Author's Note: x.x' Woo! School is over, thank goodness! I'm sorry for, once again, updating so late, but exams and the end of the year had me with very little time for this and as much as I tried to squeeze it in, life just wasn't having it. But! Thankfully that's over. I'm out for the summer and I should have more time for this, thankfully. D: Also, gah! If you've seen that awesome new animated Black/White 2 trailer, I got N's eye color wrong! I'll have to go back and change that in previous chapters, but I've corrected it in this chapter and made them blue. Silly Nintendo making me have to edit things. Oh well. Again, sorry to all of you who were waiting. Hope you haven't given up on me... Certainly wouldn't want that.

Anyway~ Big chapter. Big, big chapter. Lots and lots of emotion here, and it'll be the key chapter in the development of two certain characters. But, it being a big chapter, it's also the last chapter for the cuteness, so to speak, for quite a long time. And, in fact, the cuteness will soon be replaced by a less happy tone for a part of the game you all most certainly know is coming. Regardless, do enjoy it. We get to learn a lot about Anwyn here. Also, new poll. Be sure to vote, as always. And thanks to everyone who was patient enough to put up with me.


Cinders Left By The Past


Why did I agree to this...?

"C'mon Anwyn, hold still!"

"I-I can't! T-this is stupid!"

"But you look so pretty!"

"No I don't!"

Yes... Why, in all her tomboyish flare, she'd agreed to this madness had become a mystery far beyond her comprehension.

"There!" Bianca stepped away from the chair she'd sat Anwyn into after spinning it around to face the mirror. "Wow, not bad, Anwyn~"

Anwyn gazed blankly at the figure in the mirror— a stranger pretending to be her reflection. Bianca had clad her quite ridiculously in formal wear she'd stolen from the alignment of costumes the ship had laid out for guests attending the masquerade. Granted, it lacked a gaudy sense of extravagance, but the fact that it still wore somewhat like a dress irked her pride. The soft white top, sewn of an airy material that didn't itch or cling, covered all but her arms, which instead were veiled by semi-transparent lace sleeves that flowed down past her hands. A black sash delicately embraced her waist, holding up a long white skirt. Her combed hair wore the same as normal in its high ponytail, though without her hat, its appearance assumed a strange elegant appeal.

"For the finishing touch..." Bianca hummed and grabbed a floral hairclip from a scattered assortment on the table. In one fluid motion, she gathered up her friend's bangs with it, admiring her work. "Picture perfect. What do you think?"

"I think I'd sooner die than wear this in public," came Anwyn's uneager reply.

"Oh, stop that. Everyone's going to be dressed this way, so it's no big deal!" The blonde grabbed her own selection of choice—a yellow one-piece dress with green splashes of complimenting color—and disappeared into one of the makeshift changing rooms, her voice carrying out over the stall curtain, "I could have put make-up on you."

The brunette scoffed, boyishly leaning back in her chair with her arms defiantly crossed. "I promised I'd go, but I'm not that generous."

"You should thank me~ I'm letting you enjoy one night of womanhood!"

"...You trying to make me sick?"

Her friend giggled lightly. "Seriously though, thank you, Anwyn... Daddy would never let me do something like this... It means a lot that you're at least trying."

That comment tugged up a small smile. Even if she tended to bury her femininity deep down, she didn't mind the look Bianca had given her—not too frilly, yet appropriately feminine. More than that, allowing Bianca the chance to live a little didn't hurt. After all, her friend had only seen glimpses of dance parties through the window of her television.

Oz trotted into the room from the men's suit-up area. The otter had donned a little black bowtie and a Samarott inspired mask that hid the top of his head in a spiny shell. Anwyn let out an "aww", reaching out to touch the largest horned spire of the mask that protruded from his forehead. "Well, aren't you just adorable, Oz!"

The Water-type peeked up at his Trainer's new outfit, breaking into a wide, starstruck grin. "Oshhaaaaaa~"

"Not you, too," she fake whined. "I feel like I'm the result of a fancy Pokémon spitting up..."

Oz whipped his head side-to-side and dove into a pile of Pokémon-themed masks, rummaging around until his paw snagged on a feathery white one with fiery orange tips. He soon popped out with it and excitedly offered it to his human.

"This one?" she asked, lifting it for examination. "What Pokémon is it? Swanna?"

"Osha... Wott?" Oz shrugged, unsure.

"Mm, well, I guess the white matches everything else... And it is pretty." Anwyn gracefully masked her face, blinking a few times to get used to the new and slightly uncomfortable feeling. "How is it?"

Her starter nodded in approval. "Shawott! Osha!"

"Alright, I'll go with this one."

"Oshawott~"

Karine and Amiri are playing with the kids Victini on the deck...The girl reminded herself, tapping her lips with her finger. That leaves... Ah, Maya!. Where did she go?

A quick search tracked the fox to one of the other changing rooms; Anwyn could hear her whimpers very clearly. She stood from her chair and closed in on the curtain, issuing a light tug. "Maya...? Come on. You can't hide in there."

The Pokémon yipped back at her, sounding nervous. Carefully parting the fabric and entering, the brunette kneeled down to level with her, as she'd taken to hiding in her human disguise under the changing bench. "You know, you don't have to go if you don't want to. I can put you in your Poké Ball or take you back to our cabin..."

Maya hedged her view sideways and then downwards, eventually shaking her head. In response, Anywn hooked her hands under the Dark-type's arms and pulled her out into a comforting hug. "It's okay..." she soothed, stroking her hair. "C'mon, try to be brave... It'll be fun, and I'll be right there if you get too scared or embarrassed. Besides, Barron will probably be there stalking Night, too. You have him..."

The Zorua, in some way, calmed. She'd been told of the evening plans long before, but the thought of willingly diving into a crammed pack of humans with Pokémon parts unnerved her. She dreaded the thought of one of them exposing her then stealing her; she didn't want to be taken away, locked in a cage again with dirty water and little food in her dish. No warmth. No hope. Anwyn wouldn't let that happen though... Anwyn loved her... Anwyn would save her... Slowly, her body grew less tense and she relaxed, nuzzling against her human's soft clothes with an affectionate purr. The Trainer smiled, helping her to her feet and ushering her out the stall. "Good girl... You're getting braver every day."

Maya blushed at the compliment, wagging her tail.

"Do you want a mask like Oz?"

She stole a glance at her fellow Pokémon, who grinned proudly, only to shake her head. A purple glow gathered up by her neck, pulsing down her body and casting ripples over her current illusion. It twisted and bent until the outfit her disguise normally wore replaced itself with a cute black dress bordered in red lace. She waved a hand over her eyes, creating a Zorua-styled mask as well. When finished, she shyly curtsied.

"Ooh, nice trick. Totally forgot you can make whatever you want," Anwyn awed. She patted her head, and Maya's tail wriggled even faster. "You look perfect."

"Alrighty, all changed!" Bianca announced suddenly, exiting her stall in her new dress and mask—Munna themed. She took one look at Maya and plunged into a fit of adorable overload. "Awwww, look at her, Anwyn! Did you do that?"

"Nope~ She did it herself."

"Really? Wow, Illusion's pretty awesome if you can use it to make fashion statements! You sure know how to catch some interesting Pokémon." The blonde carried her bag over to the lockers and stored it away next to Anwyn's, straightening out her dress and returning soon after organizing things in her rather unkempt Bianca way.

"Well, shall we see if the boys are out and about yet?" Anywn asked. "Not that I have the highest hopes for them between prideful Cheren and... Night... who probably can't even dress himself…"

Her friend uttered a light giggle. "Yeah, let's go!"

Oz tagging close behind and Bianca joining to her left, Anwyn held Maya's hand and exited the area to start on the winding spiral staircase that led back to the entertainment deck. Sweet, refined music sung out from various instruments all collectively gathered in what seemed to be a selective orchestra. They walked unhurriedly, each step leading them closer to the actual event. While Bianca tussled with her inner butterflies, Anwyn clumsily brushed past a few other partygoers, all of which retorted by scowling at her graceless manners. She hardly dignified them with a response, much too busy observing all the decorations.

When at last they reached the deck, a splendor of bustling activity and fine entertainment waited to greet them. While the party lacked the large amount of people they had thought would attend, it still impressed with its many masked guests. A band, as she'd guessed, played on the small stage, and the once scorching battlefield had now turned into a suitable dance floor for friends and couples waltzing. The adults both old and young enjoyed the more classy parts of the party. Conversely, children—also masked—grouped in their own area, playing with Victini, Amiri, and Karine.

Oz's cheered at the sight, though before he could go join the fun, Barron, in his usual grouchy mood, dove down from some unseen perch in front of them, releasing a half-roar. Bianca almost tripped back after a yelp, though Anwyn stayed composed and had other ideas on how to react.

"Is your goal in life to scare me now? That's just not going to work, Bar~ron~" the brunette chirped playfully, enveloping the bipedal fox in a hug. At first, he growled and struggled, but when she only laughed more, he gave up in the sulkiest manner possible for a Zoroark, ears drooped low in shame.

After several more minutes of affectionate torture, Anwyn released him from her death grip and gestured at Maya. "Since you're here, mind watching her for me?"

The Zorua hid behind her Trainer before Barron could so much as glance at her. Scratching her neck, Anywn held her back out. "Come on, Maya... We talked about this..."

Embarrassed, Maya darted her eyes down, curling her fists and rubbing them shyly against her reddened cheeks. Barron carefully skimmed over her disguise, absorbing every tiny detail of her more formal human appearance. A few disgruntled noises squeezed through his clenched fangs, as if thinking, and then he did something that caught Anwyn completely off-guard. Bathing in purple light, he jumped in the air and spun, shrouding his own form in an illusion. When he landed on his feet, the light vanished, and he was no longer Barron. Standing a few good inches taller than Maya in her disguise, his new "body" wore an ebony suit with a dark fur trim along the neckline. His scarlet and gray faded hair, long and scruffy much like N's, fell to just above the small of his back, tied in a low ponytail by the same aqua bead that held his mane as a Zoroark. Though the red markings along his muzzle had disappeared, the ones outlining his eyes remained, highlighting his icy blue stare as he gazed intensively at Maya for approval.

"B...Barron..." Anywn gaped, tempted to blink out what had to be an impossible mirage from her sight. "You..."

His acceptance of a human disguise, however reluctant, coaxed Maya enough to pry off of Anwyn. She stepped away from the human, tilting her head with a quiet, inquisitive whimper. Whipping his head to the side, his cheeks bearing the faintest hint of red, he waved a hand in front of his face and materialized a mask—Zoroark-themed. He then offered her the same hand, trying to hide his awkward fluster under a cool attitude.

She took it quickly, smiling one of the first real smiles Anywn had seen. Smiling herself, the girl commented, "That was sweet of you..."

Barron only got more uptight about his decision, which of course only fed Anwyn's urge to make it worse. She, with a snicker, turned her sweet shock into something more fun and teasing. "Fine, take her off my hands. Just don't do anything bad to her, okay? I'll be mad if you take advantage of her!"

The disguised bipedal fox chuffed indignantly at her accusation, huffily leading Maya off towards the children and Pokémon. The Zorua skipped happily behind and waved back at Bianca and her laughing Trainer. Oz excitedly pointed the same way. "Osha!"

"Go on~ Go have fun, Oz~"

With that said, he nodded and then went on his way, the children and Victini delighted to have more playmates in whatever game they'd started.

"That was a little unexpected," Bianca noted, adjusting her mask.

"Yeah..." Anwyn agreed softly. Maybe he's actually changing a little...

With no sign of the boys thus far, the girls spent their waiting time variously among the many things available. They chatted for the first while, updating each other on training and traveling, and then moved onto the dance floor to pick up the steps for the rather slow music playing. When they felt they'd done enough of that, signified by Bianca nearly crashing into someone, they made their last stop by the kids, Anwyn demonstrating a few moves with Amiri and Karine for their entertainment while Victini joined in on its own.

"This is a party, not a Pokémon battle, Anwyn. The staff will escort you out if you blatantly fire off attacks like that."

...That condescending voice would be... She turned her head and sullied. Yup.

Cheren had arrived with N awkwardly half behind him. They apparently hadn't been very individual in their choices, or N had just copied Cheren not knowing what to do, for they both wore very similar black suits. Cheren had opted for the most cut-and-dry tux with a very plain red tie, his mask Liepard-themed and rather comical worn over his glasses. He'd also tried to comb his hair by the looks of it, though that one signature cowlick he had failed to stay down. N on the other hand, while he didn't stray too far from Cheren's choice with the slacks and shoes, had gone more distinguished, his black coat accented with white trimming and neck wrapped in a cravat rather than a tie. They both looked extremely uncomfortable, though for different reasons.

"Ooh, wow, you two clean up good~" Bianca chirped, zipping next to Anywn. Giggling, she added, "Night looks a little like a prince in that."

N just continued to pout, so Cheren spoke up instead, "I suppose you expect us to return the compliment."

"Well, yes, that would be polite," Anwyn replied. "But you're not polite, so."

"Oh, forgive me." He exchanged a few different looks between the girls. After coughing lightly into a fist, he then said, "You look very fetching, Bianca. And Anwyn... I didn't know you were a girl. My mistake."

His insulted friend punched his shoulder faster than anyone could blink or acknowledge the stupidity of his mistake. He cradled his throbbing arm, knowing there'd be a bruise there by morning. "Ow!"

"Idiot..." Ignoring his pain, Anwyn heatedly crossed her arms and walked around him to N. "What's wrong with you?"

"I miss my hat," he moped.

"...Your hat?"

"Yes. My hat."

"You are way too attached to that thing. If you really need to hide, use your mask."

N huffily sighed. "How is this diminutive little thing supposed to hide my face?"

"Like this." Whisking his mask from his hand—the style of it similar to hers only blockier, black, and tipped in a lightning blue—she practically shoved it onto his face, pushing his hair out of the way and fixing it on the bridge of his nose. His eyelashes beat against the material of it, trying to comprehend what just happened. It'd all passed by in such a blur that he wasn't sure.

"See?"

"I don't think this will—"

"Oh! Wait, wait!"

"Anywn..."

She scouted the deck for an empty table, maneuvering past other guests and occupied seats. Once she found one, and made absolutely sure no one would notice, she plucked a gorgeous white flower with multiple layers of petals from a glass vase set up by some candles, hurrying back over and presenting it to N. He blinked, puzzled, though she just stuck the stem through a flower hole in his coat's upper pocket, withdrawing her hands once it seemed secure.

"This'll tie it all up," she told him, proudly grinning. "It's a carnation, which means 'sweet and lovely', 'faithfulness', 'innocence', and 'pure lo'..." She quickly caught herself, trailing off into a flurry of titters. "Y-you know what, that's all it means. Let's run with the first three!"

Oblivious as always, N tipped his head after examining his flower. "I need this?"

"Well, no, but flowers make everything better in my book! Say thank you."

"Thank you, I suppose," he murmured, his eyes now drawn elsewhere, and more specifically, over her. There was something about her that he hadn't noticed until seeing her like this. Something unusual, something pleasant. A force unknown in nature and definition began to consume his entire being, wielding an intense power he couldn't resist. Nervous, he tried to stomp out the nameless flutters of feeling tickling his insides. He didn't understand. What had come over him so suddenly? He'd never experienced this sensation before. Never. Not once. Why now then? Why her? He knew one thing for sure. Whether he liked it or not, he was human, too, and susceptible to foreign emotions no matter how discouraged they were by his father...

When he didn't show any signs of moving his gaze away, Anwyn toughened her facade, mumbling, "W-what? Do you need to say something?"

The green-haired Trainer flushed slightly, her voice breaking some kind of spell that had held his grip on reality hostage. He scratched the side of his head, trying to formulate a proper response. "You... look quite different..."

"That's certainly a delayed realization, considering we've been talking for five minutes," Anwyn replied indignantly. "It's not like I wanted to wear this. Is it really that bad?"

"...No..."

She leaned forward with a suspicious glare to test him. He, oppositely, leaned back, now quite thankful he had a mask to hide his reddened complexion. "You'd better not be lying..."

"I, I assure you, I'm not," he sputtered. "It's just... You're... beautiful..."

Unprepared for the compliment, Anywn shook her head in surprise, so unprepared for it in fact that it took a minute for his words to fully sink in. Before she could thank him, or even blush profusely and deny his claim, Cheren swooped in and stole her away, leading her off onto the dance floor by her arm.

"Pardon my enthusiasm, but the song playing is lovely and I'd like a dance with my friend," he said with terse courtesy.

N made no effort to stop him, instead choosing to brush past Bianca and check up upon his unusually transformed Zoroark. He could use the time to sort out his thoughts anyway, still lost on his actions and quite distracted.

Anwyn's brow furrowed as Cheren brought her far from where they'd been and readied to waltz. She rid herself of a good portion of her embarrassment, and soon the beckoning music guided them through a series of simple yet complicated steps, their dance accompanied by a parade of masked figures twirling in graceful circles around them.

"W-what do you think you're doing?" Anwyn finally asked under her breath. "I never agreed to this."

"Did you not hear me? This song is relaxing and I feel like dancing."

"Dance with Bianca, then!" she spat, managing to keep up with him despite her growing annoyance.

"I'll do that later. I want to dance with you now."

"Are you just doing this to annoy me?"

"Perhaps."

"Cheren, you're such a jerk—"

"He can't be trusted."

The brunette's agitation ended abruptly. She could only stare as he continued to turn her various ways, the lenses of his glasses gleaming under the many colorful paper lanterns hung on wires above their heads. Cautious, she inquired, "What do you mean?"

"You know exactly who and what I mean," he muttered. "I'd advise you to be more guarded with this one. There's something off about him, and you're letting yourself get caught up in his strange charms."

Immediately, her features darkened. "C-charms? Don't be ridiculous! I don't fall for anyone's 'charms'!"

"Then why is your face blazing red?"

"Because you're accusing me of stupid things anyone would be embarrassed about!"

His hold on her body tightened, shocking her a bit. With a stern hush, he said, "If you can't be honest with me, at least be honest with yourself. I'm only doing this because you're my friend and, with all that's going on lately, I don't want to see you get wrapped up in something that could potentially endanger your life. Do you understand?"

"I... I can take care of myself. I trust Night," Anwyn retorted just as sternly. "If anyone needs to be honest with feelings, it's you, not me."

"...Excuse me?"

"Don't play dumb, because you're too smart for that."

He swallowed a knot in his throat and then tried to open his mouth to say something. When nothing came out and he directed his eyes away, she sighed in disappointment. "Cheren, why can't you just own up to it? It's preventing you from dancing with the right person."

"I told you, I'll dance with her in a moment."

"That's not what I mean..."

"All that matters to me is getting stronger. I want to be the strongest, even stronger than the Champion. Therefore, I can't afford to be distracted by side-goals or worrying about you."

"...Sometimes you're really thick..."

He didn't bother giving another response, leaving them to sway in silence for a while longer. When at last the song ended and a new one began, Cheren released Anwyn, and she quietly thanked him. As promised, he straightened his tie and set his sights on Bianca, forcing a calm composure as he walked over and took her hand for the next dance. By her reaction, the offer delighted her, though Cheren's confidence had sunk shyly in comparison to how it had been when dancing with Anwyn.

"Come on, sweetie. It's just one dance, and I'm not about to let a catch like you get away...~"

The overly luscious voice, dripping in an almost seductive way, had seeped from the mouth of a young woman around eighteen, her long black dress glittering with an abundance of obnoxious, sparkling sequence. Her mask, Gothitelle-themed, hid a face applied with far too much make-up, and the red lipstick she'd smeared over her lips didn't help even it out. What bothered Anwyn most, however, was that she'd decided the target of her evening pleasures would be N, and she knew the type of "fun" she had in mind went far beyond N's innocence range.

"I-I apologize, but I'm not interested in the slightest," N told his assailant uncomfortably, Barron too distracted by Maya to defend him.

"Don't be nervous. I don't bite... Unless you like that sort of thing," the woman cooed as she pressed her front flat against his chest. "Though, the quirkiness is certainly cute~"

N had nothing to say this time. Having nowhere to scramble to, his back hit the edge of a table, and Anwyn decided to intervene, sighing audibly as she hurried to amend the situation. She put on her fakest and politest smile. "Excuse me... This gentleman owes me a dance. Would you mind kindly removing yourself from him and finding a different partner? He doesn't like being straddled by desperate women."

The woman's alluring gaze turned deadly. When Anwyn refused to back off, standing idly by, she unlatched herself from N and tossed back her hair. "Aren't you a little young for this sort of thing, kid? Why don't you run along and take your business where children are welcomed."

"But aren't you part of the children's entertainment? With all that make-up, I assumed you were a clown."

"H-How dare you!"

Turning her attention to a grateful N, Anwyn held out her good hand and said, "Shall we then, Night?"

"Ah... Y-yes..." He took the extended hand, only to be yanked away and dragged. The brunette snickered, tossing a look over her shoulder to soak in her triumph, though her victory became crushed under anger as she noticed a young man searching for the woman frantically. After remembering him, the woman's expression changed, and she threw herself over the man in seconds. The very sight revolted her. She came here with a damn date? Why the hell was she flirting with Night? Ugh, that's just so sick and disgusting... Two-timing little...

"Anwyn, are you alright...?"

"Ah, y-yeah..." she lied, stopping in the middle of a relatively open section of the dance floor. "What about you? You okay?"

"That was terrifying," he confessed bluntly, bearing a childish and crooked frown.

Anwyn laughed. "You're a real hit with the ladies. Must be the whole dark and mysterious atmosphere..."

"Humans do not generate their own atmospheres. They don't have the mass or proper conditions for that, though I must admit, before her, I was asked the very same question four times."

"Ouch... Well, not all of these girls are as full of it. Why not say yes?"

He tried to hide in some kind of shade, seeming to forget his hat sat elsewhere. Though his mask shrouded the emotions that would have shown up through his facial features, the light blue irises of his eyes stood out in contrast, and she could see deep within them the distrust and hesitation to social graces. They were, admittedly, fascinating to behold—almost like windows to his thoughts.

"Do you know how to dance...?"

He shook his head. "I'm afraid not."

"It's okay... I didn't really know either, but I think I've gotten better," she assured. "I'll teach you..."

He didn't have much of a reaction, not that he needed one, for she took the initiative and went about positioning him before he could say anything. Gentle, her fingers tracing his as delicately as feathers, she maneuvered one of his arms around her waist, eventually convincing his fingers to curl around her side. Resting her own injured hand on his shoulder, their remaining hands gradually came together, Anwyn's having to coax N's before he'd willingly lace his fingers with hers. His body tensed, though she smiled to ease him.

"You're the guy, so you lead. Just listen to flow of the music, and..."

She took the first step, and N stumbled in his attempt to follow. She further explained the methods needed for the dance, the ways to move, tips on matching the tune of the song... The rhythm toyed with him at first, throwing him off balance. He got somewhat frustrated every time he messed up, but his mistakes were almost endearing, like a young child learning. Anwyn did nothing to poke fun at him, for he inevitably got the hang of it. Soon, he required no instruction at all, able to waltz with her as if he'd been born to do it. They matched each beat perfectly, and everything felt at peace.

"I like this," N murmured with a bright smile, softened by the serene mood. His features were pure and inviting. Happy...

"Mm... It's not so bad," Anywn eventually replied. Between the baroque music and N's closeness, the dance proved more than just "not so bad". It excited her heart and elated her stress, sending her to a place as tranquil as a meadow in spring. So much different from dancing with Cheren... she mused. I wonder why...

"...Close."

"...Hm...?"

"...You're... close..."

Realizing her eyes had slipped closed, Anwyn parted her eyelashes, noticing her cheek had contently nestled on the smooth fabric of N's jacket. She glanced up, and to her utter horror, saw just how close they'd become after she'd subconsciously leaned her head against him. She let out a rather ridiculous yelp and jumped out of his arms.

N stared longingly at the open air where she'd been standing, a little disappointed. "Ah..."

"I-I'm sorry, I-I didn't—I just—gah!" She cut herself off and spun around. Humiliation barreled into her gut like a cannonball. W-why did I do that? Oh man, stupid, stupid me! So stupid! Mega stupid!

The young man walked over and placed a hand on her shoulder. She twitched a bit, though he didn't comment on it. "We should remove ourselves from this area if we are done dancing."

A couple pairs of potentials awaiting the room to dance were hanging around them, much to Anwyn's dismay. "Y-yeah... Let's go... over there..." she agreed, pointing to a relatively dark spot out of the way of the rest of the party. N nodded, and the two trekked over to it, leaning over the ship's railing much like they had when talking the previous day.

They were quiet for some time, mostly because Anywn needed to cool off. The caress of the wind tugged on their clothes and hair, as if wanting to sing with the shifting songs and communicate with them. Victini and the other Pokémon were still playing without a care in the world, N watching them as he waited for his companion to speak. When she finally did, still a bit awkward, she brushed back some stray stands of her hair, starting the conversation with a small laugh.

"W-well, that was fun..." she began. "We danced for awhile, huh?"

"It would appear so. I quite enjoyed it."

"T-that's good, but... Sorry... about that last bit..."

"...I don't mind..."

Another moment of silence. Wordlessly, they glanced at the Pokémon. N's focus instantly locked onto his Zoroark, and Anwyn grinned, playfully jabbing his arm. "It's weird seeing Barron like that, isn't it?"

"I've certainly never seen him do that before."

"He wants to make Maya happy."

"Because of love?"

"Maybe..." She giggled. "He's certainly acted different since meeting her..."

"...He's not the only one, it seems..."

"Eh?"

He said nothing, his mind existing somewhere far away from where hers did. She poked and prodded him a few times, but still received nothing. She wondered what had gotten into him and, without warning, Cheren's words echoed in her mind...

"He can't be trusted."

...That's not true, is it? Night's Night. He's my friend, and he just loves Pokémon. So why... She knew she had to ask him. They were alone and the timing couldn't be better. It had to be done, even if part of her would rather let the evening pass by without bringing it up. "Night...What is it you're trying to do during your travels?"

Some of the wispy clouds overhead encircled the moon, banishing N in the darkness and throwing Anwyn out into the light. His blue gaze became almost luminous amidst the flickering shadows that passed by them, containing all sorts of vast secrets she could barely hope to understand. Slowly, he twisted his head to look upon her, expression marred by sternness. "Perhaps I'll tell you... If of course you enlighten me on the reasoning behind your pyrophobia..."

Her heart clenched inside her chest. That response was about that last she expected. Why did he want to know about that? Sure, he'd certainly been around enough times where he'd seen her freeze up, but that didn't give him a right to her personal dilemmas. "T...That's a bit of a random thing to say after a question."

"Your question was just as abstract, if you don't mind me saying."

Anwyn's eyelids drooped, suddenly caught in a spiral of uncertainty. N peered through his mask, watching impassively as she tried to hide behind her own to avoid him. He'd let it sneak by enough times, however, and his determination to uncover the truth behind her hesitance to accept the bond of flame within her wasn't about to cease.

"You have been chosen, you know."

Anywn's eyes snapped open and she blinked a few times. "W-what?"

N smiled. "Does it surprise you that I said that?"

"Well... Yeah..." she replied, raising an eyebrow.

"Of course. Such news should be a surprise." He rotated around to rest his back on the railing, closing his eyes and allowing the breeze to weave around him. "'What am I traveling for', you ask..." He paused to hum a thoughtful note, thinking of how to put his answer. "I... want to see things no one can see. The truths of Pokémon inside Poké Balls... The ideals of how Trainers should be... and a future where Pokémon have become perfect..." Opening his eyes again, he asked, "Do you feel the same, Anwyn?"

A future where the potential of Pokémon has been realized... Thinking of it that way, it sounded wonderful enough. She loved Pokémon after all. She wanted them to live as happily as possible. "Yes," she said, nodding once.

"I am glad to hear that..." He kept his contentment for but a moment more before sinking into a solemn brood. "For that future, I travel to learn and obtain new wisdom. To stop corruption and protect my friends. Right now, my friends aren't strong enough to save all Pokémon. So, I need power... Power enough to make anyone agree with me..."

His darker tone alluded to something sinister, pricking Anwyn's heart. Night...

"However... Since meeting you, I've been introduced to countless new theories, new logics... Aspects I didn't think I'd run into but could potentially prove fatal to my dream. I must wonder..." He gazed at her again, now more warm and less cold. "Will you be the one who interferes with my formula for changing the world?"

Stunned silence met his question, the air thick with tension and now near unmoving. The clouds ominously swapped sides, casting the light over N and the dark over Anwyn. It concealed her emotions, though her mouth sagged in a jagged frown. Worry flooded into the green-haired Trainer when she stayed like that, fearing he'd said too much or had perhaps somehow damaged her.

"...I think you have the wrong person..."

"Pardon...?"

She forced a smile, the top of her face hidden under the fringe of her bangs. "You clearly think too highly of me... Saying all these strange things and trusting me with what seems to be an integral part of this future you dream of... 'Chosen'? Me? No... I'm just one person from a small town, still trying to find my way... Heck, I can't even face my worst fear when it's needed, let alone follow most of what you're talking about..."

"You speak on behalf of truth, do you not?" N reminded her. "If so, you know very well you delude yourself and your abilities. Don't deny yourself of the praise you deserve. As for your fears, they can be overcome. Fire cannot hurt you if you tame it. Tame it, and the world is yours. Nothing will impede on your potential. Surely the fear isn't all that hard to—"

"My father set our house on fire... to commit suicide..."

Every sound around them became swallowed in a vortex of silence her reveal, the powerful, disturbing words she spoke piercing through N's chest like a relentless barrage of gunfire. Whatever thoughts had been running through his head shattered in an instant, replaced by shock, misery, and pain. Nothing he spoke mattered to him anymore. He just gawked with with a quivering stare, unable to do or say anything significant.

Anwyn weakly allowed her shoulders to slump and her small hands to curl around the cool, steel bars of the railing. Her eyes, drained of their usual brightness, lifted towards the sky as she spoke further, voice weighed with a false sense of happiness. "He was a businessman. He and Mom met in Goldenrod City in Johto. He wanted to start his own company here in Unova for miscellaneous gadgets and devices for traveling Trainers. Soon, he and Mom were married, and he was excited for the birth of his son..."

"...Son...?"

"Mom didn't realize it at the time, but Dad was very sexist. The doctors told them they would have a son, but then... I was born... and while Mom couldn't have been happier, Dad was... disappointed... He hated me... He didn't even aknowledge my existence, let alone my relation to him..." She shook her head. "When I was a little older, a different company had finished developing the Xtransceiver. It was such a hit that his company just couldn't compete, and they grew bankrupt. He became so distraught and angry that he began to drown himself in alcohol, and soon after that, he and Mom started fighting. He would hit me when she wasn't around..."

Her body began to tremble, and she bit back the urge to let her sadness pour out. "It was then that he... just gave up on us and everything... One night, he lit a match, intending to take his own life as well as ours... Soon the whole house was ablaze, covered in hot flames that literally ate everything around us. The firemen and their Pokémon that arrived got my mother out first. I was stuck in my room. I managed to make my way downstairs, but then..." She tightly hugged herself. "H-he found me... I can still remember his clothes and hair... burning away, scattering embers... He grabbed me before I could reach the door, and if I hadn't struggled, I would have died in that house, with him... I couldn't get over it, even after I met Cheren and memory of that flaming body reaching out to drag me to death... It haunts me..."

"Anwyn..." N hoarsely whispered, now seeing all the years of abuse scarring her and hating it. "I didn't think..."

"You said... I was white—'a pure, beautiful color'. But I'm not white at all... I'm the color of the ashes that remain when you burn an innocent color like white. It'd be more truthful to compare me to cinders than to try and compare me to something I could never be..."

The burden of her story—a story she'd never been able to tell anyone else—finally cracked the last of her strength. Without bawling, without weeping, she cried. The tears tore watery paths down her skin, the salty droplets raining to the ocean below and forming ripples on the surface of the waves. Though the tears came out like torrents, Anwyn refused to make any noise, perhaps trying to hold herself together even without the barrier keeping her sorrow in check. N couldn't stand it any longer. He stepped close and pulled her into his arms, the embrace strong, yet compassionate. Anwyn's glassy eyes widened in surprise, and finally, in a choked sob, she said, "N-Night...?"

With a comforting seriousness neither dark nor naïve, he rested his chin on the top of her head, using one arm to move her closer and the other to stroke her hair. "My friends all came to me from abusive circumstances... They were untrusting and sometimes vicious, but I could see... when they were alone... they would cry much like you are now... During those times, I would pick them up and hold them close. Even if they didn't like me, or didn't know me, the hug was soothing—it allowed them to cry. And now... I'm allowing you to cry..."

"...Y-you..."

"You're my friend, Pokémon or not... Therefore, you are under my protection... Forever..."

Something deep down inside Anwyn awakened fully for the first time, and from it, a warmth was born, coursing through her veins in a sensation that rushed straight from her racing heart. Fear and sorrow still lingered, but under the influence of this new and somehow light feeling, the negative plagues melted away, leaving behind a relieving and pleasurable aftermath to something she had thought would torment her for the rest of the evening. Her arms, ever slowly, found their way around N, returning his affectionate gesture. Her tearstained face pressed against him, and her eyes safely fell closed. The surrounding world had disappeared. They were the only ones in her mind inhabiting this peaceful, quiet dreamscape. It had to end sometime, but until then...

Please... Don't let anything ruin this moment...

... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ...

"You'd better hurry up, Victini. You might miss the boat trip back if you don't."

Victini scratched its head with a cheesy grin as it floated in front of its four human friends, the Royal Unova already filling up with more passengers now that they were back at Liberty Pier. After a late night of fun, the teenagers were tired and offended by the early morning sun, but they knew the ship wouldn't wait long for them and that bidding Victini farewell came before their desire to sleep in.

"It should make plenty of friends now that the staff has decided to make annual trips to Liberty Garden," Cheren noted, polishing his glasses with a cloth from his pocket. "Depending how pricy they make it, I'm sure people will jump at the chance to go as many times as they can."

Anwyn happily nodded, holding Oz and an untransformed Maya in her arms. "Hear that? You'll never have to be scared or lonely again."

"Tiniii~" The dual-type fluttered its tail-wings, zipping around the four in a circle and leaving a trail of orange sparkles. Bianca and Anwyn laughed while N and Cheren simply smiled, glad to see the newfound joy and confidence in the little legendary. Victini glided down to give Oz a hug, which the otter gleefully accepted, while Maya used Illusion to turn into the victory Pokémon, giggling mischievously when it gushed at her impression of it. The goodbyes had to end eventually, however. The horn of the ship sounded, and the time of parting at last came.

"We'll be back to check on you real soon!" Anwyn promised. "Wait for us until then, okay?"

Victini responded by giving its v-shaped victory sign before flying off into the distance to join the Royal Unova on its unplanned, but demanded, second trip. The humans waved, and soon the ship rode away on the waves, taking Victini and a hoard of new passengers with it. They were certainly sad to see it go, but they also knew they'd be back, for they were the tan and orange Pokémon's first real friends, It would regard them as special in an even more special place in its heart, and they would be back to visit before it could even hope to miss them.

"So, what now?" Cheren asked the group after a time. "Any plans?"

"Well, I'm going to get a rematch at the gym soon," Anwyn said. "Today maybe if Burgh's free."

"...You mean you lost a Gym match?"

"...S-shut up..."

Bianca stood between them before an argument broke out, waving her hand dismissively. "I think I'm going to go sightseeing some~"

"And I need to go over strategies as well as have my team fixed up at the Pokémon Center," Cheren stated. "Bianca, you should do that as well before going out, considering you also battled."

"Oh, right! Good idea! Thanks for reminding me~"

"...You're so helpless sometimes..."

"H-hey...!"

"I'm afraid here is where I must leave you all."

All eyes whirled around to N, surprised. Anwyn's entire expression faltered. "Wait, what...? You're going already?"

The young man casually shrugged. "I've expended all of my free time, I'm afraid. I must get back to my research."

"And what, may I ask, kind of research is that exactly?" the dark-haired boy interrogated, swiftly placing his glasses back on.

N only grinned. "What indeed."

"Don't play that game with me..."

"Cheren, stop it," Anwyn snapped, her stomach writhing in a strange congestion. "...You'll come to see us again, right...?"

"Inevitably," N answered. "You needn't worry."

His departure still depressed her, much more than the last time he'd left to go about his business. She knew she couldn't protest or object to his leaving though, so conceded and kept silent. He patted her head, summoning a small blush to her cheeks that made Bianca bubbly and Cheren sour.

"Do make sure Anwyn doesn't get herself into any trouble, little knight," N told Oz.

The Water-type tapped his scalchop reassuringly. "Osha!"

"H-hey, I don't get into trouble that often!"

"I beg to differ."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

Maya wistfully looked to Barron, whining a little. The Zoroark growled something soft, shyly leaning forward and giving her forehead a light lick. She, in turn, squirmed in pleasure, her tail wagging a mile a minute. The bipedal fox, quickly regretting that action, went around and hid behind N, pretending he hadn't done such a thing in front of so many vigilant humans—especially when one of them was Anwyn.

"Let's go, Anwyn," Cheren shouted, already walking ahead with Bianca.

"Ah, c-coming!" She hesitantly glanced between her friends and N, unsure what to do or what to say. She felt that she needed to say more before leaving so abruptly, but...

"Go on, Anywn... We'll speak again sooner than you think," the older Trainer reassured.

"Ah, y-yeah..." She held Oz and Maya closer, keeping her gaze leveled on the ground. "I'll... miss you..."

"Mm. I'll miss you as well."

With that, Anywn hurried after her friends, not daring to look back in fear of changing her mind. N waited until the three figures entered the crowds and exited from view, leaving no trace of their presence. He sighed, a hand going to the rim of his hat. "...What am I doing...?

"Yes... I would like to know as well. Please enlighten me."

The young man glanced back, noticing a figure in an ornate robe lurking behind a few crates in the shadows. His single shimmering piece of red eyewear glistened in the sunlight, though it was the emerald glare behind it that truly made him intimidating to all who dared to look at him.

Replacing his frown with an empty smile, the green-haired Trainer asked playfully, "Have you something to report, Ghetsis?"

Chuckling, as if finding the question amusing, Ghetsis stepped out into the daylight and approached him, people on the dock parting to let him through. "There are several matters that require your attention and approval, however... I am here today for a different reason. The Shadow Triad has given me some interesting notes on your current behavior..."

"Have they now..." N hummed and rolled his gaze around the area, knowing he'd see no sign of the elusive triplets whether they'd be watching or not. "How intriguing... I don't recall giving them the order to keep tabs on me, nor do I recall giving the order to invade Liberty Garden... Care to explain to me how both of these orders have managed to slip by me?"

Ghetsis smirked. He wasn't worried, for he'd prepared the proper explanations for the off-chance this topic were to come up. Everything had gone according to plan after all... Though displeased about the progressing change in N, he'd got what he wanted—a glimpse of this interference called "Anwyn". Now, it was just a matter of putting such a precious pawn to use... And, of course, reforming the young N to remember his place... His ideal dream for the future...

It's time for you to unlearn your most recent lessons on human nature, my lord N...


Review replies: (Didn't have time for long ones or all reviewers worth shouting out to this time. Sorry! Had to rush here due to plans.)

Ashley Eon: XD Yeeeaaaahhh... Night's done a good job keeping his secret, but Cheren's suspicious and he can't hide it forever... And Anwyn is such a tomboy. She could be all cuddly cute like some girls, but nope. She decided not to be like that. V-Create was a blast to write. 3 Har har, see what I did there? And, no the party obviously has nothing to do with the game plot, but it was certainly a nice addition if I do say so myself. I'll let you reviewers be the judge of that though.

Lone Panda: Well, poll stated no for Victini, so she'll be getting a Litwick or Lampent. XD And yes. N is adorable and I'm quite a tease. :P

Jana: Probably. I don't plan to do post-game stuff. This story is primarily focusing on the main story of Black and White.

TheShadowRiders: I named her Anwyn simply because it means 'white' and I didn't want to call her 'White' or 'Hilda'. Hilda never sat well with me, so I decided to find something else. :3 And glad you're enjoying the story.

Daughter of Kabegami: Ah, happy belated birthday! I'm glad I managed to get that last chapter out on that day before such a long delay. And yup, Victini is a cute little fighter, that's for sure.

Huss-Fuss123: Haha, she hasn't found out about him just yet, but that's coming up, and sadly, it is going to hurt. Hopefully this chapter was fluffy enough to make up for the heartbreak that'll come later. XD Also, I don't know about 'perfect'... I still have lots to learn when it comes to writing.

Vaynard: Yay~ I'm happy you're enjoying it and thank you for all the praise. As for Cheren and Bianca, I didn't plan for them to be a couple in this, but... XD They decided that on their own. I just write what the characters in my head tell me to. May not make sense to most people, but even if some of my readers don't like the pairings established in this story, I'm fairly happy with how they've turned out thus far. :3 And yes. NxAnwyn is adorable. (Ferris shipping and what not.)

xFillyStars: Yeah, sorry about that wait and this wait... But, still glad you've been enjoying the story. Eager to see how this one suited your fancy. :3 And yup. Maya has been gathering up some courage, since she loves Anwyn.

godly345: XD, Well, maybe I'll put up a poll on that sometime and see if anyone's interested in seeing some side event type things or whatever. We'll have to wait and see.

Tripolar: Oh don't worry! I wasn't actually upset. I said that as more of a joke, so please don't feel like you actually offended me. XD It's an honor to know I'm able to write around the dreaded Mary Sue. :3 That skill is a hard one to master, after all. And you're definitely not insensitive. Again, no worries.