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The Bittersweet Reunion

Brian Random

*Checks my last post on this thread* I also remember mentioning that it's impossible to say anything negative about this fic. I have this fanfic saved on my computer and it has been one of my favourites for a very long time.

Overall: Check my bit in "Great fics you ever read" thread and you'll find out.


Incredible. Truly incredible. Lady ZeldaFan20, I have read the full version of this as a non member, and it brought me nearly to tears. I am also reading "To the Rainbow's End", and "Pokemon: Evil's Awakening". I love your stories especially this one and its sequel, because they are so heartwarming *sobs*. Do not stop writing these stories, please.


Coral Eye Trainer
Chapter Fourteen

“No, no, no!” Edward exclaimed, “Forgive me, young sir, but you are going about this all wrong.”

During the next couple of days, Ash was kept busy preparing for the party. At every meal, Sarah instructed him on how to act at the table, as well as how to properly speak in front of people. In between, Edward taught him how to walk, how to stand, and how to dance. At this precise hour, Ash was in the upstairs sitting-room, having a standing lesson.

“What’d I do wrong now?” Ash asked Edward, “Head up, chest out, and shoulders back, right?”

“Yes, but your back is not straight enough. Look, your lower stomach is showing. It must go in more...like that...there, much better.”

Ash felt like he was leaning backwards. He looked in a nearby mirror, and frowned. “Now I know how a statue feels,” he said blankly, “I wish Dad would get home so we can go swimming.”

“Well, sir,” Edward answered, “you do know your father’s business has occupied much of his time. He must deal with some very disagreeable clients.” Edward thought to himself for a minute, “Still, I wouldn’t say that all of his clients were disagreeable: Miss Bianca does very well with the master.”

Ash looked at him with great interest, “Miss who?” He didn’t even see Sarah enter the room.

“You must be talking about Miss Bianca,” she interrupted, “She’s the daughter of the late Lord Darby. Her family has been around since the days of the Irish Struggle for Independence; a very old family. She has been declared the prettiest girl in all of Great Britain.”

Ash turned to look at her, “You know her?”

“Well, I saw her once. It was at a Christmas ball your grandparents held seven years ago, at their estate in London. All the servants were allowed into the ballroom to watch the dancing and merry-making. Many of the young ladies were quite lovely, but they paled in comparison to Miss Bianca: a girl of eighteen years, she was considered the belle of the ball.”

“Sounds like she’s very popular,” Ash commented, “What’s she like?”

“Tall, slender, a creamy complexion that contrasts well with her long, golden hair. Her eyes are the most brilliant blue you’ve ever seen. Very well educated also: poetry, painting, archery, horseback-riding, heraldry, and especially in music. She played the piano all night at the party. Sang like a nightingale as well: your father accompanied Miss Bianca during one of her performances.”

“I didn’t know Dad could play the piano!”

“Oh, he can - and very good, I might add - but I meant that he and Miss Bianca sang a duet."

“I know he can sing: Dad used to sing me to sleep every night.” Ash was growing more and more uncomfortable about this ‘Bianca woman’ the more Sarah talked.

“Your father has a fine base voice - we all know that for a fact. Yes, Miss Bianca is a fine lady. A very kind person, too: she donates money to many charities every year, and she’s especially fond of Pokémon (unlike her mother).”

“Does Dad...like her?”

Sarah looked at Ash with a surprised look, “Well, yes...perhaps in a business-like way. But don’t worry; they are certainly not in love. The master told me that he had known Miss Bianca since childhood, so my belief is that they are nothing more than good friends.”

“Still,” Ash wondered, “did anyone ever talk about them getting married?”

Edward stepped in, “There was some mention of it. However, the Darby family doesn’t have a very large fortune; before the Lord Darby died, three months later, his eldest son came for nearly everything they had.”

“Also,” Sarah continued, “there is a significant age difference between them: the master is almost forty, Miss Bianca is twenty-five.”

“So what?” Ash asked, “My mom’s younger than Dad too, and they got married anyway.”

“Perhaps,” said Sarah, “but many people in high society have certain traditions when it comes to marriage.”

At that moment, a car horn was heard out front. The three of them ran to one of the windows (the one that had a good view of the city). Three long, black limos and a grey bus were parked in front of the house. People got off the bus and were running to the limos. Ash saw George get out of the first one, and opened the window to wave, but stopped when he saw the other people coming out into the sunshine.

About eight men and women, all dressed in business-like suits and hats, gathered in a crowd and started talking to each other. As he looked on, Ash saw George walk up to an elderly woman in a violet dress (with a matching wide-rimmed hat) and help her into a wheelchair. Holding the chair was a younger lady, in her mid-twenties, with long blond hair, creamy skin, and wearing a white three-piece dress suit. Sarah immediately knew what he was guessing.

“The Darbys! Miss Bianca!” She and Edward instantly left the room and hurried downstairs to greet the guests.

Ash stayed where he was and continued looking at Miss Darby. He instantly saw the kindness in her face and manner, and she smiled so sweetly; Ash was reminded of Aurora’s own happy smile.

“I wonder if Dad likes her the same way I like Aurora,” Ash wondered to himself. He both hoped and feared that he was right. It would be a horrible shock to know if George was actually having an affair with another (much richer) woman.

Throughout the remainder of the day, the house was alive with activity: the guests being shown to their rooms, servants (obviously the people who were on the bus) helping Sarah and Edward prepare for the evening: some were with Sarah in the kitchen, while the rest went over the house with Edward.

Feeling that it was better to stay out of the way, Ash stayed in his room. He wasn’t lonely (Pikachu and the others kept him company), but it was getting dark, and he was dying for some dinner. Finally, at 6:00 PM, Sarah entered the room with a tray of PokéChow in her hands.

“Ah, good,” she said, putting the tray on a nearby table, “you haven’t gotten into your pajamas yet. Your father asked me to bring you down to meet the guests...oh my!” She wiped her forehead with a handkerchief and sighed.

“Sarah,” Ash asked, “are you okay? You look tired.”

“I am, but I’m alright,” was the reply, “It’s just that he’s never wanted to have company over before. When he was a child he would always make up an excuse to get away from such people, but now he seems determined to fill this house to the roof with them.”

Ash laughed, “I don’t think Dad is that crazy. Anyway, I’m guessing he was just trying to be polite when he sent you to get me, so I’ll say ‘no thanks’.”

Sarah smiled as she put each of the six bowls on the floor for the Pokémon, “Well I told him that you may not be accustomed to high society, but he just laughed and said ‘you tell him, that if he won’t come down, I’ll come up there and get him myself’. Besides, the master told Miss Bianca all about you and your adventures, and she is most anxious to meet you.”

Ash stood up, “Okay, I’ll be right down.”

“Wear your Sunday clothes,” Sarah added, “There’s no need to look too formal.”

Ash wiped his face with his hand, “That’s a relief.” Before Sarah left, the words “How long will they be here” burst from his mouth.

Sarah replied, “Only for two days, not a day more. Lord Henry is going to be married next week, so they’ll need to return to London very soon. Don’t you worry,” and she left the room.

As he got dressed, Ash kept thinking about Miss Darby. Was she really such a good person? Was she really not in love with his father? Did George really think of her as “just a friend?” She seemed nice enough.

After combing and smoothing his hair, Ash walked out of the room, and closed the door behind him so the Pokémon could eat in peace. He then took a deep breath and headed downstairs.

Everyone was in the dining room when Ash reached the study. Relieved that no one was there, he walked over to the fireplace (which had a hearty fire burning in it) and sat down in one of the leather chairs. As he sat there watching the fire, Ash noticed a book lying on the floor near his feet. He picked it up, thinking that his dad dropped it by accident, and read the title.

“Hmm...Jane Eyre...I think I saw a movie with that same title with Mom once. Too bad I can’t remember it very well.” Before opening to the first page, Ash noticed a bookmark halfway to the mid-section. He opened it to page 148, the sixth-to-last page of Chapter 15:

I tried again to sleep; but my heart beat anxiously: my inward tranquility was broken. The clock, far down in the hall, struck two. Just then it seemed my chamber-door was touched; as if fingers had swept the panels in groping a way along the dark gallery outside. I said, “Who is there?” Nothing answered. I was chilled with fear.

All at once I remembered that it might be Pilot: who, when the kitchen-door chanced to be left open, not infrequently found his way up to the threshold of Mr. Rochester’s chamber: I had seen him lying there myself, in the mornings. The idea calmed me somewhat: I lay down. Silence composes the nerves; and as an unbroken hush now reigned again through the whole house, I began to feel the return of slumber. But it was not fated that I should sleep that night. A dream had scarcely approached my ear, when it fled affrighted, scared by a marrow-freezing incident enough.

“Wow,” Ash thought to himself, “Whatever’s happening in this story almost sounds like what happened to me last week.” He read on. The more Ash read, the more clearly last week’s incident came into his mind.

This was a demonic laugh...uttered, as it seemed, at the very key-hole of my chamber door. The head of my bed was near the door, and I thought at first the goblin-laughter stood at my bedside - or rather, crouched by my pillow: but I rose, looked round, and could see nothing; while, as I still gazed, the unnatural sound was reiterated: and I knew it came from behind the panels...

Because he was so engrossed with the book, Ash failed to notice the study doors open, and a tall figure walk casually in his direction. It quickly tapped him on the shoulder.

“AH!” Ash jumped; he nearly had the living daylights scared out of him. Turning around, he saw who was responsible.

Standing right in front of him was the same tall woman he had seen outside earlier; this time, though, she was wearing a short-sleeved dinner dress (the skirt stopped three inches below the knee).

“Good-evening,” she said, smiling kindly.

Ash struggled to remember his manners, “G...Good-evening, M...Miss Darby.”

“Please, call me Bianca. You must be George’s child: I’m sorry if I’ve frightened you, but I was told that you came in here fifteen minutes ago.” Bianca then noticed the book still in his hand, “That is a very good book; I’ve read it ten times myself, and never once was I tired of it.”

Ash instantly put the book on the table, “Yeah, well, I was just...uh...flipping through the pages...and I guess that chapter caught my eye.” He produced a sheepish grin.

“Come, let us go into the dining room; everyone is just sitting down to supper.”

Ash shook his head, “I’ll be there in a minute. Thanks anyway.”

“Very well,” Bianca said, “I will see you in a few minutes, then.” She started to leave, but then turned back around, “Excuse me, but your father failed to tell me your name.”

“Oh,” Ash said, “well, they call me Ash.”

Bianca made a slight face, but maintained her smile. “Ash...an interesting name, but it does not suit you.” Bianca giggled as she saw Ash’s confused look. “I have an idea; would you mind if I called you...Arthur?”

Ash thought for a bit, smiled, and gave a slight nod. Suddenly, a loud growling came from his stomach. “Heh heh, on second thought, I think my few minutes are up.”

Both laughed and started to leave the study. As they walked down the hall, Ash told Bianca about some of his friends and adventures, while she listened very attentively: he was actually beginning to like her.

Just as Ash and Bianca were being seated, a knock was heard at the front door. Sarah went over to see who it was.

A fairly young gentleman was standing outside. Despite the warm weather, he wore a long, long-sleeved purple robe. His eyes were a piercing violet color, and his mouth was curved into a nervous smile.

“May I help you, sir?” Sarah asked.

“Yes, you may.” the man replied, “I am looking for a Mister George Ketchum: he and I are old friends. Is this his residence?”

Sarah nodded, “However, we have a house full of guests. I don’t think the master will want to see you right now.”

“I am aware of the time. But, you see, I’ve come a long way, from the Orange Islands, and I am very tired. I only need to stay until tomorrow evening.”

Sarah eyed the stranger warily before asking, “May I have your name, sir?”

The man answered, “My name is Lawrence: Robert Wilhelm Lawrence the Third.”
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Coral Eye Trainer
Short, yes, but this chapter does add a suspenseful flavor to the story.

Chapter Fifteen

At the dinner table, everyone was laughing and talking while they were being served. At first, Ash had difficulty remembering exactly which utensils to use for each dish (there were a number of them). Then again, it was even harder to remember how to behave in front of such a crowd.

“Boy, James was right,” Ash thought to himself, “These rich guys have rules for almost everything.”

Just as a servant was offering him some salad, Sarah entered the room, and walked up to George.

“Pardon me, sir,” she began, “but you have a visitor; he says he’s come a long way to see you.”

George’s face fell, “Did you tell him I have guests?”

Sarah nodded, “Yes, sir, but he insists upon seeing you.”

George was silent for a few seconds, and then said, “Did he give his name?”

Sarah nodded again, “His name is Lawrence, sir; says he’s from the Orange Islands.”

Upon hearing the name “Lawrence,” George spat out the wine he was sipping, and gave a choking cough. Everyone just stared in amazement, including Ash.

“Dad, what’s the matter?”

“George, are you alright?” Bianca asked.

George held up his hand, “I’m alright; the wine just went down the wrong pipe, that’s all.” He then turned to Sarah, “Show him into the study, please, and tell him I’ll be there shortly.” Sarah bowed to the party and left the room. Ash just looked at George: he thought he had seen a little fear in his father’s face....

“AAAAIIIIEEEE!” Mrs. Darby suddenly screamed. Everyone turned to see what was happening.

“Mother, what is wrong?” exclaimed Bianca.


Ash instantly dove under the table to catch the creature. What he saw made him gasp.

“Kip, kip!” Mudkip was busily snacking on a lettuce leave that had fallen onto the floor. Ash slapped his hand against his head and chuckled.

“Mudkip, what are you doing here? I thought I told you to stay upstairs. How did you get out of the room anyway?” Ash grabbed Mudkip and stood up, showing everyone who the “creature” was. Nearly everyone smiled at the little Pokémon:

“My word, remarkable!” said one old gentleman.

“How incredible,” said a younger man.

“Oh, Arthur, it’s perfectly darling,” Bianca remarked.

“It’s perfectly hideous!” Mrs. Darby shouted angrily, “I can’t stand having such vermin near me! I want that filthy beast OUT!”

Mudkip was trying to get into Ash’s shirt out of sheer terror. Ash, who liked Mrs. Darby’s tone even less, excused himself and proceeded to leave the room. As he entered the hallway, he could hear George trying to explain:

“You see, madam, my son has been a Pokémon Trainer for the past three years. He’s very good with them, let me assure you...”

“I don’t have a care in the world how he treats those little beasts!” Mrs. Darby interrupted, “I could never stand such vermin ever since that incident in Wales years ago: a Pokémon Trainer was caught training one of those Chiko-thingys in my prized rose garden: attracted every insect in all of Britain! And those Trainers; they’re just as incompetent as the creatures they collect! UGH!”

Ash trembled with rage as he heard that woman talk.

“Who does she think she is?” he growled as he walked further down the hall. He then looked at Mudkip, who had succeeded in getting into his shirt, “I’ve met a lot of Pokémon who are much smarter than certain people.”

Both giggled as they walked towards the study. As they passed the doors, a figure stepped out into the hall and said, “Are you, by any chance, speaking of anyone in particular?”

Ash immediately stopped; his blood both boiled and froze. He knew that voice: it was one he hadn’t heard for two years, since the Orange Islands, but would never forget. He slowly turned to face the speaker. Standing in the doorway was Lawrence III. He was looking at him with that same cunning smile and piercing gaze. Ash recognized him at first glance.

“YOU!” Ash shouted.

“Ah, the Chosen One,” Lawrence said coolly, giving him a graceful yet mocking bow, “I must say it is a pleasure to see you again...”

“What are you doing here, anyway?” Ash demanded.

Lawrence maintained his smile, “I may ask you the same question, Chosen One.”

“That’s none of your business.”

Lawrence chuckled, “Well, I’m here to visit a dear friend of mine.”

Ash put on a sarcastic air, “Well, this is interesting; hard to believe that the same man who nearly caused a world-wide natural disaster even has friends.” He turned to walk away, but had hardly taken two steps when Lawrence suddenly grabbed his right arm, pulling him back. Mudkip growled in defense.

“I had to start all over from scratch because of you,” he said, looking less composed than before, “Because you and your comrades freed Moltres and Zapdos, everything I have slaved for was destroyed.” He tightened his grip on Ash’s arm, causing the boy to cringe in pain.

“I had to set them free; it would’ve meant the end of the world if I let you take them...let me go!”

“Not until I have received retribution,” Lawrence growled as he tried to drag Ash into the study, ignoring the sprays of Mudkip’s Water Gun.

“Robert, let my son go.”

Both turned to see George walking quickly in their direction; and he was not too happy with what he was seeing.

Lawrence turned pale in the face, “George, this is...your son?”

“Do you not understand English? Let him go now.”

Ash started rubbing his arm the instant he was released.

“Are you alright, Ash?” George asked.

Ash nodded, glaring at Robert, “I’ll live.”

“Do you know Robert?”

“Yeah, I know him, all too well! While my friends and I were training in the Orange Islands, this guy tried to capture some rare Pokémon – and almost brought the whole world to an end!”

George shot a fierce look at Lawrence, but then turned back to Ash, “Listen, son, why don’t you head upstairs to your room while I sort things out with Robert? I’ll have Sarah take your dinner up later.”

Hugging Mudkip, Ash gave Lawrence one last glance, and ran upstairs; he neither stopped nor looked back until he reached his bedroom doors.

Ash lay tossing and turning in his bed. The very thought of Lawrence III in the house caused a strong resistance in sleep. He knew that the doors and windows were all locked from the inside, and that his Pokémon were sleeping outside their Poké Balls, but it didn’t help much. In fact, by the time he finally did get to sleep, it was close to one o’clock.

Around 1:30 AM, Ash was awakened by a slightly familiar noise; it was faint, but it was definitely the sound of people talking. Thinking that the TV had been left on, Ash reached over to the bedside table, grabbed the remote, and aimed...

“Huh?” The TV was off. Ash shrugged and attempted to go back to sleep, until another, much louder noise prevented him; this noise, however, literally sent chills down his spine.

A man’s scream was heard echoing through the whole house. Ash had never heard anyone scream that, it was even worse than Mrs. Darby’s yells: it was like the scream of someone in terrible pain or distress. He thought someone might be in danger. Forgetting about Lawrence, and the promise he made to Aurora (to not be a hero), he sprang out of bed, opened the door, and ran into the hall. A large crowd of people were already gathering outside George’s door; they were all in a panic.

“Good-heavens, what happened?” asked one.

“Was anyone hurt?” inquired another.

“Where the devil is George?” asked a third.

Ash was just about to go over to them, when George suddenly came into view. He was soon attempting to calm the frightened mass.

“It’s alright, nothing to worry about. One of the servants had a nightmare, that’s all. However, she can’t be looked after until everyone calms down and returns to their beds. Now then, if you please.”

One by one, people were being ushered back into their bedrooms. Soon the only ones still up were Ash (who was quietly returning to his room) and George. Ash was just about to open the doors, when George stopped him.

“Ash, wait...I need your help.” Ash knew that something was wrong; his father’s face was a sick white, and he was breathing very rapidly.

“What is it, Dad?” he asked.

George hesitated at first, but then spoke, “First, do you feel sick or faint at the sight of blood?”

Ash felt another chill down his back, but he remained calm, “No…at least, I don’t think so.”

“Then come with me,” George said, taking Ash’s hand in his. Together, the two of them walked down the hall, towards the stairs. Ash was unsure of where his dad was taking him, but he was sure that it wasn’t back to bed.
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Coral Eye Trainer
Sorry about the long-term absense, guys. But ths summer's been a busy one for me since I'm attending another college this fall.

Enough of that, though, the next chapter is here. For those of you who don't know what happens, be warned as it contains some blood and suspense. Enjoy!

Chapter Sixteen

George led Ash down the stairs and through the halls of the first floor at a rapid pace, as if time itself was of the utmost essence.

They passed through the study to a much darker corridor. There were no windows; the only light came from a couple of electric wall-lights. At the end of the corridor was a single door, which opened to reveal another flight of stairs.

As they descended the stairs, Ash saw George take a card from his pants’ pocket.

“What’s that for, Dad?” Ash asked.

George didn’t answer, but his face became very grim. Upon reaching the bottom, they quickly walked to the far end of the room. Ash saw that a bookcase had been moved, revealing a steel door. George took the card and slipped it into a slot on the side, causing the door to open. Still holding hands, they both passed through to the other side.

Because George kept his flashlight pointed to the floor, Ash could not see the walls of this hallway very well; although, he thought he could make out stone and mortar. He also noticed several large curtains and a number of doors, but there was one door that gave him a odd feeling in the stomach.

At the very end of the hall, where they were heading, was a regular-sized door. It was made entirely of iron, and locked; the little window in the top center was protected by bars: a little bit of light was shining through them. However, instead of going into this room (much to Ash’s relief), George led him through another door to the left. This particular room was furnished just like one of the upstairs guest rooms: a large bed, a fireplace, its own bathroom, table, chairs, etc. George led Ash to the left side of the bed, and what Ash saw nearly made him reel:

Lying on the bed was Lawrence III. He was on top of the covers and his eyes were closed, but he wasn’t asleep. He had on a pair of indigo pants and an unbuttoned white silk shirt - or, at least, it WAS white: an old rag was pressed against the entire right-shoulder area (from the neck to the forearm), which was ripped to shreds and literally soaked in blood. Ash also noticed his face: it didn’t have the same cool expression as before; in fact, it almost looked pitiful, like a man who was suffering terribly, and it was also a nasty green color.

“Here, Ash,” George said suddenly. He was pouring some water from a ewer first into a basin, then into a little glass; both were sitting on the bedside table to the left. He then handed Ash a large sponge, and a set of keys.

“I am going to get the doctor for Robert; I shouldn’t be more than an hour. In the meantime, I want you to take this sponge and try to stop the bleeding. If he feels faint, give him some water to drink. And what ever you do...” he pointed to the locked door outside, “Don’t open that door. No matter what sounds you may hear coming from in there, don’t even go near it. Understand?”

Ash nodded, and George left the room.

For a minute or two, Ash stood still as a statue. He had no idea what was going on, or how Lawrence had gotten into such a situation. Suddenly remembering his job, he took the sponge, and dropped it into the basin. He then reached for the rag Lawrence was clutching and gently pulled it off (the patient moaning in agony as he did so).

Ash made a face at the sight of the crimson cloth, as well as the gross squishing-sound it made. He quickly walked over to the fireplace, and threw the horrible mess onto the hot, still-burning logs. When he came back to the bed, he squeezed the sponge out and began to clean the wounds. Every time Lawrence began to slip out of consciousness, Ash took the glass and helped him drink.

“I don’t know how you got like this,” Ash whispered, more to himself than to Lawrence, “but, right now, I don’t know whether to feel sorry for you or say you deserve it.” The patient gave a low groan in response, even though Ash was certain that he couldn’t hear a word.

This went on for about half-an-hour, in perfect silence, until Ash was suddenly distracted from what he was doing: the iron door suddenly began to shake; softly at first, but then increasingly faster, and more violently, as if someone - or something - was trying desperately to get out. It kept shaking for about three more minutes before it finally subsided. The silence, however, didn’t last very long, for it was instantly followed by a sound that Ash never expected to hear…a sob.

Someone inside the room - someone human - was crying. Ash listened carefully to the voice; it sounded like a man, but much younger. For a moment, Ash forgot what his father told him and, leaving the sponge on Lawrence’s shoulder, walked slowly out of the room...right towards the door.

As he got closer the noise was hushed, and everything became quiet again. Ash soon stood right in front of it. He gulped, but quietly so that what ever monster was inside would not hear.

“...Hello?” Ash managed to whisper, “Is anyone...in there? If so...are you okay?”

There was no answer. Gathering his courage, Ash stood on his toes, and leaned his head towards the little window. Almost immediately, and in a terrible fright, he pulled himself back so hard and so fast that he fell to the floor.

A growl echoed from the inside, like that of an angry Houndoom. Two lightning-quick hands grasped the bars of the door. They were ghostly white and dripping in blood (which Ash knew was Lawrence’s). The fingernails were long, but also looked well-groomed despite the tiny rivers of crimson. They clawed at the air - as if reaching for Ash - while the growling continued. After a few seconds the growls finally ceased, and the hands slowly sank back into the inky darkness of the unknown room.

Ash suddenly heard Lawrence groaning from the bedroom. He ran back in, only too eager to get away from the man in that weird dungeon, and resumed his work.

Soon the hour was up, and footsteps were heard running down the hall towards the room. George marched in, followed by a man in a black summer jacket holding a large, similarly-colored bag.

“Hurry, Porter,” George said to the man, “The servants will be up in two hours, and we have half-an-hour to dress the wound and get him out of here.” He then turned to Lawrence, who had opened his eyes at the sight of them, “How are you, Robert?”

Lawrence gave a shuttered sigh before answering, “I think it’s the end for me, George.”

George threw him a disgusted look, “Don’t be silly, you’re perfectly fine - if not shaken up a bit - and Porter will tell you the same thing.”

“I most certainly will,” Porter said as he helped Lawrence sit up and looked at the wounds, “If only you had brought me here sooner, though, he mightn’t have bled so much...but what’s this? This was definitely done with a knife, but the neck and shoulder are torn as well. Were there teeth involved?”

Lawrence nodded sorrowfully, “He bit me...sucked the blood, like a vampire. He said he’d...drain me to the heart.”

George trembled as Lawrence talked, but then regained his composure, “Stop it, Robert! You know better than to believe anything he says: it’s all rubbish!”

“I’ll never be able to forget this. It was horrible...”

“You’ll forget it as soon as you are off the island. Porter will keep you at his house until you are well enough to take the next available boat back the Orange Islands.” George then turned to Ash, who had quietly sat down in a nearby chair, “Ash, we’ll need to get Lawrence out of the house; Porter’s car is out in front. When we get to the study I want you to tell me if you see anyone coming, alright?”

Ash nodded. Soon, the four of them left the room and headed towards the stairs: with Ash leading the way, Porter and George supporting Lawrence.

As soon as Ash said it was clear, they walked quietly out the front door and into the driveway. A blue Mercedes was parked close to the exit. Ash stood by while Porter got into the driver’s seat, and George helped Lawrence into the passenger’s seat.

“Be sure to treat him well, Porter. I’ll come by tomorrow at noon to see how he is. Good-night, Robert.”

“George...” Lawrence said.

“What is it?”

“Please...don’t do anything to him. It’s not his fault...”

“I know, I know, nor mine either. If anyone’s to blame for what happened tonight, it’s you. You should have waited until morning, when I could’ve been with you.”

“Please, take good care of him. Treat him tenderly...”

“I have always done so up until now, and I will continue to do just that. Quickly, Porter; the servants will be up any minute.”

With that, the car started and was soon driving down the street. As he watched it disappear, George said to himself, “I only wish there was an end to all of this.” He then led Ash into the house and back upstairs.

When he returned to his room, Ash didn’t go to bed right away; the night’s events made him feel sick to his stomach. Instead, while his Pokémon slept on, he rushed straight into the bathroom, bent down by the toilet...and threw up. The noise disturbed Pikachu, who ran in to see what was going on.

"Pika chu? Pika pika chu, pika?" asked Pikachu.

Ash looked up and saw his little friend, “It’s okay, Pikachu. I’m just not feeling well, that’s all.” He then stood up, gurgled some water, and smiled half-heartedly, “C’mon, let’s go back to bed.”

And so they did. However, Ash knew that he was going to have nightmares for a long, long time.
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Coral Eye Trainer
Chapter Seventeen

After what had happened that night, the weather the next morning was paradise! Dark grey clouds loomed over the island, blocking out the sunshine. The wind howled like a pack of wild Houndour searching for a fight. Rain was pelting heavily against the glass windows of the mansion. It was the kind of weather that perfectly matched the sleeping Ash’s mood that day.

Ash was still asleep when Bianca knocked on the door and walked in. She noticed that he was drenched in sweat, incredibly pale, and shaking almost as badly as someone with a bad fever. Bianca thought that Ash was either sick or having a terrible nightmare. She walked over and sat on the bed, and gently rubbed his back...

“Huh?” Ash woke with a start. He frantically looked around the room; his Pokémon weren’t there and Bianca was sitting near him.

“Good-day, Arthur,” she greeted with a cheerful smile, “How are you feeling today?”

“Where are my Pokémon?” Ash asked; he was too nervous to answer the question.

“Edward and Sarah took them to the Pokémon Center,” Bianca said reassuringly, “They seemed to think that you were ill, so they offered to take them for an examination in your stead.”

Ash breathed a huge sigh of relief, but then he held his stomach and groaned.

“Did you know that you have missed breakfast this morning?” Bianca asked.

Ash looked at her in disbelief, but soon he was holding his tummy again. “I don’t care,” he replied, smiling weakly, “I don’t think I’d be able to eat anything anyway. By the way, what time is it?”

Bianca looked at her little silver pocket-watch, “I would say it is almost noon.” She suddenly stopped Ash from trying to jump out of bed, “Please, don't get up; George wants you to stay in bed today.”

Ash thankfully sank back onto his pillow, until he suddenly remembered the events of last night, “Bianca, did Dad go anywhere this morning?”

Bianca seemed surprised by his question, but she giggled and replied, “Why, yes; he said that he was going to see his friend Lawrence off at the harbor. Why do you ask?”

Ash frowned, “I just don’t see how Dad could call that maniac a friend.”

Bianca was just about to ask what he meant, when a servant came into the room, “Excuse me, Miss Darby, but her Ladyship would like to speak with you.”

“Please tell Mother that I will be there in a minute.”

The servant bowed and left. Bianca then turned to Ash, and kissed his forehead, “I’ll come back later to see how you are doing.”

“Wait, Bianca,” Ash said immediately, “could I please have a book from the study?”

Bianca was already at the door when Ash spoke, and had turned back around upon hearing the question. “Of course, which one would you like?"

Ash didn’t know what possessed him to say such a thing, but the words came out before he even knew what'd happened:

Jane Eyre.”

An hour later, Ash was flipping through the pages of Jane Eyre. The next few chapters after the part he’d read were actually very interesting: love, jealousy, intrigue, fancy parties, and disguises. Ash was beginning to think he’d found something better than comics, until he came across a passage in Chapter Twenty; a passage that made him grow more pale than he already was:

I saw a room I remembered to have seen before; the day Mrs. Fairfax showed me over the house: it was hung with tapestry; but the tapestry was now looped up in one part, and there was a door apparent, which had then been concealed. This door was open; a light shone out of the room within: I heard thence a snarling, snatching sound, almost like a dog quarreling...

Ash gulped hard, “This is starting to sound way too familiar,” he said to himself as the image of those white, bloody hands reentered his mind. Still, he kept reading:

An easy-chair was near the bed-head: a man sat in it, dressed with the exception of his coat; he was still; his head leant back; his eyes were closed. Mr. Rochester held the candle over him; I recognized in his pale and seemingly lifeless face--the stranger, Mason: I saw too that his linen on one side, and one arm, was almost soaked in...

Beep-beep-beep! Beep-beep-beep!

The PokéGear suddenly rang. Ash, almost too glad to stop reading, put the book down and picked up the PokéGear.


“Hi, Ash, it’s me!” Aurora’s voice answered.

“Aurora, hi! How are you?”

“I’m great. Bee and I are in Azalea Town right now; we’re exploring Slowpoke Well. Say, are you okay? You sound like you’ve got the flu or something.”

Ash chuckled, “Yeah, maybe that’s what it is: I threw up around three-in-the-morning.”

“Oh dear,” Aurora said sympathetically, “I bet it wasn’t a pretty sight.”

“Throwing up is never a pretty sight,” Ash replied. Both of them laughed.

“Well,” Aurora said, “I’m just glad you didn’t have anymore late-night visitors.”

Ash was quiet for a minute or two, but then gave a reassuring laugh, “I’m sorry; it’s just that I don’t like to be reminded of that night.”

“I know, and I’m sorry too; I shouldn’t have mentioned it. Oh, did you find out when the party is?”

Ash then remembered George’s plans for the gala, “Yeah, I think he said it was gonna be around the last week of August.”

“Sounds great, Bee and I can’t wait to be there. Whoa, look at the time; I’ve gotta go. See ya!”

“Bye, Aurora,” and they hung up.

George walked in at around 1:30. Ash was watching a little TV in bed when he did.

“How are you, Ash,” George asked.

Ash never took his eyes off the screen, “I’m okay: just the stomach.” George heard a little disapproval in Ash’s voice, so he knew that his son was not fine. He walked over and sat on the bed.

“What’s wrong, Little Man?” he asked.

Ash looked up, “What was that all about - you know, last night?”

George said nothing, but had an uncomfortable look on his face.

“Dad, I heard a young man crying in there. He’s the one who attacked Lawrence, and I know he’s the one who set fire to your bed that night. Who is he? And why is he in that room?”

George then looked Ash straight in the face, both distress and reassurance on his, “The man in that room...is Robert’s nephew, David. He’s only nineteen years old, and still physically healthy. His parents both died when he was only ten. The reason he’s in that room is because he is - how shall I put this - mentally ill, and because of it he’s become uncontrollable.

“Robert loves his nephew very much. However, his constant pursuit after Legendary Pokémon has caused him to become negligent in his responsibilities as a father-figure. So, a few years ago, I offered to have David lodged safely here.”

“But, Dad, that guy’s dangerous," Ash interrupted, “How could you keep him here for so long?”

“Now, Ash,” George continued, “If I were to turn David away, the only place left to send him would be an asylum. It was an option neither Robert nor I could bear. Do you understand what I’m saying?”

Ash thought a while, but then nodded, “Yeah, I guess so. Still, he has to have more help than to be shut up in that dark room twenty-four seven.”

“I know, son,” George agreed, “Luckily, I convinced Robert that David would be better off in an institution where he could receive individual care and attention, and where we could visit him any time we liked,” he then scooted closer towards Ash and put a hand on his shoulder, “Which means that you will get your way after all.”

This seemed to satisfy Ash enough to force a smile. Just then, his stomach growled, and George produced a tray filled with hot chicken soup, salad, and milk.

“Here, eat up; as soon as the rain stops, we’ll go see Bianca and her friends off.”

It was nearly dinner time when Ash and George returned from the harbor. Bianca, her mother, and all their friends had set sail for England on the S. S. Aqua at around 5:00, and both boys were bushed.

Dinner that night was Spaghetti and Meatballs, garlic bread, milk (coffee for the adults), and vegetable stew. Everyone began making more plans for the gala as they ate: Ash was going to need a new formal suit and a hair-cut, and they still needed to find musicians.

That night as he lay in bed, Ash couldn’t help but worry about David; all alone in that cold, dark room every day and night. It was enough to drive a person to tears. Ash drifted off to sleep, with thoughts of David still haunting his dreams.

Down the hall, George lay restless in bed. He was thinking about David too, but not the same way. Ash was also on his mind; George let out a long sigh.

“Someday, Ash,” he whispered to himself, “Someday, I hope to tell you the whole truth...”
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Coral Eye Trainer
Chapter Eighteen

The next couple of months were full of preparations: decorating the downstairs halls, cleaning up the unused ballroom (especially the old piano), and sending invitations to friends and family. George managed to locate, and hire, the best musicians and caterers on the island for the big event.

Ash was busy too: he and George managed to get him fitted for a new suit, and an appointment was made at the local barber-shop to get his haircut, a couple of days before the party. In fact, the only times he ever got to play with the Pokémon were during the middle of the day and just before bedtime.

During these busy times, Ash almost didn’t notice that his voice was getting much deeper – a definite sign that he was reaching adolescence. Even with all these changes, two things were constantly on Ash’s mind: Aurora and David.

On the day before his appointment, Ash decided to take his Pokémon to the Seaside Mall, to find gifts for his mother and Aurora.

The huge outdoor facility, despite the fact that it was a Tuesday, was quite crowded. Tourists, who were obviously doing last-minute shopping, filled every store to the brim. There were even lines that stretched out onto the boardwalk. No matter where he walked, there was always somebody pushing or shoving him.

Knowing that it was too crowded to look for anything, Ash found a quiet bench in the very heart of the Mall and sat down, releasing his Pokémon friends while doing so. Meganium started examining a nearby palm tree right after being released. Pikachu and Quilava sat on the bench, next to Ash, and began chatting amongst themselves. Ash was watching Eevee and Mudkip as they played on the ground, and Croconaw was splashing in the fountain a few feet away.

Everyone who walked by looked at the happy Pokémon; some smiled, some complimented on how cute and funny they were, and others (mostly little children) wanted to go over and play with them. But, among all the chattering people in the area, there was one voice Ash almost failed to acknowledge...

“Say there, Buddy,” the voice said, “quite a lively brood you’ve got there.”

Ash suddenly looked up. Standing over him was a tall man, wearing a bright red shirt and pants, and rose-colored glasses. Even with the wig, he managed to recognize the old face.

“Blaine!” Ash exclaimed as he stood up. The two friends locked into a quick hug before sitting down on the bench.

“So, Ash, I haven’t seen you since your big birthday bash in June. What’ve you been up to?”

“I’m staying with Dad for the summer. It’s been really cool; I’ve caught all kinds of Pokémon, Dad and I have been doing some surfing – he’s even having a party for me in two days.”

Blaine looked confused, “But I thought you already had a birthday party.”

Ash nodded, “Yeah, but this isn’t a birthday party: Dad is throwing a fancy party - he calls it a gala - to introduce me to high society, or something like that.”

“A fancy party, huh?” Blaine said smiling, “Sounds great. Too bad though; I’m scheduled for a couple of Pokémon battles that day so, even if I am invited, going would be out of the question.”

Ash’s face fell, “I’m sorry you can’t come, Blaine. I’m sure you were invited, though.” Then he had an idea, “Say, do you want to hang out with us for a while? I’m looking for presents for Mom and Aurora, and the crowd’s died down a bit.” It was true; The mile-long lines were starting to look smaller, and the shop windows became more visible. Ash (who was recalling his Pokémon), Pikachu, and Blaine stood up and began to look around.

There were many places to buy gifts; toy shops, electronic stores, shoe stores, clothing shops, jewelry shops, even an antique shop.

Ash took a look in the antique shop first. The first thing that caught his eye was a doll. He was instantly reminded of his mother; the hands, feet and head were made of fine white porcelain, the face was painted with the greatest detail (right down to the heavenly-blue eyes and rosy cheeks). The hair was a bright red-orange, and arranged in the cutest little curls. The bonnet that covered it, as well as the dress she wore, seemed to come out of the Victorian Era; they were made of gossamer-pink satin, and frilled with ivory-white lace.

“Blaine, I think I found something,” Ash called. Blaine walked over to where he was standing, and saw the doll in his hands.

“A beautiful girl,” he said in awe.

“It’s perfect for Mom,” Ash agreed as he looked at the price tag, “Only twenty dollars...not too bad.” So Ash took the doll to the register and paid for it. The man put it into a long white box, which he then put into a shopping bag, and handed it back to him.

Two minutes after leaving the shop, the three of them came to a jewelry store. Ash wanted to find a bracelet for Aurora, so Blaine offered to watch Pikachu while he walked in.

There were so many bracelets there that, at first, Ash couldn’t decide which one he thought was right: there were gold ones, silver ones, copper ones, and even ones decorated with little gemstones. Finally, he spotted the perfect bracelet; it was a charm bracelet, made entirely of pure Silver Rock Island silver, with five little Silver Wing charms dangling from it. It was reasonably priced too - just $10.00 - so Ash talked to the lady behind the counter. Soon he walked out of the shop, with the bracelet safely stored in his shopping bag.

“Did you find what you were looking for?” Blaine asked as Pikachu hopped onto Ash’s shoulder.

“Yup,” Ash replied.

“Good, now what do you say we get a bite to eat? I’m starved.”

Ash was just about to say ‘yes’, when he suddenly remembered something, “Actually, why don’t you and Pikachu go ahead? I’ll meet you at the Food Court in just a minute.” Ash suddenly raced into another shop - a toy shop - with his two friends looking on.

Ash found Blaine and Pikachu sitting at one of the umbrella-topped tables, a couple of meatball subs and cokes in front of them. In his arms was an adorable Pikachu Doll.

“Sorry,” he said as he took the sandwich being given to him, “these toys must be really popular; took me a while to find this one.” Ash then proceeded to eat his lunch.

Blaine looked amusingly at the stuffed toy, “So, who’s that for?”

Ash looked up; there was a startled look on his face, “What?”

“You know, that Pikachu Doll. Who is it for? Someone you know?”

“Um...yeah, it’s for someone who’s...uh...also staying with us.”

Blaine thought Ash seemed a little nervous while answering, “Ash, is there something bothering you?”

“Pi, pika chu?” asked Pikachu.

Ash hesitated at first, but then looked around to make sure that no one was listening: he seemed very scared.

“If I tell you something, will you promise not to tell anyone else?” he asked.

“Sure, Youngster,” Blaine replied, “Shoot.”

With that, Ash began to describe (quietly) what had been happening since he arrived. First, he talked about the laughing he heard the night George was nearly burned in his bed. Then came Lawrence III’s arrival at Seafoam Manor, and the brutal attack on Lawrence that same night.

Blaine and Pikachu listened with the greatest concern. However, as Ash talked, they all failed to realize that they were being watched at that precise moment, from the table two meters away...

“Dad said his name was David, that he was Lawrence’s nephew," Ash continued, “and that he was there because he was crazy or something. Dad said he was going to find someplace else for David to stay...”

“Did he?” Blaine interrupted.

“No, not yet. I asked Dad a week ago, but he said that there were some problems at the hospital where he was planning to send David, and that they wouldn’t be able to take him for several weeks.” Ash paused, “Anyway, I felt bad for him being there all alone, so I wanted to buy him a little present today; and I thought David might like this Pikachu.”

“Pika Pi!” said Pikachu.

“Did you tell anyone else about this?” Blaine asked.

Ash nodded, “Only Aurora, but I only told her about what happened to Dad. This was long before the attack on Lawrence.” He then looked Blaine straight in the eye, “Please don’t tell Dad I told you this. He told me that everything would be okay, but that I’d have to keep this a secret.”

Blaine thought for a minute, then smiled and nodded, “Of course, George probably doesn’t want anyone spreading gossip; most high-class guys are like that.” A frown then crossed his face, “However, if anything else happens, you have to tell me. Then, maybe, we can discuss what to do. Okay?”

Ash nodded half-heartedly, “Okay.”

Just then, a loud growl was heard from behind them. Turning their heads they saw a Houndour coming right at them; it was literally flying through the air. Ash gathered Pikachu and his gifts, and got out of the way - as did Blaine - just as the little black dog crashed right into the table.

People all around were laughing at this strange sight, until a voice called out,

“Phantom, down boy!”

The Houndour shook itself, and trotted back towards the voice. Standing a few feet away was an elderly gentleman. He was dressed in what looked like a brown business suit. In his hand was a black cane, and he wore a similarly colored bowler-derby hat on his partially-bald head. When the man spoke, Ash couldn’t help but notice his British accent.

“I say, are you two alright? By Jove, that was a narrow one.”

Blaine brushed himself off, “We’re okay, but your dog gave us quite a scare.”

The man chuckled, “Oh, so sorry, old man. Phantom here probably thought that little toy was a real Pokémon.” He then pointed his cane at the stuffed Pikachu Ash held.

“That’s okay,” Ash said, “At least no one was hurt. Is your Houndour okay?”

The man patted Phantom’s head and smiled, “I’d say that little stunt will teach him to stay when I want him to. Always restless, this one.” He then took out a gold pocket-watch and looked at it, “Well, we must be off. Once again, I apologize for the rude interruption. Come, Phantom.” The man and his Pokémon soon disappeared into the crowd.

Ash looked at his PokéGear too - 1:15. “Yikes!” he exclaimed, “I’ve gotta go too, Edward and Sarah are helping me with my surprise for the party.” He picked up his sandwich, as well as the rest of the shopping.

“Me too: Magmar’s check-up was done at one o’clock, and I have to pick it up at the Pokémon Center. Bye, Ash!”

“Bye, Blaine,” Ash said as he waved good-bye, “It was nice seeing you!”

“Pika!” waved Pikachu.

George had just finished his lunch when Ash walked into the dining room.

“Ah, there you are. How was your day?”

“It was great, Dad; I found great presents for Mom, Aurora, and David, and I even had lunch with Blaine today - you know, the Cinnabar Island Gym Leader?”

“Really? Blaine? That’s strange, he’s usually been so reclusive after the eruption...did you say you bought David a present?” George’s expression turned from cheerful to confused in a split second. Ash nodded and showed him the Pikachu Doll. George’s smile brightened when he saw it, but then he jumped when Ash asked to bring it to him.

“I don’t think that would be a good idea right now, Ash,” George replied, “David usually sleeps during the day, and he becomes very wild without any rest. Which reminds me,” he leaned further towards Ash, “The hospital called while you were out. Apparently, one of their patients is going into remission in a couple of days. If everything works out, David will be leaving here right after you leave.”

Ash nearly jumped for joy when he heard this, “That’s terrific, Dad, David will finally get the help he needs!”

“That’s right,” George said, “and, since Pallet Town is close by, you can go and visit him anytime you like.”

This pleased Ash even more. He may not have the chance to actually meet David while he was there, but at least he’d be able to check up on him whenever he wanted. Ash was just about to head upstairs when George stopped him.

“One more thing: your mother and Aurora both called, they’re going to be arriving tomorrow morning. They all want to help out with last-minute preparations, so get a good-night’s sleep tonight, okay?”

Ash nodded and bolted upstairs at lightning speed.

That night, while Ash and the others slept, Giovanni paid another visit to the mysterious room. As soon as he was let in, he moved closer to a figure huddled against the wall, holding Ash’s present. The young man hidden in the shadows growled as Giovanni came even closer. Louisa stood back in fear.

“David,” Giovanni said softly, “It’s me; I’ve brought you a nice surprise.”

In the darkness and dim light, David suddenly stopped growling, and just looked at him.

“My...my young friend bought this for you,” Giovanni said as he held out the stuffed Pikachu towards him, “He asked me to bring this to you. Do you want it?”

At first, David jumped back when Giovanni held out the stuffed animal; but as he looked at it, he slowly put his white hand out, and then quickly grabbed it. He was soon cuddling and caressing the little mouse, giggling happily as he did so. Giovanni, when he saw that David liked his present, slowly backed away towards Louisa.

“I trust you’ll keep a close watch on him for the next few days?” he asked menacingly.

“Oh, don’t worry, sir,” she replied, “I’ve done well trying to break my habit. I’ll not let him out of my sight.”

Before exiting the room he added, “For your sake, you had better not.” Giovanni heard Louisa lock the door the instant he left the room. Then he headed upstairs, and went to bed.
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Coral Eye Trainer
Chapter Nineteen

The sky was a clear blue and sunny the next morning. Seagulls screeched as they scouted the many tourists on the shore; some of whom threw a slice of bread or two their way.

Ash gave a big yawn as he walked along the pier with George; he hated these early-morning hours. They had arrived at the harbor at around 7:30 in the morning to meet their friends. The first boat to pull in would be the S.S. Aqua, which meant that Aurora would be the first one there; the ferry from Pallet Town would come about a half-hour later.

“Dad,” Ash said finally, “how long before Aurora’s boat comes in?”

“Be patient, Ash,” George answered with a smile, “The S.S. Aqua should be docking here in fifteen minutes.”

“Can’t we get a little something to eat in the meantime?”

George shook his head, “Not yet, Sarah is making a big breakfast for all of us, so we have to wait until later.”

At 7:45, the S.S. Aqua pulled into Dock 7. Ash eagerly skimmed the line of passengers coming down the gangplank. He soon broke into a big smile when he saw the last person come down.

Aurora's ivory-skin had a slight tan, indicating that she had done some sun-bathing during her journey. Her hair was the same color and style as it was the day Ash first met her: a sky-blue front and deep purple, cascading down her back in soft curls like a waterfall. The clothes she wore, however, were much different: a pale-lavender sun dress, and violet-colored sandals on her bare feet. Under her left arm was a long white box, and Bee was floating in the air to her right. Aurora caught sight of Ash, who was standing at the very bottom of the gangplank, and waved at him. The minute she was on dry land, Ash scooped her up in his arms and, lifting her off the ground, twirled around three times. Both were laughing, very happy to see each other, before finally settling down.

“It’s great to see you, Aurora,” Ash said, “How was your trip?”

“It was wonderful,” Aurora replied, “Bee and I saw so many sights, I could write a book about them all. But, it’s great to see you too, Ash.” She wrapped her arms around Ash’s neck and kissed him on the cheek. Ash entwined his around her waist, and squeezed her gently. Then, he suddenly let go.

“Hey, guess what? I ran into Blaine at the mall yesterday.”

Aurora’s eyes shone, “Really? Did he talk about what happened on Cinnabar?”

“Nah, we never got into that subject, but he did help me buy a present for Mom.” He then blushed so red that he looked like a Vulpix, “I...uh...I bought you a present too, Aurora.”

Aurora gasped softly and smiled, the color rising slightly in her own cheeks.

“Hey, Dad,” Ash suddenly said to George, “can Aurora and I take a little walk?”

George thought for a moment, then nodded, “Alright, son, but be back before the ferry gets here.”

“We will – let’s go, Aurora.”

Ten minutes later, Ash, Aurora, and their Pokémon were splashing along the beach near the harbor. Bee was hovering over the waves as Mudkip and Croconaw tried to squirt him with their Water Guns. Aurora and Ash plopped down on the sand and looked out onto the horizon, which was already trading in its gold tinge for a bright blue. The two of them held hands; neither one said anything for a while.

“So,” Aurora broke the silence, “how have things been since I was away?”

Ash turned his head towards her, “It’s been great: I managed to catch a variety of Pokémon, and we’ve had some interesting visitors...”

“Not that ‘late-night visitor’, I hope,” Aurora said, sounding very nervous.

“No no no, not that guy,” Ash lied, for he didn’t want to frighten his friend, “We’ll get to that later, but that’s not who I was talking about. You see, Dad has this friend, Bianca Darby – who’s from London. She came to stay with us for a couple of days. At first, when Edward told me that she and Dad were very close, I though there was something going on between them. But then he told me that they’ve known each other since they were kids, and that they were sort of like a brother and sister.”

Aurora gave a relieved breath, “Really, I didn’t know that. Your father’s friend must have been very nice.”

“Yeah,” Ash agreed, “She is very nice.”

Aurora then became very serious, “But what’s this about your ‘late-night’ friend? Do you know something I don’t?”

Ash’s voice lowered and he looked around to see if anyone was listening, “Yeah, well...I know who it is.” Aurora gasped louder and Ash began his story:

“I’ve been nagging at Dad to tell me if he knew anything about that night, and a few weeks ago he told me. There is a young man who also lives in the mansion - his name is David. He lives in a secret room underneath the whole house. Dad says he’s there because he’s...um…a little crazy. David couldn’t be put into a hospital at first because his uncle (who’s one of my dad’s friends) didn’t want him in one. Dad says he had David locked up in that room ‘for his own protection’ - or something like that.”

Aurora had tears in her eyes when Ash finished talking, “He stays in that room all the time, all alone?”

“Not entirely alone; David has his own private nurse who stays with him everyday.”

“But your father still keeps him there, even after he set his bed on fire?”

Ash put a hand on her shoulder, “It’s not David’s fault; he’s just sick. Besides, Dad called the hospital yesterday, and they said that a place opened up. So they’ll be able to take him in a couple of days.”

Aurora cheered up, and smiled, “I’m glad; at least he’ll be able to get some real help.”

At that moment, a loud WWOOOOOO---WWOOOOOO was heard from the docks. The two children turned to see a large ferry pull into view. They recalled the Pokémon, and headed towards the pier at lightning speed.

“MOM! BROCK! DAISY!” Ash shouted happily.

The Pallet Town Ferry anchored at Dock 12, and everyone was just getting off. Delia, Daisy, and Brock were practically at the head of the line.

Delia ran right over to Ash, and hugged him so hard that she nearly squeezed the life out of him. “Oh, Ash,” she exclaimed, “I missed you so much, sweetie!”

“Mom,” Ash said, choking under the woman’s strong hold, “I’m glad to see you too, but if you squeeze me any harder, I won’t be here much longer!”

“Oh,” Delia immediately let him go, “I’m sorry, pumpkin.”

“Hey, Ash!” Brock walked over, and both boys shook hands.

“How’ve you been, Brock?”

“Well, it’s been cool staying with your mom, but it hasn’t been the same without you in the house.”

“I can vouch for that,” Daisy cut in, “We’ve really missed you, Ash.”

“I’ve really missed you guys, too,” Ash replied. It was weird; when he first left for Seafoam Island, Ash expected that everyone would enjoy not having him around. Now, after standing there and hearing that they were bored without him, he couldn’t help but feel touched.

Just then, George looked at his watch and interrupted the happy moment:

“Listen up, everyone, we’ve got a lot to do before tomorrow evening; and Ash has a haircut appointment today at three, so let’s go home and have some breakfast.”

So everybody started heading down the beach to Seafoam Manor - in couples: Ash and Aurora, Brock and Daisy, and George and Delia.

As soon as they walked in the door, Delia, Brock, and Daisy were almost trampled by the stampede of Ash’s Pokémon - all of whom burst out of their Poké Balls the minute they got inside and started giving them happy “kisses.” Breakfast that morning was French toast, scrambled eggs, hash browns, and as much juice as they wanted. They all sat down and ate - making plans for the day at the same time.

It was the big night: the night of Seafoam Manor’s Grand Gala. The sun was just setting on the horizon, and many stars started to sparkle in the still-crimson twilight.

Lights were on in practically every room of the whole house. Limos, black cars, and even horse-drawn carriages were filing in front of the front door. From these came the most elaborately-dressed people anyone had ever seen - a few had even brought their Pokémon.

Ash stood in front of his mirror. He was amazed by what was staring back at him. His newly-cut hair was much shorter than before, but all the rough edges were nice and neat, and it was parted on the left side.

He was wearing a black dress-jacket (it had four silver buttons arranged in a square on the front), matching pants and shoes, and a solid-white dress-shirt. In the pocket of his pants was the little box with Aurora’s bracelet.

Ash took a deep breath before looking in on his Pokémon. All of them - Pikachu, Eevee, Mudkip, Meganium, Croconaw, and Quilava - were sleeping peacefully on the bed. He threw his old torn baby-blanket over them, smiled and kissed each of them on the forehead, and snuck out of the room. Just as he closed the door, a figure walked up.

“Hey, Ash,” Aurora’s voice chimed, “Are you ready?”

Ash jumped and shushed her.

Aurora put her hand on her mouth. “Oh, are they sleeping?”

“Yeah, they just got to...whoa,” Ash had turned to look at her, and he was suddenly breathless.

The dress she wore was strap-less and made of royal-purple silk. The wide skirt reached all the way down to her ankles (the shoes were the same color as the dress), and the white gloves she wore reached up past her elbows. Her hairstyle was very nice too: a low ponytail in back, close to her neck, tied by the blue section of her hair, which was braided.

Ash couldn’t take his eyes off of her for what seemed like hours. Finally, he snapped out of it, and started stammering. “Wow, Aurora...you look....you look....beautiful.”

Aurora giggled and her color rose, “Do you really think so, Ash?”

“Cross my heart,” was the reply.

Just then, another figure appeared in the hall - it was Delia. She was dressed in a gown much like Aurora’s, except it had puffed sleeves that reached below the elbows, and was colored light-blue.

“Hey, Mom, lookin’ good,” Ash smiled cheerfully, as did Aurora.

“What, this old thing?” Delia asked, twirling around for them to see, “Your father gave this to me as a wedding present years ago. It’s hard to believe I can still fit into it.”

Ash chuckled, “Well, you look great anyway, Mom.” He then held out his arms, “Shall we go, ladies?”

Aurora and Delia both laughed as they each took an arm, and in this fashion they headed downstairs to the main hall.

Bright lights filled every inch of the gallery, and rich people of every shape and size were entering the ball-room.

George stood by the door to welcome the guests; Brock and Daisy were standing next to him. Both men wore suits just like Ash’s, Daisy had on a long black evening dress with only one sleeve (the other arm was bare, except for a long white glove much like Aurora’s). Persian sat by her master’s leg, combing her whiskers.

George chuckled out loud as he saw the three of them come down the stairs, “Well, well, aren’t you the ladies man tonight.”

“Very funny, Dad,” Ash answered, pretending not to be amused.

“I hope you don’t mind if I steal this charming creature for the night,” George took Delia’s hand, and drew her to him.

Ash let his mother go, “Be my guest, sir.” The whole group laughed.

The ballroom was illuminated by hundreds of candles. A large refreshment table lined the whole wall to the left. A small group of people near the back of the room were playing wonderful music on a variety of stringed instruments: a harp, violin, viola, and two cellos (one person was playing the piano). Around the room people were talking and laughing. A few danced to the sweet music, while others began showing off their Pokémon. Ash especially noticed one middle-aged woman showing off a Granbull. The whole party walked over to see what was going on.

“As you can see,” the lady was saying, “my darling Granbull has a variety of strengths. Just the other day, she demonstrated her Dynamic Punch beautifully in a Pokémon battle...” She then paused upon seeing Ash in the crowd, “Ash, my dear boy, what an unexpected surprise!” She ran over and gave him a quick hug.

“Madam Muchmoney?” Ash certainly was surprised to see the old woman. It had seemed like a long time since his travels through Johto that he was afraid his memory would begin to fade. “It’s nice to see you too. I didn’t know you were invited too.”

“Of course,” Madam Muchmoney replied with a laugh, “I’ve known your father for years, of course I had no idea until now that you were George’s child. It came as quite a shock to hear such news. I mean, he did mention having a son, but I never dreamed that he talked about you. Pardon me if I sound rude.”

“That’s alright,” Ash assured her, “By the way, how’s Granbull been doing?”

“My baby has been delightful,” she said, smiling at her Pokémon, “I had her groomed extra well for the party tonight, and I even bought new ribbons for her to wear. And, thanks to all the training we’ve done together, she’s even stronger than before.”

Ash was very tempted when he heard this, “Maybe next time I’m in the neighborhood, we can have a Pokémon battle.”

Madam Muchmoney nodded, “Just name the place and time, and I shall arrange everything.”

“Deal.” Ash then felt Aurora tug at his sleeve, “Oh, I almost forgot: you already know my dad and Brock, but I’d like to introduce my other friends: this is Daisy Oak, my mother, Delia Ketchum, and this is my friend Aurora Clearwater. Guys, this is Madam Muchmoney, from Johto.” The three mentioned people each shook hands with her.

“I’m delighted to meet you all, especially my young friend’s charming mother.”

Just then, the music changed, and a certain someone had the urge to ask someone else for a dance.

“Excuse me for a minute, guys,” Brock said before bowing to Daisy, “Would you care to dance?”

“I’d be delighted, young man,” Daisy curtsied to him, and they both headed towards the dance floor.

“I had better get back to Granbull myself,” Madam Muchmoney suddenly said, “Heaven only knows what mischief she’ll get into without me. Ta-ta,” and she walked away.

“I think I’ll take this little beauty out for a spin as well,” George said, smiling at Delia, who giggled at his fresh remark.

“We’ll join you two in a second,” Ash said, “Right now, I want to get us something to eat.”

Aurora nodded, “That’s a good idea: Never dance on an empty stomach, right?”

“Right,” Ash agreed, and the two couples parted in opposite directions.
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Coral Eye Trainer
Chapter Twenty

Ash and Aurora walked up to the buffet table. The entire thing stretched the whole length of the wall, and every dish was elegantly displayed on the best silver - even the silverware was silver!

The line in front of them was moving slowly, as people pondered over what to have. There were so many things to choose from: salads, soups, breads and other pastries, meats, fruits, all kinds of seafood - scallops, oysters, shrimp cocktail, lobster, and a funny-looking dark-green spread (Ash later found out that it was caviar). As people moved up, Ash and Aurora picked up some plates and utensils, and surveyed the delicate dishes before their eyes. Whenever Aurora chose a particular dish, Ash would offer to serve her some.

As they neared the end of the table, a different sight met their eyes; bottles by the dozens, different shapes and sizes, were spread out all over that area. As they passed, Ash caught a glimpse of the label on one of them:

Giorgio’s Vineyard: The Finest Taste in Rome”​

“I didn’t know your father owned an Italian winery!” Aurora exclaimed, sounding very impressed indeed.

Ash wore a puzzled expression, “What do you mean; his name’s George.”

Aurora giggled, “Ash, Giorgio means George in Italian.”

“Oh,” Ash replied, “Well, do they have anything else to drink besides wine?”

Aurora looked around the table and said, “Sure; there’s a bowl of fruit punch close by.” The lady behind the table poured each of them a glass of punch, and they left to find a place to eat.

The table chosen had two seats, and the cloth was made of pure white silk. A single white candle was glowing brightly in a silver candlestick in the center. They both sat down and started eating, as they watched the dancing and the merry-making.

Across the dance-floor, Brock was trying to lead Daisy in a waltz. Halfway through the dance, though, Brock accidentally bumped into a dancing gentleman. The man put his foot behind him by mistake, looping it around Brock’s ankle. As a result, both men tumbled to the floor in a heap, with the gentleman right on top. Everyone around was laughing as Daisy and the other woman tried to help them to their feet. The whole time, Brock’s face was redder than the flame on a Moltres, and a nervous smile to go with it.

“Oh dear,” Aurora said, trying to repress her own laughter. Ash didn’t say anything, but slapped his hand against his forehead. Suddenly, something popped into Aurora’s mind.

“Hey, Ash, what were you saying this morning a big surprise for the party?”

Ash jumped to attention, “That’s right, I almost forgot!” Then he stood up, took Aurora’s hand, and led her to the edge of the dance-floor. In front of a mirrored-section of the wall, viewed from a sideways angle, was the piano.

Ash stood in front of the keys. To Aurora, he seemed very nervous about something. Taking a deep breath, Ash tapped repeatedly on an “A” key. The high note echoed throughout the room, immediately silencing the talking, dancing, and everything else. George, Delia, Brock, Daisy, and all the other guests started looking in his direction.

Ash cleared his throat, and attempted to speak as clearly as possible.

“Forgive me for interrupting, everyone, but I have something to say right now.” There was an intense silence as the crowd waited.

“Firstly, I would like to thank all of you, on behalf of my father and the rest of our family, for attending tonight’s event. It’s not everyday I find that my father has so many friends.” Everyone, including Ash, chuckled at this remark. He then raised his hand and resumed his speech.

“Secondly, I would like to thank my family for allowing me to spend this wonderful summer with one of the greatest people I know.

“Believe it or not, this person and I have been separated for seven years. It was during the early hours of my recent birthday, however, that this person suddenly came back into my life. My mother and all of my friends knew that I wanted to spend every waking moment I could with him, and they told me to do so. It is because of them that I am standing right here tonight. Mom, Daisy, Brock, Aurora...thank you.”

The four of them smiled happily as hundreds of hands clapped loudly from every direction. Ash raised his hand again.

“Finally, I would personally like to thank my father for everything he’s ever done for me.

“Ever since I was very little, my father has never failed to keep a promise. The very night before he left home - seven years ago - I told him that, when I grew older, I would travel the world and train many Pokémon. He then told me, that no matter how far apart we were, he would find a way to help me reach that dream.

“Three years ago, because of that same promise, I had received the privilege to fulfill my dreams; traveling from one region to the next, training a variety of Pokémon, and meeting many different people along the way. It is because of him that I was able to live my life to the fullest, as well as learn to believe in myself, my friends, and my Pokémon.

“Dad, I know that we’ll soon have to say good-bye again. The song I'm going to play now is to remind you that, even if we’ll be separated by distance, we’ll never be separated in our hearts.”

With these words, Ash sat on the stood in front of the piano. However, he failed to notice Brock and Daisy whispering.

“What’s he doing?” Daisy asked, “Is he actually going to play that?”

“As long as I’ve known him, I’ve never seen him even touch an instrument; let alone...” Brock never got the chance to finish; his voice was immediately drowned out by an unexpected sound.

The entire room was suddenly filled with a delicate melody. Ash’s fingers glided from one key to another with the greatest of ease. After playing for a while Ash added something else to the melody: words - words that many of the spectators recognized:

Think of me, think of me fondly
When we've said goodbye.
Remember me every so often,
Promise me you’ll try.
On that day, that not so distant day,
When you are far away and free,
If you ever find a moment,
Spare a thought for me.

“I can’t believe it!” Daisy whispered, “He’s actually playing - AND singing!”

“Is this the same Ash who left Pallet Town a while back?” Brock thought to himself.

And though it’s clear,
Though it was always clear
That this was never meant to be,
If you happen to remember,
Stop and think of me.

Think of August, when the trees were green;
Don't think about the way things might have been.

Think of me, think of me waking
Silent and resigned.
Imagine me, trying too hard
To put you from my mind.
Think of me, please say you’ll think of me
Whatever else you choose to do.
There will never be a day when
I won’t think of you.

What followed was another stream of beautiful notes. George and Delia just looked at Ash; tears of joy falling down their cheeks. Aurora’s eyes shone as she watched her friend perform; she couldn’t help but smile. Brock was still thinking to himself when Edward walked up from behind.

“It pleases me that you are enjoying the performance,” he said, “Young Ash has been practicing ever since the plans for the gala began - he would practice non-stop whenever his father was out working: said he wanted it to be a surprise.”

“I guess all that hard work paid off,” Brock responded, just as Ash started singing the last verse:

Flowers fade, the fruits of summer fade,
They have their season, so do we...
But please promise me that sometimes
You will think of me.

At the very last word of the song, everyone clapped as hard as they could; some were even cheering. Ash stood up, observed the ecstatic guests, smiled, and took a bow.

After Ash’s stirring performance, the musicians struck up their instruments once more, and the dancing and conversation resumed. As he walked over to the rest of the group, Aurora ran up to him and took both his hands in hers.

“That was wonderful, Ash!” she said happily, “I had no idea you could play like that!”

Ash gave an embarrassed chuckle, “Actually, that was my very first time playing on ANY instrument – even in front of an audience.”

“Well, first time or not, you were actually very good!”

“Your young friend is absolutely right, Arthur,” said a voice from the crowd.

At first, Ash was unsure of who was talking to him. But then he remembered that only one person ever called him by that name; he looked straight ahead. Sure enough, Ash saw a young woman in a white evening gown coming towards him. The golden hair, fair skin, azure-blue eyes; he recognized her almost immediately.

“Miss Bianca,” Ash exclaimed as he ran over and gave Bianca a big hug. She smiled pleasantly and returned the gesture.

“It is good to see you again, Arthur.”

“It’s great to see you too, Bianca. Did you see Dad yet?”

“Absolutely, and I’ve even had the pleasure of meeting your mother and friends - and speaking of friends...” Bianca happened to glance over at Aurora, “Who is your charming escort?”

“Oh, this is Aurora Clearwater; I met her back in Pallet Town after my birthday.” Ash then looked at Aurora, “This is Miss Bianca Darby, from London. She’s an...uh...” (He was about to say “old friend”, but then he thought that it wouldn’t be very polite,) "...a childhood friend of my father.”

“Good evening, Miss Darby,” Aurora greeted, “It’s very nice to meet you.”

“It is an honor to meet you as well,” Bianca replied, “And please, call me Bianca; all of my friends do.” The introduction didn't last very long, because at that moment, the three of them heard a buzzing noise coming from Bianca’s purse.

“That must be my new cellular phone,” Bianca said before looking back at the two teenagers, “Will you please excuse me?”

“Sure, Bianca,” Ash replied, and the young woman walked out of the ballroom into the main hall. As they watched her vanish into the crowd, Ash and Aurora ran over to George and the others. They were all ecstatic over the talent Ash had demonstrated.

“Oh, you were magnificent, sweetheart!” Delia exclaimed.

“Your mother is right, Ash,” George agreed, “I’m very proud of you!”

“Wow,” said Daisy, “I can’t wait to tell Gary and Grandpa!”

“Yeah,” Brock responded, “And I can just imagine the look on Misty’s face when I tell her!”

Ash grew pale when he heard this. “Don’t you dare tell any of them,” he said, “They might want a command performance!”

Everyone started laughing. Suddenly, the music changed, and practically everyone was on the dance floor.

“What kind of dance is that, Mom?” Ash asked as he watched the people twirling around in the center of the room.

“It’s called a waltz, dear,” Delia replied, “It’s one of my favorites.”

“Well then,” George said as he took her hand, “How about another round?” Delia giggled and nodded, and the two of them were dancing among the crowd again.

“Why don’t we have ‘another round’ too?” Brock asked Daisy.

“Sure, why not?” Daisy said, taking his hand. Both followed the first pair into the mass of dancers.

For a while Ash watched them from where he was standing. It seemed like a very complicated dance to him; arms around each others’ waists, spinning around-and-around together at the same time, very quick steps - one time he even saw George twirl Delia around by one hand.

“C’mon, Ash,” Aurora said suddenly as she took his hand, “Let’s dance.”

Ash felt a lump in his throat at those words, “Uh...me...and you...dance?”

“Yeah, you and me, let’s go.”

“Uh...I don’t think so.”

Aurora looked puzzled, “Why not?”

“Well, learning to play the piano in front of people was hard enough; but dancing in front of them is way too embarrassing.”

“You were just nervous a few minutes ago, not embarrassed” Aurora corrected him, “Now c’mon, please?” She was soon making the most pathetic-looking face you’ve ever seen: sad eyes, quivering lips - Ash knew what was coming.

“Okay, okay, I’ll do it!” he exclaimed, “Enough with the sad-puppy face already!”

In a flash, both of them were on the dance floor. Aurora was trying to teach Ash what to do:

“Now, put your hand right here, on my waist - good. Then I place my arm on your arm - like this. Then you hold my other hand - no, not that way; this way – that’s better. Now we have to be an arm’s length apart, but still holding each other in this fashion. Understand?”

Ash seemed a little confused, “I think so.”

“Okay, now listen: when you’re dancing, don’t just watch what the others are doing. You have to listen to the flow of the music and let it guide you. Try it.”

Ash took a deep breath and closed his eyes. In the beginning, it was difficult to focus because of all the people talking, but soon he was able to separate the soft tunes from the chatter. The rising and falling strains of the violins, the deep tones from the cello, and even the gentle strokes of the harp seemed to cast a spell over him. Before he knew what was happening, Ash began to move. Slowly at first, letting his movements flow with the music; but as the dance wore on, they both were twirling around the floor as well as everyone else.

The whole time, Ash couldn’t believe he was actually dancing - and with Aurora in his arms no less! Suddenly, the very thought (as well as a million others) started racing through his head faster than an Arcanine using Extremespeed. His breath quickened rapidly, and so did his heartbeat. Without warning, Ash broke away from Aurora and ran through the crowd, towards the terrace.

“Ash!” Aurora called after him, “Ash, wait, what’s wrong?”

The air was a lot cooler than it was that afternoon, but the warmth rising from the baked beach sand was very pleasant. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, so the stars sparkled like diamonds against the bluish-black. An image of the full moon was dancing brightly on the ocean’s surface.

Even when out on the terrace, Ash still didn’t stop running: he pelted down the steps, crossed the grassy lawn at the foot, and headed straight for the shore before finally stopping. He was short of breath, and pale as the moon itself. Ash then collapsed on his hands and knees, and tried to steady himself.

“Okay, Ash,” he said to himself, “Try to calm down. It was only one dance, that’s all. Take it easy...Oh, who am I kidding? I blew it back there, I totally blew it!” He banged his fist against the sand in disgust.

Just then, he froze…a noise was heard from some nearby bushes. As he turned in the direction it was coming from, Ash saw a tall figure walk quickly towards the house, stuffing something into what appeared to be a small bag.

“Hey,” Ash called, “Who’s there?” The person didn’t answer, but instead walked a little faster. Thinking that it might be David on the loose again, he got up and followed the figure further into the bushes. Because it was so dark, however, Ash’s pursuit was halted; the mysterious person had vanished into night.

Ash came out from the bushes, back onto the moonlit beach, but then he saw another figure running in his direction - it was Aurora.

“Ash, are you okay?” she asked breathlessly, “You ran out so fast that I couldn’t keep up.”

The young boy ran his fingers through his hair before answering, “I’m sorry. I just…needed some air.” He then noticed the sad look in Aurora’s eyes, “What’s the matter?”

“It’s my fault,” she replied, “I should’ve realized that dancing with me would make you uncomfortable.”

“It’s not your fault!” Ash said hastily, “It’s true that I was a little nervous, but everybody’s like that sometimes. Also, I admit that running out on you wasn’t a smart move, so it’s mostly my fault.” He observed that Aurora still looked a bit sad, so he thought for a moment, smiled, and said, “Tell you what; I’ll treat you to another dance, if you promise to forget what just happened between us.”

Aurora’s face seemed to brighten up slightly. She smiled her cheerful smile, and replied, “Deal.” So Ash wrapped his right arm around Aurora’s shoulders (she responded by wrapping her left arm around his waist), and they both started walking across the sand to the terrace.

Just as they reached the top of the steps, however, Ash suddenly remembered his gift for Aurora, and quickly pulled her aside.

“What is it, Ash?” she asked, clearly puzzled.

“Remember when I said I’d gotten you a present?” Ash said as he reached into his pocket, pulling out the little white box, “Well, I was planning to give you this before the party, but I guess - with all the excitement - it completely slipped my mind.” He held the box out to her, the color once again rising in his face. Aurora smiled brighter as she took the box and slowly opened it; her eyes opened wide, and she gave a soft gasp.

The light emitting from the large windows fell onto the little silver bracelet inside, causing it to shimmer and sparkle. The tiny “Silver Wing” charms dangled from the chain as she held it up, reflecting equally small light patterns on the wall next to her. She looked up at Ash; her eyes were shining as much as the bracelet was.

“Oh…Ash,” she said in voice that was close to a whisper, “It’s beautiful.”

“I picked it out myself. Do you like it?”

“I love it,” was all Aurora managed to say; she was at a complete loss for words as she tried to put it on.

“Here, let me do that.” Ash took the bracelet and attempted to fasten it around her wrist. It was hard at first because his hands were literally trembling with joy at her reaction, but he was successful in the end. Aurora then took his waist in her arms, and gave him another, much bigger hug. Her eyes were closed, and her head rested against his heart.

Ash felt his heart beat faster again, but he did not run this time – for some reason, he didn’t want to run. Instead, he gathered Aurora in his arms, and laid his cheek against the top of her head. Her hair felt so soft and cool, and the sweet scent of a spring rain was floating into his face.

“This feeling...” Ash slowly thought to himself, “I’m scared, but - then again - I’m happy too. Why?” Just then, a sudden realization entered his mind, “Is this...what love feels like?” Ash let out a pleasant sigh, causing Aurora to move her head. She looked into his face and smiled sweetly. He did the same; each one’s eyes entirely focused on the others’. Then, Aurora’s eyes slowly closed.

Instantly, Ash’s heart felt like it was about to burst; he didn’t even know what to do. He then glanced at his surroundings. It was all so perfect: he was outside, under the moon and stars with her - alone. No one was there to stop them. Without realizing it, he started to lean forward, drawing her closer to him, closing his own eyes in the process. Finally, his lips gently touched hers.

For a few seconds, time itself seemed to have stopped. Ash couldn’t remember how or why this was happening, but he didn’t care - he didn’t want to care. Apparently, Aurora had the same thoughts coursing through her mind as well. Both held each other tighter, as if they wanted to keep the kiss longer.

“Is this...right?” Ash thought. Before he could come up with an answer, though, a feeling of uneasiness churned inside of him. His eyes opened, and the moment was over.

“Ash...” Aurora began, but she was instantly hushed.

“Hear that?” Ash asked.

Aurora listened, “Hear what? I don’t hear any...” Suddenly, she stopped, and her confusion turned to concern in a split second.

Everything was silent. The music had stopped playing without their noticing. The chatter and laughter was no more; in place of it were a few quiet gasps, and what sounded like whispering. Following the silence was the sound of many footsteps, but no one uttered a word out loud.

“What’s going on?” Aurora asked nervously, “Was there an accident?”

“I’m not sure,” Ash replied, “But I think we’d better check it out.”

Leading Aurora by the hand, Ash walked back into the ballroom. Pushing their way through the crowd, the two of them were able to find George and the others. Upon reaching them, however, Ash saw something that made him wish he and Aurora had stayed outside.