Part Six: Epilogue
May 10th 1915
It did not take long for things to change at Miltank Meadows, and after five years, it looked an entirely different place.
As soon as her husband and sons were sentenced, Grace Parrish was allowed to take control of the farm. She had pleaded guilty to being an accessory to illegally keeping slaves, yet Victoria, Gwenda, Andrew and dozens of others gave her outstanding character statements, and the way she had been abused got her off with only a small fine.
She quickly set to work, with help from Victoria, Gwenda and Andrew, to making large changes. The wall was torn down and replaced with a sturdy fence, letting the entire world see the farm that had once been so mysteriously hidden away. The bricks from the wall were used to make huts, complete with proper bathrooms and kitchens, for any workers that wished to stay. Lucifer's Cage was turned into a storage facility, whilst
The Shack, the vicious torture chamber, and the Minder's hut were torn down and used as firewood. The Parrish's house was expanded, with another floor constructed over a one year period and the bottom and exterior refurbished, turning it into a comfortable farm house painted ocean blue with white walls and windows.
But the biggest change had to be the people. Though many of Edmund's funds had been seized and business lost after the revelation, Victoria and Andrew worked hard to drum up new people to work there and more money in order to pay each farm hand who passed through the large steel gates. Though many slaves left to find new homes and work, Grace was taken aback when around half of them stayed, ready to experience some proper skills and get paid for their hard work.
Anyone could tell the atmosphere had changed at Miltank Meadows, with proper accommodation, proper food provided, a decent pay depending on the work done, and just a general joyful air that washed anyway any foul memories of the past. It was now a friendly place working towards becoming a great haven for anyone of any colour to work at, and it was easy to now call the farm Home.
Victoria Freeman stared across her new home, a smile creeping onto her face.
It had been a hard five years getting Miltank Meadows back to its feet and clearing the terrible and horrific image it had been associated with, but things were starting to change. They were making more money now then ever before, especially considering their workers actually got paid now, and the environment was a lot happier. She could see Andrew herding Mareep with the help of his Manectric, Gwenda and Millicent teaching some new milk maids how to properly milk a cow, and Grace was helping sort out difficulties involving an angry Tauros. Even Judith Parrish, now thirteen, was helping to pot plants alongside those she still referred to as 'slaves' under the watchful eye of Petal the Roserade.
It will take time for her to change, Victoria thought, watching the still little girl working hard in the distance. Everyone has to adjust to these changes, not just her… I am sure she will come around in time. Victoria sighed, leaning against the open window, staring at the farm with a sadder gaze in her eyes.
She herself had had a difficult time adjusting. It was quite odd being forced into the spotlight, having dozens of people come up to you at once and try and get you to recount your story. Victoria had enjoyed it the first few times, but after repeating the same tale over and over again, her guilt merely grew, finding it difficult to talk about the many deaths and tales of destruction in a way that would please the masses.
Victoria was glad that Andrew and Gwenda had agreed to stay with her when she said she would stay at Miltank Meadows and help Grace reinvent. She couldn't have done so without them standing by her side, helping make decisions, helping trying to recruit people, helping to tell their tale to ensure they got a better image for the farm. Victoria wanted to stay here and knew that she had to, but there was no way she would have pulled through without her best friend and her love beside her all the way.
Victoria, are you still up here? A voice echoed in the back of her head, and Victoria turned around, her eyes glistening with tears, finding Apollo wandering around the storeroom they had turned Lucifer's Cage into. Spades, shovels, hoes, bags of food, a broken wheelbarrow and piles of timber and firewood were amongst the many things the Absol manoeuvred around, trying to find his trainer.
"Over here," Victoria called, wiping away her tears and feeling foolish for getting upset. Apollo turned around and smiled, still looking the same he had on the day Victoria had caught him. And, strangely enough, Victoria looked exactly the same as well.
Miss Parrish is looking for you, Apollo said. We thought you'd had an accident. Victoria managed to laugh, and leaned around to grab the bag of food she had been sent up to collect.
"I just got lost in my thoughts, nothing to worry about," she replied with a soft smile. However, Apollo's own smile began to falter, and he gazed at Victoria in a way that made her feel uncomfortable. "What is it?" She asked nervously, but she knew what was happening: Apollo was reading into her thoughts, looking for the truth that her words were not speaking.
You are distracted, as always, Apollo commented, staring hard at his trainer to try and read between the lines. What is always on your mind that bothers you so much? You have been this way for months and I am starting to worry.
"You shouldn't," Victoria said, holding back tears and staring to the window. "If Andrew or anyone else saw you worrying about me, it would get them all worrying as well, and I don't want that or need it." Turning away from Apollo only made the guilt that hovered around her worsen, the whole of the meadows spreading out before her, the rows of trees now edging towards eight metres with their branches beginning to sprout green leaves once more.
Apollo didn't reply to this, and Victoria heard him walk slowly back towards the staircase. She expected him to leave in peace, but his voice stirred once more. Victoria, you cannot keep this guilt hanging with you. They chose their wishes, they chose to stay with you, there is nothing more to it. You need to let this guilt go or you will never be happy. And with that, Apollo descended the stairs, leaving Victoria along once more.
Slowly and silently, she began to weep. Apollo had been correcting in figuring out her faults: guilt still lingered with her, growing and growing each day as she examined the lives of those around her. Victoria had basically promised Gwenda and Andrew wishes of their own, but they had sacrificed them in order to help achieve hers, and they had given up any chances of a better life to stay on the farm with her. What Victoria had done to deserve such wonderful friends she would never know, and why they stayed with her haunted her dreams and nightmares.
And then there were the trees. Victoria knew what they meant from the moment she saw them, and these had been confirmed when Grace said, weeks later, she had no memory of them being planted. Each tree was a reminder, one that Victoria said as almost taunting, and it pained her to look towards them and know what Jirachi had left for her.
"Victoria, are you alright?" Another voice rose up the stairs, and Victoria quickly pulled herself together, wiping away the tears and standing up straight, Pokemon food in hand. She didn't want to worry Andrew, and walked towards him as he came up the stairs.
"I'm fine, don't worry about me," Victoria said with a smile on her face, beaming down at Andrew as he came up. The man of her dreams barely looked a day older than when they had arrived back, the same smile on his face that danced up into his eyes, though he had a stronger tan and had gained more muscle. Victoria thought he looked dashing in his white shirt with half the buttons open, sweat glistening down his chest, and her mind temporarily went elsewhere as she gazed down at him.
"Are you sure?" Andrew asked, trying to stay smiling but giving her a concerned look. "You've just been up here a while, and Apollo looked rather –," but Victoria interrupted him by stepping down and kissing him. Andrew's words caught in his throat and he pulled her forwards into a tight embrace, the Pokemon food crashing to the ground as the lovers kissed each other as if they had been apart for years.
"I watched you herding those Mareep," Victoria said once they made their way down the stairs, Andrew carrying the food easily in one hand and holding hers softly with the other. "Good to see things coming on with those new workers." Andrew smiled back at her and they walked the rest of the way in silence. Victoria could sense that he knew something was truly wrong, but covering his suspicions as she was covering her true feelings. Victoria wanted to voice what was going on inside her head, but she wasn't sure how any of them would react to her true thoughts and notions, and if there was anything for her to properly worry about.
Five minutes later, after getting a ride up on the Tauros driven cart Andrew had come down in, Victoria, Andrew and Apollo walked towards the Milk Shed where Gwenda was minding the milk maids as they started work. Millicent was keeping a watchful eye over them as well, no longer able to produce milk herself but Victoria had insisted on keeping her.
"Mary, Jane, keep up the good work," Gwenda called, trying to sound authoritative as she walked past each stall. "Alice, Melinda, stop gossiping to each other and focus on your work!" She said in a crosser tone at a black and white duo whispering to each other over their Miltank, and Victoria badly stifled a snort at this. Gwenda turned around, the stern look on her face nearly sending Andrew into a fit of giggles as well.
"And what exactly, Miss Freeman and Mr Kingston, is so funny you need to interrupt my lesson?" Gwenda asked stiffly, but this simply pushed the two over the edge. Victoria and Andrew had to lean against each other to stay upright as they began to laugh, unable to control themselves and forgetting where they were. The milk maids began to giggle as well after two minutes, but Millicent gave a sturdy stomp that sent all of them into silence.
"I'm sorry Gwenda," Victoria said, struggling to keep a straight face, "but you just look so funny trying to be all s-s-serious!" She couldn't even get her words out and began laughing once again.
"Please Victoria, your being immature," Andrew tutted, and the girls giggled again at this. Even Gwenda couldn't keep her stern face on, and she managed to smile as well and walked towards her friends, pulling Victoria into a one armed hug.
"Here's a lesson for you girls," Gwenda boomed, her voice echoing around the stables. "Victoria and I started off where you were in a completely different time, and as we milked ol' Millicent here, our friendship strengthened with each day that passed. Look over at your milking buddy: one day, you two could be best friends and be in the same position as us!"
"What, running the place?" A girl called Juliet called out, and everyone began to laugh. Victoria smiled and laughed with the rest of them, but her eyes wandered towards the rows of trees as Gwenda's words washed over her, her arms around both of her best friends.
She would never forget how people had died as a result of their quest, not with Jirachi's reminders growing taller and taller each day that passed, but Victoria knew she would never regret it. Even with her guilt weighing down upon her, Victoria could not forget about what had happened and how much stronger their bonds had grown. She would never forget the Pokemon they had caught and how they had grown, with Andrew's Flygon regularly soaring overhead using Draco Meteor as a fireworks display. She would never forget about Jim and how he had helped them, and she would never forget the places they visited, even if it was brief. And she would never forget the Minder, though the only image she tried to keep of him was the bug-eyed, hopeless look he had when the hedge clippers, now stored in a glass cabinet in the living room, had plunged into his chest.
Victoria loved every moment of her new life, from the new workers they to the Pokemon that made their money, to Grace's smiling, friendly attitude to the beautiful views they now had towards Olivine. She especially loved that Gwenda and Andrew had stayed with her, always remembering how Jirachi had brought her back because she knew the girl could not live without her friends.
Yet the guilt lingered, and Victoria knew it always would, and part of her was pleased for it. She wouldn't want to have forgotten about the people that were sacrificed in their journey, and knew it would have been a selfish and foolish thing to do so anyway. Thw guilt was simply the price of her freedom, and Victoria could accept it. She gazed up to the tops of the trees as the sun shone brightly behind them, and she shut her eyes.
All she could she was white, with one eye floating at her from the distance, a soft voice telling her it was alright: Victoria was right where she should be, and no amount of guilt could take her freedom and happiness away from her.
One way or another, her wish had come true, and that was all she had ever wanted.
Well, there we have it. I hope that all of you that read this story have enjoyed it, through the iffy parts and right up until the end. I have enjoyed writing this story, and even though I don't think it is my finest work, I still love the characters and wish I could have expanded upon them. I have a rough idea for a potential sequel, but I am not sure about it yet so this may be the end. I have plans for them to return in the GalacticVerse anyway, so look out for Victoria, Gwenda and Andrew popping up in the future. Thank you to everyone that has reviewed the story, and thank you to all that have read it and enjoyed it. I hope the ending lived up to your satisfaction, and may all your wishes come true :D (I had to end on something cheesy, right? :P)