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Operation GEAR: The Angel of Reckoning (R)

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by The Great Butler, May 5, 2012.

  1. Spiteful Murkrow

    Spiteful Murkrow Early Game Encounter

    Hey, so I've been a bit late on that review that I said I'd give, but I finally got my rear in gear enough to collect some thoughts together.

    It will be interesting to see that reveal when it comes, as well as what sort of perspective the Prophet's mother has on all of the trials and tribulations that have been befalling her people. The very end of the Prophet's reassurance to Looker and Jacob also couldn't help but make me chuckle a bit.

    Missing a newline there.

    I'm impressed that you were able to dovetail this particular bit of XY lore into your tale, and in a way that seemed like a reasonable extension. One of these days, you should consider sharing your dark secrets for how to approach canon extension with the rest of us. I would be all over that guide.

    I particularly liked this section, it's an interesting juxtaposition of between Ghetsis' face that he puts on between righteous outrage at a genuine systemic issue in his audience's society against that inner schemer and egoist that would destroy everything for him if it got out.

    Newline issue again.

    Somehow, I get the suspicion that Lucky's telling the whole truth here. But that could just be me reading a bit too much into things.

    But what if they dug a tunnel under the city using mainly spoons and made a break for the wild?

    Ah yes, that would preclude the spoon-tunnel pretty thoroughly.

    That's one creepy sheep there, stalking the team all this time.

    Whelp, that's one tree cut down in its prime, and builds nicely off of the surprise of Archer's revelation of his true colors, too.

    No honor among thieves, I see. And I like how the escalation builds from realizing that Ghetsis doesn't intend to fight fair on the field to a realization too late that everything was a trap all this time.

    All in all, I think you did a great job, and even if it took a little while, you gave just the right amount of oomph to this installment for what you were targeting. I'll be looking forward to your part 2.
     
  2. GastlyMan

    GastlyMan Ghost Type Trainer

    Well! This has been an excellent read so far. I can't believe it's been so many years since I've been an active fan fiction reviewer and writer. I miss it and I am trying to finally get active again. I'm hoping that this post will be the first of many more reviews from me.

    First off, it has been awesome to see many of the characters that I know and love from the last fan fiction of yours I read, the Victory Star of Fate. I like them all, but I would have to say Matt and Nekou have to be my favorites. To echo an earlier reviewer, I hope to see more Matt/Nekou scenes in the future!

    Not only that, but you have created a very compelling storyline. There's mystery and intrigue in it, but it's still not too complicated - I can follow what's going on without any difficulty. I've read books and fanfics where the plot is all over the place, whereas your work here has been very clear in its story line. There have been many times in which I feel as though I am in an anime movie. Team Rocket being the "good" guys, in a way, in comparison to Polaris anyway, is a twist that I rather like. You have done a great job with the Teganist culture, as well.

    And the characterization! Especially with Olivia, and Nekou...They have a lot more going on the surface than the other characters are cognizant of, which is awesome. And Nekou working for Team Rocket...That's really cool. Definitely an interesting internal subplot there. >=D

    I don't have much to offer, really, in terms of critique - I don't see any glaring potholes or anything, and I have to say that it would be difficult for me to find anything about the story that I dislike. I mean, in general I don't really like it when a lot of likable characters (Giovanni, Pierce) get killed off, but in your story it serves a good purpose. It ups the intensity and furthers the storyline, so I don't really have any issue with it here. :)

    At any rate, keep up the great work! I will be following this fic and reviewing when you post new chapters!
     
  3. The Great Butler

    The Great Butler Hush, keep it down

    Don't worry about it, what matters is that you did it.

    All I'll say for now about her mother is that her mother is in a rather unique position when it comes to the entire Polaris crusade.

    Thank you.

    The thing is, there really isn't a secret. I've just been hitting a huge deal of simple, dumb luck, especially when it comes to the fact that XY presented a number of interesting but underdeveloped ideas that fit well into the plans I already had. The Ultimate Weapon, AZ, Lysandre, and things you haven't even seen yet all came along and hit right on the marks I needed.

    He's just such a fascinating character in general to write because of that juxtaposition. His skill in picking up on exactly what his crowd wants to hear and then crafting a message built around that, followed by exploiting it in a way that makes him appear completely sincere despite those real motives lurking just beneath the surface - it makes him menacing and unstable, and that gives him a real edge to write.

    Sorry about those.

    If by telling the whole truth you mean that Ghetsis did come up with that part of the speech, then yeah, she is. Unless you meant to say that she was "not telling the whole truth?"

    Regardless, everything she said in the "interview" was a lie. Lucky's been doing this for a long time - her anger and bitterness have fueled her to continually create new characters with Ghetsis to prop up his lies for years.



    Not to mention that it would be pretty slow to do that. :p

    But since you raised the question, I suppose digging out of it would be feasible, but it's not a practical option.

    Mareep's motives are actually fairly simple. It has a pronounced violent streak, and is just following where the action is right now.

    Yet in the same vein, it shouldn't be that surprising. Ghetsis isn't the type to actually let his prisoners escape (nor is he the type to keep his word as the next part with Giovanni showed) but it also couples into that likely fetish-level interest Ghetsis has in seeing people succumb to complete despair. The best way to do it to Elm was to mislead him about what would happen with his compliance, and even though his fate was pretty fast and grim, for those few moments he had before dying, his soul was completely crushed. When it comes to despair Ghetsis could have practically written Danganronpa, and I'm not even joking when I say that.

    Archer's a little more straightforward, though. He's just a sleazy guy.

    I had been hoping that that scene would feel "not right" the entire time, like even as he's warning the Shadow Triad to stand aside, you just know he's lying about playing fair and are waiting for the moment when he springs the trap.

    And the despair thing comes into play here, too, but his target for that is more Pierce than Giovanni. His tactic is to completely disarm and destroy Giovanni to eliminate Pierce's allies, then force him to watch the torture of Anthea in order to break him.

    Thank you! I was shooting high on this chapter so to know it lived up to expectations is very important.
     
  4. The Great Butler

    The Great Butler Hush, keep it down

    I hope so too, because your input is always very insightful!

    Ah, it feels like so long ago now that I even wrote that. I'm glad they're continuing to please you, and I think you'll continue to enjoy them.

    The thing is, while there's tons of characters and individual little plots going on, I made sure to develop a very clear destination for where those storylines all end up going. It's not easy to keep everything in line, but the results are worth it, especially when it gives the readers enjoyment.

    When it comes to the two "sides" pushing against each other, I wanted to create a gray area of morality that forces the characters to keep evaluating what side they're actually on. You have characters who started off completely adhering to one set of morals like Matt, others whose morality is completely opposite like Nekou, and yet these different sides all are forced to keep shifting in response to these events forcing them to really decide where they fit in the bigger picture.

    To a degree, all of them have things going on beneath the surface. I love writing characters like that - you really get invested in them, and you just wait for and anticipate when everything below the surface will explode into the open. And trust me, it will.

    Yeah, I was very careful about that. I know characters getting killed off is a touchy subject for a lot of readers, so I knew I had to be careful, but at the same time I feel like a storyline of the magnitude I'm trying to convey is undermined if there's no real risk for the characters. I have to make it clear that yes, these events are as threatening as the language leading up to them implies. In other words, I can't just talk the talk when I suggest how dire a situation this is, I have to walk the walk and show that I'm not afraid to cross a line once in a while. Of course, on the other hand, you don't want to kill off characters recklessly and I fully intend to avoid that. The deaths I have planned all forward the story in some way, or at the very least seriously impact the development of other characters in important ways.


    Thank you for your support! It's very nice to have you back!
     
  5. ChewieJ

    ChewieJ Pokémon Writer

    Chapter 19 Review (Section 01)

    Hello there! So sorry for the late review.

    I decided to review this chapter like everyone else (I forgot what style it's called). It helped me immerse into the chapter more, and since I have slightly more time than before, I could do it! I hope you like it.

    I'm going to do it by sections though since I don't have THAT much more time. Thank goodness you separated the chapters by sections. It makes it easier to read long chapters.

    ~-~-~

    The place seemed like a cool secret base until I read the last sentence. Now it sounds like a creepy room a stalker would keep his keepsakes in.

    ...No, still creepy.

    Wait, this cave has a staircase? The creepy stalker place just got cooler.

    And wow, I wonder what's happening to her son.

    Is this Looker, the detective from the Pokémon games, by any chance? I think you've mentioned him before, I'm not sure.

    A child is watching over the prisoners? Why?

    Ooo, a war. I wonder how that will turn out.

    Is the word "champions" supposed to be capitalized? If so, carry on. If not, well...it's capitalized.

    I usually don't comment on possible mistakes in dialogue because it's, you know, dialogue, but I think Looker's sentence should be something like "I have a lot of questions you need to answer someday" or "you have a lot of questions to answer someday". Or just take out "someday" and say "you have a lot of questions to answer". But hey, you know this character better than I do. Maybe this is just the way Looker talks. Anyway, I digress.

    Hoopa, nice! I haven't seen any Pokémon episodes or movies since the Kanto region with May and Max, but I heard the controversy of Hoopa's English dub voice and the voice itself. Hilarious.

    Ooo, hot. Kinda makes the speaker sound objectified, but hey. Maybe she likes that sort of thing.

    First of all, wow. You can type profanity in this site? I think the profanity was censored in the previous chapters, but I'm not seeing asterisks in this one. No complaint here, just curious.

    Second, you must really like ellipses. No complaint here either, just an observation.

    Beer cans again? Wow, she must really like drinking.

    Oh, how sad. Good job on the description. I actually felt for them right there.

    And Elm, as in Professor Elm? Intriguing.

    Does he really have ninjas with him? Oh my gosh, please have ninjas.

    "Lord Ghetsis"? Concordia must really be giving up if he/she's referring him to him as "Lord".

    Okay, these guys/girls are disappointing. Even if they are doomed, they shouldn't be so down. If you're going to die, die with dignity!
    Wow. Just, no words.

    Would they be killed or tortured? Tortured and then killed? How bad could Ghetsis be to elicit such fear from them? Or maybe they're just weak. Either way, I'm curious.

    Oh no, it's that kind of situation.

    Oh, Ghetsis is good. Not as is in a good guy, but good in being bad. Always fear the one that can mess you up from the inside.

    Reminds me of Nurse Joy in the Pokémon games. Is her purpose to heal our pokémon and serve us so deep that she can't think or live as anything else?

    Ooo, exciting. Wonder what he's going to say.

    Comma between "around" and "you"?

    Okay, is she an alcoholic? Beer this early in the morning (it's morning, right?)? Lay off the booze, woman!...She's a woman, right? The woman legally allowed to drink beer in the first place?

    Wait, is there another entity inside her head or just a delusion? Either way, it's trippy. I like it.

    Okay, now I think it's her conscience. Feel free to correct me though if I'm wrong.

    Hey, if she drinks this much alcohol, why not drugs? I don't know if drugs are causing this, but it's not impossible.

    Okay, now I'm back with the voice being another entity, but the entity's a part of her somehow. Either way, fascinating stuff.

    Yeah, d*ck move, man. She might be possessed or high or something, but still, not cool.

    If I remember correctly, the Bunny and the others are going to watch them dance, correct?

    I do not approve. I've been a performer since preschool, and that is NOT how you treat the audience.

    She could also be drunk. If alcohol isn't causing this, it could be making things worse by making her this oblivious to her surroundings. If she drinks as much as I think she does, she could also be having a hangover.

    Oh, they're going to tell a story? Dance and tell a story? Dance while telling a story?...I'll just keep reading.

    Maybe she's learning from drinking too much alcohol.

    Nice! This story, not the one the characters are telling, but the one you're telling, started before AZ and the fairy types came in, and you're adding them to the story very nicely.

    I'm assuming this Life Plate is also known as the Fairy Plate in the games?

    Ooo, okay that got me interested.

    Oh no. Poor AZ.

    Haha, troll.

    Sad and touching moment of the story, yes, but shouldn't Kuni have told this story enough times to not get this affected?

    Interesting. I like how you're adding your own little twists to the story.

    Wait, was AZ supposed to be the king and his Pokémon friend the queen?

    Ohohoh, things just got a LOT more interesting. I also just got a big part of the plot in Nekou's first sentence. Thank you, I needed that.

    I still can't believe that's her ringtone. WHY is that her ringtone?

    Oh great, not her too.

    Oh that's sad.

    Oh damn.
    Very creative. I've never read an escape like that before.

    Oh...that sucks.

    Yeah, you go, girl! Find out that truth!

    His last name is "Harmonia"? How ironic.

    Haha! Talk about lazy to the level 9000.

    Wow, Ash and his family and friends must be loaded.

    Wow, very political. A very interesting take on the Pokémon League's system.

    And cut!

    I must say, I'm really enjoying this section of the chapter so far. I'll be sure to post the other two as soon as possible.
     
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2015
  6. ChewieJ

    ChewieJ Pokémon Writer

    Chapter 19 Review (Section 02)

    Wait, is the guy/girl really called "Darkness"?

    Oh, is she being forced?

    Wait, she got a job after she decided to be a trainer? Why didn't she get one while her family was already struggling?

    You know what, Mimi? How about instead of spending your savings on a starter pokémon and a journey you can't afford, you keep your savings and just use your food court job to support your family?

    And a food court in a department store? Ha. It's like Macy's selling hotdogs and popcorn next to their jewelry section.

    I don't know how the distribution of starter pokémon works in this story, but if it's a yearly thing, she could just wait till next year and arrive early so she can get first-serve. If possible, she can also raise money to reserve one for herself.

    Ohhhhkay, Ghetsis. If you're going to talk smack about the Pokémon League, you need to do better than saying it's only accessible to the rich. Shutting down the Pokémon League for being too expensive is like suing sports-car companies because poor people can't afford sports cars.

    You know, I am a little curious about what the PokEmon League means to these poor people. Is it just for the money, or do they also want to be the very best, like no one ever was(!)?

    Ha, there's a Pestilence too.
    Professor Elm?

    Poor guy.

    What did he sell? Didn't she just say she wasn't able to buy a starter pokémon in the first place?

    Of course you didn't. You couldn't afford the journey you wanted, nor were you prepared for it, but you blame Elm, and the people who could afford and prepare for the journey, for your failure? Getting a level 5 pokémon from Elm wouldn't change anything. If anything, Elm not being able to give you a pokémon gave you a chance to go back to your family and support them with a job you already had. But you didn't. Instead, you charged into something you watched on TV a few times, and, surprise, surprise, it wasn't as easy as you thought it would be.

    It's sad because there are a lot of Mimis in this world---people who make stupid mistakes, think their sufferings will justify them, and blame everyone and everything but themselves. Poverty isn't the one screwing them over, their reluctance to accept responsibility is. Ghetsis is just taking advantage of that.

    Yeah, if only you went back to your family and supported them with that department store food court job you had. Oh, but you didn't. And who's fault was that? ELM?

    TRANSLATION: Yes, we will continue to let you not take responsibility for your actions! That way, we can tell you what to do instead, and when things go right, or wrong, it will be because of US. Isn't that what you wanted, everyone? To do things and not take fault? We'll gladly take the heat for you. Responsibility is POWER, and you people clearly don't want that.

    He has a cape? Haha, c'mon!

    Yeah, let's blame the rich people. They definitely didn't have to work for that money.

    So basically, Ghetsis is saying not everyone can afford the stuff they want, therefore everything should be free. Am I the only one who knows how the economy works?

    I do kinda agree about Poké Balls preventing us from forming genuine bonds with pokémon, but do these people really think pokémon will agree to be their fighting slaves if they just said please?

    Woah, when did terrorism come into this?

    Yeah, just like mansions and fancy cars, proper participation in the Pokémon League can only be achieved by people who could afford it. We people in the real world spend hundreds and thousands of dollars on education and medicine, yet these people are shocked that devices that make pokémon submit to you without question and restore them to full health in a click of a button aren't cheaper?

    The Tenganists started the system, they didn't evolve it and force people to want to be in it. It's like getting mad at a cellphone company because some people are using their phones to blow up buildings.

    Wait, didn't Polaris blow up the train?

    "...Rosalie WAS worried..."

    See, that's how dictators form. They prey on the weak and poor, tell them it isn't their fault, convince them to blame someone else, and use their loyalty to enact the "solution". Not to be insensitive to racial histories, but isn't this how Hitler came to power?

    Just like when Hitler convinced his followers to kill the Jews.

    Shocker.

    I think you meant "sour".
    Huh? I didn't get the last sentence.

    I agree with Nekou about doing something instead of just letting it happen. Finally, someone with spirit!

    Oh my gosh, she may be an alcoholic, but I am loving her right now.

    Maybe she really did, and I just need to read the previous chapters to know. But you shouldn't blame yourself, Prophet. You don't need to force someone to act on their stupidity. Just tell them how.

    Crosses? As in, they're being crucified?

    Yeah, I'm intrigued.

    Great section! Really got me riled up there. I can't wait to review the last one. Keep up the good work!
     
  7. ChewieJ

    ChewieJ Pokémon Writer

    Chapter 19 Review (Section 03)

    Whoo! So sorry for the late post, but here it is!

    Interesting. If Team Rocket is an antagonist in this point of the story, it's good to read that they're not static characters.

    Ohhhh, dude. That's sad.

    So is Team Rocket an anti-hero or just an antagonist that doesn't get along with another antagonist?

    Ah, okay. At least Nekou isn't the only one that uses profanity.

    Yeah, Nekou, what's your deal?

    I like the emotion in this section. I can really feel the intensity.

    Oh that's...wow...

    Awwwwww!

    Wow, it really makes you think about the political events really happening in our world right now.

    Ooo, I wonder what that Clear Bell does.

    I wonder if it's AZ's weapon.

    Finansielle...what a pretty name.

    Ohh, Giovanni! I think this is the first time I've seen him in the story so far.

    Oh, it would've been cooler if it was a pokémon.

    Ooo, a shiny!

    Wow, what a cheater.

    Oh crap! That's graphic.

    Whoa, that was unexpected.

    I would've just done nothing. If you're going to die, you might as well die doing the right thing.

    Oh, so is Team Plasma part of Polaris or the group that BECAME Polaris?

    Also, people can sing Meloetta's songs? Either that only applies to this story or it applies to the original Pokémon story too. I never played the Unova games so I don't know.

    Ohhh, there's a portal involved.

    Wait, he's trying to summon Ho-Oh? Hmm, I wonder what Ho-Oh's role is. And I wonder what Ghetsis wants from it.

    Lugia?

    I really hope it's Lugia. Then it would be a Mega-Lugia. Oh, that would be so cool!

    ---

    Anyway, as always, great chapter! I know that not reading the whole story up to this point is a bit of a handicap for me as a reader, but the fact that this story is so well-written that it doesn't prevent me from enjoying it is a really good sign on your part. The reader doesn't need to know the whole story to immerse himself/herself into it. Kudos to you! Like I said before, you're a talented writer.

    I'm looking forward to reading the next chapter. Keep up the good work!
     
  8. The Great Butler

    The Great Butler Hush, keep it down

    Well, the time for this climax is finally here. This is going to be an intense chapter with a good deal of destruction and violence, so you’ve been fairly warned.

    Bay_Alexison provided me with particular help on Bunny’s Pokemon in this chapter, and Spiteful Murkrow, Virgil, ChewieJ and BoredWriterGuy have provided heavy assistance on keeping the writing together.

    -:-

    CHAPTER 20: The Weight of the World (Part 2)

    -:-

    In the far northwest of Johto, the metropolitan splendor of Roséridge City sprawled across the seaside. Sunlight glistened off the countless glass buildings lining the city’s streets, which accentuated its modern, high-tech flare. At night, the lights of the city even made it visible from space. Surrounding the futuristic expanse was a centuries-old historic area, built long before the technology that allowed the high-rises in the center to overshadow their surroundings was ever conceived.

    The tallest building in the city was a silvery-blue tower standing many meters above the rest. A penthouse sat on top of the tower just below a glowing golden neon disk topped by gray pylons. Several of its stories were covered by a massive red banner bearing the logo of the Frontier Society. It was the Battle Tower, the nerve center of the entire organization.

    Anabel’s residence in the penthouse afforded her a wide view of her surroundings thanks to its outer walls being made entirely of floor-to-ceiling windows. It allowed her to see the rainbow rings spreading over Ecruteak City, which made her heart and expression sink as the realization of what was happening seeped into her mind.

    “I can’t say I’m thrilled that I’m speaking to your back.”

    Next to Anabel’s wide plush bed was a desk made of finely carved wood. A cutting-edge telephone was placed on it, which was generating a holographic video call of Tobias.

    “I’m sorry, Governor,” Anabel said, sitting down at the desk and giving him the most attention she could muster, “please forgive me. I am sure you understand…”

    “Yes, of course. It’s only natural that a mother worries about their children, no? You cannot let go of what is important to you.”

    Anabel slouched and glanced over to the room’s electric fireplace. On its mantle was an ornate urn she spent several long moments staring at. Usually, she tried not to pay attention to it, but at that time it drew her eyes like metal to a magnet. Though Tobias couldn’t see what was keeping her gaze, but he could tell that she was fighting back tears.

    “Now I have to ask for your forgiveness,” he said, smiling. “I didn’t mean to upset you.”

    “I-I’m not upset with you,” Anabel stuttered.

    “Anyway, let’s get back to business,” Tobias declared, his voice becoming serious once again. “In order to help Olivia, we need to coordinate a response. If we work together, we both win, because there are also two Gym Leaders and a Frontier Brain trapped in the city.”

    “Morty and Kate…” she clarified. “Who is the third?

    “Falkner. He was at the Battle Hall tournament and hasn’t left the city yet. I’ve contacted Bugsy and Whitney and enlisted their help for this.”

    “I’ve already gotten my end taken care of as well,” Anabel confirmed. “I could not locate Thorton, and Ethan and Darach weren’t available, but Dahlia and Lyra are already on their way.”

    “Excellent!” Tobias exclaimed, his face brightening considerably. “I would go myself if I could, but there is so much going on right now that I have to deal with that I can’t make it. I’m sure everything will be okay, though. I believe that if we put our differences as people aside and work toward mutual goals, we can accomplish great things. Please, keep your spirits up.”

    With that, Tobias ended the call, causing the hologram screen to disappear. Anabel forced herself to stand, then sluggishly dragged herself to the bed and flopped down onto it.

    “I would go myself too…” she mumbled before weakly waving her hand at the huge, flat television in the room.

    “We are seeing chaos on the streets of Ecruteak City,” a newscaster on the television declared. “Currently, we do not have a video feed of these events, but what we do know is that riots have broken out following the speech given by Polaris spokesman Ghetsis Harmonia. We will continue to follow this story…”

    “...but what could I even do?”

    -:-

    The light flowing out the center of the rainbow rings intensified as the entity within edged closer and closer to emerging into the world. Despite the blinding glare, Ghetsis continued to stare straight into the abyss, not even making a move to protect his eyes.

    “Yes, Ho-oh, come forth into our world!” he thundered, spreading his arms in welcome for the legendary Pokémon. “This is your day! Our day! The day we conquer them all!”

    Behind Ghetsis, the Shadow Triad ll watched their master’s plan unfold with their mouths hanging open behind their masks. The light cascading from the portal glittered in their steely eyes; unlike Ghetsis, however, they were unable to continue staring at it. When they covered their eyes, Pierce smirked.

    As soon as he felt Darkness and Chaos each release one hand from his body, he swung his elbows to jab them both in the stomach. The captors stumbled back, clutching their abdomens and gasping to get their breath back.

    “The prisoner got loose!” Chaos shouted as they struggled to see through the blinding light. “Someone catch him!”

    “Greninja, find him!” Darkness commanded.

    Greninja jumped forth immediately upon his owner’s order and threw two bunches of Water Shurikens away from the Shadow Triad, but they failed to reach their target and flew off uselessly into the air.

    While looking around, Pestilence narrowed his eyes and managed to briefly make Pierce out in the glare. He pulled both of Doublade’s swords from the Pokémon’s armor and crossed them in front of himself.

    “Doublade,” he called out, “Flash Cannon!”

    Slightly dulled, silvery light flowed up Doublade’s swords from their tips and gathered at the point where they crossed. That light then burst out in the form of a narrow beam, but it just barely missed Pierce, who lunged sideways abruptly to avoid it. The noise of their target recovering his glider and preparing to launch it gave them a bearing on his location, but before any of them could act, he started to fly off. From the rapidly fading sounds of the glider’s engine, they quickly realized that Pierce had descended rapidly out of their attack range.

    Darkness grunted, “He escaped…” Turning around, he repeated these words in a much louder voice to Ghetsis.

    “Don’t worry about him,” Ghetsis responded, remaining rigidly in place as he stared up at the emerging Ho-oh. “He cannot escape his fate now. Now…” Ghetsis further focused his mind, narrowing his sight squarely on the legendary Pokémon. His covered eye began to glow, making his red eyepiece turn yellow. “This is the time of your advent, Ho-oh! Call forth your burning flames and bring justice down upon them all!”

    In response to Ghetsis’s continued chanting, Ho-oh began to emerge from the portal. Its beak passed through first, and when it did, the light became so bright that it completely inundated the Shadow Triad’s sight.

    -:-

    Anabel stayed sprawled on her bed, staring blankly out the windows. From her vantage point, Ho-oh’s light looked as if the sun itself was swallowing up Ecruteak City.

    Olivia’s mother slowly pulled herself off the bed and trudged to the window. Once the thick glass was inches from her face, she raised a hand and placed it on the cold surface.

    -:-

    Even with their eyes closed and covered, the Shadow Triad could feel the sheer strength of Ho-oh’s light burning into their vision. They dropped to their knees and turned away, which provided them only limited relief.

    Another problem then presented itself. The light finally started to dim, but in its place, a powerful wind began to tear around the tower. Darkness, Pestilence and Chaos all lowered their arms and braced themselves on their hands and knees against the gale. In mere seconds, however, the wind died down as abruptly as it had arrived. The Triad rose to their feet when they realized the light had also disappeared. When Ghetsis growled from behind them, they turned to see him collapsed onto his knees.

    “Lord Ghetsis!” Pestilence called out to him.

    “It’s fine.” Ghetsis hobbled back up on his cane. “Don’t worry yourselves about me. Instead… look to the sky.”

    Ghetsis’s words helped the Shadow Triad dispel the last bits of shock that lingered in their minds. When they fully came back to their senses, the first thing to greet them was the sound of great wings beating in the open air. They knew what they would see when they looked up, but couldn’t help but stare in awe.

    The feathers glistening in vibrant red, white and gold, the vast wingspan, the regal crest and tail - these features combined into the unmistakeable and unforgettable image of Ho-oh, the great phoenix at the center of Ecruteak City’s mythology. The Shadow Triad could only watch as Ho-oh descended toward the tower. Pestilence and Chaos readied their weapons, but when Ho-oh perched itself on the edge of the tower and lowered its head over them, Darkness raised his hand to stop them.

    “Do you two really have such little faith in Lord Ghetsis?” he scornfully said. “We were all there, so we know the kind of power he got from that Tenganist woman. Such ability in the hands of worthless filth would not accomplish anything, but when used by a man as great as Lord Ghetsis…”

    Darkness didn’t need to finish his sentence as his point was more than clear to his brothers. They both locked eyes with Ho-oh. After a brief period of close inspection, they finally noticed exactly what they were supposed to see - a red glow around the edge of Ho-oh’s irises. Combined with the fading of its pupils, the legend’s eyes gained a cold, almost zombie-like look.

    “Darkness, clearly you are the only one who understands what I am capable of.”Ghetsis slowly turned around to grin at his three servants. His eyepiece, instead of its usual dull red color, was illuminated with yellow light. He swung his cape open before thundering, “But now is the time they’ll all come to know what I’m capable of. My age has come at last! Ho-oh will be my weapon, and with you three acting as my right hand we’ll destroy everyone who stands in my way… Team Rocket, the Tenganists, Polaris, anyone or anything that opposes me will be burned to ashes!”

    “We’ll stand alongside you, Lord Ghetsis!” Darkness exclaimed, snapping his body into an obedient pose that his brothers quickly mirrored.

    “I knew you three would continue to see reason,” Ghetsis replied, maintaining his devious smirk. He gestured to Anthea and Concordia, who both looked even worse after the summoning of Ho-oh, and added, “These two didn’t learn that lesson and so they will be left here to burn.”

    -:-

    While Ghetsis was busy atop Bell Tower, the streets between Ecruteak’s Pokémon Center and the Battle Hall became immersed in activity. A steady stream of refugees seeking the safety of the Frontier Society facility flowed through in a mostly orderly fashion, filing into the arena under Kate, Mako and Nando’s direction. The Kimono Girls were the first to arrive at the Battle Hall and had already gone inside. Meanwhile, Matt, Olivia, Nekou, Bunny, Avril, Monroe, Bill, Audrey, Nikolai and Rowena stood nearby and watched the sky. The sight of the rainbow rings spreading out from their epicenter at the Bell Tower caused sweat to roll down their faces in spite of the cold air.

    “That can’t be good,” Matt uttered. His stare was blank, and his arms were making slight mechanical noises as they trembled. “Ghetsis said he was going up there, and there’s only one thing it could be for…”

    “You don’t think…”

    “Ho-oh,” Bunny said, finishing Monroe’s sentence. “When a certain ritual is performed atop Bell Tower, Ho-oh is summoned. What I don’t understand, though… Ho-oh should disobey Ghetsis and destroy him.”

    “You’re right about that,” Bill added, resting his right hand on his chin while holding Audrey’s hand with his left. “It’s supposed to be the case that only a worthy person can participate in the ritual and the Kimono Girls are supposed to oversee it. Our mother…” He tightened his grip on his younger sister’s hand. “She always made that very clear, that it was important for the Kimono Girls like her to make sure everything went right, or Ho-oh would go on a vengeful rampage after being summoned. The thing is, I don’t think Ghetsis is the type to have a death wish… I don’t believe that he’d want to sacrifice his life just to send Ho-oh wild. What is missing here?”

    “I think I know,” Rowena admitted, bringing the attention of the others onto herself. “Matt, you guys were at the Pokémon Center and watched Ghetsis’s speech on television, right?”

    “Yeah, why?”

    “Then you might not have felt it like I did. I was in the square filming the speech. As he was giving it, I felt strange. It was like… it’s not easy to describe, but it was like Ghetsis was inside my head. I don’t understand it but just to venture a guess… what if he’s using some sort of hypnosis to influence his targets?”

    “There weren’t any Pokémon on the stage with him, but they could have been hidden,” Monroe theorized.

    “However he did it, that could be the answer,” Matt suggested, his arms shuddering even more. “If he was trying to hypnotize the crowd into following his suggestions, maybe he could do the same thing to Ho-oh.”

    “We might be in some really deep-” Olivia abruptly cut herself off when she spotted something moving rapidly through the air toward them. She pointed to it and asked, “What is that?”

    The others looked up in the direction Olivia had indicated. Most of them couldn’t make out what exactly the silver object flying toward them was, but Nekou had an idea that made her stomach sink. When she caught a brief glimpse of the ‘R’ symbol on the underside of the object, she stopped breathing.

    Moments later, the glider careened into the trees nearby. Nekou wasted no time in running toward the crash site, displaying such haste that she practically launched herself off the ground when she started her sprint. The others initially stared as she disappeared into the brush but quickly followed. When they caught up, they found her leaning down to Pierce, who was sprawled on the ground. His glider lay askew a few feet away.

    Matt froze when he saw the agent. “Wait, I think I know you…”

    Even though she knew the others were watching, Nekou was too caught up in her panic to care. “What happened?” she demanded, putting her hands firmly on Pierce’s shoulders.

    “Everything’s gone wrong…” he said, struggling to speak while catching his breath. “Ghetsis… he got…” Pierce stopped briefly to consider his words. “Giovanni is down…”

    Her worst fear about the mission was confirmed. Ghetsis had completely and utterly outsmarted them all and even worse, he’d taken out the head of their organization. Well aware that she could not let her next words give her secret away, she remained silent and instead tightened her grip on Pierce’s shoulders. Pierce shifted uncomfortably in response.

    “What… happened?” she repeated, her voice a tense, barely restrained hiss.

    “He saw it coming, he saw all of it coming,” Pierce said. “The bridge trap, the bomb…”

    “Wait, what did you just say?” Matt interjected, his hand slowly approaching his mouth. “What bomb? You were behind it?”


    “No, well yes, but…” Nekou shot Pierce a vicious glare, but he ignored her. His body was shaking even under her vice-like grip.

    “Doesn’t he look like he saw a ghost?” Olivia whispered to Monroe, which earned her a nod in return.

    “The bomb was supposed to be under the bridge linking the city to Bellchime Trail,” Pierce continued. He was struggling to form coherent words, panting heavily all the while. “We were trying to take Ghetsis and the rest of his Team Plasma allies out, but he saw through our entire plan. Giovanni and I were waiting for someone to get through to the top of Bell Tower but we didn’t expect to have to go up against Ghetsis and the Shadow Triad… we were totally overwhelmed, and Ghetsis cut down Giovanni and took his body and…”

    “Ghetsis just killed him…?” Bunny gasped. “What does that have to do with the speech and everything? And why did you bomb the square?”

    “We didn’t!” Pierce shouted back, nearly pushing Nekou aside. He finally looked up, revealing his wide empty eyes. “Ghetsis framed us. The entire thing’s a sham to make Team Rocket take the blame so Polaris looks better!”

    “I remember where we’ve met before.” Matt stepped toward Pierce and Nekou. “You were that guy in Cherrygrove’s Pokémon Center who warned us about Ghetsis, weren’t you? And then aboard the Magnet Train, you showed up with those other guys when we were fighting against Yung for that meteorite.” Matt stopped and looked down on Pierce, his arms hanging limply at his sides. “Why do you keep helping us? Team Rocket I mean. Why does Team Rocket keep showing up and acting like they’re on our side?”

    “Because we areon your side!” countered Pierce. “I know it might not make a lot of sense to you right now, but Polaris is our common enemy.”

    “Prove it,” Bunny demanded, putting her hands on her hips and looking down on Pierce.

    “I think that speaks for itself,” he replied, turning around and pointing toward the sky.

    Bunny, Olivia, and the others had to focus to see what Pierce was pointing at, but Matt could see it clearly. In the air near Bell Tower, a group of Pokémon were flying toward Colress’s airship. Darkness and Chaos were aboard Ghetsis’s Metagross. Pestilence was using his Doublade as transport again and Ghetsis himself was on his Hydreigon’s back. Though most of the group didn’t know what they were, Darkness’s Greninja and a chandelier-shaped ghost also flew alongside Ghetsis’ party. As the black Pokémon flew briskly along, the frog hung patiently and carefully from the Ghost-and-Fire-type’s arms by his feet.

    What most dramatically underlined Pierce’s point, however, was the Pokémon that accompanied them. Ho-oh pushed through the air with its broad multicolored wings. Despite not knowing what had happened at the tower, the onlookers knew something was wrong from the zombie-like way the legend followed Ghetsis.

    “I had such a bad feeling,” Nikolai quietly said, staring skyward with his thin frame slightly slouched over, “and it was from that. I’m sure of it…”

    “But how?” Audrey wondered. “Why is Ho-oh doing this? Mom always told us that someone with a pure heart was needed…”

    “You’re right.” Bill then turned to Pierce and added, “Someone with the abilities of the Kimono Girls is also necessary. What aren’t you telling us?”

    “Those…” Fearing that revealing the truth about himself would open up a weakness, Pierce choked. He quickly decided to put aside his hesitation, however. “Those women he brought on stage with him during the speech. Did you see them?”

    “The two he said were Tenganists?”

    Pierce nodded in response to Avril’s question and then continued, “He forced them to open the seal on Bell Tower and summon Ho-oh. I had to watch my mother get forced to do it…”

    Aside from Nekou, the crowd surrounding Pierce collectively gasped when they heard his words.

    “Your mother…? She’s one of them?”

    “Yes, Matt, she is. Without Giovanni, I am powerless to save her…” Pierce forced himself to stand, pushing his hands against his knees to support himself. “I know what you’ll say to this, but please, help me.”

    “What about your other allies?” Bunny asked him.

    “We’re already short on manpower trying to deal with all the other Polaris members around this city. I have… I have nobody else to turn to.”

    Matt and Bunny looked to Pierce and then to Nekou. They then back to each other again, sharing a knowing glance between each other.

    “I don’t like this,” Bunny firmly said while clenching her fist.

    “I don’t either, but…” Matt looked down at his shoes for a moment, then continued, “...I don’t think we really have much choice. All hell’s breaking loose on the streets, Ghetsis has Ho-oh, we can’t run…”

    “How did he get control of Ho-oh anyway?” Bill blurted out. “What Pokémon is he using for hypnosis?”

    “Pokémon?” Pierce wondered, furrowing his eyebrows. “What are you talking about?”

    “Ghetsis has been using some kind of hypnosis since his speech,” Rowena explained. “I felt it in the crowd. I assume that must be how he got Ho-oh to obey, but there was no sign of any Pokémon at the speech, so which one is it?”

    Realizing what Rowena was referring to, Pierce shut his eyes. “He isn’t using a Pokémon. Ghetsis… somehow has a Transcendence of his own.” Ignoring the gasps he was once again being met with, he kept talking. “I don’t understand it. He used it to control Ho-oh, but he clearly wasn’t using it during the speech…”

    “It’s not fair!” Olivia suddenly screamed, interrupting Pierce’s thought as she fell to her knees herself. “Dad, if you were here, I wouldn’t have to go through this! You’d fix it, you fixed everything before! I can’t…” She looked up to the sky, tears rolling down her face. “I can’t take this on my own anymore!”

    “Olivia, please, don’t do this to yourself…”

    “Shut up!” Olivia’s anger drove her to pound her fist into the ground, and Matt flinched at her words. “You didn’t know him long enough to learn what he was capable of! How could you help me now when you have no idea what to do?!”

    “Olivia…”

    Sensing Matt was about to make the situation worse, Bunny intervened. “Olivia, it’s not about what he’s capable of or what your father was capable of. Right here, right now, it’s about what you’re capable of.”

    “Olivia, listen to me.” Having at least partially snapped out of her daze, Nekou lowered herself to Olivia’s level and put her hands on Olivia’s shoulders. “You can’t be blamed for being angry and scared. I’m angry and scared now, too. You have to confront those feelings, and I’ll be right there to help you. Right now, we have to survive this whole thing. If you don’t, you’ll never have a chance to tackle how you feel, and you’ll die with all these regrets.”

    For a short time, Olivia silently considered Nekou’s words. She eventually squirmed out of Nekou’s grip and stood back up.

    “I don’t think I’m capable of doing anything… but if you think I can…”

    “I hate to interrupt,” Pierce said, once more ignoring the dirty look Nekou gave him, “but we are running out of time.”

    Not noticing Olivia shrinking back, Matt stepped up to Pierce and extended his hand. “Fine, in order to resolve all this, I accept your proposition. I suggest that Nekou and I go after Ghetsis, you head for your mother, and everyone else can see what they can do about the riots.”

    “Ghetsis has those ninjas with him,” Pierce said, though he did shake Matt’s hand in spite of his nerves. Matt could feel Pierce’s hand trembling, even through his glove.

    “I can deal with them,” Nekou mumbled, barely loud enough for Pierce to hear.

    “Let’s hit the road then.” Matt said, his voice lacking in any sort of real emotion. He turned away from Pierce, Nekou and the others, took two Poké Balls out of his bag, and opened them. His Golurk and Salamence appeared alongside each other in twin flashes of light and stretched their bodies while he put their capsules away and spoke to the two Pokémon. “Sally, Hethna, we’re going up there…” He gestured toward Colress’s ship, just in time for Ho-oh to pass his pointing fingers before continuing, “...but when we do, you two are going to have to go up against that Pokémon. Are you up for it?”

    Owing to its long life, Hethna responded immediately and enthusiastically, raising its giant gray fists in consent with the plan. On the other hand, Sally, hesitated. The Salamence lowered her head, closed her eyes and growled while restlessly shifting her weight back and forth.

    “She’s afraid,” Nikolai identified, stretching his arms out toward Sally. “Ho-oh is a Pokémon like few others. Even if one has never met it before, its presence is something that deeply impacts the heart from sight alone.”

    “You aren’t kidding about that,” Monroe said. He nervously adjusted his tie, his eyes not moving an inch away from staring at Ho-oh in the sky. “I can feel my bones shaking.”

    After a beat, Matt weakly smiled. He stepped up to Sally and put a reassuring hand on her head, making her suddenly open her eyes.

    “Sally, I can’t blame you. I’m scared too. But you and I… we’ve been through a lot of shit together, haven’t we? So what if it’s a bigger challenge than anything before? I’m here, Hethna’s here too, Nekou will be with us… I think we have it in us, just like all those other times. Do you?”

    Though still nervous, Sally felt enough of a boost from her trainer’s words to let out a short, low grunt in response to his question. That encouragement, however, didn’t carry over to Nekou, who stepped closer to Matt while keeping her eyes down and her arms limp at her sides.

    “Stop this shit. What are you, fucking suicidal? Did nothing I said to you about there being nothing after death mean a fucking thing?”

    “I’ll be going, too,” Pierce intervened, recognizing that the conversation was not going to go anywhere good. Matt opened his mouth to say something back to her, but backed down with Pierce’s interruption. He pointed at the glider and said, “That machine was created for my use by Team Rocket’s top scientist. It’s outfitted with weaponry, so since we’re both going to need to get past Ho-oh for our goals, I’ll help you until we get through.”

    “Wait,” Nikolai spoke up, bringing the attention of the others onto himself, “take me with you. Ho-oh is in such pain right now… I must do something!” As his anger and frustration grew, he started gesturing wildly once again. “I can hear Ho-oh’s voice from here. It wants so badly to free itself from Ghetsis’s control, but he’s too tightly wound around its mind! I have to save it!”

    “No, stay here,” Nekou answered, her voice remaining sullen and gloomy. “If Ghetsis sees you, he’ll want to recapture you. You might not realize it, but if Ghetsis gets his hands on you, a lot fucking more Pokémon will be in trouble.”

    “I won’t accept that!” Nikolai roared, grabbing at his own coat’s collar. “I cannot stand by while such a beautiful Pokémon is hurt like this!”

    “Bill, Audrey.” The brother and sister approached Nekou when she beckoned to them. She instructed, “He’s not going to listen to reason. Take him inside the Battle Hall for his safety.”

    Bill looked to his sister, shrugged his shoulders and said, “I guess we really don’t have too much choice.” He then turned toward Nikolai, but before he could say a single word, Nikolai forcefully shook his head.

    “No, I’m not going! I can help Ho-oh and you won’t stop me!”

    Seeing Nikolai’s resistance, Nekou shut her eyes, sighed, and popped open one of her Poké Balls to release her Murkrow. “We don’t have time for this shit. Lenore, Thunder Wave.”

    Without even a second of hesitation, Lenore released a pulse of electricity by spreading her wings. Nikolai’s body seized up when it hit him, and he fell to his knees.

    “Thank me later,” she said, ignoring Bill and Audrey’s shocked looks while she recalled Lenore. “Get going.”

    “Are you sure you had to do that?” Matt said with a sigh, while behind him, Bill and Audrey brought Nikolai toward the Battle Hall. He sighed again and dropped the subject when Nekou raised her middle finger at him. “Whatever, I guess. It’s time to go.” He started toward Hethna and Sally, but after only a few steps, he stopped and turned around. “Olivia, if you’re going to be helping the others deal with the riots, please, be careful. Let me give you a hand.”

    Reaching into his bag, Matt pulled out his Dusk Ball and opened it, causing his Heatran to appear in a flash of light. He then tossed the ball to Olivia.

    “Keep Tanya with you, and stay safe.”

    With that, Matt nodded quickly to Nekou and Pierce, prompting her to follow him to his Pokémon while Pierce retrieved his glider. Nobody noticed Olivia bitterly gazing down at the Dusk Ball in her hands, her eyelids and lip quivering.

    -:-

    Powerful winds churned around Colress’s airship, whipping around the Shadow Triad’s wigs and billowing out Ghetsis’s cape. Every now and then, the winds would subside a little, and then roar back to life, fueled by the beats of Ho-oh’s wings as it lurched along like a zombie. They were alone on the ship, having recalled all their Pokémon.

    “I’ve waited so long and traveled so far to find a weapon like you…” Ghetsis said to Ho-oh, the memories of his failed crusade in Unova flooding back into his mind. Those memories of pursuing legendary Pokémon and being beaten again and again by multiple enemies made him angrily squeeze his cane until his knuckles went white beneath his glove. “Zekrom, Genesect… all of them, they didn’t make my dreams come true. But you, Ho-oh, you are different! With you fully submitted to my control, all that I have worked for in life is finally at hand!”

    “Congratulations, Lord Ghetsis!” Darkness shouted over the wind. “Remember, when you take power, we’ll still loyally serve you!”

    “Yes, you will,” Ghetsis responded, looking over his shoulder at the trio. “Ho-oh can’t do everything… but I think it’s about time we get started on what Ho-oh can do.” Directing his full attention back to Ho-oh, Ghetsis raised his cane to point at the Pokémon and ordered, “Go forth, Ho-oh! Go forth and consume everything in my way with your Sacred Fire!”

    A slight, obedient hiss slipped from Ho-oh’s beak, and it lurched around in the air as its master had directed. Its eyes settled on the Dance Hall far below, and as Ho-oh drew in a deep breath, a huge blue fireball began to form in its mouth. Ghetsis stood by and watched, grinning, as the flames’ light sparkled in his eye.

    “Erase my most hated enemy first, destroy everything those people hold dear to them… then the rest of Polaris… by then, nobody will be left to stop me. Team Rocket? That bunch Finansielle is so fascinated by? Don’t make me laugh, they don’t even hold a candle to me!”

    By the time Ghetsis finished his thought, the fireball in Ho-oh’s mouth had reached its full size. Ho-oh reared back, preparing to launch it, but a sudden blast of water cut it off, causing the attack to prematurely break apart.

    “Seems we have some guests,” Ghetsis said out loud, unfazed by the sudden arrival of Sally and Hethna to challenge him. Matt and Nekou were riding on the Golurk’s back, while the Salamence had disrupted Ho-oh’s attack using Hydro Pump. Next to the two Pokémon, Pierce hovered on his glider.

    “No matter,” he scoffed. “They won’t stop me.”

    “Should we attack them?” Pestilence asked.

    “No, I’ll take care of it. Let them be Ho-oh’s appetizer.”

    -:-

    At their position in the forest, the Prophet and her followers silently watched the events unfolding within the city, using one of Hoopa’s rings as a window to view what was happening. When she saw the confrontation between Matt, Nekou and Ghetsis, she lowered her head and clenched her teeth.

    “Matt… all of them, they’re going to get themselves all killed.” The Prophet turned to the other Tenganists and said to them, “We’re not waiting any longer. It’s time for us to move in and save what and who we can.”

    “What should we do?” the green-haired woman with the radar Transcendence questioned.

    “Sindre, you stay with me. It’ll make what I have to do easier. Now, the next thing… it looked to me like Ghetsis was going to have Ho-oh burn down the Dance Hall.”

    “He’s trying to erase our history, isn’t he?” one of the others, a tall, well-built man with shaggy brown hair, said.

    “You’re right, Kristos, and that’s your job to deal with. Go along with Lotus to the Dance Hall and work together to protect it.”

    The tiny woman next to Kristos tightened her grasp on his hands. “Are you really sure? Shouldn’t we be protecting you?”

    “I’ll…” The Prophet looked down and frowned slightly. “I’ll have my own protection. Don’t worry about me. I’m not as important as protecting our culture, and you two together with your Camouflage and Barrier are just what’s needed.”

    “My leader…”

    “My dear, you mustn’t worry about her,” Kristos quietly said, looking deeply into Lotus’s eyes while the Prophet turned her back to them. “She’s a survivor. After everything she’s gone through she won’t fall apart so easily.”

    While the others talked amongst themselves, the Prophet stepped toward Hoopa’s ring, which quickly closed. The small genie Pokémon appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, and floated up to her.

    “Hoopa…” The Prophet leaned down to Hoopa’s level, causing the ends of her cloak to bunch up on the ground, and touched Hoopa’s head. “I know that when we found you, I promised to take you in and protect you from all the people looking to exploit your power. Right now, though, I need your help. Please, lend me your powers. Transcend the confines of time and space...”

    For a few moments, the Prophet used her Transcendence, linking her heart with Hoopa’s in silence. Once it understood her request, Hoopa smiled and giggled.

    -:-

    The sky over Ecruteak City wasn’t the only area consumed by fighting. While Matt, Nekou and Pierce began to engage Ho-oh with Golurk, Salamence and the glider, the Team Rocket agents in the woods were locked in combat against Archer and Zinzolin. Proton’s Pangoro took on both Cryogonal and Glalie, striking the Ice-types with individual Dragon Claw attacks using both of his muscular arms. Zinzolin’s Vanilluxe loomed up behind Pangoro, an Ice Beam starting to take form in each of his two mouths.

    “Primeape, help Pangoro!” Trevor called out to his Pokémon. “Cross Chop!”

    Screeching a vicious battle cry, Trevor’s Primeape sprang toward Vanilluxe like a bullet, his arms crossed and his fists glowing. Undeterred, Archer simply continued scratching his chin, as he had a habit of doing.

    “Sudowoodo,” he calmly directed, “use Wood Hammer.”

    Before Primeape could strike at Vanilluxe, Sudowoodo got in the way and swung his glowing green arm right into the Fighting-type’s body, throwing him away. Seconds later, Vanilluxe blasted Pangoro in the back with his twin Ice Beams, knocking him to his knees. Now freed from fighting Pangoro for the moment, Cryogonal and Glalie turned their attention to Ada’s Fearow and Petrel’s Raticate, with Zinzolin’s Jynx jumping in next to them for support.

    “We’ve got you now, Team Rocket!” Zinzolin cried out, making fists of excitement with both his hands. “Cryogonal, Frost Breath! Glalie, Blizzard! Jynx, Avalanche!”

    “Fearow, use Double Team, then Steel Wing!”

    “Raticate, you cover Fearow. Hit Jynx with Sucker Punch!”

    Ada’s Fearow started masking her position with illusionary copies of herself, and Raticate lunged and tackled Jynx, stunning her briefly. Fearow then flew toward Glalie and Cryogonal with her wings glowing like metal, using the copies to misdirect away their gusts of ice. She managed to cut through both of them, but Jynx recovered, raised her arms and screamed, calling down a number of boulders of snow to batter Fearow’s body.

    Meanwhile, as her companions fought against their traitorous former ally and his own partner, Rosalie sat by with Ariana, staring blankly at the explosions in the sky.

    -:-

    Matt and Nekou clung desperately to Hethna’s back as one of Ho-oh’s massive electrical blasts flew just a few feet above them. The wind generated by the Thunder attack pulled at their bodies, forcing them to hold on even more tightly than they already were.

    “We made a big mistake doing this head-on!” Matt yelled over the wind. “I should have known we didn’t have the firepower to make it!”

    “Where the fu[/u]ck is Pierce…”

    “Who’s Pierce?” When she realized Matt had heard her, Nekou flinched and almost started to lose her grip on Hethna. Matt didn’t notice this, and continued questioning, “That guy’s name is Sam, isn’t it? Remember back to Cherrygrove…”

    “Pay more fucking attention to this shit right now!” Nekou screamed back at him. “Do you want to fucking die?!”

    Dramatically underlining Nekou’s point, Ho-oh drilled Hethna squarely in the chest with a rainbow-colored beam of light. The Golurk abruptly spun and lost altitude, thoroughly rattling both it and its passengers, who held on for their lives.

    Up on the airship, the Shadow Triad had gotten closer to Ghetsis in the hopes of getting a better look at the unfolding battle. They stared in awe at how mobile Ho-oh was as it relentlessly pursued Hethna and Sally, who were struggling to outrun its intense barrage. Hethna had to twist around in the air in order to escape another Thunder sent its way, almost throwing Matt and Nekou off its back in the process.

    Overseeing the fight with slightly raised eyebrows and his typical grin, Ghetsis told the Shadow Triad, “They’ll make a good warmup for Ho-oh. After finishing them off, the rest of Polaris is next.”

    “Lord Ghetsis, if I may,” Chaos piped up, “why have Ho-oh use Thunder against a partially Ground-type Pokémon like Golurk?”

    “Do not question Lord Ghetsis’s judgment,” Darkness harshly warned.

    “It’s fine,” Ghetsis said without turning around, “I don’t care. To answer that question, Thunder might not do damage to Golurk, but those two aboard it don’t have its immunity, especially the robot. I don’t get why Finansielle is so interested in him. Regardless…” Raising his arm again, Ghetsis commanded, “Ho-oh, consume them in your flames! They won’t escape that!”

    Ho-oh immediately began inhaling to create another blue fireball, filling the air with the loud rumbling of its breath. Nekou stared emptily into the flames, almost as if she was daring Ho-oh to completely engulf her in it. Matt, however, had other plans.

    “Sally, Hethna, retreat!” he shouted with all his strength. “We can’t stop that attack, so the only way we survive this is to avoid it!”

    His Golurk swung the rockets in its arms straight down and barreled its passengers up out of harm’s way, Matt’s Salamence twisted downward, inverting her body to fly away from Ho-oh from below. Even with these efforts, Ho-oh’s Sacred Fire was so massive that it nearly swallowed up the two Pokémon anyway. The fire tore through the air just below Hethna and above Sally, passing them before heading for the overdeveloped half of the city.

    -:-

    One of the groups on the ground was rushing toward the Pokémon Center, with Bunny and Nando at its head. Olivia, Monroe and Avril as well as Tanya the Heatran ran just behind them, while Rowena was at the back filming everything. As they dashed down a stone road framed by trees, they froze when they noticed the fight unfolding above them. All they could do was watch as Ho-oh’s Sacred Fire sailed off and exploded against a tall building in the distance, immediately setting it ablaze like a gigantic match. As the light from the passing flame faded from their eyes, they could see Matt and Nekou with his Pokémon in the sky.

    “Those two are in trouble…” Monroe whispered hoarsely, his limbs becoming heavy and weak as his heart sank at the sight of their friends’ struggle far above. He looked to the older members of the group and said, “Can’t we do something?”

    “It looks like Miss Rowena is quite busy with her filming,” Nando said, his voice maintaining its usual gentle tone even though it now carried an unusually serious edge. One of his hands emerged from beneath his cape clutching an Ultra Ball, and he continued, “But that does not mean we are not capable of assisting them. Dragonite, make your entry!”

    “I think I like where you’re taking this, Nando,” Bunny added, with two Poké Balls of her own in her hands. She threw them and announced, “We’ll join in! Xatu! Sky!”

    The three spheres burst open, releasing the Pokémon they contained. Nando’s Dragonite landed with a crash on the path, cracking the stones beneath his feet. The Xatu that Jacob sent to Bunny deftly positioned himself to Dragonite’s left, while Sky, Bunny’s Drifblim, floated to Dragonite’s right. Bunny stepped toward the three Pokémon and spread her arms out.

    “Sky, Xatu… I need you to go with Dragonite to help Matt and Nekou, but I’m sending you into a fight unlike anything you’ve experienced before. Look up.” Bunny pointed upward at Ho-oh and continued, “That’s your opponent. Yes, the legendary Ho-oh. I’m sorry to send into a fight of this magnitude, but winning just means holding Ho-oh off, not defeating it. Are you sure you can manage?”

    “And Dragonite, my friend, what of you?”

    Dragonite was the first to respond, enthusiastically howling his willingness to go along with Nando’s request. Nando had raised him into a talented, agile performer for Pokémon Contests, and those same techniques also made him capable of facing many strong opponents. Most importantly, the training made the Dragonite develop great confidence in his skills, a confidence which pushed aside any fear of Ho-oh the dragon might have had.

    As for Bunny’s two Pokémon, their reactions differed both from Dragonite’s and from each other’s. Xatu simply closed his eyes, reflecting on his long life, mainly spent at Jacob’s side. They’d been through a lot, even before Jacob’s obsessions consumed him and forced them apart. Even though they had never even come close to facing anything like Ho-oh, Xatu felt secure from his experiences. Sky, on the other hand, shrunk back. Just seeing Ho-oh was enough to send shivers down every nerve in Sky’s body.

    Sensing Sky’s fear, Xatu floated over to him and touched the Ghost-and-Flying-type Pokémon with one of his wings. Sky slowly turned around, and the two Pokémon spent a few moments conversing before Bunny spoke up.

    “Sky, if you don’t want to go, that’s okay. You can stay here with me.” These words brought noticeable relief to the Drifblim, who exhaled deeply. Bunny beckoned him over to her side, and he wasted no time in floating over. Bunny gently stroked his head, then turned back to Xatu. “Xatu, I won’t force you to do this. If you can’t handle it, bail out.”

    “There’s not going to be any bailing out because you aren’t going anywhere.”

    From the trees next to the road, two figures emerged. Bunny froze in her tracks when she realized who they were - Dino and Lucky. Nando scowled slightly at them, while Olivia and Avril both had their faces contorted into much more obvious expressions of anger. Rowena, meanwhile, simply kept filming. On their parts, Lucky had her hands held firmly behind her back and avoided looking straight at the group, while Dino was much more outgoing.

    “Imagine seeing you all here!” he cheerfully said, holding his hands in his pockets like he usually did. “Of course, I’m not really surprised.”

    “Polaris sent you, didn’t they?” Olivia growled through clenched teeth. “After that speech from Ghetsis…”

    “Someone give the girl a prize, we’ve got a winner!” Dino taunted her. “Although, don’t get me wrong. I owe no allegiance to someone like Ghetsis.” At that point, Dino knew Lucky was staring daggers at him, but he ignored it. “My loyalty is to Father’s vision of a world freed from the shackles of this society, and so I have to keep you busy while every second of that little fight above our heads is documented.”

    “Documented?” Monroe asked aloud.

    “I’ve already said too much. Now, I think it’s time we start playing.”
     
  9. The Great Butler

    The Great Butler Hush, keep it down

    Before anyone in the group could stop him, Dino tore three Poké Balls from his coat and threw them. Olivia could not recognize any of them. One was a craggy, gargoyle-like creature with a crimson-colored head that contrasted sharply against her blue body. Another was a stout-bodied deer wrapped in brown-and-white fur, with two white horns rising from her head. Finally, the last of the Pokémon was a red, round ape with eyebrows of fire, long, muscular arms, and a wild grin.

    “Druddigon, the Cave Pokémon. Type is Dragon. It races through narrow caves, using its sharp claws to catch prey. The skin on its face is harder than a rock. It warms its body by absorbing sunlight with its wings. When its body temperature falls, it can no longer move.

    Sawsbuck, the Season Pokémon. Type is Normal/Grass. Evolved form of Deerling. They migrate according to the seasons. People can tell the season by looking at Sawsbuck's horns. Some people call Sawsbuck the harbingers of spring. This Sawsbuck is Winter Form.

    Darmanitan, the Blazing Pokémon. Type is Fire. Evolved form of Darumaka. When one is injured in a fierce battle, it hardens into a stone-like form. Then it meditates and sharpens its mind. Its internal fire burns at 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit, making enough power that it can destroy a dump truck with one punch.”


    “I hope you enjoyed getting a good look at these Pokémon of mine,” Dino continued taunting Olivia as she put her Pokédex away. “Tell me you appreciated them. After all, they did help pull me out of the pit I was in as a kid…” For a moment, Dino paused and shut his eyes. His memories of his childhood on Castelia City’s streets filled his mind, and he became lost in them. Every sight, smell and touch he experienced became fresh once more, as if he was still living those days in the present. The memories angered him, and he tightened his fists in his pockets before opening his eyes. “I was able to pull myself out, but I was one of the few lucky ones! Why can’t you understand that what we’re trying to do is going to help people like that?”

    “Maybe there’s a few things that should be talked about,” Olivia countered, “but destroying a city isn’t how you do that! Can’t you do something else, get your message out some other way instead of starting riots and burning down a city?”

    “Shut up!” Dino roared back. Though he wasn’t sure, Nando even thought he could see slight tears in the corner of the Polaris member’s eyes. “Nobody takes notice if you do it peacefully. We could spend years talking about this, and nothing would get done! If you want to accomplish something, you have to take action, but what would you know about that… born with the silver spoon in your mouth, never having to really question where your future comes from…”

    Dino’s words cut right to Olivia’s heart, and she took a step back. Her sunken, pale face reflected her internal ill feeling, and when Monroe noticed, he started to reach for one of his Poké Balls.

    Before Monroe could act, however, Dino said, “Enough, I don’t have to explain any more of this to you. Druddigon, Dragon Claw! Sawsbuck, Seed Bomb! Darmanitan, Fire Punch!”

    All three of Dino’s Pokémon tightened their muscles in preparation for their attacks, but before they could do anything, they were interrupted by an unexpected counterattack. An Air Slash followed by a beam of red light shot down at Sawsbuck and Druddigon’s feet first and held them back. A Shadow Ball came immediately after, and then a Dark Pulse swept across all three Pokémon. By the time the assault ended, Dino’s own attempted offensive had failed, and his Pokémon were stuck defending themselves.

    The sound of several voices laughing rang through the air, and Dino and Lucky both looked up, anger and frustration clouding their vision. A familiar man and a woman wearing jetpacks descended into view, accompanied by a Swoobat, a Vivillon, a Cofagrigus and an Inkay.

    “Prepare for trouble, we’ll save the day!”

    “And make it double, Polaris won’t be getting its way!”

    “You can’t be serious,” Lucky groaned.

    “Team Rocket helping us yet again…” Bunny thought.

    Jessie and James continued to descend alongside their Pokémon, and kept reciting their motto as they did so.

    “We’re protecting the world from Polaris’s devastation…”

    “And we’ll put all the people in our Team Rocket nation!”

    “We might denounce the evils of truth and love…”

    “But this time you’ll be heading into the skies above!”

    When they finally landed, Jessie and James wasted no time in posing dramatically.

    “Jessie!”

    “James!”

    “Team Rocket blasts off at the speed of light…”

    “Surrender now, or prepare to fight!”

    To finish the motto, Meowth dropped down perfectly at the center of the formation and said, “Meowth! That’s right!”

    “Are you done?” Lucky growled, hate burning in her eyes.

    “I’m sure they are,” Dino said, answering her question as he stared straight ahead at Jessie, James, Meowth and their Pokémon. His own voice lowered into a growl, as he warned, “That said, you three… get out of our way. I haven’t got any sympathy left for relics of the past like you.”

    “And we haven’t got sympathy for a bunch of self-destructive idiots like you,” Jessie countered.

    “Self-destructive idiots?” Lucky found herself suppressing a laugh. “That’s rich coming from you.”

    “We’ll see who’ll walk away from this, and who’ll fly away!”

    While James threatened Dino and Lucky, Meowth made his way toward Olivia and the others. “You guys go get out of here. Those two? They’re our problem.”

    “Now I’m taking orders from a talking Meowth?” Bunny complained, crossing her arms and pouting. “One that works for Team Rocket? What are you even…”

    The conversation was interrupted by a sudden explosion nearby. While Meowth had been talking to Bunny, fighting flared up between Jessie, James and Dino. A great gust from the clash of Vivillon’s cyclone attack and Sawsbuck’s Seed Bomb tore through the area, rustling the trees and blowing their fallen leaves everywhere.

    “Hurry!” Meowth screamed at the group. “Get out of here and help the Slowpoke bail from the Pokémon Center!”

    Unable to argue with him any further, Bunny quickly nodded to the others. She pointed out a path that would allow them to get just around the fighting, but when she attempted to lead them past, Lucky blocked their way.

    “I loathe doing this with every bone in my body,” she fumed. Her fingers were trembling around the Poké Ball in her hand. “If I had my way these disgusting things would be gone from the world and all Pokémon would be free, but… if I have to use one to get to that goal, so be it.”

    Without letting go of the Poké Ball, Lucky opened it. In a flash of light, a lithe, purple feline Pokémon covered in patches of yellow appeared, and snarled loudly within seconds of taking shape.

    “In the end this society is controlled by these things,” Lucky growled, looking at the Poké Ball. “Pokémon get imprisoned inside them, and in order to advance humans need to buy them, and the money just keeps the cycle going… when my dreams come true, all of it will be torn apart.” Lucky finally stuffed the Poké Ball away in her pocket, turning her attention back to her enemies with a leering snarl, “But for right now, I’ll settle for tearing you apart. Liepard, Dark Pulse!”

    “Tanya, you stop it with your Dark Pulse!”

    Lucky’s Liepard opened her mouth, and a cluster of dark energy rings took shape in front of her, while Matt’s Heatran stomped out in front of Olivia and countered with a similar action. The two blasts collided explosively when their respective users fired them, cancelling each other out in a violent gust of wind. Olivia, Monroe, Avril and Bunny all flinched and covered their eyes from the explosion, but despite being as close to it as they were, Lucky just stood rigidly still, fixated on her enemies.

    “You can’t stall the future!”

    In the face of Lucky’s threat, Meowth stepped forward, then looked over his shoulder to the others. “I told you guys, go! I’ve got a score to settle here!”

    “Are you crazy, taking that thing on alone?”

    “Obviously he is!” Lucky laughed, answering Avril’s question. “Step right up if you’ve got a death wish! I don’t care if you’re a Pokémon, you’re Team Rocket and so you have to go! Liepard, Iron Tail!”

    With another high-pitched snarl, Liepard jumped at Meowth, her tail glowing with a metallic sheen. Meowth grimaced, braced himself and unsheathed his claws, but before he could take any further action, a ball of purple slime shot past him and hit Liepard in the face, abruptly cutting her attack off. Only a mere second later, Jessie’s Goomy shot past him and collided with Liepard in a violent Body Slam.

    “What just happened?” Monroe wondered out loud while blinking rapidly. Goomy had since separated from Liepard, only to immediately leap up and bite her head, eliciting a similar puzzled reaction from Lucky.

    “A squishy little bug just gave you the chance to get away!” Meowth screeched at them. “I’m not gonna say it again! Run for it!”

    After a brief hesitation while they watched Liepard struggle to shake Goomy off her head, Olivia and the others finally took Meowth’s advice and began to run. Lucky scowled at them as they passed her, but with Meowth and Goomy occupying her only Pokémon, she was powerless to stop them.

    “Fine, go. Burn in the fire that will consume this city instead.”

    -:-

    Tired of running from Ho-oh, Sally spun around in the air to gaze straight into the legendary Pokémon’s eyes. Ho-oh stopped moving as well, and the two had a brief standoff, trading low growls with each other. Almost as soon as the lull came, it broke again as their fight resumed. Sally brought up water deep in her throat, preparing to launch a Hydro Pump. Before the water left her maw, Ho-oh sensed her impending attack and responded by shooting a violent cluster of lightning from its body.

    When the two attacks collided, Ho-oh’s Thunder slowed but did not stop. Its loss of pace from the force of Hydro Pump was compensated by its current crackling through the water, shooting up the stream and right down Sally’s throat. The Salamence roared in agony and twitched as her muscles were roiled by the immense shock, dropping some distance before managing to begin recovering.

    “Sally!” Matt cried out in horror. He tightened his grip on Hethna’s back, so much so that a more fleshy Pokémon would have surely cried out in pain from it.

    “If Sally gets paralyzed and we lose our cover, we’re fucked,” Nekou muttered.

    “Don’t you think I know that?” Matt snapped back. “How about you just cross your fingers and hope she isn’t…”

    The rest of Matt’s sentence got caught in his throat when Ho-oh loomed over them, having closed the distance in the blink of an eye. A wave of helplessness and despair flooded his mind, he tried to quickly review his options. As he tried to think of some way to respond to the great bird, he did not notice Nekou staring up at Ho-oh and struggling to stop her fear from invading her face.

    “Earthquake won’t work in the air like this, and all Hethna’s other moves are punches, which would reduce our mobility-” These strategic thoughts quickly fell apart as a bright blue light washed over Matt, Nekou and Hethna. It was coming from Ho-oh’s mouth, evidence that a point-blank Sacred Fire was imminent. “No, not after all of this…”

    Nekou, meanwhile, was unable to contain her emotions any longer. With her eyes watering as she shut them, she screamed, “I can’t die! I can’t go back there again!”

    The light kept getting brighter, forcing Matt to close his eye as well, but when the inevitable explosion came, neither of them felt the flames they thought would consume them. Still, with her fear continuing to course through every fiber of her body, Nekou didn’t open her eyes until she heard Matt gasping next to her.

    Ho-oh was once again a short distance away from them, and Xatu and Dragonite were flying in front of them to provide protection. They had intervened with Xatu first using Psychic to briefly restrain Ho-oh with blue light so Dragonite could fly in and strike Ho-oh with rings of water. Dragonite took a moment to catch his breath after using the Water Pulse, while Xatu held Ho-oh for as long as he could before the legendary Pokémon pulled free.

    “Dragonite? Xatu?” Nekou said in shock.

    “They must be Nando’s and Bunny’s,” Matt guessed. “Good thing, too, we needed the help.”

    Recovering, Ho-oh let out an ear-splitting screech at all of the people and Pokémon opposing its master’s wishes. In its empty rage, it quickly fired another rainbow-colored beam from its body, its sights trained on Xatu. Dragonite, unwilling to allow his partner to take the Signal Beam, cut it off with another Water Pulse.

    This just provoked Ho-oh further, prompting it to shift its focus to Dragonite. Ho-oh focused its power to the golden plumage on its head, which shot out a white sphere of energy. The sphere flew high into the air before beginning its rapid descent, its speed rendering Xatu unable to quickly get a lock on it with his psychic powers. As a result, Dragonite was forced to point his head straight toward the Weather Ball and launch an orange energy cluster of his own from his mouth towards it. The two attacks collided with a brilliant explosion, which stopped Ho-oh’s attack in a cloud of smoke, while Dragonite’s burst apart into numerous meteors that rained down over the city.

    “Nando’s Dragonite’s Draco Meteor is as powerful as it was when I first saw it,” Matt said in awe, his mind flashing back to when he’d seen Nando battling Olivia’s father with Dragonite five years prior.

    “That’s nice and all,” Nekou replied, “but now its attacks are all going to be weaker. Draco Meteor, Water Pulse, unless it has a physical move, this doesn’t help us.”

    Nekou’s warning bore out almost immediately, as Ho-oh loosed a Thunder in Dragonite’s direction and, despite his best efforts to dispel it with a cyclone of wind, he could only lessen its strength before the bolt bore down on him. Despite it not being as strong or direct as the Thunder that had afflicted Sally earlier, Dragonite was still thrown back in the air, the electricity crackling around his body. He managed to steady himself much more quickly than Sally had.

    Seizing the opening this presented, Ho-oh rushed in, bearing its talons directly at Dragonite. Xatu flew between them and began to use Psychic again, but he was unable to significantly slow Ho-oh’s pace before much of the distance between them was already closed.

    A blast of electricity from nearby suddenly hit Ho-oh, catching it by complete surprise and cutting off its assault. Though clearly affected by the Thunderbolt, Ghetsis’s control over Ho-oh suppressed any expression of pain it would have shown. Instead, it just moved its wings and legs around to work the charge out of its body. Dragonite and Xatu, meanwhile, were blown back due to their proximity to it, but despite tumbling over themselves in the air they were not injured.

    “What was that?” Matt gasped, looking around for the Thunderbolt’s source.

    An angry cry followed by another Thunderbolt electrocuting Ho-oh drew the attention of Matt, Nekou and the Pokémon to Sky, who was rapidly approaching the battle. His disruption, fueled by his newly regained confidence, stunned Ho-oh. Matt and Nekou both let out relieved breaths, and Dragonite and Xatu relaxed slightly as the Drifblim flew alongside them.

    Meanwhile, as the fight between his allies’ Pokémon and Ho-oh unfolded, Pierce had been watching from a distance. Sky’s intervention against Ho-oh stunned the legendary Pokémon long enough to give him the opening he had been waiting for.

    When the lens he wore over his left eye locked a targeting sight onto Ho-oh, he said to himself, “Got you,” and fired one of the missiles in his glider at it.

    “Dragonite!” Matt called out, back in the battle. Both he and Nekou were unaware of the approaching rocket. “You still know Heal Bell, right? Go help my Salamence, please!”

    Dragonite nodded to Matt, then flew off toward where Sally was struggling with her paralysis to stay airborne. He had no time to watch his Pokémon get healed, as within seconds of his plea, the missile struck Ho-oh, causing a violent explosion. The Fire-and-Flying-type legendary Pokémon groaned in pain as it spiraled toward the ground right before Matt’s shocked gaze.

    “Who just…” Pierce flew up next to Hethna shortly after, prompting Matt to drop his question and begin to rant angrily. “You shot Ho-oh with a fucking missile? What the hell is wrong with you?”

    “It’s called recognizing reality and saving your lives!” Pierce shouted back. “I did what I had to. Now go after Ghetsis before the time I just bought you runs out!”

    “But-”

    “Will you just stop fucking complaining and listen to him?” Nekou hissed. “If you think that thing killed Ho-oh, stop. It just slowed Ho-oh down. Or maybe you need to fucking look down and see for yourself?”

    Matt did so, and when he saw Ho-oh already stirring and starting to recover far below, he had to fight the urge to cover his mouth in shock. He felt his heart sinking in his chest as he came to the realization that he had to accept what Pierce had done.

    “F-fine…” Matt stuttered. “I don’t like it, but… we should get going. Hethna, take us to that airship and drop us off!”

    The Golurk grunted in acquiescence to its trainer’s instructions, turned toward Colress’s airship, and fired its arm rockets at full force to fly there. Pierce took a moment to look down himself, seeing not only Ho-oh recovering but Dragonite healing Matt’s Salamence with silvery energy waves. The Rocket agent took a deep breath to focus his mind, then steered his glider away, flying off in the direction of Bell Tower.

    On the airship’s roof, Ghetsis and the Shadow Triad watched Matt and Nekou as they approached on Hethna’s back. The three ninjas all rushed to brandish their Poké Balls, but Ghetsis hit his cane against the floor to stop them.

    “No, let them come,” he ordered the trio. “Let them think that they have some chance of defeating us. When they fail, they will know the true meaning of absolute despair!”

    In response to this, Darkness and Pestilence immediately put their Poké Balls away. Chaos hesitated, but quickly did so as well and said, “Yes, of course. You’re right, Lord Ghetsis.”

    The Shadow Triad braced themselves as Hethna flew over their heads, while Ghetsis just looked up and smiled.

    When they were directly over the airship, Matt and Nekou jumped down from Hethna’s back. Nekou’s well-honed acrobatic skills helped her to nimbly land on her feet with a minimal amount of balancing with her right arm. Matt, on the other hand, stumbled and fell forward since he had to focus much of his weight on his mechanical left leg. He quickly stood back up, only to catch Ghetsis stifling a laugh at his clumsiness.

    “So, Matt Chiaki, we meet at last,” Team Plasma’s leader smugly said, taking great pleasure in the scowl Matt was directing at him. He then turned his attention to Nekou and smiled even more broadly as he watched her glare at him with hate flaring in her brown eyes. “And we meet again, Nekou Lalume… or whatever name it is you’re going by these days.”

    “Lalume?” Matt uttered in surprise. “Your name is Langley, isn’t it? What’s he talking about?”

    “Ignore him, he’s trying to get inside your head,” Nekou growled at Matt.

    “Aw, what’s the matter?” Ghetsis taunted, the caped man leaning forward on his cane as he continued on in a mocking, sarcastic voice. “Too insecure about the gutter trash you are to tell your little boyfriend the truth? How do you think he’s going to react when he finds out? You know what you’ll be! All alone just like always…”

    “Fuck you!” she roared back at him, raising her middle finger at him as she spoke.

    Ghetsis simply laughed and turned his attention back to Matt, who was looking back and forth, wide-eyed, between him and Nekou. “You poor, naive fool. You have no idea the kind of madness this woman is dragging you into. I don’t understand why Finansielle is so fascinated with you.”

    “Finansielle?”

    “The name of a woman who, like you two, is nothing but a relic to soon be left behind in the past.” Ghetsis took a step forward, slamming his cane into the floor. “Enough talk. I’ve been waiting long enough to do this.”

    Matt braced himself in preparation for a fight, but Nekou stepped in front of him and blocked him with her hand.

    “This isn’t your fight,” she said, her voice filled with the rage that burned deep within her. She took out her switchblade, slowly opened it, and added, “I’m gonna fuck this asshole up! Maybe I won’t kill him… but I’m seriously fucking considering it this time! This is where it ends!”

    Nekou lunged at Ghetsis, screaming at the top of her lungs with her arm pulled back and ready to strike with the knife. Despite this, Ghetsis remained perfectly still, gripping his cane with confidence. Nekou saw him not making any effort to evade her attack, and deep down, she knew exactly why he wasn’t. Still, she didn’t care. The fact that Ghetsis was right there in front of her fed her bloodlust, and her fury was even further heightened by the fact that she could feel her other personality beginning to bleed into her mind.

    She was abruptly stopped when the Shadow Triad appeared in her path. Chaos used his daggers to halt her strike, and behind him, Darkness armed himself with throwing stars while Pestilence drew both of Doublade’s swords. All three ninjas straightened up to their full heights, their long white hair blowing in the wind.

    “You aren’t going anywhere near Lord Ghetsis,” Chaos declared. “I still have a score to settle with you.”

    “Except this time you’re facing all three of us,” Darkness added. “You aren’t walking away alive from this.”

    “Stand the fuck aside,” Nekou demanded, ignoring their warnings.

    “Brother, I don’t think she heard you. Maybe we should help her get the point.” To accentuate his pun, Pestilence used one of his swords to mime a stabbing motion.

    “Now isn’t the time for your jokes,” Darkness countered.

    Before he could speak further, however, the sound of Ghetsis banging his cane on the floor caused all three of them to turn around.

    “Enough of that,” Ghetsis advised his servants. “You three take your fight with her to the other end of the ship. I want to see for myself what Finansielle sees in the robot.”

    The Shadow Triad immediately bowed to Ghetsis and warped to the back end of the airship. This move left absolutely nothing in the way between Nekou and Ghetsis, and it was an opportunity she would not let slip by.

    “So your brilliant plan was to leave yourself open? You fucked up!”

    Nekou began to rush Ghetsis again, but before she even realized what was happening, she felt a pair of hands grab her, pull her back and then throw her. When she finally came to her senses, she realized she was at the back of the ship as well, surrounded by Pestilence and Chaos. Darkness, the one who threw her, was approaching as well.

    “No, you’re the one who fucked up,” the leader of the Shadow Triad said to her as he arrived. “You know very well that all three of us would lay our lives down for Lord Ghetsis. To think we would let you lay one filthy finger on him tells me you’re an idiot.”

    “I’m going to fucking carve you up,” Nekou threatened in an inhuman snarl.

    “Please, we know all about you.” Darkness flipped one of his throwing stars around in his hand as he spoke. “You won’t kill anyone, and it’s that weakness that’s going to be your undoing.”

    Darkness was interrupted when Nekou suddenly sprang up and threw herself at him, screaming as she did so. She swung her knife at him, but was intercepted by Pestilence and Doublade.

    “I wasn’t done speaking,” Darkness sarcastically said as he put his throwing stars away and began to draw a long, thin sword of his own. “The reason why your unwillingness to kill your enemies will end you is because your enemies will not hesitate to kill you. The three of us for example… until we die we will be extensions of Lord Ghetsis’s very form! That dedication means you will not stop us without killing us!”

    “Fuck you!!” Nekou screeched back, jumping at them once again.

    Darkness parried her strike using his sword, then Chaos tried to slash at her, only for her to deflect his attack with her own blade. While she pulled a second knife from her coat, Pestilence got behind her and tried to stab her with Doublade, but she caught sight of him and pushed her leg backward, kicking him in the stomach.

    Matt could do nothing but watch while Nekou viciously battled the Shadow Triad, kicking and slashing at them as she needed. Every time she barely managed to avoid or halt one of their attempted attacks on her, his breathing became shallower and shallower. He knew that eventually, she would not be able to hold all three of them off like this, and that the Shadow Triad would surely swarm her in that inevitable moment of weakness.

    Nearby, Hethna, Sally, Xatu, Sky and Dragonite all continued their fight with Ho-oh. Nando’s Dragonite turned to grunt a suggestion to Bunny’s Pokémon, and then breathed in and exhaled a Water Pulse. Xatu immediately fixated onto the rings of water and with raised wings and glowing eyes, he held them in place with Psychic, allowing Sky to electrify them with a crackling Thunderbolt. Once the combination was complete, Xatu swung his wings in Ho-oh’s direction to send it at the legendary Pokémon. Ho-oh responded with its own Thunder, and the two highly charged attacks filled the sky with a bright flash when they collided.

    While Matt shielded his eye from the blinding light, Ghetsis took a step forward, once again punctuating it with a loud tap of his cane.

    “You’re all alone now,” Ghetsis smugly said. “Are you finally beginning to understand just how hopeless your situation truly is? It’s funny how Finansielle is so interested in you, considering how powerless you are. I can’t say I understand it, but maybe it’s just the result of her simple mind focusing on a simple subject. I know better. Team Rocket dragged you along and dropped you in against me, never caring about what would become of you. Does that hurt?”

    “I might not completely understand what you’re talking about, but nobody dragged me along to anything,” Matt countered, fully facing Ghetsis. “I think I would have ended up here all the same. Do you know what kind of anguish you’ve caused my friend’s daughter with your speeches? She’s suffered enough in her life, but you’ve just made it worse, and I can’t forgive that.”

    Ghetsis looked upward and laughed so hard that a tear formed at the corner of his visible eye. “It’s just a testament to how hopeless you are that you think you’re hurting me by saying that! She deserves everything I’ve done!” Matt gritted his teeth, enraged at what Ghetsis was saying. “She is not anyone special. All of those idiots I’ve taken to task in my speeches are just trash beneath my feet. The only reason why you think your friend’s daughter is special is because you are so warped and defective that you can’t stop trying to be a hero. You think that if you lay down your life for her you’ll make up for not saving her father five years ago. Deep down inside, though, you know you’re nothing but a joke!”

    “That…” Matt lowered his head, allowing some of his hair to fall over his eyes. The shame of what he was about to say almost made him want to jump off the side of the ship right then. “You’re right about that. I… I don’t care what happens to me. All that matters is that Olivia can be safe and happy. Not just her, everyone I care about. Amanda and Bunny and Nekou and-”

    “That is why you stand no chance against against me,” Ghetsis interrupted almost instantly upon Matt saying Nekou’s name, dismissing him with an arrogant sweep of his right hand. “You keep telling yourself you’re looking for the truth, yet the most simple and obvious truths lie right in front of your eyes and you fail to see them. Unlike you, I know what it is I truly want.” Suddenly, Ghetsis pulled his right arm back out from under his cape, revealing three spheres in his hand. Two of them were ordinary Poké Balls, while the third was a yellow-and-black Ultra Ball. He threw them all at once, shouting, “Now fall before me! Show me what you look like when you’ve lost all hope!”

    Ghetsis’s Aegislash appeared once again from one of the Poké Balls. She was joined by a beetle Pokémon encased in steel armor and armed with a striped spear at the end of each arm, along with a helmet that bore a red crest. Meanwhile, the chandelier Pokémon that had carried Darkness’s Greninja earlier emerged from the Ultra Ball and took his place alongside Ghetsis’s other Pokémon.

    “I know you left your Heatran behind on the ground, and your Salamence and Golurk are currently getting burned to ash by my Ho-oh, so you only have three Pokémon left on you right now. I want to learn what it is that makes Finansielle interested in you if I can. So now, show me just how long your resistance can last!”

    The three Pokémon Ghetsis deployed all advanced toward Matt, using harsh cries and threatening physical postures to menace him. He couldn’t do much more than shrink back from them, even though he knew he should fight back. Everything about the situation was becoming too overwhelming for him. The sounds of Nekou’s brawl with the Shadow Triad behind him, the continued explosions from the other Pokémon fighting with Ho-oh, and his worry over Olivia and the others dealing with the riots all combined with his fear of the advancing Pokémon. His skin became paler than ever and he could feel his arms and left leg shaking from the overwhelming stress to his nerves.

    “So this is all I get for my trouble?” Ghetsis bellowed, deliberately making his words as grandiose as he could. “It’s not true despair if you don’t try to fight back! I guess I was right in the end, Finansielle’s interest in you is just the fascination one defective piece of trash has in another. And what do you do with trash? You throw it away.” Raising his cane to point directly at Matt, Ghetsis commanded, “Chandelure, Shadow Ball!”

    The chandelier Pokémon floated in front of his companions, and the light from the blue flame inside his body intensified as he formed a sphere of dark energy. When the light reached its peak, the orb launched off Chandelure’s face, forcing Matt to dive sideways in order to escape it. Both he and the Shadow Ball crashed to the floor.

    Ghetsis wasn’t discouraged at all that his first attack failed, in fact, he was so excited he was absentmindedly shaking his cane. “So you do have some survival instinct after all! Most excellent! That’ll just make this much more fun. Aegislash, Escavalier, you’re up! Escavalier, use Bug Bite!”

    Escavalier, the armored, spear-wielding beetle, traded places with Chandelure at the head of the team. She wasted no time in lunging at Matt with her mouth open, revealing sharp, glowing teeth. When he raised his right arm to shield himself, she bit down on the metal and refused to let go until Matt swung his arm several times to shake her off. Even then, as she returned to her teammates, Aegislash had already changed over into the offensive form in preparation for her own attack.

    “If this is all you’re going to do,” Ghetsis said with disgust, “just die already. Aegislash, use Head Smash.”

    Aegislash turned her body sideways, pointing the spike on her head directly at Matt as he got back on his feet. Bright blue light enveloped the spike, and when she threw herself at Matt like a spear, that light surrounded her entire body to give her the appearance of a comet shooting through the air. Behind his Pokémon, Ghetsis smiled, believing that his enemy would soon be gone.

    Those hopes soon evaporated in a flash of light.

    Standing in front of Matt was his Aggron, who had met Aegislash’s Head Smash with his own Dragon Claw. The green, glowing shears surrounding his right arm stopped Aegislash cold with a strike directly to the spike she had been using as a weapon mere moments earlier.

    Ghetsis grit his teeth and growled angrily at the new obstacle in front of him, slamming his cane against the floor with a loud crash. “You just won’t die, will you?! Accept your fate!”

    “I thought you were asking for me to fight back so I’d despair?” Matt countered, taking the opportunity to be smug himself for a change. He wanted to shoot a grin back at Ghetsis to turn the tables even further, but was unable to muster the nerve to do so.

    “How dare you!” Ghetsis snarled, slamming his cane into the ground over and over again. In spite of his hatred, he soon stopped and began breathing heavily. Once he had regained his composure, his mouth twisted into a wide, wicked grin, his uncovered eye widened, and he said, “I really should applaud your foolish defiance, actually. That’ll make your ultimate despair even more absolute… So, come and face me! I can’t wait to see you fall into complete despair!”

    By the time Ghetsis had finished issuing his threat, Matt had already reached into his bag and collected two more of his own Poké Balls. One was an ordinary Poké Ball, while the other, an Ultra Ball. He weakly opened them, releasing his Rhyperior from the former and a tall, white polar bear with a beard of icicles from the latter.

    Even as he had all three of his remaining Pokémon lined up in front of him, though, Matt slouched. “What am I getting myself into…”

    “I hope you know you just said that out loud,” Ghetsis taunted, making Matt cringe when he realized he’d voiced his thoughts. “And you brought an Aggron, a Rhyperior and a Beartic? Get ready to lose the last of that foolish hope you cling to!”

    “I really hope he doesn’t get to see my despair…” Matt thought. For all the dangerous situations he’d been in before, even the confrontation with Yung and subsequent runaway train crisis in which he fully expected to die, there was something different about this. Ghetsis was, for reasons he couldn’t fully articulate even to himself, unlike any enemy he’d stood in front of in the past. He’d been hearing about Ghetsis’s reputation for a long time, and now, seeing the man in the flesh, he realized it was fully earned. Swallowing nervously, Matt raised his arm toward Ghetsis’s Pokémon and said, “Tony, use Power-Up Punch!”

    -:-

    In the skies over Ecruteak City, Ho-oh was having little trouble fighting against its five enemies who, despite their numbers, were unable to make much headway. Dragonite, Sky and Xatu directly challenged the legendary Pokémon head-on, creating another of their Water Pulse, Thunderbolt and Psychic fusion move. Ho-oh fearlessly dispelled it with one of its massive blue fireballs, turning it into a huge cloud of steam.

    However, focusing on Dragonite and Bunny’s two Pokémon caused Ho-oh to lose track of Hethna and Sally. The Golurk rocketed up behind Ho-oh, deployed its large hands and tackled the Fire-and-Flying type in an attempt to restrain its wings. Hethna’s efforts slowed Ho-oh’s movements enough for Sally to fly in and aim a Hydro Pump at its body, but even though the watery attack struck its target, Ho-oh barely responded, instead continuing to thrash until Hethna let go.

    Pierce was flying past on his glider when Ho-oh retaliated by striking Hethna and Sally with a rainbow-colored Signal Beam. The resulting blast tore up the skies with turbulence that he struggled to remain steady in, but he managed to make it through by focusing on his goal before him. He was so close to Bell Tower that he could see Anthea and Concordia, still strung up on the tower’s roof, being battered by the winds.

    “Mother, I’m coming!” he thought, gritting his teeth in determination. “Just a little longer…”

    As he finally drew close enough to attempt to land, Pierce thanked his luck that there had been no further interruptions. Seeing his mother so close for the first time in what felt to him like forever brought back what memories he still had of his childhood. He had been so young at the time, and so much time had passed, that much of what went on then had become fractured, so he held steadfastly on to what remained. That had been his entire purpose in the intervening years, reuniting the family that Ghetsis had violently separated decades earlier. His goal was getting closer by the second, and Pierce’s mind wandered back to thoughts of everything he lost so long ago. He began to realize that in just a few more moments, his mission would finally be over and maybe, just maybe, this nightmare would end too.

    When he finally landed on the tower, he was in such a rush to detach himself from the glider that he tripped and fell. He quickly pushed himself back up, however, and began running toward the circle where Anthea and Concordia were restrained.

    “Mother! Mother!!” His repeated shouts wore on his throat, turning his voice raw. In his haste to reach them, he kept stumbling, but that would not stop him. Step by step, inch by inch, his goal got closer to his grasp.

    Finally, his cries got through to the ears of the two imprisoned women. They both slowly turned their heads to him, and upon realizing that he was there to rescue them, life started to return to their dead eyes.

    “P…” Anthea tried to speak once Pierce staggered into the glowing circle, but her voice caught in her throat. Even so, her long atrophied maternal instincts spurred her to continue trying. “Pier…”

    “Mother, please, don’t force yourself.” Pierce quickly set to work undoing the ties binding Anthea, but the magnitude of his situation made it a struggle. His mind wasn’t focused on the task in front of him. Instead, more memories of his past pushed their way forward. From what remained deep inside, he knew that his childhood had been happy, however brief it was. He and his sister were not well off, but he never doubted that Anthea loved them both, and they were surrounded by a small but tightly-knit circle that cared for them as family. But, another memory stuck out - it had been not long after his sister’s birth that their father left, and not long after that was when Ghetsis violently invaded and destroyed their lives. Pierce’s hands started to tremble as emotion overwhelmed him, and he had to stop and shut his eyes.

    Finally finding her voice, Anthea asked in a tone just barely above a whisper, “Pierce… how have you come here?”

    Hearing his mother speak a full sentence to him for the first time in well over two decades caused Pierce to snap his eyes back open. Even with how long it had been, and how weak she sounded, her voice was exactly how he remembered it.

    “Mother, I…” He paused briefly to gather his thoughts before continuing, “Uncle Trevor saved us from Ghetsis. He protected us until he got us to a place that would give us safety. I came back with allies to save you and Aunt Concordia! We have power on our side now, we can fight back!”

    Before she could say more, Pierce finished undoing Anthea’s bonds, causing her to tumble forward into her son’s arms. She tried to separate herself from him, but a combination of her physical exhaustion and emotional state rendered her too weak to do so. Pierce, fighting back a tear, held on to her for a short time before helping her stand on her own.

    “Where is your sister, Pierce? Is she here?”

    “No, thankfully. I’ve taken care to ensure she’s safe. She’s in the personal protection of one of the most powerful…” Pierce trailed off as he realized what he was saying, which caused his heart to sink once again. “She’s safe,” he hastily said, before turning and running over to untie Concordia.

    With his mind refocused on his task, Pierce quickly freed the green-haired woman. Unlike her companion, Concordia was able to stand on her own, and immediately pulled Pierce into an embrace.

    “Thank you for coming,” she said, fighting back tears.

    “There’s no way I could not come,” Pierce replied, holding Concordia firmly by the shoulders and looking squarely into her eyes. He found himself choking back a tear himself, brought on by the rush of emotions brought on by the end of his long quest. “I’ve been working toward this for so long…”

    “Pierce…” Anthea chimed in from the edge of the circle. When he looked at her, she pointed at his glider, which was still resting a short distance away. “You came on that? How are we supposed to all get out of here on it?”

    With that one simple question, Pierce’s face turned completely white. That was the downside of his fixation on saving Anthea and Concordia - he was so focused on reaching them that he hadn’t fully thought out how to escape with them. Almost by instinct, his hand found its way up to the communicator in his ear.

    “Jessie, James, this is Pierce,” he said into the device, his voice quiet but intense. “I need extraction for three from the roof of Bell Tower.”

    “I don’t think that’s gonna happen any time soon!” Jessie yelled from the other side of the communicator, so loudly that Pierce cringed. “Kind of stuck here!”

    “Status report!” Pierce demanded. Despite asking, though, he had a hunch of what the answer would be and tightened his hand on the earpiece.

    “We had to save the girl and her friends from Ghetsis’s goons,” James explained, “and now we’re stuck fighting them.”

    Pierce’s arm fell limp, and he could only stare out over Ecruteak City. In the distance, Sky’s Thunderbolt collided with Ho-oh’s Thunder, creating an electrical blast that lit up the sky. Anthea and Concordia both fell to their knees while holding each other, shutting their eyes to shield them from the light. Pierce stepped in front of them in an attempt to make himself think he could do something to protect them, but he knew it all didn’t matter.

    -:-

    After escaping from Dino and Lucky, Olivia, Bunny, Nando, Monroe, Avril and Rowena continued their race to the Pokémon Center, with Tanya still lumbering after them. Few words passed between the six, but conversation was unnecessary. They all knew exactly what their goal was: get to the Pokémon Center and retrieve the last group of refugees before the riots got there.

    However, no amount of discussion of what was to come could ever have prepared them for what they found when the Pokémon Center finally came into view.

    A fairly large and quite unruly crowd had already surrounded the Pokémon Center, spreading out in front of it. Olivia and the others managed to dodge behind other nearby buildings to escape their vision, but the crowd wasn’t the biggest problem in front of them. The fire was already rising from the structure, burning a crimson shade that contrasted sharply with the Pokémon Center’s dark maroon roof.

    “We are too late…” Nando gasped. His eyes sank into his head and his mouth hung slightly open, his face filled with a look of horror completely foreign to his usual character.

    The others all wore similar expressions as they looked on at the flames devouring the building before their eyes. Rowena was the only one doing something other than staring, keeping her camera rolling to capture the scene.

    “Don’t you think there’s a better time for that?” Avril snapped when she realized what the woman next to her was doing.

    “People have to see this,” Rowena retorted, not moving her eyes even slightly away from the flames. “This is my job, to expose the truth to the public no matter what risk there is.”

    “But don’t you think we should be doing something about it?”

    “Sis, stop!” Monroe intervened. “Leave her alone. Fighting with each other isn’t going to help us now! Besides, what can we even do?”

    “How many people were still in there?” Bunny quietly asked, clutching the strap of her bag so tightly her knuckles turned white.

    “I… I don’t know…” Olivia responded before gasping and quickly turning around to Bunny, the result of a terrible realization reaching her mind. “Did Dante get out?”

    “I’m not sure if I saw him at the Battle Hall or not, but as much as I hate to say it, I don’t think we can help him right now…”

    “So what do we even do now?” Avril wondered aloud, her arms tightly wound around her body.

    -:-

    A tense, unsettled mood hung in the air of the Battle Hall. The stadium area was more than spacious enough to accommodate the evacuees, but the collective fear of what was happening beyond its walls made many of them feel more tightly packed in than they actually were. This group included Audrey and Bill, sitting in seats on both sides of Nikolai as he nervously rocked back and forth in his own.

    “Ho-oh is in such agony…” he mumbled to himself, his gaze completely fixed on the floor, “and those Pokémon they’re using to fight it don’t understand. Their trainers made their minds close to Ho-oh’s pain…”

    “That’s not true,” Bill said. Nikolai jumped, as he hadn’t thought he was speaking loud enough for the others to hear. “That isn’t Ho-oh that they’re fighting right now, it’s Ghetsis’s mind control. Deep down, can’t you feel that?”

    “Of course I do!” Nikolai argued, clenching his fists. “That’s why they shouldn’t be fighting it. Ho-oh is the biggest victim here!”

    “You aren’t wrong,” Audrey timidly offered, “but… what other choice is there? Ghetsis wants Ho-oh to burn the entire city down, and Ho-oh can’t fight back against him. Depending on how you look at it… the other Pokémon aren’t fighting Ho-oh, they’re fighting Ghetsis to save Ho-oh by doing what it can’t do itself.”

    “Yeah, but…” Realizing that he did at least understand Audrey’s logic, Nikolai stopped talking and looked back at the floor. “I should be out there. I can stop this… I can save Ho-oh myself!”
     
  10. The Great Butler

    The Great Butler Hush, keep it down

    In an instant, Silver’s eyes stretched to match Kate’s, and he took a step backward. Trista covered her mouth with both of her hands, while Mako and Falkner shared a look of desperation at each other, both hoping for an answer they knew deep down wouldn’t come.
    “Bro, what’s going on over there?” Audrey asked Bill, pointing down at the stage.

    Bill looked over at the stage and saw some people milling about. There, at the center of the forming group, was Kate. The Frontier Brain was speaking to the people most immediately surrounding her - Bill could make out Mako and Silver, as well as who he thought to be Falkner and Trista, though the latter pair were partially obscured from his point of view. Their conversation was brief, and the five quickly left the arena.

    “Where are they going?” Bill wondered aloud, his eyes following his elder sibling and the others.

    -:-

    “Are you absolutely sure about this?” Trista askeded Kate as the group moved up the stairways leading to the Battle Hall’s exit. “With everything going on out there…”

    “Everything going on out there is exactly why I need the best people I can find to do this with me,” Kate replied, her usually cheerful and showy demeanor having evaporated into cold, goal-driven seriousness. “All hell is breaking loose on the streets of a city I’m partially responsible for. It’s up to me to contain the damage to the best of my ability, but I can’t do it alone.”

    “What about Morty?”

    Kate briefly nodded to Falkner in response to his question, but did not stop or turn around. “I couldn’t get ahold of him, but I sent him a message. If he’s alright, he’ll join us on the way.”

    Just as the five passed through the Battle Hall’s front door, another explosion from Ho-oh’s continuing rampage lit up the sky. The glow was so bright that all of them, even Kate, who was wearing her sunglasses, had to stop and cover their eyes. Once the flash died down, the group all looked up at the brutal fight, and watched with dismay as their allies’ Pokémon struggled against the great, radiant bird.

    “Looks like that hell you mentioned isn’t just on the streets, it’s in the sky too,” Silver remarked with a bitter scowl.

    “You can say that again,” Mako agreed.

    “They need some help up there, otherwise there’s no way they’re holding up against Ho-oh for much longer.” In one quick, fluid motion, Kate pulled one of her Poké Balls from her right pocket and threw it. A Charizard erupted from the sphere, and much like her Venusaur, he wore a leather strap with a glowing stone set in it. Unlike Venusaur, however, Charizard’s strap was a headband, and his stone was colored red, yellow and green.

    “I guess this is happening,” Trista said, resigning herself to joining the battle as she threw her own Poké Ball. “Cupid, help them!”

    “Alright, Pidgeot, you take action as well!”

    Trista’s Poké Ball produced a Togekiss that twirled through the air before deftly floating next to Charizard. Falkner’s, meanwhile, released his Pidgeot, who shook out her plumage as she flew to the others. Once they were all together, Kate reached into her left pocket and removed her Key Stone, which she had detached from her headset earlier. Holding it up in Charizard’s direction, she invoked the words necessary to utilize its power.

    “Charizard, let’s even the score out! Go beyond evolution and show them what a Frontier Brain’s Pokémon is capable of! Mega Evolve!”

    As the light that flowed out of the Key Stone started to envelop Charizard, he turned back to her and gave her a confident smile. He then stretched out his arms and wings as the light fully overtook him and the Fire-Type began to transform. Both his head and body elongated, while four spikes formed on his tail and small wings sprouted from his arms. His main pair of wings, meanwhile, grew even larger and became more ragged in appearance. Once he shed the light and its accompanying Mega Evolution sigil, he roared loudly to show off his new appearance, and bright sunlight almost immediately began to shine in the sky.

    “Impressive,” Mako complimented Kate and Charizard. “I assume Mega Charizard’s Ability is Drought?”

    “This Mega Charizard’s is. I’ve heard there’s another one out there that actually becomes a Dragon-type, but you need a totally different Mega Stone for it. Anyway… hey, Charizard, how are you feeling?” Another great, enthusiastic roar greeted this inquiry, so Kate smiled and put her Key Stone away. “Alright, go with Togekiss and Pidgeot and show them what you’ve got!”

    Charizard lifted himself off the ground with his mighty wings, his movements whipping up gusts of wind so strong that even his fellow Flying-types Togekiss and Pidgeot had to brace themselves in the air. Once they recovered, they quickly followed him into the sky and toward Ho-oh.

    “Now what?” Trista wondered as she and the others watched their Pokémon fly away.

    “We take care of what’s going on on the ground.” Kate reached into her jacket, took out her phone, and quickly placed a call by tapping several icons on its screen. She raised it to her ear, and spoke into it, “Bunny? It’s Kate. What’s going on down there?”

    Kate waited for Bunny’s answer, but when she got it, her eyes widened. The others were not oblivious to this, and Silver decided to speak up.

    “What’s wrong?” he asked, his voice becoming shaky.

    Kate briefly moved her head away from the phone to answer, “She told me the rioters already torched the Pokémon Center.”

    “Bunny? Bunny, calm down!” Kate said briskly and forcefully, putting her free hand against the side of her head. “Just stay safe out there and make your way back towards the Battle Hall. We haven’t been hit yet, so we might be able to minimize the damage if we all join forces! It may not be too late!” After putting her phone away, Kate looked to her teammates. She could see in their worried gazes that they were looking to her for leadership - exactly what she intended to provide. “Let’s go. We shouldn’t be fearful, we can pull this off. The city needs us right now.”

    -:-

    Sky shrieked out of distress as Ho-oh’s Thunder barreled down on him in the hot and bright sky around their raging battle. He was already becoming exhausted from the strain such a powerful opponent was putting on him, and he lacked the strength or willpower to keep going.

    Xatu, however, was unwilling to allow his teammate to be cut down. The Psychic-and-Flying-type flew straight toward Sky and tackled him before activating his Teleport. Both Pokémon disappeared from their position just before Ho-oh’s attack tore through and rematerialized together several feet away. Dragonite and Hethna swept past them, flying side-by-side.

    Dragonite drew in a deep breath to form another Water Pulse while both of Hethna’s fists popped out of its arms, allowing the Golurk to launch a pair of fist-shaped shadows at their shared target. The twin Shadow Punch pummeled Ho-oh’s body, forcing a wheeze from the legendary Pokémon. As Ho-Oh regained its balance, Dragonite’s Water Pulse slammed into it, but the move was weakened by the strong sunlight brought on by Charizard’s Drought, and did little more than annoy the Fire-and-Flying-type.

    A blade of air cut through the sky from behind Ho-oh, clipping its wing. Despite cutting a gash into its wing, the Air Slash only served to annoy the legendary Pokémon further. It looked over its shoulder with rage burning in its eyes just in time to see its attacker, Trista’s Togekiss Cupid, approaching alongside Pidgeot and Charizard.

    Kate’s Mega Evolved Pokémon wasted no time in mounting his own offense, drawing sunlight into his body in preparation for a Solar Beam attack. Ho-oh immediately started charging another Thunder to counter this, but the strong sunlight allowed Charizard to launch the Solar Beam so quickly that it struck and neutralized the electricity before it ever left Ho-oh’s beak, sending sparks showering over the city.

    Infuriated by the new opposition, Ho-oh tightly curled its body up. When it violently stretched back out moments later, it let out an earsplitting shriek, and a giant Weather Ball erupted from its plumage, which, feeding off the effects of Charizard’s Drought, took the shape of a fireball roughly double the size of the previous one.

    It fell through the air like a falling star, threatening to engulf Sky, Hethna and Xatu. Sally flew in front of them and launched a desperate effort to stop the catastrophically powerful assault with Hydro Pump, but the same sunlight that gave Ho-oh and Charizard strength weakened Sally’s Water-type attack, much like it had crippled Dragonite’s Water Pulse earlier.

    With Matt’s Salamence unable to stop the flaming orb by herself, Falkner’s Pidgeot flew over the Hydro Pump, her underside avoiding the water by just inches. She then went to Sally’s side, spread her wings and cried out, causing a portal to open in front of her. Her Mirror Move produced a second Hydro Pump, mimicking Sally’s move.

    Still, even two blasts of water were only enough to stall the Weather Ball. Seeing this, Cupid moved in and discharged a weak pulse of electricity into where the two Water-type attacks came together, and the combination of the two Hydro Pumps with the Thunder Wave’s charge finally caused the Weather Ball to explode in a spectacular burst of flames.

    Focusing completely on Pidgeot, Ho-oh started to charge another Thunder, only to be ambushed by Hethna and Charizard, who flew straight into it together. A pained screech escaped the great phoenix’s beak seconds before its attackers forced it into the side of a tall building in the city’s urban area, causing bricks, iron and other wreckage to rain down on the streets below.

    -:-

    In response to Kate’s request for their presence, Bunny led the others as they hurried north, back up toward the Battle Hall. Olivia, exhausted from the constant running, had taken to riding on Tanya’s back, while Monroe and Avril kept pace alongside the Heatran. Nando and Rowena brought up the rear of the group, with the reporter maintaining her intention to film everything she saw.

    As they drew near the Dance Hall, a shining light next to the building halted their rush.

    “What is that?” Bunny said, her shocked, wide-eyed expression matching those of her teammates.

    “It looks like…” Noticing something inside the light, Rowena focused her camera on it. “A ring?”

    Though they could not see it perfectly clearly, the source of the light was indeed a large, golden ring. The ring, which was created by Hoopa’s power, framed a portal linked to the Tenganist Liberation Front’s position in the forest. Kristos and Lotus, concealed by the ring’s glow, stepped out of the portal and quickly moved behind the traditional Tenganist structure. They were well hidden by the time the ring and its light disappeared, leaving Olivia and her friends dumbfounded and wondering what they had witnessed.

    “Well, here goes nothing,” the towering man said to his diminutive wife as they interlocked their hands and faced each other.

    “I hope she’s okay right now. I really think we should have went with her…”

    Kristos shook his head. “I trust her judgment. After all, she’s survived for this long without us.”

    “I don’t think I can agree with that. She’s too important to risk.” Lotus briefly turned her head away, but quickly returned to looking into Kristos’s eyes. “I do agree we’ve got to protect our culture, though.”

    “Then we should get to that right away,” Kristos replied, smiling.

    The two tightened their grasp on each others’ hands and chanted in perfect sync, “Transcend the confines of time and space!”

    Out in front of the Dance Hall, Bunny had grown irritated with her companions’ hesitation. Standing in front of them with her hand tightly gripping her bag’s strap, she said, “We can’t stay here and keep wondering what that thing was when Kate’s waiting for us.”

    “You’re right…” Olivia admitted. “I want to know what it was, but… yeah, we should go. Tanya, let’s-”

    Olivia abruptly cut herself off, her eyes going wide and her mouth falling open. Bunny started to question this, but when she saw that the others - save for Rowena, who was still filming - all shared the same reaction, she instead turned around to see what was behind her.

    The Dance Hall had faded away into nothingness. Literally nothing remained, just an empty patch of grass where it had been, as if it never existed at all.

    “What?” she gasped. “That’s impossible, there’s no way!”

    Determined to figure out what was going on, Bunny ran toward where the Dance Hall had been. Right as she reached the edge of the grass patch, though, she collided with something and fell backward, prompting Olivia to jump off Tanya’s back and hurry to her side.

    “Are you alright?” the young girl asked her friend.

    “I… I don’t…” Bunny didn’t answer Olivia’s question. Instead, she reached toward the grass, finding her hand resting against an invisible barrier. She touched it in several places, then quickly turned to Olivia, having realized something. “A Mr. Mime could do this. Did you see one?”

    Olivia shook her head, so Bunny looked to the others, using her eyes to plead with them for some sort of sense. She was met with nothing but more shaking heads.

    “What about the light, then?” Monroe hesitatingly ventured.

    “No, I do not believe that is the cause,” answered Nando. “The light faded noticeably prior to the Dance Hall itself, and I presume the wall is also linked to its disappearance. We should try to find its source.”

    “I don’t think there’s any time for that right now.”

    “Bunny’s right,” Olivia concurred, starting back toward Tanya. “We can come back and figure this out la-”

    For the second time in only a few minutes, Olivia was cut off mid-sentence. The interruption this time was a blur that shoved past Avril and Monroe, knocking them to the ground. It was not until the figure stopped and struck Tanya with an electric shock, causing her to stumble and stomp the ground with her heavy feet, that the group and particularly Olivia realized what it was.

    “A Mareep?!” she exclaimed in shock. “Wait, that violent behavior…”

    Olivia’s head filled with recollections of what Lyra had told her at the National Park. “That Mareep has a really violent nature. It loves to fight so much that he couldn’t control it. I guess it finally got too much for him, huh?”

    Monroe put his hand on his chin. “Olivia, are you saying…?”

    As she approached Mareep, who had begun growling at her instead of attacking Tanya, Olivia briefly nodded to Monroe, then addressed the Electric-type Pokémon. “You’re that Mareep I saw get released in the park, aren’t you? Have you been following me all this time?”

    The Mareep continued growling, which Olivia took as an affirmative response to her question. She kept approaching the Pokémon with slow, measured steps, being careful to make it clear that she posed no threat. To that end she spread her arms and opened her hands, displaying that she had nothing in her grasp.

    Mareep stopped growling for a brief moment to consider Olivia’s actions, then bleated menacingly at her, causing her to jump slightly back. She said out loud, “What did I do wrong?”

    “You didn’t do anything wrong, Miss Olivia,” Nando gently said. “I do not believe that was a warning. I think Mareep is challenging you.”

    “Yeah, I agree!” Monroe shouted, cupping his hands around his mouth.

    “Is that true?” Olivia asked Mareep, earning an enthusiastic cry from her. Staring down at the Poké Ball in her hand, Olivia grimaced and thought, “Mareep followed me for a reason, but… does it even really matter? I don’t know… I guess if I catch Mareep, at least that’s a Pokémon that I won’t be hurting by having it battle, so Mr. Mime can rest...”

    While Olivia was lost in her thoughts, Bunny walked up behind her and set her hand on Olivia’s shoulder, snapping the younger trainer back to reality. “It would probably help to have a Pokémon that wants to battle on our side right now, but you have to do this quickly.”

    “I…” Olivia’s words caught in her throat. It was true that this was an opportunity to gain what seemed to be a powerful ally, but she questioned if the endeavor was really worth it. She remembered how Mareep’s previous trainer had released her, and the reason - that it couldn’t get enough fighting - and then that her Mr. Mime had needs she was unable to fill at the time. Olivia sighed, wondering if she’d be able to give Mareep what she deserved, even as she started to throw the Poké Ball. “Roselia, I guess we’re doing this!”

    -:-

    Another crowd of rioters had developed around Ecruteak’s Poké Mart and smashed through its windows. Some had gone inside to loot and were cycling in and out to pass portions of the stolen goods to the rest of the crowd.

    Kate, Falkner, Mako, Trista and Silver all felt disgusted with themselves for appreciating the distraction the looting provided them as they got into position. None of them were more repulsed than the Frontier Brain; even if she was not an Ecruteak native and had only lived there since shortly before the Battle Hall’s opening, she felt responsible for the city’s protection. She and the others also knew that recklessly attacking the rioters in order to protect the Poké Mart would only undermine their containment plan, so they swallowed their misgivings as they positioned themselves in the streets just to the south.

    Once they were in place and had looked around at each other to confirm as much, they each took out and threw a Poké Ball. Kate’s released a Blastoise, who wore a white, blue and green Mega Stone in a choker. He flexed his arms and growled while his twin water cannons emerged from his shell. Falkner and Trista sent out a Skarmory and a Gardevoir respectively, while Mako brought out her Tentacruel. All three quietly readied themselves for battle once they saw the riots in front of them, as Blastoise had. That covert preparation was meaningless however, when Silver revealed his Pokémon - a red Gyarados that let off a shine as soon as he emerged from the blue-and-black Lure Ball he resided in. The great serpent crashed to the ground and deafeningly roared, causing many rioters in the crowd to begin turning around. Falkner, Mako and Trista couldn’t help giving Silver dirty looks for his choice, while Kate just sighed and adjusted her sunglasses.

    “Smooth move,” Trista muttered under her breath.

    Seeing that the anger of the crowd was beginning to turn towards her team, Kate raised the megaphone she’d brought from the Battle Hall to her mouth and addressed them. “Everyone, please listen! I’m sure you’ve noticed that Ho-oh’s on a rampage right now. For your own safety, we must move you to a more secure location!”

    Kate took a deep breath and bit her lip, hoping that she would be able to bring some sort of peace to the chaos. That wish would not be granted, as her attempt only served to make the crowd begin screaming even louder.

    “Bullshit!” one of the rioters yelled back.

    “Ho-oh protects the people! It’s on our side, you liar!”

    “She’s the Hall Matron!” another added. “They’re trying to get rid of us! Look at all the Pokémon they brought!”

    The cacophony of the crowd continued to escalate, leaving Kate and the others largely unable to continue hearing the individual things being shouted at them. Bits and pieces of insults and slurs reached their senses, but no complete sentences or thoughts. At first, the hostility remained verbal, and the group did not take any further actions. That changed seconds later when some of the crowd began to advance on them.

    “Gyarados!” Silver called out, sweeping his arm forward. “Dark Pulse!”

    Silver’s Gyarados loomed in front of his trainer just in time to intercept a rock that had been thrown from the crowd, which simply bounced off the Pokémon’s thick, red hide. He opened his vast mouth up wide, and a cluster of glowing, black-and-purple energy formed in front of it. The rioters who saw this abruptly stopped their advance, but those who didn’t were blown back when Gyarados blasted the ground in front of them with dark rings.

    Seeing that the situation had deteriorated into full-on violence, Kate clenched her teeth and threw the megaphone aside. Trista and Mako just stared, dumbfounded at what they had witnessed, while Falkner whirled around to face Silver.

    “Was that really our only choice?” the Violet Gym Leader angrily demanded.

    “Ask yourself that question!” Silver sharply replied. “You know as well as I do that this is beyond reasoning already!”

    Falkner shrunk back, defeated. He knew that what Silver said to him was completely true, even if he didn’t want to admit it.

    “What’s the plan now?” Mako asked Kate, having made her way over to the Hall Matron during Falkner and Silver’s exchange.

    “Push them toward the water,” Kate uttered without lifting her head, “like we discussed.”

    “Alright.” In a fit of nerves, Mako started twisting her ring around on her finger. Facing Trista, who was looking at her and Kate to receive guidance, she gestured toward the recovering crowd and steeled herself for what they were about to do.

    “I never thought when I became a Gym Leader that I’d have to do something like this…” Falkner said to himself. “But, I just… I don’t have a choice. Skarmory, try not to hurt anyone, but block them off from going south with Rock Tomb!”

    “Madea, add your Will-O-Wisp to that Rock Tomb!” Trista directed her Gardevoir. “Strengthen that barrier so we can drive them back!”

    “Your Toxic Spikes will help as well, Tentacruel!” Mako called out.

    Watching her allies put themselves at risk to help end the riot caused a tear to well up in Kate’s eye. Her lack of roots in Ecruteak City didn’t prevent her from feeling an emotional connection to the area, that much was still true. But, the longer she thought about it, that very same bond that made her want to save the city also gave her doubts about what she was doing.

    “Is restraining citizens like this the right thing to do when they have some real complaints? Am I making this worse?”

    -:-

    A horde of panicked people flooded out of a tower on the urban side of Ecruteak City. Pieces of glass and metal rained on the street from the building’s peak, where Sally and Dragonite had forced Ho-oh into a billboard promoting the Battle Hall. The top floors of the structure were soon consumed in a fiery explosion when Ho-oh fought back, forcing its opponents away in the process. The legendary Pokémon pulled itself from the installation and tried to aim its Thunder at Xatu and Sky. It missed them by an inch, however, and the errant lightning bolts struck the sides of several other buildings, blowing out their windows and sending more glass falling on the fleeing civilians below.

    With Ho-oh distracted by the failure of its attack, Hethna emerged from between two buildings to ambush it. Both of the Golurk’s fists emerged from its arm rockets, allowing it to strike Ho-oh in the back with two shadowy projections of said appendages. Ho-oh flinched but recovered quickly and flew toward yet another tower, perching on its roof. It then spread its wings out wide and began inhaling, creating another huge fireball in its throat. The Weather Ball grew to a size big enough to flood an entire street with flames, a danger that was not lost on the Pokémon trying to slow Ho-oh down. As soon as Ho-oh launched the massive, flaming orb, Xatu focused his psychic powers on it, slowing it down slightly. Trista’s Togekiss, Cupid, swiftly glided in and supported her ally’s move using Thunder Wave, but this was still not enough to halt Ho-oh’s attack. Falkner’s Pidgeot soon joined them and used Mirror Move, creating a similar but smaller Weather Ball, which finally caused the fireball to explode.

    Before Ho-oh could attempt another attack, Xatu, Cupid and Pidgeot all moved aside, allowing Kate’s Charizard to fly straight at the legendary Pokémon. His arms and claws started to glow, and he tackled Ho-oh squarely in its breast. Charizard was flying at such a pace that his Aerial Ace easily dislodged Ho-oh from the tower and forced it back out over the less-cramped eastern half of the city.

    Meanwhile, as the struggle between Ho-oh and the Pokémon trying to halt its rampage unfolded, two other fights continued atop Colress’s airship. Sweat rolled down Nekou’s face at a feverish pace as she struggled to keep up with the continuous assault of the Shadow Triad. Any one of them would have been reasonable enough for her to handle, but she could feel herself losing ground little by little to all three of them, even though she was pushing her skills with her knives to the limit.

    Matt was not faring any better in his battle with Ghetsis. The Plasma leader’s Pokémon simply outclassed his own, and both he and Ghetsis knew it. While Ghetsis’s typical mad smirk grew wider and wider, Matt could only stare slack-jawed at his Pokémon being thoroughly beaten down. Immediately after Ghetsis’s Chandelure cut down Matt’s Rhyperior with a Solar Beam, Aegislash viciously slammed into his Beartic with the spike on her head, causing the Ice-type to collapse onto his Rock-and-Ground-type partner.

    “Put an end to this insolent boy once and for all, Escavalier!” Ghetsis roared, pointing his cane at Aggron. “Drill Run!”

    The armored beetle responded to her master with a hissing cry, then brought her two spears together and rocketed toward Tony while spinning at a high speed.

    “Tony, try to stop that with…” What direction Matt had been trying to give got stuck in his throat and died out. He just couldn’t force himself to keep trying to salvage the situation, even though deep down inside he wanted to. “I can’t even stop getting my Pokémon hurt like this… what good am I?”

    Fortunately, Tony was ready and willing to act without any instructions. He tightened the muscles in his tail, causing it to take on a metallic sheen, then swung it at the oncoming Escavalier like a club. Not so luckily, however, Escavalier anticipated the Iron Tail and shifted her trajectory to a more upward angle, causing it to sail harmlessly beneath her shell. Tony only had enough time to draw a short gasp before the Bug-and-Steel-type Pokémon drilled into the upper part of his chest, causing critical damage that even started to crack his craggy skin. His body gave out and he started to fall backwards.

    The moment Tony’s heavy, armored form hit the ground with a terrible crash, Nekou kicked Darkness and shoved Chaos, driving them both back away from her. She then turned and saw Ghetsis advancing toward Matt, his own Pokémon seemingly uninjured even while they had completely defeated all of Matt’s.

    She barely had the opportunity to take one step toward Matt and Ghetsis before an impact in her back accompanied by a sickening squelch caused her to nearly crumple backward over herself. An agonized, sickly wheeze was forced from her throat along with a cough of blood, but she couldn’t push any words or even complete breaths out. Her entire body turned weak as she struggled for air, and the color had completely drained from her skin before she managed to tilt her head forward.

    Both bodies of Pestilence’s Doublade were sticking nearly entirely through her torso from behind, their wielder having buried them nearly up to their hilts through her back. Seeing the blood-stained steel jutting out of her made Nekou even more acutely aware of the cold radiating through her from where the blades had pierced her body, a cold so absolute that she was sure it was what death itself felt like.

    “I… don’t…” She was even unable to form a complete thought, let alone speak.

    “You’ve had this coming for years,” Pestilence hissed in her ear. “Just die already, you monster.”

    With that, Pestilence abruptly pulled his Doublade out of his victim, causing blood to splash over his armor and other weapons. Nekou’s pale, convulsing body collapsed face-first onto to the floor in front of her, a pool of the red liquid emerging from beneath her while also oozing out over the back of her coat.

    “Nekou, no!” Matt screamed in horror, having turned around when he heard her gasping. A familiar feeling immediately overwhelmed all of his senses - the feeling of complete, absolute failure. Not a kind of failure like losing a battle, something worse. Something he’d felt a few times before and been actively working towards never having to feel again.

    The feeling of failure to preserve the life of another person.

    “Oh, don’t be so sad!” Ghetsis mocked him, causing him to spin back around. “While your trash girlfriend bleeds out over there, I’ll be taking you apart piece by piece. It won’t be long before you join her. But, that said, I have to thank you. This is what I wanted to see, what you would look like when you lost all hope!”

    Having returned Tony, Beartic and Rhyperior to their Poké Balls, Matt stared at Ghetsis with a gaze that was equal parts despair and anger. His emotions overwhelmed his body’s cybernetic components, causing him to tremble so violently he could hear them buzzing.

    “I… hate you…” Matt growled, tilting his head back. “I just met you today and I hate you so much… I told myself I’d never let another person die for my failures…”

    “Don’t blame me for that,” Ghetsis replied, stifling a laugh. “That’s your problem.”

    “You’re such a fucking fraud!” Matt leveled his head so he could look right at Ghetsis again, his one visible eye burning with fury. “None of this even has anything to do with liberating anyone from anything, does it?! What does Polaris really stand for?”

    “You got me there,” admitted the Chromosome, “but I have to correct you on one thing. I serve none but myself. Polaris? Don’t make me laugh! Polaris are a bunch of small-minded fools chasing an idiotic ideology for some delusional ideal of freedom and hope. Me? I’m doing something much more tangible. What the Tenganists did to my ancestors will be paid back tenfold, and to accomplish that, I will seize control of all of Polaris. With Ho-oh, none of them will be able to stop me! I’m going to resurrect Team Plasma and make all of my dreams come true! You can bear witness to that!”

    While Ghetsis boasted about his plans, Nekou was laying face-down on the ground, both her front and back covered in blood. None of the noises around her - the voices, the airship’s engines, the explosions from Ho-oh - sounded like anything but a loud, incoherent echo. She lacked the ability to comprehend any of it and could feel what little remained of her functions slipping away into the mental abyss.

    Suddenly, a single voice tore through the auditory clutter, speaking to her as if it was directly in her brain, which it was.

    “Looks like you’ve gotten yourself into quite the rough spot, haven’t you?”

    The presence of her other self in her head brought Nekou enough mental focus to think, “Fuck off… I don’t want to talk to you now…”

    “You’re so cruel. Doesn’t this remind you of when we first spoke? When you were all alone in that place, being experimented on because they didn’t know what you… what we are?”

    “I wasn’t fucking dying then ei-”

    “So you do realize our predicament here.” The voice sounded as if it took a smug satisfaction from forcing Nekou to admit that she was indeed dying. “Yes, our predicament. You like to think you own that body, but you know deep down inside you’re just renting it from me. If it perishes, we both go. So in other words, it’s time for me to call in what you owe me. You know what you must do to survive. Think about all the pain you’re in right now. I’ll make that all go away. I’ll make you feel good again.”

    “Go fuck yourself. I’m never letting you do that again…” Nekou tried to shift her weight, but only managed a tiny movement in the pool of sticky, warm red fluid.

    “You won’t let me, that’s right. Because soon, you’ll be gone from this world and then where will you be?” Sensing that Nekou’s resolve was faltering, the presence in her mind added, “Yes, that’s right. There’s nothing after you die. You know that.”

    “Shut up…” Nekou mentally begged. “Please, stop…”

    The voice refused to consider her pleas and continued without hesitation, “What do you think it would feel like to be rotting away in the ground? Wait, that’s a stupid question, you wouldn’t actually be feeling that. Know why?”

    “Shut up!!”

    Feeling that its goal was near, the voice lowered its tone, turning to a seductive sound. If it was a physical presence, it would have been whispering in Nekou’s ear and stroking her hair to coax her even further. “Because your soul wouldn’t even get that much. You know where your soul ends up, you’ve seen it in your dreams. That endless, pitch-black void… so empty, so cold…”

    “No!!” All at once, Nekou’s pent-up emotions tore free from her attempts to restrain them. She couldn’t act physically on them; her body was far too weak to do so. Her mind, however, was flooded with an overwhelming sense of despair and fear she knew all too well. She’d felt it countless times before when visions of herself lost in that void woke her in the middle of the night. Though she tried to fight them by drinking herself to sleep, she could never get rid of the dreams and what accompanied them. Finally, with her own internal voice sobbing hopelessly, she admitted, “You’re right… I don’t want to die…”

    “Good girl,” cooed the voice of the other entity in her mind. “Now let’s get you fixed up.”

    Meanwhile, completely unaware of what was going on inside Nekou’s head and of what was about to happen, Ghetsis pointed his cane toward the Shadow Triad, beckoning them closer to him. Matt could do nothing but watch, feeling completely lost.

    “I’m done waiting,” he said to his three fanatical followers. “Ho-oh is ours, Team Rocket is beaten, and soon this entire city will be burning in its own funeral pyre. I’ll be needing this airship for the next stage of my plan, so go dispose of that fool Colress. He won’t be needed anymore.”

    “Yes, Lord Ghetsis!” all three ninjas replied in perfect unison.

    Upon turning around to carry out their mission, however, the Shadow Triad immediately froze. On the floor in front of them, Nekou was convulsing violently in the pool of her blood. Startled by this, they instinctively reached for their weapons.

    “Just what the hell are you?” Darkness gasped, his hand nearing the throwing stars on his belt.

    No answer came. Nekou wasn’t capable of giving one.

    Slowly she rose from the viscous puddle, violently thrashing as the entity within her took hold. The wounds where Pestilence’s Doublade punctured her sealed up right in front of the others’ eyes, leaving not only the Shadow Triad but Matt and Ghetsis watching in slack-jawed shock. A series of sickening cracking sounds accompanied by sharp, jerking motions reverberated from her body, brought on by the shifting of the bones in her limbs and spine.

    Nekou’s brain was being bombarded by so many different things at once that it couldn’t even function in any sort of coherent manner. Not only were her bones shifting, she could perceive both her skin and her internal organs burning as if they were on fire. Some part of her still felt the horrific agony caused by the deformations she was suffering. That sense, however, was being choked out by another, one that forced her to feel strange sensations of pleasure instead of the actual pain. It was like some kind of synthetic drug concocted in a lab, one far more potent than any type of exotic alcohol she’d ever consumed.

    Still, with what remained of her consciousness, she tried to cry out for help. She started to extend her arm in Matt’s direction, but when she saw her fingers stretching out from her trembling hand, she froze and her words caught in her throat.

    “You know he can’t help you now,” the voice of her other self seductively whispered into her mind. “Only I can. And tell me, don’t you see just how much I’m doing for you?”

    As much as Nekou wanted to reject what her other self was saying, she could not force herself to not acknowledge the fact that the escalating sensations were pleasurable. On top of those feelings, which were feeling more and more like an embrace from a copy of herself, she could feel her senses increasing beyond anything that should be possible. Paradoxically, though, she couldn’t actually consciously process any of the information she took in with them. While she knew that she was smelling and hearing things from further away, was seeing things with far more clarity than ever before and could taste even the slightest impurity in the air, she couldn’t actually identify any of these stimulants. With her human consciousness fading into her wild sensual delirium, she felt like her body was a shell she was rapidly retreating into. She was able to physically feel herself falling back, further and further away from the reality her glowing eyes served as windows out to. By the time her bones stopped cracking, her disproportionately long arms, legs and torso left her rocking back and forth, slightly off-balance.

    Ghetsis had seen enough. With Matt more than subdued for the moment by what they’d seen, he raised up his cane and yelled to the Shadow Triad, “What the hell are you waiting for?! Destroy her already!”

    The Shadow Triad reached for their weapons, but before they could arm themselves, Nekou lunged at them with her mouth wide open. She crunched down on Darkness’s left-hand glove, breaking its metal with an earsplitting crack. He froze while his brothers stumbled back, overcome by fear - a rare emotion for any of them.

    “You really are a monster,” he hissed at Nekou, the woman growling as she persisted in trying to bite all the way through to his arm, “and you have no place in this world!”

    Besides his throwing stars and Poké Balls, Darkness was also armed with a sword - a real one, not a Pokémon like his brother’s - strapped to his back. He intended to finish her off with it, but just as his hand reached for the blade’s handle, he began to fall backwards as several strange sensations barraged his face. Chief among them was the chill of the winter air, which stung his skin.

    “Wait, it’s… stinging?” he thought, confused.

    The next sensation was that of a warm, sticky fluid running down his chin. Some of it got in his mouth, but even though he recognized the taste immediately, what had happened to him didn’t truly register until he heard his mask fall to the ground - in two pieces.

    That sound snapped him out of his shock. Recovering his stance, he brought his hand to his now-uncovered face, and even through his glove he could tell multiple gashes had been slashed into his skin, oozing blood all over below his nose. The final piece of the puzzle fell into place when he saw Nekou standing with one of her warped hands high in the air, making him understand exactly what had happened. She’d actually let go of his arm and somehow slashed clearly through his mask all the way to his skin, and she’d done it so quickly he couldn’t even see it.

    “How dare you!” he roared at his attacker before turning his anger on his brothers. “What are you two doing?”

    Chaos hung back despite Darkness’s demand, while Pestilence leapt straight at Nekou with Doublade in his hands, ready to strike.

    Even though she didn’t turn her head towards him, Nekou’s other senses told her of Pestilence’s oncoming attack. “You think you’re getting the drop on me?” the voice of her other self said in her head. “Too bad. I can hear you, you know!”

    As soon as Pestilence was within reach, Nekou swung her arm around and raked her claw-like fingers across both of Doublade’s bodies. Her movements were mechanical, driven purely by the instincts of the entity controlling her. The real Nekou was still conscious inside her body, but she couldn’t help but feel like she was trapped in a rollercoaster ride she couldn’t control.

    Doublade uttered a robotic, echoing cry of pain upon contact, and his blades were further stained by Nekou’s blood. The wounds on her hand that she’d given herself sealed up almost instantly. She raised her hand toward the three ninjas, making sure Darkness and Pestilence saw her flesh regenerating itself. From there, she was able to easily catch the knife Chaos had thrown at her out of the air.

    “Impossible…” Chaos gasped, incredulously taking a step back. He became paralyzed as memories of his fight with Nekou on Route 30 flooded back. “She was just using a fraction of her strength back then…” he realized. Every place on his arms where she had cut him back then started to burn anew, his body being overwhelmed by a terror that usually surfaced only when Ghetsis’s anger flared.

    As he drew his sword, Darkness glared contemptuously at both his frightened brother and their bizarre nemesis. Chaos had always been less hardened than his siblings, a fact that had presented a problem for the Shadow Triad in serving Ghetsis’s whims before. Darkness knew that was an issue to address another time, though. Instead of confronting Chaos, Darkness tightened his grip on the handle of his sword and sprinted at Nekou.

    “Just die already, you monster!” he thundered as he swung his blade at her.

    All the effort he put into mounting his attack ended up being for nothing, however. In order to avoid being slashed, Nekou leaned back an impossible distance, causing Darkness to swing the sword harmlessly over her. She continued to move in an unnatural manner, as if her body was being manipulated by invisible puppet strings.

    To her remaining consciousness, that may as well have been the case. Buried deep within her own mind and body, she could feel every one of the actions her other self used her form for even if she could do nothing to control them. She was so lost in the intense, intoxicating sensations of pleasure that none of it even mattered anymore, not to her clouded judgment. To just feel the wind caressing her skin and taste the air as she breathed was all the real Nekou could think of. It was a binge unlike any other.

    “Don’t let it end… please, just let me feel this forever…”

    “Now you’re getting it,” the other voice in her mind cooed to her. By then, the Shadow Triad had collectively regrouped and started attacking her again. “You just wait there and relax. I’ll take care of these three nuisances.”

    Having come up on Nekou during her internal conversation, Pestilence raised both of Doublade’s swords high above her. Before he could strike, she grabbed his wrists so quickly he couldn’t see her moving, then tightened her hold so much that she cracked his metal gloves much like how she’d cracked his brother’s earlier. Chaos attempted to seize this opening by throwing three more knives at her, but with her enhanced reflexes, Nekou was able to snatch her switchblade from her coat and use it to deflect them all. She then caught Darkness’s sword as he furiously brought it down toward her again, breaking it in the grip of her left hand. The resulting bloody wounds on that hand sealed up almost immediately, despite how deep they were.

    “Nekou…” Matt listlessly uttered between his quick, shallow breaths. “I… I don’t understand…”

    A single thought quickly settled into Matt’s mind - to help Nekou stop the Shadow Triad - but he was thinking far from clearly. Though he was on some level still aware that all the Pokémon he still had on hand had been badly beaten by Ghetsis’s Pokémon, his concern at what was unfolding before him overrode his logical thoughts. He started to head for the brawl, but barely got a step forward before being stopped by something powerful seizing his body.

    “You aren’t going anywhere,” Ghetsis taunted him, tossing Metagross’s Ultra Ball up and down while the great iron beast held Matt in place using the blue light of its Psychic attack. “Even that monster won’t be able to survive against all three of them at once with the training I gave them. Won’t you enjoy having a front row seat for that show?”

    “I’m really getting tired of listening to you…”

    Almost immediately upon those words leaving his mouth, Matt realized what he’d said and gasped nervously. The last thing he wanted was to further provoke Ghetsis in any fashion. Much to his surprise, however, Ghetsis responded by laughing.

    “Have to say I admire you for having that sort of courage, kid…” he said, his voice briefly sounding almost jovial. His tone swiftly darkened, along with his cheerful smile being replaced by his usual sinister grin. “Of course, that also tells me about your complete foolishness!”

    Suddenly moving with agility belied by his seemingly frail body, Ghetsis struck Matt in the back with his cane, forcing a reflexive, agonized groan from his victim. Matt felt a spike of pain flow through his entire body, made even worse by the fact that his movements were still restrained to mere twitches.

    Ghetsis stepped forward and started to raise his cane to hit Matt again. Just as he got it into the air, though, he was interrupted by a familiar voice that spoke loudly to him from behind.

    “Oh, Mister Ghetsis, do give me a minute.”

    Hearing Colress’s voice caused Ghetsis’s sadistic glee to turn into a rage he could barely contain. Clenching his teeth and tightening his grip on his cane as he lowered it, he slowly turned around. Behind him, a large holographic projection displayed Colress’s grinning visage.

    “I’m busy, Colress,” Ghetsis said, a slight growl slipping into his voice. “What do you want?”

    Colress did not answer immediately. Despite realizing how angry Ghetsis was at his interruption from his voice, Colress never stopped smiling.

    “I beg your forgiveness, Mister Ghetsis,” Colress said after his short hesitation, completely insincerely. “I do think you’ll want to see this. Look who showed up…”

    The hologram flickered, replacing Colress’s face with an image of a stone path from the traditional eastern half of Ecruteak City. Standing squarely in the middle of the frame was Nikolai, looking up and calling out at the sky with his arms spread wide. Seeing him made Ghetsis spin back around, nearly dropping his cane as he fumbled for one of his Poké Balls.

    “Cofagrigus, hold that monster back!” Ghetsis commanded the instant his Cofagrigus appeared from the sphere. He offered her additional direction by pointing his cane at the continuing fight between Nekou and the Shadow Triad.

    Understanding what her master wanted, Cofagrigus floated near the brawl and reached into the tangle with her four ethereal hands. Each of the Ghost-type’s appendages seized one of Nekou’s elongated limbs, quickly limiting her movements. The Shadow Triad all backed away from her as Cofagrigus lifted her into the air and turned their eyes to Ghetsis, understanding what their leader’s intervention meant.

    “I’ll take care of her!” Ghetsis roared before moving aside and pointing at the hologram with his cane. “You three, deal with that!”
     
  11. The Great Butler

    The Great Butler Hush, keep it down

    “Yes, Lord Ghetsis!” all three of them immediately replied, their stances becoming rigid as a reflexive show of compliance.

    Turning his attention to his assigned task, Darkness then took a Poké Ball off his belt and opened it, calling out, “Greninja, Smokescreen!”

    After materializing from the Poké Ball surrounded by sparkling light, Greninja rose to his full height and brought his hands together with his fingers raised in front of his mouth. He held this stance for a brief moment before abruptly raising his right hand into the air, triggering a burst of thick black smoke that fully obscured the Shadow Triad.

    “Where… are you…” Matt struggled to say, still completely restrained by Metagross’s Psychic.

    “I won’t be needing them to finish you two off now,” Ghetsis boasted as he swaggered up next to his captive. The smoke faded to reveal the Shadow Triad had vanished, bringing Ghetsis’s characteristic smirk back onto his face. “You can’t protect anyone from me in the end. I think you’re beginning to finally understand the despair of that fact…” Ghetsis slowly ran his hand down Matt’s left cheek. Matt would have shivered under his menacing touch if he was not restrained. “They’ve gone to fetch my son for me.”

    “Your… son?”

    “You know him as Nikolai,” Ghetsis smugly explained, “but his real name is N. That warped, defective boy was supposed to be the king of my Team Plasma years ago, but he betrayed me.”

    Matt’s mind raced as he struggled to process what he was being told. “But then… why do you...”

    “You must have had no idea about who he truly is,” Ghetsis continued, initially ignoring Matt’s attempted question. “That part is what surprises me. I expected that your little girlfriend would have told you more, but I guess it’s no shock with all the other lies she’s told you. Oh, and since you asked, N is still an important weapon for me, so his past betrayal will not stop me from taking him back.”

    “But… what for?” Matt questioned, his voice shaky. He could feel a rising sense of dread creeping up his body, getting more intense the more he thought about what Ghetsis intended to do.

    “You’ve seen him talk to Pokémon, I’m sure. That power is something I need, even though you know I can do something similar. You see, there’s one special Pokémon that only N’s voice can reach…” Matt started to mentally panic, trying to figure out what Ghetsis was talking about. Meanwhile, Ghetsis laughed out loud, amused by his own words. “I’m getting ahead of myself. I do like telling stories, but that one is probably something you and her won’t live to hear.”

    Though he had known it subconsciously for quite a while, it wasn’t until he heard those words that Matt fully realized Ghetsis intended to kill him along with Nekou. His skin turned even more pale than it already was, and he tried to break from the vice-like grip Metagross’s mind had on him. Despite his efforts, all his pulling got him nowhere. Quickly realizing the futility of what he was doing, he gave up and went limp in Metagross’s grasp while he breathed heavily.

    Nekou, meanwhile, was faring better against her ghostly captor. Cofagrigus fought against her monstrous strength to maintain a hold on her, but the Ghost-type was gradually losing her hold on the violently thrashing woman. As they fought, Nekou pulled back and then threw herself forward with all her might, flipping Cofagrigus over her head. The coffin Pokémon screeched loudly as she was upended, and her shadowy hands slipped from holding Nekou’s limbs. While Cofagrigus crashed to the floor several feet away, Nekou fell and rolled over herself but quickly recovered. As soon as she was back on her feet, she turned her crazed, glowing eyes in the direction of Matt and Ghetsis. She breathed deeply and exhaled, a slight growl escaping from between her clenched teeth, then started to run right at them with her fingers curled into claws.

    Suddenly, Matt felt the tight, squeezing hold Metagross had on him disappear, leaving him feeling strangely weightless as his body tried to adjust. He started to fall face-first toward the floor, and less than a second later, he could feel Metagross flying over him and hear Ghetsis calling out an order.

    “Metagross, Meteor Mash!”

    Even though he was falling forward, Matt kept his eyes locked on Nekou, despite having to twist his neck up to do so. Just before his chin hit the floor, he saw the great iron beast bring one of its thick legs down on her. As Nekou charged forward, the Steel-and-Psychic-type slammed its attack right into the center of her back. A sickened groan mixed with a mad scream slipped from her throat as she was crushed into the ground.

    Horrified beyond belief, Matt reached toward Nekou’s broken, still body with his trembling right arm. “No…” he whispered in despair, only to have the wind knocked from his lungs when Ghetsis stepped onto his back.

    “Now you’re finally getting the idea of how powerless you are against me,” Ghetsis bragged, savoring his position with his eyes shut. “Let that feeling of hopelessness fill every inch of your body. Actually, now that the monster is put down for good, why don’t you and I have a little fun?”

    To punctuate his words, Ghetsis pushed his heel harder into Matt’s back, forcing a gasp of air from his mouth.

    -:-

    Multiple flashes of bright orange light shined from between the buildings on Ecruteak’s western side, the product of Ho-oh still fighting off the group of Pokémon. Pierce could still easily see the flares from the top of Bell Tower, and although he wasn’t looking at Anthea and Concordia as they sat behind him, he knew they could too.

    No, it wasn’t that he was simply choosing not to look at them, he realized. He couldn’t bring himself to. The three of them being trapped on the tower was because of his own lack of planning for their escape. He mentally berated himself for failing on something he took pride in at the worst possible time, while clenching his fists so tightly his nylon gloves strained around them.

    “Pierce?”

    “Shiit,” Pierce thought, clenching his teeth. He knew just from hearing his mother’s voice what she was about to ask, and he was far from ready to answer.

    “Pierce?” Anthea repeated, finally getting her son to slightly turn his head. “How are we going to get away from here?”

    Without a word, Pierce shifted his gaze back to his glider, which was still waiting nearby. He stared at it intently for several seconds, then briefly looked off toward a spot on the ground before firmly shutting his eyes. There was one idea that entered his mind, but he hated to even consider it. Finally, Pierce fully turned around, facing his mother and his aunt. Just looking at them made his stomach twist into knots. Memories from his earliest years, shared with them both, welled up anew in his mind. There was no way he could help it. He’d spent so many years carefully inscribing every detail into his memory that he could never escape them even if he wanted to.

    Pierce knew that his plan would require cutting one of those threads off, likely forever. And as much as he hated to admit it, when he had to choose which one to preserve, there was no way he could not choose Anthea.

    Resigning himself to his choice, Pierce said, “Mother, I need you to-”

    As he was stepping toward Anthea, however, Pierce’s instruction got cut off, and he froze in place. The interruption came in the form of a bright light, shining from just a few feet away, still well on the tower’s roof. When Pierce, Anthea and Concordia focused on it, they could see a golden ring within the light. Moments later, the Prophet stepped out of it with Hoopa at her side and Alesia just behind her. Seeing them, Pierce let out a relieved sigh.

    “I don’t have to do it now…” Pierce shared a short nod with the Prophet as she approached the group, happy that they had all been rescued.

    “Thank you for taking care of them this long,” the hooded woman acknowledged. “We’ll handle it from here.”

    “Who are you?” Concordia questioned with a nervous shake in her voice. “I feel like you’re familiar to me…”

    “Here.” The Prophet extended her hand to help Concordia stand. As soon as their skin touched, Concordia jumped, and a glow filled her eyes. When it faded shortly afterward, the Prophet smiled as she felt Concordia relax in her grasp. “Yes, I think you can tell who I am now. We both have gone through a lot, but our Transcendence still binds us together.”

    “Is this the help you mentioned, Pierce?” Anthea asked her son, having stood up on her own.

    “Well… one part of the help, I guess.” Pierce stifled a chuckle. Something about the situation felt funny to him, but he knew that deep down it was just his relief overwhelming him.

    “Here, go through the ring,” the Prophet instructed her fellow Tenganists. “It will lead you to safety.”

    “What about you?”

    “We,” Alesia replied despite Concordia’s question being directed at the Prophet, “have an important job to do up here on Bell Tower. We’ll join you later.”

    “Pierce?”

    Feeling his emotions beginning to escape his control, Pierce forced himself to embrace his mother as an answer to her. It wasn’t the time or the place for him to show just how he felt, not yet. He had to let her go quickly too, as he felt tears starting to form in his eyes.

    “I will need Pierce’s help as well,” the Prophet intervened. “Please, go through the ring and wait for us on the other side.”

    Both Anthea and Concordia started to walk toward the ring, but when they were each a few steps away, Anthea paused and held Concordia’s shoulder, prompting the woman to stop as well. Looking over her shoulder, she quietly said, “Pierce, be careful… make sure you come back.”

    “I promise I will,” he answered without even thinking. He didn’t have to. “I’ve been through so much to get here, so it wouldn’t be fair if we couldn’t all catch up…” As he spoke, his emotions started to come to the surface again. “...all of us, together…”

    “Please, go! We do not have much time!” On the Prophet’s urging, Anthea and Concordia finally passed through the portal, which shrank and closed behind them. Once they were gone, the Prophet brought her attention fully to Pierce. “As for you, that machine of yours might not have been useful for getting them out of here,” she paused briefly to let the sting of her words sink in, “but I can work with that. You still have plenty of ammunition, correct?”

    Though Pierce was even more humiliated than ever for his lack of planning, he resisted showing it. “Enough, why?”

    “Your job in this will be to shoot down those,” she explained, gesturing to the drones orbiting the city. “If we can bring that barrier down, it’ll be easier for those who want to escape from the riots to do so. I doubt any of the rioters themselves will be interested in leaving right now, so the risk is minimal.”

    “That makes sense.” Pierce turned and headed for his glider, his body and spirit reinvigorated by having something to focus on. “At least I can do something to be of use now…”

    Meanwhile, back near the center of Bell Tower’s roof, Alesia and Hoopa followed the Prophet as she approached the glowing circle on the floor. Once the hooded woman reached the symbol’s edge, she stopped and gestured for her follower and the Pokémon to stay back. Alesia halted immediately, but had to grab Hoopa’s hand in order to stop it.

    “Ghetsis…” the Prophet whispered to herself, making sure she wasn’t speaking loud enough for Alesia to hear. “You’ve taken so much from me.. everything I lived my life to become was taken away, but I found a new purpose…” As she went on, the Prophet felt her anger and despair steadily increase. She started to shake, and her voice became more and more raspy from rage. “I’ll protect all my people who are left from you, so none of them ever have to live this nightmare again…”

    After taking a deep breath to regain her composure, she brought her hands together.

    “Transcend the confines of time and space!”

    -:-

    Matt’s pained groan drifted toward the sky, forced from him when Ghetsis drove his cane into Matt’s chest. He didn’t suffer quite as much of a catastrophic wound as most would have due to the metal plating beneath his skin, which nevertheless made Ghetsis fall deeper into mad excitement anyway.

    “So what they say really is true, you did turn yourself into a monster too!” Moving quickly, Ghetsis swept Matt’s legs with his cane, making him fall to his knees when he struck Matt’s still-organic right leg. He then immediately grabbed Matt by the neck and began to raise him up. “And yet, what did you do it for?”

    “Because…” Matt’s voice was more like a croak due to Ghetsis’s stranglehold on his throat. “I had to… there was something I… still had to…”

    “You threw away your humanity and yet you completely lack the ambition to justify it. Mankind was given the ability to be so great, so powerful, because mankind isn’t like anything else on this planet. Now do you finally understand? That is why it’s my destiny to lead, because I am an example of humanity’s perfection! Someone like you makes me sick!”

    With that, Ghetsis slammed Matt to the ground, showing strength that completely belied his frail frame. Something fell out of the inside of Matt’s coat and thumped onto the floor next to him. He weakly turned his head toward it, but when he saw what it was, he regained enough energy to desperately reach for it.

    Matt barely got near the pocket watch before Ghetsis plunged his cane down into his mechanical arm, making it lock up.

    “Oh, what’s wrong?” Ghetsis mocked him as his metal hand twitched. “Does the robot actually have a heart after all? What’s so important about that thing?”

    Seeing Ghetsis start to lean down and reach for the pocket watch made Matt try to force himself up. No matter how hard he tried, though, he was unable to. The shock of Ghetsis’s cane grinding into his arm was reverberating through his entire body.

    All he could do when Ghetsis picked it up was try to raise his voice. “Put it… put that down!”

    “And what are you going to do about it?” Ghetsis pushed his cane further down into Matt’s arm to emphasize his control of the situation, then opened the watch. He did not react at first. When he flipped the picture within over, however, he stared in surprise at it for a moment before tilting his head back and laughing out loud toward the sky.

    “What’s so… funny?”

    Instead of answering right away, Ghetsis just kept laughing. When he finally managed to compose himself, he closed the watch, pulled his cane from Matt’s arm, and stepped back.

    “What Finansielle said about you really was true,” he chuckled before tossing the watch back to Matt. While his younger enemy forced himself to stand again, Ghetsis continued to talk, smirking all the while. “You and your grandfather are just like each other, exactly like she said.”

    Matt coughed up a tiny amount of blood, then shot back, “What the fuck are you talking about?”

    “The Tenganists. Your dear old grandfather couldn’t keep his hands off them, and from the look of things, neither could you.”

    In full spite of the situation, Matt could feel himself growing embarrassed. “It wasn’t like that, not ever…” As Ghetsis’s words caught up with him, Matt lowered his head and thought, “What’s he talking about with my grandfather?”

    “Spare me, I’m not in the mood to hear a story. But…” Ghetsis took a single step forward, punctuated by him loudly jabbing his cane into the floor. Matt could see a devious glint in Ghetsis’s eye, one that deeply disturbed him. He dreaded to think what it was Ghetsis was about to say. “...I think I’ve got a story you’ll want to hear.”

    “And what makes you think I want to listen to it?” Even though Matt tried to turn his nose up at the suggestion, both figuratively and literally, he knew it was a failing act. He wasn’t sure if it was Ghetsis’s power getting inside his head or not, but something about it made him feel like he had to know the story.

    “Oh, I’m sure you do. Don’t archeologists always love hearing stories about the past? You wouldn’t want to disappoint your grandfather’s memory, do you?” He’d never show it, but Matt felt a deep pang of shame to have his relationship with his grandfather questioned, even if he knew it was from someone whose opinion he didn’t care about. “I think you’ll be rather intrigued by the topic, too. You see, the little Tenganist girl, the one in your watch… I had a rather interesting encounter with her when I visited Michina Town.”

    As soon as he heard that, Matt could no longer contain himself. Somehow he could tell Ghetsis wasn’t lying, and the possibilities of what Ghetsis meant made his blood run cold. Even though he had just been getting beaten by the man, Matt grabbed Ghetsis by the shoulders, not thinking of the risk to himself.

    “What did you do to Sheena?!” he screamed, his voice colored by a mix of anger and fear. The most immediate answer he could think of for that question was the worst one, and it was something he fully feared would happen to him next. After all, he’d just seen it happen to Nekou, and if it had happened to Sheena as well, there would be no good reason for Ghetsis to not do it to him as well. His voice fell dramatically in volume as he asked, “Did you kill her?”

    For an answer, Matt got his neck grabbed by Ghetsis again. His hands slipped off of Ghetsis’s shoulders and instinctively moved to try and pry Ghetsis’s grip off, but this effort was in vain. The Team Plasma leader’s hold was too secure, and Matt was too weak from the beating he’d suffered.

    “Sheena? So that was her name…” Ghetsis huffed and then said, “I don’t want the story to end too soon. But since you asked… I think you’ll enjoy hearing about how I watched the life drain out of her eyes.” Matt froze instantly upon hearing this, both physically and mentally. Taking notice of it, Ghetsis made sure to make his tone even more condescending. “Those are the moments that I love to see the most, when all the life drains away from people. When they’re right at the brink, that’s when they truly do lose all hope. That time is so beautiful, with how fleeting it is…” Ghetsis slightly loosened his grasp, allowing Matt to breathe more easily. “Wouldn’t want you to expire before you hear this story.”

    “Kill me already if you’re going to,” Matt hissed. “Send me where they are.”

    “Not yet.” A sudden realization entered Ghetsis’s mind then, causing him to pause. He even drew a sharp breath and widened his one visible eye when the idea hit him, both things unusual for someone who meticulously planned things as he did. “I can’t believe I didn’t think of this sooner! Why should I waste my time telling you the story when I can show you it? Let’s take a trip down memory lane, shall we? I’ll bring you along so you can witness her fate first-hand and realize just how hopeless your situation is. Now… transcend the confines of time and space!”

    Matt nearly had a heart attack when he heard Ghetsis using the chant to invoke Transcendence, even though he already knew Ghetsis possessed one. He didn’t have much time to panic about that, however, for within a fraction of a second he felt a presence invading his mind. It felt disgusting and evil, almost like he could imagine Ghetsis’s fingers probing his brain. Yet at the same time, something about it felt strangely familiar, like it had been in his mind sometime in the past.

    “It… no! It can’t be hers… if it is, then Ghetsis really did…”

    Visions entered Matt’s mind against his will. They started out hazy, but quickly gained clarity. The mountains towering over an ancient town and the vast fields beyond came to him first, and then the ruins nestled away on one of the tallest peaks. All of it was familiar to him. Too familiar, in fact. Having these images that he knew so well forced into his mind, he felt renewed fear of what Ghetsis was about to show him. He wanted to react in some way, to do something to free himself, but Ghetsis’s hypnotic power left him enthralled.

    Matt was completely blinded to what was actually going on around him when he suddenly felt the grip on his throat release. He had collapsed into a heap on the floor before the visions fully left him, allowing him to once again see his actual surroundings.

    “What’s going on…” he wheezed while looking around in confusion. Even though he could see clearly again, none of it immediately registered, owing to Ghetsis’s powers taking their time to fully leave his brain.

    He was snapped back into reality, however, when Ghetsis stomped the ground right in front of him, missing his head by less than a foot. Looking up, Matt saw Ghetsis clutching his face with his right hand while barely managing to hold on to his cane with his left. The Team Plasma leader was stumbling around, seemingly struggling to stay upright.

    “What… the hell… is this…?” Ghetsis grumbled to himself, pain shooting through his head. “This shouldn’t be happening…”

    Ghetsis turned away from Matt and staggered to the front of the airship, leaving the object of his beating dumbfounded at his actions. At the bow of the ship, Ghetsis leaned on the railing to support himself and focused his sight on Bell Tower. When he saw the Prophet on the tower’s summit, standing with her hands clasped in prayer, he immediately understood exactly what the source of his headache was. His rage boiled over almost immediately, contorting his face into an almost inhuman expression.

    “Of course you show up now!” he raged out to the open air, banging his cane on the floor again and again. “I knew I should have killed you when I had the chance!” Ghetsis bent slightly forward over the rail, putting more of his weight on it so he could catch his breath. Several deep gasps brought him some composure, allowing him to reign in his emotions. “Just because you came here to be a hero,” he finally said, “doesn’t mean you get to be one. Sorry!”

    With that, Ghetsis shut his eyes and cleared his mind of all but one thing: keeping his control over Ho-oh. Bringing all his power back to it, he could sense the Prophet trying to break into Ho-oh’s mind and free it. Clenching his teeth, he resolved to not let her and started to mentally push back.

    -:-

    Having finished their business with Mareep near the now-hidden Dance Theater, Olivia and the others in her group resumed their trek up north. There was not much in the way of conversation between them, nor was there any real need for it. They were all focused on simply reaching Kate’s group and supporting them, so nothing else was necessary.

    As they approached the Battle Hall, something caught Olivia’s eye, prompting her to signal Tanya to stop. Nikolai was standing nearby, staring up at the sky with his arms spread out wide. Bill and Audrey were with him, attempting to pull him back with both their hands and their panicked warnings about his safety. The green-haired young man ignored their pleas, however, and pulled away from them every time they tried to make him move.

    “I wonder what’s going on over there,” Olivia said to herself, drawing a grunt from Tanya in response.

    Olivia started to look away from Nikolai, Bill and Audrey, but before they were out of her sight, the Shadow Triad materialized in front of them. Darkness’s Greninja was with Ghetsis’s three servants, and as soon as they appeared, he used his tongue to ensnare Nikolai. Bill and Audrey stumbled back, while Nikolai managed to reach one of his Poké Balls, which he opened to release his Stantler. The Normal-type Pokémon immediately stood rigidly upright, using his horns in an attempt to intimidate Greninja. As soon as he saw the trouble his friend was in, Stantler cloaked his body in electricity and tackled the frog. Greninja was briefly stunned by the Wild Charge, but the electricity flowed through his body into his tongue and shocked Nikolai himself as well. Despite this, he managed to suppress his pain, merely cringing on the ground once free from Greninja’s tongue. He then gave Stantler an appreciative head rub, though his movements were weak.

    “You’re coming with us, N!” Darkness commanded him. “Lord Ghetsis demands your presence, and he demands it right now!”

    “Why are you calling me that?” Nikolai shouted back with narrowed eyes, pulling at his bracelets while he spoke. “You did it last time, too!”

    As the fight between Nikolai and the Shadow Triad continued intensifying, the other members of Olivia’s group started taking notice. Rowena was the first to come back to where Olivia was, and had started to record what was playing out. Avril, Monroe, Bunny and Nando all followed.

    “We should do something about this,” Nando proposed, an uncharacteristic hint of nervousness sneaking into his voice.

    “I don’t disagree with you,” Bunny said back, her breathing made rapid by both her running and her increasing fear, “but we have to go help Kate. That’s where we’re supposed to be…”

    “You go help Kate, I’ll do this,” Olivia volunteered, clutching at the folds of her coat. “Take Tanya with you, you’ll need her more.”

    Both Avril and Bunny could only look at Olivia in surprise when they heard her declaration. Their shared shock came from differing sources; while Bunny was more worried about Olivia’s safety, Avril was just impressed.

    “Are you absolutely sure about this?” Bunny questioned. “I can’t let anything happen to you. Don’t you think you’d be better off taking Tanya with you?”

    “What good is it if I rely on Matt’s Pokémon instead of my own?” the younger girl forcefully answered. “I’ll never get anywhere if I don’t try!”

    “She just keeps surprising me,” Avril thought, smiling to herself. “Sure isn’t what I thought she was back then.”

    Standing next to his sister, Monroe was having very different thoughts on the matter. “She’s crazy! There’s no way she can do this all alone!”

    Just as Olivia started to leave, Monroe ran after her. She saw him and briefly paused, but ultimately decided not to stop him.

    “Somebody’s got a crush,” Avril mumbled through pursed lips as her brother and Olivia started running toward the melee.

    “I’m glad you waited to say that,” Bunny dryly said to the younger girl. “I really didn’t feel like dealing with what would happen if she heard you.”

    Meanwhile, unaware of the disruption that was soon to arrive, the Shadow Triad were continuing with their attempted subduing of Nikolai. The Stantler allied with their target was actually a fair match for Darkness’s Greninja, able to sufficiently keep up with his enemy’s shifting types with the moves he knew. Every time Greninja used Water Shuriken, Stantler promptly countered with Wild Charge, while uses of Smack Down and Smokescreen left him open to Jump Kick because of transformations to the Rock and Normal types, respectively.

    With their leader more or less at a stalemate against Nikolai, Pestilence and Chaos decided to intervene, each throwing one of their own Ultra Balls into the fight. Pestilence’s released a hulking, green-and-white Pokémon with thick arms and a bulky, spiked shell, who stood at a somewhat hunched-over angle. Chaos’s gave shape to a creature with fox-like features that also resembled a wizard wearing long, tattered robes of red, yellow and white formed from his fur. In his hand, the Pokémon held a stick that he had taken from the fur on his arm. A bright flame burned on the end of the stick, making it look more like a magic wand of sorts.

    The two Pokémon hadn’t even fully formed before Greninja sprang into the air again, clutching a Water Shuriken in each hand. Accordingly, the spots on his body turned blue, signifying his Protean ability shifting his type back into Water. Stantler was able to endure the first of the shurikens with only a few cuts to his body. When Greninja started to spin around to build up momentum for the second one, Stantler saw his chance. He barked a loud cry and leapt at Greninja, his body electrified once more.

    “Ches!” grunted the armored beast sent by Pestilence. He lumbered forward, allowing Greninja to land behind him, then slammed his fists together in front of himself. A circular shield fanned out from his arms. Once it was fully formed, a glowing, green energy layer materialized over it, increasing the shield’s size and lengthening the giant needles sticking out of it.

    Even with his sharp perception, Stantler was unable to stop his attack in time to avoid colliding with the second Pokémon’s barrier. Not only was his Wild Charge neutralized, but several of the spikes stuck deeply into him, making him cry out in pain. Nikolai could only watch in horror, and the situation got even worse when Greninja jumped up onto the second Pokémon’s shoulders, still holding the remaining Water Shuriken.

    “It’s too bad Lord Ghetsis couldn’t be here to see this feeble resistance of yours firsthand,” Darkness sneered at Nikolai. “I’m getting bored of this. Greninja, finish it off.”

    Greninja had been getting ready to throw the shuriken even before Darkness ordered him to do it, so he smiled to himself beneath his tongue scarf. Narrowing his eyes, he pulled his arms back and channeled even more water energy into the star, making it further grow in size.

    His attention, along with the attention of his master and teammates, was so focused on Nikolai and Stantler that none of them noticed the orb of bolt of electricity shooting straight for him. The Thunderbolt struck the Water Shuriken before it left Greninja’s hands, causing both to dissipate in a small explosion. Surprised by the sudden disruption and the vanishing of his weapon, Greninja nearly fell off the other Pokémon’s back.

    “Olivia…” Nikolai uttered, staring blankly as she and Monroe came between him and the Shadow Triad, offering Stantler the chance to recover and pull back. Mareep was at Olivia’s side, her wool still crackling with energy. “Thank you…”

    Greninja and the other two Pokémon lined up next to each other and looked scornfully down on Mareep in an attempt to frighten her. Their efforts failed, as Mareep just growled back at them and started charging more electricity in her wool.

    “How cute,” Darkness derided them, crossing his arms. “The kids think they’re making some big brave stand.” Turning around to Chaos, he commanded, “You met them before, you dispose of them.”

    For a brief second, Chaos hesitated. Years of conditioning quickly set in, however, and he automatically thrust his right arm out.

    “Delphox, Mystical Fire!”

    Delphox, the wizard-like fox that was the third of the Shadow Triad’s Pokémon, stepped forward and pointed the stick he held in Mareep’s direction. The flame on its tip started to intensify, and Delphox huffed smugly to himself once the flame reached a size he was satisfied with. At that point, he drew a circle in the air, creating a ring of fire that soon became an inferno washing toward Mareep and Olivia.

    “Mareep, Thunderb-”

    More than ready to counterattack without her new trainer’s direction, Mareep bleated loudly and released an intense burst of electrical energy from her body. Even with all the strength she put into it, however, Delphox’s fiery assault was much too strong. The Mystical Fire cut right through Mareep’s attack and kept on going.

    Olivia felt as if time slowed to a crawl as she watched the flames approach Mareep. Already, she was mentally berating herself. “Mareep followed me because it wanted to get into fights, and now the first fight I get it into after catching it…”

    Both Olivia and Mareep cringed and shut their eyes tightly for protection from the bright light resulting from Mystical Fire suddenly hitting something they couldn’t see. The explosion of flame went on for several seconds before subsiding. When they sensed that it had, they slowly reopened their eyes to put to rest their questions about their savior’s identity.

    Standing before them, clutching two blades of water enveloped in black light, was a second Greninja. This one was blue - the species’ normal color - and stood on the side of Olivia and her friends.

    “Where did…” Olivia said in awe, her words quickly coming to fail her.

    “I wish it didn’t have to come to this,” Monroe mumbled, stepping forward as he put a Poké Ball away. “Olivia, I wanted you to see my other Pokémon, but not in a situation like this.”

    “You think that your interference will change anything, boy?” Darkness still maintained his confidence, but it was evident in his voice that he was becoming annoyed. “You are still outnumbered against us. Greninja, go forth!”

    Darkness’s black Greninja jumped off of his companion’s head and landed in front of Monroe’s blue Greninja, standing up at his full height to assert his presence. Monroe’s responded by discarding the blades of water and lowering herself closer to the ground in preparation to jump at her enemy.

    While the two Greninja got ready to fight, the green-and-white Pokémon lumbered forward to rejoin Delphox. Both of them set their sights on Mareep, who had been staring at Monroe’s Greninja and shaking in anger over having her fight interrupted. Once she saw she would still get to battle, though, she cheered up.

    “Smack Down!”

    “Greninja, use Night Slash again, please!”

    Darkness’s Greninja acted first, his spots turning to a shade of orange as he swung his hand horizontally across his line of vision, throwing rocks at his opponent. Monroe’s swiftly recreated her water blades and cut down the first wave of stones before they even regained their black glow. She pushed forward even though Darkness’s Greninja refused to cease flinging rocks at her, drawing closer and closer to him in spite of his actions. Once she was close enough, she jumped into the air and swung the blades toward him. To defend himself he instantly generated a pair of Water Shurikens and used them to parry her strike, the spots on his body becoming blue again as he did so.

    Seizing on the distraction the dueling Greninja provided them, Pestilence and Chaos decided to act. The former went first, calling out, “Chesnaught, Seed Bomb!”

    Chesnaught stomped forward and roared. He spit a number of baseball-sized, green seeds in Mareep’s direction, but the sheep Pokémon lashed out with yet another Thunderbolt. Each time a seed was struck by one of the lightning bolts, it exploded, effectively neutralizing both sides’ attacks. As a side effect of this, the air filled with a black haze.

    “Psyshock!” Chaos ordered.

    With the smoke obscuring their vision, Olivia, Mareep nor any of their allies could see what Delphox was doing. They remained in the dark until he pierced through the clouds with a silvery, jagged beam of psychic energy he fired from his eyes. Mareep tried to deflect it with electricity, but this time, her strength was not enough to overpower the attack. Delphox’s Psyshock tore right through the Thunderbolt and struck Mareep, drawing a pained bleat from her.

    “Mareep, hold on!” Olivia cried out as she started running to Mareep’s side. When Chesnaught spat one more Seed Bomb at Mareep, however, the Electric-type was thrown violently into her new trainer. The two of them were, in turn, caught by Nikolai when he stepped behind them and spread his arms. Now pinned between Mareep and Nikolai, Olivia struggled to get back up. “I have to… I have to do something…”

    “Please, Olivia, do not push yourself too much,” Nikolai quietly said.

    “But if we don’t fight them to protect you…”

    Olivia’s protest was cut off when a shadow loomed over them. It belonged to a Steelix that had suddenly appeared, with her iron body glistening in the light. Olivia stared in awe at the Pokémon for a minute before looking off to the side, where she could see Monroe putting away another Poké Ball. The look of anger in his eyes was unlike anything she’d seen from him before.

    “Pick on someone your own size,” he threatened Pestilence and Chaos.

    Neither brother could resist a suppressed laugh, and they both looked scornfully down on the young man challenging them.

    “You are going to regret interfering in this…” Pestilence warned in a dire tone. “Chesnaught, show him what your Seed Bomb really feels like!”

    “As for you, Delphox,” Chaos added, “use Mystical Fire!”

    Delphox acted first, stepping forward and drawing his stick wand with a growl. He was well into drawing the fiery circle that would serve as the genesis for his attack before Chesnaught started to carry out his own.

    Recognizing that Pestilence and Chaos were staggering their assault, Monroe raised his hand up into the air and called out, “Steelix, try blocking it with Aqua Tail!”

    A low, guttural grunt slipped from Steelix’s spacious mouth in response to her enemies’ action. She lowered her head while raising up her tail and the lowermost sections of her metal body, which became wrapped in a tightly twisting layer of water. Delphox’s flames were upon her by then, so she barely had enough time to swing her tail forward and cut them off.

    The collision of Delphox’s Mystical Fire and Steelix’s Aqua Tail created a cloud of steam. Only a few seconds later, the stream of seeds spit by Chesnaught tore through the haze, dispelling it and buffeting Steelix’s upper portions. While they did not do much in the way of visible damage, each impact sent a small shock through her, and she tightened herself up in response to them.

    Olivia, meanwhile, was watching the battle while still lying caught between Mareep and Nikolai. She was in awe of what was playing out in front of her.

    “He’s fighting all three of them at once, somehow…” she thought. Unable to move, she could only glance back and forth at the two fights in front of her with her mouth hanging open. While Steelix held firm against Chesnaught and Delphox, Monroe’s Greninja clashed with Darkness’s. The black Greninja had resorted to using his Water Shurikens as handheld weapons against his blue opponent’s water blades. “I never expected it… he’s strong, so strong… I can’t do this, I can’t stand up to them myself…”

    Olivia shut her eyes, and a single tear rolled down her face as her self-defeating thoughts consumed her. She thought of Avril and Renzo, just as she had during her battle with Bugsy, and before long she imagined her father talking to her again.

    “Olivia, you have to try harder. Look at everything we went through together! It’s not your fault you got kidnapped by Enigma Shadow five years ago, but you have to be stronger now! You have to be able to protect yourself!”

    “Don’t you think I’m trying?! Maybe I just can’t do it!”

    Olivia’s outburst made Nikolai jump slightly. When he looked down at her, he could see strange, tiny movements in her eyelids, even as they remained shut. These movements slowly spread to the rest of her face, and all of a sudden, Nikolai could feel Olivia’s body start to twitch against him.

    “I wish I knew what pains her so much…” he mused, before briefly stopping to cringe from the sound of an explosion overhead. “I can hear the inner voices of Pokémon, but humans remain a puzzle to me…”

    If Nikolai had been able to use his Transcendence and peer inside Olivia’s mind, what he would have seen would have surprised him. The hallucination of Rich had disappeared from her consciousness, inexplicably being replaced by a vision of Ho-oh flying over them. Had she been fully conscious and able to examine the vision, she wouldn’t have been able to understand it. As the situation stood, she was only aware she was seeing it.

    -:-

    The sound of another explosion spread over Ecruteak City, just one more in the seemingly endless chain of such noise that day. It came from one of Colress’s drones, which had been reduced to burning, mangled scrap after being hit by a missile Pierce fired from his glider.

    Flying not too far away, Pierce watched the wrecked device fall, then looked around at the barrier, which had become temporarily visible due to the disruption in its generation. “Another one down, but I don’t think I have anywhere near enough missiles to destroy it completely…”

    While looking around, he caught a glimpse of the Prophet locked in prayer on the top of Bell Tower. Seeing this helped him focus his mind on his task. Returning to the drones that were still circling the city, he narrowed his eyes, attempting to zero in on one. A targeting reticle in his communicator’s eyepiece scanned his line of sight, making several passes over the visible drones before locking onto one.

    “Got you!”

    A hatch on the bottom of Pierce’s glider opened, allowing another small missile to emerge. It rocketed through the air and followed the drone, catching up with its target in seconds. The resulting blast claimed the drone, mangling it beyond recognition, much like the others he’d shot down.

    Pierce paid little mind to the barrier briefly flashing again, instead choosing to look for his next target. His eyepiece did much of the work, singling out another of the drones rather quickly. When he tried to make his glider fire a missile, however, he was met with a blunt clicking sound and nothing else.

    “Ugh!” he groaned in dismay. “I was afraid of this…”

    Even though he was out of ammunition, Pierce still looked back up at the drones. He almost felt like they were laughing at him from the way they kept on circling around him, acting as if he’d done nothing to disturb them. To him, it was like watching many copies of Ghetsis’s face orbiting the city, all of them mocking his failure in the way only Team Plasma’s leader could. It cut Pierce to the bone, the feeling of utter failure.

    “I’m sorry…” he muttered, clenching his fists and closing his eyes in shame after looking to the Prophet again. “I thought we could destroy Ghetsis if we teamed up, and then everything could go back to normal…”

    A series of several explosions suddenly filled the air around Pierce, startling him to the point that he briefly lost his stability on his glider. He inhaled sharply and searched to identify the source of the blasts, fearing an attack was coming, but what he discovered left him stunned.

    Colress’s drones were falling from the sky again, but not one at a time and not due to any action Pierce had taken. Several - four or five, by the rough estimate Pierce was able to quickly calculate - had been destroyed. As he watched them fall to the earth with his mouth hanging open, he suddenly felt the sensation of something licking the back of his head. Startled, he pivoted his glider around as quickly as he could, only to be met by a widely-smiling purple cloud with two disembodied hands.

    “A Haunter…?” Seeing the creature confused him, but when Haunter was joined by several other Pokémon - a Shuppet and a Yamask, along with a pair of Pokémon that resembled ghosts possessing a small tree stump and a black lantern, respectively - Pierce understood. “All these Ghost-type Pokémon could only have come from one man… he sent you to get rid of the barrier too?”

    The five Pokémon all responded with affirmative cries, then set about resuming their destruction of the drones. Watching them, Pierce pondered the meaning of their sudden appearance.

    “I wonder… is this just about getting the civilians out, or is there something more?” he wordlessly questioned.

    -:-

    Liar.

    Cheater.

    Crook.

    For the members of Kate and Bunny’s combined groups, those were some of the nicer words being directed at them from the crowd. They’d succeeded in forcing the riots to the water’s edge and were containing them with their Pokémon acting as a barricade, but they now faced the barely-contained rage still burning within the mass of people.

    “I guess I shouldn’t be surprised they’re pissed at us…” Bunny dryly said out loud. She wasn’t directing her comment at any of her companions in particular, instead, her gaze was tracing along her Gogoat’s vines. The Grass-type Pokémon had joined with Mako’s Tentacruel to his left and Nando’s Leavanny to his right, using said vines to connect to his partners’ arms and cordon off the angry throng. Kate’s Blastoise and Trista’s Gardevoir stood in the spaces between each of them, while Silver’s Gyarados towered over them all, scowling because of Falkner’s Skarmory perching on his head.

    “It’ll play well when I get this footage back to ONBS, that’s for sure,” Rowena remarked.

    Pulling her eyes away from the Pokémon and the protesters, Bunny caught sight of Rowena still single-mindedly continuing with her filming. She asked the reporter, “Aren’t you more concerned about your own safety right now?”

    “That’s what I’ve got Cinccino for,” Rowena replied, earning a happy squeak from the Pokémon on her shoulder. “Besides, the public has to see what this is really like. Not just in Kanto or Johto, but everywhere.”

    Before Bunny could further disagree, Kate looked over her shoulder and chimed in, “You know, Bunny, she’s got a point. When you see something that gets your blood pumping, you respond more and pay more attention.”

    Sighing, Bunny was again about to speak, but as she turned around, she was interrupted by Falkner. The Violet Gym Leader urgently shouted, “Skarmory, Rock Tomb!”

    Falkner’s Skarmory spread his wings in a single sharp motion, forming a cluster of stones and throwing them forward. Bunny caught sight of a blur from the corner of her eye sailing through the air towards her; she barely had time to mentally register that it was a bottle before the rocks crushed the glass object into the ground.

    “Bunny, you’ve got to pay more attention!” Falkner warned her. “You can’t think that they’re only going to throw words!”

    “Don’t you think I’m trying?” Bunny snapped back, grinding her foot into the ground to exert her frustration. “I’m not used to doing this!”

    “Bunny, please, try to be calm…” Nando gently urged her.

    “Be calm? How can YOU be so calm all the time?!” she thought. She badly wanted to ask him it to his face, but the more she thought about it, the more she realized that infighting amongst their team was the last thing they needed.

    An explosion above the group’s heads defused the budding tensions between them before things could get too out of hand. Looking up at the source of the sudden, convenient distraction, they could see a burning object falling from the sky a short distance away. All around them, the red light of Ghetsis’s barrier flickered, becoming visible for a few seconds at a time before disappearing and promptly reappearing. The drones that were still active had stalled in midair.
     
  12. The Great Butler

    The Great Butler Hush, keep it down

    “I wonder what’s up with that,” Mako wondered.

    Trista stepped up alongside the older woman and added, “Sure isn’t any of us.”

    “You can thank me.”

    The sound of Morty’s voice approaching from behind brought the team a much-needed sense of relief. As the blonde-haired Ghost-type Gym Leader arrived alongside his Gengar, an assortment of smiles greeted them.

    “I’ll thank you up front,” Kate said to him, a wry grin on her aged face, “even if I want a full explanation.”

    “Remember what our friend Ghetsis said? That barrier keeps us in and everyone else out. Obviously, not everyone who’s in Ecruteak right now is interested in burning it to the ground. They would like to leave. Let me pose a question, though… what if somebody wanted to get in here from outside?”

    “Forgive my disrespect,” Bunny loudly interjected, “but we really don’t have time for questions! I’m glad you made somehow made it out of the Gym, but…”

    “Yes, you’re right,” Morty replied while raising his hand slightly. His calm demeanor remained nearly entirely intact despite the situation. “Forgive me. While Gengar’s here, all my other Pokémon are working on systematically destroying those drones so we can take down the barrier.” Gesturing to the open air around himself, Morty continued, “Letting the peaceful people of Ecruteak out isn’t the only reason why. You see, some of the other Gym Leaders and Frontier Brains are on their way to help us.”

    “Are you serious?” Falkner exclaimed. “How do you know? Why weren’t Kate and I told?”

    “I only just found out myself,” Morty answered, shrugging. “Tobias contacted me to let me know the arrangements he and Anabel put together.”

    “The governor himself told you…” Bunny uttered in surprise.

    With the matter of the exploding drones, Bunny, Kate and all the others had become distracted and stopped focusing on the mass of rioters in front of them. Many in that crowd had also heard the noises and shifted their attention, but it wasn’t long before one of them glanced back over to the group keeping them confined.

    “That Gengar!” one of them exclaimed. Their outburst quickly spread through the crowd, drawing the attention of most of the others back to Bunny and Kate’s team - particularly Morty.

    “Look, it’s Morty!” another angrily shouted.

    “Two Gym Leaders and a Frontier Brain all working together! It’s just like Ghetsis said!” yelled a third.

    Still another took a step forward, advancing slightly from the rest of the roiling crowd. “They’ll try to control us, but they won’t!”

    One thrown rock quickly turned into many as the crowd’s anger finally boiled over. Bunny and the others were so distracted by avoiding being hit that they didn’t notice the throng of furious people was advancing on them. Seeing this was all Silver’s Gyarados needed in order to act. A charge of electrical energy swiftly gathered in the horns above his eyes, and within seconds he struck the ground in front of the rioters with a multi-pronged Thunderbolt. They were only repelled for a brief time, though, and were soon moving toward Bunny and the others again.

    “I’ve had just about enough of this,” Bunny growled to herself, barely able to hear her own voice over the insults flowing from the crowd. “Tanya, you do your thing!”

    Tanya the Heatran stomped forward, moving into the space freed up by Bunny’s stepping aside. She widely opened her vast mouth, allowing great amounts of silvery light to flow into it. Just as that light became blinding, Tanya released the Flash Cannon, shooting a bright beam just over the vine connecting Gogoat and Leavanny. It exploded brilliantly upon striking the ground, pushing the rioters back further.

    “Whose Heatran is that?” Kate asked Bunny, looking back over her shoulder.

    “Matt’s, believe it or not.” Bunny couldn’t help but chuckle lightly when she imagined the odd image of Matt and Tanya side-by-side.

    “If he used it at the Battle Hall he might have reached me,” Kate told her. “Oh well, what’s done is done.”

    Both Bunny and Kate had started to relax, even slightly, but that didn’t last long. The sound of yet another explosion reached the group’s ears, much nearer than the others.

    Avril quickly stepped up next to Bunny and asked her, “Did you see where that came from?”

    “No, but…”

    Bunny’s search for the source was brought to a swift end by yet another explosion, this one even closer still. Its source was visible, not like the last one - in fact, the drone that exploded was almost directly above the rioters.

    They had already started to move away from the deafening sound, but the crowd had not gotten far before the drone crashed to the ground. The flames consuming the machine began to spread outward; within seconds, the previously aggressive throng of protesters had descended into panic. They charged forward to escape the escalating fire, unconcerned about the powerful Pokémon facing them down.

    “They’re going to trample us!” Avril screamed.

    “Gyarados, come down here and shield us!” Silver yelled up to his Pokémon. “Hurry!”

    Hearing the urgency in Silver’s voice only reinforced what Gyarados already knew from the mass of people approaching them. Well aware that he was the only one out who could provide the necessary sort of protection, Gyarados lowered his huge, serpentine body to form a wall around the humans.

    Meanwhile, Mako’s Tentacruel yanked on the vine that connected him to Gogoat and Leavanny with several of his tentacles. Gogoat stumbled toward Tentacruel, dragging Leavanny behind him. Both of them cringed behind Tentacruel, seeing that the crowd was nearly on top of them, but the trampling they feared never came. To their great relief, the rioters were charging all around them, kept away by the green light of Tentacruel’s Protect.

    The chaos spreading on the ground left Bunny, Kate and the others completely unaware of what was happening above them. What remained of the drone fleet were no longer circling the city. They were locked in place, shaking as the barrier cracked around them.

    -:-

    “Oh, yes, this is just perfect!”

    It was lucky that Colress was the only one inside the cockpit of the airship while he observed the combat consuming the city. Not for him, he wouldn’t have cared if he had an audience for his excitement over the data he was gaining, but for that audience itself. Calling it uncomfortable would only begin to describe their experience.

    That joy met an abrupt end when an alarm sounded through the chamber. A swift working of his keyboard brought up a window with the source - a diagram of the drones remaining above Ecruteak City. More than half of them were already gone, and loud beeps accompanied the ones that followed. Not only that, the red line encircling them was blinking on and off at a rapid pace. It continued to do so for a short time before disappearing entirely along with the remaining drones.

    “Impossible!” he spat, lunging forward in his seat. His expression turned nearly instantly, with his eyes widening in horror behind his visor. The now-empty diagram vanished after he typed a short command, which replaced it with the communication window he’d used to contact Ghetsis earlier. “Ghetsis!” Colress yelled, dropping his usual sarcastic, casual demeanor. “We’ve got a big problem here!”

    “Leave me alone!” Ghetsis snarled back from the other end of the transmission. “I’m busy!”

    “The barrier is down! They destroyed my drones!”

    -:-

    Whatever composure Ghetsis had left him when he opened his eyes. He didn’t want to believe what Colress had said, but there was no arguing with the rapidly-dissipating red light all around him. Overcome with rage, Ghetsis smashed his cane against the floor so hard it cracked despite its sturdy construction. His burning gaze almost immediately settled on Bell Tower, where he could still see the Prophet praying with Alesia and Hoopa nearby.

    “It’s your fault!” he screamed out, striking the ground with his cane again. “It’s all your fault! I’m through with having my work disrupted, especially by you insects! But…” A realization entered Ghetsis’s mind, making him calm down slightly. He said out loud, “I still hold the trump card, don’t I? You wouldn’t still be here if I didn’t… It’s about time I send you to the fiery death you deserve.” Thrusting his cane in the direction of the tower, he commanded, “Ho-oh, come to me! Use Sacred Fire and turn them to ash!”

    -:-

    The feeling of the cold air flooded into Olivia’s mind the instant she started regaining consciousness, making her violently twitch awake in Nikolai’s arms. She snapped her eyes open and took a single, gasping breath.

    “Olivia, please try to breathe!” Nikolai urged her.

    She didn’t say anything but implemented his advice. She thought she was still shaking at first, but realized before long that she wasn’t. It was Nikolai that was trembling out of worry for her well-being. Once he saw that her senses were returning to her, he relaxed.

    “What… what happened?” Olivia weakly gasped.

    “You had a seizure, from the looks of it,” Nikolai explained, his voice gentle in its tone. “Your friend is still going against those three.”

    Nikolai pointed forward, guiding Olivia’s eyes to the direction of Monroe’s fight with the Shadow Triad. His Steelix and Greninja were still putting up resistance to the Shadow Triad’s Pokémon, but both of them were covered in visible burns and other injuries. Although she couldn’t see the sweat rolling down Monroe’s forehead, Olivia knew the same thing he did - the Shadow Triad were winning.

    Olivia remained silent at first. Her thoughts about the situation were then supplanted by a memory she felt strangely compelled to share. Turning her head back up, she said, “Right before I blacked out, I saw something.”

    “What?” Nikolai asked

    “I saw…”

    Right at that moment, Ho-oh swept over them on its way to the Bell Tower. Olivia’s face turned as white as snow when she saw it. Everything about the way Ho-oh flew past them - the timing of its movements, the loud but brief screech it let out, even the precise positioning of the clouds in the sky behind it - perfectly matched what she had seen. Her previous words died out, replaced only by her slowly pointing toward the sky.

    “I saw Ho-oh,” she whispered, “exactly like that. Everything about it looked exactly like that.”

    -:-

    Ho-oh suddenly breaking off from its fight with the other Pokémon came as a great relief to them. They’d been struggling with the legendary creature for so much time that the sunlight from Kate’s Charizard’s Drought had long since disappeared. With their opponent gone for the time being, they took advantage of the chance to rest.

    Bunny’s Xatu was the one most affected by the protracted struggle. His age, while allowing him knowledge and maturity well beyond his companions, left his body unable to keep pace with them. Hethna noticed his weakness, so the Golurk popped out its right hand to catch him. Xatu cooed a soft sound of appreciation and curled up in Hethna’s grasp.

    The other Pokémon, meanwhile, emerged from between the tall buildings and regrouped. After that brief moment of respite, they rose from the maze of structures and saw Ho-oh heading for Bell Tower, prompting them to fly after it.

    -:-

    As she tried to reach Ho-oh’s heart, the Prophet visualized herself and the Pokémon in a vast, glowing blue space. She perceived a violent red aura emanating from Ho-oh, and she was surrounded herself by a green light. In the vision she took a slight step forward every time she tried to work her way deeper into Ho-oh’s mind. The red aura pushed against her like a violent wind, however, and even though it didn’t really exist she still felt it as if it did.

    She was so focused on her Transcendence prayer that she didn’t realize the very Pokémon she was trying to save was looming in the sky over the tower. Alesia did notice, and the bright blue fire sparking to life in its beak reflected in her wide, fearful eyes.

    “No…” she gasped. Forcing herself to move, she lunged in the Prophet’s direction. “Get down!”

    The Prophet could barely react before she was tackled to the floor by her follower. With her prayer interrupted, she reopened her eyes. Ho-oh cast a gigantic shadow over the pair, and the Sacred Fire was erupting from its mouth as it gained power.

    “Alesia…” the Prophet whispered, pulling her follower close to her. “After all of this, he wins…”

    “Hoopa will save Shekan and Alekan!” the tiny Pokémon suddenly exclaimed, flying in front of the two. It pulled the ring off one of its horns and raised it up in Ho-oh’s direction, making the loop enlarge dramatically. “Ho-oh fire, disappear!”

    The legendary Pokémon, driven in its madness to take Hoopa’s words as a dare, sent the massive orb of flame rocketing toward Bell Tower. Both Alesia and the Prophet shut their eyes and tightened their hold on each other to await their fiery fate, but when they heard an earsplitting explosion, they quickly realized they weren’t burning.

    Ho-oh’s attack had been destroyed, sending both clouds of smoke and falling bits of flame all around the tower. What truly shocked both Tenganists was not that, however, but the fact that the source of the explosion was not Hoopa. Whatever had protected them from the Sacred Fire was a fair distance away from them, between Ho-oh and Bell Tower.

    A light burst from the smoke, and once it faded, a figure began to emerge. As soon as she saw it, the Prophet could feel a new hope filling every inch of her body. Staring up at it in relief and awe, she reflexively recalled the time she first met it. That experience was something she never could forget.

    The snow that day had instilled a death-like chill deep in her bones. Her ragged coat could do little to protect her from it, even as it clung to her swollen body. She didn’t know where she was heading, and at that time, she almost didn’t care. The idea of wishing for the white abyss to swallow her up crossed her mind, but her survival instinct kicked in, forcing her toward a cave that had entered her vision. It wasn’t any warmer inside, but the cave did provide shelter from the snow. Once inside, she sat down and curled up as much as she was physically able to. She started quietly sobbing, but stopped when she realized she wasn’t alone. When she looked up, she saw it - the same figure she was now once again beholding, both humanoid and feline.

    “You will not harm these Pokémon or people any further,” it said once the smoke cleared further, its mental voice loud and commanding.

    At that point, everyone within sight - the Team Rocket members fighting against Zinzolin and Archer at the foot of the tower, Zinzolin and Archer themselves, Pierce, Ghetsis and Colress in addition to the two Tenganists - all could see the figure. Its identity was clear to all of them, and they were all shocked silent by it.

    Colress was the one to break the silence, excitedly jumping up from his chair and slamming his hand on his keyboard to open the communication link. “Jeunes’s old experiment toy! I can recreate a thousand of them but the original is something else!”

    For once, Ghetsis was truly, deeply shocked. He was unable to do anything but stare with his mouth open for several long, tense seconds, but once he regained his composure his smug attitude returned.

    “Well, well, well, what an unexpected guest,” he said to it in his usual smarmy voice. “To what do I owe this honor, Mewtwo? Enjoying the new voice?” Narrowing his eye, he continued, “You, the Pokémon who hates people, defending them…”

    “No. I hate people… people like you,” Mewtwo responded, pointing squarely at Ghetsis with one of its bulbous fingers. “After what Polaris did to me, I wandered… I had to understand the power you had given me in order to become stable. I did… and while I did, I came to realize that there are humans in the same position I have been in. These people, the Tenganists you have been hunting, took me into their home. They have protected me, and I will do the same for them.”

    “Even while they work with your hated enemy, Team Rocket?” Ghetsis countered. “Admit it, all humans lie!”

    “All humans lie, but not all humans’ lies are equal!” Mewtwo roared. “They told me of their alliances, knowing that it could cause me to leave them. I had to decide what I would do… but I came to understand that they are fighting for survival, and sometimes the lesser of two evils must be taken. Team Rocket has done unspeakable harm to me, but so has Polaris. I don’t fight for Team Rocket, I fight against whoever the greater evil is… and right now, you have the unfortunate position of being the greater evil.”

    Mewtwo’s formidable confidence gave Ghetsis chills, but he pushed away his nerves to maintain his own facade.

    “I think I’ve heard quite enough of your claptrap, science experiment. You think you’re trying to intimidate someone who can’t stand up to you.” Ghetsis pointed his cane in Mewtwo’s direction, prompting Ho-oh to to face the Psychic-type Pokémon and shriek loudly. “That’s where you’re wrong.”

    Acting on Ghetsis’s unspoken order, Ho-oh reared back and fired a Signal Beam straight at Mewtwo. Instead of trying to escape, Mewtwo spread its arms and enveloped itself in the light of Mega Evolution once more. Moments later, Mewtwo’s arm burst from the glowing shell and punched the Signal Beam, diffusing it and rendering it harmless. The rest of Mewtwo’s body emerged shortly afterward, but what greeted Ghetsis and Colress was not what they expected.

    Mewtwo had grown significantly taller and more muscular, with the majority of the bulk added to its arms and legs. Its tail was shorter than before, and its ears had become more pointed.

    “No,” it thundered, its authoritative, female-sounding voice replaced by a deep male voice that only made Ghetsis and Colress look at it with even more shock. “That’s where YOU’RE wrong.”

    “That form… it’s not…” Ghetsis was speechless, a rare occurrence for him. “What are you?”

    “I told you I had to make myself stable by understanding what Polaris did to me. When I did I realized I could use much more power than you thought possible when you experimented on me, and with training I awakened this second form. So as I said, you are in the unfortunate position of being the greater evil. I will not hesitate to fight if I must,” Mewtwo warned Ghetsis. “It is unfortunate but I will do what I must to help free Ho-oh from you. This is your last warning.”

    Ghetsis’s anger overcame him, leaving him completely unable to speak while he tightly clenched his teeth. “I had everything perfectly set… everything! And then this woman shows up and everything falls apart… I’ll burn her and everyone on her side into ashes! Not even their bones will remain!” Slamming his cane down, Ghetsis yelled, “Ho-oh, destroy that freak, then come back here and burn Bell Tower to the ground!”

    With that, the great phoenix was back off its leash. Mewtwo deftly floated between the bolts of lightning Ho-oh let loose, reverting to its base form as it did so. The Prophet, Alesia and Hoopa watched their ally twist through the air from the tower’s roof, the two humans still somewhat dazed by how quickly events had developed.

    “That’s a surprise!” Hoopa exclaimed while returning the ring to its horn. Its typical grin sank, and it dejectedly added, “Hoopa wanted to be the hero though…”

    “That’s okay,” Alesia said, standing back up. “Next time you can be a hero, alright?”

    “And let’s not forget how much you did for us today already,” the Prophet reminded Hoopa. “Besides, when we go back there’s a treat waiting for you.”

    “Hoopa wanted to be the hero now, though!” The small Pokémon’s frustration soon turned to excitement, once it realized what the Prophet had said to it. “Wait, do you mean…”

    “Sssh,” Alesia urged, raising her finger to her lips. “You do like surprises.”

    The Prophet couldn’t help but smile at Hoopa’s childish enthusiasm. “Somehow, at least Hoopa’s innocence has remained intact… I wish it could stay that way,” she thought.

    Looking back up, she saw Mewtwo and Ho-oh slowly moving around each other in search of the perfect position to attack. When she realized what was about to happen, she rushed to stand in the center of the circle atop the tower again.

    “Please, Mewtwo, hold Ho-oh off long enough for this to work…” Clasping her hands together, she chanted, “Transcend the confines of time and space!”

    -:-

    On Ecruteak City’s southern border with Route 37, the Gym Leaders and Frontier Brains summoned by Anabel and Tobias finally arrived. Lyra, the first to reach the city, stepped out in front of Bugsy, Whitney and Dahlia and put her hands behind her head.

    “Gee, you guys sure take your sweet time getting around, don’t you?” she said to the others. Noticing Dahlia using her phone, Lyra quickly turned indignant. “Can’t you even listen to what I’m saying?”

    “Ssh, this is important!” Dahlia snapped at her fellow Frontier Brain.

    “Without Dahlia, I would have taken even longer getting here,” Bugsy chimed in, patting the wing of Dahlia’s Zapdos as it stood between its owner and him. “Besides, your facility’s the closest to here.”

    Lyra was silent for a moment, then shrugged and said, “Whatever, I guess.”

    An explosion from deep in Ecruteak City reached the group’s ears. They were unable to know its source, but it still made all four of them shiver.

    “I don’t like the sound of that…” Whitney uttered, shifting her weight uncomfortably from one foot to the other.

    Lyra stretched her neck and sniffed at the air. “Smells like some real action to me.”

    “Alright, here’s the deal,” Dahlia spoke up, bringing the attention of the other three onto herself as she put her phone away. “Kate and Falkner are holed up in the northern part of the city near the water that you cross to reach Bellchime Trail, fighting fires. Apparently, that girl Olivia split off from them with one of her friends to go battle with Ghetsis’s bodyguards.”

    “Two fronts, four of us…” Bugsy scratched his chin as he assessed the situation. “We obviously are going to have to split up. I think Whitney and I should go help Falkner and Kate, since you and Lyra are stronger than us, Dahlia. Ghetsis’s bodyguards are probably the bigger danger here.”

    “Makes sense to me,” Lyra agreed. She cracked her knuckles, smiled and said, “I can’t wait to go all out on them!”

    -:-

    “This isn’t right…” Lucky fumed, tightly clenching both her teeth and her fists. “None of this is right at all!”

    Her Liepard, along with Dino’s Darmanitan, Druddigon and Sawsbuck, stood side by side in front of their trainers. All four were covered with burn marks and other injuries from their protracted struggle with Meowth, Swoobat, Cofagrigus, Vivillon, Inkay and Goomy. The Pokémon on Team Rocket’s side were similarly worn down, but this was exactly why Lucky was so frustrated.

    “You’re Team Rocket, you’re the criminals…” she continued ranting. “We’re the heroes! You should be on your knees in front of us!”

    “You really have got to start realizing that just believing in justice isn’t going to make it happen automatically,” Dino said to her with a sigh. “This has always been a hang up with you…”

    “Shut it, I’m not listening to this from you right now! We have to take them out!”

    On the other side of the field, Jessie put her right hand on her hip and smiled. “What’s the matter? Can’t work together like we can?”

    “We’ve got ‘Team’ in our name for a reason, after all,” James smugly added. “That’s one thing you guys will never have.”

    “It’s taking you more Pokémon than we’re using just to keep up with us,” Dino pointed out. “You can’t sustain this for long. Darmanitan, Druddigon, do a combined Fire Punch!”

    The two Pokémon pushed into each other. Darmanitan ignited his right arm and Druddigon her left, coming together to create a sizable mass of fire between them.

    “Vivillon, hit them with Powder!” Jessie called out, pointing directly at the oncoming pair.

    A cloud of red and black dust Vivillon shed from his wings met Darmanitan and Druddigon well before they could deliver their strike. The particles exploded upon contact with the pair’s flames, consuming them in a point-blank blast. While Druddigon fell back, Darmanitan suddenly began glowing, his shape changing. His arms shrank back into his body, leaving his hands flattened against his sides, while his eyes turned white and he adopted a rigid, seated position. In addition, his color changed from its ordinary red to a shade of blue.

    “Alright by me,” Dino said. “Buckling down into Zen Mode will let me tough this one out.”

    Lucky’s Liepard suddenly surged past Dino’s three Pokémon and screeched loudly. All of Team Rocket’s Pokémon writhed in pain from the ear-splitting noise.

    “It’s claws on a chalkboard without the chalkboard!” Meowth complained, holding his ears. He ran back to get Wobbuffet, who was standing behind the others, and forced the Psychic-type Pokémon forward. “Do something about this!”

    Wobbuffet shrieked in protest, but quickly complied with Meowth’s orders and used Mirror Coat, covering himself in a metallic sheen. The sound of Liepard’s Hyper Voice caused energy to build up around him. He let several seconds pass, then unleashed the energy in a single, powerful wave directed at Druddigon. The Dragon-type Pokémon failed to notice the unexpected attack and stumbled directly into its path. She was thrown violently into Liepard, halting the Hyper Voice.

    Lucky growled angrily, but before she could voice her ire at Dino for the collision, a loud explosion and a bright flash of light interrupted her. Shielding her eyes was a much greater priority. The blinding, sunlike radiance sustained for several seconds. When Lucky and the others sensed it finally starting to fade, they uncovered their eyes to discover Mewtwo and Ho-oh flying past.

    “Mewtwo?!” James shouted out in shock. “What’s it doing here?”

    Meowth climbed up on Wobbuffet’s head to get a better view of what was happening. “And going at it with that giant turkey?”

    If Mewtwo had taken notice of the Team Rocket agents on the ground below, it paid no attention to them. Its focus fixated squarely on Ho-oh, who was in the midst of preparing its Sacred Fire. With a screech and a swift beat of its wings, Ho-oh sent the fireball at Mewtwo, who quickly flew upwards to avoid it. After sailing beneath Mewtwo it continued on and crashed down on the streets below. The resulting explosion tore into the pavement and sent several cars tumbling over themselves until they came to rest against buildings, as well as snapping street lamps and shattering windows. It was also not far from the burning Pokémon Center, where a fairly large riot was present until the blast sent them scattering.

    “Ho-oh, you must return to your senses!” Mewtwo declared with a sweeping gesture.

    Those words failed to reach Ho-oh, who responded with a loud, screeching cry. Despite its sincerity, Mewtwo found itself unsurprised at their lack of effect.

    “I see. You are so far gone under his control that you cannot even remember who you are anymore. In that case, I will do what I must.”

    Resigning itself to the demands of the situation, Mewtwo spread its arms and once again became enveloped in a shell of light. What emerged, however, was not the Mega Evolution that it had used earlier. Instead of growing in size, Mewtwo had become smaller and more streamlined. Its tail was gone, replaced by a similar growth trailing from the back of its head, while its ears were now linked by a thin ring.

    Within mere seconds of Mewtwo completing its Mega Evolution, Ho-oh fired a rainbow-colored Signal Beam at it. Mewtwo seemingly disappeared nearly instantly and materialized again some distance away, allowing the attack to sail harmlessly off into the sky. In this fashion, Mewtwo dodged several more Signal Beams. The final time it reappeared, a sparking orb of electricity was in its smooth, rounded hand.

    “Ho-oh, I pity you,” Mewtwo said, narrowing its now-red eyes.

    With a single swift motion, Mewtwo threw its Electro Ball at Ho-oh. The sphere struck its target squarely in the breast, forcing a powerful shock through its body. Ho-oh squawked in pain and anger, convulsing until the shock passed. Once it had recovered, it saw Mewtwo flying toward the urban half of Ecruteak City at a slow enough speed that it remained visible. Shrieking in rage, Ho-oh gave chase.

    “Yes, follow me. Follow me into a place where I can hide.”

    Mewtwo slowed down even more once it was in the midst of the tall buildings and turned around to watch Ho-oh approach. It was greeted by a Weather Ball being spat in its direction, which it again avoided with its immensely heightened speed.

    Shrilly crowing once more in another attempt to intimidate Mewtwo, Ho-oh flew narrowly between the buildings and continued pursuing it. Mewtwo was more than happy to continue leading it on, only moving fast enough to stay out of Ho-oh’s reach. This only further enraged the Fire-and-Flying Pokémon, causing it to respond with an onslaught of lightning bolts. Mewtwo deftly flew between each fork of the Thunder barrage, paying little mind to the glass raining down from the windows Ho-oh was shattering.

    As the Thunder abated, Mewtwo abruptly vanished again. Left unable to see its prey, Ho-oh screeched and randomly launched a Sacred Fire, which tore through several buildings and left a trail of fire on them. Mewtwo suddenly surged from between two buildings with water all around its body, colliding with Ho-oh at a ninety-degree angle. Despite being significantly affected by the Dive, Ho-oh swiftly reacted, detonating a half-formed Sacred Fire at nearly point-blank range that sent Mewtwo crashing to the street below.

    A number of civilians fled from near the battle as Mewtwo slowly rose from the break in the pavement. “I must be careful, this form leaves me vulnerable physically…” it thought. Taking notice of the people running away from it, Mewtwo watched them for a brief time, then shook its head and turned its attention back to Ho-oh.

    The great phoenix was taking its time in looming over the road, intending to savor claiming its prey. It drew in a deep, heavy breath, pulling in heat that it used to begin forming yet another Sacred Fire. Mewtwo responded by lifting two nearby cars using its psychic powers and throwing them at Ho-oh, forcing it to use up its fireball to destroy them. This only succeeded in buying time, however, as Ho-oh was preparing still another Sacred Fire almost immediately.

    Mewtwo bitterly tensed its muscles and started forming an Electro Ball as a counterattack. Before the two legendary Pokémon could clash, though, multiple attacks ambushed Ho-oh from behind, stunning it. Sally, Hethna, Xatu, Sky, Charizard, Cupid, Pidgeot and Dragonite emerged, having followed the pair as they fought.










    Hethna landed on a nearby building, set Xatu down and pointed both its arms in Ho-oh’s direction. Cupid and Sky flew alongside it, and the Togekiss and Drifblim were soon joined by the others. Together, seven of the Pokémon unleashed Hydro Pump, Shadow Punch, Psychic, Thunderbolt, Heat Wave, Air Slash and Draco Meteor, while Falkner’s Pidgeot used Mirror Move to produce a Hydro Pump of her own.

    Ho-oh screamed beneath the onslaught, the combined force of the attacks pushing it downward and restraining its movement. On the street below, Mewtwo smiled at the Pokémon fearlessly assisting it.

    “None of you know me, yet you help me… thank you.”

    Mewtwo crouched slightly and began building up psychic power in its body, which it used to rocket up toward Ho-oh. It forced its hand into the base of Ho-oh’s neck and charged electricity through its fingers, forcing the Fire-and-Flying-type to violently convulse even with the multitude of attacks striking it from behind.

    “Ho-oh, remember who you are!” Mewtwo telepathically yelled.

    -:-

    The Prophet was so focused in her prayer that sweat was rolling down her face. In her vision, Ho-oh was tantalizingly close, yet every step forward she took was more difficult than the last. It felt as if the red light still flooding from every inch of the Pokémon was burning her skin off, but she refused to give up. Ho-oh was just a little over an arm’s length away.

    “Just… a little… more…”

    Right as she finally thought she would be able to move forward, the force pushing her back abruptly and significantly weakened. So much so, in fact, that she nearly fell right into Ho-oh. She managed to stay on her feet, however, and paused to look up at the Pokémon as it writhed around.

    “Ho-oh, you’re in so much pain… I can feel all of it. I know some of that is because Mewtwo had to fight you... blame me for it. Blame me for everything that’s happened… but please, hear my words and be free of Ghetsis’s control!”

    With that, the Prophet took one more step forward and put her hand firmly against Ho-oh’s body. In an instant a bright, blinding light and powerful wind tore from where they met, forcing her to close her eyes and steel herself much more firmly than she had at any point prior. Despite that, she knew that she’d accomplished her goal and gotten through, so she held her ground until both the light and wind faded away.

    When the Prophet opened her eyes again, she and Ho-oh were together in the vast blue glow of her vision, both of them calm and still. The great phoenix peered down at her with peace in its tired eyes for the first time, and breathed a tiny flicker of flame as it voiced its gratitude.

    “You’re free now, Ho-oh. Go and have your rest. Be at peace away from who has hurt you.”

    -:-

    On the roof of Colress’s airship, Ghetsis doubled over the guardrail, clutching his head.

    “How could you…” he growled as a slight trickle of blood started to run from beneath his eyepiece. He lifted his head just in time to see Ho-oh flying past, on its way back into the clouds. “Damn it all… to overpower my will... you freaks are not human, not one of you…”

    Hearing a faint noise behind him, Ghetsis forced himself to turn around. During his clash with the Prophet, Ghetsis had completely stopped paying attention to Matt, allowing him time to recover. He was shambling toward Nekou, who was still crumpled in a heap on the floor even further back.

    Even though he was so weak he had to put nearly all his weight on his cane, Ghetsis’s rage peaked all over again. “And neither are you two!” he screamed before turning to Aegislash, the only of his Pokémon he kept out. “Aegislash, Shock Wave!”

    The spike atop Aegislash’s body sparked to life with blue electricity. She spun from behind her shield to take on her Blade Forme, then blasted Matt with the energy. Grinding noises came from his arms and leg as he fell back down.

    “Nekou, help me…” he uttered in desperation, continuing to struggle toward her still form. He didn’t know what else he could do. “Please, do something…”

    Matt had no chance of seeing Aegislash preparing to electrocute him again. While he screamed in pain from it, Ghetsis stomped up behind him, having recovered enough strength to move.

    “You brought her here!” the Team Plasma leader thundered. “I looked all over for her after she outlived her use! She should have been dead by my hand, yet she evaded me at every turn! Now I see… I should have been watching you. I understand now why Finansielle has such an interest in you. You’re like a Feebas, foul and disgusting and yet you just keep going!”

    “What the fuck are you talking about…” Matt asked between spasms brought on by the electricity.

    “She was following you around all this time, I’m sure of it…” Ghetsis continued rambling. “I’ve had enough, I’ve had enough of all of this… I already killed your freak of a girlfriend, now I’ll kill you, and then I’ll kill every single Tenganist that’s left! Aegislash, Shock Wave him again!”

    Since Ghetsis had verbally ordered Aegislash to attack, Matt knew it was coming. With what strength he had left he cringed, but the shock he expected never came. Confused, he rolled over and gasped at what he saw.

    Nekou, having somehow gotten up and in the way so quickly he didn’t notice, was blocking Aegislash’s attack. He could clearly see that she hadn’t healed from the chain of injuries the Shadow Triad inflicted on her, and her condition in fact had arguably gotten worse. Her stance was uneven, owing to the fact that her right leg was back to its normal length, and while it was still elongated her spine was bent slightly to the right beginning where Ghetsis’s Metagross had crushed her. Her left arm, meanwhile, was rigidly stuck pointing upwards from the shoulder but dangling at the elbow.

    “How are you still alive?!” Ghetsis roared. “Fine, it doesn’t matter! Aegislash, stop using Shock Wave and just hit her with Head Sma-”

    “Oh, Mister Ghetsis!”

    The projection screen of Colress’s face appeared promptly after his interruption, just in time for Ghetsis to pivot to the scientist.

    “Colress, what do you want now?!”

    Colress responded with one of the sarcastic, condescending smiles he was notorious for. “I’m sure you’re having a grand old time, Mister Ghetsis, but our dear Finansielle is calling time on our little game now that you lost Ho-oh. She wants us back at the temple.”

    “How does she even know about that already?” Ghetsis angrily wondered. “That doesn’t matter. I can still turn this aro-”

    “No, Finansielle is quite sure you’re finished here,” Colress replied, his manner turning serious. “You know how she is. I wouldn’t question her, she’s quite the visionary. Make it quick, I need some time to launch our escape pod. After all, we don’t want anyone following us and this whole ship can’t cloak.”

    Ghetsis clenched his teeth. “I keep losing to kids and to these inhuman pieces of trash… They’re all below me! I don’t care anymore, I’ll just leverage what I did accomplish. Without its leader Polaris is still mine for the taking!” Unable to just leave, Ghetsis turned back to Matt and Nekou one last time and pointed his cane at them. “Matt Chiaki, Nekou Lalume, you two listen and listen well. I won’t forget what you two helped do here today. From this day forward, you are on my list of mortal enemies. For every single one of the few days you have left to live, look over your shoulders wondering when your judgment will come. Enjoy your time while you still have it!”

    Matt certainly had no strength left to give chase, and Nekou’s mental state kept her rooted to the spot, so when Ghetsis recalled his Pokémon and fled to a nearby lift he had nothing to hinder him. Before they knew it, he was gone.

    With Ghetsis out of sight, Matt’s attention shifted to Nekou. He reached up toward her, his metal arm shaking, and weakly said, “Nekou, it’s over, I think…”

    She didn’t respond at first, but eventually, Nekou slowly turned around. Matt sharply breathed in and pushed himself back when he saw her face.

    Her expression was completely blank, making it look as if her body was just a puppet being controlled by some other entity, and her eyes were fading between their usual brown color and the yellow glow symbolizing her powers.

    “Nekou, what’s wrong…?”

    -:-

    “Oh yes, oh yes, Typhlosion! Keep going with Eruption! Azumarill, Aqua Jet!”

    Monroe’s battered Greninja and Steelix, freed from their struggle by Lyra and Dahlia’s interference, hung back with their trainer as the two Frontier Brains engaged the Shadow Triad. Though appreciative of the help, all three of them could only stare awkwardly at Lyra over her excitement.

    Olivia, having joined them, smugly crossed her arms and remarked, “I’ve seen this whole thing before. She’s like this a lot.”

    “I think her Pokémon are on the exact same page,” Nikolai blandly added, watching from even further back.

    The three ninjas stood and ground their feet into the dirt, frustrated by what they were watching. Pestilence’s Chesnaught struggled against the rain of fiery stones Typhlosion dropped on him by covering himself with his Spiky Shield. At the same time Chaos’s Delphox spun back and forth, trying to keep up with Azumarill as the Water-type weaved in close to strike.

    Seeing an opening in the exchange for his Pokémon to attack, Darkness immediately took action. “Greninja, Smack Down!”

    Looking past the pair harassing his teammates, the black Greninja set his sights on Dahlia’s Zapdos, who was hanging back. He gathered a cluster of rocks and threw them at the Electric-and-Flying-type.

    “Get away from it and use Thunderbolt!” Dahlia reflexively commanded.

    The stones sailed harmlessly under Zapdos’s talons as it beat its wings and rose into the air. Once it reached a sufficient height, it released a blast of electricity so quickly that Greninja couldn’t begin to react to it. Even though his Protean had shifted him to the Rock-type and thus removed his weakness to electricity, Greninja wailed in pain from the unrestrained force of the shock.

    “Darling, did you really think you would put one over on the Arcade Star?”

    Being talked down to filled Darkness’s mind with so much rage that his judgment became clouded, making him consider ordering Greninja into another direct confrontation with Zapdos. The conflict was suddenly interrupted when seven of Colress’s Reuniclus floated over, however, and seeing them made the Shadow Triad understand what was going on.

    “If they’re here that means we’re done in this city,” Darkness said to his brothers while recalling his Greninja. “Let’s go.”

    “I hope this means we won…” Chaos thought.

    Once Chesnaught and Delphox had been recalled by their masters, the three ninjas went directly to three of the Reuniclus. Using their powers, the Psychic-type Pokémon lifted the Shadow Triad into the air.

    “You think we’re going to let you get away?” Lyra yelled at them.

    “I don’t think,” Darkness swiftly retorted, “I know.”

    A pained scream from behind them made the two Frontier Brains whip around. The other four Reuniclus were clustered around Nikolai, restraining him by forcibly stretching his limbs with their powers.

    “Nikolai!” Olivia cried out. She started to run toward him, prompting one of the Reuniclus to break away and direct a Shadow Ball at her to throw her to the ground.

    “Ah, ah, ah,” Darkness scolded her while shaking his head and waving his finger, “you don’t want to do that. Wouldn’t it just be a shame if your friend got hurt even more just because you tried to be a hero? You’re not your father, kid.”

    “You’re not your father, kid.” The words repeated in Olivia’s mind again and again, louder each time, making her dig her fingernails into the dirt.

    “That goes for you Frontier Brains, too,” the Shadow Triad leader warned.

    “I don’t take orders from ugly nerds like you,” Lyra retorted. “Azumarill, Typhlosion, we can take these things.”

    “No, don’t!”

    Ignoring Nikolai’s plea, Lyra pointed to the sky and began to say, “Typhlosion, Shadow Claw! Azumarill, Aqua-”

    “Have it your way.” Darkness snapped his fingers, and the four Reuniclus joined hands to form a circle around their captive. The instant they made contact with each other, the force holding Nikolai multiplied, making him scream out even louder.
     
  13. The Great Butler

    The Great Butler Hush, keep it down

    “Stop it!” Dahlia demanded.

    Darkness barely managed to stifle a laugh. “You’re in no position to be making demands right now, Arcade Star, but I am. You stop giving us trouble or I make his situation worse. Lord Ghetsis only wants him alive, nothing’s stopping me from twisting an arm or a leg on the way. Don’t test me.”

    “Let them go…” Nikolai groaned, bringing four pairs of shocked eyes squarely onto himself. “He’s serious… I can’t figure out who they are or what this Lord Ghetsis wants with me, but… I can tell he’s serious and you cannot do anything to stop him.”

    “What kind of a friend would I be if I let them take you?” Olivia snapped, pounding her first into the dirt.

    “Friend?” Nikolai said in surprise. “We barely know each other… and besides, I only feel like I’m friends with Pokémon…”

    “Stop talking like that!” This time, Olivia drove both her fists into the ground. “It doesn’t even matter anymore! You’re nice to me and that’s all that matters. I don’t want any more people to get hurt…”

    “You mean like that freak with the black hair and the knives?” Pestilence interjected. “You know, the one my Doublade and I sliced up?”

    Olivia froze, then slowly twisted her head until she could see over her shoulder. Her eyes were as large as they had ever been. “What… did you… just say?”

    “Come on, we can’t stay any longer,” Darkness said to Pestilence and Chaos. “I don’t think we’re going to have any more trouble.”

    Olivia and the others could do nothing but watch as the three ninjas and their prisoner were swept away by the Reuniclus. She helplessly grit her teeth, but when she caught Nikolai’s last glance at her, she deeply inhaled. Even though it was brief and from a fair distance, she somehow picked up exactly what it meant.

    “I don’t know how, but… somehow, I’ll try to save you…”

    -:-

    The Shadow Triad were not the only ones using Colress’s Reuniclus to escape Ecruteak City. Elsewhere, two more of them had gone to collect Dino and Lucky.

    As she was being carried away, Lucky clutched onto the Psychic-type’s gelatinous body and sneered down at Jessie, James, Meowth and their Pokémon. “This isn’t right…” she said to herself. “None of this is right! We’re admitting defeat when we should have victory!”

    “Sometimes you have to live to fight another day,” Dino said to her. “Besides, who knows? Maybe this wasn’t a complete loss.”

    “It’s a loss if we didn’t win,” she bitterly mumbled into her Reuniclus, “and that’s that.”

    That attitude was not shared by Jessie, James and Meowth, who laughed and waved after their departing enemies.

    “Yeah, you run!” James shouted at them.

    “You call yourself Lucky but today we’re the lucky ones!” Jessie added.

    “That’s right!” Meowth finished.

    -:-

    At the foot of Bell Tower, Archer was making a hasty exit of his own. After helping to fight Proton, Petrel, Ada and Trevor’s Pokémon to a standstill, he had called his Sudowoodo back to its Poké Ball and promptly replaced the Rock-type with a Crobat. She lifted him into the air to facilitate his escape.

    “This reunion was a blast,” Archer called down to his former allies, “but I’m taking my leave now. I’ll see you again soon! Really soon…”

    The four Team Rocket members who fought Archer just watched as he flew off on his Crobat, their rage at his treachery burning silently just below the surface. They paid no mind to Zinzolin, who had recalled his own Pokémon and was muttering to himself.

    “They’re pulling out too quickly…” the elderly man noted. “Something went wrong. Ghetsis lost Ho-oh, but he wouldn’t have called a retreat so immediately… they must know something…”

    Zinzolin reached to his chest and put his hand over the Team Plasma symbol on the front of his coat. In spite of the cold winter air, sweat was rolling down his face. He finally turned and ran into the woods as quickly as his aged body could carry him, soon completely disappearing from sight. Team Rocket still paid no attention to him.

    “Archer wouldn’t be going anywhere if I was able to help,” Ariana said, her voice strained and raspy. She was leaning slightly forward, clutching her stomach. “We should still…”

    “We have to retreat ourselves,” Rosalie intervened, stretching from her wheelchair to clutch Ariana’s hand. “None of us are in any state to keep going like this. Retreat and regroup, that’s what I think.”

    Ariana stopped and thought about Rosalie’s advice. “You’re right… I’ll give the order.”

    -:-

    When Mewtwo caught sight of Colress’s spherical escape pod separating from the airship, an electric feeling ran through its muscles.

    This was its chance. It had conversed with the Prophet at great length about revenge on Ghetsis, and Mewtwo knew that chance was now right in front of it. Halting its flight, it fixed its sight on the pod and allowed an Electro Ball to spark to life in its hand.

    “It’s been so long…” Mewtwo thought to itself, “but your time is up, Ghetsis. This is what you deserve!”

    With a snarl, Mewtwo flung the sparking orb at the pod. Before it connected, though, its target began to fade from view while the sound of its engines roared. Mewtwo’s Electro Ball shot past where the pod had just been and flew off into the sky.

    Seeing its attack fail angered Mewtwo, though not as much as the fact that its chance to exact revenge on Ghetsis had vanished. Rising toward the last place it had seen the craft, Mewtwo made another Electro Ball take shape between its twitching fingers, threw it randomly, then spun around with a third at the ready. Mewtwo hesitated, however, when it saw Alesia guiding Nekou and Matt through one of Hoopa’s rings on top of the ship.

    While waiting for them to leave the area, Mewtwo neutralized its own Electro Ball and transformed into its streamlined Mega Evolution. Alesia and the others were gone by the time it emerged from the cocoon of light, so Mewtwo took a deep breath and shot like a bullet into the ship.

    Seconds later, the craft was torn asunder, eviscerated from within by an explosion of blue light created by Mewtwo’s Psystrike. Twisted pieces of scorched metal rained down, and Mewtwo emerged from the center, as if what was once the ship had become a blooming, iron flower.

    -:-

    As they emerged from Hoopa’s ring outside Ecruteak City, Nekou shambled behind the others. She could barely even recognize her surroundings. The pain shooting through her violently twitching body clouded her mind too much.

    “The pain is back…” she thought, hearing a loud crack come from her leg. “It hurts! Make it stop!!”

    “If you keep fighting me, you will keep suffering.” A crack and accompanying spasm from her spine shifting kept Nekou’s actual personality alert, irritating her other self even further. “Stop it! Stop misbehaving! You know what you need to make this stop! We’ve been over this!”

    “Fuck that! You aren’t doing anything for me right now!”

    “It’s because you keep resisting me! Give yourself up to me completely! You have to do that, and you never have!”

    “Fuck you!”

    Bones throughout Nekou’s body kept cracking and popping as the influence of her other self wore down, forcing her to stumble several more steps forward. The agony of this, combined with the struggle between her two personalities playing out in her head, proved too much for her mind to handle. As her vision clouded, she could see Matt, Alesia and Hoopa all staring at her. Her head fell back, and when she opened her mouth to try to breathe, all she produced was a sickly gurgling noise.

    Her world then went completely black.

    -:-

    With their titanic struggle over, Sally, Hethna and the other Pokémon that fought Ho-oh found themselves in the inescapable clutches of another enemy - extreme exhaustion. They’d been able to push themselves far past their ordinary limits, but the adrenaline wearing off left all of them barely able to move. Luckily for them, plenty of buildings on Ecruteak City’s urban side survived the destruction, allowing them more than enough space to land and rest.

    None of them had recovered much strength, but they were able to observe the destruction the battle had caused. Their collective attention was drawn away from the damaged structures around them by the bright, golden light of three rings opening up in the air nearby.

    -:-

    Up in the sky above Ecruteak, Jessie, James and Meowth’s balloon steadily left the city behind. The three Team Rocket agents clustered around a holographic screen projected from the craft’s control console, on which Rosalie’s face was displayed.

    “Head back to Olivine,” the scientist instructed them between puffs on her pipe. “Operation Atlas went completely sideways.”

    “That’s an understatement…” Proton could be heard commenting from outside the display.

    “We need to regroup with what we’ve got left,” Rosalie continued. “Polaris won this round but we can’t let them walk away with the war. Get to Olivine immediately.”

    With that, the projection disappeared, ending the transmission.

    “Looks to me like we’ve got another big job coming,” Jessie said to James and Meowth. “We won when it came to our part, so the boss will reward us!”

    James crossed his arms, shut his eyes and frowned. “But did you catch what else she said?”

    “What’re you getting at, James?” Meowth sharply asked.

    “Well, Rosalie said that Polaris won this round, so what happened outside of what we did?”

    Jessie’s smile slowly faded as the reality of what James was saying fully sank in. “Come to think of it, why didn’t the boss contact us himself? Why’d Rosalie do it?”

    “Well we ain’t gonna find any answers standing around here!” Meowth declared. He jumped onto the control panel and grabbed the steering stick. “Set sail for Olivine City!”

    -:-

    A gentle snowfall touched the Sinjoh Ruins’ wintry wasteland of snow-capped cliffs and plateaus. To an observer unaware of the area’s ongoing painful history, it would have been a peaceful sight, closed off to the chaos in the outside world.

    The landscape was beginning to sink into the darkness of late afternoon until Hoopa’s three rings opened, casting golden light over it. Pierce and Alesia were the first to emerge, working together to help Anthea and Concordia through. The Prophet and Hoopa came next, but Kristos and Lotus quickly caught up.

    “There’s something we’ve been meaning to ask you,” Kristos said to her.

    “Please be quick,” the Prophet replied.

    “Well… the TLF’s efforts would be stronger if we had more members, right?” Lotus ventured. “After what happened today… don’t you think it would be worth talking to Matt Chiaki and seeing if we could get his group on our side?”

    Before Lotus was even done asking her question, the Prophet halted her advance, grinding her boot into the ground. Lotus immediately knew she’d done something wrong and shrunk back, prompting her husband to take her hands in an attempt to calm her.

    “Consider what we’re saying,” he added to her words. “Team Rocket we already knew would help us, but Matt Chiaki was willing to stand up to Ghetsis’s face, even if he failed. If we supported him and he supported us, it only helps us.”

    “Absolutely not,” the Prophet growled through clenched teeth. Her entire face was locked in a state of rigid tension. “All that would happen is that he’d become useless to us. We have to stay unseen. As long as he has no idea what’s really going on, he’ll be doing what we need him to be, but if he knew who I am… if he knew who I am it would completely break his spirit. He’d blame himself, shut down and never come out of it, and at that point he’d be useless.”

    “Are you su-”

    Lotus’s continued inquiry got cut off when the Prophet abruptly started walking forward again. The cloaked woman rejoined Hoopa, who had floated well ahead before realizing it was alone.

    -:-



    “-ntinue to watch as authorities fight the fires in Ecruteak City…”

    Nekou snapped violently back into consciousness, and nearly instantly felt her senses under assault. Voices chattering around her, light blasting into her eyes, the sensation of multiple textures touching her flesh, the smell of the blood all over the front of her coat - all of it came together in her brain to incite an extreme urge to lash out. Terrible pain shot through her body at the slightest effort she made to move, forcing her to stay still where she was on her back.

    As the initial shock of her awakening wore off, Nekou narrowed and then blinked her eyes. Each time she opened and closed them, her vision grew clearer. Her breathing stabilized, and she caught a familiar scent - something sweet and floral. Shifting her eyes to her side, she saw Olivia sleeping right next to her and realized it was the girl’s favorite shampoo.

    That calmed her enough to finally glance around at where she was. Though not particularly spacious, the room was just large enough to be comfortable. She easily recognized her surroundings, from the soft couch she woke up on, to the television set into the wood-paneled wall opposite her, and everything in between.

    “You’re finally up…”

    Nekou couldn’t twist her neck far enough to see him, but she could tell Matt was sitting somewhere close behind her. “Of all the places I could’ve woken up, your little fucking tour bus was the last place I’d expect…” she uttered in a raspy voice.

    “HR-E’s not a bus…” Anticipating the kind of reaction Nekou usually would have had, Matt quickly added, “It doesn’t matter. Me being able to call him anywhere he’s needed is something you appreciate right now, I bet.”

    Ignoring Matt’s words, Nekou tried to pull herself upward, only to be stopped by an audible cracking sound from her upper back. “Shit!” she spat, falling back onto the couch. “What’s going on? I can’t… I can’t remember…”

    “Where do I even start? After Ghetsis ran off, a girl I didn’t recognize showed up with this strange Pokémon. They took us through a ring, which I guess was a portal, and we just… ended up outside Ecruteak City somehow. They picked up Olivia, Bunny, Monroe, Avril and all the Pokémon too.”

    “I told you, I think that Pokémon is called Hoopa.” Bunny suddenly interjected, surprising Nekou, who was completely unaware she was leaning on the wall next to the couch. “I’ve read about it before.”

    “Another thing we should be thankful for, I guess,” Matt quietly said.

    By that point, the conversation around her had roused Olivia from her slumber. She stretched her arms, yawned, and looked around. “What’s going on?”

    Nekou immediately reacted upon hearing her voice. “Olivia, you’re alright?”

    “You’re awake?” In a flash, Olivia stood up, turned around and dove onto the couch to hug Nekou. “You’re awake! You’re okay!” she cried. “I was afraid you wouldn’t ever come back!”

    “I’m… I’m glad you were worried about me…” Nekou replied with a weak smile, “...but please, let me go and stop yelling…”

    “I’m sorry!” Olivia blurted out as she backed off, though she quickly caught herself, lowered her voice and said, “I mean, I’m sorry. We were all just really worried about you, and I really wanted to tell you I caught that Mareep that’s been following us, and…”

    “They keep worrying about me even when they know what kind of a monster I am… and I keep lying to them about everything…” Keeping her thoughts to herself, Nekou instead replied, “So you caught it after all… I wish my Pokémon were here.”

    “Who said they weren’t?” Matt corrected her.

    Upon Matt’s prompting, all of Nekou’s Pokémon emerged. Pumpkaboo and Zorua, the two youngest of them, nestled against her face. Marie, Dalian, Lenore and Edgar ringed her from the side, giving soft, reassuring nudges to their trainer. She looked down at them and embraced them as a faint, tired smile crept onto her face.

    “You guys… I know I can always count on you…”

    While Nekou took comfort in the presence of her Pokémon, the others’ attention was drawn by Monroe and Avril entering the HR-E from outside. When she did look over at the door, the fading sunlight she could see made her realize just how long she’d been unconscious.

    “I just got done talking to our dad,” the middle sibling said to Matt, gesturing with his head to the phone in his hand. “He’s going to meet up with us in Olivine City so he can bring you the papers the Angel Corporation needs you to sign.”

    “Papers?” Bunny asked.

    “I’m sorry I didn’t mention it sooner…” Matt said. “I’ve been in contact with Gabriella for some time, and I’ve arranged to give the Angel Corporation a license to develop a functioning ALEA prototype. I can’t build a large-scale one by myself.”

    “Drugs, banking, oil, now clean energy… they really are in everything…” the brown-haired woman mused aloud, leaning more of her weight against the wall.

    “Wait, you guys,” Olivia interrupted, her gaze fixed on the television, “look at that.”

    While they had been talking among themselves, the news report had continued. Tobias was on the screen, standing in an outdoor area with an unseen person holding a microphone up to his face. When Olivia’s comment drew the others’ attention to it, they all joined her in watching.

    “-tuation in Ecruteak City is alarming,” he said to the interviewer. “We have to ensure order to the best of our ability so all remaining threats can be dealt with. For that reason, I am announcing that Ecruteak City will be closed off until the safety of its citizens and the integrity of the investigation into this incident can be completely assured. I have already sent specialists to assist Gym Leader Morty and Frontier Brain Kate in relief efforts.”

    Most of the group listened intently to the broadcast, but not Nekou. All she could do was shift her eyes around, glancing at those of her friends she could see to the direction of those she could only hear. The more she took them in, and as the seconds ticked by, the more a crushing feeling of guilt settled into her.

    “These people… they treat me like I have a place here. I don’t deserve... they’ve seen what I am…”

    The sound of a fanfare from the television snapped Nekou out of her daze, finally attracting her attention to the screen. Following an animated ‘Breaking News’ graphic, the anchor returned to sight.

    “It’s the top of the hour and for those of you just joining us, the ongoing story continues to be what’s rocking all of the Tohjo Continent, the riots and subsequent disastrous attacks in Ecruteak City. Today, following a speech by Ghetsis Harmonia, the representative of the Polaris organization, the crowds present quickly turned violent under unclear circumstances, and shortly afterward, the legendary Pokémon Ho-oh appeared and rampaged, culminating in a catastrophic amount of destruction throughout the city. Governor Tobias has announced the closing of all routes in and out of Ecruteak City while efforts to deal with the destruction and remaining fires get underway.

    We’re just getting this in now, the very first reports of casualties in this disaster, coming from the Ecruteak City Pokémon Center, which was firebombed during the riots…”


    “Olivia, go outside. You shouldn’t hear-”

    Matt couldn’t even finish his sentence before Olivia snapped at him, “Stop treating me like a kid!”

    Matt froze and opened his mouth to say something, only for empty air to come instead of words. As the newscaster continued to speak, Matt realized that he genuinely didn't have any rebuttal to Olivia's outburst and shrank back into his chair.

    “...the process of identifying the victims is underway, and we have one name that we can report. Doctor Dante Fantomos…”

    The moment Dante’s name passed the anchor’s lips, all the color drained from Olivia’s face. She clenched her fists so tightly that she almost made her palms bleed.

    Shit,” she muttered, her jaw tightening. “I knew he wasn’t out!”

    Though they didn’t vocalize it, Bunny, Avril and Monroe - who had been with Olivia when they failed to reach the Pokémon Center in time - all had their faces sink in defeat when their worst fears were confirmed.

    Avril slammed her fist against the wall and quietly said to herself, “Didn’t even really know the guy, but this…”

    “...a statement has been provided to us by Angel Corporation president Gabriella Bouchard on his death,” the newscaster revealed. He was then swiftly replaced on the screen by Gabriella.

    “Dante was a great guy, it’s a shame the world won’t get to see what he was working on for us,” she flatly said into the camera, fidgeting her hands on her desk. A backlit Angel Corporation logo on the wall behind her was partially visible, casting a strange glow around her. “His work for the past four decades was meant to help the Angel Corporation get rid of some of the nastiest diseases you can think of. Right before he… before he bit the dust, Dante was on the edge of making the greatest discovery of modern medicine. I don’t know if anyone can duplicate his work. The way he thought… it was unlike anyone I’ve known, and I’ve lived enough years to know a lot of people. The world is a worse place now with him gone, that’s… all I can say, I guess.”

    “At least he’s with his daughter and wife now…” Matt uttered as his eyes sank downward.

    Nekou, meanwhile, was still wrapped up in her thoughts. “They’ve seen what kind of a monster I am… just having me here puts them at risk, and they don’t even fully…” Steeling herself mentally for what she had to do, she took a deep breath and forced herself to slowly sit up. It was agonizing, and her bones cracked with each inch she moved, yet she simply clenched her teeth and endured it. Once she was fully up, she gasped for breath and said, “We... we really should get to Olivine City. You want to find out the truth, right?”

    “I let another friend die…” Matt mumbled to himself, his face blank. He seemingly didn’t notice Nekou’s question at first, but after a few seconds, he snapped himself out of his daze and looked directly at her. “Yeah, that is true…”

    “And we can get to my next Gym there, too…”

    “Olivia, wait,” Monroe interrupted. “The Olivine Gym’s not going to be open for another week.”

    “Why?” she exclaimed, quickly turning around. “What happened to it?”

    “The previous Gym Leader, Jasmine, she just got promoted up to the Elite Four. They haven’t officially-”

    Avril suddenly cut her brother off, sullenly saying, “The new Gym Leader’s not opening the place up until next week, so there’s really no reason to rush there.”

    Olivia took a moment to silently consider her rival’s odd behavior, but quickly disregarded it and turned back around. “I guess it’s a chance to get ready some more,” she said with a shrug. “Nekou, you alright with that?”

    “I want to get this over with, but if we’re sitting around Olivine for a week, it’ll just be dead time for everything to stew…” Realizing that Olivia was staring at her, Nekou shifted herself uncomfortably. “I… I guess. We can take our time…” She then put her hand against her forehead and muttered, “I need a drink.”

    As soon as the last syllable left her mouth, Nekou felt something land in her lap. She looked down and saw that Matt had tossed her his flask.

    “Way ahead of you on that one,” he said, ignoring the shudder that ran through his fingers and up his arm after doing so.

    -:-

    “And so, as you can see, interest in our cause is already steadily increasing. That, of course, has to be attributed to my very persuasive speech.”

    Many hours after the end of the conflict in Ecruteak City, nine out of the ten Chromosomes had assembled in the Sacred Helix’s meeting room. Ghetsis’s boasting was being met by bored expressions and slumping in chairs, but this was an audience he didn’t care about exciting.

    “And what do you have to say about Ho-oh’s little temper tantrum?” Athleta questioned, leaning his head against his hand.

    “I was just waiting for one of you to ask that,” Ghetsis immediately responded, flashing his signature grin. He tapped a few keys on the console in front of him to dismiss the hologram screens bearing the information he’d been showing the others from the center of the room. “Ho-oh went wild because those disgusting, vile Tenganists interfered, and they had help. None of you recognized the threat Team Rocket posed-”

    Athleta refused to drop the point. “That’s not going to fly as an excuse, Ghetsis. You’re the one who’s always been against them. If anyone could have beaten them, it was you.”

    “None of you recognized the threat Team Rocket posed,” Ghetsis repeated, striking the desk repeatedly with his finger for emphasis. “I’m the one who knows them, I knew them in Unova and I knew enough to beat them now. It’s the fact the Tenganists and Team Rocket got together that made things go less than perfectly. All of you left Team Plasma to handle this practically alone. What help did you give me, Archer? It’s no wonder that I couldn’t bring Ho-oh in too!”

    “I hope you know that Athleta and I have to clean up your mess now,” Praeses chimed in. “Aren’t you the one who’s supposed to have a good way with words?”

    “I think we’ve heard it a million times…” Getriebe mumbled.

    “It’s great that your speech got people talking about and looking into Polaris’s cause,” the man in the Darkrai mask continued. “It wasn’t supposed to end with a city burning down. Those of us who have to be out there every day, that’s something we have to deal with.”

    “Then maybe you should have gotten out there and contributed!” Ghetsis countered. Underneath his desk, he was clenching his fist tighter and tighter.

    Crossing her hands in front of herself and leaning her head on them, Finansielle interjected, “I’m more interested in Matt Chiaki’s role in what happened.”

    Before any further conversation could take place, however, the increasingly heated exchange was interrupted by Archer emerging from the shadows to stand next to the empty seat at the head of the room.

    “Sorry I’m late,” he said, wearing a smug smirk of his own and crossing his hands behind his back.

    “Archer, did we really have to call a meeting just to listen to Ghetsis jerk himself off?” Séduire complained. She’d become so frustrated by the experience that she’d curled her legs up onto her chair and was rocking back and forth.

    “I don’t think that’s an image any of us needed, Séduire,” Geminus quickly said, fighting back a laugh.

    “All jokes aside, it’s a good question,” Jeunes added. With his Mewtwo mask long since destroyed, he now wore a simple silver replacement lacking in features aside from two thin eyeholes.

    It took every ounce of his will, but Ghetsis managed to ignore them. “Good, Archer, you’re finally here,” he sarcastically uttered. “Now that we have a full panel here, I’m bringing a movement to the floor. I have done more for this organization than any of the others seated in this room. The proof is in our cause moving to the mainstream after the speech I gave, that fully convinced the public of the legitimacy of what we stand for. In the face of this incontrovertible evidence, I hereby move that I be moved up to the seat of First Chro-”

    “You will silence yourself right now!”

    Almost immediately, all the eyes in the room turned in the direction of the new voice. It was one they all recognized. Most of the Chromosomes looked toward the empty seat with glowing looks of excitement, with two exceptions. Finansielle simply sat and smiled to herself, while Ghetsis’s face lost what little color it had. He knew whose voice it was, too, and the sudden presence of it made him feel the one emotion he usually only inflicted on others: fear.

    “I hereby announce the convening of this meeting of the full Sacred Helix!” Archer announced, shooting a knowing glance at Ghetsis as he did so. “The presiding official of this conference, the First Chromosome, Father!”

    The figure of Polaris’s leader slowly, deliberately emerged from the darkness, supporting his steps with the helix-shaped staff in his right hand. His slow motions conveyed an overwhelming dignity that would have been intimidating if those in the room weren’t mostly his followers. Even his clothing - a well-kept, dark-green military uniform beneath gently flowing crimson robes - seemed to fall under his sway, perfectly bending to his every move.

    “Oh, uh, well… it’s very good to have you back!” Ghetsis fumbled, his swagger turning into complete desperation in an instant. As proud a man as he was, he never was above demeaning himself to ensure his own survival, even if he hated it. “I was just telling the rest of these fools about how well our event in Ecruteak City did to advance our-”

    “That is enough out of you!” Father thundered in response as he sat down. The voice produced by his face-covering, dark green helmet had a smooth, sophisticated sound that made his anger even more menacing. “I am aware of everything that has taken place. We are tired of your arrogant manipulation of this noble organization!”

    Ghetsis suddenly felt a bead of sweat rolling down his face. “Whatever do you mean?” he asked, knowing he was walking into a trap but unable to stop himself.

    Without another word, Father dramatically pressed a button on his own console. A hologram screen displaying nothing but a graphic of a speaker materialized in the center of the room, and a familiar conversation filled the air.

    “You’re such a fucking fraud!” It was Matt’s voice, and even though he was yelling over a loud wind, his words were crystal clear. “None of this has anything to do with liberating anyone from anything, does it?! What does Polaris really stand for?”

    Ghetsis knew what was coming next, and it made him lock completely up in his seat. If he had inflicted the fear he felt on someone else he would have loved it, but in the state he was in, that was completely lost on him.

    “You got me there, but I have to correct you on one thing. I serve none but myself. Polaris? Don’t make me laugh! Polaris are a bunch of small-minded fools chasing an idiotic ideology for some delusional ideal of freedom and hope. Me? I’m doing something much more tangible. What the Tenganists did to my ancestors will be paid back tenfold, and to accomplish that, I will seize control of all of Polaris. With Ho-oh, none of them will be able to stop me! I’m going to resurrect Team Plasma and make all of my dreams come true! You can bear witness to that! I’m done waiting. Ho-oh is ours, Team Rocket is beaten, and soon this entire city will be burning in its own funeral pyre. I’ll be needing this airship for the next stage of my plan, so go dispose of that fool Colress. He won’t be needed anymore.”

    “Yes, Lord Ghetsis!”
    the Shadow Triad could be heard saying in unison.

    As the screen faded away, Ghetsis could feel the stares of everyone else in the room piercing straight through him. He tried to force himself to remain calm. “How… Colress, the ship… he recorded it, that must be it. That’s all it is, though, a recording. I can convince them it’s all a mistake. I’m Ghetsis Harmonia after all, I nearly convinced an entire region of people to release their Pokémon. I can…”

    Despite his best efforts to project his ordinary confidence, his one visible eye betrayed him. He opened his mouth to speak, but his eye was twisted into a look of complete terror.

    “You will not speak here,” Father cut him off. Polaris’s leader took a moment to glance around the room at his other followers. Even behind their masks, he knew they were in full appreciation of what they were witnessing. “In light of this damning evidence, I dare to say that there is no doubt that you are guilty of treason against Polaris, Ghetsis.” Turning away from the man who was succumbing to his fear, Father announced to the others, “I propose that there is no need for a formal trial. These are urgent times for us, so as the First Chromosome, I hereby call for a voice vote. For the crime of treason, I call for the removal of the Third Chromosome from this council!”

    Almost instantly, the meeting room filled with a chorus of affirmative votes. Ghetsis desperately searched for even one bit of support among it, but the harder he tried, the worse it became. Each second that passed pushed him further back into his chair, staring into space with his mouth falling more and more open. Two Polaris members dressed in identical uniforms and visors suddenly emerged behind him, pushed his head down onto the desk and snapped a metal restraining band around his body.

    “This… this is a mistake!!” he gasped in desperation. “You need me!”

    “With Father back we don’t need a traitor like you,” Finansielle snidely replied.

    “Finansielle is correct,” Father added, now directly addressing Ghetsis as he struggled against his bonds. “You will be imprisoned until you learn your place. I’m sure you’re thinking that your henchmen will free you and help you get revenge, but that is not going to happen. We will locate them, determine if they are loyal to Polaris or not, and neutralize the ones who keep serving you.” Turning his head up, he said to the two men holding Ghetsis, “Bring him to his new quarters.”

    The men nodded to their leader, then forced Ghetsis up to his feet. His cane slipped from his hand and clattered noisily against the floor. A flood of threats and insults flowed from him as he was dragged off, but the other Chromosomes ignored them. Soon, he was gone.

    “That sure was something,” Mercury remarked with a slight shake of her head.

    “So…” Getriebe was already becoming bored again, leading him to slouch in his chair. “...to what do we owe this? What is happening for us now?”

    “A lot. We have a lot of business to get to. The first thing we must do as we enter this important new stage is to fill the seat that has just opened on this council, and I have someone to bring before you all.”

    “Things are about to get very, very interesting,” Finansielle smugly said to herself.










    END of CHAPTER 20
     
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2016
  14. Bay

    Bay YEAHHHHHHH

    Can already tell Ghetsis having Ho-Oh means bad business. Even worse the mention of Ho-Oh being zombie like and all that.

    I like the reference of Bill's mother there.

    Pierce almost blew Nekou's cover there. Hm, interesting Ghetsis has his own Transcendence to inflence others. And yeah, I too would do something similar to calm Nikolai down, haha.

    Yum, chicken (being silly here).

    And Nekou almost blew her own cover there, opps. I'll admit, kinda forgot Pierce was going by a different name there.

    Good thing some of the other Pokemon (Bunny's and Nando's) got to help around and so is Team Rocket against Lucky and Dino. Body Slam Goomy. XD

    Seems to be always close calls with Nekou's cover, heh. In all seriousness, though, interesting you have her going against the Shadow Triad without Pokemon being involved. I also like the part where Matt was smug towards Ghetsis after releasing his Aggron.

    Oh nice reunion between Pierce and his mother, though Sky and Ho-Oh's thunder attacks colliding looks like it'll be short lived (still reading along lol).

    Nice to see other Mega Charizard's appearance there.

    Nothing to see here folks, just The Dance Hall disappeared. Move along.

    (In all seriousness, I probably should go about seeing the Hoppa movie after it's been mention here a few times, heh).

    Oh, ouch. Not surprising Matt would feel he failed upon seeing that. As for Nekou's transformation and her powers, well that sounds very intense.

    Oh, hi Hoppa again. It's a good thing they made it in time.

    Feels like it's been a while since Olivia took more of an active role again, so I'm glad she went for the initive. And huh, Monroe has a Greninja too. Olivia having hallucations of her father doesn't sound too good, though.

    Mewtwo sure made an appearance there. Looks like it achieved its second Mega Evolution too? Another form I don't see mentioned too often.

    I admit, this made me smile.

    Mewtwo's battle with Ho-Oh looks like it isn't going too well, so good thing the "Prophet" was able to have the legendary back its senses.

    Lyra's really getting into it, heh.

    Ah oh. They're not gonna like the news once they find out...

    Aw.

    Welp, that's a kicker.

    Oh boy, Ghetsis had to use his big mouth there haha. With him being taken away, wonder who will take his place, hmm.

    So, besides I think this chapter could have been broken down into two or three chapters (there's a lot to keep track D= ), I'll admit I got annoyed at Olivia's self-loathing and then glad she snapped out of it for a bit. Even though it came true more or less, the part where she visions Ho-Oh threw me off for some reason. The crowd rioting, while understandable, I admit to losing track, though that's because so much was happening this chapter as I mentioned. Otherwise, this has been a pretty enjoyable chapter and I'm looking forward to more!
     
  15. GastlyMan

    GastlyMan Ghost Type Trainer

    Well! I thoroughly enjoyed chapter 20. It was super intense, but also awesome.

    First, just a quick response from earlier, and then I’ll get to the actual review:
    Thanks! That means a lot. :)

    Makes sense, and I think you’ve done a good job with that.

    You’re welcome, and thank you very much! It’s great to be back!

    Okay, actual review time!
    Some really cool stuff happened in this chapter. It was fun to see everything slowly start to come together. Ghetsis’ power is insane, yet even he has those who are more powerful than him.



    Looks like a little BBCode typo there.


    Oh, Team Rocket. They are the best. You’ve been doing a really good job with their characters. Consistent with the anime, certainly, but also a lot more dynamic and real than the anime portrays them.

    Meowth’s dialogue was also well done. It very much felt like he was the one speaking.

    Showing this deviation from Nando’s character really helped emphasize the intensity of the scene. Also, dang. Rowena is sure dedicated to what she does. xD I’m impressed.

    This was so cool. I feel so bad for Nekou. This is far worse than a case of multiple personalities. But at the same time, what that other entity can do is amazing. And it did save her. I wonder about the science. And what exactly the other being inside of Nekou is.

    And the dialogue between them is very well done. Excellent job on that.

    And Nikolai doesn’t know that himself, right? What a contrast between father and son. Did Ghetsis do something in particular to cause N - aka Nikolai - to forget him?

    That was beautifully written. Matt’s been growing a lot stronger, whether he realizes it or not.

    I wonder if Chaos’ “weakness” will be played out later in the story. Definitely an interesting detail, for now.
    Our friend Ghetsis, heh. That’s some skilled social engineering he did there.

    Just, you know, being awesome like Mewtwo usually does. ^^ And great Meowth quote there, haha.

    Aha, yes. It’s good to have you back, Nekou. :D

    Aw. Of course you deserve it, Nekou. What that experiment did wasn’t your fault, and your friends care about you regardless.

    But at the same time, I definitely understand why this is so hard for her. It’s a miracle at this point that she’s still alive and conscious, and she still has this horrible demon to struggle with. This will be a very intriguing subplot in the chapters to come, I think.

    Wow. Talk about demotion. Maybe Ghetsis won’t be a threat anymore, but the Father seems like an even more powerful opponent for everyone to face. Or maybe Ghetsis will find a way out.

    Also, I really liked Olivia’s part in this chapter. Like Matt, she’s growing, but still struggling a lot with demons from the past. It’s very realistic to me. Old wounds take a long time to heal, and sometimes they never do. Of course, I hope that hers will, but I would imagine it will still take a long time. Especially with the hallucinations and her seizure. I wonder what all that means.

    And the cliffhanger. Who is the new Polaris member that will fill Ghetsis’ seat? I’m excited to find out. Overall, you’ve done an excellent job on this chapter. Admittedly it was pretty long for a single chapter, but since it encompasses the entirety of the climax, it works out fine. ^^ I like long chapters anyway, and I can tell you put a lot of time and effort into this one especially. Keep up the great work, and I’m excited to see what’s in store for chapter 21. :)
     
  16. ChewieJ

    ChewieJ Pokémon Writer

    Hey, I'm finally here with my review! Just as before, I'm going to summarize my thoughts instead of commenting scene by scene. I hope that's still acceptable.

    Overall, your writing style is improving. There were still a lot of dependent clauses and unnecessary adjectives, but they weren't distracting enough to disengage me from the plot. Wordiness was a problem, however. The emotions I was supposed to feel in certain scenes—like Ho-Oh's summoning, Nekou's transformation, and Ghetsis's imprisonment—left when I was overwhelmed by the number of words used to describe them. Despite that, reading the chapter was more enjoyable than I expected. Nekou's submission to her inner demon was a fascinating read. I felt her anguish when she faced the demon and her fears at the same time. I didn't understand how Ghestis let Matt and Nekou go when they were weak enough to be taken out at the end. I knew he was being urged to leave but...eh. Let's just go with it. And ooh! Father showed up. Let's see what he'll deliver to Matt and the group.

    Again, great chapter! Good luck on the next one.
     
  17. diamondpearl876

    diamondpearl876 → follow your fire.

    The opening description is pretty good, though there's some odd word choices like 'sprawled', 'conceived', etc that feel out of place. There's also a bit of redundancy with describing the tallest tower - you only have to mention it once! And now that I'm caught up, I think that the opening presents a more peaceful Johto than the one that's actually featured in the chapter. I would've expected some ominous opening given how much chaos happens. Not sure if that was intentional or not.

    I guess the Shadow Triad can deal with everything except blinding light, huh? At any rate, it just goes to show how powerful Ghetsis feels if he's not worried about escaped captors or anything else at all when Ho-oh hasn't even fully emerged yet. Says a lot about his character, and it fits in with the impression I got from his appearance in the games.

    Kind of makes it sound like she died on the spot, which isn't the case. I might rework this to say her breath hitched or some other surprise/fear reaction.

    The emotional breakdowns in this chapter for the most part make sense and are impactful - particularly the ones that are put in as thoughts rather than actual dialogue that affects everyone around the character having the breakdown. The breakdowns in this chapter are believable to me because - as pessimistic as I may sound - most people only care about what's happening to themselves.

    Olivia's breakdown here, unfortunately, feels like it comes out of left field. I get that she's important in all this and that she's been prone to random outbursts like this in past chapters, but... there wasn't any buildup to it at all. And I'm really surprised Bunny and Nekou stayed calm for her this time and took the time to talk her down when everything around them is absolute chaos. At any rate, I just suggest showing Olivia's distress somehow a bit before the outburst so it seems less random and melodramatic.

    I guess one could also argue that Ho-oh is feared because no one's seen it before. It's normal to fear the unknown. At any rate, I wouldn't want to fight a magical bird being controlled by an evil mastermind myself, lol...

    I understand everyone's freaking out because of what's happening, and like I said, most of the breakdowns in this chapter make sense. But in this scene in particular, as I kept reading it, felt awkward because it seems more than everyone's just taking turns having their respective breakdowns. It would be hard to pull off, but it'd be more realistic if everyone freaked out at once. I'll reiterate, though, that the breakdowns after this scene were all fine and well written, particularly the one between Nekou and her other personality.

    I hope she's gonna pull through by the end of all this... She really has a lot of potential, given how passionate she is and how goal-driven she is. She just has trouble knowing how to reach her goal. I'm rooting for her!

    Welp. Didn't expect a giggle, but I really do see Hoopa as a mischievous ******* that probably finds chaos utterly hilarious. There's a lot of potential to be had with a mischievous pokemon with dimension-hopping abilities.

    I have a hard time believing Nekou almost falling off a salamence in the middle of a battle with a legendary pokemon would go unnoticed. I'm sure they're moving at a fast pace so she'd probably struggle to keep her grip, and Matt's clearly being attentive if he heard her muttering.

    Sorry, Nekou, but Matt'll never let you follow through with any of your self-destructive wishes if he can help it.

    The descriptions of the pokemons' appearances followed by their pokedex entries was a bit unnecessary. Or at least four decent lengthed exposition paragraphs in the middle of an action scene was a bit too much. Would recommend cutting down to what's absolutely necessary.

    I liked the little changes put into Team Rocket's motto to make it relevant to what's happening in your story. Also, the relic insult here is golden.

    That's a little hypocritical there, Lucky... but I guess I can't be surprised by that kind of illogical thinking. The kinds of incidents that're happening in Ecruteak are usually caused by illogical or even misguided thinking.

    I like how self-aware Olivia is here. I'm sure if she's not a good fit for Mareep later on, she'll know what to do and be able to part ways if needed.

    Ah, the advantages of third person omniscient writing... I like this bit that you included here.

    Ohhh... Another nice piece of dialogue, I must say.

    Aww... Hoopa being childish instead of purely mischievous is actually rather cute.

    The Rocket trio might not have accomplished a lot of the goals they set out to do in the anime, but I do agree and like how they interact with each other comfortably as a team.

    I can't say that's the most convincing argument I've heard, but it's heartfelt. Seems like Ho-oh's not the only one in pain...

    A tiny flicker of flame instead of an onslaught of fire... I liked the little detail you used to show that Ho-oh was calm.

    Overall, I thought you did good at keeping each scene at a reasonable length. They aren't dragged out and each one is filled with a good amount of tension. A lot happened to a lot of different characters, but I think you spent a good amount of time on each character, with some focus being put on some of the bigger players like Ghetsis and Nekou (which I expected/was hoping for). Some other highlights included Pierce's reunion with his mother and aunt and Ghetsis's transcendence power failing because of Matt.

    My only complaint might be how Ghetsis was brought down so quickly at the end of the chapter. It was obvious that he was going to get found out eventually, but after such a long, eventful and suspenseful chapter that was that way because of Ghetsis, him being thrown out of Polaris because of a videotape seemed a little anticlimactic. It might have served better in a later chapter, maybe.

    At any rate, keep me updated when the next chapter rolls around. I'll be interested to see how the aftermath pans out.
     
  18. The Great Butler

    The Great Butler Hush, keep it down

    With how long everything is taking, I've prepared a preview of upcoming storylines to tide everyone over.

    From the ashes of Ghetsis’ attempted rebellion against Polaris, the organization’s leader emerges…

    [Father stands at the head of the Sacred Helix meeting room, his arms spread widely]

    “As we close this meeting, my children, allow me to tell you that your dedication to our cause will soon bear the fruits you have awaited.”

    … and the truth of their plans begins to become clear…

    [Dr. Zager speaks to Pierce and the Prophet via a hologram screen projected by a cube]

    “That dark substance of yours… it’s been in my hands. I fear I know what Polaris intends to do…”

    The story moves forward into a new phase.

    [Aboard a surfaced submarine, Matt’s Heatran fires a Flash Cannon at Ethan’s Dhelmise as it spins through the air toward her]

    [In Olivine Gym, Olivia’s Dewott strikes the Gym Leader’s Klang with his shell. Matt, Nekou, Bunny, Monroe, Avril and Dominic watch from the stands]

    With the appearance of Pokémon thought lost to history…

    [Colress, dressed in new clothes with tablet computers on both arms, stands over a coffin-shaped object in his laboratory. A laser points at it and several other scientists sit at computers around the room]

    “I hear you, Mister Father! Now, it’s time… awaken, Pixie Plate!”

    …fate takes a new course.

    [On a dark, empty roadway, a Goodra stops a truck by punching it head-on, crumpling it with little effort. In the nearby darkness, its owner looks on from the back of her Salamence, her eyes glowing]

    [President Stone, sitting at his desk, speaks to Steven via videophone]

    “Dad, another one?!”

    “Just like the ones before it, I’m afraid. Truck wrecked, drivers and cargo missing, that same graffiti sprayed everywhere.”

    “Aster… what does it mean?”

    [Sylpha confronts the Prophet in the jail room]

    “Can you tell me the truth about what really happened here? About Saeko O-”

    “Jacob, I know you did this!”

    [Sitting at an isolated table in a bar, International Police agent Mitsumi sets down a folder in front of Matt. It bears the ‘G’ symbol of Team Galactic]

    “You’re never going to remember my face, that’s for sure. But I know you remember this.”

    The lost stories of the past come to illuminate the future…

    [At the same table, Mitsumi and her assistant Silva have Zinzolin handcuffed]

    “Fine! I’ll tell you what you want to know about Ghetsis. But I want protection!”

    [Years earlier in the Relic Castle, Giovanni walks up to the edge of a balcony and widely raises his arms. Jessie, James, Meowth, Pierce and Dr. Zager are behind him, looking on in awe at the brightly shining object in the center of the chamber]

    “That’s right… What we’ve obtained truly is the sun!”

    [Giovanni gives a speech to a masquerade party. Suddenly, the screen behind him breaks into static, interrupting his speech. The Team Plasma logo appears, followed by Ghetsis in his ceremonial robes]

    “You’re…”

    “Ghetsis of Team Plasma, Giovanni. Yes, even we in Unova know who you and your gang of criminal thugs are. Our king does not abide such interlopers on his rightful land.”

    [Jessie’s Woobat and a Team Plasma member’s Liepard exchange attacks, with a large Meteonite shining and sparking in the sky behind them]

    It all leads to an inescapable fate and the beginning of the unknown, bleak future…

    [Olivia’s Dewott stands in a stiff, almost zombie-like state on the battlefield of Olivine Gym, a blue aura surrounding him and growing stronger by the moment]

    [Some time later, Olivia stands near a doorway in a run-down building, listening to the conversation of the people inside. Her hair casts a shadow over her eyes, and her mouth quivers]

    [Ariana shows a video on a tablet computer to someone in the Olivine Team Rocket base. It is footage of Dr. Yung from the battle aboard the Magnet Train]

    “Your old enemy Yung… turns out he’s one of Polaris’ leadership.”

    [In his lab, Colress stands with his hands in his pockets, smirking, as he confronts intruders]

    “I’ve had my problems with you all, but I’m willing to forgive and forget. My friend, on the other hand… you took something from him and he wants payback.”

    [Anabel, having tied her hair back in a ponytail and dressed in a light, white shirt, pulls on a black suit jacket and adjusts her necktie. She then walks over to her nightstand and picks up her phone]

    [Olivia turns around to Monroe and Avril, tears falling from her eyes]

    “Get away from me! You’re just wasting your time with someone as worthless as me!”

    [On a cliff overlooking Olivine City, Bunny sits on the back of her Gogoat, lost in thought. A gust of wind blows over them]

    At the end of the dreams awaits the crushing reality fate has in store. What comes from the ashes of imagination is what those desperate to survive will be pushed to. What will arise when nothing else remains, when everything one knows comes to an end?

    The Angel of Reckoning continues into a new chapter, Dream’s End.


     
  19. The Great Butler

    The Great Butler Hush, keep it down

    I'm glad that you were able to come back to something enjoyable!

    You're welcome.


    I hope I'll be able to continue pulling it off.


    Good to have you back!

    That's a message I was hoping would really come across, regarding Ghetsis.

    I'll have to be a little more mindful of that.

    Could you elaborate a little more on that? Because I find them very challenging to pull off correctly and I could use any information I can possibly get.

    Sometimes he is awkward to actually write, so I'm relieved to hear that. When it comes to his speech patterns it's really something you absorb over time from watching the anime but you have to be careful to not veer into self-parody the way the TPCi dub does with him.

    As I remember I actually kind of lucked into the Nando bit. Rowena, on the other hand - that's how she is. I don't think she'd want to be anywhere else.

    The reality of what's going on there is much more complex than you might even figure. Believe me when I say that most if not all of the questions you have will be answered.

    They've existed with each other for a long time, so in a weird way, that other being is the person Nekou is closer to than anyone else. That makes their interactions almost family-like even though the circumstances are obviously so horrible.

    In this timeline, N had Zekrom and after he released it and it turned back into the Dark Stone, his memories tied to it disappeared. Since his entire life was being raised to use Zekrom, a lot outside of some of the most basic traits of his personality vanished. This was not necessarily anything anyone like Ghetsis did, but there is the opening for people to interfere.

    I'm kind of fascinated by the dissonance between what he says and the strength you're pointing out - he still doesn't care about his own life but in a way he's progressed to being a lot less afraid of something actually happening to him, if he's able to tell Ghetsis to kill him.

    Right now I have it just as a trait of his; if it has a more important role later I haven't yet decided.

    He was being sarcastic there, actually.

    Yeah, that one Meowth line really came off well to me too.

    She'd be no other way... well, she might be, but if she was things would be even worse.

    The whole thing about it is that she hasn't really had much of what you can call a support network before. A lot of this is going to become more clear going forward, but it's largely been Ariana and not really anyone else. She isn't really close on that kind of level to anyone else, so she doesn't really know how to handle having that support now, especially when she is already dealing with the problems brought on by her other self.

    Ghetsis was barely a threat compared to what Polaris's leader can bring. I'll leave that there.

    One thing I can tell you is that Olivia's recovery is never going to be a steady thing. She is always going to struggle with these memories of her past, the doubts they bring on and whether or not she will be able to move on. As for the seizures, you're going to get a bit of an answer on that sooner than you think.

    Admittedly my setting up the promotion for the next arc may have given away who it is, but it's likely someone people would have guessed anyway, so it isn't that much of a big deal.

    I'm happy to hear that you liked the chapter! It was very difficult to get all the way through so I very much appreciate your kind words!

    It's perfectly fine! Please forgive me for how late the reply is.

    I'm sorry to hear that. I am working to improve but I don't know to what extent I will ultimately be able to.

    To answer your question about Ghetsis letting them go, at that time he believed he could still salvage his plans if he resumed pretending to go along with Finansielle's orders. Zinzolin realized that the situation was bad for them the moment when the retreat order was given so quickly upon their defeat (indicating to him that Finansielle was aware of what was going on and probably had caught on to Ghetsis's deception) but Ghetsis's arrogance made him try to keep his plans going.

    There is much more to come on both Nekou's other self and Father's appearance, and I think you'll enjoy both.

    Thank you! I'll need the well wishes since writing has been a bit difficult for me over the past year or so. I am doing my best to get back on track but a lot of things have happened.

    It actually was, although not entirely in the way you think - the intention was to show Roséridge City as much more peaceful than Ecruteak City at that time, not to compare the entire region.

    Definitely, I think it fits in with his arrogance that led him to do things like allow the player in BW1 to fight N at the end of the game even though that would represent a clear risk to his plans.

    At the point he was at here, having summoned Ho-oh to place it under his control, it doesn't matter to him that Pierce escaped. His reasoning is, why get worried about someone he thinks will be eliminated soon thanks to Ho-oh anyway?

    Hm, you're probably right about that.

     
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2017
  20. The Great Butler

    The Great Butler Hush, keep it down

    This chapter won’t be anywhere near as intense as the previous chapter, you’ll probably be glad to hear. I should mention, though, that this is going to touch (albeit vaguely) on that character who was raped that I mentioned way, way back at the beginning. It’s not going to be intensive but the subject is going to be touched on so I’m going to be fair and warn for it up front.

    -:-

    CHAPTER 21: Father



    -:-

    “Now, please, let this council remain in order,” Father declared, raising his arms to bring a hush over the rest of the Sacred Helix. Ghetsis’ stunning fall from power had raised a storm of chatter among many of the attendees. Father and Finansielle shared a knowing glance between each other before he continued, “We have much more business to attend to during this meeting. For that reason, I immediately call for the consideration of a new Chromosome to replace the traitor Ghetsis Harmonia.”

    “Let’s see him, then,” Finansielle said. She leaned back in her chair and turned her head upward so the others couldn’t see the self-satisfied grin she gave herself.

    The lights in the chamber dimmed, leaving the Chromosomes illuminated in a ghostly glow while the center of the room filled with shadows. A portion of the floor then promptly opened up, allowing an elevator platform to rise up into the darkened space. Its passenger’s identity was nearly completely obscured, save for a tiny piece of black, leathery clothing that caught the light from one of the Chromosomes’ booths.

    “I now declare this hearing on the approval of the new Third Chromosome open,” Father announced. “Questions one at a time.”

    “I’ll go first, if I may,” Mercury announced. Hearing no objection to her request, the Chromosome cleared her throat, then asked the shadowed figure, “What is the reason you want to join the Sacred Helix? What do you want Polaris to accomplish?”

    “I despise what this world has become,” the man responded in a deep, resonant voice. “The rich stockpile more and more resources for themselves, leaving most people to struggle for the scraps. And then there’s overcrowding and pollution, turning pristine landscapes into filthy cities full of people suffering… I cannot accept it when I know what beauty this world is capable of! Look at what’s become of Celadon City! It was once a beautiful city, an example for the world to follow… what is it now? With the uncontrolled expansion of development and complete disregard for wise resource consumption, it’s now nothing but a slum district of Saffron!”

    “Have you done anything to remedy this in your life before Polaris?” Getriebe spoke up in his usual flat, bored tone. “Talk all you want, if you take no action…”

    “I started a foundation with my wealth, the goals of which were to aid the poor and assist in the recovery of the environment.”

    “Don’t just stop there,” Geminus urged while resting his chin on his clasped hands. “How’d it go?”

    The man in the center of the room audibly huffed in frustration at the question. “I learned that those two goals clash with each other. The people I tried to elevate through my foundation just became selfish and tried to take more and more, the same way those who stood on their backs had done, consuming resources with wild abandon. My efforts were completely fruitless.”

    “And what exactly brought you to us? Not just that, can you tell us how you came around to our way of thinking?”

    “I will never forget the day my life, and my world, changed forever,” the man replied to Jeunes’ question. “There was a town that was besieged by a Gyarados. I traveled there and managed to subdue the Gyarados with my own Pokémon. After I captured it, I brought in my foundation to assist the people whose lives had been... “ The man’s voice abruptly took a dark, mocking tone. “...ruined by Gyarados’ rampage.”

    “That’s not why you’re here before us today, though,” Praeses ventured. “Not by itself.”

    “As my foundation aided the townspeople,” the shadowy figure continued, “they quickly came to expect that we would take care of them forever. In time, it became apparent to me why Gyarados had gone on a rampage in the first place. Those people, in their infinite greed, were destroying the lake Gyarados called home with pollution and resource extraction. They brought disaster down upon their own deserving heads!” By that point, the man had his hands held in tightly clenched fists and was trembling in both body and voice. “When I realized it, when I realized that those selfish people caused their own suffering and actually had the nerve to expect me to hold their hands through their entire lives, without any remorse for their greed… something in me snapped. I felt pure, unbridled rage flare through my body, the same kind Gyarados surely felt. To punish those humans for their greed, I used Gyarados and extinguished them. As I stood in the ashes of their town, I felt something… for the first time, I felt like I had true power, the kind that would allow me to reshape this world into a beautiful, peaceful place.”

    The Chromosomes looked on their interviewee with varying emotions, but none of them spoke up before he continued.

    “To this day Gyarados stands by my side as the symbol of my hatred for what humans have done to this planet. I realized, though, that to make my dreams of eternal peace and beauty come true, I would need much greater power. I threw myself fully into the study of the arcane science used by the great king AZ in the hopes of learning how to recreate his ultimate weapon. I was soon approached by Polaris representatives at the café I own in Lumiose City. At that time I was beginning to put together my own organization for the purpose of changing this world. They had learned of what I was working on and told me that Polaris could help me accomplish my dreams. Once I fully understood Polaris’ purpose, I knew I needed to be a part of it.”

    “Such passion!” Finansielle exclaimed.

    At that, Athleta addressed the figure. “You’ve done a lot of talking about what you want from Polaris. What are you able to offer us?”

    “Well, as I mentioned earlier, I have vast amounts of my own resources available to me. Not just money, either. My company can provide just about any sort of technology or machinery your organization could ask for. We’ve also entered into a contract to join our media outlets with the media division of the Angel Corporation, and that sort of global access would be well suited for spreading Polaris’ message.”

    “And you’re sure about your decision to join us?” Finansielle asked, allowing her lips to form a very slight smile. “Management of such a large operation is already a large burden with its own pitfalls. Are you really ready to completely devote yourself to our cause and set those matters aside if the situation calls for it?”

    “Of course!” the man shouted in response, his voice cracking under his emotion. “All of my wealth, all of my business interests… none of it is worth anything if I cannot save this world!”

    “Well, I think we have a fairly clear picture of our candidate,” Father said, intervening with a slight raise of his hands. “There is still much business for this meeting to discuss, so I propose that the approval process be expedited through unanimous consent. Are there any objections to this new Chromosome?”

    No voices met this question. Father slowly turned his head, first to his right, then to his left. Some of the Chromosomes weren’t looking back at him, but the majority of them met his glance. Behind their masks, he could sense that they looked to him with hope in their eyes. They were relying on him to lead them, to make their dreams come true. Knowing this, he gazed down at the man in the center of the chamber and raised his staff into the air.

    “As they say, the silence says everything. Congratulations on your appointment. Now please, inform us of what name you will be taking.”

    The shadowy figure reached to his ear and tapped a button on a device behind it, triggering a visor to cover his eyes. Once it was fully closed, six glowing, horizontal orange lines lit up across it. He then rose to a tremendous height, allowing the lights in the room to finally reveal his appearance. Dressed entirely in black leather fringed with orange that matched his cravat, wild hair and pointed beard, he stood tall enough to nearly level with the Chromosomes’ desks.

    “It shall be Excan,” he declared confidently.

    “So it shall. Excan, take your seat at the third section…” As he spoke, Father gestured to a narrow set of stairs between Finansielle and Séduire’s seats. “We have a lot of work to get done tonight.”

    While the newly appointed Chromosome walked to his seat, Athleta asked Father, “What’s this urgent matter that’s brought you back and is moving us along so quickly?”


    “It’s unusual to be hearing from you,” Father said, his voice reflecting a tiny bit of amusement. “It’s a question you all deserve the answer to. The truth is, one of the most major signs of Polaris’ true purpose has finally appeared. It has been discovered that a new Coronet Rosary has been born.”


    Almost immediately upon the words ‘Coronet Rosary’ leaving Father’s mouth, most of the other Chromosomes shot forward in their chairs. The term was all they needed to hear to understand the exact reason for the hurried pace of the meeting. In fact, the only ones not reacting with shock to the announcement were Excan, who’d just reached his seat, and Finansielle, who merely sat back, crossed her arms and smiled.

    “I didn’t think this day would even come in my lifetime,” the awe-struck Mercury remarked. “Who is it?”

    “See for yourselves,” Polaris’ leader replied while manipulating the keys in front of himself.

    The hologram generators around the room blinked back to life, giving form to multiple screens containing various data feeds. At the center of all the charts, animated helixes and other information was an image of the person in question. The moment she saw it, Mercury shrank back in her seat, regretting having had any interest in the subject.

    Long blue hair spreading behind her, and big eyes reflecting both bitter determination and haunted memories. There was no doubt about it - the image was a photo of Olivia.

    “For those of you who don’t already know, this is Olivia Mistbloom,” Father announced while briefly raising his staff once more. “She’s the daughter of the Frontier Society’s commissioner, and I have been able to confirm that she is the one who will help us unlock the gate to our world of true justice.”

    “That little…” Séduire growled to herself, clenching both her teeth and her fist.

    Geminus shot a glance over to Séduire, then to Mercury, before finally smiling and clasping his hands together. “I don’t doubt your judgment, Father, but please do explain more about this. Some of us are not entirely up to speed with things.”

    “I must say that I agree,” Excan concurred. “For our actions to be most effective, we should all be on the same page.”

    A chuckle slipped from Father’s lips despite his best efforts to stifle it. “My, my, you are both quite enthusiastic. That’s very good. Very well.” A quick swipe of his hand over the controls brought some of the holographic charts in the room’s center to full prominence. “Our intelligence brought Olivia to my attention as a potential candidate for being the new Coronet Rosary, so I acquired a sample of her blood via one of my Pokémon. Analysis revealed to me that her genes are mutating as a result of repeated exposure to temporal energy, such as the power of Dialga and the Time Gates in Argyros Town and Ilex Forest. She had the latent potential within her due to her having connections to the ancient Tenganists in her maternal heritage combined with her father’s descent directly from the Sootopolitans of one thousand years ago. It’s exposure to that energy that brought her potential to life. As these changes occur, she will ultimately develop incredible cognitive abilities that we need to make use of. Not only her brain is being affected. Her every cell is changing, passing through time at an abnormal pace. These abilities are what make her crucial to us.”

    Pausing his explanation briefly, Father stretched his free hand straight out toward the holograms, his palm facing upward.

    “She is the one that will give us the ability to utilize the device built by the ancient Tenganists to survive the end of everything. When the Day of Reckoning arrives, we will ride out those events with our adherents in this ark and travel into a new era.” To accentuate his point, Father tightly closed his outstretched fist. “It will be a time where all the suffering and loss so widespread in this world disappears, and she will bring us into that future!”

    “Ooh, how exciting,” Jeunes remarked.

    “Indeed,” Getriebe said in agreement. “If she is so important to our cause, then I propose we move to capture her immedia-”

    “Absolutely not!” Finansielle interrupted, so loudly that Getriebe visibly jumped in his chair. She noticed this and quickly calmed herself. “It’s not time yet. We have far too many things to accomplish in preparation for the Coronet Rosary’s arrival. And if I’m not mistaken, she hasn’t come close to finishing her transformation, has she?”

    “That is correct,” Father confirmed, maintaining his straight, steady stare. “If we were to bring her in too soon, the stress could disrupt her change and cause her to become unstable. At that point there is a risk that her transformation goes out of control and destroys her.”

    “But if we leave her out there with Matt Chiaki and that Nekou woman from Team Rocket, she could end up totally against us. Do you not worry about that?”

    Getriebe’s plea didn’t draw out an immediate response, but when the answer came, it was full of Father’s anger. “This is not up for discussion!” he roared, pressing his clenched fist into the desk. Getriebe had no idea just how much his earnest words had upset his leader. “When it comes to Olivia, we remain strictly as observers for now. Do all of you understand that?” He did not wait for an answer, instead rapping the bottom tip of his staff against the floor to emphasise his words. “Now, moving on, we have another matter to attend to. Doctor Colress, please enter.”

    “I’m already here. Wouldn’t want to be late.”

    Much to the surprise of the Sacred Helix, Colress had slipped into the meeting chamber during the heated exchange moments earlier and waited to be called. His sudden appearance elicited annoyed groans from several of the Chromosomes. Even though he heard them, he kept smiling to himself.

    “Who let you in here like this?” Getriebe demanded.

    “When one has ideas as brilliant as the ones swirling around in this head…” Colress pointed to his own brow as he spoke, “...doors tend to open up for you.”

    “I understand you have quite a bit to tell us,” Father said to the scientist, raising his voice slightly to overrule an irritated growl from Getriebe. “Get busy.”

    From his pocket, Colress produced his tablet and unfolded it. His fingers glided across its surface with the grace of a dancer’s movements, almost appearing as if they weren’t even touching the screen. Around him, the hologram screens shifted their positions, surrounding the scientist with his research.

    “I’ve been working on a few things,” Colress explained to the Chromosomes, while certain projections came to the forefront. “Chief among them is this. It’s a cutting edge bio-computer system whose capabilities will continually evolve as more and more data is plugged into it.”

    “What sort of data?” Mercury asked.

    “Data on Pokémon battles and the individual capability of the Pokémon themselves, of course,” Colress replied. He tilted his head back, smiled broadly, and continued, “We’re going to take in data from all sources and create the ultimate repository of information on the hidden potential of Pokémon. And as that database evolves, we will use it.”

    “I don’t fully understand what you mean by that,” Séduire interjected. She was hurriedly scanning the information on the holograms, but couldn’t absorb it. “What’s the real purpose of this?”

    “The answer to that actually leads right into my second project.” Colress swept his fingers across the tablet again, calling forth even more information. “With the aid of the staff at the Adenosine Base, I’ve finished work on what I was hired by Polaris to create: a new strain of Pokérus. Now, as you may or may not know, Pokérus enhances the growth of infected Pokémon. Now, the catch there is that it can only accelerate that Pokémon’s growth to its existing maximum potential. With this new Pokérus, that isn’t the case. The key is combining the DNA Splicers with the radiation from the Meteonites, which is similar to the energy given off by Mega Stones and Key Stones. With those additions, the new Pokérus can bond so thoroughly to the DNA of a subject that with my bio-computer, altering a Pokemon to reach its maximum conceivable potential will be child's play! And that’s where the evolution of the database comes into play. As the system’s database grows, what it will be able to do will evolve as well. Eventually, we might even be able to push Pokémon beyond their natural potential, making them even stronger and allowing them to learn moves they never could have before. Truly a miraculous creation, I would dare to say.”

    “Once we’re able to mass produce these altered Pokémon, we can bring true justice into this world,” Finansielle mused. “Not only will our own military power grow dramatically, those who join us and fully commit to our beliefs can have their own Pokémon strengthened as well.”

    “Once they’re out in the hands of people who rightfully deserve them, the imbalance between them and those who can afford to breed and train large numbers of Pokémon to find the strongest will disappear,” Praeses added. “Not only true justice, but true equality as well.”

    Colress took a brief time to stand at the center of the room and basked in the praise he was hearing before speaking again. “And if you thought that was good, the rest of the Adenosine Base and myself are ready to move ahead with our experiment using the Meteonite and the Oberon…”

    “On that subject,” Father abruptly interrupted the scientist, “please, wait until I give you a go-ahead, Doctor.”

    “As you wish, my leader.” Colress said, putting his hand over his heart.

    With that, Father slowly rose from his seat. His movement was slow but steady, and he visibly put his weight on his staff as he stood. Once he reached his full height, he spread his arms out with his staff in his right hand. The entire Sacred Helix fit into his wide, welcoming embrace.

    “As we close this meeting, my children, allow me to tell you that your dedication to our cause will soon bear the fruits you have awaited.” A number of smiles from around the panel greeted this proclamation. “All of you joined for your own reasons, but the worlds you dream of will soon come into reality. With the necessary tools all falling into place, Polaris stands at the gateway to history. We will soon destroy the Pokémon League and reshape this world into one void of the corruption and injustice its society has created! No longer will anyone suffer as we have. Our blood, sweat and tears will build the road into a world of hope for all who wish to reach out and claim it! Now, Chromosomes, you are dismissed. Please await the next step we take toward our promised land!”

    Ignoring the other Chromosomes, Mercury immediately stood up and headed for the exit. As she walked, she clenched both her fists and her teeth. “Of all the people the key could be, it had to be Olivia… Now I’ll never convince either of them that this is for the best. If I can’t save them, none of this was ever worth it…”

    -:-

    As the hours passed and the war in Ecruteak City unfolded far away from the Sinjoh Ruins, Jacob kept Looker and Sylpha occupied with stories from his travels over the years. He’d always enjoyed an audience, and the detective and the young Tenganist sat in rapt attention as he spoke.

    “...so Sutter and I never did manage to find the oasis where Hoopa supposedly hid its treasure, but that really was a fascinating one. Somehow, wandering around searching for something with virtually no clues to where it is can actually be quite enjoyable. You know what they say, it’s about the journey, not the destination.”

    “Wow…” Sylpha said in awe. “You think our Hoopa has a treasure like that, too?”


    “Who knows. Maybe you’d want to ask your leader about-”

    “I don’t know if our Hoopa is connected to that story, I’ll tell you that right now.”

    Much to the surprise of the three in the cell room, the Prophet descended the stairs, having overheard the very end of their conversation. She was alone, and her arms hung loosely at her sides.

    “You’re back!” Sylpha exclaimed. “Does that mean everything went okay?”

    “Not entirely,” the Prophet weakly answered, “but we survived, so I guess the details can wait for another time.”

    “In that case, then…” Hesitating, Sylpha glanced toward Jacob, who gave her a reassuring nod. She took a deep breath to gather her courage. “Can I ask you about something?”

    “What is it?” A quick survey of the faces looking at her quickly led the Prophet to realize something was amiss. Her voice took on a harder tone when she said, “What’s going on?”

    Again, Sylpha hesitated to ask her question. Even at her young age, she had quickly learned that certain subjects weren’t to be discussed, including the one currently on her mind. In spite of this, Jacob’s breakdown and subsequent explanation of why she deserved to know kept urging her on to say something. With no other idea of what to do, she took several steps toward the Prophet, making the hooded woman move back in confusion.

    “...Sylpha, what…?”

    Sylpha froze in her tracks and took another deep breath to compose herself. After finally working up enough courage, she asked, “Can you tell me the truth about what really happened here? About Saeko O-”

    The change in the Prophet’s attitude was nearly instantaneous. Before she even heard the entirety of Saeko’s name, her confusion gave way to very obvious anger. She shoved past Sylpha and stormed over to the cell where Looker and Jacob were held.

    “Jacob, I know you did this!” she shouted, clutching the bars of the cell so tightly her knuckles turned white. “You knew that she is not to be spoken of, and yet you plant these ideas into the head of someone innocent-!”

    Instead of backing away, Jacob walked right up to the bars himself. “I understand what happened here isn’t something you want to talk about. I witnessed it, you know that. But if you’re going to lead these people, they deserve to know the truth. If what happened between Sutter, Saeko and myself all those years ago didn’t happen, you would all be able to live here in peace! You’d be safe from Polaris forever because this land would be able to sustain you! Whatever you’re fighting for, you have to accept and understand the past or you’ll never be able to escape it.”

    A long, tense silence followed Jacob’s impassioned plea. The Prophet didn’t flinch or back away from the bars, and neither did Jacob. They just stood still, each of them staring the other down, while Looker and Sylpha watched. To the onlookers, it felt like forever before the Prophet finally turned away from the bars.

    “Some things should never be spoken of,” she said, causing Jacob to preemptively slouch in disappointment behind her. “But you’re right. I’m in a position of having to uphold our customs now, as the leader of what remains of us… but that’s also why I have to be a good leader to them. You’re right. For what we’re fighting for… I will tell all three of you the whole story.”

    “I… really?” Though he stood up straight again, Jacob was dumbfounded by this turn of events.

    “Thank you!” Sylpha exclaimed, unable to stop herself from clapping her hands together once. “I’m happy you trust me enough to tell me! Can we get started?”

    “No, not now,” the Prophet responded while looking over her shoulder. “I need some time to get everything prepared. This story is much longer than any of you can possibly think.”

    The Prophet said nothing more before leaving the room. In the cell, Jacob could only watch while feeling his heart sink.

    “It isn’t just basically what I already knew? There’s that much more to it?”

    -:-

    The next day, the sky over the Sinjoh Ruins was clear and the air was still. Sunlight glistened on the snow, but did little to make the area warmer.

    In her room, the Prophet’s mood was as cold as the weather outside. She sat on her bed, staring down at a crude wooden Arceus figure in her hand.

    “How much more of this do I have to go through?” she said to the object. “Please, Arceus, tell me… how much more will I be tested? Wasn’t going back in time enough?”

    The Prophet continued to stare into her palm, considering the figure. For a prolonged time the room was silent. This was eventually broken, however, by her child crying out. She gasped and nearly dropped the woodcraft Arceus as her reverie was broken. After quickly returning it to its place on the table next to her bed, she stood and hurried over to take her child into her arms from his cradle.

    “There, there, it’s okay…” she said to him in an effort to comfort him. As she gently rocked him back and forth, a realization entered her mind. “I can’t feel sorry for myself anymore… I’m not the one that matters now. I have to be strong for you… and for everyone following me. They have to believe that what inspires them is real…” She then thought of Sylpha, Jacob and Looker. “Even if it’s something that was forbidden… Jacob’s right... I owe them something that justifies their belief.”

    -:-

    In the woods of Route 38, another kind of leadership crisis was beginning to develop. With Matt, Bunny, Monroe and Avril watching, Olivia stood before her Pokémon sans Mareep. She nervously rolled the Poké Ball containing her newly-caught Electric-type around in her hand while staring toward her existing team. Drops of sweat rolled from her brow all the while, as the young trainer reluctantly moved her finger over the release button.

    “You guys…” she said, haltingly. “I want to formally introduce you to your new teammate. Mareep, come out.”

    Olivia’s grasp on the Poké Ball slipped a little as she turned the button on it toward her fingers, the result of her skin becoming lightly damp from sweat. She managed to avoid dropping it, though, and pressed the button to pop it open. Mareep materialized from within the sphere and shook out her wool as soon as she appeared.

    Cinccino and Herdier were the first of Olivia’s other Pokémon to react to Mareep. The latter slowly but steadily approached the Electric-type Pokémon and sniffed at her, attempting to determine as much as he could about her. Cinccino, on the other hand, held no such restraint. Seeing some dirt on Mareep’s wool, she darted forward and began trying to clean it off.

    Mareep grit her teeth and started to tense up, having quickly grown tired of Cinccino’s work on her coat. Sensing that an electrical outburst was imminent, Krabby ran up to Mareep and clicked frantically, trying to talk her down. The shock was delayed long enough for Krabby to grab Cinccino by its scarf-like fur and pull her off of Mareep. Krabby then turned his chattering to his Normal-type teammate, offering an explanation of the situation that brought Cinccino out of her confusion and got her to apologize to their new teammate.

    Roselia and Mr. Mime were the next to approach; the latter guardedly hung behind the slow yet deliberate and elegant movements of his diminutive companion. The Grass-and-Poison-type Pokémon extended the red rose on her right arm toward Mareep, who only stared at the flower indifferently.

    Then Mareep looked up and saw Dewott.

    The Water-type hadn’t moved an inch from where Olivia had released him. He’d just stood there scowling with his arms crossed. Mareep walked past Roselia and Mr. Mime, her wool brushing against the pair with pops of static. She boldly went right up to Dewott and bleated aggressively at him, puffing up her wool to exert physical dominance.

    “What’s with Mareep?” Monroe wondered, standing next to Olivia.

    Mareep continued her verbal assault on Dewott, her belligerent noises growing louder and louder until Dewott finally hissed back at her. He held one of his shells in her face, clearly threatening her. The Electric-type took a tiny step back in surprise, but this quickly turned into Mareep running to Olivia’s side. Once she reached her trainer’s side, she bleated at Dewott again, but instead of her earlier aggression, her voice carried a self-satisfied smugness.

    Dewott immediately became even more enraged and rushed at Mareep, brandishing his shell. He was stopped when Krabby blocked his path, causing a collision that sent the two Water-types tumbling over each other. While they untangled themselves, Mareep snickered to herself.

    “If you ask me, Dewott doesn’t like the new blood taking your attention,” Avril said as she joined her brother at Olivia’s side.

    “You’re probably right about that… none of the other Pokémon ever tried to be this dominant, now that I think about it.” Leaning down, Olivia directly addressed Dewott, “Is that right?”

    The Water-type Pokémon barked in response and then jumped into Olivia’s arms, surprising her and nearly knocking her off balance. He wasted no time in turning to Mareep and making a face at her. For a moment, Olivia braced herself for the possibility of the sheep leaping on top of her to get at Dewott.

    “Those two look ready to kill each other,” Avril observed. “Come on, I’ll help you train so this gets sorted out.”

    Both Olivia and Monroe looked to Avril in complete surprise; they were both expecting her to say something completely different.

    “Why are you helping me?” Olivia stopped briefly to consider her words, then said, “You’re the last person I’d expect to-”

    “Because what kind of a rival are you for me if you’re not at the top of your game?” Avril snapped, cutting Olivia off. She then shoved her hands into her pockets, turned away and bitterly added, “And if you don’t get yourself together, the new Gym Leader in Olivine City will absolutely destroy you. Trust me on that. Come on, let’s go.”

    Avril’s words prompted her brother to give her a long, knowing stare, though he said nothing. Olivia did not notice this. Instead, she just looked down at Dewott, who was still taunting Mareep from the safety of her arms.

    “I think… this is my fault,” she said to herself as she rose to follow Avril and Monroe into the woods.

    Meanwhile, next to HR-E, Matt turned his head down and kicked at the dirt, then reached into his bag and took out his pocket watch.

    “I’m so afraid she’ll end up being hurt like everyone else…” he admitted to Bunny, his voice flat and hollow. He stared at the pictures in the watch and said, “Eleanor, Agenta, Sheena, Anabel, everything I touch just…” Trailing off of that thought, Matt turned his head in Bunny’s direction. “You too. After what we just went through…”

    “You don’t have to worry about me.” Bunny’s assertion was as firm as the determined expression on her face. “I can take care of myself.”

    “I guess, but…” Giving up on his words, Matt weakly looked back over his shoulder. “Nekou would be able to connect with her and help her right now. She’d know what to do. But she’s not okay either…”

    -:-

    Inside, Nekou’s situation had improved, if only marginally. She’d recovered enough to get off the couch, and was searching through a nearby bookcase. A stack of beer cans was on the table, guarded by some of her Pokémon, namely Marie, Dalian, Edgar and Lenore, the four who had been with her the longest. The younger Zorua and Pumpkaboo sat near the others, watching Nekou as she browsed the shelves.

    Her eyes eventually settled on a book that was significantly older than those surrounding it. Its leathery cover was tattered slightly, and when she pulled it out of the shelf, she could see that its pages had begun to yellow. In spite of that, she thought to herself that it looked remarkably well kept for its age.

    “The Prince and the Soul-Heart…” she read off the book’s elaborately-illustrated cover. “I didn’t think we had books like this on this bus…”

    With the thick volume in her hands, Nekou threw herself back onto the couch and opened one of her drinks, then started to read.

    -:-

    The air in the spring beneath the Sinjoh Ruins was almost totally silent, interrupted only by the soft sound of gently flowing water. Pierce sat on the edge of the spring, hypnotized by the glistening of its pristine surface. He exhaled a small puff of vapor and pulled his trenchcoat closer to himself.

    Nearby, Anthea and Concordia soaked in the spring, wearing light robes given to them by the Prophet to replace the rags Ghetsis forced them to wear. Pierce broke his trance to look over at them.


    “We’re almost there…” he thought to himself while he watched them stare blankly into the deeper parts of the cave. “It won’t be long before all of us are finally back together…”

    Suddenly, the silence in the cavern was broken by the sound of steady footsteps. Anthea and Concordia didn’t react, but Pierce quickly stood up and reached for a Poké Ball. He stopped, however, when he realized that the intruder was Kristos.

    “How are they doing?” Kristos asked Pierce, gesturing with his shoulder to the two women in the water.

    “The Prophet told me we’d have this time alone,” Pierce sharply replied.

    “She sent me here, and is on her way herself.” Kristos’s firm words and stern facial expression made Pierce shrink back slightly. Memories of when he and his wife Lotus were brought to the ruins by the Prophet soon surfaced, the reminiscence of their own fortunes prompting Kristos to soften up. “I apologize, I should have been a little nicer. I must remember that everyone who takes refuge here has suffered at Polaris’s hands…”

    “They’ve been tortured for so long…” Pierce turned bleary-eyed back to his mother and aunt, who had not moved an inch. He lowered his eyelids, almost unable to look at them as they sat in the water. “It’s been decades for them. I’ll never forget that day they were torn away from me and my sister right before our eyes… she was too young to remember it, but I know how lucky we were to escape.” Fully closing his eyes, Pierce tightened his fist. “I spent my entire life trying to find and save them. It’s been so long for them that I’m shocked they survived…”

    Suddenly, Anthea spoke up. Her voice was barely a whisper, but in the relative silence of the cave, Pierce and Kristos could clearly hear her.

    “It’s over… we’re free…”

    “Mother!” Pierce exclaimed, water already starting to well up in the corners of his eyes.

    Even though Anthea heard her long-lost son’s voice, his words failed to register with her. She instead turned to her more immediate companion, the one who had been with her through the best and worst of the past decades - Concordia. Watching her golden-haired friend, who was unable to do much more than stare down at herself in shock, Anthea recalled the time they’d spent together in Virbank City in southeastern Unova.

    Back then, they’d both been aspiring actresses, finding work at Virbank’s Pokéstar Studios where they could. Their friendship formed fast after they met at an audition, and not long after, they moved into a shared apartment not far from the Virbank Complex industrial area. Her young son Pierce lived with them and for some time they were the closest thing possible to a family, one that grew when Anthea had her daughter. Those happy times wouldn't last, as one day the man who would become their long-time tormentor, Ghetsis, arrived at the bar they worked at to make ends meet. He soon abducted them, tearing them away from the life they knew to imprison them in an underground castle where they were held hostage to his whims. The exact circumstances of their kidnapping had long since vanished from Anthea’s memory, forced out by the decades of horror their lives stretched into.

    After everything they had been through, when Anthea looked at Concordia in the underground spring, she felt like things were at long last going back to normal. Concordia, finally coming out of her state of shock, looked back at Anthea and smiled ever so slightly.

    “Anthea… we really are…”

    Concordia didn't bother to finish her sentence. The two women who loved each other like sisters instead tearfully embraced in the water, barely able to contain their excitement over their long-sought freedom. On the edge of the lake, both Pierce and Kristos smiled as well.

    “You did well for them, my friend,” Kristos said. “Our people need these small miracles where we can get them.”

    “Thank you.” Pierce raised his arm and called to Anthea and Concordia, “Mother! Aunt Concordia!”

    “It’s been so long,” Anthea said, wiping away her tears, “but I know your face when I see it, Pierce. You’ve grown into a fine man.”

    “I don’t deserve that respect,” Pierce insisted, his mood dampened by a sudden wave of regret that washed over him. With his lifelong dream accomplished, the reality of his actions was starting to catch up with him. “I’ve done a lot of things a fine man wouldn't do, all to find you and then get enough power to rescue you. There are a lot of people who have been hurt because of me.”

    “You can still start over,” Concordia suggested.

    We can start over,” Anthea corrected her friend, setting a gentle hand on her shoulder. “You, me and Pierce… there’s time now. We can go home and all of us can start over.”

    “Mother, I'm sorry, but there's no starting over for us now.” Pierce tightened his fists as he wrestled with the anger and despair he felt at having to explain what he’d done on his way to rescuing them. As much as he now wished his time with Team Rocket didn’t exist, he had willingly and even enthusiastically served Giovanni in return for the organization’s help for his goals. “The world is a different place from what it was back then, thanks to Ghetsis and Polaris. We can’t just live our lives the same way anymore.”

    All of a sudden, an angry, indignant voice echoed through the cave. “To think you, a member of Team Rocket, complains about your life being irreversibly changed! After what you did to me, you have no right!”

    Pierce was so startled by the voice that he stumbled backward against Kristos, then staggered forward and nearly fell into the lake. He managed to right himself in time, but when he looked up to see who his accuser was, he found Mewtwo’s icy purple eyes cutting him to the bone. The Psychic-type Pokémon floated in the air over the spring, its tail flicking back and forth at a rapid pace while its fingers trembled from rage.

    “M-Mewtwo…” Pierce stammered, “You were in Ecruteak, you should understand…”

    “I understand what I must!” Mewtwo roared in response. “Outside, I will fight Polaris with you. But that is because we share an enemy! Team Rocket has no right to be here in this refuge!”

    An Aura Sphere crackled to life in Mewtwo’s right hand, but Pierce made no effort to escape. He just stood still, casting his eyes toward the ground.

    “Mewtwo, if it’s ultimately my fate to be destroyed by your hand, I can accept that. But please…” Pierce turned upward, looking straight at Mewtwo with an uncharacteristically desperate expression on his face. He looked like he was about to start crying, his lip quivering from his emotions instead of the cold. “Please, let me at least have some time to bring my family back together! I beg you, let me have that!”

    This display of emotion caught Mewtwo by surprise. Haunting memories of a certain group of Pokémon flooded into its mind, triggered by Pierce’s words.

    “Family…” Mewtwo’s arm briefly trembled, though the clone soon regained composure. “Hypocrite! Team Rocket took my family from me! We lived in peace and you came to destroy that! You have no right to grovel to me now!”

    Mewtwo brought its left arm around, surrounding the budding Aura Sphere with both of its hands. The orb flared with greater power than ever. Pierce still didn't try to get away, his initial crushing guilt having since been replaced with a paralyzing fear. It wasn't the mortal peril of the Aura Sphere that kept him fixed to his spot; it was instead the mere thought that after all his decades of work to find and rescue Anthea and Concordia, he would have the consequences of Team Rocket’s actions catch up with him before he could bring his whole family back together.

    While Pierce just stared at Mewtwo in anticipation of his fate, Anthea and Concordia got out of the water and hurried over to put themselves between the two. They stood with their backs to Pierce and spread their arms to partially shield him.

    “Don’t hurt him, please!” Anthea pleaded to the Psychic-type.

    Mewtwo froze at the sight of Anthea and Concordia protecting Pierce, stirring up more of its memories. When Team Rocket invaded their isolated mountain home, it sacrificed its own well being to protect the group of clones it cared for. They weren’t genetically related to Mewtwo, but Mewtwo created them with similar technology to that which it was born from itself, so they were like children to it. It would have done anything to protect them.

    “Just as they are doing now… Mewtwo thought to itself as it considered these memories and its current situation. It didn’t dispel the Aura Sphere, but it stopped advancing on Pierce.

    “Mewtwo, what are you doing? Stop this!”

    The confrontation had been so intense that none of the humans in the spring noticed the Prophet enter the cavern with Sylpha, Jacob and Looker. Not even Kristos noticed despite being sent there by her. When she saw the scene that was unfolding, the Prophet immediately rushed forward and extended her hand toward Mewtwo.

    “Spare me your Transcendence,” Mewtwo said, its voice making its agitation quite clear. “Tell me why he is here. Why is an agent of Team Rocket in this refuge?”

    “Because he is one of my people, and this place is a refuge for all of us. When he is here there is no such thing as Team Rocket. He is only Pierce, a young man whose family was torn apart by Gh…” For a very brief moment, the Prophet’s resolve weakened. “Ghetsis… He and Polaris destroyed this family and while they are here, they are just that, seeking shelter here like all of my people. This is not going to be a negotiable point.”

    Frustration overcame Mewtwo, making it shake in the air as it wrestled with what to do. Its indecision ultimately led it to scream and fling the Aura Sphere down into the water, where the orb of energy burst and created a small wave.

    “I will respect your wishes… under one condition. I want to know what your objective is. What you are truly up to.”

    “That is a fair request,” the Prophet immediately replied. “You’ll get that answer along with everyone else.” Turning to the others, she then said, “Pierce, I see you and your family have already gotten acquainted with him, so Looker, Jacob, allow me to introduce you to Kristos.”

    “It’s a pleasure,” Kristos said in greeting, quickly shaking hands with both men.

    “That it is,” Looker said.

    “I thought you were going to tell us what really happened to this place and Saeko Oryo,” Jacob complained. “What part does he have in this?”

    “I also told you this story was much bigger than you think,” retorted the Prophet. “Sylpha, I want to impress upon you the importance of your position. This is knowledge so few of our people are aware of that even I only learned it relatively recently.”

    “I’m ready.” Deep down in her heart, however, Sylpha felt a growing sense of apprehension. Since the Prophet knew about the Shadow Triad killing her family and destroying her village, whatever was coming had to be even more severe. Subconsciously, Sylpha joined her hands tightly together behind her back.

    “Very well,” the Prophet said. “Kristos, let’s begin.”

    “Where do we even start?” he said with a sarcastic chuckle. “Well… this place, the Sinjoh Ruins, were once the Tenganist holy land and now we take refuge here. You know all of that already.”

    Kristos waited for his audience to nod in silent understanding before he continued the story.

    “We came here from all over, mostly because of Ghetsis and his men destroying our homes.” He gestured to Sylpha to emphasize his point. “In my case, my heritage comes from where Argyros Town once existed. My ancestors Althea and Catherine were once the guardians of the shrine there, but the town was abandoned long before I was born.”

    “I’m sure you’re wondering what that has to do with everything else.” The Prophet shot a glance at Jacob, who was visibly shifting around uncomfortably, as she said this. “Keep it in mind. What’s really going on here begins eons ago, in the land of Michina. It was there that Arceus saved the planet by destroying a giant meteor over five thousand years ago. It suffered terrible injuries from doing so and was left near death due to the loss of its Life Plates in the collision. However, Arceus was saved by a man named Damos, whose Transcendence let him touch the hearts of Pokémon.”

    Turning away from the others, the Prophet walked to the edge of the spring and stared into its pristine water.

    “To thank him,” she continued, a hint of sadness in her voice, “Arceus used some of the Plates to form the Jewel of Life, assisting humans at the cost of diminishing its own life. It gave Damos the ability to harness the life energy of the earth and revitalize the land. That energy goes by many names… Gaia, Dragon Force, the Voice of Life, different Tenganist sects call it different things, but it’s a power that can give life and is the source of Transcendence itself. With the Jewel of Life, Damos could directly harness the Gaia energy and turn Michina from a desolate, ruined wasteland into a fertile paradise. Because Arceus’ life force was diminished, however, Damos was to return the Jewel of Life on the day the moon covered the sun.”

    “A solar eclipse… I’m well aware those are very important for you,” Jacob commented.

    “Indeed,” Kristos confirmed. “Our people used them to mark the passage of time since when Damos led us.”

    The Prophet began talking again, but stayed firmly in place looking down at the spring. “As you may know, not all was well. One of Damos’ advisors, Marcus, feared that once the Jewel of Life was returned, Michina would be ruined once again. He intended to force Damos to betray Arceus, but a group of individuals empowered by Dialga managed to defeat Marcus and save Arceus’ life.”

    “That can’t be it… can it?” Sylpha wondered.
     

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