"Right then," Avatar Nix asked after the stage was clear, clearing his throat. "I just received word that Roxanne and Crasher Wake want to do a double appeal at the very end. I have no idea why, but hopefully it won't turn out as badly as the previous two multiple appeals did. So that means that there are only three contestants left: Liza and Tate--I mean, just Liza--as well as Elesa and Janine. The next two events I have planned are another contest battle, followed by one last single appeal. So let's see who gets to do the single appeal..."
Rather than drawing a name out of his hat, this time he dropped a die out of his sleeve. When it landed, Avatar Nix took a brief look at it, then resumed his focus on the audience.
"Looks like it's Elesa! But first, we have a contest battle between Liza and Janine!"
Backstage, Bugsy re-released Joshua at once, for he knew how much the lover insect wanted to see Ciara perform. Indeed, the second he saw that alluringly beautiful Venomoth, Joshua vowed never to take his eyes off the TV screen until it was over. Maybe afterwards, he would finally work up the courage to tell Ciara how he felt about her... Maybe. Maybe not. Who knew?
In another corner of the backstage area, Roxanne and Crasher Wake were deep in conversation, not really paying attention to what was going on on the TV screen. The conversation was quite animated, as they were going over how their double appeal at the end would go. While they were talking, a Gigalith and a Feraligatr came in through the back door. The Feraligatr carried a satchel and some documents, placing them on the table when he came in.
"Hey! Garret!" Crasher Wake greeted, patting his Feraligatr on the back. "What'd you find?"
"It's curious..." Roxanne commented as she opened the black leather satchel. The second she saw what was inside, she shut the bag tight again, yelping in surprise and pushing herself away from the table. She would have fallen out of her chair if the big and heavy Rock Pokemon she had didn't catch her.
"Heh, nice save, Testa," Crasher Wake thanked the Gigalith. "But seriously, what are you so afraid of, Roxanne?"
"Well... if I were you..." Roxanne stammered, her face pale, "...I wouldn't open that satchel..." Testa, meanwhile, was steadying her, supporting her in case she fainted. Meanwhile he pointed one of his giant boulders for legs at the documents on the table. Crasher Wake started reading through them... and seemed almost as surprised at what he saw as Roxanne was.
"...Roxanne, come here and look at this..." he mentioned, not taking his eyes off the papers. The seven-foot water gator named Garret was looking around to make sure nobody was watching. Finally gathering her composure, Roxanne peeked at the documents over Crasher Wake's shoulder... and indeed she was surprised.
But the people on stage and in the audience weren't--not yet, anyway. And so the two uniquely-dressed young women--Liza in her blue satin pajama-like getup, Janine in ninja garb--emerged from opposite curtains. Both of them seemed confident that they would be the one to win the battle. For Liza it was obvious, for Psychic-type Pokemon had the advantage over Poison-types. Still, Janine didn't look worried at all. In fact, she was the first to send out her Pokemon.
"It is time, Ciara!"
Out emerged the prettiest Venomoth anyone in the audience had ever seen. Not from a Pokeball, but from behind the curtains on the side of the stage, in a bright and sparkly flash. After entering, Ciara examined her legs, making sure they didn't look like exposed ribs across her body.
"Well," Liza began with a sigh, "it's kind of a shame my little brother can't be here, but this gives me a chance to use someone who already likes me better. Come on out, Liza!"
Out came a Smoochum. Her eyes were a little narrower than average, giving her a rather apathetic look. One of her cheeks was bulging out, and a white stick poked out from between her oversized lips. But she pulled it out, revealing a bright red lollipop.
"Smoochum chum," she said, then stuck the lollipop back in her mouth. Meanwhile, Janine gave Liza an awkward stare.
"What?" the psychic gym leader quipped. "She likes me so much that she wanted my name, okay?"
"She doesn't look like she likes anyone," Janine remarked. Ciara slowly nodded in agreement, eyeing the Smoochum with disdain. "Ah well. Ciara, go ahead and start your appeal."
Ciara moved her head dramatically to the side, turning away from both Lizas and giving a flick with her wings, sending a bit of silver dust flying. She started off with a twirling aerial dance of sorts, which looked more beautiful with the silver dust she scattered from her wings. It was beautiful, and it caused Ciara's appeal meter to rise in level, but the judges weren't quite sure what attack she was using, if any at all.
"Come on Liza," Gym Leader Liza ordered, the tone of her voice sounding like it was simultaneously taunting Janine. "Stop that fly in her tracks! Use Psychic!"
More oohing and ahhing from the audience as Liza the Smoochum stood still and closed her eyes, forming a blue aura around her that almost looked like ice judging by its light, sharp hue. Without warning, Liza opened her eyes, which glowed with the exact same hue as her aura did. In that moment she looked rather scary, with the way her scruffy blond hair ruffled around her face, and with the cold, unyielding stare she gave Ciara. Ciara, though, didn't even care. She didn't even seem to be affected.
"What the..." Liza muttered to herself. "Why isn't her Psychic attack working? It should be super-effective actually, given the type matchup..."
On the other side of the stage, a wide grin spread across Janine's face.
"Use Double Team!" Janine commanded.
Well, what Ciara did didn't appear to be a Double Team at first. It was just her darting to and fro across the stage in a zippy fashion. But every time she zipped by, she left behind a copy of herself. Within moments, there looked to be four Venomoths flying around the stage.
"Darn Double Team..." Liza cursed. "Aha! I know! Mini-Liza! Make it Hail!"
The appeal wasn't too special--all the Smoochum did was twirl around and make lots of ice fall around the stage. Some of it landed on the Ciara copies, but Ciara didn't seem to mind too much. In fact, the falling ice shards made pretty blue sparkles when they collected her silver dust. As a result, both Pokemon's appeal meters went up--though Ciara's was already higher.
"Now use Blizzard!" Liza shouted, determined to win this. Liza did whip up a snow flurry, not that she really seemed to care much about the outcome of all this. At least it was an interesting appeal, with the way the hail shards from before seemed to dance as they blew about in the harsh icy breeze. The Blizzard covered the entire stage area and could not miss thanks to the Hail, so there was no way Ciara could avoid getting hit. Within seconds the four Venomoth copies condensed into one, and she was trapped under a pile of snow. This boosted Liza's appeal meter and depleted Ciara's.
After the blizzard subsided (though hail was still falling), the pile of snow near Janine's end of the stage did not budge. Not even after a few seconds of waiting. Liza started to become concerned.
'Oh my, did my little Liza's Blizzard end up freezing Ciara to death?'
"Is Ciara going to come out?" she asked Janine.
"Why yes," Janine replied with a smirk on her face. She didn't seem the least bit worried. She snapped her fingers, and out from behind the side curtain, a Zoroark emerged onto the stage. At first Liza (maybe not just Liza) was confused, but a closer look revealed the same arrogant, condescending look in the Zoroark's eyes as that of the Venomoth that was there just moments before.
Backstage, Joshua leapt in his spot.
'WHAT?' he thought, thoroughly surprised. 'So Ciara was a Zoroark all this time?! How could I let myself be fooled by that? Well, at least that explains why Liza's Psychic attack didn't work... It's a shame; she was such a beautiful Venomoth too... As a Zoroark, she looks kind of frightening, actually... but still pretty.'
Back on stage, Janine took a brief glance at an unused Pokeball on her hip.
'Thanks, Dad, for letting me borrow your Venomoth for this. I hope Ciara didn't taint his image.'
"Wait a minute," Gym Leader Liza retaliated. "Why do you have a Zoroark anyway? Aren't your Pokemon supposed to be Poison-types?"
"Deception is one of the key components of being a ninja," Janine replied, in a cool and self-absorbed attitude that was reminiscent of Ciara's. "And this is a perfect way to demonstrate that concept, don'tcha think?"
Ciara gave a broad smile--though if only she had the ability to speak human language, she would have said it much better herself. Her sharp foxy fangs peeked out through the edges of her mouth.
"Now, Ciara, Hone those Claws!"
With a flashy toss of her long crimson hair, Ciara moved about as if going through several fighting stances, her front claws leaving streaks behind them as they seemed to grow sharper and sharper. This got a very familiar reaction out of the audience, invoking many a deja-vu moment...
Seeing this appeal from the TV screen backstage, Byron stood up.
"Grr, how dare she copy Halberd's appeal? Even if it is a Hone Claws, it looks a heck of a lot like his Swords Dance!"
But Ciara's movements were much more fluid than Halberd's were, and the claw streaks seemed to draw in more audience approval than Halberd's blades had done. This gave Ciara all the more reason to flash her wicked smile.
"Come on Mini-Liza!" Gym Leader Liza commanded. "Go distract that bit--I mean, that beast--with a Sweet Kiss!"
'Eww, no', Liza the Smoochum thought. 'Just because I'm a Smoochum doesn't mean I should be expected to kiss that ugly thing.'
For some reason she felt good calling Ciara ugly, even if she was quite the opposite. But anyway, she had an even better idea than using Sweet Kiss. Instead, she walked right up to where Ciara was Honing her Claws, took the lollipop out of her mouth, and gave it a good throw. The lollipop had no problem at all sticking to the crimson hair on the side of Ciara's face.
Ciara freaked out, to say the least.
'YUCK!' she thought, sticking out her tongue in disgust. 'How DARE that big-lipped brat throw her germs at me! Eww eww eww eww eww...'
She was afraid to touch it, and instead demanded that Janine remove the lollipop for her.
"Well, in order to remove the lollipop, I'd have to cut off that whole side of your hair..." Janine said flatly, crossing her fishnet-covered arms.
Ciara decided to ignore her. Instead, she enveloped herself in a shadowy aura, one that took on an intense shade of imperial purple. Eyes firmly fixed on the Smoochum, she raised her arms, causing bright purple sparks to hover above her. The way the sparks fluttered about made them look a bit like butterflies to the audience.
But Liza the Smoochum was ignoring Ciara. She had enough. Turning away from her, she formed her own aura around her: a similar blue one to the one she took on while using Psychic earlier. Except this time her target wasn't Ciara; it was her own trainer. Using her telekinetic powers, she lifted her Pokeball right out of Gym Leader Liza's grasp, bringing it towards her.
And Ciara charged at the Smoochum, leaving a wake of shadows behind and slightly before her, threatening to cloak that lame excuse for a Pokemon in total darkness. But just before her attack (a Night Daze, the judges guessed) could hit, Liza went inside her Pokeball, which merely rolled backward upon impact. Nearby, Gym Leader Liza facepalmed. And before Ciara could do any more harm, Janine returned her to her Pokeball as well, deciding she would deal with the lollipop later.
"Well then," Avatar Nix announced, "it seems that Liza's Pokemon has decided to forfeit the battle, meaning Janine is the winner by default!" The crowd was applauding, though not as loudly as anyone would have liked.
Meanwhile, backstage, Roxanne and Crasher Wake had finished looking over the documents their Feraligatr and Gigalith found.
"How are we gonna tell the others about this?" Roxanne asked Crasher Wake.
The masked wrestler rose from his seat, holding up a stubby finger. "I think I got it. We're just gonna hafta tell 'em straight."
"But not him, of course..." Roxanne warned. Crasher Wake nodded his head, and the two walked towards the stage area, holding hands. (Naturally, this got them got several awkward stares from the other gym leaders.) Garret and Testa followed behind, the latter making the floor shake a little with each rocky step.
Back on the stage, it was Elesa's turn to make her single appeal. The audience was cheering on the Plusle she had out--or was it the Plusle cheering on the audience? The cute electric rodent was waving around balls of electric sparks that very much resembled pom-poms.
"Okay, Clarise!" Elesa called, hands on her seductively curvy hips. "Now use Fake Tears!"
While the audience was occupied with watching this heartwarmingly cute crying display Clarise put on, Roxanne and Crasher Wake whispered into Margaret and Theo's ears, respectively. Avatar Nix was nowhere to be seen; just before Elesa started her appeal, he had told the audience something about speaking with the directors to determine the outcome of the contest. The blue-velvet-clad judges seemed annoyed at this disturbance at first, but Roxanne and Crasher Wake finally managed to talk Theo into listening to what they had to say; Theo asked Margaret to cover the taking down of notes for Clarise's cheery appeal. Eventually Theo found himself taken behind the side curtain and in conversation about what Roxanne and Crasher Wake (their Pokemon, rather) had found.
"Marvelous!" Margaret announced into the microphone as Clarise made firework-like sparks flash all over the stage in her grand finale. "Let's give a hand for Elesa and Clarise!" And boy did they. From the side curtain, Theo gave her a thumbs-up. "Don't mind Theo. Roxanne and Crasher Wake just had something to tell him about their final appeal. If we find out they are trying to bribe him, they shall both be disqualified. But, enough of that for now. Roxanne? Crasher Wake? Are you two ready?"
Margaret took a look at the side of the stage, but everyone there still seemed to be lost in conversation. After casting a brief look of uncertainty at them, she turned back to the audience, hesitant in her voice.
"Well then, um, I guess we'll have to..."
All of a sudden, the lights went out, plunging the entire contest hall into total darkness. Not even the emergency exit signs were lit. Not even the flashlights the security guards were required to keep on hand. Darkness. Lonely, silent darkness. Not a sound, not a flash of hope.
Then, slowly, the hall started to grow brighter... though not by much. A pale lavender glow descended upon the hall from the large round skylight in the centre of the ceiling. Supposedly, this skylight was put there so that Pokemon could put moves like Sunny Day to use in their appeals. Not that that mattered now. By the light of the dim glow, the audience came into view... except there was no audience. Instead there were coffins. Practically every seat was occupied by one, where once a person sat. Two more coffins stood on either side of the exit, indicating where the security guards had been. As the lavender glow grew slowly brighter and more distinctively purple, the light finally shone on Margaret, who stood alone on the stage. Behind her, a coffin stood where Elesa once was.
After a while, Theo ran out to where the lovely lady in the blue velvet dress stood, followed closely by the Feraligatr and Gigalith he had been talking to.
"Margaret, Roxanne and Crasher Wake have become coffins as well," Theo said to her, then glanced behind him. "Garret, why don't you gather anyone who's still backstage over here?"
"I'll get right to it," the oversized blue alligator affirmed as he turned around and headed backstage. About midway, he stopped. "Wait a minute... I'm actually talking. How'd that happen? Weird."
Meanwhile, Margaret was looking right up at the skylight, her entire face illuminated like the full moon.
"Oh my..." she remarked, almost distantly, slowly raising a finger to the sky. "We knew something of this sort would eventually happen, but look..."
At once, Testa and Theo joined her in looking up at the source of the glow. There, in the sky, slowly descending towards the contest hall, was a giant floating Pokeball, pointed right at them. Well, not a normal Pokeball. Instead of being red on top, it was purple, and had an M on the front.
"A Master Ball!" Testa exclaimed, his deep voice shaking the hall more than his steps did. "Just like in the dream Garret and I had!"
At once, Theo and Margaret fixed their eyes on Testa, who looked almost as ominous as the Master Ball itself when lit by the purple glow. What dream?
"We were in a room covered by blue velvet walls, and we appeared to be on a ship on the stormy seas or something. Now I remember it... both you and Theo were there! Yes, I remember both of you... You were speaking of a prophecy of some sort, and there was a crystal ball in the centre of the room, which showed a glowing Master Ball within it, and a dark shadow of some sort juxtaposed over it."
Margaret smiled, though mysteriously.
"You actually remember that."
"Of course. So does Garret. When we first met, we found out that we both had this dream, and wondered if it meant something... I wasn't entirely sure of it at the time, but Garret insisted it would come true someday. Damn him, he got what he wished for."
"I've got 'em!" called somebody from the other side of the stage. It was Garret, and this time he brought company: all the Pokemon the gym leaders had used in the contests, except for Terri--probably because she was never actually in the contest in the first place. Not the gym leaders themselves though...
"Unfortunately, there were coffins where the gym leaders once were. Somehow their Pokemon survived, though."
"What the heck is going on?!" Halberd exclaimed, looking all over the place. "And what's that floating Master Ball doing there? And those coffins? This is physically impossible!"
"Oh, get real," Ciara droned. She looked very displeased, missing an entire lock of her hair thanks to that lollipop that Liza threw. That stupid little Smoochum would be getting it after this was all over... Meanwhile, Liza had managed to find a new lollipop to suck on.
"I wanna climb up on the roof and play volleyball!" Lace blurted when she saw the giant Master Ball.
"W-w-what is this madness?" Izzy stammered, shaking all over. Randy came over to reassure him everything was going to be all right. Sparks flew all around the scared Joltik, but they did very little to Randy, given he was Electric-type as well.
And then a loud BOOM sounded from the centre of the hall, causing several of the Pokemon to jump backward in surprise. The Master Ball had crashed right into the skylight, and now sent a red beam hurling towards the ground. As time passed, this beam expanded, and a shadowy mass started to materialise within it.
"It is just as we feared..." Theo muttered, holding hands with Margaret.
"Urrgh, if only we had brought you that information sooner..." Garret complained, picking at an improperly-placed scale on his shoulder. "I'll bet you anything that's him."
"It is," Margaret solemnly stated.
A deep, maniacal laugh reverberated throughout the room as the red beam vanished. In its place was the legendary New Moon Pokemon, Darkrai. Except it looked a bit different than usual: instead of the wide crimson collar, he had a little white one, with abstract shapes floating all around it. He actually had legs this time, adorned with tall boots as shadowy as most of his body was. His long, jagged hair was lavender in colour and emitted the same glow as the giant Master Ball had done. And he himself was at least ten feet taller than his most recognised form.
"Oh my Arceus!" JP shouted, pointing four muscular fingers on separate arms at the tall, shadowy Pokemon. "It's Darkrai!"
"I am not merely Darkrai," the great shadowy figure replied, his voice twisted in such a way that it sounded as if two voices sounded at once: a deep one and a mirthless, higher-pitched one, which easily could have belonged to a snake given its hissing overtones. "The documents two of my victims have discovered had it spot-on."
His eyes, which had previously been empty black voids, took on an eerie crimson glow from deep within them. Reaching behind him, he took out the satchel Garret and Testa had also found, taking out the object with in it: a plain dark orb, the image of a black hole inside of it. Though it itself didn't look that threatening, it gave off such an air that caused the entire hall to fall into a haunting silence. It was as if a tinge of fear had escaped from the hearts of everyone present and most unfortunate to be alive.
"Indeed," Not-Merely-Darkrai continued, in the same gravely serious tone as ever. "After it does its job, after this Dark Hour is over, all the gym leaders who were foolish enough to participate in this event shall bend to my will, be under direct rule of my puppet, the man you all knew as Avatar Nix."
Several Pokemon jaws fell open, silent. Except one...
"SO YOUR WHOLE SCHEME ALL ALONG WAS TO CONTROL THEM?" Sofiya screamed, hurting the other Pokemon's ears more than Darkrai's. "YOU ARE A HORRIBLE, HORRIBLE PERSON! FATE HATH CURSE YOU, AVATAR NIX!" Her fur standing on end and sparks surrounding her tiny four-legged body, she spat at him. The spit instead landed on the conical "hat" topping Mana the Lampent's head.
In response, Darkrai gave a simple wave of his hand, and a swirl of darkness shrouded the Shinx. Before anyone could be too worried about her, the darkness around her vanished... though she had fallen silent, trembling, refusing to open her mouth ever again.
Darkrai let out a mirthless chuckle. "Consider yourselves lucky that I didn't decide to eliminate that pesky furball all at once. Face it. None of you can hope to stand a chance against what might be my true form. Darkrai, Nyx Forme!"
"Ssssso that'ssssss why that Darkrai looked different from the picturessssss I've sssssseen in mythology booksssssss," Shinai muttered to himself, seeming relatively unphazed, his long serpentine tongue flitting about as he spoke. "Interessssssting."
And Darkrai unleashed his attack. With the black-hole orb now hovering before him and glowing an angry red, he threw his arms forward. Shadowy wisps swirled around the orb; two nearby coffins compressed and shrank as they were sucked right inside it. On stage, the nineteen Pokemon present felt themselves being drawn forward by some sort of magnetic force (or at least it felt that way). Some dug their claws into the stage, others held onto the lights in the front... but they couldn't hold on much longer. Inevitably, they would be sucked in, just like everything else they knew.
Then Theo, who was mysteriously unaffected by this black-hole attack (as well as Margaret, still holding hands with him), called out to the Pokemon.
"Hey! Everyone, listen! Do not let yourselves succumb to Nyx's--I mean, Darkrai's--influence! Everyone, use Trump Card!"
"Trump Card?" Joshua scoffed. "Yeah, nice try. Whaddaya think we are, Eeveelutions? We don't even know Trump Card." Next to him, Ciara gave him a little smile. That was exactly what she was thinking.
"Trust me!" Theo immediately retorted, growing impatient as everyone struggled to avoid being drawn in. "More importantly, trust yourselves!"
It seemed Farfetch'd, but one by one, each of them tried to use this impossible attack. Several cries of "Trump Card!", each of different pitch, echoed throughout the stage. Much to everyone's surprise, a card did in fact materialise in front of every one of them. Not just any card, in fact. A tarot card--one of the Major Arcana. Every Pokemon had a different card before them, except as there were only nineteen of them, three of them--the Empress, Judgment, and World cards--were left out. Russell in particular gazed in amazement at his card, which for some reason was Strength. How odd for the timid little Minccino he was.
"Everyone!" Margaret announced. "That card appearing before each of you holds your creative essence! It represents your very origin! You must trust in that, and use it to combat the Great Shadow who stands before you!"
"GREAT shadow!?" Darkrai chortled. "How dare this tactless wench describe my being with such mundane words! And these worthless beings here cannot hope to eradicate me, not even with those playing cards of theirs!"
The inward current of shadowy spirals grew larger and stronger, drawing the Pokemon on the stage in further. Many of them fell off the stage; Testa managed to crush two coffins in the audience under his weight. A Buneary skeleton rolled out from underneath one of them. As they drew inward, the tarot cards ended up pressed against their owners' faces.
Randy the Pikachu, with the Fool. Izzy the Joltik, with the Magician. Clarise the Plusle, with the High Priestess. Testa the Gigalith, with the Emperor. Halberd the Bisharp, with the Hierophant. JP the Machamp, with the Lovers. Levin the Tranquill, with the Chariot. Russell the Minccino, with Strength. Liza the Smoochum, with the Hermit. Garret the Feraligatr, with the Wheel of Fortune. Miyuki the Dragonair, with Justice. Snow the Roserade, with the Hanged Man. Mana the Lampent, with Death. Sigmund the Mienshao, with Temperance. Shinai the Serperior, with the Devil. Joshua the Kricketune, with the Tower. Lace the Magby, with the Star. Ciara the Zoroark (not the Venomoth), with the Moon. Sofiya the Shinx, with the Sun.
All at once, all nineteen of them stood their ground, finding the inner courage needed to bring forth whatever forces were embedded in each card. All the tarot cards turned a bright white, causing Darkrai to squint and block his eyes with one of his arms. And from each card, a person emerged. Not a gym leader; a humble, (comparatively) ordinary-looking person. Of all shapes, sizes, and ages... though the oldest one was probably no older than thirty, the youngest no younger than fourteen, perhaps. Halberd, especially, was quite surprised as a tiny little woman with curly hair, perhaps in her twenties, emerged before him. Was she really the one who brought a big guy like him into existence? Similarly for Snow and the just-about-thirty-year-old woman before him.
Oddly, Testa, Randy, Izzy, Garret, Liza, and Shinai managed to summon forth the exact same person. No seriously, they were identical. In fact, the six copies of this person merged together into a glowing silver sphere that hovered high above the other Creators.
"I am Zincspider," a voice from within the silver sphere spoke. "I, along with my fellow Creators, shall do the honour of... ah, what's the use in telling this abomination what we're gonna do? LET'S GET HIM!"
Every one of the Creators held their arms out wide, and thirteen bright silvery beams burst forth from their very hearts. The fused sphere known as "Zincspider" followed them, gliding right along the beams and adding his own energy to the rest. The entire room filled with an intense, silvery light...
And the crowd went wild! The contest hall, cheerily lit as ever before, was filled to the brim with people once more. No coffins in sight at all, unless someone in the audience happened to have a Cofagrigus. On the stage, Theo and Margaret stood side by side, hand in hand. Behind them, Elesa was just walking off the stage with Clarise, who looked to be oddly exhausted.
"And so this contest draws to a close," Margaret announced. "Sadly, Roxanne and Crasher Wake have opted to drop out of the competition, for personal reasons I can fully understand." Maybe a little more than personal. "And Avatar Nix... well, let's just say that he's not ever coming back."
At the very back of hall, two policemen were walking towards the exit. Avatar Nix walked inbetween them, his hands handcuffed behind his back, the policemen grabbing him by the arms.
"You may think this is all over for me!" the tuxedo-clad phony host warned. "But the shadows shall never vanish! Ever it shall lurk, until the very end of..."
"You may talk in your jail cell," one of the policemen interrupted, pressing his free hand firmly over Avatar Nix's mouth.
"That said," Theo picked up, gesturing out towards the audience from his spot on stage, "I ask that all participants, including their Pokemon, come out on the stage."
As if nothing ever happened, the nineteen gym leaders who had participated in this competition filed onto the stage once more. The Pokemon did seem tired and relieved to various degrees though. As in the introduction to this event, the gym leaders were lined up by region, Lt. Surge on the far left, Iris on the far right. Only this time, each and every Pokemon they used during the competition stood in front of them--except Clarise, who had fallen unconscious and was resting in Elesa's arms. Nobody seemed to notice...
"Since Avatar Nix is no longer in control of this event," Margaret announced again, "I declare that this competition has no winner. Everyone performed beautifully. That is all I can say."
"Even those who were disqualified?" Theo asked her, barely audible above the ensuing applause.
"Since it was Avatar Nix who disqualified them," Margaret replied, "those disqualifications disappeared when he did."
"Very well then," Theo commented, adjusting his tie, and by then the applause had died down. "Still, since this is a competition, I would like to declare a completely arbitrary winner." He cast a sideways glance at Margaret, who cocked her head to the side in a sort of partial agreement. Good enough, Theo decided. "The completely arbitrary winner is... Chuck and his mucho macho Machamp, JP!"
The contest hall filled with the noise of the crowd, and the speakers boomed once more with those familiar disco beats. Except this time, everyone had a chance to groove to it.
"Macho macho man
I wanna be a macho man
A mucho macho man...
I wanna be a..."
"MACHAAAMP!" JP boomed over the crowd as he held the cheaply-made golden trophy up high. Gosh, it was a relief not to be speaking in humanspeak anymore.
Outside, it was a lovely, quiet night, illuminated spectacularly by the full moon. Fantina was sitting on a bench not too far away from the contest hall, gazing... not at the moon, but at a Pokeball held in her hands.
"Why won't you open?" she cried, a tear falling on the Pokeball. "I tried everything, but it seems you're trapped in there, forever... Oh Terri, I'm so sorry..."
And she burst into more tears.