Chapter 32: A Bit of a Setback

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Chapter 32: Neige

(Y/N) and her two boys followed Riddle and Trey to the Magical History class where Jade had set up his booth. As usual, the elder Leech was poised and composed. Floyd was also there looking not like that.
"Oh my, what an honor for the school festival chairman to pay me a visit." Jade greeted. "Welcome to the Mountain Lovers Association Exhibition booth."
As usual, Floyd only had eyes for Riddle. "Ah! It's Goldfish-chan! Welcome. Here, this is a commemoration for first time customers. You will receive a mysterious mushroom picked up by Jade as a present."
He immediately began pushing the fungus into Riddle's face and the poor redhead tried swiping him off.
"Hey! Don't just start shoving weird things in my face! What are you doing!? Also, stop with the weird nicknames!"
Swampert plucked Floyd by the collar of his shirt and dragged him back and Jade looked offended.
"Hey you two, it's not a mysterious mushroom or weird stuff. It's an edible mushroom called Bunapi Shimeji or Beech mushrooms."
"Swampert shouldn't have to correct your brother before you correct us!" Riddle shouted. "I will have both your heads!"
(Y/N) got between them and made Swampert drop Floyd. "Now, now, boys, no need to be hostile. We're trying to enjoy the festival."
Trey nodded. "She's right. We just came to inspect the booth. So this exhibition is about terrariums and photography."
"Fufu." Jade chuckled. "Mr Trey came as well, I see. Indeed, I am showcasing everything I have collected during my journeys in the mountains."
"Ah, it's Shrimpy, earless seal, and sea turtle. Welcome."
"Hm?" Trey hummed. "Sea turtle? Are you talking about me?"
"Grrr..." Grim growled. "Ever since he started calling me seal, it makes me so mad! I feel like he's just making fun of me!"
"How do you think I feel?" (Y/N) challenged.
"Anyway Floyd, why are you here?" Riddle asked. "If I'm not mistaken, you are a member of the basketball club along with Ace. The basketball club is in charge of setting up the blue stage by the gym. Shouldn't you be over there helping?"
"I didn't feel like doing anything, so they kicked me out. Ah haha!"
(Y/N) face palmed as Riddle continued the scolding. "Cultural festivals were created so that students could work together. Abandoning your duties just because you weren't in the mood goes beyond just breaking the rules!"
"It's fine, isn't it? The club president said I could leave. Well, later this afternoon, I'm gonna be working at the Monstro Lounge. I have to carry a heavy tank on my back and sell drinks. Ah, I don't wanna. Jade doesn't have to work, so why am I the only one? Hey Shrimpy, can I borrow your mud monster and make him do it instead?"
(Y/N) placed a hand on Swampert's snout to keep him from pouncing. "No Floyd, that's never gonna happen."
"Don't just dump your duties on (Y/N) and her Pokémon!" The red head continued. "We aren't here to play."
Jade just chuckled. "Fufu. Floyd, don't look so sad. For the staff member that makes the most drink sales, Azul will give you a special bonus."
"But you know I'm not interested in that at all. Besides, aren't you always climbing mountains in your club? Isn't that basically a sports club? Don't pretend to be a cultural club when it's convenient for you."
"Heh, so are your club activities similar to a hiking club?" Trey teased.
"Not at all." Jade responded. "Our club activities are not mainly mountain climbing and hiking. We go on walks in the mountains around campus, we do scenery gazing, and look for wild plants, mushrooms, flowers, and animals. The main purpose of our club is to appreciate and partake in the things that live in the mountains."
"Oh that's it. If anything, your club is more like a photography club than a cooking club."
"Is that so? I see it as we are enjoying the nature of the mountains with all 5 senses. Although, we do observe things of my interest to a certain extent, we aren't doing anything full-scale like the science club."
"In other words, you just pick up things you find in the mountains and eat them?" Grim asked.
"Fufufu. We do properly clean and cook everything we find, but that is the general idea."
Riddle took note of the photos near the back. "There are several pictures of plants and stones on the walls. Did you take them?"
"Yes. These might seem like ordinary photos, there's may not be interesting to humans, but as someone who was raised under the sea, these are all rare for me."
"He says that, but the things he takes photos of are so plain." Floyd added. "Weeds and rocks aren't that uncommon. I don't see what's fun about that at all. Mermaids from ancient times would pick up and collect them too."
"Fufufu. That might be the reason why I'm the only member."
The bell then rang as Crowley came on the speaker.
"Attention all students preparing for the festival. General admission will be opening in 5 minutes. Please return to your booths and prepare for the festival opening."
"Ah!" Riddle said in a panic. "It's already almost opening time! We haven't even checked on the eastern school building yet!"
"No need to worry!" (Y/N) assured, getting onto her water type and bringing out her Dragapult. "Hop on, boys!"
They took her offer, Riddle having no trouble getting on the ghost type mysteriously. Trey nodded to the twins.
"I hope all goes well for your booth!"
"Yes, thank you all for visiting." Jade said as his twin grinned.
"Bye bye!"
With the two Pokémon, the group made up for lost time, though Riddle seemed noticeably drained from having to deal with Floyd for more than a few seconds. Luckily, the Dreepy Dragapult cared for and decided to give him some reassuring hugs that seemed to put him in a better mood. With the added speed, they managed to finish the rounds in the building and made their way outside to inspect the stands. Grim held on tightly to (Y/N) as Swampert had to shimmy through the crowd.
"There's so many people here and the festival hasn't even opened yet!"
"Well, the National Magic Training School Cultural Festival brings students from all over." Trey explained from his spot behind (Y/N). "School staff alone makes up a big number."
The bell rang again as Crowley's voice continued the announcements.
"Greetings everyone. Thank you for your patience and welcome to the National Magic Training School Cultural Festival."
There was a bit of applause before the ground began to rumble.
"What was that?" (Y/N) asked.
Suddenly, Lucario, Silvally, and Aegislash bolted past them, trying to route a giant stampede of people away from the stands.
"Where's the purple stage that the VDC is going to be held at!?"
"Where's the waiting area for the lottery tickets for those who cancelled their tickets!?"
"I wanna meet Neige! Hurry up!"
"Kyaa! This is where Vil goes to school!? I'm posting this all over Magicam!"
The Pokémon struggled to keep the crowd at bay, and fortunately, Diasomnia arrived to help drive the crowd.
"Hey humans!" Sebek yelled. "No running! And don't walk while on your phones!"
"The lottery for same-day tickets are not first-come, first-served." Silver announced. "Calmly wait in line and listen to the staff's instructions."
Grim's grip tightened. "Why is there a huge group of people over there!?"
Riddle crossed his arm, comfortably floating on Dragapult. "They are all probably fans of Vil-senpai's or Neige LeBlanche."
(Y/N) shivered. "Fangirls..."
"I knew they were famous, but this is crazy." Trey said nervously.
The Diasomnia students noticed their approach and Silver was the first to greet them.
"Riddle, did you came here to check on things? Just as planned, we created a line that starts behind 5e Coliseum and we have the beasts patrol it to keep people from acting out."
"What is with this overcrowding!?" His green haired dormmate demanded. "No matter how much we plan in advance, things always get out of hand! Wretched humans!"
Riddle glared at him. "Sebek, I've told you many times to stop referring to students as humans. It's disrespectful to the dignity of the school."
"Riddle is right." Silver agreed. "First of all, you're half-human. Any rude remarks will be an inconvenience to Lord Malleus and Lilia. Just be careful."
"Ah! Don't act like you're so great, Silver!"
Both Swampert and Dragapult growled at the male as Grim covered his ears.
"That guy's voice is so loud, it's vibrating through my ears!"
Trey just smiled nervously. "As expected from the sports club first years."
"In anticipation of the large crowds, I thought having staff from the equestrian club would make it easier for me to communicate, but-," Silver cut Riddle off.
"You made the right choice, but there was a big crowd before we even opened. Even with the beasts, it might be difficult."
"Young Master will be watching the VDC! It will bring shame for generations if anything goes wrong!"
"All right." Riddle acknowledged. "I will send anyone who is available here to help you. (Y/N), can you also offer a few more Pokémon?"
She nodded. "We're bound to run into more of them working security, so I can just tell them to come here."
"Then we leave this to you two."
"Understood." The Diasomnia students said as they went on their way.
Riddle led the way to the eastern school building, taking Main Street past the Great Seven statues.
"Next, we need to inspect the eastern school building, the blue stage in the gym, and waiting rooms for the clubs on the red stage. They'll be used not only by our students, but students from the other schools as well."
"Oh! Then everyone participating in the VDC is going to be there?" Grim asked.
"No, there are dressing rooms in the Coliseum, so the VDC participants will be in there."
"There are many students from Royal Sword Academy participating this year, so we need to make sure we patrol properly." Trey added as (Y/N) sighed.
"Yeah. Can't have our classmates going feral at the sight of them."
As if to prove her point, (Y/N) heard the sounds of arguing further up the road. While Riddle and Trey plotted out their route (Trey stepping off to better communicate), she, Grim, and Swampert slipped away to get a better look. Unsurprisingly, it was a bunch of Savanclaw students getting rowdy. However, their aggression was turned on children, or what looked like children. They were shorter than Riddle, with much higher voices, but their ears were pointed. From a glance, it seems the boy in a scarf with curly red hair and a bad cold had bumped into one of the students and got snot on his clothes. Another boy with glasses tried to mediate, but all peace talks failed as the Savanclaw students recognized their uniforms as Royal Sword Academy. Before the wild animals could go off, Golisopod suddenly appeared, growling and stepping between the students and the visitors. The boys (or Dwarves as the one called Gran insisted) looked on in awe as the Savanclaw began to back down.
"Crap! It's one of Dorm Leader Stone's beasts!" One said as the guy who had instigated this mess began back away.
"We better get out of here before she-,"
"Before I what, gentlemen?" (Y/N) asked, guiding Swampert to block their escape route.
The Savanclaw students looked petrified as Golisopod calmed a bit.
"D-dorm Leader Stone!"
She looked at the three harshly. "I don't think I need to explain how important this festival is, and how bad it makes the school look by needlessly picking fights. It was an accident and he apologized, so take it before I beat it into you hotheads!"
"Y-yes ma'am!" They all squeaked.
"Good. Now, you should know Dorm Leader Rosehearts is right behind me, so unless you want to get collared, I suggest you make yourselves scarce."
At Riddle's name, the trio panicked and bolted down the road, their tails between their legs. (Y/N) rolled her eyes with a smile.
"Too easy." She then looked at the dwarves. "You three okay?"
"Yes, we are." The silver haired one, Dominique if she heard correctly, said with a smile. "Thank you so much, ma'am. I don't what we would've done if you hadn't arrived."
"Don't mention it." She said, getting off Swampert to pat Golisopod. "I'm sure Golisopod here could have sent them packing by himself."
The aggressive one of the group huffed. "I could've handled them by myself."
"Gran, that's rude." The one in the scarf, Snick, said with a sniffle.
Trey, Riddle, and Dragapult suddenly arrived, looking over their shoulders suspiciously.
"(Y/N), is there any reason we just passed three Savanclaw students bolting?"
"Oh, just some hot heads behind hot heads, Trey. I'll make sure Leona gives them a good smacking later."
Riddle gave her a blank look. "You have far too much power over Kingscholar-senpai than I'm comfortable with, (Y/N)."
She chuckled as Trey went over to the dwarves.
"We apologize for anything that may have happened on behalf on all the students. You guys are students from Royal Sword Academy judging by your uniforms."
"Yup!" Dominique confirmed. "That's right!"
"Eh!?" Grim squeaked. "You guys aren't much taller than me. Are you sure you're in high school?"
"Grim!" (Y/N) shouted as Swampert shook him off, making him face plant on the stone.
"The heck you talking about?" Gran challenged. "What's you problem? We're actually pretty big for dwarves! Hmph!"
"Gran, please stop it." His friend begged as (Y/N) rubbed her temples.
"No, no, I should've minded that one's mouth."
"Um, Ms?" Snick piped up. "Is your name (Y/N) Stone?"
She blinked at him in surprise. "Um, yeah. I'm a dorm leader here, kinda."
Dominique beamed. "I knew I recognized you! You're Night Raven College's Beast Tamer!"
"You know her?" Grim asked, shocked.
Gran crossed his arms. "The whole island knows her. Her and her beasts are all over Magicam. Ever since Che'nya and Rielle-senpai met her, she's all anyone talks about at Royal Sword Academy."
"I keep forgetting Cater has an entire Magicam page dedicated to us." She mumbled, her cheeks getting red.
"A lot of the students at our school wanted to meet you and your beasts." Dominique added. "Even Neige said he's a fan since he found your Magicam page! He said he wanted to meet the Princess who's friends with monsters! Though, a lot of us were confused why you're enrolled here, and not at the RSA."
"Eh!?!" She squeaked as Riddle and Trey looked less than pleased.
"We really wanted to go see the petting zoo with all the monsters, but we got separated from our friends...Achoo!" Snick sneezed softly.
Dominique nodded. "Yeah, you wouldn't have happened to have seen 4 other dwarves the same height as us around, would you?"
"We haven't." Riddle admitted. "Would you like me to ask the broadcasting department to make an announcement on the intercom to find them?"
It was then a familiar voice began humming as (Y/N) felt a weight slip onto her back. Only a head became visible, perched on top of her own.
"Are you looking for some? Why don't you ask me?"
"AHHH! IT'S THE FLOATING HEAD GHOST!" Grim screamed as (Y/N) sweatdropped.
"Hello Che'nya."
"Che'nya!?" His childhood friends yelped.
"Fufufufu." The cat boy laughed as he became fully visible.
"Ah! Che'nya-senpai!" Snick greeted. "Do you know where Toby and the others are?"
"The friends you're looking for went that way, and turned here, so head that way!" He said in his usual cryptic tone that Dominique somehow understood.
"Thank you so much, Che'nya-senpai! And thank you too, Night Raven College students. It was an honor meeting you, Ms Stone! See you!"
The dwarves all ran off as (Y/N) looked on, still baffled.
"Bye bye!" The cat boy said with a wave as Trey approached him, getting him off the girl since he could feel Swampert's urge to kill rising.
"Che'nya, do you know them? You were a big help."
"They're 2nd years at my school. I know their faces pretty well. I'm also very good at giving people directions."
"How often do we have to remind you not to cling to (Y/N) when you see her?" Still, Riddle smiled. "Long time, no see, Che'nya."
"Oh Riddle! How've you been doing? Last time I saw you was at last year's Unbirthday Party, huh? Since we didn't see each other during winter break."
"Ah...I'm sorry I didn't reply to your messages during break, but nothing has changed."
"Che'nya, I'm sorry to cut the conversation short, but we are in the middle of our committee inspection." Trey apologized. "We'll be able to talk more later, after the festival is up and running."
"Hard workers!" The cat smiled. "Well, see ya later!"
He began to vanish as Riddle eyed him.
"Che'nya, please try not to scare any attendees with your Unique Magic."
"That all depends on my mood!"
He vanished with a hum as (Y/N) sighed.
"I'll get Gengar to follow him later."
Trey nodded. "Good idea. Good grief. Well then, let's head to the eastern building and finish the inspection."
They got back on the Pokémon and (Y/N) ordered Golisopod to help out the Diasomnia students. They reached the eastern building and began the inspection, only to run into Lilia and Cater in their ceremonial robes.
"Ah! Trey! Riddle!" Cater greeted. "Hi, hi!"
"Hello, you two." Trey responded as the Pokémon came to a halt. "Are you doing something for the music club?"
"Yeah." Lilia answered. "It won't be as flashy as the VDC, but we are putting on a live show."
"Trey, you took Riddle, and Kalim was taken by Vil..." Cater sighed. "Cater-kun was so lonely..."
"Taken!?" Trey laughed. "Well, I'm not very good at singing and dancing, you know?"
"What? Are you saying you aren't satisfied when it's just the two of us, Cater?" Lilia teased.
"No way! We'll do our best together, Lilia-chan! But let's leave the ad-libs to a minimum."
Lilia smiled before motioning to (Y/N), who got off Swampert. "Hey (Y/N), he said you gave him an invitation to the VDC as a thank you for the holiday card. He might not say it out loud, but he was very happy you gave him an invitation. Please, allow me to express my gratitude as well. Thank you so much for inviting him."
She smiled back. "I was happy to."
"What? What?" Cater butted in. "What're you talking about? (Y/N), do you have friends in Diasomnia?"
"Yeah. A tall guy with horns. I call him Tsunotaru since I don't know his name and he refuses to tell me."
The Heartslabyul boys paled as Cater scratched his cheek. " that...?"
"Someone at our school with horns?" Trey said. "It can't be..."
"There's only one person that comes to mind..." Riddle tried to say before Lilia began pushing them.
"Oops! Cater, if we don't head to the stage now, we are going to be late!"
"Ah! You're right!"
"Well then, we'll see you later. Good luck at the VDC!"
Lilia dragged Cater away as Riddle looked at the clock.
"Speaking of which, it's almost 12 o'clock."
"Oh, we better head out then." (Y/N) said, before sighing. "If we're late, Vil will probably poison us."
Grim yelped. "Not the cursed juice!"
(Y/N) returned Swampert to his Pokeball and got on Dragapult. "We'll see you guys later then!"
Riddle smirked. "Tell the first years if they do anything disgraceful, it's off with their heads."
"Believe me, they know."
Dragapult took off for the stage, and thanks to his speed and flight, they got there in no time at all. Grim whistled, noting the stage now.
"Oh! The stage is almost done!"
(Y/N) nodded, jumping off her dragon. "The athletics clubs sure work fast."
"Hey, you guys over there!" A staff member yelled. "The rehearsals for the VDC are about to begin! No unauthorized personnel allowed. Please leave."
Before (Y/N) could pull out her pass, Vil appeared. "The potato and monsters are with me, they have staff passes."
"Y-you're Vil Schoenheit! I'm terribly sorry!"
The staff member ran off as Vil smirked at the girl.
"You must think you're hot stuff showing up last here, manager."
She rolled her eyes. "I was helping Riddle, and I'm not late."
Rook and the others then joined. "Did you enjoy walking around the school festival?"
"There were so many people in line for just same day tickets!" Grim reported.
Kalim grinned. "Really? I'm glad! This is so exciting!"
"There's a huge number of cameras and press here." Jamil noted. "It's probably because Vil and Neige will be performing."
"Oh yeah, Ace, Deuce, Epel." Grim smirked. "Riddle and Jack say you're gonna get it if you mess up during your performance."
"Ugh, don't put that pressure on us." Deuce pleaded.
Epel looked like he was going to be sick. "I'm getting nervous too..."
Ace sighed. "Me too..."
"We have rehearsals to avoid making any mistakes during the performance." Vil assured them. "Every year, the school hosting the VDC performs first. Let's put on an amazing performance that makes everyone else look like potatoes!"
"Yeah!" Everyone agreed.
"Vil-kun?" A voice piped up.
"Eh?" Vil said, looking uncomfortable.
A familiar boy with black hair and big doe eyes climbed up on the stage, smiling sweetly. (Y/N) recognized him immediately. Their biggest threat in the competition: Neige LeBlanche.
"I knew it was you, Vil!" He said happily.
"Neige!..." Vil said, almost grabbing (Y/N) or Rook to use as a shield.
"It's been a long time. How have you been? I heard on the news that you'd be in the Vocal & Dance Championship this year. I was looking forward to seeing you!"
"Is that...Neige LeBlanche?" Epel asked as the two stars talked.
"Fairly certain." (Y/N) answered.
"Even his gestures, the way he speaks, and the way he carries himself, you can tell he's a celebrity." Ace whispered.
"Hmm, he seems well put together. But..." Deuce's eyes wandered to Vil. "He doesn't have that strong presence that Vil had when we first met him."
Kalim joined in. "Yeah, he isn't very sparkly or flashy."
"Within his smile, he has a simple, classy beauty of a small flower about to bloom in a field much different from Vil." Rook dictated.
Jamil looked at him with distrust. "Hm, people who can smile so easily are usually the ones who have something to hide. That's just how celebrities are."
(Y/N) lightly elbowed him. "You don't get to say that. Besides, I think he's genuine."
"I've missed you so much after we finished filming that movie together." Neige said, frowning sadly at Vil.
Vil crossed his arms. "I'm not accepting any long-term movie deals right now. I want to devote myself to school."
"That's right, but I'm really happy I get to hear you sing again today. I love hearing you sing. The first time we performed together was for a school musical drama, right?"
"It was. You were the lead and I was the student that bullied you." (Y/N) did not miss the bitterness in the blonde's tone at those words. "...we both did very well in our roles."
"Night Raven College representatives!" A staff member called. "It is time for your rehearsal! Please be on standby!"
"We'll be going now. Until then, Neige."
"Yeah! I'm looking forward to seeing your performance, Vil! Oops-!"
As Neige ran to clear the stage, he ended up tripping over the first step of the stairs. For a split second, Vil was all too pleased with the thought of his rival being taken out by his own clumsiness, only for someone's instinctual need to help others to get in the way.
(Y/N) grabbed the boy's wrist, pulling him up from his fall quickly. They would've both tumbled, but Dragapult braced his trainer from behind, giving (Y/N) time to readjust her footing some she supported both of them. Though by the end of it, their faces were quite close.
"Are you okay?" (Y/N) asked, a bit concerned.
Neige smiled brightly, nodding as she helped him get his balance. "Yes! Thank you, you saved me!"
"It was nothing." Dragapult then came around as (Y/N) patted his head. "Thanks for the assist, boy."
Ace smirked at her. "Nice reflexes, (Y/N)."
She rubbed her head, smiling nervously. "Oh, just a necessity for my line of work."
"(Y/N)?" Neige repeated before his eyes began to sparkle. "You mean (Y/N) Stone?!"
"Oh. Yeah, that's me."
He took her hands. "It's so wonderful to meet you! I'm a big fan of your Magicam! I was so excited to meet you and your wonderful monsters!"
"Oh right, so I was told...'' She cleared her throat. "It's good to meet you too, LeBlanche. Vil's told me...plenty about you."
"Please, call me Neige!" He then looked at Dragapult. "This is Dragapult, right? I remember reading about him in the Magift Team article! Oh he's so cute!"
Neige began scratching the ghost type's cheeks and the Pokémon immediately melted at the touch with a big old, goofy smile.
(Y/N) giggled. "Cute isn't the first thing people usually think when they meet Dragapult. The Dreepy on the other hand though."
The little dragons exited the ports and began circling the boy's head, cooing happily. Neige's smile widened.
"Oh! They're like baby Dragapults!"
"Pre evolved forms, actually."
Epel then pulled out the Pokémon, having not realized Dragapult this whole time had been carrying separate Pokémon.
"Dreepy, the Lingering Pokémon. After being reborn as a ghost Pokémon, Dreepy wanders the areas it used to inhabit back when it was alive in prehistoric seas. If this weak Pokémon is by itself, a mere child could defeat it. But if Dreepy has friends to help it train, it can evolve and become much stronger."
"Dragapult, the Stealth Pokémon. The evolved form of Drakloak and the final evolutionary form of Dreepy. When it isn't battling, it keeps Dreepy in the holes on its horns. Once a fight starts, it launches the Dreepy like supersonic missiles. Apparently the Dreepy inside Dragapult's horns eagerly look forward to being launched out at Mach speeds."
The boys blinked in concern at the second entry.
"Wait, where do the Dreepy come from when it evolves?" Epel asked.
(Y/N) shook her head. "Trust me, Epel, it's easier if you don't question it."
When the little dragons were done playing, they returned to their ports and Neige turned his attention back on the girl.
"Oh, I knew I was going to enjoy meeting you! A lot of the students at my school think you're a tyrant who bullies people with scary beasts, but I knew you had to be a good person! I could tell you love them from the pictures! You're like the princess who could communicate and befriend animals!"
"Oh stop." (Y/N) said, her cheeks starting to grow pink. "Of course I care about them, they're my family."
"You're even prettier than the princess in the story!"
"Eh!?" (Y/N)'s whole face went crimson at this and her first year friends were starting to get a bit agitated.
Neige, of course, kept going. "I'd love to meet more of your monsters! I came straight here, but I wanted to visit the petting zoo. Maybe you could take me?"
Either out of annoyance or to show mercy, Vil finally stepped between them, grabbing (Y/N)'s arm and pulling her away.
"Unfortunately, Stone happens to be our manager, so we need her here."
"Oh, that's too." Neige still smiled. "Maybe later, then?"
"Y-yeah." (Y/N) stuttered out.
The boy then began to continue on. "Bye! It was great to finally meet you, (Y/N)! Let's meet up later!"
When he was out of sight, (Y/N) began to shut down, steam seemingly coming out of her. Ace and Deuce quickly rushed to her aid.
"Don't shut down on us, girl!" Ace pleaded.
"Keep it together, (Y/N)!" Deuce added.
She groaned, embarrassed and very flustered. Vil rolled his eyes.
"Compose yourself, Stone."
"Give me a break!" She snapped at him. "I've never talked to a guy like that!"
"You flirt with Leona half the time." Jamil retorted.
"That's different. That's teasing, and it goes both ways."
Ace smirked. "Aw, is someone bashful because she's never kissed a guy before?"
(Y/N) regained her motor functions and began kneeing him in the gut. No one raised a hand to help him as Grim's fur ruffled.
"Oh, these Royal Sword Academy boys! They all keep trying to steal my minion! Even the dwarves said they think she should be at the flower school!"
"They said what?!" Deuce and Ace both growled (Ace only then broke free).
"Grim, quite putting words in other people's mouths!" (Y/N) scolded.
"Enough." Vil finally said. "Regardless of Neige's romantic notions with (Y/N), we have a show to put on."
"Don't say it like that!" (Y/N) yelled as they began to take their positions.
Vil hung back, staring in the direction Neige went.
"Laugh while you still can. With our perfect performance, I'm going to crush you."
Both (Y/N) and Rook took note of this, not liking it. They glanced at each other and nodded before taking their positions.
Rehearsal went off without a hitch as the guys gave their all. It was easily their best performance and everyone could see the effort they had put in.
"(Y/N), Grim, how did it go?!" Kalim asked.
"You guys were amazing!" She answered.
Epel nodded. "The stage is a lot bigger than the practice room...but it was nice being able to dance freely."
"Hmph, I'm glad you can say that now." Jamil said.
Vil just went up to (Y/N). "I want to see the video footage immediately. I want to see how it looks from the side angles."
"Got it." (Y/N) said as the press and staff members began hounding Vil.
"Good work, Vil! That was an amazing performance! I was so moved!"
"We are staff from the news station in the Land of Pyroxene. Do you have a moment for an interview? I'd like to cover it for the evening news."
"Of course." Vil answered smoothly.
"Thank you! Night Raven College was selected as this year's host for the VDC. I bet that's a lot of pressure for you guys. But even still, you had a perfect performance! Your powerful singing voice, your sharp dancing, you are way beyond the high school level! Even if you look all over the world, no one can find another unit as good as you. As expected from a team led by Vil Schoenheit."
"Thank you. I'm very glad to hear you say that. They've all overcome very arduous lessons. Expect more from later's, the most beautiful performance the world has ever seen. Look forward to it."
"If that was just the beginning, then the other teams are going to have a hard time competing."
Grim grinned. "Wow, that's a pretty good response!"
"Yeah..." (Y/N) said unsure before noting the time. "Vil! The other teams have to rehearse!"
The blonde nodded to her and walked off, still talking to the press. She and Grim then joined the boys as a 10 second video of their dance was posted to Magicam. As the boys celebrated, (Y/N) heard Vil behind her.
"...Mira, Mira. Please tell me." Her blood froze at the words as the phone responded.
"Yes! What are you searching for?"
"Right now, who is the most beautiful one of all?"
"Searching the web for...results of accounts with the most mentions of 'Beautiful'...Vil Schoenheit."
Vil gasped and began laughing. "Fufu...fufufu...after so long...the time has finally come."
"Next up is Royal Sword Academy." Another staff member announced. "Please be on stand-by!"
"Yes! We're coming!" Neige called.
The boys froze.
"Royal Sword Academy is right after us!?" Ace yelled.
"That's all right!" Deuce said as he and Epel smirked. "Let's see what they got!"
"Okay!" Kalim agreed as Jamil looked like a very pleased snake. "Let's take a break and sit in the audience and watch."
"Hold on." Vil said. "We should check out the video first so we can make any final adjustments."
Rook pushed him towards the stands. "Come now, Roi De Poison, it's important that we get a full grasp on what our competition is capable of."
"'re right. Royal Sword Academy, let's see what you can do." He smirked. "Well, they can't surpass our beauty."
"Light, camera, ACTION! Royal Sword Academy, you may begin!"
"Everyone!" Neige called. "Come on up!"
"Yes!" Childish voices called as several dwarves, including Dominique, Gran, and Snick, joined Neige on stage.
Vil looked quite concerned as Ace was confused.
"Hah?! Kids?! Can they even perform?"
"They're dwarves." (Y/N) corrected. "We met a few of them earlier."
"Um, (Y/N)?" Jamil said. "Aren't two of those yours?"
Looking down, she saw two of the dwarves carrying two familiar apple shaped creatures who seemed quite pleased.
"Flapple!? Applin!?"
Dragapult roared, telling the other two dragons to get out of there. They squealed as Flapple grabbed his son (don't asked) and flew up to their trainer with innocent looks. She sighed.
"What am I going to do with you two?"
The dwarves looked to where the two had flown off to and saw the girl there. Dominique and Snick waved cheerfully at her as Neige joined in. She waved back bashfully as Neige cleared his throat.
"Hi everyone! It's nice to meet you all! I'm Neige LeBlanche from Royal Sword Academy. Now everyone, please introduce yourselves."
The first three were the ones the Ramshackle duo had met.
"I'm Snick...achoo!"
"I am Dominique!"
"Gran. Tch!"
A green haired one with a sleeping mask then stepped forward, yawning. "I'm...Shelpy..."
Next was a blonde one with red music note clips. He had been carrying Flapple.
"Yay! I'm Hop! Peace! Peace!"
"T-T...I'm Timmy..." The blue haired one struggled to say. "Ah! I'm so embarrassed..."
"...Hm? What's my name again?" The purple haired one that had had Applin asked.
"Don't play dumb, Toby!" Gran snapped.
"Hehehe, oh yeah! I'm Toby!"
Everyone was laughing and (Y/N) awed.
"7 unique little dwarves."
"We practiced long and hard, so I hope you all enjoy it!" Neige said. "Now, here's our song. Heigh Ho!"
The song was...there was no way around it, it was down right adorable. It was so cute and wholesome that it almost made (Y/N) teeth hurt, it was that sweet. There was a genuine joy to it. However, outside that, it was a mess, being incredibly simple, and even then, the dwarves stumbled about. Neige was outright carrying the team. Still.
"Wooaahh, what's with this song!?" Kalim screamed. "It's stuck in my head!"
Rook smiled. "This song is an arrangement inspired by a nursery rhyme from the Land of Pyroxene. Even though I'm from the Afterglow Savanna, I've heard this song too. It's famous."
"What even is this?" Ace asked. "It has such simple, boring choreography anyone can do. They aren't even in sync."
Grim winced. "Ah! And one of them fell...Neige helped them up but it looks like they're all gonna get hurt."
Jamil smirked. "Honestly, their quality isn't anything special."
"They aren't even worth being called our rivals!" Ace declared. "Right, Vil-senpai?"
(Y/N), in contrast, was paying attention to the crowd and noted the general attitude that was in favor to the Royal Sword Academy students. Despite the messiness of it, (Y/N) recalled a lesson Wallace had taught her before her first Pokémon Contest: cute is a powerful combatant of beauty. She grimaced.
"Um, hold that thought, boys."
"Hm?" Ace said confused.
Vil was frozen, also picking up on what the trainer had perceived. "...we're finished."
The interviewer that had talked to Vil previously was humming the song jovially as he approached Neige. "Such a fun song! This song gives me so much nostalgia! Ah! Seeing them all so cute and innocent, it makes all my stress disappear."
Another man sniffled. "I understand how you feel! It warms my makes me want to cry..."
"The dancing may be off and the harmonies are everywhere, but...I can't my eyes off them!" Someone else admitted. "I want to support them until the end!"
"Everyone is...being charmed by Neige LeBlanche!" Deuce said worriedly.
"Could this be...the power of being cute?!" Epel understood.
"Remember Epel, you can wield this kind of power." (Y/N) joked.
"Even (Y/N) Pokémon are joining!" Ace yelled.
Sure enough, Flapple and Applin were cheering for their new friends along with the Dreepy and Vulpix had jumped out of her ball to coo along with the song, and even Gardevoir was drawn out by the amount of joy in the air.
(Y/N) sighed, petting the fox."Oh, you sweet things."
Vil was (understandably) upset as Neige waved to the crowd.
"Thank you so much for listening, everyone! We love you!"
They all cheered and began bursting to get the video onto the news (as Timmy bolted behind Neige, the poor thing). If what the music producer had said was anything to go by, the boys didn't stand a chance at this rate.
"Thank you so much to all the staff and the managers for putting together the rehearsals!" Neige thanked as the cameras flashed.
"Great work, Neige! That was the best performance! I was so moved, I'm still shaking! We're the TV Station from the Land of Pyroxene. Would you like to give a comment to all of your fans?"
"Yes, of course!"
"Why did you choose to sing a nursery rhyme?"
"Because I wanted to pick a song that everyone watching the VDC can enjoy. I thought it'd be fun! I thought it's be nice to pick a song most people are familiar with. I decided to perform in the VDC, because I wanted to make great memories with all my friends from school. But then, I thought instead of just my friends, why not make wonderful memories with everyone all over the world."
"As expected from Neige. You weren't just thinking of yourself, but everyone around the world as well! The short clip we took earlier is already posted on Magicam. 'So cute!', 'My kids are dancing along!', 'The most heartwarming, beautiful sight in the world!'. The fans are really excited! It seems like you just might win the VDC!"
Neige blinked. "Eh? We don't know that yet. But, thank you so much for saying that."
(Y/N) could feel the tension radiating off of Vil as he completely disassociated. Rook tried to get his attention.
"...Vil. Vil?"
"Eh?" The blonde finally snapped out of it.
"What's the matter! You look so pale. Are you feeling well?"
"No...I'm fine. It's nothing. It's not worth watching them fool around up there. I'm going to go back to the waiting room."
Vil walked off. (Y/N) felt in her stir. She'd heard those words, seen the pattern, and it all led to the same place. In a moment, she felt a sharp, stabbing pain in her head as Vil disappeared from sight. Like TV static, she blearily recalled her dream: a poisoned piece of fruit transforming into a bright red apple and a cackling hag. She could no longer deny the pattern of her dreams, how they seemed to be tangentially linked to and predict the future of the conflicts she was facing.
"(Y/N), you look out of it." Epel said, concerned as she was clutching her head. "Are you okay?"
"What's wrong?" Grim asked, also worried. "Are you hungry?"
"She isn't you!" Ace shot back.
"But I am hungry." Deuce declared. "Should we go get something to eat before the big show?"
The boys began to walk off, but (Y/N) held back. Gardevoir looked at her, suspiciously, eyeing where Vil had gone off to.
Her trainer nodded. "Believe me, I agree."
"What?" Grim asked.
Returning Vulpix and Dragapult to their balls, and tucking Flapple and Applin into her uniform since she didn't have theirs on hand, she and Gardevoir began following Vil (with a confused Grim still following), not noticing Rook and the Scarabia duo watching her leave. As (Y/N) ran towards the halls leading to the dressing room, she heard a hiss, the shattering glass, and the familiar sound of dripping ink.
Once again, her dreams had not lied.

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