This is it, guys. The last epilogue, the last chapter... thank you all so much for sticking with me to this point. We'll wrap up Ash and Dawn's stories both with this one, and you guys will get to see the ultimate ending in the final scene. I have to say, I'm pretty excited about it. I hope you all enjoy it just as much.
I've also got a pretty monstrous author's note at the bottom, and I'd really appreciate if all of you read it. A little thank you and farewell to everyone who has read this story from beginning to end and supported it.
The Journey Continues
Epilogue – Ash (Part III)
Kanto Region – Battle Pyramid
The platform carried Ash up the structure, stopping only when it suddenly appeared in a brightly-lit room. The elevator's walls became thick glass windows, and an invisible door split the elevator shaft in two and allowed him to walk out into the rest of the room. The floors were a shiny white, and the flat roof a deep black. Windows allowed one to look outside at the surrounding area, and various tech littered the room, probably related to making the Battle Pyramid fly.
Ash looked up at Brandon, the Pyramid King himself. Brandon stood on an elevated platform across the room, accompanied by Samuel and a few nameless employees. Brandon crossed his arms over his chest, wearing a smirk as he stood over a large console system.
"When I saw you flying in from the window, I have to admit that I was a little shocked," Brandon said, "What are you doing here?"
Ash's mouth ran dry. The truth sounded a little ridiculous, didn't it? "I, uh… I'm not really sure. I just felt like I needed to come here. I don't know what came over me," he said.
Brandon scrutinized him. "I find it hard to believe that this is merely a coincidence."
Ash gulped. "Can… can we speak privately?"
Brandon eyed him for a few more seconds and nodded, turning his eyes to his assistant Samuel. "Sam, fill in for me while I'm gone and finish running the diagnostics." Brandon then stepped away from the central console and down the short staircase to Ash's level. The Pyramid King gestured for Ash to follow him out of the bridge.
The see-through elevator doors slid open as Brandon walked into them and Ash followed him onto the round platform. The doors (or were they technically windows?) closed and a keypad lit up on the glass as Brandon's fingers approached it, a rectangle of see-through buttons listing all of the Pyramid's levels.
Brandon pressed the button labeled Battle Level and the elevator sank through the floor, returning the two to the dimly-lit darkness of the elevator shaft.
"What did you want to talk about?" Brandon asked, breaking the silence.
Ash stammered, "I-I don't really know. I was at my house in Pallet Town, when—"
The elevator let out a ding and the doors—now a hidden part of the wall—opened up and welcomed the pair to the Battle Level. They stepped out into the light and Ash got a good look at the Pyramid's battlefield, the site of his victory against Brandon that had earned him the Brave Symbol. The field was huge and surrounded by several spectating areas, though they were almost never actually full. The preposterously tall walls of the room couldn't be more different from each other; one was a standard straight wall and the others were slanted, apparently the other side of the pyramid's exterior wall.
"I never asked, why's the elevator like it is?"
Brandon shrugged, "Design choice from before my time. I never truly saw any reason to remodel it. That would be tremendously expensive," he explained. He and Ash leaned against a ledge blocking off the upper levels from the battlefield below, eyeing the pristine dirt and perfectly drawn, chalk-white lines. "Now, you were saying. About why you're here?"
"Oh, right…" Ash said. He scratched the back of his head, "Brandon, do you believe in destiny?"
"I suppose it depends what form of destiny you speak of. I personally don't believe that everything in one's life is predetermined, if that's what you're asking, but I can subscribe to the idea that everyone is meant to be something in particular," Brandon answered.
"I was with my friends back home, and I just kind of realized that they're all heading for greener pastures. They've got goals and places that they want to be in life when they're older, and they're happy. And I'm just kind of… stagnant."
"Do you grow bored of the Viridian Gym?"
"I don't know. I love being a Gym Leader, I think I'm great at it, but I sort of miss the opportunity to go all out." Ash said.
"Why not challenge the Elite Four, then?"
"I have, actually." Ash said, "I've beaten Sinnoh's Champion, Cynthia. She offered me an unofficial match, and I took it about two years ago."
"And I won. But that position, being the Champion, it's not me. I don't want to be the face of the Pokémon League. I just wanna be me." Ash revealed, "I came here because… well, because I saw Ho-Oh in the sky."
"Ho-Oh?" Brandon inquired, casting a curious look at Ash.
Ash nodded. "I've seen him a couple of times before, each time when I was about to go on a journey. He's never led me astray before, so I followed him on Charizard. He took us here, and then he just took off."
Brandon brought his hand to his chin, contemplating Ash's claim. "Do you think I'm being crazy?" Ash asked, worried.
Brandon shook his head. "No. Ash, I once captured the legendary golems and commanded them in battle. I'm no stranger to Legendary Pokémon. You know what I think, Ash? I think this is no different than when Ho-Oh would lead you to your next journey. I think you've found your journey, right here."
"What do you mean?"
"It's a bit of a secret around here, but I've been considering retirement for about the past year, now. I'm not as young as I used to be, and as much as I love being the Pyramid King, desires change over time." Brandon explained, "The thing is, I'm going to need a replacement when I retire."
"I'll tell you what," Brandon continued, "If you can beat me in a battle, Ash, I'll endorse you as my candidate to replace me as Pyramid King."
Ash flinched, "Wait, seriously?"
Brandon nodded. "The other Frontier Brains will have to vote on it, but you'd have a leg up on any potential competition. You've already collected all seven Frontier Symbols in the past, and I don't think there's any doubt at all that you could do so again. What do you say?"
It took a moment to process what Brandon was offering him. Ash looked at Pikachu, who had been resting quietly on his shoulder.
~What do you think, buddy?~
Pikachu smiled inwardly. ~I think we should go for it, Ash! Why not?~
Ash grinned and met Brandon's eyes again. He extended his hand for a handshake and gave his answer, "I'd say that Pyramid King Ash has a pretty nice ring to it."
Brandon chuckled, "Confident, are we? You've still got to beat me in a battle to get that nomination. Just because I'm the Pyramid King doesn't mean I've been slacking off on my own training." Brandon shook Ash's hand firmly.
Ash smirked, "I hope not. I want to see everything you've got."
Kanto Region – Pallet Town
They were married less than a year later.
One might've expected for the ceremony to be as lavish as possible. In fact, it was quite the opposite. Ash stood on the right side of the altar, clad in a bespoke suit fit for a king. He'd fixed his unruly hair to a degree, but he still managed to hold onto that boyish charm of his. A small pin was fixed in the suit, that of the Brave Symbol, the badge of the Pyramid King. He'd taken to his new vocation like a man reborn, fielding challengers from all over the world and getting to take part in some of the best battles he'd ever experienced. He also got his fair share of traveling in, using the Battle Pyramid's unique flight capabilities to check out faraway ruins and visit old friends.
He never did forget Pallet Town, though. He made the trek to and from home every morning to the Pyramid, and always returned home by nightfall. After defeating Brandon and earning the approval of the other Frontier Brains, he'd rushed to Dawn's apartment in Saffron City. It had been pouring down rain, but he hadn't cared about how soaked he was as he bolted inside the building and took the elevator up to her floor.
He'd gotten down on one knee that night, right there in the hallway at her front door. In the past, he'd imagined popping the question while on some unforgettable vacation, maybe with a beach and a sunset at his back. But that night, it had just felt right. He knew that Dawn would've said yes, no matter where they were.
They'd been in agreement on the outdoor wedding. They'd decided to have the ceremony right in Oak's ranch, a short walk from the house that had been cleared out for the reception. It was now autumn, and the trees of Pallet Town had gone from a stark green to an awe-inspiring mix of reds and yellows and oranges. An altar made of spindly tree bark stood at Professor Oak's (the older one) back, adorned with beautiful flowers, and rows of white chairs took up space on either side of the aisle, which was really just a stretch of grass.
At Ash's side were Brock, Gary, and Max, each clad in similar suits. The youngest of the three groomsmen wore a bright smile, his oxford blue hair parted to the left across his forehead. He was 19 years old now and running the Petalburg City Gym after Norman's retirement. Pikachu was also part of the groomsmen, perched respectfully on Brock's shoulder and wearing his own miniature suit and bowtie.
In the audience, Ash picked out several familiar faces from around the world, mostly people he'd met on his travels. Norman and Caroline sat in the second row, and scattered around seats were the likes of Iris, Serena, Bonnie and Clemont, Riley, Flint, Corey, Layla, Cynthia, Paul, Barry, and so many others that he'd met on his journeys and kept in touch with.
Finally, the musician they'd hired began playing, and all attention turned away from the altar. Ash spotted movement beyond the trees, his anticipation slowly growing. May walked into view first, leading the wedding party and clad in an olive-green bridesmaid's dress. Misty was close behind her, similarly dressed with her messy orange hair pulled back in a ponytail. Zoey and Candice came next, and Buneary and Empoleon hobbled along after the two girls, the former in a little miniature bridesmaid's dress and the latter wearing a tight olive-green bowtie around his neck. Johanna and Delia appeared next, heading for their designated seats in the front row next to the aisle. The two mothers beamed as they walked, having shared dreams about this day for so long that they could hardly believe that the real thing was at last here.
But what truly took Ash's breath away was Dawn. She rounded the great tree obscuring his view and seemed to glow in the autumn sun. Her dress was completely white, as expected, but it made her more beautiful than Ash had ever seen her. It accented every angle of her body in the most perfect way, and her blue hair was tied up in the most intricate braids around the sides before ending in a bun behind her head. She saw him from across the yard and beamed, cracking a thrilled smile. Ash smiled back, knowing that he didn't deserve any part of her.
Dawn's four bridesmaids scrambled to the opposite side of the altar, flashing joyous grins at Ash as they passed. Delia took her seat in the front, and Johanna stayed behind to walk her daughter down the aisle. There had been no choice more appropriate than her. The music continued to fill the ranch as mother and daughter walked arm-in-arm. Ash smiled, and Johanna gave him a curt nod as they reached the end of the aisle and she gave Dawn away to him.
"Hi," Ash whispered as he took Dawn's hands.
"Hi," she giggled back.
"You're so beautiful," Ash said. Dawn blushed and smiled to cover it up.
"Please be seated," Professor Oak said, and the audience obeyed. Every seat was filled, and a cool breeze blew through the ranch. The elder Oak cracked a smile, "We are gathered here today to witness and celebrate the union of Ash Robert (1) Ketchum and Dawn Marie Berlitz. First, I want to thank everyone in attendance today. Each of you are here because you represent an important part in the lives of Ash and Dawn. Next, I want to say a few words about this young man and this young lady who mean so much to me."
"I've known Ash since he was a little boy. Let me tell you, never have I met a soul more enthralled by Pokémon. For years before he was old enough to get his Trainer's License, he'd come running up the hill to the lab just to look through the window at the Pokémon I kept in the ranch. And then, when the day came for him to receive his first Pokémon, the poor boy overslept, and I had given away all of the starter Pokémon that I had to offer."
The audience chuckled and Ash's ears burned in meek embarrassment, trying to reconcile himself with that boy from nearly fifteen years ago.
"Fortunately for him, there was one last Pokémon that I had on offer: a wild, troublesome little Pikachu… a dangerous creature that you can see right here on Brock's shoulder," Professor Oak quipped. Another bout of laughter rippled through the audience and Pikachu covered his face with his arm in embarrassment. Ash looked to the side at his mom, who was covering her mouth with one hand to hide her laughter. He smiled at her, in spite of everything. Johanna laughed, too, holding Buneary in her lap.
"Nevertheless, Ash was thrilled, and his journey began with the end goal of becoming a Pokémon Master. Somehow, he got through to his new partner Pokémon and the two of them formed a fiercer bond than any that I have ever seen between Trainer and Pokémon. I, for one, am humbled just to recognize the bond that they share. It is truly a testament to the strength of the relationship between people and Pokémon. And I think that today, so many years after that first unusual day, Ash has become a Master in his own right. Not only as a Pokémon Trainer, but as a man. He has found himself not only countless friends over the years, but also a beautiful young woman who holds his heart."
"And that brings us to the lovely bride," Oak smiled at Dawn, "I can't claim to know Dawn as well as I know Ash, but I can say that I knew she was something special the day I first met her. We'd spoken here and there over the videophone when she was with Ash in the Sinnoh Region, but I first met Dawn after the fact when she visited this very lab with Ash. She was an avid fan of my poetry,"
"And still am," Dawn cut in with a sweet grin. Professor Oak smiled and nodded before continuing.
"And still is," he corrected, "and I believe that I saw in her the foil that Ash truly needed in his future. The next time I really saw them together, well, they were together. They cheered each other on in their respective competitions a few summers later, still so young but also so grown up and matured. I wondered with Delia if she was going to be 'the one', the first and last of Ash's romantic relationships, and over the years after that my belief was slowly confirmed. No matter the distance between them caused by their different paths, their love for each other grew stronger and deeper with each passing day. Their love and devotion to one another requires no explanation."
"And with that in mind, I would like to continue with the saying of the vows. Ash, would you like to begin?" Ash nodded, and he focused on Dawn.
"Dawn… I'm not really sure I even know what to say. When we first met, the very idea of being with a girl like you was so far beyond me… I would've asked you why you were asking me about gross, mushy stuff like that and not focusing on Pokémon training. I don't think I even knew the first thing about women. I guess I really still don't, heh…" Ash started, "But now, standing here and looking at you, I'm so glad that it's really you. I love you more than life itself, and I can't imagine being apart from you and not being your husband. You complete me in every way possible, and when I'm without you there's just this piece missing from me. You opened my dense, stubborn little heart, and because of that I vow to cherish you a little more with each day. I swear that I'll always stand at your side through whatever life throws at us. And I vow to never stop loving you, no matter what."
Ash smiled through the water welling in his eyes, stubbornly holding back the tears of joy. Dawn beamed at him, and when she answered him, her voice was as angelic as he'd ever heard it.
"Ash, the love that I hold for you is stronger than anything I've ever felt. The feelings that I felt for you almost half a life ago are stronger than ever now, and I know they're only going to grow stronger as my life goes on with you. I won't say it was love at first sight, but somewhere down the line I knew that you were the one for me, even if it took me forever to express that. I very nearly let you get away. I love you, so much, that I don't know what I would do without you. With that in mind, I vow to never lose sight of my love for you. I vow to stay with you through thick and thin, through light and dark, not because the commitment we're about to make commands it, but because I love you to the ends of the earth and there is nothing that I would rather do than be with you."
The two lovers fell silent, and Oak smiled, touched. "Truly inspiring. With that, we can move onto the rings. Pikachu, Empoleon, if you would?"
A light weight pressed on Ash's shoulder and a yellow-furred mouse peered into his peripheral vision, carrying a little ring around his small hand. "Pi, Pikapi!" Pikachu cried, offering Ash the ring.
"Thanks, buddy," Ash said, and he gave Pikachu a loving scratch behind the ear.
Empoleon likewise nudged his way into Dawn's airspace, revealing the ring to be wrapped around one of the small spikes emerging from the inside of the Emperor Pokémon's metallic wing. Dawn carefully slid the ring—Ash's ring—off of that spike and beamed at Empoleon, raising one hand to pat the large water-type's wing.
"Thank you, Empoleon," she whispered, remembering when the proud water-type was a stubborn little Piplup. The Emperor Pokémon replied with a happy "Empol!"
Ash lifted his hand holding the ring, and gently grasped Dawn's fingers, lifting them to reach her fourth finger. "With this ring, I seal my vows to you. I am yours, and you are mine, forever." He slid the ring onto her finger, the golden band fitting perfectly.
Dawn reciprocated the gesture, clasping Ash's fingers in hers and bringing the ring to them. "With this ring, I pledge my undying love to you. I am yours, and you are mine, forever." She gently pushed the ring down along his finger, the larger band fitting snugly past his second knuckle.
The two Pokémon returned to their respective places beside the altar, and Professor Oak smiled anew. "And now, by the power vested in me, by the Region of Kanto, I now pronounce you husband and wife." Oak looked to Ash, "You may kiss the bride."
Gently, Ash pulled Dawn towards him, capturing her lips in a tender kiss. Dawn carefully pulled one hand from his and placed it on his cheek, closing her eyes and returning the kiss.
As they pulled away from one another, Professor Oak rose his voice so that the whole yard could hear him loud and clear. "It is my honor to introduce to you, Mr. and Mrs. Ash Ketchum!"
Kanto Region – Battle Pyramid, Five Years Later
Ash stood solemnly in the Battle Pyramid's battle room, waiting.
Carefully, he slipped his billfold out from the pocket of his jeans, flipping it open to look inside. His Trainer Card was displayed prominently under a flap on the left, serving as identification. What he really wanted to see, though, was in the middle of the tri-fold wallet. A small picture sat nestled in between the folds, covered in the front by a transparent layer.
Dawn took up most of the little frame, her dark blue hair let down so that it covered her ears. Hefted in one of her arms was Gary Ketchum, their 3-year old son. The boy sported a mess of dark blue hair identical to his mother's, but the natural style that it fell in was the spitting image of Ash. His chocolate brown eyes gleamed in the light of the picture, the characteristic little 'Z' marks under them making it clear that he was a Ketchum kid, as if nothing else about him already did that. The boy was laughing, and Dawn was wearing a smile, her other hand placed gently over her belly, slightly swollen from pregnancy.
They were happy as could be, still just as in love as they'd been on their wedding day. The two of them weren't that far off from age 30, now. Little Gary was already showing an interest in Pokémon, adding to the assertion that the boy was really just Ash with Dawn's blue hair. He wasn't sure what their next child would be—they had an appointment in a couple of days with the doctor to learn the baby's sex. Ash found himself hoping that it was a girl, just for the experience.
Today, though, he had a special appointment. Anabel had informed him that he would have an extraordinary challenger, and Ash found himself looking forward to it more than anything. Her words had felt like a warning, but Ash had only taken it as good news.
Still, when the double doors slid open and the challenger walked through, Ash had to duck his head to hide his grin. He chuckled out loud; he'd half-expected his challenger's identity to have been false information. The man was practically a ghost. Only here he was now, finally on Ash's playing field.
"You know, when I heard Noland got swept six-to-nothing by a challenger, I was intrigued. The best part about the Battle Frontier is that we attract the best collection of Trainers the world has to offer. If a Frontier Brain gets shut out, that probably means I'm going to get to face that challenger eventually."
The challenger remained still, surprise marking his face as he took in the identity of the last Frontier Brain.
"When Noland told me your name, I froze in my tracks. I was skeptical for a moment, but when he told me about the kind of Pokémon you used, well… I've been keeping an eye on your progress ever since, hoping—no, waiting—for the day that you came to me. You pretty much did the same thing to Greta and Tucker, though Lucy gave you a tough time. 6-3, was it?" Ash continued, "That was when I started training, hard. Then you beat Spenser, and then Anabel told me that the Ability Symbol was yours. Which meant there was just one Symbol left to win."
Ash tipped his head up, getting another eyeful of the man standing across from him. He nodded, accepting his challenge without any prompt, "I'm ready, Tobias."
Pikachu added his two cents from Ash's shoulder, all stoic. "Pika-chu!"
The man brushed a long mop of grayish-blue hair with his hand, sharp green eyes gleaming. "I must admit, this is quite a surprise. You've grown."
"It's been half a lifetime. It's only right that I did, isn't it?" Ash said with a smirk.
"I suppose. It's been quite some time, indeed. How did you manage to ascend to the title of Pyramid King?"
"Hard work, determination, and a near-apocalypse or two," Ash quipped. He rubbed Pikachu's head with two fingers, smiling as the electric mouse leaned into his touch. "You know, of every Trainer I've ever battled, you're the one I've always wanted a rematch with. Maybe not my absolute favorite opponent, but definitely the one I want another crack at. We left off on the wrong foot."
Tobias chuckled this time, "You were the best one in that tournament. I suppose it's only right."
"No matter how this ends, I'll just ask one thing of you; the same thing I ask of every person who sets foot in my Pyramid." Ash said, "Don't hold back."
"I do appreciate the Battle Frontier's approval of utilizing my… special Pokémon." Tobias withdrew a single Poké Ball from his sleeve, priming it for use by pressing the central button, "Would you like to see my Darkrai again?"
"I don't mind. I may or may not have picked up one of my own since our last meeting," Ash replied. He likewise readied his first Poké Ball, raising a haughty eyebrow at Tobias.
Tobias flinched, eyes widening in surprise, before he refocused and regained that cold stare of his. "Color me impressed," he grunted, "Now, then…"
"Let's begin," Ash finished Tobias' sentence. Pikachu agreed with equal enthusiasm, earning an amused smirk from their challenger. Ash smiled, that same fiery blood pumping through his veins like it did before every showdown. He primed a Poké Ball, fingers loose around the sphere. "If you wanna be the very best, you're gonna have to go through me."
(1) Ash's middle name that I included here is a veiled reference to The Power of One, when Ash says "right now I wish my mom had named me Bob instead of Ash" or something along those lines. Just a little something I thought of. Dawn's middle name is just a popular girl's middle name, no references there. I thought it was necessary to give them middle names since it's a wedding.
And with that, it's a wrap! After over 750,000 words, 91 chapters plus multiple epilogues, The Journey Continues has finally concluded. What started as an impulsive, half-baked alternate ending spiraled into almost three years of writing. This story has certainly had its ups and downs, but I'm done and a lot of you liked it and here we are.
As I think I stated before, I initially planned for Ash to go all the way in the Champion League, though I was torn on whether or not he would actually beat Cynthia. The big thing I remember wanting to leave off on was Ash's Gabite evolving into Garchomp and battling Cynthia's last Pokémon, also her Garchomp, but then leaving it ambiguous with a cliffhanger on not knowing which Garchomp faints at the end.
I soon recognized that that would be so much more writing (I mean, these epilogues have stretched things to 100 chapters!) that I didn't really want to do. I wanted to finish. So I eventually came to Ash earning the right to become Brandon's replacement as the Pyramid King, and shortly after that I envisioned the final scene of the story being a reunion with Tobias, one of two people who essentially spurred the creation of this story (the other obviously being Dawn and how I changed her path at the end of DP). But we'd never see their climactic battle. Did Ash finally beat Tobias? Or did he hand over the Brave Symbol? That's up to you.
So, that's the ending that I'm sticking with. The journey is over. There will be no sequel, though I certainly have had a handful of ideas about what I would write for one. You can see those in Ash – Part II, where I wrote down which Pokémon he captured on future journeys. The teams are obviously different from canon, especially the Unova team. Ash's Carracosta was a fun idea I had to give him a Pokémon that stands out, and to finally give a fossil Pokémon a place in the main character's spotlight as well. I also have always intended for Ash to have explored Unova with Max and Iris (because I don't like Cilan. I just don't. Iris isn't that great either in my eyes, but I had to have someone, and I thought it was right for Ash and Dawn to spend some time apart. Learning to get along without each other would've been a character moment). Ideally, Dawn would've come in here and there, maybe for an arc in Nimbasa City or that Junior Cup thing that she was in for the actual BW series. And probably for the final battle against Team Plasma. I've had several ideas for how that would go. One was that Proton and Petrel joined up with Team Plasma after the end of Team Rocket, but still Ash shows up to foil them. As you can see in the Team Rocket Epilogue, that did not come to pass. Either way, I have no plans for a sequel, and I don't intend to start those now.
So now, that leaves me to thank all of you. To EVERYONE reading this, thank you so much! The response to this fic was so positive from the get-go, no matter where you jumped on. Obviously, there was some negative press about this story, but that's how it is for all of them, and without the positive and the negative I wouldn't have been able to make this story what it turned out to be. It has been a ride, certainly bumpy in places, but I'm glad I bought a ticket for it.
Special thanks goes out to: DownAnder, Lance Curry/lancecurry623, dhun2302, DuNamarSundavar, The Joker2.0, GIZMAC, Dragon King Ryouga, twilight sparkle, K2-Black-Panther, and several others that I can't dig through dozens of pages of reviews to look for. Some of you have been here since the beginning, others from the middle, but reading your reviews and PMs and hearing your support never once failed to make me smile.
Some additional, extra special thanks goes out to Mezamun, who was really cool about me sampling some of his material and taking inspiration from his work, and I truly hope that I did a good enough job of making my story different from his. If, for some reason, you are not yet reading ANOTHER ROAD, I encourage you to do so. This story owes everything to it, and it's pretty amazing in its own right.
Last few things before I end this monstrous author's note and put a bow on this story:
Please, please, oh please send in a review. It would mean the world to me. If you are going to review this chapter, I would ask you to answer a few questions of mine in your response:
1. What was your favorite part of the story? My favorite parts to write were the Team Rocket arc finale with Spear Pillar, and the Sinnoh League.
2. What was your least favorite part of the story?
3. What's something that you think could've been done differently, done better, etc.?
4. Anything else that you have to say about this story, say it. As Ash says to more than one character in the course of this story, don't hold back, because there's no need to worry (I had to)!
I believe that is everything that I have to say, so it's time for me to go…
One more time: You guys rock! Thanks for pushing this aspiring yet incredibly shy writer over the top, and thanks for giving me the opportunity to share this story with you all!
And with that, the journey concludes!