future wife in the eye and speaks. "Kelly, thank you so much for all that you've done this past month. I have just one request for you though. I know I haven't asked for much, but I really want this."

"What's that?"

"Promise me…that no matter what happens this afternoon, win or lose, that you will be by my side and that I can share the time with you as long as I may need it."

Did she have to ask? It didn't matter. Kelly figures that May just needed the assurance. Well, she's got it and if the embrace didn't tip her off, then the shorter girl leaning in and whispering the words, "Always…and forever."

"Thank you. I feel I'm gonna need someone close."

"The pleasure is all mine," Kelly remarks while still wrapped up in a hug with her sweetheart. "Hey, who's your girl?"

"You are, and only you," May answers as they interlock left hands in their personal symbol of solidarity once more.

Regrettably, Kelly knows that she has to get out of this embrace. Before that, though, she does give May a kiss on the lips, steps back and declares, "That one's for good luck. Now I really have to go. My folks are gonna expect me to be in the box soon."

"Let everyone up there know that I really appreciate them coming and all of their help," May says quickly as she sees the officials out of the corner of her eye directing people to a nearby elevator. "Now shake a leg! I've got a Grand Festival to win."

"Yes, ma'am," Kelly replies. Turning around, she doesn't get far, though, before she feels a stinging rap across her backside.

Looking behind her, she's met with a Cheshire cat's smile on her fiancée's face as she runs for the elevator and the meeting. "Told you I'd get you back!" are the last words she hears from the older girl before the enormous elevator doors close in front of her and Kelly loses her reason for procrastinating another second longer than necessary.

She doesn't head upstairs immediately, though. Fleeting thoughts of the woman she aspires to spend her life with enter Kelly's mind before she gets to her job at hand much like her fiancée.

The group of sixteen has been walking around the third level of the stadium now for about three minutes since exiting the elevator. Some of notable coordinators who have gone through this procedure before are growing restless, but no one in the assembly hears much of it as the officials open large double doors labeled 'conference room'.

It is here they find a large table with more than twenty chairs surrounding it, Director Contesta, the broadcast director and two of his assistants already seated and with stacks of papers next to them. Contest officials get everyone seated and once that takes place and everyone is in a spot where they would be comfortable, they take requests for refreshments and finally call the meeting to order.

"Ladies and gentleman," Contesta begins, "I thank all of you for promptly arriving to this very important and worthwhile production meeting. As I understand from my assistants, you were all outside not even twenty minutes ago, so you are likely all aware of the most unique conditions we face putting on this very big event. With the rain likely to stay until about 5 p.m. local time, the conditions are, to put it mildly, very sloppy. Despite that, we can make this 2010 Hoenn Grand Festival a grand success if we just follow a few simple instructions.

"With that, I'll turn the floor over to the television director for this occasion who will outline the dos and don'ts for this afternoon's elimination rounds. Ken, take it away."

"Thank you, Raoul," speaks the longtime director of major Pokémon programming, Ken Garrett. Addressing his audience while they enjoy their drinks and breakfast pastries, he deviates from his traditional words of encouragement to say, "Everyone, I just checked with my statistician before preparing my notes for this morning. This is the first time since 1991 that we're able to say we have a 'sloppy' Grand Festival. That's before a few of you were born, I'm sure. It doesn't have to be that way to the worldwide television audience and it won't be if you follow these important directions. I'll begin with what I believe is the most important. Although entering the stage has rarely been an issue with me and I always encourage trainers and coordinators to exercise their creativity when they come in for their match, I have to lay down the line and order that for safety reasons, nobody will be permitted to run or jog while walking down the ramp way. Just walk to the stage and be done with it for the sake of not embarrassing yourselves.

"We will expedite opening ceremonies due to the rain, as well. The anthems, coordinator introductions and all other ballyhoo will be limited to twenty seconds for each of you instead of thirty. Trust me. It may not seem like much, but that time will fly. Now, your sideline reporter from yesterday, former Top Coordinator Robert Weis, will unfortunately not be able to join us for the elimination rounds this afternoon. He is currently down because of laryngitis and…I have to give him some credit. He wanted to be here badly, but if you can't speak clearly and consistently as a television field reporter, it won't work. Thankfully, we were able to get some help from two very knowledgeable coordinators on short notice and they'll sit in for a portion of this meeting as soon as they fulfill another commitment."

A few coordinators show some disappointment that Robert won't be a part of the big day, but fully realize that his health must come first and continue to listen to Ken's words.

"Everyone will be allowed to dress up today, but given the inclement weather; you do that at your own risk and are encouraged to wear ponchos at all times while outside and not umbrellas as umbrellas do not make for great television shots. We want everyone at home to see as much of you as possible and it won't help anyone to see just a giant parasol blocking every droplet of rain and your faces to boot.

"The next order of business is your obligation to the press and this presentation. For everyone here, your first duty to this broadcast will be to do sit-down interviews in the studios just across the hall. They'll take place after this meeting. Your personal room number should be in your individual packets and we plan on interviewing two of you at a time in separate stations.

"This will leave you about two hours to warm up with your Pokémon before coming back for opening ceremonies. Just before your matchups, you will do interviews of approximately a minute with a sideline reporter. They will take place just by the stage entrance. Nearly all of these interviews will be tape delayed. Should you make a mistake, you have about five minutes of breathing room in the interview to cover for them. Afterwards, you'll have your match and then go to a post interview, which unless we're coming out of a commercial break will always be live and be about a minute long, so no matter what keep all profanity down to a 'damn' or a 'hell' and keep strong or offensive words to your fellow coordinators to a minimum. Contesta will fine anyone who breaks these rules.

"Losing coordinators will go to the press room afterwards and answer questions for no more than ten minutes each and all mandatory commitments to the press and the broadcast will cease. Everyone will spend time in the press room because it's there where you will receive your VIP badge for the official Grand Festival after party and banquet. The top four coordinators will take longer because they'll do additional post interviews. Just follow the directions of the Slateport Stadium map on where to go for those and save all questions for the end of my speech.

"Now for the final four in today's tournament, your guests, should you have them here, will join you stage side for the semi-final, third place and final matchups. Several things will happen very quickly after the final match. We'll have about two minutes of celebration, confetti, a playing of The Grand Festival Victory Theme, and, should weather allow it, fireworks around the stadium. We will further elevate the stage floor so everyone can see the trophy presentation. Then we'll have a speech from Director Contesta and comments from the Top Coordinator and his or her party before the winner goes to the press room for final interviews alongside Contesta and other officials."

Looking through the packets given to her, Sandra gets a refresher of what's to come. Given that she's done this twice before, only some of this is news to her. She can only imagine the feeling of her mother who has gone through seven of these meetings or any of the older teens and adults. As she looks around the boardroom table, the only exception to the bored faces she finds is Pokémon Ranger Solana, right across from her and next to Brianna, who attentively looks at her notes and takes even more of them as Ken talks about delays in the event of lightning, fog or heavy and sustained downpours.

Sandra could've sworn she heard someone sigh while Ken continued to speak about the obligations of the coordinators to the premium channel networks and the reminder that there, their conversations can be uncensored if they wish. She didn't blame them, whoever it was. After the day came to an end, everyone would be doing so much talking on screen that they would curse the invention of flash photography and be happy to have a break from the paparazzi if only for the time being and until they elect to make another journey.

"The broadcast will be shown all around the world, as you might expect from the more than two hundred press credentials you see in your packet. It will be available on DVD, Blu-Ray and digital distribution formats. You will all receive royalties for the production and Raoul can speak more on that matter and the subject of your duties after the day ends for you, the top sixteen. Mr. Contesta? I turn the floor back to you."

"Thanks, Ken," Contesta says. "Now that all of you have been given your lecture as to your responsibilities and duties to this broadcast, I'm speaking to each of you now because you are the sixteen who have the opportunity to win the 2010 Hoenn Grand Festival. These are your rankings from seed number sixteen to seed number one.

"Number sixteen is Mollie Stewart, number fifteen is Lila Morena-Harmon and number fourteen Chaz Michael Grayson. Number thirteen is Jeremy Fenton, number twelve is Solana Roubanis, and number eleven is Marina Del Raymond.

"In the top ten starting with number ten is Timmy Grimm, then Ruby White at number nine and Kyle Miller is the eighth seed and the last coordinator to have 'command choice'. Number seven is Brianna Nolan, six is Jessminder Mentrovia and Sandra Van Hollen is number five. Savannah Van Hollen is fourth, Drew Emerson is number three, number two is May Maple and number one seed with command choice throughout is Dawn Berlitz. Like in all tournaments, high seed meets low in the first round and per the rules of Hoenn's Grand Festival there will be no reseeding to ensure best possible final round matchups.

"When you battle, you will use two Pokémon each and be bound to a time limit of five minutes. To win any match, you must have your team perform well enough to retain more hit points than your opponents. You and your Pokémon will be judged according to execution of battling skill, stage control, stage presence, tandem teamwork between Pokémon and effectiveness of the commanding coordinator, that being yourselves. If one member of your team is unable to battle, that Pokémon must be removed from the field within ten seconds or you will be docked hit points from your score. If both members of your team are unable to continue, the clock will stop and the match will end. Myself, Mr. Sukizo, and the three Joys serving as judges reserve the right to stop any match at any time via unanimous decision and all decisions, whether from the referee or the judges, are final.

"This afternoon's first elimination matchup will be between seeds number eight and nine; that's Kyle and Ruby, respectively. We'll then have seeds seven and ten meet and go down the line to the one and sixteen matchup. You will be paid based on your final rankings with the sixteenth coordinator being the one who got knocked out the quickest or had the lowest HP if none of the first-round contestants get knocked out. That will set nine through sixteen and the same goes for five through eight. The final four will sort itself out through match play, but if that doesn't get your attention, I know this will."

With those words, Contesta gets up from his seat and walks towards an easel next to the table to tear off a sheet of black contact paper from a cardboard table showing the payouts for each finishing position. Raoul did get the attention of the sixteen as they saw that even if they bombed in the first round, they would not leave Slateport City without earning at least a quarter of a million dollars.

"We at the Pokémon Contest Administration," Contesta says as if he's delivering a spiel, "are so proud to be able to guarantee each member of this Grand Festival's final four at least a million dollars. Winning one elimination round will net you at least half a million and you can see the rest of the totals on the chart, but I'm sure each of you have your eye on the number at the very top. Yes, the winner will earn a purse that all told should equal four million dollars after receiving the Hoenn Ribbon Cup, serving as the Grand Marshal of your own hometown parade this coming Wednesday and going on a mandatory two week winner's tour around North America."

It all sounds so appealing, especially to the young people knowing that they would get quite the pretty penny before the day went into the books. Contesta was right as everyone suddenly sat up straight in their seats and did their best to get a look at just what it is they were competing for today.

To this point, the meeting has been quite the bore fest, especially for those who know have gone through eliminations so often they know them like the back of their hand, but speaking on the subject of money and notoriety will always get people's attention and this time was no exception.

If only the meeting could end in the minds of most, though, so they can start applying their craft like no other coordinators in the world. That would be the moment many of these trainers will be on cloud nine. Once that happens and the day comes to an end, the money is sure to follow and bound to be quite the perk.

Knowing full well the number of people she expects in the skybox for this afternoon's festivities, Kelly is quite aware that she has no time to waste. Running back to the arena lobby, she catches her breath as she arrives at the front desk carrying three signed letters in her left hand while wearing around her neck what appears to be a press credential with a large quick response code in the middle of it.

Finding an open counter at the arena box office, she greets and then informs the attendant, "I'm here to claim skybox number two for the Grand Festival. I have the signed release form of May Maple granting me permission to do so along with both of our parent's consent."

Taking all of the forms along with scanning Kelly's pass, her attendant, with the nametag reading 'Natasha', files all this information into computers for record keeping purposes. The process doesn't take too long, about three minutes if Kelly is to believe a large LED clock on the wall of the lobby, but the teen prodigy is admittedly a little impatient knowing that she has to be the host for many people who've come a long way to see this tournament.

Eventually, Kelly gets her necklace back along with instructions to wait for an usher to escort her to get her key. "Okay Miss Cruz-Marin, once you get the key and its copy, you'll be able to go in and get started. How many are you expecting in the box?"

"Anywhere from ten to fifteen people," she replies.

From a side door enters a young gentleman in a black blazer with a Pokémon contest emblem on his right breast. Natasha extends her right hand in his direction, explaining "Nathan here will take you to the office to get the keys. Once you have them, he'll give you your final instructions."

He directs her to come to an elevator with a sign reading 'authorized personnel only'. She's never had the chance or opportunity to sit in the skybox of the Slateport Stadium making this experience foreign to Kelly.

Despite that, her accompanier seeks to make her feel welcome while they make the slow ride up the elevator and to the executive offices. "So you're traveling with May Maple for this weekend?"

Not expecting much conversation, Kelly momentarily snaps out of her concentration to digest the question and answer "Yeah. Both of our families and our friends are here for the occasion. I've trained her for the past month and…it's all in her hands now. I just hope she can do it. If anyone deserves it, it's her. I just have a feeling deep down that this is her year. I couldn't stand it if she went through more heartache, but if she sticks to the plan, she can't lose."

"Most people do think she's got the best shot today," Nathan affirms, "but there is the little matter about the rain. May, though…she's a competitor and she won't make that an excuse if her Blaziken can't handle the downpours. You know, the way you're talking it sounds like May is someone very special to you," he concludes.

'More than you could possibly imagine, Nathan,' she ponders, but what actually comes out of her mouth amounts to a more cryptic response. "Yeah, that's my girl." Not a response particularly out of the ordinary, but only she and May know the true meaning and extent of those words. "I first met her when she just started coordinating at age ten and I've been one of her most ardent supporters ever since. She's my best friend, but…she's much more, you know?"

"I understand," he speaks as the elevator door opens to a corridor leading to a double-door entry. Using the automatic button, they then enter a room marked 'Press/VIP Credentials' and using a key card, Nathan makes his way inside with Kelly following right behind. Turning to face her, the young runner instructs Kelly "Wait by this window here and we'll have you all set."

That takes virtually no time at all as Nathan shows up on the other side of the Plexiglas box fiddling with a computer mouse before typing in several combinations and waiting for some information to load.

Once he receives what he's looking for, the Slateport Stadium assistant gets up from his seat and uses his personal key card to open a filing cabinet and pull out two credit card sized cards which he slides through card readers. Once the system approves the transfer and matches the names, Nathan places the two cards to the side and goes back to the computer to print out further information. As he explains, "I'm giving you the floor plan for the stadium and that should give you the quickest route to your box.

"While that prints, I want to go over the list of people permitted to join you in the box or, in other words, those who are on the list."

"Sure. Name them off."

"Okay, right now I have on the list, aside from yourself, Norman, Caroline, Erik, Julia, Max, Harley, Brock, Lucy, Conway, Holly, Leo, Sara, Kenny and Zoey. Are all of those correct?"

"Well those last two, Zoey and Kenny, are no longer on the list," Kelly corrects. "I just learned this morning they won't be able to join us in the box because of an emergency commitment."

Typing into his computer he remarks, "So Zoey Zarkowski and Kenny Treanoir are scratched from the list." Looking up, he asks, "Is there anyone that I might have forgotten or that you want to add right now?"

"No, I thought about a few friends from Mossdeep City, but they called me back and said they're gonna watch from home."

"That's no problem," Nathan assures Kelly. "If anyone calls you from now until the semifinals, they can be added on the fly. Just request it from your complimentary phone. Okay we're about set here, Kelly." Putting the two key cards underneath the cashier's slot, he says, "Please do not lose those cards, have them stolen if you can help it or give them to someone you cannot trust or who isn't on your list. The fine for a replacement card is five hundred dollars.

"While in the skybox, all drinks, food and other amenities cost money but will be debited from the allowance Miss Maple put onto the box which was, according to the computer, ten thousand dollars. As I see it, should your party go over the allowance, May has authorized us to deduct the money from her purse up to an additional ten thousand dollars."

Everything Nathan is saying is true and required only a nod of affirmation from Nathan before he went on to speak about the time to turn in the keycards. "Is there anything else that I can get for you or you need clarification for before you leave?"

"I can't think of anything else, but thanks for all of your help."

"Hey, the pleasure is mine. Enjoy the show, Kelly!"

"Thank you and have a great day," she says making her way to the door.

"Oh, Kelly! Wait! Wait up!" She doesn't get too far before Nathan calls her again and she follows him back to the glass where he has a white envelope in his right hand. "I forgot to give you this message May wanted her party to read before the matchups. She gave specific instruction that no one was to read this until everyone in your party arrives or the Grand Festival begins, whichever comes first. Here you go."

Kelly had no clue that this letter existed. May never said anything about it and she's been around May near constantly for the past several days. When could she find the time to write this letter? Well, those points are moot right now. She's got a letter and she's been trusted to respect the wishes of her fiancée and not read it until its time. "Thanks for giving me this. I had no idea she wrote it."

"Well, she was quite adamant about everyone in your party hearing this one," Nathan speaks. "Another three seconds and I would probably be on her bad list for not getting you that letter."

"It must be something special if she insisted so much. Thanks again."

"You're welcome Kelly and, again, please enjoy the Grand Festival!"

"I will, Nathan," Kelly answers. "Thanks for all your help," those are her last words before leaving this special box office and walking back towards the elevator according to the floor plan.

While in the elevator, she pulls out her phone and begins composing a text for everyone who will join her in the box later. As she leaves for the box, Kelly almost completes the message signaling everyone that they can come to the stadium now because she's got the keys to the skybox.

"Almost show time," she remarks as she gets closer to the club boxes. While looking around behind her and to both sides, she walks off to the side gets down to her knees and begins praying for a great, safe day for all the trainers and coordinators and "For all that's right to soon eclipse what's been wrong for far too long. I ask these things in your name, my heavenly father, Amen."

A/N: This has been a long, long time coming and numerous situations aside, which I won't bore you with, I've gotten it together and released this chapter. Late May or June will be the next release and should be much longer than this one.

For anyone confused about Kelly mentioning Francis Ouimet, he was the winner of the 1913 U.S. Open in Golf. He was an amateur who defeated the best professional golfers of the time in an 18-hole playoff. Not only was he the first amateur to win the U.S. Open, it was his very first U.S. Open and he won it at his home course in Brookline, Massachusetts. His story of his incredible upset has been dramatized in book form and in the 2005 film The Greatest Game Ever Played.

Stay tuned for that and until then, this is Rave!