Yo!

Not a ton to say this week. The end of Elesa's arc, and the start of the next!


Chapter 15


Ultimately, their performance goes well.

Really well.

"And the winners of today's themed duo's contest are…" The announcer let the very literal drumroll play.

"Elesa and Bianca!"

The crowd went wild, and Bianca couldn't quite help but feel genuinely happy as she raised her arms above her head, and waved back. Elesa, even, had a smile on her face, and both Electrivire and Leavanny were living it up in the limelight.

Their performance had gone off without a hitch. Their outfits had worked exactly like Elesa had postulated they would, reflecting the rainbow-colored light that Electrivire and Leavanny had conjured, and causing all four of them to give off iridescent reflections.

Apparently, their usage of shining fashion – and their integration with their Pokémon – had been the most stylish, and so they'd won. They hadn't won most creative, or most involved – both had gone to other trainers – but they'd had the most points out of anyone in all categories when the totals were tallied, and that was all they'd needed.

It was funny, when Bianca thought about it, that technically her contest record was a second-place finish in Sootopolis, and a first-place finish here in Nimbasa.

Huh. She was actually pretty okay at these. Granted, on both occasions, she'd borrowed rather heavily from Wallace's and Elesa's help, but… well, that wasn't too terribly important.

They accepted their trophy, and their ribbons – which Bianca made a mental note to get a case for, since the Ribbon didn't fit in her badge case, and apparently there were specialized cases made solely for holding contest ribbons – and made their way out of the venue about thirty or so minutes later. Cynthia was waiting for them – in disguise, of course – and the three of them made their way to a nearby café, once Elesa had had time to put the trophy they'd won away in her home.

"Are you sure you don't want to keep it?" Elesa asked her again for what had to be the fourth time. "You earned it as much as I did."

"I'm sure." Bianca said with a laugh. "Cynthia and I are travelling, so it would be very hard for me to carry around something that heavy and unwieldy all the time. Plus, it takes up too much space, I'd practically have to get a suitcase just for it. And given it serves no practical use, it would just be sitting in the plane most of the time. Besides, I have the ribbon they gave me from winning the contest, that's enough for me."

"Well, if you're sure." Elesa sighed, but she had a smile on her face. "But I do believe I promised you a match?"

"You did, but if you wanted to cool down for a bit, I'd understand."

"Honestly if you wouldn't mind, I might take a few hours just to get my head in order." Elesa sounded apologetic, but Bianca had honestly meant that the woman could take a day or two if she wanted. A few hours' time wasn't at all a big deal. "There's just… something I've been thinking about. I want to think on it on my lonesome a while. Well, that and take a shower; those reflective outfits are quite warm."

Bianca giggled. "Now that you mention it, I think I might do the same."

They split off as they said they would. Bianca and Cynthia retreated to their hotel, talking about the contest and other less important things. Honestly, Bianca didn't have too many thoughts on the former matter. It had gone… well, it had gone to plan. There hadn't been any huge surprises, and they'd performed their routine adequately.

So, they'd won. In Bianca's mind, it made sense.

"You did very well." Cynthia hammered in the praise, and even if Bianca knew she was doing that for her sake – trying to make her think better of herself by saying such things over and over again – it didn't stop it from feeling good. "You two were surprisingly in sync."

"I guess so." Bianca shrugged.

"Hah, you don't make a big deal out of it, but being able to match someone else's tempo in a competition is something a lot of people train to be able to do for their entire lives."

"I guess I was kind of like that in the lab?" Bianca thought back to her time at Professor Juniper's. "The other researchers and I often collaborated on big projects, so it helped to be able to get a feel for the people I was working with, and know their ins and outs. I could be a bit uhm… the rude term is 'anal', but–"

Cynthia snorted, and Bianca huffed under her breath.

"As I was saying, my fellow researchers always appreciated it. I guess because of that appreciation, my habits sort of formed."

Cynthia seemed to notice something, there, and Bianca decided to just ask what it was.

"Well, you already said that your allies putting you down and demeaning you changed how you felt about yourself. I think you work the same way the other way around as well. When someone complemented you on something, it reinforced that particular aspect. Your coworkers liked when you were attentive and reactive towards them, and complemented their strengths, so you took that on as a trait."

It made… actually, it made a startling amount of sense. More than Bianca truly cared to admit. She found herself rubbing at her chin a bit absently as she considered more of her defining characteristics, and tried to remember when they'd come about.

Cynthia, however, nipped that behavior in the bud.

"Oh, calm down." Cynthia rolled her eyes fondly as Bianca snapped from out of her head. "You don't need to psychoanalyze yourself all of a sudden, I was just commenting on something I'd noticed. I don't think there's anything wrong with the fact that you formed habits based around what people liked you doing. Honestly, I think more people wish they could do that kind of thing."

Bianca conceded that that was likely true.

"I… yeah. I guess maybe they would?"

"There you go finishing your statements with questions again."

"I-I can't help it!'

/

"Are you ready, Bianca?"

Bianca dialed in as best she could, reaching down towards her waist, where her Pokémon rested. Bagon, Milotic, and Leavanny waited for her match against Elesa to begin.

It was but seconds away.

"I'm ready." She called back.

Cynthia nodded her head, raising her hand up in the air, waiting three seconds, and then throwing it down.

"Begin!"

"Go, Emolga!"

"Let's go, Bagon!"

The two smaller Pokémon hit the field at the same time, Elesa's Emolga hovering in the air, and her Bagon letting out a cry of excitement.

Elesa studied the field for a moment, before seemingly coming to some sort of conclusion. "Emolga, hit it with a Volt Switch!"

Emolga did just that, glowing with electricity as it dashed towards Bagon. Her Pokémon had scant time to react, but during it, Bianca wanted to at least leave Emolga with an injury before it could retreat away.

"Bagon, hit it with a Dragon Rage!"

Her Pokémon's maw glowed purple and gold, and it spewed those flames out onto Emolga as it connected with it. Both Pokémon took damage in the exchange, but Bianca had a feeling that Elesa's had taken more.

In an instant, Emolga was recalled back into its Pokéball, and Elesa's Zebstrika took its place. It neighed and its body coursed with powerful electric volts, before settling both its hooves down on the ground.

This, it seemed, was to be a battle based around predictions. Based around swapping in and out, about getting the best match-up possible for their individual Pokémon.

Like Elesa, Bianca couldn't help but think she had a better Pokémon for this situation.

She had a feeling that Electrivire would be the final Pokémon on Elesa's team, simply judging based on what she'd seen so far. Elesa, too, would likely be keeping in mind that she possessed a Leavanny, one who would be able to resist her electric-type moves, and dish out powerful grass and bug-type moves back.

Milotic would be hard to get in at any other time, however, seeing as how Zebstrika could very likely take it out in a single attack if things went badly, or perhaps two given Milotic's natural bulk.

Even so, she didn't feel like chancing it.

But she wouldn't have to. She had a way, she felt, to get Milotic onto the field, even with Elesa's Pokémon having a super-effective move to use against it.

She recalled Bagon, and watched as Elesa's countenance shifted. She would be assuming that Leavanny was incoming, because that was the natural course of action here. Leavanny had a better matchup.

She'd be expecting a grass and bug-type.

She wouldn't be expecting a water-type.

And she remembered that Elesa's Zebstrika packed a rather unorthodox move.

So, she called out a lie.

"Go, Leavanny!"

She threw the ball slightly higher than she normally would've, making it so that the Pokémon within would take a second or so longer than normal to appear. In that instant, Elesa acted.

"Hit it with a Flame Charge, Zebstrika!"

Bianca almost wanted to jump with joy. She'd fallen right into her trap.

For as the Zebstrika, wrapped in flames, collided with the Pokémon that emerged from out of Bianca's thrown Pokéball, Elesa's eyes widened.

"Wha–"

Milotic tanked the hit effortlessly, its water-typing and overall bulk keeping it healthy against Zebstrika's off-type attack.

And it was right there, right in front of it.

A sitting duck.

"Hit it with a Hydro Pump, Milotic!"

The streaming burst of water struck dead center, slamming Zebstrika down out of the air where it and Milotic had connected, and into the ground beneath, sending up a massive blast of dirt and debris.

When the field cleared, Zebstrika was revealed to be out for the count.

Bianca did, this time, cheer, although she tried to keep the maneuver somewhat subtle.

Judging by the way Cynthia was looking at her, however, with an odd mix of amusement and pride, she hadn't quite gone unnoticed.

"Come back, Zebstrika, that was my bad." Elesa shook her head, although she, too, was smiling. "Clever, Bianca. Very clever."

She bowed her head somewhat.

"But this isn't over yet! Go, Electrivire!"

"Retreat, Milotic!"

Both things happened simultaneously, Elesa's Electrivire hitting the field, and her Milotic leaving it. In its place, she sent out Leavanny, for real, this time. However, the threat that she might be lying kept Electrivire from using a fire move of its own – fire punch was a possible one – and forced Elesa to wait to see what she might do.

Once Leavanny was out, however, Elesa acted quickly.

"Hit it with a Fire Punch, Electrivire!"

Her opponent's Electrivire gave a grunt of acknowledgement as it charged forward, flames gathering within and around its fist. Leavanny stood its ground, but it would take some rather serious damage if it were hit with something like that.

Bianca wouldn't be allowing that, however.

"Leavanny, hit it with a Grass Knot!"

It wasn't the most original thing, given that she'd used this very strategy in her match-up against Burgh, but then, it didn't have to be original to work. Elesa's Electrivire hit the ground below it as its left leg was pulled out from under it, and the Fire Punch it had been planning to launch dissipated as it had to use that hand to push itself back up.

Leavanny wasn't the fastest Pokémon, assuredly, but it could move faster than Electrivire while it was still downed.

"Leavanny, leaf blade!"

Her Pokémon gave a cry of assent, and leapt into the air as its arms extended, and glowed a brilliant green.

"Electrivire, Discharge!"

It was an effective tactic, mostly because discharge didn't really have to be aimed at all. It simply fired the technique all around it, and hit anything in the general vicinity. The problem, of course, was that Leavanny was naturally resistant to such moves. It took the Discharge, winced, but ultimately followed through with its Leaf Blade.

The blades both slashed across Electrivire's body, and sent the beast toppling to the floor with a pained grunt.

A moment later, the Pokémon fainted.

Elesa recalled Electrivire, and then, with a wry smile, held her hand in the air.

"I concede." She announced.

Bianca could barely believe it.

"I… I won."

"Of course you did." Cynthia stated as she stepped over towards her, and patted her supportively on the shoulder. "Honestly, the moment your gambit with Milotic worked, you'd already built-up a near-insurmountable advantage. The fact that you were able to pick apart Electrivire without taking any meaningful hits meant that Elesa knew she had no real shot of taking out all three of your Pokémon with just Emolga. Thusly, she saw fit to draw the match to a close."

"That about sums it up, yes." Elesa said as she made her way over. "But wow, Bianca, you're incredible!"

It wasn't at all the thing she'd been expecting to hear. It had her face going beat red, and Cynthia laughing at her. It was all in good fun, of course, but she couldn't quite help but lightly smack Cynthia's arm to get her to stop.

"Sorry, sorry. You're simply adorable sometimes, you know that?"

"I'm twenty-eight!"

"Twenty-eight-year-olds can be adorable."

"In all seriousness, I haven't been trounced like that in a while." Elesa laughed, and it was an oddly free sound. "I guess I'll have to step up my game. But then, I haven't been doing much training lately. I suppose I wasn't giving my own Pokémon a fair shot." She looked up and met Bianca's eyes. "I'll have to get a rematch from you at the World Championships come the end of the year, huh?"

"So… you're not retiring?"

"Huh? What?" Elesa tilted her head. "Why would you think I was retiring?"

"Well, it's just… you said you had something important to think about on your own, so…"

"Our last destination was Burgh…" Cynthia took a brief few-minutes to describe what had happened in that scenario, and by the end, Elesa was nodding her head.

"I see… I'd heard Burgh had quit through the grape-vine, but I didn't know the reason. Terrible to hear about his Pokémon passing away like that. I suppose I'm lucky; that's never happened to me."

Bianca looked away, feeling a kernel of jealousy in her heart that she quickly quashed.

"Anyways, if you were curious, I wanted time to think about what I wanted my gym to be like. And I think I know, now. I want my gym to be a place where trainers can see the things that I love, not just the things that others made for me." Her eyes widened. "Although, speaking of things others made for you…"

Elesa jogged back to where she'd been standing during their duel, and picked up a large, designer bag. It seemed to have something in it, and Bianca initially wondered just what it might be…

Up until Elesa extended her arm, and handed it to her.

"Here."

Bianca's eyes widened, even as she nodded her head a bit absently, and reached into the bag. She pulled from out of it something she remembered asking for, but…

Something she hadn't at all expected to receive that day; not after how busy they'd been.

It was an outfit. A long, sleeveless white dress that gave her legs a lot of room at the bottom, with a short orange jacket that went overtop it. The sleeves of the jacket seemed to be a crimped style that she'd seen somewhere, but she realized that Elesa had made it so that they were actually long sleeves that could slide up her arms and still look stylish, while being able to slide back down to keep her warmer once winter crested around again.

Added onto that was a new beret, which she handed to Bianca after she'd picked her jaw up off the floor.

"Wha…"

"I also made you a more loungey-set, for when you want to be a bit more relaxed. Oh, and some pants." She stated casually, as if making four separate pieces of clothing in a week was a casual thing, and not a great endeavor. "Those should be in a box at the bottom of the bag. I hope they're to your liking. I wanted to surprise you, so I didn't ask you too much about them. I can always remake them if they're–"

"W-W-Wait!" Bianca cut her off, not even bothering to let her finish saying something so ridiculous as her not liking such a generous gift. "D-Don't dresses normally take like… weeks to make!?"

"They can," Elesa shrugged. "But I didn't exactly do it alone. I had some help from a few friends of mine at my old modeling agency. Between a team of us, we managed to get all six of the outfits done in time."

That was right. Bianca had forgotten that she'd even done all of their Pokémon Contest outfits! Of course, she had had help. To think she could manage such a thing without it would be–

"Although, I confess that I made all of your things on my own." Elesa admitted, seeming somewhat embarrassed. "I just wanted to make sure they would turn out well, and I felt the best way to do that was to make sure I had as much a hand in them as I could."

Bianca couldn't quite help the way she went red in the face at that. To hear that Elesa had done such a thing for her…

"Why would you go so far just for me?" She asked, and she regretted the question the moment she did, because both Cynthia and Elesa's eyebrows narrowed, and she had a feeling she was about to be getting a talk about loving herself more.

Or, well, she was definitely still getting one from Cynthia, but Elesa, at least, seemed to want to seriously answer her question.

"It's funny… seeing you of all people again – that girl I helped convince her father to let her travel the world what feels like a lifetime ago… somehow that was what really got me out of my funk. Seeing someone who wasn't the person they'd used to be, who'd changed, and grown, and become someone else, and yet wasn't, was still themselves… it helped to convince me of what it was that I wanted to do."

"I want to sew. I want to craft. I want to feel passion for the things I create. When I was younger, I just wanted to show myself off as a model. I wanted to make sure that others saw all that I was, my beauty, and the beauty of the clothes I was wearing. It might sound conceited, but that was how I felt. And yet… nowadays, that's changed. I don't think I was ready to accept that until you came along. I wasn't ready to accept that my dream had been altered."

Bianca's eyes widened, and she realized that what the woman was saying, it…

It resonated with her, more than she thought it might have.

"What I wanted fourteen years ago, when you first met me, and what I want now… they're practically incomparable…" Elesa laughed. "And I'm just now starting to realize that that's completely alright! I want to share my love of creating with others. I'm going to make my gym all about fashion, and modeling, but from a different perspective. Not from the runway, but from behind it. Showing the work of the individuals who give their all so that someone else can go out and feel beautiful in their own skin."

Elesa's words were filled with such passion that Bianca found herself getting swept away by them. She was smiling from ear to ear, genuinely happy for the woman for what she'd come to learn about herself. It was… it felt nice. Really nice, to see someone Bianca had looked up to for her entire life say that she'd made a difference in their life.

Like something out of a dream.

"So, Bianca, once again, thank you." Elesa said. "And as thanks… allow me to take the both of you out to dinner tonight. My treat."

Bianca was going to say that she didn't have to, really, and that her thanks was plenty enough reward, but…

"We'd love that!" Cynthia instead interjected.

And Bianca really began to wonder how someone so rich could also be so cheap.

/

"So, Bianca," Cynthia asked her after they'd finished eating their meal. "Where is it you want to go next?"

It was something she honestly probably should've anticipated being asked, of course. Cynthia had only taken her someplace without asking her the one time, and even then, that had been to match with how she'd been feeling about herself, and to give her a chance to open up as a person. Sootopolis had ended up being quite the appropriate destination.

Still, Bianca did have an idea as to where they could go next, as it turned out. After all, they'd been on somewhat of a nostalgic duology thus far. She figured… why not make it a trilogy?

"There is actually someone else I wouldn't mind getting the chance to visit." Bianca stated, even as she played around with a singular fry on her plate. "Burgh helped me, and Elesa, you helped me,"

The woman in question nodded, albeit slightly awkwardly.

"So, I'd like to thank the last gym leader who helped me back then."

Elesa's eyes widened. "You mean…"

"Mm." She nodded her head. "Iris."

"I see." Cynthia chuckled good-naturedly. "I know Iris quite well, actually, if you believe it."

"Somehow, I do." Bianca stated flatly.

"I think it's a good idea." Elesa spoke. "Iris has always loved talking with people, and she's just about the nicest person in the world, if a bit… clingy?"

"That's a way of wording it." Cynthia said with a fond smile.

"So yes, I'm sure she'd be delighted to see you again." Elesa said. "She's perhaps the sole constant I've ever met in the world; someone who refused to change at all, even as time passed so many others by. I almost envy her… but at the same time, I think my life is pretty good as it is, too."

"On that, we're in agreement." Cynthia said, holding up her glass and lightly clinking it against Elesa's. "Here, Bianca, get in here!"

She rolled her eyes, but acquiesced, striking her glass against the other two and creating a ringing sound that echoed out around them.

"To thinking our own lives are pretty good as they are." Cynthia exclaimed.

And Bianca couldn't help feeling like… maybe that was a good enough reason to toast, after all.

/

The next day, as they'd been preparing to leave, Cynthia approached Bianca with bad news.

"The plane has broken down, I'm afraid."

Bianca was a bit shocked to hear that.

"Uhm… how?"

"Apparently, they found out during startup this morning that a part on the jet had cracked. While they were checking to see what it was, they found that it was a specialty part, something that's going to take a while to replace. It will be at least a few weeks, I'm afraid, because they're going to have to custom-order it. It's only actually made in Kalos."

"Oh… I see."

"But I was thinking… I could just call another jet, and it would likely be here in a week or so…"

Cynthia smirked.

"Or the two of us could hike out to our next destination?"

Bianca's eyes widened. "All the way to Opelucid?"

"It's not too terribly far. I'm sure you've made the journey once or twice yourself. We could manage it in less time than it would take for the part to arrive, certainly. And besides, you were the one who said they would've liked to do a bit more legwork on this journey, weren't you?"

That… well, that was actually true. Bianca had been complaining for a while that their journey was feeling a little too sanitized taking a plane everywhere. And she was fairly certain she was right to feel that way, too.

Now, however… well…

"But I was just getting used to flying everywhere." Bianca muttered sadly.

Cynthia practically cackled.

/

They ended up staying in the city again that night, preparing for the journey that they hadn't thought they'd be going on. Especially once they'd learned that the Entralink zone was currently closed off, which meant their journey was going to be longer than they'd initially thought.

Bianca had woken up alone in the hotel that morning, which hadn't bothered her too terribly much. Cynthia had a habit of being an early riser, and she usually went to bed a bit later than Bianca did. She seemed to be someone that functioned perfectly well on six or seven hours of sleep, where Bianca trended towards the eight or nine range – and usually closer to the latter than the former.

Still, she didn't worry too much about such things, like she'd said. Cynthia had disappeared in the night during their time at Burgh's cabin, too. She got the feeling the woman probably just wanted a room to herself some nights, and she certainly had the money to book a second hotel room.

She got dressed, slung the bag of essentials she'd be carrying with her to Opelucid – the rest was staying on the jet, and would simply arrive when the jet was repaired – and made her way down to the lobby. Cynthia wasn't there, either, but when she checked her phone, she saw a text from Cynthia letting her know to meet her at the Western Gate.

She did just that, walking the twenty or so minutes that it took to get from their hotel to the West Gate, which headed out towards route 5. They'd be going that way, up across the Driftveil Drawbridge, through the city, and then taking the route through Twist Mountain. Then they'd go east from Icirrus, and finally arrive in Opelucid.

It was projected to take them about two or three weeks in total, but then, as Cynthia had suggested, she had been longing to go on a real Pokémon adventure. The sanitized version she'd been getting so far riding in a jet – even if she'd been quite liking it – hadn't been the same as the journey she'd gone on as a kid.

And heck, it was quite literally going to be the journey she'd gone on as a kid, albeit the shortcut through Twist Mountain would cut out Chargestone Cave, and Mistralton City. Still, it was close enough – and would be saving them an extra week in travel time, so that was nice. It wouldn't have made much sense for them to hike if it was going to take them longer to get there than it was for the replacement part on the jet to arrive.

As she arrived at the West Gate, she saw that Cynthia and Elesa were both already there. The former she'd expected, but the latter must've come to see them off, which was nice of her. She hadn't had to.

"Ah, Bianca." Cynthia waved towards her, and Elesa did the same after a moment. "Sleep well?"

"Decently. You?"

"Oh, I slept quite well." Cynthia stated with a lilt in her voice, which for some reason caused Elesa to look away. "And how about you Elesa, how did you sleep?"

"Huh? Uh, fine." She coughed into her hand. "Completely fine. Adequately."

"Just adequate? Now I feel like I've let you down."

"N-No, it was–" Elesa stuttered over her words, before looking back over at Bianca, hissing something under her breath, and smacking Cynthia on the arm.

Bianca looked back and forth between Cynthia and Elesa with her brow slowly furrowing.

Cynthia and Elesa seemed odd around each other all of a sudden.

Huh.

Weird.

"Alright, we have to hit the road," Cynthia suddenly declared, even as she leaned forward, and whispered something to Elesa that had her going bright red a moment later. "Goodbye, Elesa. It was nice reliving old times with you. Perhaps we'll see you at the World Championships?"

Elesa nodded, recovering from whatever it was Cynthia said quite valiantly. "Yes, that sounds nice. I'll look forward to it."

Bianca and Cynthia walked away. As soon as they were out of earshot, Bianca rounded on Cynthia with narrowed eyes.

"And what was that about, exactly?"

"Oh, nothing at all."

"I feel like you're feeding me a load of Tauros crap," Bianca sighed with a flat expression. "But I also feel like you're not going to tell me, either."

"Maybe when you're older, Bianca."

"I'm twenty-eight."

"Maybe when you're older, Bianca."

She just groaned.


End Chapter 15


Alright, that's that!

Next arc - Iris, and Opelucid City! But first, Bianca and Cynthia have to hike it there. Hope you guys enjoyed the chapter. Thanks to everyone who leaves a review or comment on this story, it means the world to me!