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Mastership

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As much as May missed spending time with the others, she had found a great perk of going it alone; her own schedule. Sans making it to contests on time, she could basically go where she wanted, when she wanted.

If she could find only one advantage of said perk, it was being able to swim more, something she'd discovered was almost an addiction. She was, after all, suspected to be one of the people of the water, and Manaphy had only inspired her more.

Manaphy. She stopped paddling and floated on her back, thinking of him yet again. Staring at the sky, imagining him swimming in its blue and wishing it was real and would merge with the lake she was in.

She swam in the ocean more after that.

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"You know, Angie, you're always a little redder than normal when you talk to that boy."

Angie flinched at her dad's comment. Always? As in, not only once, but several times? Once was bad enough! She contemplated this comment and realized that indeed, her face did feel a bit warmer when she had her third meeting with him earlier that day. But not just that; she felt warmer altogether. Warmer as a person... but surely that didn't need to be so obvious!

"...I dunno what you mean."

"You're getting red just talking about it," her mother interjected.

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Twelve years later, Ash was still Ash.

"...Wow, Misty."

"What?"

"It's just," he paused to figure out his wording, and still managed to sound ridiculous, "you came out wearing a frilly dress."

...Was he serious?

"Girls tend to do that when they're getting married," Misty replied. Her smile failed to be hidden between how good a mood she was in and the fact that this was a tad amusing.

"I know, it's just... so..." he searched longer for the word and sounded even worse than his last comment, "...weird."

Ouch. Okay, there went her mood a little bit. She crossed her arms. "So it's a crime for me to wear a dress now?"

"I never said that!" Ash groaned. This was already confusing, yet he wouldn't trade it for anything.

"Then what did you mean?"

"Uh..." he paused yet again. "I think you look beautiful in a frilly dress?"

Despite the tone, she could tell he'd meant that the whole time. "Nice save," she replied with a smile.

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She just wanted attention, and she got it easily and often with her hat stealing antics. It'd worked so well, in fact, that it'd gotten her a trainer. Yet it still bothered her when somebody else got the spotlight from Ash. Was she that selfish? That childish? Maybe a little, but there was more than that. Something the others had that she didn't. It was not attention. They had love; family. Did she have those things? She felt so distant.

But she didn't know how to deal with such, so she just grabbed the hat again and ran for it.

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Someday, maybe they could be. That hope was what kept her blushing when he looked at her. What kept her imagining every touch as a possible reciprocation. What kept her embracing him despite feeling the nervous and probably displeased sweat on his face.

It wasn't real now, yet she felt nothing could stop it. A delirium, maybe, but nobody could call it impossible. He'd smiled at her once, and that was enough to keep her strong when he frowned. He'd led her hand in hand once, and that was enough to keep her reaching when he retracted.

So, maybe someday.

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She was clearly red, and to anybody but him it was obvious. Misty had to hide an eye-roll. Here we go again. Yet another girl they'd met on the road had a crush on Ash. Was this the third or fourth? Misty had lost count.

He couldn't notice how much this girl was having trouble talking too. Misty almost pitied the poor kid. Ash was too nice. He probably thought she just had some sort of speech impairment and it'd be rude to bring it up. Typical.

Misty was clearly green, and to anybody but her it was obvious. Brock had to hide an eye-roll.

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Tmp. Tmp. Tmp. CRUNCH.

Darnit!

Tmp. Tmp. Tmp. Tmp. Tmp. CRUNCH.

Try all she might, she could still hear her feet loudly scramble the foliage below as she attempted to stealthily follow Ash through the forest. Of course, stupid ideas usually led to stupid results. What was she following him for, anyway?

There was just... something. Something about Ash. Something that made her uncomfortable about parting ways from him just yet...

Huh...

"What are you following us for?" He yelled back. Aw, crud.

"Uh...My bike! I'm holding you responsible for my bike!"

Sure, okay, let's go with that.

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As it was every year, that sensation came again, and no amount of power Darkrai pushed back against it was enough to ignore the pestering light. It sent shivers up his spine and told him to leave before the light decided enough was enough and hunted him down.

It was a shame, really. Light was his natural enemy, but all the same so powerful. So powerful and...

Warm.

Those thoughts scared him more that Cresselia herself, and he finally fled, leaving the townsfolk to their pleasant dreams until next year, when he would return again for the sake of tradition.

…And for that small moment of light.