Well, I'm sorry once again for the delay. I've... Been socially active. A lot. It's really surprising for me.

Anyways – I'm sorry for the long amounts of time I've forced you all to wait for the last few chapters... But, I'd like to kindly tell you all that while I am a gargantuan geek who usually has nothing better to do than write about fictional boys, I am a real person with a social life, no matter how minuscule it may be. This being so, I may run into some delays here and there.

I write the following just to remind you all I can't always update in two days. Regardless, I'll still try my best! Thank you all for putting up with me and cheering me on!

Also... I've been thinking of doing a sort of non-canon interview chapter for some time. Please include in your message if you think it's a good, or bad idea. I don't want to go and do this knowing nobody will read, or that people are going to think I'm even weirder than I am for posing something like this. Keep in mind you don't have to be registered to leave a review!

Okay, I'm done jabbering on now. Please enjoy! (And sorry for any errors!)

The next few days went by exceptionally fast. I guess the saying 'time flies by when you're having fun' really is true.

All of my friends had left the day after the party. Brendan, too. I'd been told that he'd reportedly gone and started collecting the badges himself. I was surprised he hadn't, actually – he was pretty good, even if I'd beaten him every match we'd had. I was sure he'd do great. Not to underestimate any one of the leaders, but I was sure he'd ace all of them up to my father. Thereon... He might be in for a little trouble.

I yawned, leaning in on Steven as the both of us watched the small lake behind my house. The sun was just rising, and the both of us had been unable to sleep. I had my head on his shoulder, of coarse, and he wasn't arguing at all, occasionally taking a peek at me. It seemed as though this little awkward thing might actually be starting to vanish. It was about time. I mean, yes. We'd only been dating for a couple days, but I'd loved him for a while longer, and thought of him as a good friend even before that. Thinking we were so silly around each other was ridiculous.

I smiled. "This is so much nicer than the mother time you and I were at that lake near Mauville." I spoke, content.

He chuckled a bit. "Oh? What? You didn't like the things you fished up?" He asked, his voice lined with a teasing tone.

"Psh. First of all – I didn't even fish up Feebas. It was swept up by a high wave and I tagged it with a ball. Second of all... I hardly call a tattered porno mag a nice catch." I spoke.

The both of us smiled, looking out into the distance once more. I felt like an old couple you might see in a commercial, sitting in a swinging seat on their porch. It was cheesy, but I liked it. Who didn't like cheese?

"So, I heard your mom's having a contest here later on today." He began. I mentally stabbed him for wrecking my good mood. "Are you coming to watch?"

I sighed. If I were to be in a relationship with him and expect him to be open with me, I'd best be open with him. Besides – I hardly pictured him as being the type to go telling everyone he knew... And as odd as it was, I was content with the idea of him seeing me in a contest. After all, he'd already seem me battle. Smiling, I decided to be witty about it.

Having my bag with me, I pulled out my mask and put it on, turning to him with a small grin. "What are you kidding? A contest? Red's in." I spoke.

He laughed a but, turning to me. "You're serious? You're this 'Red' person?" He asked.

I blushed a bit. "Well, yeah." I spoke. "Think of it. Was I ever around when Red was in a contest?" I asked. "I think not. Steven Stone isn't the only one who can be sneaky." I teased.

He laughed at my comment. "Oh? And who's your star Pokemon this time?" He asked.

I smiled. "I'm thinking I'm going to give Milotic a shot. Beautiful, serene, and backed up by some serious power." I described, getting caught up. "I think I'm going to have Milotic combine Water Pulse and Twister to make a whirlpool in the center of the stage. Then... In my battle rounds... Well, Recover will be a huge milestone for my opponents." I went on.

Steven laughed at my enthusiasm. "Well, you sound like you have everything planned out. Care to show me your plan?" He asked, eying me with pleading eyes.

I rolled my own. "Oh, fine! You and Absol with your puppy-dog eyes." I grumbled, letting Milotic out into the lake. It seemed to enjoy the water, swimming around a bit before coming to the surface, looking at me happily. It was funny, considering I caught them for the sole purpose of getting out from that lake back then, completely unaware of the fact that I'd seriously found a great addition to my party.

I grinned. "Alright. Let's give Steven here a preview of our contest appeal." I began. "Don't worry about your Water Pulse, though – you already have a lake." I added.

I cried out its own name as it created a powerful twister that spun on the lake for a bit, picking up water. I'd made sure to ask Milotic to put its all into the twister technique, and it really paid off. The moves looked pretty strong.

Having accomplished this much, Milotic; unseen, went on into the center where it began to use Recover; its silhouette glowing white as it unleashed another Twister from inside to dispel the original, leaving Milotic in the center.

Steven clapped, causing my cheeks to warm up. "I really have to get Wallace to meet you one day. He'll think you're amazing." He laughed. "Especially with the hair! Keep it away from him or he'd going to have you looking like some old fashioned doll with ringlets."

I furrowed a brow and frowned. "Been there, done that. At Mt. Chimney, remember?" I asked. "I'd had a contest just before that and tried that out to help with my look. It sucked." I spoke. "I reeked of perfume and they were a royal pain."

He laughed. "Yeah, I remember that. It's just... It wasn't the first think I was concerned with back then." He explained, smiling.

I laughed a bit, slumping back onto the tree. I really did like him. It was probably silly of me, feeling so attached to him. I mean, looking at how many teens actually end up staying together... The odds weren't promising.

Though... I suppose I'd rather have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. And, who knew. Maybe we would stay together. I mean, the chances were slim...

I shook my head for getting my hopes up. It was safer to keep myself expecting the worse sometimes. I sighed, uncertain as to what I should make of the dilemma. Chances were, I was just thinking too much. I'd just have to do my best being me. If that didn't work, well then. It wasn't meant to be. A bit of a depressing reality, but that's exactly what it was. Reality.

Steven looked at me curiously. "Hm? Something the matter?"

I smiled. I didn't want to have to plague him with thoughts like mine, so I thought I'd brighten the mood a little. "Yeah, actually. While you were looking the other way, I undressed you with my eyes. It isn't looking too promising." I spoke, my voice as casual as I could keep it.

He seemed taken back my my crude comment, but quickly smiled. "Well, it looks like you have a bad imagination. I'm betting I look a thousand times better than anything you thought." He teased.

I decided to leave it at that to avoid any potentially awkward situations. "Yeah, yeah. Sure." I spoke dismissively.

He made a pouting gesture. "Well, you couldn't take your eyes off of me at the hot springs!" He interjected.

I smiled deviously. "Yeah, well. I didn't exactly see all of you back then. Now that my eyes have done their work... Well, there isn't too much to see, really." I spoke, keeping a playful time to my voice.

He furrowed a brow. "Don't make me prove you wrong." He threatened, faking the cheesiest seductive voice he could have possibly come up with.

"Psh! Boys! Always ready to take their pants off!" I exclaimed.

"I wasn't the one undressing my boyfriend with my eyes!"

I rolled my eyes. "You'd think you were a little more used to all of this with fangirls pretty much ready to undress themselves in front of you." I spoke, laughing a bit at the one girl who'd asked for an autograph on her chest. If Steven and I ever did stay together, well. He'd be hearing about that one until the end.

"You try being champion! You'd probably have creepy men ready to pounce on you around every corner you turned!"

I laughed a but, letting myself fall into his lap, smiling up it him. "Well, I suppose that's why I have you now, isn't it?" I asked.

He laughed, bringing his hand down along my crimson hair. It seemed as though he always wanted to play with it, and frankly, I liked it. It was just a little amusing, is all. "I suppose it is." He answered.

Steven and I stayed there for a while more before heading back. My mother and I went crazy, getting everything ready for ourselves. I was initially going to go on and wear my pirate-like outfit, but she protested, forcing me into the dress I now called the burnt marshmallow. It was fiery red, and it was poofy like a marshmallow. I suppose I'd have to let Ninetales at it later.

After this, we went on to the stadium, Steven going on to take a seat in the bleachers. He'd made sure to crowd himself around some people he'd learned were from Sinnoh, thus unaware of his being champion.

I, myself, now stood before the crowd, all squeezed into the small stadium. Regardless of size, however... It was magnificently built. It was odd of me to notice so, but I had thought that this place would be far less... Grand than the other places my Pokemon had gone and preformed.

"Alright! Now let's see what Red has in store for us today!" Began the announcer. I was told by my mother that the woman was named Darian, often going on to help out with town events as a spokesperson. They seemed nice enough, being a little younger than my mother with a light brown bob cut, wearing a ed sweater with a black skirt.

"Stage time, Milotic!" I called out, letting out the Tender Pokemon, who let out a beautiful cry that echoed through the stadium. The crowd was pretty quiet; all eyes on the magnificent water Pokemon. I suppose it really was something to have one.

"Alright. Let's get this show on the road with Twister!" I began.

Immediately, Milotic created a tornado which whirled around it; shrouding it from the eyes of the crowd, in addition to stirring a wind which whirled around the stadium. Then on, well aware of what to do, carried on without my command, sending a gentle Water Pulse to the ground below it which was drawn into the strong air current. The show was near identical to that I'd given Steven on the lake, though it looked even more powerful than then, perhaps given power by Milotic's inspiration of the crowd.

I allowed the current of water to flow before me for a few moment before I decided it was time to initiate part two of Milotic's performance. "Alright! Now, let's wrap this up!"

At once Milotic began to use Recover. This being done; a bright figure of light could be seen at the base of the vortex. Then on, from inside, Milotic used Twister once more counter clockwise to break up the previous attack, which went the opposite direction. Having done this, the attack stopped, water slowly coming to a halt around Milotic, who stopped using Recover seconds after the tunnel of water had dissipated.

Waiting for a moment, the two of us then took a bow, signaling the end of our performance, the crowd went wild, a smile appearing on my face as I made my way across the stage, bowing with Milotic.

"A beautiful performance! Now, let's see if our judges were was wooed as me!" Began Darian, looking at the screen and awaiting a score.

At once, 28 appeared on the screen. My face immediately brightened up, happy with such a solid score, making my way back to the waiting room where my mother waited, seeming giddy to see me.

"Al..." She stopped herself on time, realizing that she was about to mistakenly call out my name. "Er, I mean Red! That was amazing!" She exclaimed, hugging me tightly. I flailed a but; her hug being exceptionally tight but gave in, realizing my efforts to be futile. "It looks like you were listening to me when I was raving about my contests after all!"

I laughed. "And speaking of them, it'd your turn. You and Altaria show those judges something else!" I encouraged, separating myself from my mom and putting my hands on her shoulders, giving her a confident look..

My having said this, she looked up at the screen, noting her picture was evident on the screen behind Darian. "Oh! Well, I'll do that!" She assured me, making her way to the stage, soon appearing on the screen.

A minute later, my mother made it to the stage, running out and calling out her Altaria. "Alright! Begin with Mist!" She started, her voice loud and confident.

Altaria, seeming well trained in this appeal went in to let out a foggy haze which went on to shroud itself from the sights of its viewers. I watched carefully, wondering what she was up to. The point of a contest was to accentuate the beauty of one's Pokemon. I knew she wasn't an amateur and knew this very well, so I was extremely curious as to what she planned on pulling off.

The fog having set, my mother went on. "Alright! Now, use Perish Song!" She began. My eyes widened a bit. That attack was different, especially in a contest.

Altaria, without second thoughts let out a series of majestic, almost sad cries from within the fog, its silhouette seen flying idly around the cloud like substance around it on occasion. Understanding now that this was an appeal meant to be of a sort of mystic and sad feel, I smiled. It was amazing, that was for sure. The cry... It brought about a sort of sadness, as Perish Song caused the Pokemon using it pain. Regardless, my mother... She was well vised, and I trusted she knew Altaria's limits.

"Now, wrap it up!"

This having been said, Altaria quickly emerged from the top of the haze, its glowing wing folded in close to it when it did. Then, in a split second, it spread out its wings, using the oddest version of Sky Attack I'd ever seen used to blow the Mist underneath it away as though it only took a simply breath.

Done, Altaria few before my mother, perched happily. The crowd cheered even louder than it had with me, bringing both happiness and a bit of jealousy. I was ecstatic to seem my mother do so well... But I couldn't help but wish I was the one having done so well.

In a moment, her score was displayed on the board. A sky high 29.

I was so busy marveling the score I'd just seen I nearly had a heart attack when my mother spoke from beside me. She didn't waste a second getting back down to the waiting room. "Well, it looks like Altaria and I still have it! Five years and we can still pull that off!" She exclaimed.

I smiled. "I knew you were good, but mom. I'm going to be in an awful situation if I have to fight you!'" I exclaimed.

She laughed a bit. "Don't underestimate yourself. You're not too far off from me." She admitted.

I was about to reply, but the announcer came on over the television. "Alright! That concludes our beginning round! Now, let's see why made it to the finals!" They began; the scoreboard blown up over the television.

At once, my mother's face appeared, followed by mine and a few other trainers. However, one more caught my eye. Te same trainer I'd fought who'd owned a Delcatty back in Dewford was here, having made it in seventh place. This time, however, it was shown that they had used a Seviper. It would be a fitting battle, two serpents fighting against on and other if we were matched up.

And we were. We'd be the first battling round.

I had an odd gut feeling, but ignored it, turning to my mother. "Alright. Let's see how I do." I spoke, smiling weakly. She nodded encouragingly as I made my way out from the room, down the dim, tunnel like halls and into the mail room, where the girl I'd battled last time stood. She had the same pretty blond hair, beautiful green dress and a prim, green hat stood.

She smiled in a way that reminded me much like a snake; fitting, with her choice in Pokemon. It appeared as though she wasn't as innocent as she made herself out to me. "Just you wait. I'll make you pay for showing me and my dear Delcatty up in Dewford." She hissed.

I decided it was best to ignore her threat and feign a kind sort of happiness. "I'm sorry for embarrassing you – but this is a competitive battle. I simply did was any coordinator did and battled to the best of my abilities. Plus, your Delcatty did wonderfully, it alm..."

She interrupted me. "Shut it. Save that sympathy for yourself when we floor you." She snapped.

My mouth remained agape for a moment, but I quickly regained my composure.

Darian, seeing the two of us having finished began. "Alright! So, onto the battling rounds!" They began. "The competitors will battle each other until either one Pokemon faints, someone's points or down, or – if time runs out; the coordinator with the highest amount of points!" She spoke. "Are the competitors ready?"

Both of us, while eying each other nodded.

I quickly hurdled Milotic's ball out into the field, revealing the gorgeous Tender Pokemon. They let out a cry which echoed through the stadium.

The trainer on the other end; Becky, so I'd just learned by looking up at the board, sent out her Seviper which eyed me and Milotic as though plotting, letting out a hissing noise as it swayed its trademark tail back and forth, rhythmically as though anxious to sink it to either of us. It gave me the creeps. I shouldn't be this worried over a little thing like this when I'd slept in a house with a Pokemon that could kill with a single lick until recently.

I decided it would be best if I began the offense. "Alright! Begin with Twister!" I ordered, pointing at the Fang Snake Pokemon.

Milotic obediently did so, letting a Twister loose from its tail at the Poison Pokemon. It wasn't a very strong one, but I suppose Milotic had the same in mind as myself. We both wanted to test their power.

"Counter that attack with Flamethrower!" She commanded.

I raised a brow, but decided not to think much of the attack. I mean, if it worked, that meant a deduction of points on my part. So, I had nothing real to worry about. And as expected, the attack worked, creating a whirling cyclone of fire heading towards Milotic.

"Alright. Ping Pong it is!" I began, smiling with determination. "Use Mirror Coat!"

At that command, Milotic spread the fins on its tail and reflected the attack back with two times the power, engulfing the Seviper in flames. However, Becky seemed to have drawn simple fuel for what was her fiery rage, belting a command in spite of Seviper's likely injuries.

"Use Iron Tail! Go!"

I didn't expect much, but let out a gasp as, from the flames, the Fang Snake Pokemon emerged, with the aim as mad as the Mawile that had gone and hit poor Vivian's hair back in a previous contest.

Then, before I could take another breath, I was laying on the stage floor; a heated pain throbbing in the side of my head,

I got up, my face towards the crowd as I shakily brought by hand up to my head, taking it away when I felt something wet and warm. Blood. Not too much, but enough to let me know the cut wasn't something too tiny. Looking back at the ground, I saw a little splatter of the liquid that brought me life. Not too surprising, really...

Then, I froze. My mask... It was on the ground.

I looked up at the crowd who murmured quietly, tears filling my eyes as I began to breath faster and deeper, my head becoming light. I felt my heart beating so hard it felt like it was about to burst. I was visibly shaking and I felt a sensation that was both cold and hot.

I could only look at the crowd that looked back at me. I couldn't tell what they thought. I was pathetic, sitting here like this. In the middle of a stage. I felt like a helpless little girl that had tripped up.

Darian spoke in the background, but their voice was muffled to me. I couldn't really hear anything coherently a this point. Everything was one, big muffled murmur.

Then, something in me snapped.

I brought Milotic back to its ball faster than I ever had for any Pokemon and ran out from the stadium faster than a Ninjask could fly, escaping through a Fire Exit. I quickly made my way into a serious of bushes behind the buildings where I quickly fell to my knees and leaned on a tree, letting the tears fall freely while trying to get a breath though the suffocated feeling about me.

I'd just gone and let the entire world know who I was in the most embarrassing way I could. It was almost guaranteed a nice snapshot of me crying would be all over the newspaper with a catchy, derogatory title above it. I'd never be able to go out again without people asking me "Aren't you that Red? The Coordinator?" and...

So far as I was concerned, my life was in shambles.

I wasn't aware of how long I was there when I heard a stepping behind me, turning around like a scared mouse to see who it was.

Coming through the bushes, Steven looked down at me, both sympathetic and worried. "Alice..." He began, seeming at a loss for words.

I leaped up and wrapped my arms around him as though I, myself, were using bind, letting out a torrent of unyielding sobs. This... My worst fear... In front of everyone in my home town. I most have looked pathetic with that look as though I were in the headlights for an incoming vehicle. I should have stayed for Milotic... But it was too late, now. I'd brought it back to the ball, signaling my defeat.

That Becky bitch would move on.

Steven brought his hand along my hair, going on to rest his chin gently on my head, hugging me tightly. He was surprisingly quiet... But, that was alright. I just needed a shoulder to cry on. I just hoped I didn't stain his back coat with my tears.

I watched as the Seviper which Milotic was fighting came from the small fire on the floor and viciously slammed its tail into Alice's head. She actually flew back a few feet; blood splattering just a bit as she hit the ground with a small thud the echoed through the small building. What shocked me most, however, was her mask having fallen off, laying beside her.

To top things off, the people in charge of cameras zoomed up on her face, as seen in the large screen atop the stage so we could see. It was pathetic of them, taking advantage of her like this. I mean, the attack... She was lucky if she didn't suffer from serious injuries! And they wanted to film this? It was simply barbaric! It was a fricking contest!

I didn't even notice that I had stood up when she rose so she was sitting, noting the blood on her head before noticing her mask was gone; tears evident as she looked horrified.

Taking Milotic back to its ball, she bolted from the stadium, faster than I'd ever seen her move, automatically letting this Becky kid win the match.

Frankly, I wouldn't have been surprised if she'd pulled off such a move on purpose. Judging my their unheard discussion and their mannerisms in it; it seemed as though they were on bad terms with each other.

I would have gone and personally given her a piece of my mind, but I had to pull myself away from the urge to snap her in half, instead running down the bleachers towards the exit, passing by the coordinator waiting room while I did. I only hoped she was around the building. I mean, the town was small, and I'd find her quickly, but I really wanted to get to her as fast as possible and see how she was going. The blow looked pretty bad, and she looked like she was having a full blown panic attack on the stage.

A hand grabbed my shoulder just as I was about to leave, spinning me around to reveal its owner.

"Steven, please. Go find Alice." Asked her mother, worry seeping from her voice. "She's deathly afraid of crowds. Make sure she's safe, and that she doesn't do anything reckless."

I nodded. "I was just about to do that. Don't worry. I'll find her!" I assured her, bolting before I got a response.

It took a few minutes, but I found her soon enough at the outskirts of the building, leaning on a tree as she sobbed. This... I wanted to comfort her all I could. It hurt, seeing her like this. She'd broken ribs and and arm, and she didn't shed so much as a tear then. To see a rock like her so shaken... It was unbelievably heart wrenching.

I let out a small gasp as she launched herself at me, nearly toppling me as she buried her face into my chest, letting a torrent of cries out. Surprised, I brought my hand down her hair, surprised by its softness before resting my chin on her head and taking her into a tight hug.

So long as I had something to do about it... I'd never let anyone hurt her like this again. I'd protect her with every ounce of power I had.