8:24 A.M. June 18, Friday, 106 PH (Post Hoopa Event)
Events: The start of the 2nd week in the Joint Kanto and Johto Indigo Summer League Preliminaries. 3rd day of the Round Robin Summer Indigo Cup. Four days after Ho-Oh’s Viridian appearance, healing everyone. Hyper Contest happening today.
Rhea walked out of the Contest building, explaining Nova’s black and white theme to a few people along the way that stopped them to ask. There were some comments about her pink eyes, Contest fans wondering if she was using contacts, which wasn’t something they’d seen before.
Jay gave her a sad smile as they left the hall, making it back onto the streets. “You certainly are popular with Nova. It should help you in the Contest.”
A short chuckle rumbled in Rhea’s chest while stroking Nova’s fur. “Well … I just want to see what a Contest is really like. It’s certainly a lot more crowded than I initially thought,” she mumbled, nervously glancing around the packed small city.
Mallory leaned over with a grin. “Feeling a little closed in?”
Rhea worked around her neck and shoulders a little. “Kind of. In Viridian, Lyra and Giovanni showed us the VIP treatment, and we weren’t really out in the city much without people giving us plenty of space; and Pallet was a bit overwhelming, but there were spots that I could go to have some space … Here, though…”
Jay’s brown irises swept the mass of Pokémon and humans they were slowly moving through; it was hard to spot the ground anywhere they looked. “Mmh … I’m pretty used to it during the tourist season on Akala Island.
Lori folded her arms under her bust, Gables hopping to her shoulder. “Akala Island … Isn’t that where Inoa comes from?”
Jay’s eyebrow lifted, turning her attention to the purple-haired girl. “Oh, Kahuna Olivia’s daughter?” Her lips pursed while scooting around a large group, taking up most of the sidewalk, looking at a map to see where they should go next. “Umm … Well, I know of her. She was homeschooled, so she never interacted with any of the public school kids,” she replied.
They arrived at the restaurant, which seemed to be a pretty upscale place near the hall; there was a waiting line outside, but Amira told Rhea to talk to the hostess when they got in.
They paused their conversation while they weaved through the throng blocking the waiting areas, mumbling apologies as they squeezed to the front.
Kaylee, the hostess, recognized them instantly upon seeing Rhea holding her unique salt and pepper Eevee; the woman guided them up to the 5th level of the restaurant, which seemed to be reserved for VIP guests because it was far less crowded and had a certain vibe with the fancy aesthetics.
Jay leaned over to Rhea as they stepped out of the elevator on the 5th floor and whispered, “Umm … you know I still look like a complete mess … I haven’t even showered.”
Rhea forced a chuckle. “Yeah, sorry … I should have expected something like this with Amira, to be honest; we are still in Viridian City-State, and her grandfather kind of is a big deal here … Well, all of Kanto.”
“Wait, for real?” Jay mumbled. “The pretty redhead that’s with you?”
“Nah,” Mallory winked, nudging Jay’s side. “You look fine! Own it, and no one will pay you any mind; besides, who’s gonna say something once they see you with Amira?”
“Uh … if you say so…” She mumbled, cheeks a little red while noticing the couples following their progress across the fancy open floor.
Amira was sitting by the window with a clear view of the square below; another chair seemed to be brought over with a table to make sure they had plenty of room when Rhea told Kaylee they were bringing a guest.
Soft music played in the background that matched with the ritzy atmosphere; it was pretty unique, and Rhea hadn’t heard anything like it before.
“Hello again, Jay,” Amira greeted with a smile, offering her the seat next to her so Rhea and Lori could sit across from them.
Rhea was beginning to have second thoughts about fronting the cost with everything she was seeing on the other patrons’ plates, but Amira swiftly took her concerns away, and a waiter was promptly walking toward them to take their orders, remaining silent until addressed beside the table.
“My grandfather is paying for the meal as an apology for not having more time with us when we were in the city. So there’s no need to count credits,” she giggled, pointing at the menus. “I’ve already ordered some food for our Pokémon that they should find very tasty.”
“Thanks!” Mallory chimed. “Man, it’s been a while since I’ve eaten at a place like this. Heh, usually my mom’s the one that’s hitting spots like these; my dad’s all about room service at the casinos we go to.”
Jay was floored by the conversation, turning her gaze to Rhea as if expecting her to go into detail about her experiences with this lifestyle.
Rhea promptly shook her head. “Uh … yeah, I’ve mainly cooked for myself growing up; so, I don’t know how any of this stuff goes! My brother kind of sucked at cooking, so that left me to do it,” she grinned.
Jay sat her Bounsweet down to join Amber and Holly in their own separate area, Mallory and Rhea doing the same with their Pokémon. Nova was thrilled to spend more time with Amber while Mya was getting to know Poppy more.
They opened the booklet they’d been given, scanning down the listings with everyone else; Amira wore a soft smile while staring down at the crowds below.
Jay cleared her throat, brow furrowed as she scanned the dishes. “Umm … I don’t really know a lot of these Kanto dishes … or their names.”
The waiter jumped in. “This restaurant is actually themed after the Almia region’s desert city of Haruba. We carry many of those styles of dishes found within that area. I have a menu with images of items if that would be helpful?”
“Yes, please!” Rhea chuckled, glancing between the strange names.
“I will be right back.”
He took their menus and left into another section of the wide-open room, leaving them to talk.
Jay gave Rhea a forced smile. “I’m glad I wasn’t the only one feeling lost.”
“I’m with you two,” Lori grinned. “So, you were talking about Oliva?”
“Right…” Jay mumbled, drawing Amira’s gaze. “Well, like I said, I don’t really know much about her daughter; Olivia is my Island’s Kahuna, but I’ve only seen her around the city during festivals. I mean, I have a long way to go to complete the Island Challenges,” she sighed, vision falling to the fancy tablecloth.
Amira shifted her folded hands in her lap, giving Jay a curious look. “I’ve heard of Alola’s unique system … Kahunas are kind of like our Elite 4, and your Trial Captains are like our Gym Leaders. Correct?”
“Trial Captains?” Lori repeated in confusion.
Jay puffed out a long sigh, giving her a forced smile. “I know … I’ve heard a few people make fun of Alola while I’ve been here in Kanto.”
Rhea quickly shook her head. “No, no, we’re not making fun of you! I’ve met Professor Kukui; he’s a super-strong Trainer that’s holding down the title of your new Champion position; he’s married to Professor Burnet. Right?” She asked, knowing the answer, but wanting to make Jay feel more comfortable.
Lori nodded. “Yeah, we just don’t really understand your system. Eh ... they are making a League, I heard, and wasn’t that the man we met at Oak’s thing … I didn’t know he was a Champion…”
Jay gave her a confused smile. “Wha—Champion? No, no, no!” She giggled. “Masked Royal is our current League Champion.”
“Right…” Rhea slowly mumbled, a bit confused. “And that’s Professor Kukui’s whole battle image thing … Is that supposed to be a secret?” She asked, glancing between Amira and Lori; they were just as bewildered as her.
“You must be mistaken … Wait…” Jay paused as Mallory pulled up photos of Professor Kukui and split the screen to show a picture of Royal Mask, winning a battle. “No…”
Mallory’s lips curved into a smile. “Yeah, after comparing them … that ripped chest is totally the same!” She chuckled. “Wait, no one’s figured that out?!”
Jay looked floored. “No way … Professor Kukui is Masked Royal?”
“It seems you leaked something big,” Amira mused, comparing the images on her own phone. “There’s no denying it once you put them side by side. It helps when he has so many public photos without a shirt while wearing the mask and without it.”
Rhea ran her fingers through her combed back hair with a low groan. “Shoot … no-ho-ho … How was I supposed to know it was a secret?! They’re so open about it with my parents.”
“Wow…” Jay mumbled. “How … did you—your parents?” She asked, giving Rhea a stunned expression.
The four cut their conversation short when the waiter came back with Amira’s food and their menus. Rhea, Jay, and Mallory quickly ordered based on what looked good before dismissing him, and Jay returned to the subject.
“So … your parents are close with Professor Kukui and Burnet?”
“Probably her mom,” Lori hummed.
Rhea shook her head with another sigh. “No … my dad’s buddies with Kukui; they actually went on a few adventures around the world together before he was married to Burnet. They used to joke about some kind of old sport or something they were both into … I never really paid attention to it.”
“Old sport … Pro Wrestling … Is that not big here?” Jay slowly asked.
Mallory snickered. “Oh, nope! It’s real small-time here; boxing is bigger than wrestling in Kanto. Wrestling is kind of the big thing in Alola, Oblivia, and Sinnoh.”
“Sinnoh?” Rhea repeated. “Wait … is that the strange thing Wake does that my aunt’s not into?”
“Crasher Wake?” Jay asked in shock. “You know Crasher Wake, too?! No way … My parents would pay extra to watch Crasher TV’s specials on the Sinnoh Network when I was a kid.”
Rhea forced a smile. “Crasher Wake … heh, yeah … he’s a character—a bit too much for me. No, my favorite Sinnoh Gym Leaders are probably Gardenia and Volkner; he’s just so cool,” she hummed, thinking back on the times she’d pet his cute Luxray.
Amira sipped at her straw, the waiter having already supplied their table with water. “You know this city was named after Gardenia’s great-great-grandmother that founded it?”
“You don’t say,” Mallory replied, taking a sip of her own water.
Jay was utterly fixated on Rhea, though. “Seriously … How do you know so many important people? Umm…” She glanced at Amira and Mallory. “Know what, never mind… Sorry, I asked,” she sighed, clamping her lips around a straw while looking into the water she drew from.
Rhea sighed, leaning back to glare at the ceiling. “I’m sorry, Jay. I didn’t know it would be this bad keeping my family a secret, but they’re just trying to protect me…” She thought about Bianca’s exit from the Training community and how horrible it had been. “It’ll get out eventually, but umm … what about the Kahuna and Trial Captain thing?”
“Right…” Jay leaned against her chair to follow Rhea’s gaze to the roof, brushing out her messy blonde hair, and a smile touched her lips. “I live near the Lush Jungle, which has Mallow as its Trial Captain. Mallow’s awesome and super strong; she’s a Master and been there since she was seventeen—she’s nineteen right now.”
Amira set her glass back down on the table, eyeing a few patrons that were leaving. “Alola didn’t join the United League until the Ultra Wars, and the age restriction wasn’t implemented until the last few years. Is that right?”
Jay nodded. “Yeah, I’ve been with Poppy for a while, but we’ve never really gotten into Training until the notice came out that you could go to Kanto if you qualified, and we did,” she smiled. “So, we’re seeing how the whole Kanto Gym Challenge is compared to the Island Challenge.
“Mallow was one of the youngest to complete the Island Challenges, shortly after the Ultra War ended.” Her smile fell. “Mallow’s mom contracted a disease before the Ultra War, causing her older brother to take on her duties during the event. She became the official Trial Captain when he went on a journey to become a Master Chef … That’s kind of what our Island Challenge is all about.”
“Cooking?” Rhea asked. “I love cooking! My cousin and I have been trying to make all sorts of stuff recently.”
Jay turned to her with a grin. “Yeah, well, part of the Island Challenge is to make sure you know how to cook in the wild and what ingredients are good or bad inside the jungle. Mallow helps teach us a lot; she spends so much time with Trainers looking to complete the Challenge.”
“That’s nice,” Mallory whispered.
“Mhm…” Jay focused on Holly, her smile brightening. “Mallow has a Comfey, too; he’s so cute. Yours is, too.”
“Thanks,” Amira gave her Pokémon a warm look. “I’ve grown attached to her; she’s so helpful and positive all the time.”
They settled down as the waiter brought back their ordered items, and apparently, this was only the first course, judging by the other patrons and what the booklet showed.
Finishing their meals by 9:21 A.M., they parted ways with Jay; Rhea had a lovely time getting to know her new friend, sending her a few texts wishing her luck with the competition.
Rhea, Amira, and Mallory went around a few local shops that sold Contest outfits and accessories; Rhea bought a pretty yellow bow to tie at the end of Nova’s tail that she was tickled about.
The three of them went out of town to the large nearby lake, using the sandy beach as a training spot to practice their Moves. Rhea was pretty impressed by what Mallory came up with, and she said theirs was good, too, but it felt a bit disjointed to Rhea. Still, it was the best she could come up with since she hadn’t given it much thought beforehand.
3:10 P.M. came around swiftly, and they made their way back to the Contest Hall, reaching the building close to 3:50 with how packed the streets were; they made it into the changing room before the 4 P.M. deadline, though.
Aeldee, Lachlan, and Tyler were standing beside the door, all dressed up and looking really pretty; it was a shame they had such horrible attitudes.
Rhea kept her distance as Mallory, and she made it inside; Amira managed to take one of the VIP room’s seats that her grandmother usually had reserved for when she had the desire to see a Contest. She almost missed the chance to make the reservation before it became free-game.
Jay hadn’t gotten there yet, but in five more minutes, she was rushing in with a strained smile. “I’m here! I’m here!” She called, and Rhea eyed her outfit with interest.
The Alolan girl was wearing a tropical-themed white and light blue shoulderless midriff-cut shirt with a red sarong skirt, displaying a leaf imprint. She rented white heels, and her black halter wrap bikini was shown around her neck. Her white and red-themed sun hat complimented the Alolan-style, and Rhea caught sight of her colorful braided wrist accessories and earrings when smoothing back her brushed-out blonde hair.
“Looking cute!” Rhea grinned, glancing down at herself. “Heh, and here I am still wearing the same dress I had on this morning.”
“I like the pale yellow, though; it really fits with your look. Eh … Well, heh, you’d look good with a trash bag on!” She snickered, brown irises moving over her figure.
“No…” Rhea waved her hands, but Mallory was quick to jump on board.
“Not wrong, and you should see her without the dress!”
“Mallory…” Rhea mumbled, cheeks darkening a little. “You’re the one with the curves.”
“Bah … just fat,” she mused, pushing up on her left breast with a forced smile. “They get in the way most of the time; no, you’ve got the perfect figure in my book.”
They all giggled, but it soon died down when they noticed the glares the three other girls were giving them.
“Don’t bother with them,” Mallory grunted as Jay set Poppy down to greet Nova and Gables. “They’re just spiteful Jinx, looking to tear down anyone they think is worthy competition, or else they’d ignore us,” she said with a wide grin while waving at the girls.
They grunted, turning back to the doors as a message came on over the speakers, letting them know it was almost time to begin the Contest.
Rhea took a deep breath, massaging her shoulders; her stomach was turning, letting her know that the unfamiliar food she’d eaten wasn’t the best choice, but she powered through.
It’s only a Rookie Contest … No big deal.
She gave Mallory a thankful smile as she reached over, sliding her hand behind her hair to rub her back. “We’ll do great!”
Jay stretched out her arms. “I’m nervous, too … we don’t have these contests on Alola, and I thought they’d be fun to try out.”
The three comforted each other as the girls in front of them emotionlessly motioned to follow their lead on stage; after all, they didn’t need the newbies making them look bad.
It was time…
* * *
Nova followed Rhea’s lead, taking a deep breath, Gables patting her shoulder as Mallory did the same for her Trainer. “We’re good! You know how awesome our Moves are.”
“Yeah, we’ll have everyone cheering!” Poppy chimed. “Jay and I practiced a little yesterday.”
“Mmh … we only practiced just before coming here,” Nova mumbled. “What if they hate me?” She asked, tears falling as she caught the leer from their three opponents across the room.
Jewlya, the Ralts, shifted her head toward them; Nova had no clue how she could even see behind that thick hair, but she appeared to know exactly where she was going. “Follow us, and don’t do anything until the announcer says you can.”
Nova smiled, rubbing her tears away, but her stomach still felt queasy. “Thanks. I thought you didn’t like us.”
Rina, the Smoochum, directed a smirk at her. “She just doesn’t want you to ruin everything for everyone; we’ve seen some Trainers hurt everyone’s chances, and that could be you.”
“No, I’m going to try my best,” Nova mumbled. “I looked at a video with Rhea and everything.”
“A video?” Rina scoffed, nudging the Igglybuff beside her. “They got all their information from an online video.”
“Sad…” Whimsy sighed, shaking her head.
“Mhm,” Gables smiled. “I can’t wait to see how some veterans show us how it’s done; don’t trip.”
“We don’t trip,” Jewlya huffed, motioning for them to follow. “You’d better hope we do, though, because you’ll need all the help you can get against us.”
“Charming,” Poppy mumbled. “Too bad the humans can’t see this side of you—maybe some of the Pokémon spectators will catch it.”
Whimsy laughed. “It’s not about the attitude, but the performance on stage. If you can’t handle it, then go do your boring normal battles.”
“You haven’t been in a battle with me, sweetie,” Gables winked, “but you’ll find out soon enough.”
“I’m sure,” she scoffed.
They made their way out onto the stage; it was the first time Nova had seen it, and judging by Rhea’s reaction, she was regretting not scouting it out sooner.
The six contestants were met with screams that made Nova’s ears fall back, trying to dampen the sound, but she wanted to keep herself looking confident with Mya in her head and the example of the three Pokémon ahead of her soaking in the crowd’s noise.
8,000 people were seated around the massive auditorium, screens showing every move they made at various angles.
Nova’s heart was pumping frantically, and she caught the Ralts’ slight smirk while glancing back at her. “I hope you’re ready for front row seats to what real Contests are like.”
A lump dropped down Nova’s throat, body feeling warm and fuzzy with the cheers.
They all want me to show how cute I am. I am cute…
“You’re super cute!” Rhea chimed, but her Trainer couldn’t hide her own nervousness, which meant Nova had to be strong.
“Knock ‘em dead!” Mya roared. “Take them out with one Move, and they’ve got nothing to show for it; easy as one Sucker Punch!”
It’s not like that, Mya, Nova mumbled, smiling while turning in a circle to view all the people; the announcer soon started speaking, silencing Mya’s response.
The man’s voice was similar to the men that announced Mya’s match against Lucian, Jason, and Len, deep, booming, and smooth. “Ladies and Gentlemen, I welcome you to this week’s Hyper Star Battle Style Contest! We have some famous people in the line-up tonight, including the older brother of one of our Beginning Acts.
“Among our main contestants, we have Mitch Omasalor, winner of four consecutive Super Contests within the Cool-Style, now moving onto the Star Stage!
“He has competition tonight because Roman Patel is in the line-up, having won his first Star Contest last month! Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a show for you!
“Now, let’s get into our Rookie Star Battle Style Contest to have a sneak peek at the upcoming stars because that’s what we have tonight, folks!
“Leading her team, Aeldee Omasalor—you heard it right, Mitch Omasalor’s youngest sister is making her first appearance in Gardenia City, but she’s no Rookie! Aeldee and her partner Jewlya have been rocking Rookie Contests throughout Johto and Kanto over the past season, and they’ve got fans in the stands tonight!”
Nova caught at least a hundred people screaming their names around them as the pair stepped forward to wave; the two had bright smiles that she hadn’t seen before, which brightened their countenance significantly. You couldn’t tell the attitude they showed to Nova just by looking at them; Nova was just sad they didn’t want to be her friend.
“Her teammates have shown tremendous skills that highlight just how talented and practiced these girls are! We have Lachlan Lowe with Rina, her Smoochum, and Tyler Barron with Whimsy, her Igglybuff. Give it up for these rising stars!”
The throng complied as they joined their teammate, 8,000 people cheering for the girls to dazzle them.
“Next, we have some surprise entries; Unova’s Starter Award participant, the Dark Queen and King’s daughter, younger sister to Unova’s youngest Elite 4 member, Mallory Medina!”
The crowd exploded with sound at the news; Mallory stepped forward with a presence made for the spotlight.
“Heh, I don’t think you need a reminder after her sister, Cassy Brooks, entered the limelight; Mallory may be less known here, but in Unova, she’s renowned for pumping up parties—so let’s see what she can pull out of her bag of tricks for us tonight!”
Jewlya, Rina, and Whimsy were giving Mallory and Gables charming smiles, but Nova was sure they were cursing them. Gables leaned back to see them from Mallory’s shoulder, giving the three a wink and thumbs up. “Good luck!”
“Heh … we won’t need it…” Jewlya mumbled.
“Look at that sportsmanship and charm from Mallory’s Froakie!” The announcer cried with laughter. “He’s probably got all the female Pokémon faint with that glow; all-natural, I’m told, folks!
“Next, we have the nameless Starter Award mystery participant that has the news in a storm, Rhea, and her unique, black and white Eevee, Nova! We’re expecting great things out of these Trainers.
“Our final contestant comes all the way from Alola, taking her first steps on Kanto soil and already jumping into the Contest scene, Jayline Alana, and her Bounsweet, Poppy!
“Let’s jump right into it! Aeldee Omasalor and Jewlya will start us off with a stirring performance, utilizing a song from Johto’s underground artists, SWRV Sounds! Heh, let’s see how our Ralts uses this combination!”
The lights dimmed, blanketing them in darkness as a light blue spotlight centered ahead of them on the stage. Jewlya elegantly moved forward with a small smile. “Watch how it’s done, girls.”
Nova was a little distracted by Rhea’s sudden spike in dread.
“Music? The video didn’t say anything about Rookie Contests having music! That’s supposed to start at the Normal Contests!”
Is … that bad? Nova asked, but the spectacle before Nova told her everything she needed to know, comparing Jewlya’s performance to what they’d practiced.
The crowd’s noise died down as soft music began to play.
In the faint light, with all eyes on the small Pokémon, she swayed to the tempo. Nova watched her smooth movements, using her dress-like gown in her steps. A white glow illuminated her form, causing a second Ralts to appear, and then another, all following slow, set motions that complimented each other.
Nova didn’t know what she was doing, but it stilled her racing heart, watching the Pokémon move forward and back, around each other—never touching. They glided to the edges, pairs spinning off into the darkness before changing dance partners, the two clones vanishing until nine became four, one sitting in the center, watching the couples slowly fade.
The last one left its partner, spinning into the darkness to meet with Jewlya in the center—yet before they touched, it dispersed, leaving her alone. Her head lowered with the sound of the music, falling to her knees, and then she faded, too, leaving the spotlight empty.
Nova’s mouth dropped open; she hadn’t even seen Jewlya swap places or leave the darkness, but when she glanced toward her Trainer, there the Ralts was.
The crowd clapped slowly as the blue light closed in, moving to brighten the pair; they curtsied to the reaction, returning to the lineup. The performance had calmed the rowdiness of the spectators.
Nova was stunned how much control the pair had, manipulating the people’s emotion, and hadn’t expected this kind of reaction, but she admired it. Even if they were mean to her, she couldn’t deny that it made her feel very different compared to what she and Rhea had practiced.
The announcer’s smooth voice returned, softer and thoughtful. “An excellent performance, Aeldee, and Jewlya … Utilizing Double Team while mixing it with the tempo of the music … Dancing with one’s self is a deep, artistic expression of inner turmoil and emotion. Well executed, girls.”
Nova leaned over to Gables beside her, whispering, “We didn’t do anything like that…”
He released a short sigh, but there was a smile that admitted he was impressed. “No, we didn’t, but that’s fine. Lori’s saying we should take this opportunity to learn and improve our next performance—they may be a bit uppity, but it looks like they’ve earned their confidence. Can’t deny that.”
Nova stared at the floor as highlights of the dance played overhead; the spectators’ energy had quelled significantly.
“No, we always win!” Mya huffed. “Just do better than them.”
How, Nova mumbled. How would you do it?
“I don’t know … I don’t do this stuff.”
Yeah, but … We've only done this one thing.
“Gah … she’s just moving around; it’s not hard.”
Rhea sounded a bit defeated, too. “It’s not easy, Mya. We can’t just wing this part; it’s a performance, which takes imagination, practice, and preparation. Lori’s right; we just need to watch and learn because I didn’t expect to hit a competition like this for a long time. Sorry, Nova.”
Nova thought she should feel upset, but after watching Jewlya—she couldn’t be. Her ears fell, knowing she was inferior. No matter how agitated Mya was, Nova couldn’t deny it. She was cute, without a doubt, but in this Contest, it wasn’t good enough to just be pretty. She and Rhea needed to work harder, but that didn’t mean they’d give up.
She may not like the Ralts’ attitude, but she wasn’t wrong—it was about the performance on stage, and the next one set the feeling in her heart; they were not ready for this at all.
“Lachlan Lowe will now follow with Rina, using a track from Rude—Eternal Youth.”
The Smoochum walked forward, lights dimming again around the small pink, cream, and blonde Pokémon; she seemed to be checking the large auditorium’s air current before getting into position.
Music began to play as she looked up, took a deep breath, and sent a blast of cold wind into the sky that frosted into flakes. A powder-like white substance gently fell back onto Rina with the instruments gentle, slow start; each break of the tempo caused her to make a movement, body shimmering white to reveal a single copy of herself, just like Jewlya.
Nova’s throat went dry, and she didn’t know why she shivered as the music picked up with their mirrored movements; again, never touching, but getting closer with every beat that hit, then pulling away dramatically.
Occasionally, they sent more flurries of powder into the sky, allowing it to drift back around them, coating the floor with a fine layer of white, but only one set of footprints could be seen disturbing the snow that sparkled in the overhead light, highlighting the swaying Pokémon.
The music died down with the clone fading away, leaving Rina reaching out to the lost double, longing for more before dropping to her knees, moving the powder with her hands as the lights faded.
Nova couldn’t hear much as the audience pondered the display, following Jewlya’s performance; it made her think that Rina had lost something precious. It was even more expressive than the last one as if it was only to build up Rina’s.
“What a dualistic layering to your performances,” the announcer noted in a somber tone. “To be able to utilize the previous contestant’s Move with Copycat, bringing Double Team into the snow. Powder Snow was a wonderful tone-setter. I can tell you practice often with your teammates because one act bleeds into the next; to illustrate the loss of someone dear to your heart and the longing that accompanies it is a compelling story you’ve shown us.”
Again highlights of the performance replayed above them, drawing the crowd’s attention; there were even a few humans crying in the stands, showing how much it had touched them.
Rhea was half wondering if they’d entered a Drama Style Contest because these sorts of portrayals were usually saved for those types of competitions but reasoned that this was simply a showcase of their skills, which could be anything, including this.
Nova was starstruck with the entire production, and after watching them in action, felt that the three were actually very strong, too—they were likely even stronger than Tera.
A crew of Pidgey swiftly swooped in with everyone distracted, blowing the snow off the platform with Gusts, sending it into some kind of retractable container that opened up on the stage. The darkness would blind it from most of the viewers.
Once clean, the announcer had Whimsy come forward, and Nova was eager to see what she would do. When the music started, she was a little taken aback by the cadence—it was bright and cheery.
The Igglybuff hopped across the stage with a bright smile, glowing white while spraying a significant stream of snow into the air, the color swapping to purple soon after to bring it all crashing down on top of her in a clump, outlining her, as the tempo slowed.
She poked her head out with a smile, rhythm picking back up and causing chuckles from the audience. Shaking it out, Whimsy jumped forward, laughing while rolling around in the powder; she made two more leaps until Nova noticed what she was doing, creating a smiley face in the snow.
Once finished, she jumped up in the air with a bright cheer. “Tada!”
The announcer laughed. “Clever girl, using Copycat to get Powder Snow before Gravity brought it tumbling down on your head to create a happy face with it. An excellent way to end the theme your teammates set and bring us to a more positive light.”
“Yeah, Nova … We shouldn’t expect a high score after those three did their thing; we’ll work on our own performance after this—we’ll do even better.”
I’d like that, Nova chirped, feeling happy they entered, even if they wouldn’t win this stage. We still have a secret weapon for the big part after this!
“That’s the spirit!” Mya cheered. “You’ll knock them out, too!”
That’s the plan.
“We do have a good finale,” Rhea agreed. “We aren’t out of the Contest yet.”
Jay was called next.
“You can do it!” Nova chimed as Poppy jumped forward.
“Thanks,” she replied, spinning in a circle. “Kanto Contests look pretty fun.”
Jay leaned over to Rhea with a forced smile. “Wish us luck…”
“Yeah, we’ll all need it,” she mumbled back.
There was no music this time; the Bounsweet shimmered white, causing green, pink, and yellow notes to dance around her petals that slowly fanned out while she cheerfully hopped around. The two leaves on her head began to glow, turning bright blue, and Poppy danced across the spotlight, throwing tiny droplets of water into the air, flying off with each wave of her leaves.
Once making it to the center of everything, she spun in a sharp circle, causing a strong gust of wind to explode around her that made the notes and water burst into sparkling lights that rained across the entire stage, blanketing it in bright rays of color.
She got some claps from it, but Nova thought people were just being nice.
Nova’s mouth was open again as she looked around in wonder. “It’s so pretty, Poppy…”
Next up was Mallory, and Gables did what Nova had watched them practice, blowing out a stream of bubbles before jumping off them to rise into the air; each one popped the moment he leaped to the next, causing sparkles of blue energy to fall below. Each hop, he made a different acrobatic twist, and at the end, he landed, blowing a bubble with a peace symbol held to the crowd.
He got chuckles and mild claps from his performance, and Nova couldn’t blame them for not being super impressed; still, it was cool that he could use his bubbles as a launchpad.
“Bubble shenanigans; I like it! Gables has some smooth movements, too. I can’t wait to see how he does in the Battle Stage. Finally, we have our last Rookie Contestant, Rhea, and Nova! Let’s see what our salt and pepper Eevee has to offer us to end the showcase.”
Nova took a deep, calming breath, tail flicking to the left; she caught sight of her yellow bow with a small smile. I love you, Rhea; I’m gonna do my best.
“You got this!” Rhea cheered.
Taking the stage, Nova noticed Jewlya, Rina, and Whimsy’s smug smiles, knowing there wasn’t anything they could do to top them, and Nova couldn’t argue with it, but she’d do exactly what they’d practiced. The Combat Phase was where they’d really show them.
With the light on her, Nova gave the crowd a happy chirp. “Hello, I’m Nova! Here we go!”
She pulled out Rhea’s energy, preparing her small show.
A green orb of light grew between her stiff ears as she concentrated; once it reached the size of a human hand, she nudged her head up, sending it flying into the heavens for it to come back down.
Her fur shimmered white, stars blinking into existence around her, and as the green orb returned to her, shooting stars blazed over her head, and her body filled with energy.
A purple aura mixed with the green and white, coating her body as she activated her final Move, purposefully made unstable. The crowd followed the small pillar of purple light that shot into the sky before erupting into dazzling rays that fell across the stage in all directions. That was it.
Nova stood in place, tail wagging as she smiled at the clapping humans; they liked her act, too. Naturally, she didn’t get the same reaction as the others, but this was acceptable. Still, it hurt feeling like she’d given the worst performance.
“Hmm … interesting combination, using Growth to add a bit of flair to the beginning, then following it up with Wish to draw in the magical effect of the stars before throwing an unstable Stored Power into the air, purposefully, to make it shower sheens of purple light across the stage. It’s an impressive feat, using a Move’s instability for a visual display—not something normally seen, even in Super Contests.”
In truth, she’d learned it from her aunt, and when the lights turned to her and Nova, they waved with smiles at the slow claps she received; it was more commending the skill in the act than the show itself, which she could accept.
“Alright, folks, send your hearts to the contestant that stole it!”
8,000 participants made their bit, causing bright pink holographic hearts to explode out of the stands, going to each of them; 10% of these votes would be added to their final score, rounded to the nearest decimal point. The judges would vote at the end of the Battle Phase.
Nova smiled at the hearts that popped above her head, increasing the number; the other three were like a hurricane of pink, swirling above them.
Jewlya - 2,342 = 232
Rina - 2,956 = 296
Whimsy - 1465 = 147
Poppy - 372 = 37
Gables - 454 = 45
Nova - 411 = 41
We got 411 votes, Rhea! People love us!
“Right! You did so well!” Rhea chimed, reaching down to pick up Nova and snuggle against her forehead. “We’ll do even better next time!”
Mya was silent through the exchange, but Nova could tell she was annoyed they’d basically come in last place. Poppy and Jay didn’t seem too bent out of shape from it, though, soaking in the crowd’s excitement.
Nova’s fur stiffened against Rhea’s arm as the announcer roared. “Give it up for our first dazzling match, Rhea and Nova Vs. Aeldee Omasalor and Jewlya! If the other contestants can move to the side of the stage, behind the protective barriers.”
The crowd clearly favored Aeldee by the number of times Nova heard the girl’s name shouted with her Pokémon.
It’s too soon! Can’t we rest?
“Guess not,” Rhea forced a chuckle.
Something else snatched Nova’s attention, though; she heard Amira calling her name.
“You’ve got this, Nova; show them how cute and powerful you are!”
Amber followed up with Holly.
“Give it your best, Nova.”
“I know you can do it!”
Her heart filled with warmth; she had people cheering for her; even if almost everyone in the stadium wanted to see her lose, there were friends in her corner.
We gotta win! Nova sniffed back her tears, pawing Rhea’s arm to let her know she needed to get down. I’m gonna do my best!
“Just make them run away by roaring at them,” Mya mumbled. “It’s not hard; they’re weak.”
Oh, be quiet and just cheer for me, Nova grumbled. I cheer you on.
“No … you yell at me.”
Only when you’re pulling too much energy from Rhea … And you don’t hear me anyway…
“Guys,” Rhea sighed. “No fighting; we need to be a team!”
“Sorry … I just … We aren’t supposed to lose,” Mya mumbled. “... Ever.”
“Mya … No, we need to be focused. You ready, Nova?”
Yeah! She huffed, glaring at the Ralts as she shot her a smug grin, eyes looking at the number of hearts she received. I’m gonna show her the big move we practiced!
“If she doesn’t get a mud attack off on you and make you faint,” Mya snickered.
No! Stop teasing me! I … I really don’t like mud … She doesn’t have mud attacks. Right, Rhea?
“Mud?” Rhea mumbled. “Uh … no. I don’t think so, but … you know, you have a mud attack.”
Nova’s eyes widened with sudden realization. I do! He-he-he-he … I have a mud attack.
Steeling herself as Rhea put her down, she raced into the middle of the field, catching Rhea go behind the Trainer barrier a decent ways away to not get hurt by any of their Moves.
“Are you ready to get dirty?” Nova asked, giving the Ralts a wicked smile.
She huffed in response. “... Unlikely.”
The announcer shouted. “Are the contestants ready? … Alright, let’s see the star in you, girls, and… Here. We. Go. Match Start!”