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The Legendarian Chronicles [Revision 11]

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by Chibi Pika, Oct 2, 2011.

  1. Chibi Pika

    Chibi Pika Stay positive

    Hello yes it is me, finally showing up to reply to reviews in my thread. I'm sorry to make you all wait!

    @Marika_CZ:
    Well compared to how long it took me to reply to it, I’d say you did just fine! xD
    Ahahaha, criticism for obsessing over it is definitely warranted! But luckily this will be the final revision. I actually know what I’m doing this time. ;)
    You know, this actually made me realize that perhaps they shouldn’t use that term, or at least some of the more formal ones shouldn’t. It was something I’d been waffling on for a while.
    All of the things you described regarding Jade and Starr are 100% spot-on and I am delighted
    It took a very, very long time to get to this point, as all the earlier versions really did just dump a bunch of personality descriptions on the reader. xP
    I really loved how well you’ve managed to pin down Starr here, and in such a short amount of time too!
    Ahaha, you’re quite right! xD I always wanted to show more of her home life before the call to adventure, but also I was impatient. ;P
    Quite liking your predictions here! Playing around with the different factions of Team Rocket was a lot of fun in Book 1, and I like how many of the plot threads you caught!
    Nah, it was indeed fantastically vague. xD Another character calls this out later.
    It's grown on me in time lol. It just felt so forced when I first wrote it.
    No worries, thanks for sharing your thoughts on the beginning! It was a lot of fun to read. ^^

    @Starlight Aurate:
    No apologies needed! Also, deciding to read the Prologue and most recent chapter was an excellent idea! Especially since the most recent chapter was the first chapter of Book 2, and it kind of summed up most of Book 1. It gave you the chance to see how those character arcs ended up.
    unrepentantAuthor got me to cut down some of the adjectives and it reads a lot better now! I'll be editing the first post shortly, but thanks for the reminder.
    That's pretty much exactly what I was going for!
    Ooh, I'm glad--that was the goal after all, to get people wanting to know where this Rocket drama was heading! >:D

    Ah, good catch! Yeah, that would really read better with a subject.
    Jet is becoming more and more of a goober with each scene I write her in, and I love it.
    You’re quite right! It’s sort of more like, she’s over it enough to function normally from day to day, but it’s deeeefinitely not behind her, and the majority of Book 2 will involve a lot of being triggered and struggling to come to terms with things. There's plenty of trauma left to sort through!
    I absolutely love that after only one chapter, that reads as “the sort of thing she would do.” That tells me that she left an impression. ^^
    I'm especially glad that their personalities came through so well even for someone who hadn't read all the interim chapters! That's definitely a good sign. I'm really glad you decided to read the first chapter of both Book 1 and 2, as it led to a lot of neat perspectives. Thanks again for the review!

    @Sike Saner:
    Keeping track of that particular five days was a travesty. xD;
    That’s how I’ve interpreted it! You can’t just throw the same ball twice, after all.
    Bwahahah yes. Exactly. xD
    D8 D8
    >:3 Good.
    Ooh, you’ll enjoy the next chapter then!

    @Negrek:
    I... hm.

    Hm.

    I mean, on the one hand, I do really love summary sentences, especially since it lets me make the narration more conversational, (which I'm constantly trying to do with 1st person.) Buuuuut, I can see how this one might not be needed, yes. So you've at least gotten me to more carefully consider the value of each one in the future, even if I won't be trying to get rid of all of them. ;P
    Someday I will figure out the correct way to state that Aros is a showoff who gives zero f*cks about a fair fight. Someday.
    hey now wait a second

    ...at least her character arc is 100% different, and that was the first thing I created for her. :V

    Also I seem to have oversold people on her wanting to get stronger when it's not that at all. :T She wants to go on adventures. There will most certainly be many fun and exciting adventures in her future.
    aaaa, I'm so glad you liked the ending! I really wanted it to feel like a true and proper ending to Book 1 (despite obvious plot hooks for Book 2) and I'm so glad that it came off well, especially with that bittersweet air that I was going for.
    I will never stop wishing that my hiatus had been between 30 and 31. x_x Ah well, what can ya do. I really did want to format the fic like it's split into three books though, with completely separate introductions, inciting incidents, story arcs, climaxes, ect, in a way that I wouldn't get from just a normal story arc. It's just in the same thread because starting a sequel thread tanks viewership. :p
    I am glad that the time skip came through well enough though! That was one thing I failed spectacularly at in the old thread lol.
    Not much chilling and traveling, I’m afraid, but there absolutely will be a ton of Jade/Starr/Ajia interacting and working out their issues (in fact, chapters 35 and 37 and almost entirely devoted to this.) So don’t worry, we will get to see this!
    This is my favorite thing ever for three separate reasons.
    Thank you so much for your dedication in keeping up with my stupid fic over all these years. Can't wait to show off what's coming next!

    Again, thanks so much for the reviews everyone! And now, a status update. Some of you might know that I wrote Book 2 for NaNoWriMo! Specifically, my goal was to finish scripting the first half of Book 2, or everything up to Chapter 45. While I ran into some snags with the Hoenn arc, everything's looking pretty solid so far! I which I hadn't burned myself out for December/January though. It's completely unacceptable that I let Chapter 32 take this long, and only because I was bored with it and didn't want to write it. ><

    But it's finally done and should be posted later tonight! And I've started a new method of making myself commit to writing at least 200 words a day, so we'll see where that takes me.

    ~Chibi~
     
    Marika_CZ likes this.
  2. Chibi Pika

    Chibi Pika Stay positive

    @3DSRed @jirachiman876 Let me know if you want to be added to the list!
    Alright, 2018 was a slow year for LC. But I'm back, I've got a ton of content fresh from NaNoWriMo, and I'm ready to blaze ahead into Book 2. Let's do this~


    ~Chapter 32: The Kanto League~

    [​IMG]

    The Tohjo Mountains stretched out in every direction as Firestorm and I soared eastward from Blackthorn with Starr riding Swift not far behind us. By now, the sheer slopes of Mt. Silver towered over the southern horizon as we crossed over into Kanto, and from there the terrain gave way to rocky highlands, and then forested hills. Until finally, a wide, flat-topped mountain appeared on the horizon ahead of us, the only landmark for miles.

    “*Is that it?*” Firestorm asked.

    I grinned. “Yep. That’s Indigo.”

    The massive rock face almost seemed to glimmer in the mid-morning sun, its surface streaked with red and purple. I caught sight of the cave entrance at the base of the mountain, beyond which lay the sprawling labyrinth of Victory Road that any first-time competitors would have to pass through before being allowed entry. Good thing I wasn’t actually participating in the tournament.

    Warm updrafts sent us soaring upward until we were flying directly over the city, and I finally caught my first glimpse of the tournament site. A massive central building was ringed by an impressive array of stadiums. I had spent so long training on Midnight Island that I thought I had a good idea of what stadiums were like, but like Rudy had said, these put Midnight Stadium to shame—able to fit an endless amount of spectators and boasting towering screens to report ongoing battle statistics. Surrounding the main stadiums were smaller battlefields and lines of training ground, where trainers’ Pokémon could be seen launching attacks into the air.

    As we neared the airspace over the plateau, it became increasingly obvious just how many other trainers were making the same journey, as the sky was absolutely swarming with flying Pokémon. A scattered group of uniformed people riding Pidgeot circled the area, waving colored flags to direct the aerial traffic. I nudged Firestorm’s side in a way that told him to slow down, and then we waited until one of the rangers gave us the go-ahead to land in a roped-off patch of dirt on the southwestern edge of the plateau.

    Everyone making the flight today had to be guests. Most of the competitors had probably been here for at least a month, training and preparing for the tournament to begin tomorrow. There was still the occasional frantic and out-of-breath trainer sprinting up the grand stairs from Victory Road at the last minute, however.

    “*I’ve never seen this many trainers in one spot,*” Firestorm said, craning his neck around to take in all the details surrounding us. “*Just think of how many people we could battle here.*”

    I gave him a nudge. “Hey, remember we’re not here to compete, we’re just supporting Rudy and Darren.”

    Firestorm shrugged. “*Doesn’t mean we can’t have fun in the meantime.*”

    A sudden burst of air rushed into my face as Swift landed alongside us. Starr jumped down from his back right before I recalled both him and Firestorm to make room for the other flyers landing all around.

    “Man, that took way too long,” Starr said, stretching widely.

    I raised an eyebrow. “It was only a forty minute flight?”

    “Yep. Too long, if you ask me. Shame Ajia can’t just have Espeon give us a lift everywhere.”

    I snorted. ‘Espeon’—in other words, Mew. “I think ‘Espeon’ has better things to do,” I said dryly.

    Starr shrugged. “Whatever. Speaking of, is Ajia here yet?”

    “I texted her earlier. She said she was busy and that she’d be getting here later today.”

    “Attention all guests!” a recorded voice blared from speakers mounted around the landing area. “Please see the visitor’s booth for a spectator badge and a map of the tournament site outlining which areas are off-limits to all non-competitors. Tickets for designated seats can also be purchased at this time.”

    Well, that wasn’t going to be a problem. I’d already reserved a basic spectator badge, which was enough to get me into the tournament site and let me watch the preliminaries. If anyone I knew made it into the top cut, I’d think about buying seats for it, but otherwise it was too expensive to consider.

    “So I’m gonna go meet up with some friends,” I said, pausing slightly. “You can come with me, if you want?”

    “No thanks. I’ll just entertain myself around the city until Ajia gets here,” Starr replied.

    “Alright, I’ll catch up with you two later,” I said, waving to her before I walked off.

    After sending a quick text to Rudy to let him know I’d made it here, I waited in line to pick up my badge at the visitor’s booth. Within seconds, I’d received his reply of, “Alright! I’m over at public battlefield C. See you there!”

    All I had to do was show the attendant my ID and she handed me a glossy card that read ‘99 Kanto League Championships’ with the word ‘spectator’ under it in big, bold font. Simple though it was, I couldn’t deny that it felt really cool to hang the badge around my neck and freely set foot inside the tournament site. Who didn’t dream of visiting Indigo Plateau during tourney season? Granted, that dream usually included being an actual participant, but I’d long since abandoned the idea of being a competitive battler, and just being here was cool enough.

    So I wandered the tournament site, passing under the shadows cast by the grand stone arches at the entrance. My eyes traced the ridiculous array of vendors’ stalls that had been set up along the walkway, which was absolutely packed with trainers. I saw battle enhancements of every shape, size, and color, the majority of which I didn’t even know the names of. An absolute rainbow of different types of Pokéballs. Walls upon walls of TMs. An assortment of League-branded merch like shirts, bags, and plushes (including a ridiculously huge plush of Bubba the Venusaur, this year’s tournament mascot.) It was almost dizzying.

    I really wasn’t too keen on draining my account while I was here, and that was almost definitely going to happen if I stayed here too long. Instead, I pressed on through the vendors’ alley and made my way toward the public battlefields that rimmed the eastern edge of the tourney site. Once there I was met with the sight of dozens of trainers, all with Pokémon by their side—some of them studying new moves, others holding mock battles. Attacks were kept fairly low-key. A quick glance at all the signs lining the area revealed why: ‘Moves with ratings exceeding 95 are strictly prohibited on the public battlegrounds. The complete list of League-approved moves with ratings can be found here,” followed by a code that could be scanned to visit the webpage. Well that made sense—there weren’t exactly any shields out here to keep big, explosive attacks from going out of control.

    I wandered along the outskirts until I reached battlefield C, then weaved through scattered groups of trainers. I passed by a crowd gathered around a Dragonair practicing looping figure-8s in the air, then a duo of Marowak and Scyther doing a synchronized Swords Dance. And then when I reached the far corner of the battlefield, I finally caught sight of an olive-skinned, spiky-haired boy standing alongside a full team of Fearow, Nidoking, Pupitar, Houndoom, Breloom, and Tauros. He turned in my direction. Then his eyes lit up and he waved, proudly holding up the competitor badge hanging from a cord around his neck. Before I could respond, the Houndoom dashed forward in a blur of black, rearing up to put her paws on my shoulders and licking the side of my face. Some things never changed.

    “Well about time you got here,” Rudy said in a mock scolding tone as he strolled over, hands on his hips.

    “I got here as soon as I could,” I said, laughing as I shoved Ebony down. “This is literally the first day that the tourney site’s open to non-combatants.”

    “I know, I know, just trying to give you a hard time,” he said, elbowing my arm. “I still think it sucks that you’re not actually in the tournament. But at least you’ve been keeping up with badge collecting, yeah? How many you up to now?”

    “Five,” I said.

    He nodded approvingly. “Ever considered entering the Johto League?”

    “I’m a little late for that this year,” I said with a laugh.

    “Next year, then.”

    I shook my head. “Nah. The gym battles were just the best way to keep my team from getting bored.”

    “Fine, whatever works for you,” he said, shrugging. “I can’t say it’s too different for me either. After the rebellion ended, training and badge collecting has kinda been what’s kept me going, yeah?” It was kind of a surprise to hear him mention that. Neither of us exactly brought up the rebellion’s end very often.

    “Anyway, it doesn’t matter that you’re not entering,” he went on, waving a hand dismissively. “In fact, it’s a good thing. Y’know, it’s getting close enough to the preliminaries that I really shouldn’t train with anyone who I could be fighting in the tournament. So you need to be my training partner. My team needs all the training it can get!”

    I couldn’t help chuckling a bit under my breath. There hadn’t been a single time we’d met up that he hadn’t challenged me. And while I’d always left out the experiments in the past, Rudy’s Pokémon had been making leaps and bounds in strength lately. It could actually be a fair fight now.

    “How does three rounds of one on one sound?” he asked, taking a few steps back to put some distance between us.

    “Fine by me,” I said. “You send out first.”

    He spun around, sizing up all of his team members. Ebony hopped up and down in front of his face, but he gave her a pat on the neck and said, “Not this time,” with a small laugh. He glanced at each of the rest of them in turn, muttering various things to himself. And then his gaze fell on the rock-armored cocoon sitting off to the side, ignoring everyone else.

    “I choose Pupitar!” he exclaimed.

    The rock-type gave no response at first. Her eyes were half-lidded with the usual bored expression, which I would have chalked up to her species not being very expressive, although she’d never exactly showed much interest in anything or anyone as a Larvitar either. Rudy didn’t seem too fazed by her (lack of) response though. He just waited patiently while she seemingly considered the idea. Finally, after a lengthy pause, the rock-armored cocoon hopped forward heavily, the pointed end of her shell digging into the dirt with each hop.

    “So you’re entering the Indigo League tournament, and you haven’t gotten one of your team members to their final form yet?” I asked, raising an eyebrow.

    “Ah, screw you,” he said, giving me a shove. “No one gets a pseudo-legend to its final form in their first year of training.”

    I smirked. “I know, just giving you a hard time.” It wasn’t like I’d have been able to do any better.

    I took a good twenty or so steps back to put some distance between us before I let Stygian out of her Pokéball. The Absol appeared in front of me in a burst of white light, then glanced around briefly before her eyes fell on her opponent.

    “*Interesting,*” she just said. Probably referring to the fact that I normally didn’t use her or the other experiments in my battles with Rudy. He must have noticed too, because his eyes widened slightly, but then he just pumped a fist and shouted, “You got this, Pupitar!” Pupitar gave a slight rock that seemed to be her species’ equivalent of a shrug.

    “Let’s open with a quick Night Slash,” I said.

    Stygian dashed forward, dark aura flaring to life around her forepaws as she ran. Pupitar didn’t move. Sure, it was unlikely she could dodge in time. But she just sat there as Stygian closed the gap between them. Within seconds, the Absol reached her opponent and swung a paw down, carving shallow gashes into Pupitar’s shell.

    Then Rudy suddenly yelled, “Headbutt now!”

    Stygian was mid-move and didn’t have a chance to react. Without warning, the rock-type shot upward and smashed into her face. The Absol staggered backward, clutching a paw to her forehead and glaring daggers at the pupa.

    Alright, shouldn’t have rushed in like that. If he just had Pupitar go for the counterattack on every move, her endurance would win out over Stygian’s strength. Had to play this smarter.

    “Swords Dance!” I called out.

    Stygian circled back to where her opponent most likely couldn’t reach and began honing her claws in a complicated, rhythmic series of forms, her movements growing sharper and more forceful in the process.

    Rudy watched her dance, furrowing his brow. Then he just shrugged and said, “Alright, we’ll go with Rock Polish.”

    Shoot. I’d expected him to press the attack while Stygian was setting up, not respond with a setup of his own. Since when did Rudy use setup moves, anyway?

    As Stygian finished her dance, Pupitar began spinning against the dirt, slowly at first, but quickly increasing in speed. The rocky surface of her shell smoothed over, the plates of armor clicking against each other, almost like they were loosening.

    “Alright, now for a Rock Smash,” Rudy said, grinning.

    The rock-type vented a burst of gas from her shell, instantly propelling herself forward like a rocket. Whoa—I’d definitely never seen Pupitar do that before.

    “Cut her off with a Night Slash!” I ordered.

    Stygian dashed forward. Her claws, honed from the earlier dance, flared up with a far larger and more vicious aura. She rushed forward, intent on landing a hit first, hopefully knocking her opponent prone, and then we’d be free to dish out a follow-up attack.

    The two met at the center of the battlefield. The Absol’s claws landed first, cleaving deep gashes in the armor plating on the rock-type’s front. But the move didn’t stop her momentum, not by a longshot. The pupa plowed straight into Stygian just as fast, bowling her over like she was a ragdoll. She tumbled over her side, but then sprang to her feet quicker than I’d thought possible and smacked Pupitar in the back before she had a chance to react.

    And then I realized the same thing that Stygian just had—Pupitar was fast, but only in a straight line. She still had trouble turning on a dime.

    Rudy shook his head. “Alright, you are still too fast and we gotta fix that. Bulldoze!”

    Pupitar burst up into the air before Stygian could slash at her once again. She reached the apex of her leap and closed her eyes in concentration before plunging back to the ground, unleashing a shockwave of rolling dirt all around her. Stygian leaped back in a hurry, but the waves reached her in seconds. She jumped once, twice, avoiding the first two, but then tripping over the churned-up earth left in their wake.

    Damn it, now Stygian’s paws were covered in mud and she was obviously fighting the urge to stop and kick it off but also had to keep moving to avoid the nonsensically fast Pupitar and argh. None of her hits were doing enough damage. Granted, there was always Iron Tail… We hadn’t exactly perfected it after learning it from Jasmine while training in Olivine, and it was hard to land, but…

    Pupitar let out another burst of gas, shooting forward.

    Ah, screw it.

    “Iron Tail!” I yelled.

    Stygian’s bladelike tail began to glow, flickering at first, then gradually increasing in brightness. But it was slow, and the Absol had to jump back to avoid the oncoming attack. Finally, the light faded to reveal a metallic sheen, and the dark-type lunged at her opponent. She stopped, pivoted on her front paws, then swung her tail in a wide arc—

    —and went completely over Pupitar’s head.

    “Dammit!” I hissed under my breath.

    “Another Headbutt!”

    Alright, bad idea, bad idea, had to salvage this. Something, anything—!

    “Sucker Punch!” I blurted out.

    The second before Pupitar made contact, Stygian ducked underneath and slipped behind her in one smooth motion. Before the rock-type had a chance to react, Stygian caught her with a heavy strike right to the back of her head, right between the armor plates. Pupitar pitched forward, eyes going wide for a second. Then she kept going, faceplanting into the dirt at full speed.

    I pumped a fist in the air. And in the seconds it took Pupitar to begin wrenching herself free from the earth, I almost forgot to order a follow up.

    Now go for the Iron Tail!”

    Stygian crouched low, tail glowing again. Pupitar struggled, the boost gas digging her horns deeper into the dirt. Not fast enough. The Absol’s tail shed its glow, fully metallic. She swung it in a downward arc, striking the pupa in the back of the head with a resounding clang and knocking her flying. The rock-type tumbled across the battlefield before finally coming to a halt.

    Pupitar picked herself up from the dirt, giving us… what would have looked like an either annoyed or pissed-off face if it weren’t her default. Though there was also subtler tells. The way her body had started trembling. Her eyes twitching. Our moves had done more damage than I’d thought.

    The next few seconds dragged on weirdly long as Pupitar paused, seemingly considering something. Then, without warning, she let out a burst of gas… and shot right past Stygian and back to her trainer’s side.

    “Done already?” Rudy said, staring at her incredulously.

    The rock-type gave no response, continuing to eye me and Stygian with the same annoyed (?) glare.

    He rolled his eyes. “Alright, alright, you’re the boss.” He gestured to me and Stygian. “First round is yours, I guess.”

    I stared blankly. “What was that about?”

    Rudy shoved his hands in his pockets. “Ah, you know how she is. Doesn’t always wanna battle, but then gets grumpy when she doesn’t get to.” He gave the cocoon a playful jab before recalling her.

    Huh. Then, again, now that I thought back, that had been the case when we trained on the Rebellion as well, hadn’t it? Back then, he’d always brush it off with the fact that it’d all be worth it when she became a Tyranitar. At least, before he got bored and switched to training Ebony nonstop. I’d never seen him so calm about it.

    “But like, it’s not her fault!” Rudy added quickly. “Just part of being a Pupitar, y’know? Prob’ly more boring for her than it is for me. That’s part of the reason I wanna get better, so that she can evolve. I think she’ll like having legs again.”

    I smiled. “I think you’re right. In any case, that was a lot tougher than our last match.”

    “Yeah? I’ll take that as a compliment then, cuz she won’t,” he said with a slight laugh. “Anyway, you won that round so you send out first.”

    I nodded, recalling Stygian. My hand hovered over the rest of my Pokéballs, but then settled on one.

    “You’re up, Aros!” I called out. The buglike dragon took shape in front of me, already tensed for battle. But then his red-lensed eyes fell on Rudy and he relaxed slightly, mouth curled into confident smirk. “*Well this should be fun.*”

    “Don’t underestimate him,” I warned. “He’s entering the league, after all.”

    “*I got it, I got it,*” the Flygon said waving his tail fan. His tone wasn’t too convincing.

    Rudy grinned upon seeing my pick. “Time for the real star of the show,” he said. “Nidoking, you’re up!”

    The armored, rabbit-like beast lumbered forward, striking a dashing pose once he reached the center of the battlefield. Nidoking. One of the Pokémon that Rudy had been training the longest. The team’s powerhouse.

    “Did you see his new belt?” Rudy asked. “It’s pretty badass, isn’t it?”

    Nidoking lifted his bulky arms to better show off the tattered black belt tied around his midsection.

    “Oh yeah, I remember you mentioning that. Guessing you taught him some new fighting-type moves?”

    “You’ll see,” Rudy said, still grinning cheekily.

    I snorted. “Alright then.” I motioned to Aros and said, “Open with Dragon Pulse!”

    The Flygon opened his mouth wide and breathed out a jagged burst of violet dragonfire. Nidoking responded by lunging to the side in one deceptively fast motion; his thick hind claws scraping the dirt as he skidded to a halt. He flashed a grin that seemed to mirror his trainer’s, then flexed his fore claws as if asking for more.

    Egh, what a waste. Aros was way too far away to guarantee a hit. We’d have to close the distance.

    “Alright fine, fly closer and use Dragon Claw!” I yelled.

    Rudy’s grin still hadn’t lessened. And he wasn’t the sort to fake confidence to psyche out his opponent. He was planning something. Nidoking stamped a foot and held both arms forward, clearly readying himself for a counterattack. Aros vibrated his wings and shot forward, claws flaring up with dragonfire. The poison beast made a lunge at the last second but Aros swerved around him effortlessly, drawing back his claws and slashing down right alongside the row of thorns running down his back. Nidoking grunted in pain, stumbling forward. But then he swung his heavy arms in a wide arc before the Flygon could make a move to get out of the way, catching hold of his tail.

    “What the hell?” I muttered.

    Rudy’s smirked. “Ice Beam.”

    Oh, hell no.

    Nidoking pointed his horn forward, ice crystals glittering in the air around it before a jagged beam of bright blue energy shot forward, striking Aros dead-on, right in the face. The bug-dragon let out a pathetic cry as his wings slowed and he crashed into the dirt, shivering like mad.

    Ice Beam. He knew freaking Ice Beam, the one thing Aros was hopelessly weak to. He couldn’t possibly endure another one of those. Had to do something fast.

    “Get in the air!” I yelled desperately.

    It’d take Nidoking a good couple of seconds to charge up the energy for another beam. More than enough time to put some distance between them. It’d buy me some time to think, anyway.

    Aros shook the frost off his wings, clearly shaking all over. But he grit his teeth with a look of determination and wrenched his tail out of Nidoking’s grip before taking to the air. His flight faltered a bit at first, but then he quickly put on speed, flying so high I had to squint at the sunlight.

    “Coming back down anytime soon? You know regulation battlefields have a height limit,” Rudy pointed out, sounding far more amused about it than he had any right to.

    “Oh, quiet,” I shot back. He was right, but I wasn’t about to admit that. I motioned to Aros and yelled. “Dragon Pulse, and spread it out!”

    Aros inhaled deeply, then breathed out another burst of dragonfire. But this time, rather than a single, concentrated jet, it exploded into wide flurry of embers raining down on Nidoking. The poison beast raised his heavy forelimbs overhead, shielding his face. His horn glittered with ice crystals, and I sucked in a breath. But then Nidoking paused, eyes tracing Aros’s path through the sky. There was no point in wasting the energy on a move that was so easily dodged from far away.

    Rudy clearly realized the same thing too, because he nodded and called out, “Toxic!”

    Nidoking opened his mouth wide, gathering a pool of sludge in his throat, then spat it out so that it splattered apart in the air. Aros turned away to shield his face, but several drops of the stuff splashed against his side. He shook them off with a sound of disgust, but the damage was done—his scales remained tinged with a sickly purple. Couldn’t afford to waste time, then. Had to go for an all-out offensive. While also avoiding Ice Beam. Ugh, what a pain… Judging by the smirk on Rudy’s face, that was exactly why he’d done it, too.

    “Sand Tomb!” I called out.

    Aros pitched his wings backward and shot toward the ground, keeping his eyes on Nidoking the entire time. The Flygon reached the earth within seconds, digging his claws into the ground and gripping it tightly. At once, the dirt around Nidoking dissolved into a vortex of sand, sucking him into its center no matter how hard he thrashed against it.

    “Alright, he’s immobilized! Now stay behind him so he can’t hit you!” I yelled.

    Aros took off flying in a wide arc, quickly putting himself out of Nidoking’s prime Ice Beam range and pelting his back with more dragonfire. The poison-type struggled to pivot, but the sand weighing down his lower half made it difficult. He tugged at his legs, but that only made him sink deeper.

    “Dig!” Rudy called out, and I had to stop myself from laughing out loud. Was he insane? Using Dig against a ground-type. Nidoking’d be a sitting duck while he was underground!

    Nidoking didn’t waste a second diving headfirst into the sinkhole, scattering fistfuls of sand behind him as he tunneled downward.

    I pointed forward with what must have been a manic grin on my face. “Get him with Earthquake!” And then, for whatever reason, the alarm bells went off in my head. Moves rated over 95 were banned on the public battlefields. Earthquake was definitely on that list.

    “Wait! Wait wait wait!” I called out frantically just as Aros was preparing to slam his legs into the ground with all his might. God, the last thing we needed was toppling over half a dozen trainers and Pokémon. What other moves could hit Nidoking while he was underground? Bulldoze maybe? I wasn’t so sure. But wait—I’d already used up all four of my move commands with that stupid Earthquake.

    Nidoking popped his head out of the dirt a good twenty feet away from where he’d submerged, now perfectly free from the Sand Tomb.

    “Now!”

    Ice Beam fired, striking Aros perfectly while he was still staring at me waiting for me to order something. A wave of frost rushed over his body from the impact point, and he flailed his wings in an attempt to get away. But it was too much for him. His tail thrashed desperately against the air for several seconds, then his wings gave out and he crashed to the dirt, unmoving.

    I let out a low groan, screwing my eyes shut while I grabbed his Pokéball to recall him. Then I shot Rudy a glare. “Been using TMs, I take it?”

    He grinned. “You noticed.”

    “Well it’d be a little hard not to!” I yelled, laughing slightly.

    “Also, it’s an Expert Belt, not a Black Belt,” he added, jerking a thumb toward Nidoking, who was now flexing.

    I rolled my eyes. “You think I can tell the difference?”

    “Obviously not.”

    Ouch. I’d walked right into that.

    “Whatever, we’re one round apiece and you have the first sendout again,” I said with just the tiniest bit of irritation leaking into my voice.

    Rudy pivoted on his heels and had barely looked over his lineup before turning back and announcing, “I’ll use Tauros, then.”

    A recent addition to his team. The young bull gave a snort and trotted forward, shaking his mane proudly.

    After that Ice Beam nonsense from Nidoking, I was fully expecting more unexpected moves. I just obviously didn’t know exactly what kind, which made it hard to anticipate. Obviously, the best choice would be the team member with the fewest exploitable weaknesses. That was Chibi, but… I still wasn’t totally sure if anyone on Rudy’s team was a match for him. And there was no point to this if it wasn’t an even match. So in that case…

    “Your turn, Firestorm!” I called out, releasing him. The orange fire lizard took shape in front of me, flaring his wings and spitting a few embers.

    “Let’s open with Work Up!” Rudy exclaimed. Tauros gave a flick of his tails before launching into an energetic march, tossing his head with each hoofbeat.

    I pointed forward. “Get in the air and use Flame Burst!”

    With a mighty flap, Firestorm shot skyward. He opened his mouth wide, gathering a large ball of flame, then launched it downward. But Tauros was fast. By that time, he seemed to have somehow finished his march already, because he was able to break into a full gallop and avoid the worst of the fireball. It hit the dirt right behind him and exploded into a flurry of embers.

    Firestorm was too high to land a direct hit without Tauros being able to dodge everything with ease. At worst, he’d take a few minor scorches. Same tactic as last time, forcing us into close quarters. Fortunately, Firestorm was good at that.

    “Fly down behind him and use Fire Punch!”

    Firestorm pitched his wings back, shooting into a steep dive. He flared his wings out once he neared the ground, aiming to close the distance before his opponent could try anything. Tauros lunged with his horns, but the Charizard was moving much too quickly and tilted a wing to instantly loop behind the bull. He drew back an arm, flames bursting to life around his fist, then swung it, landing a scorching blow to Tauros’s back. The bull recoiled backward, pivoting on his forelegs, face scrunched up with pain and then—

    “Rock Tomb!”

    Dammit. There it was.

    Firestorm’s eyes went wide, and he spread his wings to gain altitude again. But he’d already lost too much of his momentum from the Fire Punch, and wasn’t ready for the giant boulders that erupted from the ground around him, smashing into his belly and knocking him to the dirt. Tauros didn’t waste any time charging at him the moment he crashed to the ground, which had the added impact of knocking him flying right back into the rocks.

    “Get back in the air!” I yelled frantically, clenching both fists tight.

    Firestorm struggled to pull himself free from the rubble, but his movements were slow, and he had to raise his arms to catch Tauros’s horns before the latter could ram him again. What was I doing? This was the same gambit Rudy pulled last round. Couldn’t get flustered just from one unexpected move. Rock Tomb was weaker than Ice Beam anyway, and it wasn’t like Tauros had any equipment powering it up either. Firestorm wasn’t down and out yet.

    “Another Rock Tomb!” Rudy yelled.

    “Smokescreen!” I blurted out.

    Tauros reared back, ready to strike. But the Charizard breathed out a billowing cloud of black smoke right into his face, and he stumbled backward, coughing. And in the moment it took for him to regain himself and slam his hooves into the dirt, Firestorm shot into the sky, one wing slightly crooked. Stones erupted from the ground right behind where he’d been just seconds earlier.

    Rudy’s eyes followed Firestorm turning tail back into the air. Then he just shrugged and said, “Alright, another Work Up then.”

    Ughh no, not more setting up. That was the whole reason we’d pressed the attack in the first place. Did Tauros even have any long-range moves? I could maybe play it cheap and just have Firestorm stay out of reach the whole time? Either way, couldn’t waste time, had to give a command.

    “Flame Burst!” I called out, because I really didn’t have anything better to say.

    The Charizard breathed out another raging fireball, and this time his aim was true, striking Tauros right on the back and exploding with a plume of embers that made him grunt in pain. But the normal-type had already finished his march, and despite the damage, his movements were as sharp and energetic as ever.

    Rudy put a hand to his chin, thinking. Then the corners of his mouth turned up and he ordered, “Swagger!”

    Really? That was awful bold of him.

    Tauros slowed down, fighting back the pain from the previous hit. And then he began to strut, tossing his mane and whipping his tails with an overconfident smirk. Firestorm glanced away, determined not to look at it. But as the seconds went by, his eyes darted back more and more frequently. He muttered something under his breath. I saw his muscles tighten up with anger. Saw him go slightly cross-eyed.

    “You wanna power him up? Alright fine.” I stamped a foot to the dirt and yelled, “Fire Punch! But don’t get too close to the ground! Be ready to dodge the rocks!” Man, that was a tall order right now, especially with him flustered by the confusion. I already regretted it, but taking it back would be even more confusing.

    Firestorm dove. I flinched, half expecting him to just crash into the dirt, but he flared his wings and caught himself, moving so fast that he’d hopefully be hard to hit with more rocks. Tauros braced himself, ready to meet his opponent head-on. The Charizard drew back his fist, raging flame licking his scales, and then—

    The fire went out. Firestorm stared stupidly at his own fist for a few seconds, then forgot to flap his wings and crashed to the ground with a dull thud.

    I smacked a palm to my forehead. Dammit.

    “Wild Charge!” Rudy called out.

    Tauros drew himself back, his body crackling with… electricity? Yeah, strings of lightning leaped off his fur as he charged forward, slamming himself into Firestorm with full force. The fire lizard faceplanted into the dirt and didn’t move after that.

    I stared, my brain taking several seconds to process the full weight of what had just happened.

    “Heeeellll yeeeaaah!!” Rudy yelled, jumping three feet into the air

    “Oh my god, I am never gonna hear the end this, am I?” I asked, putting both hands to my forehead in what was only slightly exaggerated defeat.

    “Hell no!” he exclaimed, pumping both fists above his head

    I’d lost, and it wasn’t even a close loss on the last two. And I hadn’t even really won the first match, Pupitar had just gotten bored. That was even worse. Granted, we probably would’ve won that round anyway. At least I could tell myself that.

    I recalled Firestorm and put my hands on my hips. “Well fine, if you call getting a single cheap shot with new moves your strategy, let’s see how that carries you.”

    “Not my fault you weren’t expecting it,” he said with a smirk. And in his defense… any opponent in the League would be expected to expect those moves. I just didn’t care to do any research because I wasn’t entering.

    “Alright, you asked for it, next time you’re fighting Chibi,” I said, sticking out my tongue.

    He scoffed. “Bring it on, we’re not scared of him anymore.”

    “*I beg to differ,*” Fearow cut in dryly.

    He craned his neck to glance back at the shaggy bird. “Well hey, no one said you had to fight him.”

    I tilted my head. That wasn’t the first time today that he’d just casually replied to his Pokémon without thinking about it. “You’re getting better at Pokespeech, huh?”

    Rudy paused, considering it. “Yeah? I mean, I never cared too much about it in school, but then… I guess you guys made it look cool, so I started working on it again.” He shoved his fists in his pockets, like he was making an embarrassing admission and not describing something really cool.

    “I think it’s neat,” I said.

    He just shrugged and turned around, grabbing a potion from his bag and spraying down Tauros’s scorched fur. Behind the two of them, Breloom was chatting with Fearow about something while Nidoking posed for random passersby. And Ebony… well, Ebony was currently running circles around Pupitar, trying in vain to get the latter to play with her, while the pupa slowly rotated herself so that she wasn’t facing the energetic pup.

    He had a pretty solid team. The six in front of me, not to mention Raichu, who must have been in storage at the moment. And they’d all obviously been training a lot. I honestly thought they might have a shot at making it to the top cut.

    “Hey, good to see you here!” a voice behind me called out. A familiar voice. “Let me guess, this one already dragged you into a battle, yeah?”

    I whirled around and sure enough, there was Darren strolling up to us, a soda in one hand while he waved with the other.

    Rudy jerked his head toward us. “Well look who decided to show up!” he exclaimed, throwing his hands forward dramatically.

    “He’s exaggerating,” Darren said, raising a hand to the side of his mouth in a mock whisper. “I’ve been here for two weeks.”

    “Slacking off for two weeks, more like it,” Rudy shot back. “Are you a tourist or a competitor?”

    Darren rolled his eyes, but then my attention was stolen as a furry black shape dashed up my side, clinging to my shoulder.

    “Ow! Claws, claws!” I cried, freezing with my arms out to the side—moving only made the claws dig in more. A huge fan of pink feathers edged into my peripheral vision, and it wasn’t hard to guess who the culprit was.

    “Alright, get down Weavile,” Darren said, struggling to lift her until she finally jumped down herself. The dark-type grinned up at us toothily. Then she immediately dashed off as Ebony rushed after her, correctly identifying her as a much better playmate than Pupitar.

    “So you’re competing too?” I asked upon seeing the competitor badge hanging from his neck.

    “Yeah, this one bullied me into it,” he said, jerking a thumb towards Rudy.

    “Oh whatever, you wanted to do it too,” Rudy said dismissively, standing up and shoving the empty potion bottle back into his bag.

    Darren shrugged. “Mostly for the novelty, but whatever.”

    While he’d insisted in the past that the competitive battling scene wasn’t his thing, I couldn’t help but notice that he’d been keeping pace with Rudy’s badge-getting throughout the past nine months.

    “Anyway, are your teams hungry?” he asked. “I was just about to take mine to the feed tent.”

    Rudy gave him an indignant look. “We just barely got started on our training. We’ve got at least two more hours before it’s time for a food break.”

    The rest of his team didn’t seem to feel the same, in particular Ebony, who took that moment to conveniently reappear next to us and yell out, “*Snacks!!*”

    Rudy glanced back and forth between his team and us before putting his arms up in mock defeat. “Yeah, alright fine.”

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    We stopped by the Pokécenter for a quick heal (none of our team members were too terribly injured), before following Darren out to a huge tent where they had a Pokémon feeding station set up. It allowed trainers to pay a flat fee for each member of their team and the Pokémon could eat as much as they wanted from a wide variety of foods.

    With all three of us letting out our teams at once, I got the opportunity to see Darren’s full team of Venusaur, Sandslash, Golduck, Alakazam, Weavile, and Skarmory. All of them but Skarmory had been on his team during our Midnight Island training (the steel-type had joined the party sometime a few months ago.) Even if Darren wasn’t as big into competitive battling as Rudy, there was no denying that he had a solid team. It honestly seemed like both of them had a shot at making it far in the tournament.

    Rudy chattered nonstop about the strategies he’d been developing for each of his team members, then badgered me until I spilled the details of my most recent gym battle. Compared to my previous one versus Jasmine, it hadn’t been the most interesting win. Gym Leader Claire’s Kingdra had been kicking my ass with crazy fast moves until I sent out Chibi and took advantage of the rain by spamming Thunder over and over. Normally I wouldn’t have wanted to win like that, but… Chibi had been wanting to let off some steam for a while, and it had seemed to do him some good.

    Now, on the other hand, the one who seemed like he most needed to let off steam was Aros. He kept glowering at Rudy in between shoving fistfuls of food into his mouth like he was trying to show the food who was boss.

    “Got something to say?” I asked dryly.

    The Flygon glanced away. “*He’s gotten better.*”

    I gave him a pointed look. “Well yeah, of course he has. He’s been training a ton. I mean, he’s entering the Indigo League tournament. There’s no shame in us losing to him.”

    Aros huffed. “*I’ll just have to go all-out next time.*”

    I rolled my eyes. Either he was just lying to look better, or had actually been giving a weak effort—I wasn’t sure which one was worse.

    Around twenty minutes later, and just as we were preparing to leave the Pokéchow tent, I received a text from Ajia that read, “Hey, I just got here. Already found Starr. Wanna grab lunch and chat?”

    “Sure thing,” I texted back. Then I turned to Rudy and Darren and asked, “Mind if I take off? Gonna grab lunch with a friend who just got here.”

    “Leaving us again, I see how it is.” Darren said with a smirk.

    I rolled my eyes. “Ha ha. I’ll be back later this afternoon, alright?” At this rate I was never going to live down that time I left for the afternoon and then vanished for five days.

    Rudy gave me a look that said I was insane. “Um, how about no. I’ve still got like a billion moves I wanna practice.” He paused for a bit before adding, “And you need more practice too.”

    I snorted. “I’m not even in the tournament.”

    “All the most reason to improve,” he said earnestly.

    “That doesn’t even make any sense!” I yelled, but for some reason it was just dumb enough that I was laughing all the same. “Like I said, I’ll be back in a few hours, and we can all beat the stuffing out of each other just like old times. Deal?”

    Rudy scoffed. “I don’t need multi battle practice, this isn’t the Hoenn League.”

    “Ah, come on, it’ll be fun,” Darren said, elbowing him.

    “Whatever. But I swear, if you two gang up on me again, you’re gonna get it.” What exactly we were going to ‘get’ remained to be seen.

    After checking to make sure that my team was done eating (and having to stop Jet from shoveling treats into my bag for later) I recalled them all and gave one last wave to Rudy and Darren before taking off.

    Ajia texted me the name of the restaurant and I found it with my Pokégear’s map. It was a smaller place about 10 minutes out from all the stadiums. And while it still had plenty of trainers inside, it wasn’t anything like the wall-to-wall packed establishments that filled the tourney site.

    I quickly spotted Starr and Ajia after the latter waved to me from a booth in the far back of the room. I waved back, then went and placed my order at the front counter before going back to join them.

    “Good to see you,” Ajia said brightly as I sat down across from her.

    “I’m just glad you could make it,” I said, grinning.

    “Of course!” she said with a wink. “In any case, you said you had friends competing in this one, right?”

    I nodded. “Yeah, I just got done meeting with them.”

    “How d’you think they’ll do in the tournament?” Starr asked with the slightest bit of a smirk.

    I paused. “Well, I don’t know if Darren is all that into it, but his team is really well-balanced. And Rudy… he’s gotten really hardcore recently. I actually lost to him, just now.”

    “Niiice,” Starr said, laughing slightly. I rolled my eyes, determined to not let it get to me.

    Ajia put a hand to her chin, as though thinking about something. “You three trained together last year, right?”

    “Yeah,” I said.

    The unspoken implication was clear. It was unlikely that the three of us would have gotten as good if we hadn’t trained under Stalker. But Ajia didn’t continue that train of thought. She just leaned back, glancing wistfully around the restaurant, and all the League memorabilia lining the walls. “Man, being here brings back memories.”

    “What year did you compete here again?” I asked.

    “It was in ‘96. I made it to the top 16, though I honestly don’t know how, I was pretty terrible back then,” she said, giving an embarrassed smile.

    I waved a hand dismissively. “Ah, you couldn’t have been that bad.”

    Ajia chuckled. “I dunno, you should’ve seen me. I took a break from training after that, and then I started traveling in Johto. And then I got mixed up in all that Rocket stuff, trained under the commander, and, well… for better or worse, I got a lot, lot better. That’s definitely the only reason I won the ‘97 Johto Championships.”

    I smacked my forehead. “I still can’t believe I didn’t watch that one live. Spent that whole stupid summer sulking because I failed the trainer exam.”

    Starr snorted. “Wow, really? Even I watched that one.”

    Ajia raised an eyebrow. “Oh really?” she asked with just the slightest bit of a wry grin.

    Starr scowled. “Oh, don’t get the wrong idea. We were enemies, alright? I had to stay informed on your location and your strengths and your—”

    “Uh huh, sure,” Ajia said, elbowing her playfully. Starr just rolled her eyes with an exaggerated scoff.

    The side mention of Team Rocket had dragged up the memory of what Chibi had been badgering me about, though. I really didn’t want to bring it up, but at the same time, it wasn’t fair to just ignore it.

    I glanced around a few times, just to make sure that I wasn't in danger of being overheard. But with all the noise in the restaurant it was almost impossible to pick up individual voices, so it was most likely safe.

    “Hey, uh… I know I’ve asked you a million times, but… Chibi was wondering if there’s any news on the Team Rocket front,” I said. Starr raised an eyebrow at my words, but then turned to Ajia just the same.

    Ajia leaned back in her chair, folding her arms. “Same as last time, I’m afraid,” she said. “No more targeted Legendaries, no more major combat unit missions. It’s all business as usual.”

    “That’s what I told him, but he wouldn’t buy that,” I said. “Kept saying that they’re probably working on something big.”

    She paused, considering something carefully. “Well… he could be onto something there.”

    “What? But you just said—”

    “Nothing’s actually happened,” Ajia added quickly. “But one of my contacts keeps hearing about how the higher-ups are really, really upset about losing Mewtwo.”

    Starr laughed. “Of course they are. Take away their ultimate weapon, they’re gonna be pissed.”

    “Not just pissed,” Ajia said, shaking her head. “They straight-up can’t proceed with any of their plans until they have a way to deal with it.”

    I tilted my head. “Well, that’s good, right? That’s why we haven’t heard anything.”

    “Probably just afraid if they try anything, Mewtwo’s gonna show up out of nowhere and kick their ass,” Starr said with a smirk.

    Ajia gave her an exasperated look. “Starr…”

    “Alright, I’ll stop.” She let out a sigh. “Look, we all know they’re not gonna give up. Just means that when they do try something it’s gonna be fast and decisive. Something that’ll get them the biggest advantage in the shortest time, before there’s any chance for a counterattack. Also something that is totally none of our business,” she added, giving me and Ajia a pointed look.

    Eh… right.

    None of us brought up Team Rocket again for the rest of the conversation. I was also fairly certain that I didn’t want to relay anything we’d said to Chibi.





    ~End Chapter 32~

    Next Chapter: A certain estranged sibling shows up to stir the pot.

    ~Chibi~
     
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2019
  3. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin Future Pika-fodder?

    Hi, I still exist.

    31
    Normal trainer fic, indeed, with an abbreviated gym battle. I thought it was decent. Nice blend of actual play-by-play with Jade's color commentary. With that said, I'll just pass on a piece of advice I got from a better fic writer: you should really try to vary up the sentence structure with your battles more. I'm, uh, a bit too lazy to go back and check if this was true for the Rocket-related fights, but this one had a lot of (long) sentences of similar length, with plenty of comma splices thrown in to keep them at that long length. Mixing in shorter sentences would help with the action. Jade's thoughts had them, but the actual act of attacking is where this popped up. For example, this:

    Could, in my opinion, anyway, read a bit snappier if it wasn't four sentences of the same length, like this:

    It's up to you if you actually do this or not. Just thought I'd throw it out there.

    As far as the rest of the chapter goes: beach episode! Combined with anime recap episode! That's, uh, a thing, I guess. I thought it was fine. A nice way to show the changing team chemistry through some fun antics. I think the recap bits were a bit too "As you know..." for my liking, but it does look like you condensed them, so I don't think it's super harmful or anything.

    In other news...
    Fox only, Final Destination confirmed? damn melee elitists ruining my fun smh

    On a naming scale of 1 to ASGORE, Jade is about a wall of drying paint.

    I think Fawful hijacked the narration here. :V

    [​IMG]

    Firestorm, go sit in a corner and think about this awful pun.

    We interrupt this trainer fic to bring you literally every Kirby game ever.

    Uh... it's coarse and rough and irritating and it gets everywhere?

    This is why Stygian is the best. <3

    Chibi would be great at Ace Attorney.

    I thought you were Jet? Gosh dang indecisive water-weasel-thingies.

    We interrupt this obligatory anime beach episode to bring you literally every tower defense game ever. Good thing there are no microtransactions. :V

    [squints in alola]


    32
    Pupitar looking like she wants out of this fic. :p

    Also, I'm telling Namo you're being mean to half of Team Alloy.

    The closest exposure I have to leagues in fanworks are a couple of anime fics that focus mostly on the actual battles and Nuzlocke comics that stick more to game canon where the Elite Four are super-reclusive. This isn't actually showing any league matches at all, but I thought it was nice that the venue had this "sporting event of the year" feel to it. Or, for a better comparison, it's like a soccer tournament (World Cup, UCL, Euro Cup, etc.). That probably means nothing to you because eww sportsball, but I did enjoy the competitive atmosphere.

    Most of my comments regarding sentence structure from the last chapter hold up here, I'm afraid. A lot descriptive sentences were the same length and frequently employed one or two comma splices, some of which you could turn into full stops for the sake of variety. But, again, I'm not saying you have to do that. The most interesting part, for me, was how you Pupitar move. Kind of a pseudo-hydralicus type of mechanic in play, which is nifty. Oh, and Stygian continues to be best girl. I liked the Ice Beam on Nidoking because that's, like, an actual viable strategy I know people go with for nidoking in draft league formats. So, you did your research, I see. Which means you're probably sick and tired of this and want to go back to big gods blowing things up. :V

    Anyway, that's all I've got, save for some closing thoughts.
    >Me, going to PAX East for the first time

    That's a lot to expect there. :V

    Uh... I competed in the Kanto League and all I got was this lousy venusaur bobblehead?

    Aros has been talking with Gahi. Damn Necrozma screwing up the fanfic space-time continuum for his own amusement...

    [squints] waaaaait a second...
     
    Chibi Pika likes this.
  4. Dragonfree

    Dragonfree Just me

    I believe the comma there should go after the closing parenthesis.

    While this gave me a hilarious mental image of Darren being a giant advertisement for Rudy, I imagine this was supposed to be an and. :p

    Not an overly remarkable chapter here, but I really enjoyed your interpretation of the League itself and all the worldbuilding around it - like, of course each tournament has its own mascot and they have giant Bubba the Venusaur plushies, that just feels so right. I also enjoyed the open-air battlefields with a limit on move power. All in all it really felt like you'd thought through how this thing is organized, and it was really fun to see, even if it's likely just a brief glimpse of it.

    I didn't get too much out of the actual battle (save some personal amusement at this Pupitar after all the Pupitar bits of TQftL I've been rereading lately); I assume it's probably largely there to show how good Rudy has gotten, but since I still don't have a clear idea how important he's actually going to be to the rest of the fic, that's still sort of dangling in mid-air for me, if that makes any sense - I can't quite contextualize it at this point. It could also just be that I'm sick and my brain's a bit sludgy, though.

    Either way, I'm thrilled to finally see a new chapter and that we're getting to more plot soon! Good luck with the next chapters! :3
     
    Chibi Pika likes this.
  5. Chibi Pika

    Chibi Pika Stay positive

    @Ambyssin:
    Ah, you're quite right! And that's normally something I try to keep in mind, too. I think writing for-fun battles tends to fall into this habit (I'm almost certain that the Rocket fights are much better at this.)
    Writing this chapter made me realize how much I wish I'd developed Pupitar in Book 1 lmao. She's just... The Grumpiest Grump, who is absolutely fed up with being a Pupitar, and would very much like to stop being one as soon as possible, but that takes Effort, something which she is very much not in the mood for. And her trainer is way too enthusiastic with trying to help her, and it's Annoying and she would mostly just prefer to be left alone (although secretly she kinda likes it.)

    There, I just rambled more character for Pupitar than actually has been in the fic thus far. :V
    it's his fault for giving them so many juicy 4x weaknesses
    This was me trying to capture the atmosphere of all the times I've been to the real-life Pokemon World Championships! I'm glad it came through well enough. ^^
    That was actually inspired by the TCG!
    I'm a retired competitive battler, so no research was needed. :V
    Honestly, I'd have been pretty happy to get one of those at the tournaments I went to. :p
    dammit I just realized they're both synthetics too
    :D :D :D

    As always, thanks tons for the review! Your reactions are always a blast to read. xD

    @Dragonfree:
    I will literally never remember how to punctuate parentheses ever. I have looked it up a thousand times.
    dammit I laughed way too hard at this.
    I had a lot of fun coming up with those details! (And the move power limit was a last-minute addition that I had more fun with than I expected.)
    Ahaha, that did occur to me while I was writing this, like, “huh, I guess these two both don’t talk, even if for totally different reasons lol.” As I told Amby above, LC Pupitar is a huge grump who is thoroughly bored with being a Pupitar but is too lazy to do anything about it. Rudy knows this and helps nudge her out of her comfort zone because it’ll make her happier in the long run. (And this would mean a lot more if I hadn’t FORGOT TO MENTION how he got bored with training Pupitar in Book 1 asdfghsdg. I was too distracted by the Wartortle thing.)
    It’s great how I’ve spent all this time going, “no really guys, I swear these two are important” with no on-screen evidence. Oh well, at least we’re finally getting to the point where it gets proven within the story!
    Yes! I’m excited too!! I actually have written 200 words a day for the past week, and I’m almost done with 33 as a result!

    Thanks for the reviews, both of you! Chapter 33 only has one scene left and then it'll be done! I'll aim to post it sometime during the first week of March ( since it'll be done before then, I'll likely keep going with 34 in the meantime.)

    ~Chibi~
     
  6. Chibi Pika

    Chibi Pika Stay positive

    @3DSRed @jirachiman876 Let me know if you want to be added to the list!

    With this chapter we've finally arrived at some of the content I wrote for NaNoWriMo 15. I've been sitting on this for so long. Here we go~



    ~Chapter 33: Family Reunion~

    [​IMG]

    “Breloom, use Drain Punch!” Rudy yelled.

    The bouncy, mushroom-capped Pokémon fired his back legs to leap forward, drawing back an arm and driving it into his target’s thorax. The opposing Scizor tumbled backward and slumped over, still passed out from the earlier Spore attack. Beads of orange light clung to Breloom’s fist from the impact point, slowly settling into his body. Rudy smirked and threw a hand forward, ready to order another move.

    And then Scizor’s eyes snapped open. The armor-plated bug shot to its feet in one sharp motion, shaking its head to clear the haze of sleep before its eyes focused on the opponent now standing right in front of it.

    “Yes! Use Aerial Ace!” its trainer called out.

    Breloom sprang backward, but Scizor pursued, blades of white light forming around its pincers. It swung once; Breloom slipped under it with a smooth dodge, but the follow-up came impossibly fast, tearing into him first with a downward strike before smashing him back with the upward one.

    “And a brutal Aerial Ace attack sends Breloom flying! Rudy’s in a tight spot—Connor might just be able to turn this match around!” the commenter’s booming voice called out over the speakers, whipping the audience into a frenzy. I clenched the armrests of my seat anxiously. Rudy was probably wishing he’d brought Ebony to this match—would’ve been nice to just make short work of Scizor with a Flamethrower or two. Then again, his opponent’s team was stacked with rock-types so he’d opted not to (though part of me had still half expected him to bring her anyway.) Now he had a way tougher fight ahead of him.

    It was down to the final one-on-one in Rudy’s fourth preliminary and he couldn’t afford to lose. He’d already lost one match. Same as Darren. Not the end of the world, but it did mean that neither of them could take a second loss without seriously hurting their chances at making it to the top cut.

    The past week had blazed by in a nonstop whirlwind of activity with the preliminary rounds of the tournament in full swing. Each of the five stadiums held ten matches a day with a strict time limit of thirty minutes to a match. When combined with the plethora of side events and activities going on in the city outside the tournament site, every single hour of the day had something to do. The result was me, Ajia and Starr crashing at our hotel room each night feeling utterly drained. (Or at least, Starr and I were drained, Ajia seemed to have infinite energy as usual.) I’d basically just alternated between watching matches with Rudy and Darren or Ajia and Starr—it always just felt too weird mixing friend groups, especially with the former being several years younger than me and the latter several years older.

    From hearing the talk of the town, Rudy was quickly becoming one of the favorites to win this year, and footage from his matches was spreading like wildfire. It was honestly kind of cool to be able to say that I knew one of the fan-favorite competitors. Knowing how many people in the audience all around us had to be cheering for him… I couldn’t help glowing a bit with pride.

    Breloom picked himself up from the ground, wincing from the large gash running through the mushroom cap on his head. The Aerial Ace had knocked him clear across the battlefield, but that just meant he had a moment to regain himself before having to deal with a follow-up attack.

    “Go for another Substitute!” Rudy ordered.

    Connor pointed forward. “Aerial—” He paused sharply, then shook his head and yelled, “No, Bullet Punch, before it finishes the sub!”

    I just barely caught a glimpse of Scizor’s pincers flashing metallic right before the bug shot forward, a red blur too fast to see. But Breloom had already put his foreclaws together in concentration, pushing his aura out from his body. The sheer speed advantage Scizor got from Bullet Punch didn’t mean much when it had to clear half the battlefield just to reach Breloom and he’d already started the move. Within seconds, the aura had condensed into an identical copy of Breloom. Scizor smashed its pincers into the substitute in a rapid-fire frenzy, and the copy recoiled backward, wisps of lights breaking off from the main mass. But it was still standing, with the real Breloom unharmed behind it.

    No way—it didn’t shatter? The first one had! Had that earlier Bulk Up really made that much of a difference?

    “Alright, another Bulk Up!” Rudy called out.

    Scizor hammered away at the aural Breloom, but each blow didn’t have near as much force as the first one without the momentum from the dash. Meanwhile, the tangling vines growing between the steel-type’s armor plates constantly sapped tiny bits of its energy, sending beads of green light flying back to Breloom.

    Darren nudged my shoulder, and I leaned over so I could hear him over the crowd. “With Scizor packing a move that hits Breloom that hard, you can tell that Connor didn’t think he’d need anything else to bring it down. He’s scrambling now.”

    I had to admit, even I had almost counted Rudy out too soon. Then again, it was hard to blame his opponent for sticking with all-out offense. After all, his initial attempt to setup had backfired completely when Breloom opened with Spore, ironically giving Rudy the free setup instead. And Scizor had already wasted its fourth moveslot on Knock Off earlier, so he didn’t have that many options.

    With a flash of light, the substitute finally burst wide open, torn to shreds by the relentless barrage of punches. And without the sub, Breloom was wide open.

    “Now Drain Punch!”

    “Another Aerial Ace!”

    Breloom was faster. It nimbly ducked under Scizor’s claws and fired a springy forepaw forward, driving a punch clean into the bug’s thorax. But Scizor took the hit and kept going, tearing at the grass-type with a jagged pincer. Yellowish liquid leaked from his mushroom cap. He recoiled backward, and for a second, I thought he was going to retreat and try a different approach. But Rudy just pointed forward again, and Breloom took that as a sign to push the attack. Strange… it didn’t seem like the best idea. But then I noticed what he must have already seen: the Aerial Ace had done far less damage than the previous one. Each punch was met with more and more of that orange glow leaking out from the impact point and flowing into Breloom. More beads of green light shot from the vines ensnaring his opponent. The gashes on his mushroom cap were slowly closing up…

    He was healing almost as fast as Scizor was dishing out damage.

    “You can do it Breloom!” I yelled, adding to the incomprehensible mass of cheers and shouts from the audience.

    Breloom dropped to the floor, compressing his back legs like a spring, drawing a fist back. He then launched himself upward and caught Scizor with a vicious uppercut right to the chin. The steel-type’s head snapped backward. The white light around its pincers flickered and died. Breloom paused for a moment, seemed to realize that he didn’t need to brace for the counterattack, and then sprung forward, driving another punch straight into his opponent’s face.

    And that did it. Scizor stumbled backward, eyes screwed shut, pincers flailing as it struggled to gain its bearings. It sank to one knee, then fell flat on its face and didn’t move. I held my breath until the referee raised the red flag.

    “Scizor is unable to battle! The winner is Rudy Fierro!”

    And with that I jumped to my feet, cheering at the top of my lungs as the stadium burst into applause. Breloom staggered over to grab the equipment pouch that Scizor had knocked off at the start of the battle, swinging it over his shoulder before stretching a clawed forearm into the air. On the far end of the battlefield, in the trainer’s box, Rudy mirrored his Pokémon, throwing a fist upward repeatedly.

    That was it—that was the third win Rudy needed. He actually had a shot at making the top cut now. Of course, it wasn’t a guarantee. The actual score came down to how many matches his opponents had won, and how many matches their opponents had won, and a lot of math that I only pretended to understand. But he had a shot, and that alone was exciting enough that I found myself cheering my throat raw even long after the results faded from the scoreboard.

    Next week was apparently when the tournament site would really explode with activity, seeing as the majority of the spectators who weren’t accompanying a competitor would usually opt to save their trip for watching the top cut. The idea that the tourney site in its current state was comparatively less packed compared to how it would look next week—that was mind-boggling.

    “Well, he’ll be happy,” Darren said, leaning back in his seat with a grin. “I know he’s been real stressed about making it to the top cut.”

    I tilted my head. “He has?” He’d been the picture of overconfidence all week. Bragging nonstop about how he was a shoe-in for the finals and that none of the other competitors could possibly measure up.

    “Yeah. I mean, not that he’d show it, but you know how he is,” Darren replied. Upon seeing my confused face, he added, “Can’t let anyone know, least of all his team. Doesn’t want them to stress out too.”

    I… actually hadn’t realized that until now. And in a way, that kind of bothered me. I mean, it did make sense—Darren had been traveling with Rudy for the past nine months, so of course he had a better read on him by now. But still… I should have been able to tell things like that.

    By now, scattered members of the crowd were starting to get up from their seats and make their way to the stairs. There were still plenty of preliminary matches left after this, though, so a lot of them were electing to just sit and watch the next match. At least the exits wouldn’t be totally clogged.

    I motioned to Darren. “Wanna go meet up with him?”

    “Can’t. I’ve got a match in half an hour,” he replied simply.

    I almost fell out of my seat. “What?! I didn’t know your next match was so soon!”

    Darren just shrugged. “I practiced a bit this morning, and my team’s already been checked in.” He motioned to his belt, conspicuously devoid of Pokéballs. If it had been Rudy with a match so soon, it would’ve been the only thing out of his mouth for the past hour.

    “Are you gonna be late?” I asked.

    “I’ll be fine. Tell Rudy I said congrats, yeah?” Darren said, standing to his feet and stretching. He then waved and said, “See you later,” before making his way to the end of the seating row.

    “See you. And best of luck with the match!” I added.

    “Same to you,” he replied automatically. And then he paused, gears slowly turning in his head. “I don’t know why I just said that.”

    “Force of habit maybe?” I said with a laugh.

    “Yeah? Probably. Anyway, later.”

    After Darren left, I waited for a minute or two for more people to leave the stands, then got up and started making my way down to the hallway that led to the competitors’ entry and exit. It seemed like the best thing to do would be to catch up with Rudy real quick, then find Ajia and Starr and grab seats for Darren’s next match. Granted, I probably should have asked which stadium it was going to be in, but I could probably check the match listings online once I got a free moment.

    Despite my waiting, however, I wound up getting stuck behind a massive group of people all exiting the stands at once. So I stood a couple yards back, leaning against the railing as I waited for an opening. And then, rather unexpectedly, I felt a tap on my shoulder.

    “Hey, your name wouldn’t happen to be Jade, would it?” a voice asked.

    I spun around to see a boy around a year or two older than me, with gray eyes and reddish brown hair (dyed lighter in the front) looking at me with a rather curious expression.

    “Er… do I know you?” I asked, raising an eyebrow.

    He chuckled, reclining back against the same railing as me. “Probably not. I don’t think we ever saw each other much way back in Viridian, and I mostly hung out with Ajia anyway. My name’s Lexx. I’m Starr’s brother.”

    I blinked. If I’d been expecting anything, it hadn’t been that. But now that I thought back, he did look vaguely familiar. In my mind, I could imagine a six-years-younger version of him alongside Ajia and Starr at our old school.

    Seeing the blank look on my face, Lexx went on, “Sorry, I know it’s been ages. I really didn’t expect you to recognize me. I was wondering if you knew whether Ajia or Starr was around here. I haven’t been able to find either of them.”

    “I can try calling Ajia’s Gear,” I offered.

    “That’d be great,” he said brightly.

    I grabbed my Pokégear and tapped Ajia’s number, throwing a side glance at the newcomer every so often. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but something about this whole situation felt strange. Why couldn’t he just call her himself, if he knew her? In any case, Ajia soon answered the call.

    “Hey, Ajia? Your, uh… your old friend Lexx is here?” I said, unable to keep the confusion out of my voice.

    “Lexx? What’s he doing there?” Okay, so she was more surprised that he was here than the fact that he wanted to speak to her at all. They’d clearly kept in contact at some point within the past six years.

    “I don’t know, I was hoping you could tell me.”

    I heard the muffled sounds of talking in the background as Ajia had apparently covered the microphone with her hand.

    “He didn’t say?” she asked.

    “No, he just said he was looking for you and Starr.”

    “Oh figures,” she said, slightly exasperated. “Alright, where are you two?”

    “Uh, we’re…”—I glanced around to locate some sort of identifier—“We’re by stairway D. In stadium 4.”

    “Kay, we’ll be right over,” Ajia said before hanging up.

    I replaced my gear in my pocket and then just sort of shuffled a foot against the concrete while I waited for her to show up. Now that I thought about it, it was kind of weird that I’d been traveling with Starr for nine months and she hadn’t mentioned her brother once that entire time. I mean, sure, I hadn’t thought to ask, but… He hadn’t come up once in any of the countless stories she’d told about her training journey. Not even a single side mention?

    We were just standing there in silence with the chatter of the crowd all around us. I glanced around aimlessly to avoid eye contact, feeling like it’d be too awkward if I stared. Lexx tapped his heels against the railing, humming to himself while he browsed something on his phone.

    …I should probably say something to him.

    “So have you… seen Starr lately?” I asked with an awkward half-smile.

    He chuckled. “Well, I’ve tried to. She kind of avoids me.”

    I raised an eyebrow. “...Why?”

    “I’ll let her do the honors of explaining,” he said with a wink.

    Well, now I was really confused. But I was spared having to think too hard about it because right then I spotted Ajia entering the stands from the nearest entryway. I waved to grab her attention… and then spotted Starr following close behind her, looking like she’d rather have been anywhere else.

    “Seriously, I don’t get why you’re making me come along, I do not want to talk to him,” I heard her say rather loudly as they approached. Ajia said something quietly in reply, and then Starr shot back with, “No, I don’t care that it’s been over a year since we last spoke, what does that matter?”

    And then she froze as if she’d suddenly realized that she now had the misfortune of actually being in her brother’s presence, and hadn’t yet figured out how to handle it.

    “Hi Starr,” Lexx said brightly.

    For several seconds, she didn’t respond. Then her gaze hardened, and she stormed over, grabbing him by the collar and pressing him against the railing.

    “What do you want?” she demanded, staring him dead in the eyes with a murderous glare.

    “Ah, come on,” Lexx replied, hardly looking fazed. As if this was a perfectly normal greeting from her. “I’ve been trying to contact you for a while now. You can’t ignore me forever.”

    “Watch me,” she muttered, letting go of his collar and turning away, refusing to look at him.

    I glanced back and forth between the two of them, thoroughly lost. “I don’t get it. What’s going on with you two?”

    Starr gave me the expression she reserved for when she thought I was being especially dense. “Well for starters, he’s the traitorous scum who sold me out during the revolt. Not to mention he’s friends with Sebastian.”

    It took my brain several seconds to process the implication of what she had said. If he was involved in the revolt and knew Stalker, then…

    “You’re on Team Rocket?!” I blurted out, spinning towards Lexx.

    Starr burst out laughing. “Of course he is! I got caught up in that damn team because the boss is my dad—why would it be any different for Lexx?”

    I shot a glance at Ajia, but it was obvious from her lack of reaction that she was already aware of all this. I couldn’t get a read on how she felt about it though.

    “And hey! I just realized something!” Starr exclaimed suddenly, all amusement gone from her voice. “Ajia, you’ve known for ages that he’s on Team Rocket, but you never tried to screw him over because of it! What, was I just special?”

    Ajia gave Starr a sympathetic look. “I’ve talked it over with him in the past. We can’t really work together because our aims are so different. But we’re not being actively pitted against each other either.”

    “It’s because Sebastian doesn’t care if we were friends,” Lexx added dismissively. “He’s fighting the Kanto force. If you guys get involved, that just helps us. It’s not like what happened with you being loyal to the boss and all.”

    Starr folded her arms and glanced away, muttering various obscenities under her breath.

    “Congrats on your betrayal by the way,” Lexx added. “I didn’t think you had it in you.”

    “You better not try to compare my treachery to yours,” she snarled, whirling around to face him. “I didn’t get a choice. They betrayed me first.”

    “Don’t tell me you wish you were still on the Kanto force?” Lexx asked tauntingly.

    “Of course not,” Starr muttered. “I just… I… it’s complicated.”

    Lexx smirked. But then he made eye contact with me, and it was obvious he could tell that I was still confused. “Okay, look. You already know that we need to use the power of the Legendaries. And yeah, that means catching them. So if you try to stop us, just know we won’t hold back. But you already knew that, so outside of the battlefield, there’s no reason for bad blood. We’re both trying to stop the Kanto force, right?”

    Starr gave an exaggerated sound of disgust. “Why are you even here anyway? What, did you come here just to piss me off or something?”

    “Ha, that’d be fun. But no, I’m here on business.” He turned to face Ajia. “Sebastian wanted me to give you a message.”

    She blinked. “He what?”

    “Great,” Starr said with an eye roll. “Couldn’t even be assed to come tell us himself, so he sends his gopher boy to do it.”

    “He didn’t want me to text it, either. Had to be in-person.” He paused to make sure all three of us were paying attention. And from the tiniest trace of a grin on his face, I suspected that part of it was for dramatic effect as well.

    “Team Rocket is going to attack the League.”

    It was like everything around us had stopped existing. I gaped incredulously, jaw hanging open. He couldn’t possibly be serious. It took several seconds for any of us to find the words to respond, but when we did, all three of us spoke at once:

    “What?”

    “You’re kidding.”

    “Are they insane?!”

    “It’s not going to be a serious attack or anything,” Lexx quickly added, raising both palms. “More to get people’s attention, really.”

    “But why?” I asked, thoroughly lost. “Are they trying to, like… draw the Legendaries out of hiding?”

    “Doubt it. Seems more like they’re trying to stir up some anti-Legendary sentiment. What better place to do that than the League?”

    What? Anti-Legendary sentiment? The hell was that supposed to mean?

    Ajia took a deep breath. “When are they going to attack?” she asked, her tone darkly serious.

    “‘Fraid we don’t have word of that,” Lexx said, giving an exaggerated shrug. “Soon enough that Sebastian’s got his hands tied. He was hoping you three could do something about it.”

    “Why don’t you do something about it, huh?” Starr asked heatedly.

    Lexx folded his arms behind his head. “Sorry, but I’ve got a prior engagement.”

    She raised an eyebrow. “Oh really? And what’s that?”

    He winked. “Sorry, can’t tell you. Don’t wanna spoil the surprise.”

    Starr clenched her hands like she wanted to strangle him.

    “Okay, wait, wait,” I said, sweeping my hands to the side while trying to clear my thoughts. “If Sta—if Sebastian really cares about this, why doesn’t he warn the League? What makes him think we’re the best defense here.”

    “Ah, I’m sure the League already knows,” Lexx answered with a casual tone. “That’s probably what the Rockets are banking on.”

    I gaped at him. “What the hell?” Nothing about this made any sort of sense. And something else kept nagging at me in the back of my head. His vague, backhanded responses… they all pointed to one thing.

    “Why are you talking about this like you’re in the dark?” I asked, the realization slowly dawning on me. “You know exactly why they’re doing this, you’re just not saying anything.”

    Lexx’s grin widened for just an instant, and in that moment, it was obvious that he’d been waiting for someone to point that out. But he still didn’t answer the question.

    Ajia sighed exasperatedly. “Lexx… come on…”

    He held up his arms. “I’m not trying to toy with you guys, honest. There’s just certain things I can and can’t say, that’s all. Besides, now that you guys know what’s coming, you’ll be less likely to get hurt, right? I’m still doing you a favor.”

    Ajia opened her mouth to speak, but then she paused before any words could come out. “You said they wanted to stir up anti-Legendary sentiment,” she said, furrowing her brow in that way she did when she was putting the puzzle pieces together on something. “In other words, they’re going to attack the League and pin the blame on the Legendaries. They don’t plan on anyone knowing it’s them.”

    For several seconds, there was no response. Then a slow, satisfied grin made its way across his face. “That’s my favorite thing about you,” he said. “I don’t even have to say the things I’m not allowed to say; you just figure it out anyway.” He clapped his hands together with a look of finality. “Welp, that pretty much covers everything I needed to say. I should probably get back to Mahogany now.”

    Starr snatched his collar again, yanking him towards her. “What makes you think you can drop a bombshell like that and just leave, huh?” she growled.

    “Oh, do enlighten me as to what you’re going to do to me,” he said, his voice lilting with amusement.

    Several seconds passed, during which it felt like nothing else around us even existed. Not the crowds, not the stadium, nothing. Starr’s hand hovered over a Pokéball, and she muttered, “if we weren’t in public…” but then she shook her head and clenched her fist before shoving him away roughly.

    Lexx smoothed out his collar with a smug grin. Then he gave a small wave and said, “Nice seeing you all,” before walking off.

    I stared blankly at the concrete floor after he left, my mind swirling with like a million different things. Ajia was still pondering his words while Starr was muttering incoherent half-sentences laced with profanity. While I couldn’t say that my first impression of Lexx was a positive one, I also couldn’t say that I felt the same… vitriol as she did. There was definitely more to it than that.

    “So… you really can’t stand him, huh,” I said, desperate to have one comment that didn’t relate to the revelation he’d just given us.

    Starr snapped her head in my direction. “That little weasel got out of the revolt scot-free, while the boss never let me forget what happened,” she spat, gripping the handrail so hard her knuckles turned white. “Then he had the nerve to mock me for following the boss, as if I had a choice in it.”

    I tapped my fingers together awkwardly. “…Maybe you guys could put that in the past now that you’re not a Rocket anymore?” After all, I’d done a lot of stuff that had outraged her as a Rocket.

    Starr scoffed but didn’t say anything.

    “Look, this whole thing has got us on edge, so I think we should go do something to take our minds off it,” Ajia suggested, gesturing for us to follow her outside. I exhaled slowly, only just then realizing how much tension I could feel in my shoulders. Yeah, finding a distraction sounded like a good idea.

    I grabbed Starr’s hand and tugged lightly on her arm.

    “Yeah, alright fine,” she muttered, clasping her hand around mine. “Let’s go find a side event or whatever.”

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Team Rocket was going to attack the League.

    That single thought wouldn’t leave my mind for the rest of the day. And while entering a couple of one-on-one pickups with Ajia and Starr had helped (Ajia ended up winning a couple of rare berries), I was soon back to obsessively dwelling on it.

    Was what Lexx said true? What reason would there be to tell a lie like that? He was friends with Stalker… So was I, at one point. Well… had I ever really been his friend? Or was everyone on the Rebellion just his pawn? How many times had I asked myself that same question?

    I wound up missing Darren’s match. I’d have to explain myself later. He probably wouldn’t mind that much, but it still bothered me. That was a few hours ago; now I was using the battle equipment section of the vendor’s alley as a distraction. I was in the middle of trying to wrap my head around why anyone would give their Pokémon equipment that poisons the holder when my Pokégear started buzzing. I answered it.

    “Hey!” Rudy’s voice blared in my ear, way louder than it needed to be. “Darren was looking for you earlier.” That was usually code for ‘Rudy was looking for me.’

    “Yeah, I was busy,” I just said.

    “Well I just stopped by one of the food carts. Why don’tcha head over, I’ve got loads to tell you.”

    I closed my eyes. I couldn’t really think of any excuse not to, so I said, “Sure, I’ll be over in a few,” before hanging up.

    I went and found Starr debating whether or not to buy a Choice Band, and told her I was heading off. Of course, Rudy hadn’t bothered to tell me which food cart he’d stopped at, and I knew by now that texting him for more info was pointless. It was probably within the tourney site grounds at least. So I just wandered down the alley that had the most enticing smells, now painfully aware of the fact that I’d missed lunch. Rocket business sure had a way of killing my appetite.

    It didn’t take long for me to find Rudy. He was seated at one of the many outdoor picnic tables in the adjacent park. I wandered over to him and couldn’t help staring at the ridiculously large tray of fried snacks sitting on the table in front of him.

    “Geez, did you order that for your entire team or what,” I said as I sat down across from him.

    “Oh, shut up, I didn’t know how many came with it,” he grumbled.

    “Yeah, well, I’m stealing a few,” I said, grabbing a toothpick and spearing a ball of fried seafood before popping it into my mouth. Having something to chew on helped fill an otherwise awkward silence at least. Wasn’t long before I got the itch to say something though.

    “I missed Darren’s match,” I said, my voice weirdly monotone.

    “Aw really? Lame,” Rudy said through a mouthful of food. He chewed for a bit and then said, “You, uh… you saw mine though, right?”

    I chuckled weakly. “Yeah, I did.”

    “Ah, okay.” He nodded, looking pleased. “So you saw how long Pupitar lasted in that match. I managed to find someone selling an Eviolite and she’s been loving it. Or at least, I think she has. It’s hard to tell, y’know?”

    He rambled on for a bit about his team. About how Nidoking had beat some kid’s Dragonair in a practice match and how he could totally take on a Dragonite if anyone here actually had one (no one did.) About how Fearow had been helping Breloom get over his fear of flying-types, and how he’d actually managed to stall her out recently. About how Raichu had managed to use Substitute four times in a single match. I felt bad about zoning out for most of it, but it was hard not to with how distracted I felt.

    “And I think Fearow actually wanted to be on the tournament roster? Even though she volunteered to sit out ‘cause you can only bring six. But now she’s complaining about how I used Pupitar even though she doesn’t care, and now they’re not talking to each other, and I’m just like ‘I don’t know what’s going on anymore.’ I dunno how to make them both happy. It’s dumb!” He folded his arms with an overly sulky expression. Then, for whatever reason, he must have finally noticed my face. “So what happened to you? You look like you just got your ass handed to you or something.”

    Darren’s words from this morning echoed in my head. Couldn’t stress Rudy out with Rocket BS. Not when he’d come so far.

    I forced a laugh. “Yeah, I did.”

    He held back a snicker. “Again? Seriously, I know your team’s better than that. You just giving bad orders again, or what?”

    I snorted. “Yeah, that’s probably it.” Well, it was a handy excuse, at least.

    Rudy gave an exaggerated sigh. “Well, only one thing to do. Come on.” He stood up and motioned for me to follow him. “Let’s run through some strategies or something.”

    “I already did a bunch of battles this morning.” I did two. That counted as a bunch.

    “Nah, we wouldn’t be battling,” he said dismissively. I raised an eyebrow. “I mean, like, tactics and crap. The kinda stuff we used to do back on Midnight. I can show you some of the stuff my team’s been working on. Maybe it’ll help yours, I dunno.”

    Rudy, the strategist. What bizarro universe had I stepped into.

    “Oh, and you’re not allowed to tell Darren any of this, got it?” he added, jabbing a finger at me. “I know he’s acting like he doesn’t give a crap about the tournament but he mostly… sort of… always won when we used to spar.” The words looked physically painful. “So I gotta hold onto any advantage I got, you hear?”

    “I got it, I got it,” I said, waving a hand. More distractions couldn’t hurt. And it wasn’t like I could do anything about the impending attack right now. So what point was there in making myself miserable? As usual, none. I was here to enjoy myself, dammit.

    So I stood up and prepared to follow him out to the public battlegrounds. And then a distant rumble reverberated through the air, sending a small tremor through the ground. All around us, the chatter of the crowds slowly trailed off as everyone’s attention was caught by the unexpected quake.

    “What the hell was that?” Rudy asked, glancing around in confusion.

    I froze, pulse quickening, a pit of dread slowly building in my stomach. That couldn’t be it. That had to be some random training accident or something. Some overpowered attack had gone wild and hit a building or something. Get enough trainers in one place and it was bound to happen.

    And then I felt another tremor radiate through the ground. The distant call of an alarm split the air.

    It couldn’t be. Now? Why now? So soon?!

    This was it. The Rockets’ attack was now.






    ~End Chapter 33~
     
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2019
  7. Sike Saner

    Sike Saner Peace to the Mountain

    Makes me think of how I kind of wish we really could just fly over literally anything separating one area from another in LGPE. But I'm sure there's a reason we can't. Maybe the "gates" are easier on the hardware or something. Lets it have less loaded at a time? Idk.

    Oh my god that sounds potentially adorable. I'd probably want one. (Though maybe not in that size. XD)

    All I can think about is what powers those hops. XD Pupitar is a great pokémon.

    I'm helplessly picturing something like this.

    Pupitar is a great pokémon

    That's more or less how I react when one of my pokémon misfires due to confusion. But that wasn't one of my pokémon, so I just laughed. :p


    Rudy officially kicks ass. :D His battles in the past couple of chapters were fun to read largely because of that skill and cleverness. I was about to say "too bad the Rocket attack means he might not get a chance to take that skill as far in the tournament as he would've otherwise", but maybe said tournament will carry on anyway afterward? Or maybe he'll get some nice hits in to counter the attack. Then again, that's a legendary shaking things up. Rudy's good, but maybe that's not enough against that sort of thing.
     
    Chibi Pika likes this.
  8. Chibi Pika

    Chibi Pika Stay positive

    Oh man, I loved flying over everything in LGPE. But yeah, it would've been great to fly over the gatehouses (probably was a hardware thing yeah, especially with all the Pokemon loaded in the overworld at once.)
    Headcanon accepted. :P
    Ahaha, I've always wanted to describe a Pokemon misfiring from confusion as something more interesting than them literally hitting themself. There's so many ways to screw up an attack!
    He appreciates the sentiment. ;P And... yeah, there's gonna be a lot of salt from him in particular about the whole tournament situation. As for where things go for him, I'll keep that a secret, but it's gonna be pretty cool come chapter 39. ;3

    Next chapter coming tomorrow hopefully! If not, then soon. EDIT: I finished it! Just have editing left. Tuesday for sure!

    ~Chibi~
     
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2019
  9. Chibi Pika

    Chibi Pika Stay positive

    This chapter is pretty short but it has a lot of cool action. I hope you all enjoy!



    ~Chapter 34: Triple Threat~

    [​IMG]

    My body had gone rigid, every panic instinct flaring up at once. We were supposed to have more time. It wasn’t supposed to be this soon. We were supposed to have more time. Lexx’s warning from earlier flashed through my mind on an infinite repeat. It wasn’t supposed to be this soon. But... he hadn’t said one way or another, had he? Some warning.

    “C’mon, let’s go check it out,” Rudy said, gesturing in the direction that we’d heard the explosions. His words reached my ears, but my body didn’t want to respond.

    “Wait,” my voice finally said.

    Rudy turned, giving me a confused look.

    I clenched my fists, swallowing hard, struggling to force the words out. “This… is probably Team Rocket’s doing.”

    He froze, staring at me with an expression I couldn’t place. Surprise? Fear? No, it was more like a dozen thoughts and memories flashing through his mind at once. He turned back in the direction of the commotion. The noises were growing louder, building in intensity. More explosions. Now we could actually hear screaming.

    Rudy bit his lip. “I mean… we’ve still got to go see, don’t we?”

    I didn’t have an answer for that. Mostly because he was right. I nodded slowly, and then the two of us took off running. Most of the other trainers were running away from the direction we were heading. I didn’t like the look of that, but we pressed on until we’d reached the entrance to Stadium 3. Now that we were here, I could see a plume of smoke rising up above it. I glanced around hurriedly, trying to make out the source of the chaos, but nothing stood out.

    But then when I saw it, all I could do was wonder how on Earth it had managed to not stand out.

    “What the bloody hell is that thing?” Rudy blurted out, saying pretty much the same thing that I had wanted to say.

    Three Hyper Beams split the air, instantly vaporizing a large chunk of the stadium above us. I stared brokenly as chunks of concrete rained down from the impact, only finally managing to piece together that they were falling right at us.

    Instinct took over, and I dove headlong through the stadium entrance, landing roughly on the tile floor, tremors shooting through the ground behind me. I lay there breathing hard, eyes screwed shut and arms clasped over my head until the movement finally ceased. I cracked one eye open. Then I shook my head to clear the dust from my face and lifted myself from the floor before throwing a glance back the way I came.

    The hallway was filled with rubble. I couldn’t see Rudy but he was probably ok. I turned around and ran in the opposite direction. I passed the main lobby, then ran down the hallway that circled the stadium until I reached one of the offshoots that led into the audience stands.

    A horrifying screech of a roar reverberated through the air. I shot a glance skyward, squinting at a figure silhouetted against the harsh sunlight. And there it was. It was a Lugia, but… wrong. Huge, draconic wings beat the air. Sunlight glimmered off nightmarishly long, pitch-black blade claws. Three heads—one normal, one bladed and demonic, and one eye-searingly bright—roared and snapped their jaws, firing off non stop energy beams and blowing giant holes in the stadium walls.

    Suddenly Chibi burst out of his Pokéball in a flash of light, appearing on my shoulder.

    “*I should have known,*” he said darkly.

    I snapped my attention to him. “What? How?”

    “*It was just rumors for the longest time. Experiment Number Thirty-Seven. But no one thought they’d actually go through with it after they had such success with Thirty-Six. I guess with Mewtwo being freed, they didn’t have much of a choice.*”

    What? This thing was a hybrid made by Team Rocket? But then… if it was here, then Team Rocket had to be nearby, right?

    “Come on, we’ve got to find the Rockets,” I said. I opened a Pokéball and let out Swift and jumped onto the Pidgeot’s back and the three of us flew upward. I tried to give the three-headed nightmare of a Lugia a wide berth, but then it saw us.

    “Swift, use Agility!” I cried.

    The Pidgeot put on a burst of speed, and he only barely managed to dodge the ensing triple Hyper Beam. But the shock waves of the attack’s sheer awesomeness knocked our flight path totally askew. I held tight to Swift as the three of us plummeted downward, the ground rushing up at us. And yeah, okay, maybe it was one of the coolest ways to die, but I still didn’t want to die!

    And then suddenly a psychic glow surrounded us, slowly lowering us safely to the ground. My feet reached the concrete. I took a wild look around, trying to locate our savior. A flash of white wings caught my eye, I whirled around and—there it was. Lugia. Half of my brain wanted to freeze up with panic at the memory of how it had tortured me last year, but the other half was to enraptured by just how damn cool Lugia was.

    “You saved me?” I asked breathlessly. The dragon-bird nodded expressionlessly.

    “What the heck is that thing?” I asked, gesturing to the three-headed monstrosity.

    <Why should I know?> Lugia said. Its psychic voice was a lot saltier and less-majestic than I’d been expecting.

    “Well, in case you haven’t noticed, it’s a three-headed Lugia!” I shouted, gesturing to it.

    Lugia rolled its eyes. <Whatever. Come with me. We’re figuring this out now.>

    Wait. It wanted me to fly up there with that thing in the air? It had almost killed me!

    “Why me?” I whined.

    <Because you’re a foolish little kid who confronts Legendaries when you know you shouldn’t,> Lugia said tiredly. <Now get on my back>

    I obeyed, recalling both Swift and Chibi and climbing onto the Legendary’s back. Lugia spread its wings and the two of us were skyward again.

    <Hey, ugly!> Lugia yelled, firing off an aeroblast at the hybrid. A trio of Hyper Beams—one yellow, one bluish white, and one black—shot toward us in reply, but Lugia put on a burst of speed and looped out of the way, putting us far enough away for the shock waves to miss.

    And then, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a small pink cat levitating someone up to us.

    “Ajia!” I cried.

    Mew was lifting her psychically. I thought it was kind of weird for her to do that out here in the open where anyone could see, but I didn’t say anything.

    “Do you have any idea what that thing is?” I asked.

    Ajia shook her head. “We’re just as much in the dark as you are.”

    <Come on, we’ve got to strike back,> Lugia snapped.

    Mew stared at it. <But it would take at least three Legendaries to match that one’s strength.>

    “Hello, yes, I’m here now,” a voice announced, and I turned around to see Ho-oh flying up to us, its rainbow wings beating the air. When it noticed all of us staring at it, it blushed. “Well, what are we waiting for?”

    <Eh, right.> Lugia turned back towards its three-headed counterpart, which had been conveniently distracted while we were talking. <All together now!> it cried.

    Mew, Lugia and Ho-oh all focuses their power into their strongest attacks, Psystrike, Aeroblast, and Sacred Fire. The three attacks swirled around each other and formed a single beam of power, striking the three-headed abomination dead-on.

    Yes! Direct hit!

    But it just smirked and dusted itself off with its claws. No way… our attacks hadn’t even made a dent!

    “You didn’t honestly expect that to work, did you?” a condescending voice shouted.

    I glanced over to see a Charizard rapidly flying toward us with a trainer on its back.

    Ajia’s eyes went wide. “Sebastian?!”

    Stalker tilted his head. “Who? Nevermind, I need your help.”

    I narrowed my eyes. “Why?”

    He gestured to the destruction with a wild look in his eyes. “Because this wasn’t supposed to happen!”

    “What do you know about that thing?” I demanded.

    “Well for starters, I created it,” he said, with a tone that suggested that he was annoyed I didn’t already know that.

    “What?!” I exclaimed. “How? Why??”

    Stalker scowled. “Don’t tell me you forgot how I cloned Lugia and turned it Dark?”

    “Uh. First of all: no, I don’t remember that. I think I’d remember that. Second of all: what??

    “No matter,” he said, turning around dramatically. “I created TriLugia by fusing three clones together—one normal, one Dark, and one Light. It was supposed to be my ultimate weapon. But its power has run wild and I can’t control it anymore. Much as it pains me to say it, I need your help.”

    I decided to ignore the eighty billion questions his story brought up and instead focus on the matter at hand. “We attacked it with all three of our powers combined, but it wasn’t enough.”

    “Well yeah,” Stalker said matter-of-factly. “TriLugia doesn’t have the power of three Lugias. Each of its components is already three times cooler than normal—you’d need the power of nine Lugias. And that’s just not going to happen,” he said, scoffing at such a notion.

    “Then why didn’t you make nine Lugias?!” I yelled.

    Stalker stared. “I don’t have that kind of time on my hands.”

    “Apparently you do!” I yelled, throwing both arms toward the rampaging monster. “Why the hell did you make it in the first place?!”

    “Why wouldn’t I? It was the only way to fulfill the prophecy…” he replied simply as though nothing were more true.

    I stopped, staring. “The Midnight Island prophecy?”

    “What? No, the Lavender Town prophecy…” Then he narrowed his eyes suspiciously. “Which prophecy are you talking about and why don’t I know about it?”

    “What do you mean you don’t know about it, I asked you about it, back on the Rebellion! And why are there so many prophecies?!”

    “Never mind that,” he said dismissively. “We’re going to need a power even greater than the Legendaries if I’m going to take control of that thing…”

    “A power greater than the Legendaries?” I breathed. “Does such a thing exist?”

    “It does…” Stalker said meaningfully, “and it’s sitting in your bag.”

    What? It was what? I grabbed my bag from my shoulder and slid it into my lap. I could feel an aura of great importance radiating out from it. I reached my arm in and felt my fingers brush against the cool metallic orb that I’d found in the basement of the Midnight Island ruins.

    “How did you know I had it?” I asked.

    “I have my ways…” he said mysteriously.

    I slowly lifted the orb out of the bag, holding it in front of my face.

    “It might look like an orb,” Stalker said, “But it’s actually a shard of TriLugia’s power.”

    “But it doesn’t look like an orb!” I shot back. “And everyone thought it had to do with Giratina!”

    Stalker looked at me like I was an idiot. “What the hell is Giratina.”

    <Never heard of it,> Lugia added dismissively.

    Oh come on! Just when I thought I knew what the heck was going on with all of this.

    Mew held up a paw, muttering something ancient-sounding as a magical glow started to encircle the orb magically. All of a sudden, its shape rippled and distorted like a hologram being deactivated and then there was a glassy jet-black crystal in my hand.

    “What,” I said.

    “That’s it, that’s the Dark Crystal…” Stalker said darkly, with a dark grin.

    I could feel an evil power radiating out from it. Stalker reached out his hand as if to take it, and I instinctively clutched it to my chest.

    “Hmph. Fine, keep it then. So long as we use them together, it makes no difference.”

    “‘Them’?”I asked, raising an eyebrow.

    He reached into his coat and pulled out a second crystal, this one radiating a purplish light that distorted the air around it. “This is the Psychic Crystal. I stole it from its true owner and now it’s mine.”

    “Then what’s the third…?” I began. But then all of a sudden, Mew had a look of recognition on her face and she turned to face her chosen with an awestruck look.

    <It’s you,> Mew said, awestruck.

    “Me?” Ajia asked. But before anyone could say anything, suddenly she started to glow. I stared in shock as, before our eyes, a brilliant white stone materialized in her hands.

    “Where did this come from?” Ajia asked in amazement.

    “The Light Crystal was originally hidden away, just like the others. It came to you because you were meant to have it…” Stalker muttered mysteriously. That made sense.

    <That’s how destiny works, after all,> Mew added. Lugia gave a small harumph but didn’t say anything.

    Stalker turned to face the mindless, rampaging, three-headed Lugia, holding the Dark Crystal out in front of him.

    “By the combined power of all three crystals, we should be able to destroy TriLugia.”

    “Why are you alright with us destroying it?” I asked. “You made it for a reason, didn’t you?”

    Stalker turned away. “Hmph. I don’t need it alive, I just need its blood for the ritual…”

    I decided to place that bit of information in the “let’s not think about this” section of my brain.

    The three of us closed our eyes and all concentrated at once. I felt a wave of darkness radiating out from the Dark Crystal, which melted together with a wave of pure light and a wave of pure psychic-ness. My eyes opened, and I saw a huge vortex of power forming between the three crystals, swirling different shades of black, white, and purple. Suddenly and without warning, it shot forward into a piercing beam that tore through the air. TriLugia snapped all three heads in our direction. The beam struck it in the belly, and the beast roared, flailing its heads, limbs, wings, and tail. I held my breath, hoping that we’d done it.

    But then its eyes snapped open, and it flashed a murderous glare at all of us.

    “No way…” I muttered.

    <It wasn’t strong enough…> Mew said hopelessly.

    “That’s impossible,” Stalker said.

    All three heads opened their mouths, and for an instant, I was sure that it was going to attack us. But instead, it fired three, blindingly bright, mile-wide beams at the ground below.

    “No! This one shouldn’t be capable of that attack!” Stalker yelled. This one? Was he implying there was another one??

    The energy bored a hole deep into the earth. The ground split open, cracks radiating across the tournament site like a spider web. Small at first, they rapidly grew outward, buildings falling into the gaping chasms.

    “This wasn’t supposed to happen this early! It’s too soon! The portal isn’t open yet!”

    Plumes of magma shot up through the cracks. A feeling of dread slowly started to come over me. This attack. Just how deep could it go? Just how much damage would it cause? And why was Stalker so terrified?

    “I was supposed to reach the sacred realm! I was supposed the gain the power of the Pokégods!”

    <Lugia, what’s he talking about?> I asked.

    <I don’t know!> the dragon-bird yelled, its voice saturated with panic. I felt its panic in my mind as well. Stalker had flown off in a hurry. Shock waves started to radiate through the air. The chasms had traveled so far they’d reached the horizon. A horrible, unearthly glow had started to build from deep within.

    Then an earth-shattering explosion and everything faded to white.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    “What in the name of all existence is happening here?!” a voice thundered across the void between worlds.

    The spatial one perked up, its attention dragged from the spectacle unfolding on the physical plane. “Ah, you’re right on time, this world just nuked itself, come have a look.”

    The temporal one drifted over, its movements as slow as possible to indicate just how much it didn’t want to.

    “What are you doing?” it asked, its voice a low, cold rumble that reverberated through the ages.

    Palkia glanced back at its handiwork. “Is, uh… is that a rhetorical question?” The temporal one didn’t dignify that with a response, so it continued, “Well, I noticed this universe had eleven…”—it paused, counting on its claws—“no wait, twelve versions of itself. And I thought that was kind of weird, so I went and combined them. Most of them just kind of fizzled out, but numbers three and twelve ended up fighting for dominance here. You can’t tell me that’s not cool.”

    Dialga squinted at the abomination before it, recognition flashing through its eyes.

    “Did you not think this world was bad enough as it was?”


    “I mean… I’d answer that, but that’d be getting into things I’m not supposed to talk about,” Palkia said, giving the diamond dragon a you’re-not-supposed-to-talk-about-it-either kind of look.

    The temporal one groaned heavily and turned to leave.

    “Look, it’s fine, I’ll erase all of it, okay?” Palkia offered.

    Dialga turned sharply, eyes flashing. “Is that supposed to be the ideal scenario here?”

    “Well I can’t just leave it, it’ll bleed into the others.”

    “And you didn’t think of that before starting this?”

    “Sorry, foresight’s not my specialty,” Palkia said with a tusked grin as its counterpart glared murderously.

    Fix it, the temporal one snarled before shifting its existence to another plane.

    “I just said I was going to,” the spatial one muttered, turning back to look upon its creation. It sighed. Then it spread its arms wide, streaks of red light tracing a path from its pearls to its clawtips.

    Ah well, it was just one timeline out of infinity. No one would miss it.






    ~End Chapter 34~

    Lest anyone think I spent the entirety of Sunday lying my ass off on Discord, I'll have you know that I literally only came up with the idea to do this at 11pm last night. I wrote the entire damn thing in one day. So there. :p

    Happy April Fool's. Real chapter coming tomorrow.

    ~Chibi~
     
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2019
  10. Dragonfree

    Dragonfree Just me

    I really enjoyed the opening battle of chapter 33; there's a really good sense that this is a proper League battle, with the strategy on display, and it was really fun seeing that first bit with Scizor knowing Aerial Ace and feeling like Rudy's toast only to believably show how Breloom survives.

    Ohoho. So this totally sounds like Sebastian trying to bring about the human-legendary war from the prophecy, except then he goes on to say Sebastian wanted Jade/Ajia/Starr to stop the Rocket attack. Either he wanted to manipulate them for other reasons (if some trainers fight against the attack it will inspire humans to think they can fight the legendaries??) orrr the Kanto force has a separate agenda about bringing about the prophecy but for one reason or another he doesn't want their particular effort to succeed...?

    Accent?

    I was actually wondering from the start why they weren't reacting more strongly to Lexx warning them about an attack on the League, like by getting Rudy somewhere safe and so on, but I guess they just figured it wouldn't be that soon. All in all the chapter definitely felt like setup, but Lexx is a fun character and I look forward to seeing more of him later!

    As for that chapter 34... I already reacted at you on Discord but it is Amazing, thank you for bringing this into my life. :D
     
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  11. Chibi Pika

    Chibi Pika Stay positive

    Ahh, I'm glad! It was yet another one of those battles that I shoved into a chapter at the last second, and those usually end up terrible. But I actually kinda got into this one, and I had fun coming up with a way for Rudy to win despite a huge disadvantage, and I'm glad it was fun to read!
    The motivations for this Rocket attack sure are something, heh. We'll see soon enough! (Well... okay, not until chapter 39, but still!)
    Wow that sure is a typo. That was supposed to say accident.
    Ah, probably should have implied that, but yeah, they definitely weren't thinking it would be this soon. And yess, Lexx will be back to cause more problems in the Hoenn arc.
    :D

    Apologies for this taking so long! After the mad dash to write 2500 words on Monday, I kinda burnt myself out just a tad. ^^; For anyone who didn't see it, there's an April Fool's special here.



    ~Chapter 34: Flames of War~

    [​IMG]

    My body had gone rigid, every panic instinct flaring up at once. We were supposed to have more time. It wasn’t supposed to be this soon. We were supposed to have more time. Lexx’s warning from earlier flashed through my mind on an infinite repeat. It wasn’t supposed to be this soon. But… he hadn’t said one way or another, had he? Some warning.

    “C’mon, let’s go check it out,” Rudy said, gesturing in the direction that we’d heard the explosions. His words reached my ears, but my body didn’t want to respond.

    “Wait,” my voice finally said.

    Rudy turned, giving me a confused look.

    I clenched my fists, swallowing hard, struggling to force the words out. “This… is probably Team Rocket’s doing.”

    He froze, staring at me with an expression I couldn’t place. Surprise? Fear? No, it was more like a dozen thoughts and memories flashing through his mind at once. He turned back in the direction of the commotion. The noises were growing louder, building in intensity. More explosions. Now we could actually hear screaming.

    Rudy bit his lip. “I mean… we’ve still got to go see, don’t we?”

    I didn’t have an answer for that. Mostly because he was right. I nodded slowly, and then the two of us took off running. Most of the other trainers were running away from the direction we were heading. I didn’t like the look of that, but we pressed on until we’d reached the entrance to Stadium 3. Now that we were here, I could see a plume of smoke rising up above it. I glanced around hurriedly, trying to make out the source of the chaos, but nothing stood out.

    And then an overwhelming burst of flames tore through the sky, and a massive shadow loomed overhead, circling like a vulture. My blood ran cold. Every muscle in my body seized up instantly. I knew that shadow. Slowly, my eyes slid upward to stare helplessly at the fiery spectre soaring over us. Just like when it attacked Midnight Stadium that night, the night that our lives had been torn apart.

    Moltres. The Legendary guardian of fire, now permanently colored in my mind as an omen of death.

    The firebird drew itself back, flames licking the edge of its beak. The image of it incinerating the fleeing rebels flashed through my mind, and I forced myself to look at anything else. Rudy was frozen, staring at the legend with a disturbed fascination. My eyes slid back to it just in time to see it breath out an explosive blast of flames that tore through the side of the stadium with a deafening crash. I stared brokenly as chunks of concrete rained down from the impact, only finally managing to piece together that they were falling right at us. We had to move.

    Instinct took over, and I dove headlong through the stadium entrance, landing roughly on the tile floor, tremors shooting through the ground behind me. I lay there breathing hard, eyes screwed shut and arms clasped over my head until the movement finally ceased. I cracked one eye open. Then I shook my head to clear the dust from my face and lifted myself from the floor with slow, shaking steps before throwing a glance back the way I came.

    I was alone. I blinked stupidly at the huge pile of broken tile and concrete now filling the entryway, icy horror shooting through my veins as I processed that fact. I was alone. Rudy hadn’t made it through.

    “Rudy!” I screamed. Oh god, he’d been crushed, oh god.

    And then his voice called out, “I’m over here!” and I almost collapsed with relief. His words were muffled by all the rubble in the way, but I could just barely make out him saying, “Want me to bust through some of this concrete?”

    I clenched my teeth. “Don’t waste your time, I’ll go around!” The last thing I wanted was for him to be stuck in one spot while Moltres was attacking.

    “Gotcha!” he yelled, and then I didn’t hear anything more from him.

    I spun around on the spot, a million things flashing through my mind. But when I lifted my foot to take off in the opposite direction… it didn’t move. My body was completely paralyzed. I had to do something. Had to… fight Moltres? No way. Out of the question. I couldn’t do that. But if Moltres was here, that meant there had to be Rockets here as well. I could handle fighting them, right?

    I sank to the ground, both hands clutching my head. The flames. The bright fluorescent lighting suddenly melted into a pitch-black night. The stadium interior twisted and distorted into the familiar hallways of Midnight. I saw rebels taking to the sky, desperately trying to escape the carnage. Saw Moltres draw itself back, an infernal glow building in its throat before unleashing a column of fire that incinerated everyone instantly.

    No. No, no, no! I wasn’t on Midnight Island, the Rebellion ended a long time ago, that time in my life was over!

    …And why was it over? Because of something just like this. I’d thought I was safe. I’d thought I was free. But it was never going to be over, was it? Never, never, never.

    No. None of that. I’d survived, hadn’t I? I’d endured all of that and worse! I couldn’t fall apart now, not after all of that. But I was used to it then. Used to being on edge with my life on the line, and the past nine months had dulled those instincts. I didn’t want to return to that life, dammit! I was happy ignoring it.

    And then a burst of white light appeared out of nowhere right in front of my face, taking the form of a Pikachu.

    “Chibi!” I gasped, jerking backward.

    Yellow ears stood bolt upright as he glanced around hurriedly, his entire body tense.

    “*What’s going on?*” he asked.

    I forced back a shaking breath, struggling to find my voice. “Moltres is attacking the League.”

    The hybrid paused, blinking incredulously. Then he glanced up and down at my sorry state, no doubt trying to hold back his disdain.

    “*And what are you doing here?*” he asked.

    I swallowed hard. “Trying to pull myself together,” I admitted.

    His gaze softened. “*Well, come on then.*” He grabbed my hand, tugging at it lightly. Slowly, I closed my fingers around his paw, then dragged one foot forward until I could put my weight on it. Then another. Until I was finally able to force myself upward, bracing my arm against the side of the building. My pulse still pounded, but it no longer hurt. My head still spun, but it was growing clearer.

    “I don’t know if I can do all of this again,” I whispered.

    “*You’re not alone,*” Chibi said, leaping up onto my shoulder.

    I wasn’t alone. I knew that.

    “You’re sure eager to jump back into this,” I muttered.

    “*Only because I knew it wasn’t really over. The threat you can see is a much easier threat to face,*” he said. I couldn’t really argue with him.

    I started running. Slowly at first, building in speed as my feet struck the tile floor over and over. I passed the main lobby, then ran down the hallway that circled the stadium until I reached one of the offshoots that led into the audience stands. We emerged into the stadium, its seating and stairways now strikingly empty. High above the battlefield, Moltres circled like a fiery spectre of death, poised to rain destruction upon us. The airspace within the stadium was filled with trainers flying on Pokémon, evacuating. I sucked in a breath, frozen in horror as Moltres neared them. That same image flashed through my brain yet again, and I dug my nails into my palm to force it out.

    And then the firebird banked a wing to swing a full u-turn. It breathed out a torrent of flame, but the blast tore through an empty block of seating.

    I stared blankly, feeling as though my brain had to restart from sheer confusion. Moltres wasn’t going out of its way to attack anyone? This wasn’t like the attack on Midnight at all. What was going on? Why was it even here, then?

    “It’s… not actually attacking anyone directly,” I muttered under my breath, hardly daring to believe it.

    “*I noticed,*” Chibi replied. “*This is an attention-grab.*”

    I clenched my teeth. Of course. Hadn’t Lexx basically already confirmed that? How could I have forgotten?

    “Starr’s brother told us something like this was gonna happen. I still don’t entirely get why.”

    If he was surprised that we’d spoken with Starr’s brother, he didn’t let it show. “*We still can’t let them get away with it.*”

    I swallowed. “Right.” I grabbed a Pokéball and let out Aros. The Flygon materialized in front of us, and his antennae immediately twitched into overdrive as he surveyed his surroundings.

    “*Oh geez what,*” he blurted out, craning his neck up to get a good look at Moltres.

    “*It’s exactly what you think,*” Chibi replied.

    “*Well, sh‌it. Guess we gotta do something about it, huh?*”Aros said, leaning down for me to hop on. I swung a leg over his back, holding tightly to his neck, and with the buzzing of wings, the three of us were airborne.

    I forced my eyes away from Moltres as we quickly ascended. Soon we’d cleared the height of the stadium walls, and then we could see the whole tournament site. Crowds of people and Pokémon filled the streets below, all heading away from the stadiums. Some of them making their way to the city, others aiming for the forests on the western edge of the plateau. Hundreds of flying Pokémon took to the sky all over. And in the midst of all of them were the Pokémon rangers leading the evacuation. Everywhere, squads of flying Pokémon wearing brightly colored scarves directed the aerial traffic, struggling to bring some sense of order to the chaotic frenzy of escaping Pokémon.

    Had anyone else noticed that Moltres wasn’t attacking them? Did that seem weird to them? Then again, the damage it had done to the stadiums was putting people in danger regardless—the distinction didn’t matter. Even if it wasn’t the Rockets’ goal, they’d no doubt gotten a few people killed from this, and there was no way they cared.

    Suddenly, a handful of beam attacks shot through the air, flying past Moltres. One of the firebird’s wide loops over the tournament site had taken it too close to a handful of the escaping Pokémon. Their trainers had panicked and ordered attacks. When seemingly threatened by a Legendary, their instinct was to try striking back. I held my breath, mentally willing them to stay away from it as hard as I could. They didn’t need to be involved in this. No one else needed to get hurt. Just stay back. Please.

    It didn’t work. A beam struck Moltres in the back of the head. For several seconds, the firebird didn’t react. But then it slowly turned its blank, soulless eyes in the direction of its attackers. It hadn’t been ordered to attack people. But striking back at an enemy was just instinct. My breath froze. The Legendary began flapping its wings, unleashing a wave of superheated air that forced back the attacking Pokémon, sending them tumbling limply through the air.

    “Stay back! Do not engage, I repeat, do not engage!” a commanding voice blared through a megaphone. I snapped my head in its direction to see a man on a Dragonite shouting to the crowds. “All trainers and Pokémon are to evacuate the tournament site. Do not attempt to engage with the Legendary Pokémon.”

    So the rangers were handling the evacuation and preventing anyone from being stupid and fighting Moltres head-on. Which… might have included us, if they hadn’t just issued that order. Was there really nothing for us to do here?

    Something else was nagging at me. There was no actual sign of Team Rocket here. Moltres had obviously just been given a general order to attack the tournament site, because there was no one nearby who appeared to be giving orders. It was alone. But there had to be Rockets somewhere, right? They’d hardly just let loose one of their most powerful weapons without having someone keep an eye on it.

    “Well well well, look at what we have here,” a voice drawled.

    I tensed up. Who was that—was he talking to me? I spun around to see a man in his thirties approaching us from below on the back of an Altaria. The bird’s fluffy, cloudlike wings beat the air softly and rhythmically. Its overall gentle and nonthreatening appearance didn’t quite match its trainer’s sharp features and condescending aura.

    “Who are you?” I asked.

    He put a hand to his chest. “You don’t recognize me? I’m wounded. Then again, it would be hard for me not to recognize you, what with the company you keep.”

    I bristled. He was referring to Aros and Chibi. He knew they were experiments. He was on Team Rocket.

    “*Careful,*” Chibi muttered. He’d clearly realized the same thing.

    “Should I recognize you?” I asked. Had to keep him talking. Any moment he was wasting with us was one he wasn’t spending doing… whatever it was the Rockets came here to do.

    A subtle grin crossed his face. “Don’t play coy, you’ve got number nine right there, haven’t you? My greatest success was managing to recover it after you so thoughtlessly stole it from us. I’d have thought that would have left more of an impression.”

    The gears slowly turned in my head. “You were head of the S.S. Anne mission?”

    He nodded, looking pleased. “Mmhm. Course, I’m head of a bit more than that these days. But that’s neither here nor there. Technically we’re not supposed to engage, but, well… this is too perfect an opportunity to ignore.”

    I tensed up. What did he mean by that?

    And then, without warning, he drew a gun from his belt and pointed it at us.

    “Aros!”

    A gunshot split the air and the white aura of Protect flared up around us, and for a second, I was sure that we’d been hit. But Aros’s flight hadn’t faltered, and I couldn’t feel any pain. When the light faded, Aros launched into an erratic, zigzagging flight path, just to make sure we couldn’t be caught off guard again.

    Holy crap that was too close. I hugged Aros’s neck tighter.

    The corners of the man’s mouth turned up. “You’re sharp. That’s good. It’s no fun if you’re not.” He motioned to his Altaria. At once it blasted out a plume of dragonfire way bigger than Aros’s, right in our flight path. The Flygon didn’t waste a second looping over it before countering with his own dragonfire, but the Altaria veered out of the way so effortlessly it felt like we were standing still by comparison.

    The skies above us were open. We could escape easily, if we wanted to. There was no reason for us to fight him. But wasn’t he pretty much our only lead right now? Without him, we didn’t have the slightest clue what Moltres was doing here right now.

    “Your best success was the S.S. Anne?” I said, injecting way more confidence into my voice than I actually felt. “The mission that was supposed to stop the Rebellion before it started? How’d that go for you?”

    The man’s smile faltered. His hand hovered over another Pokéball, but he pulled it back, managing to regain some of his composure.

    “You’re wasting time, Ender,” a woman’s voice said crossly.

    I bristled. Who was that?

    Aros whirled around just in time for a blur of green to slam into him, sending us reeling backward, our flight path completely askew. I threw a hurried glance around, unable to locate our attacker. Aros gasped. My attention snapped back to the front just as the green blur rushed us again. It was… another Flygon? Claws tore into Aros’s side, making him roar with pain, thrashing about wildly but failing to dislodge his attacker. I clutched his shoulders, struggling to hold on as the two of them grappled back and forth, wings straining. The other Flygon was winning. It pulled its claws out and dug them back in, just under the wing joint, making Aros’s left wing falter for just a second. He pitched sideways; I lost my grip, and for a single, heart-stopping moment I was weightless, and then I was falling.

    “Aros!” I screamed.

    Falling. The battlefield rushing up at me. Aros dove, but the other Flygon dug its claws into his tail, holding him back. He wouldn’t make it. He wouldn’t make it. Had to do something, anything, and fast, or else I was dead. I fumbled with the Pokéballs on my belt, struggling to grab the right one as my distance from the ground rapidly shrank. Finally, a burst of white light flashed in my face as broad, feathered wings materialized. Swift fluttered a bit, having to get his bearings from being released in a freefall. But then he spotted me, realized what was up, and pointed his wings back so he could swoop down under me. I landed on his back, clutching at the first feathers I could grab, and the air flattened me against his back as he pulled out of the dive, rapidly beating his wings to regain altitude.

    I buried my face in his feathers, screwing my eyes shut and holding on for dear life, heart pounding so fast it hurt. That was way, way too close. Claws still clung to my shoulder. I turned to see Chibi still holding on out of the corner of my eye.

    “Go with Aros!” I yelled, holding out my arm. The Pikachu dashed along it and took a flying leap, catching hold of Aros’s tail before climbing the rest of the way up his back. He’d be able to freely let loose as much lightning as he wanted without me in the way. Meanwhile, Swift continued our ascent until we reached the same altitude as our opponents. He beat his wings to steady our flight, then began circling the two Rockets and their dragon-types.

    “Don’t take away all my fun, Raven,” the man—Ender—said. “Have you forgotten what sort of mission this is?”

    Raven didn’t respond. She just glanced back at Moltres, who was currently terrorizing the next stadium over.

    “But I suppose you’re right,” Ender went on, sighing in mock defeat. “Such a prime target as this one really ought to be eliminated.”

    I bristled. Didn’t like the sound of that at all.

    Swift was keeping us moving, harder to hit from both attacks and gunfire. Then, again, after that first shot, Ender hadn’t fired again. Maybe to avoid advertising the fact that Rockets were behind all this? It was my only guess, anyway.

    Chibi made the first move. He fired a burst of lightning at the enemy Flygon (he must’ve been aiming for its trainer) but the bug-dragon darted out of the way so fast it practically vanished. The moment it slowed down, Aros shot forward. Chibi whirled around, forced to generate a Protect barrier to guard them from behind after the clone left them wide open. Altaria’s dragonfire rebounded off the barrier in a burst of flares, dissipating into the air. But then its trainer glanced over in our direction.

    “Air Slash!” I hissed.

    Swift circled the dragon-bird, firing blades of wind from his wingtips, one after the other. But all it had to do was dive downward, letting the blades clash together in the center of the circle. Swift flapped hard, readying a whirlwind in case the Rocket made a move against us. But he didn’t. He pointed back toward the dueling Flygon pair, and Altaria took off after them.

    Wait. I was an idiot. They were going to tag team Aros, then gang up on me. Had I seriously forgotten my double battle training?

    “Aros, use Protect!” I yelled.

    But he must not have heard me, seeing as his claws flared up with dragonfire and he slashed, finally catching the enemy Flygon with a wicked slash across its side. It lunged with its jaws, attempting to bite his neck, but Chibi swung an ironclad tail at its head, cutting a long gash across its cheek. It let out a cry of alarm, but it didn’t retreat or move out of the way or anything.

    And in that instant, I realized that Raven hadn’t even ordered a dodge. They’d been acting as a stationary target to keep Aros in one spot.

    Altaria drew itself back, something glittering in its mouth.

    “Swift—!” I began.

    Too late. Altaria opened its beak wide and fired a jagged beam of bright blue ice crystals straight at Aros. The bug-dragon snapped his head in that direction but not quickly enough to react before it crashed into him, covering his entire body with frost (as the enemy Flygon conveniently chose that moment to put some distance between them.)

    Dammit. Why did everything have to have Ice Beam whenever Aros was out?

    Aros vibrated his wings frantically, struggling to shake off the ice crystals. He got his bearings, flashed a snarl at the bird-dragon… and then forced himself back toward the enemy Flygon once more.

    “Hey, leave the Flygon, we’ve gotta deal with Altaria!” I shouted. We could try to double-team it, use the same tactic they were using.

    But he didn’t listen. He tore through the air, focusing on the Flygon with a murderous glare in his eyes.

    No, dammit! What the hell was he doing?!

    Swift fired off more blades of wind, catching Altaria with a couple slices that managed to keep it in one spot for at least a couple of seconds. Chibi turned around and tried firing a couple bolts back at the dragon-bird, but without any help from his ride, the lightning flew wild, missing its mark. Aros’s claws flared up again. He lunged, slashing wildly. But he was flustered, his aim was off; the other Flygon swooped out of the way effortlessly. It swung its tail, hitting him upside the head. Chibi’s lightning missed again. Come on, this was ridiculous!

    Another Ice Beam split the air. While we’d been focused on the Flygon, Altaria had a clean shot, and this time Aros’s wings iced over with so much frost that he couldn’t shake it off. He was falling, Chibi still clinging to his back for dear life. I whipped out their Pokéballs, recalling them both.

    I swallowed hard. The two Rockets had just completely effortlessly tag-teamed Aros, and now Swift and I were the only target left. Sure, I could let out Firestorm for reinforcements, but…

    “Get ready to use Agility,” I whispered to Swift. Lead or no lead, this wasn’t worth sticking around. Had to get out of here before they got bored with knocking us around and went for the kill.

    Ender asked something of his partner, but I couldn’t hear what. Raven shook her head, muttering something. Ender gave a short reply with a shrug. And then Raven retrieved a whistle from her belt pouch and blew into it, letting out a shrill, high-pitched note. I tilted my head, confused. What was that for?

    Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw it. Moltres, suddenly gunning right for this stadium, fiery wings beating the air with way more drive and purpose than when it had just been idly attacking the tournament site. A wave of icy dread shot through my veins. No. It wasn’t going to—

    Raven pointed at me. “Kill her.”

    The firebird’s mindless eyes settled on me, and my stomach melted. Oh god. It was coming right for us. A Legendary was coming for us and it intended to kill us and there was nothing we could do to stop it.

    “Swift!” I cried.

    He dove. The wind rushed past us as his speed rapidly increased. I flattened myself against his back, willing us to go faster, all the while screaming at myself to not look back. It was too close. Even with the boost from Agility pushing us forward, there was no way we’d outpace the Legendary. I couldn’t help it. I threw a hurried glance over my shoulder and it was right there. The firebird’s blank, soulless eyes were fixed dead on us. It drew its head back, flames gathering in its throat.

    Chibi. Chibi was the only one who could so much as put a scratch on the legend, but he couldn’t do it while riding my shoulder. Not without catching me and Swift in the blast.

    Time slowed. I opened his Pokéball. The burst of light took ages to materialize.

    “Mega bolt!” I cried.

    Draining his entire power supply into a single move. That was our only shot. Any surprise the hybrid might have felt from being let out in midair flew right out the window the moment he saw why. He curled himself inward, sparks leaping off his fur, lightning dancing between his ears. Then the Pikachu spread his arms and fired off a giant lightning bolt right at the firebird. Moltres didn’t react; it couldn’t. But the lightning stopped it dead in its flight path, flames spilling out from its beak as it let out an agonized wail.

    Holy crap, that was too close. I jerked my attention away from Moltres to see Chibi falling limply through the air. Swift looped around just long enough for me to recall the Pikachu, and then we were off again. Flying faster than I’d ever flown before. Diving down towards one of the exits in the audience stands, a doorway far too small for it to follow us through. We could duck out of sight before the firebird regained itself.

    But then I heard the sound of giant wingbeats churning the air. I dared to shoot another glance back only to see the glint of flames not far behind us.

    No. No, no no! He’d bought us a few seconds. But Moltres had already regained itself and was closing in once more. Swift strained his wings, flying faster than he’d ever flown, faster than either Firestorm or Aros could fly, but it wasn’t enough.

    No! We couldn’t die here!

    And then a high-pitched screech tore the air. I glanced back just in time to see a searing orange and yellow beam shot out of nowhere, striking the firebird right in its heart. It snapped its head in the direction of the blast. And then another beam lanced through the air, hitting it in the face. And then another. I glanced back and out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a small handful of trainers perched on the topmost platform of the audience stands, surrounded by Pokémon that I couldn’t make out from this far.

    Maybe they hadn’t gotten the rangers’ message. Maybe they didn’t care. It didn’t matter. All that did matter was that whatever small distraction they could provide was exactly the opportunity that Swift and I needed. But what if Moltres ended up killing them instead? I couldn’t just let that happen, could I? But what the hell could I do to stop it?

    Swift suddenly banked hard to the right, jerking my attention back to in front of us, and the Rockets that I’d somehow forgotten about during the panic with Moltres. They’d cut off our exit when we weren’t looking. Altaria’s attack missed, but that Flygon was way faster. A raging cloud of dragonfire exploded right into our flight path. No time to dodge. Swift raised a Protect, the flames dancing across the barrier. But the barrage kept coming without pause, a relentless bombardment of sparkling blue and green fire.

    The Protect flickered, and then it was gone. Swift spread his wings, angling himself back so that I wouldn’t be hit. The attacks struck once, twice, three times, and the Pidgeot recoiled backward, each impact sending shock waves reverberating through my body. My hands hurt from clenching his feathers. I felt my grip slipping with each blow he had to endure, but I held tight for dear life. Then an Ice Beam crashed against his face, sending a wave of cold rushing over my skin, and there was that awful, stomach-melting moment of weightlessness again.

    Falling. The pair of us spiraling toward the ground, my hands holding tight with a death grip as the air rushed past. Struggling to reach for my Pokéball belt. Had to recall him, had to let out Firestorm, had to do something. But my hands trembled, missing their mark, and my vision had gone blurry, and my sense of space had dissolved into a dizzying spiral, and the last thing I saw was the flashing of wings in my peripheral vision, rapidly closing in on us. And in that moment, the only thing my brain managed to process was that they weren’t Altaria’s or Flygon’s—they were a Dragonite’s.






    ~End Chapter 34~

    Next Chapter: Mew has something to tell Jade.

    ~Chibi~
     
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2019
  12. Chibi Pika

    Chibi Pika Stay positive

    Throughout the past two weeks I redid the title art for chapters 12, 13, and 23, so please check them out if you haven't seen them already! :D I also finally finished the 17th anniversary poster, which can be found [here].

    And with that out of the way... here we go. In this chapter, everything finally starts to come together. We're so close--



    ~Chapter 35: The Indigo Rangers~

    [​IMG]

    The next few minutes passed by in a hazy whirlwind of light and sound and motion. First weightless free-falling, then the tingling prickle of a psychic hold against my skin. Then the flapping of wings and the feeling of being airborne again, this time in a smooth, straight flight rather than the frenzied, zigzagging of trying to throw off pursuers. Until finally I found myself blinking slowly as my senses returned, feeling the wind in my hair and my arms still clasped around a warm, fluffy neck. A crown of red and gold feathers danced in my vision.

    “Swift?” I said, blinking. “Are you alright? I thought—” The last thing I remembered was him struggling to protect me from the Rockets, but then they double teamed us and knocked him out, and—

    The Pidgeot turned his head slightly to glance back at me. “*After Mew rescued us, your friends gave me a revive,*” he explained.

    Mew? And my friends…?” I lifted my head to see a pair of flying Pokémon soaring ahead of us. Ajia riding her Aerodactyl—Pichu on her shoulder—and Starr riding… a Dragonite? What? Where did the Dragonite come fro— But then my brain clicked into place. The Dragonite… it had to be Mew. Starr was riding Mew. What a bizarre thought.

    I shook my head to get my bearings and then glanced around to see that we were flying low over a series of forested hills, no buildings in sight. The Tohjo mountains were visible in the distance ahead of us, so we had to be flying west, with Indigo at our backs. But why…?

    “What’s going on? Why are we just leaving?” I asked, loud enough to be heard over the wind rushing past us.

    Ajia looked back at me, then gestured for Aerodactyl to slow up until he was flying right alongside me and Swift. “The Elite Four is handling the situation back there,” she said.

    I stared incredulously. The Elite Four were the ones who had confronted Moltres? I mean, I guess it made sense. They were the strongest trainers in all of Kanto. With their position, of course they’d be willing to put their lives on the line to protect the League. But still…

    “Look, I know they’re tough, but there’s no way they can beat Moltres,” I said flatly.

    “No, but they’re good enough to keep it busy without getting themselves killed,” she answered in a matter-of-fact voice.

    “Which is more than you can say,” Starr cut in.

    I bristled. Her tone had something of an accusatory edge to it.

    “Really, Jade, what the hell were you thinking?” she went on. “Fighting Raven and Ender by yourself? Are you insane?”

    I blinked cluelessly. “Was I supposed to know them?”

    “They’re only the new heads of the Kanto combat unit,” she said flatly,

    I jolted. I’d been fighting the combat unit heads without even knowing it? “How do you know that?”

    Starr froze, looking like she’d rather not answer. “I… might have asked Ajia. But it would’ve been obvious, they were second in command under me so it’s no wonder they got the position after I left.”

    So I wasn’t the only one who had been curious about the goings-on within Team Rocket after we left. “Okay, well… anything I should know about them?” The following stream of obscenities told me I probably shouldn’t have asked. I glanced back at Ajia on my other side, still feeling rather lost about this whole situation.

    “So we’re just leaving it up to the Elite Four then?” I asked, hardly daring to believe it. I’d never known her to back down from anything. Especially after becoming Mew’s chosen.

    “We’re not leaving it all to them, alright?” she answered. “We just need to take a moment to regroup somewhere safe and come up with a plan.” I blinked. That was an oddly terse response, coming from her, but… okay.

    The three flying Pokémon soared low above the treeline, continuing their flight west of the city. After a minute or two, something caught my eye on the horizon: a large, red-roofed building situated atop a rocky outcropping, with scattered flying Pokémon in the airspace above it.

    “What’s that?” I asked.

    “That’s the Indigo Plateau ranger station,” Ajia replied.

    I wanted to ask why she’d brought us here, but the words somehow didn’t reach my throat. Fortunately, Starr was more than willing to.

    “Why did you bring us here?” she asked, not bothering to hide her suspicion.

    “Look we needed to get out of the city, and we’ll have an easier time planning if we—”

    “Whoa, hang on, what’s this ‘we’?” Starr cut in. “Jade and I aren’t a part of your rebel nonsense, remember?”

    Ajia groaned. “I’m not saying you are! Just trust me, okay?”

    Starr grumbled a bit but didn’t protest any more as the trio of Pokémon threw out their wings and prepared to land. We touched down in a large, gravel clearing in front of the building near a flagpole flying a stylized blue globe—the emblem of the Ranger Union. The building itself had a wide, stone base with a wooden, cabin-style upper level topped with red eaves. A squad of rangers was hurriedly assembling on one of the training grounds north of the base, mounting an assortment of flying-types—lots of Pidgeot and Fearow, but also Skarmory, Noctowl, and even Gliscor—all taking off for Indigo.

    I recalled Swift, Ajia recalled Aerodactyl, and Dragonite-Mew flew off into the forest. Ajia immediately began striding toward the building with a noticeable sense of purpose.

    “So, I’m assuming you’ve been here before?” I asked, jogging to catch up. “If this was your go-to?”

    “Yeah, my dad works here,” she replied.

    I stopped, blinking with surprise for a second before continuing after her. I guess I did have the vague inkling that at one point I’d probably known that her dad worked for the Ranger Union… maybe? I’d just… managed to completely forget about it.

    I followed Ajia up a small set of wooden steps to the building’s front entrance, Starr dragging her heels behind us with a very deliberate air. Ajia was just about to open the door when it suddenly burst open, forcing us all to jump aside as a ranger bolted down the steps before taking off for the training ground. Ajia gave an embarrassed half-smile and then held the door open for us. I stepped cautiously inside, immediately shuffling off to the side so I wouldn’t be in anyone else’s way.

    The main lobby was full of people, almost all of them wearing the iconic red jacket of the Ranger Union. The overall air was one of anxiety as the rangers rushed about their business, some of them giving orders to subordinates, others talking into handheld radios. I jammed my hands into my pockets, doing my best to merge with the wall, when suddenly, in the midst of all the noise, my ears caught the sound of someone calling out, “Ajia?!”

    I turned to see a ranger not much older than Ajia striding toward us with a look of recognition on her face. “What are you doing here?” the girl asked.

    “We had to get away from Indigo,” Ajia replied, folding her arms behind her back with a sheepish look. “Is it alright if my friends and I crash here for a bit?”

    The ranger glanced at us dismissively. “Long as they stay outta the way, I doubt anyone’ll mind.”

    “Great,” Ajia said brightly, turning around to face us. “Guys, this is my friend Kari. We met during that ranger internship I did two years ago.”

    Starr gave a curt nod that passed for a greeting, and I just sort of waved. Kari didn’t seem too concerned with the introduction and was now giving Ajia a glare that was half suspicious and half exasperated.

    “So you came here from Indigo, huh?” she said, tapping a finger against her belt. “Please don’t tell me you were fighting Moltres.”

    “Heck no, I’m not that crazy,” Ajia replied. I fought back a sudden desire to melt into the floor.

    Kari raised an eyebrow. “How ‘bout not mucking around in an emergency zone when we’re trying to clear out civilians?”

    Ajia gave a crooked grin. “Can’t promise that, I’m afraid.”

    “Oh my god,” Kari said, putting a hand to her forehead. “Glad to see you’re alright, at least. I’m sure your dad’ll be glad too—oh, speaking of—”

    I glanced over in the direction she had turned to see a short, balding, dark-haired man who had just exited one of the main offices, talking with a couple of other rangers at his side. The man’s eyes lit up, and Ajia didn’t hesitate to run over and throw her arms around him, oblivious to the rangers who had to jump out of her way.

    Man, it had been ages since I had seen Ajia’s dad. Not since the last time I’d stayed at her house back when we were both in grade school. That felt like an eternity ago with two completely different people, neither of whom were us.

    Ajia and her dad were talking animatedly about something, though I couldn’t hear what with how many other people were in the lobby right now. I tapped my foot against the wall, feeling somewhat out of place. Kari gave me and Starr the occasional sideways glance, like she wasn’t sure if she should wait here with us or leave and get back to whatever she was doing before we showed up. So I just avoided making eye contact and let my gaze wander over the rest of the lobby, settling on a healing station off to the left.

    …Aros was still injured and Chibi was out of power. And Swift could probably use some attention as well.

    “Is… is it okay if I heal my team?” I asked Kari.

    “We look like a Pokécenter to you?” she asked dryly.

    My face fell. I was just about to stammer out some kind of apology, but then she snorted. “Just messing with ya. Help yourself.”

    I blinked, but then didn’t waste any time excusing myself and weaving around the rangers in my path. I handed Swift, Chibi, and Aros’s Pokéballs to the ranger closest to the machine before rejoining Starr right around the same time as Ajia did.

    “Alright, my dad’s cool with us staying here. Come on, there’s a lounge this way,” Ajia said, gesturing for us to follow her. But then she paused, glancing at Pichu, who was still riding her shoulder.

    “You wanna go keep dad company while we’re here?” she asked. Pichu, who had been looking a bit bored and anxious, immediately perked up and jumped down from her trainer’s shoulder, zigzagging around feet as she ran back to the office. Ajia smiled faintly as she watched her starter leave, then motioned for us to follow her again. I glanced back at Starr. She just shrugged, and the two of us followed Ajia down a relatively empty hallway off to the left.

    “So, your dad, is he…” I struggled to think of the right way to put it. “Is he gonna be flying into danger with the rest of them?”

    “No, no, he’s not a field ranger,” Ajia said quickly. “He’s an admin, he’s mostly in charge of organizing stuff here at HQ, assigning squads to the field, keeping track of who’s doing what, that sort of thing.”

    That was a relief. It just went without saying, at this point, that the two of us were bound to get dragged into Rocket business. But the idea of anyone else getting caught up in it unnecessarily just felt… wrong. Even adults whose literal job was helping out with emergency situations.

    “Does your dad know about…?” My voice trailed off as I failed to come up with the right words.

    Ajia gave a puzzled half-smile. “About what?”

    “I dunno…”—I gestured vaguely to all of her—”everything?” She laughed slightly, and I added, “You know… all the mortal danger and such.” I couldn’t have imagined my mom would have been remotely okay with anything I’d done on the Rebellion. And of course, I’d conveniently glossed over all of it during my phone calls.

    Ajia gave an awkward shrug. “Soooort of? He knows a couple of things I’ve been involved with. The time I helped you out at the plane crash, the attack on Viridian, where I got my Eevees from… Stuff like that. I’ve made it sound like unrelated incidents and not, like… some kind of Rocket-fighting agenda.” Even though it was, in fact, a Rocket-fighting agenda, in every sense.

    My attention was caught by my Pokégear buzzing from inside my pocket. I took one look at who was calling and was instantly hit with a bizarre mix of relief and guilt. Rudy. He was alright. But I’d completely forgotten about how we’d been split up, what with the panic of facing the executives.

    “Where the hell did you go?” his voice immediately demanded the instant I answered the call.

    “Are you okay?” I asked.

    “Yeah, yeah, we’re both fine, but never mind that, where are you?”

    I put a hand to my temple. “I’m at the ranger station west of Indigo. It’s a long story, can you meet me here?”

    Technically I wasn’t sure if it was alright to just invite other people here, but it was too late to take it back. And I really didn’t want to explain it over the phone. Fortunately, Rudy was the sort to jump first and ask questions later. “Kay, we’ll head over,” he said before hanging up.

    Well, at least that confirmed that Darren was alright too. But I was a little annoyed that, once again, running for my life had shoved everything and everyone else out of my head.

    Ajia stopped once we’d reached our destination, opening a door and leading me and Starr inside the lounge, which was currently unoccupied. It was a spacious room with several well-worn couches, a couple of snack machines, and tables covered in various books and magazines. Starr didn’t waste a second zeroing in on the closest couch and flopping onto it dramatically.

    “God. Can’t we have a minute of peace,” she muttered.

    I walked over, leaning against the arm of the same couch. “We had nine months of peace,” I said slowly, more to myself than to her.

    “Yeah, yeah,” she said, waving a hand like she didn’t want to hear it.

    Ajia had shut the door behind us and began pacing back and forth, lost in thought. I rubbed my arms, still feeling overwhelmed by everything that had happened today. And now that we were finally in a calm, quiet environment, the questions were starting to flood my mind once more.

    “I just… I don’t get it. Nothing about this makes any sense. Why are the Rockets doing this? And yes, I remember what Lexx said, but…” I trailed off, hoping one of them would say something to make me feel less lost. But neither of them did.

    Starr narrowed her eyes at me, and I suddenly became aware of the fact that I’d been staring at her. “What’re you looking at me for?” she asked.

    I fidgeted, unsure of how to put it. “Lexx said they were trying to stir up anti-Legendary sentiment. What did he mean by that?”

    Starr let out a deep sigh. “Look… he’s right about one thing: the Rockets want the League to fear the Legendaries. That way they can look like the good guys for catching them.”

    I gaped incredulously. “But they caused all of this by catching them in the first place!”

    Starr shrugged. “No one knows that. You see a bunch of crazy Legendaries trashing cities on the news, is some kinda brainwashing plot gonna be your first guess?”

    I opened my mouth to speak, but then froze. A strange and unexpected thought had suddenly taken hold in my mind. “Should we tell the League what’s going on? Like, all of it?”

    Starr snorted. “Yeah, like they’ll believe us.”

    “I’m serious. We could have Mew back up our story, and—”

    “Leeeet’s not get ahead of ourselves,” Ajia said, holding both palms out. “The Legendaries have good reason to want to play it safe right now. And Mew trusted me to keep her secrets.”

    Right. It wasn’t fair to make that decision for them. But still… if we could at least ask them about it someday…?

    Ajia glanced back and forth between me and Starr. “I’m going to talk with the rangers and figure out a plan. It is alright if I leave you two here?”

    I tilted my head, mildly puzzled by how abrupt that was, but I nodded all the same. Ajia turned her attention to Starr, but didn’t get a response. She closed her eyes and exhaled slowly. Then she just went ahead and exited the room, shutting the door behind her.

    Starr and I were alone. And for some reason, I couldn’t help but get the feeling like there was a thick air of tension hanging over the two of us. I couldn’t quite put it into words, but it was definitely there.

    Starr let out a long, exasperated sigh, tilting her head so she could glance at me out of the corner of one eye. “So. You wanna explain?”

    I swallowed. Why did I already feel like I wasn’t going to enjoy what was coming. “Explain what?”

    She turned so she was now staring straight at me. “Oh, I dunno, why you were off fighting Rockets by yourself?”

    I felt my cheeks go red. Right. That.

    “I thought we were both done with that,” she said, eyes digging into me.

    “Look, I wasn’t looking for Rockets, okay? They found me,” I shot back.

    From the look on her face, Starr wasn’t convinced. And in the back of my mind, I knew that was a lie. My first instinct had been to figure out what the Rockets were doing and try to put a stop to it. Even if I’d gotten… momentarily paralyzed.

    Starr’s expression softened. “Jade. How many times have I told you I don’t want to fight Team Rocket?”

    I closed my eyes, gripping the edge of the couch. “I know. I know, I know.”

    She stared at me, her face deathly serious. “Do you know? Cause from the way I see it, the moment the Rockets show their face again, you’re immediately looking for ways to get yourself killed.” She clenched her fists, glancing away. “And… I know I should be there to make sure that you don’t. But I don’t want anything to do with this mess.” She screwed her eyes shut. A heavy pause followed. “But I can’t just let you get yourself killed either. Do you see the problem?”

    I swallowed. “Yeah.”

    It wasn’t like I wanted to throw myself into danger. I wanted so badly to ignore it. To pretend it didn’t exist. And yet I’d defaulted to the instinct that told me it was my job to do something about it. Of course, it hadn’t just been me. Chibi had been gearing towards it as well. But at the same time, I couldn’t pin this on him. Even if I didn’t think I’d ever understand how he still had that much determination, after what had happened that night.

    That night. I shuddered. My mind flashed back to it. Back to the night when Moltres had appeared over Midnight Island. I’d thought that I’d moved on. I’d thought that the things that happened last year were done and over with. In the past. I was starting to think that would never be the case.

    “Back there,” I said slowly. “There was a moment when… it was like I was back on Midnight Island, on the night of the attack.” I wasn’t sure why I was saying it; the words just came out of my mouth without my thinking about them.

    Starr sucked in a breath. I hadn’t meant to bring up something that had happened while she was still a Rocket. I knew she hated being reminded of it, and I was sure she was going to say so. But she didn’t. Instead, she stood up and walked over to me. I flinched. But then she grabbed my hand pulled me into a hug. I blinked for a moment, caught off guard, but then found myself slowly relaxing.

    “That’s… that’s in the past, okay?” Starr said. “We both said we’d help each other get past all that, yeah?”

    I exhaled slowly, holding tight. “Yeah.”

    For several seconds, neither of us said anything. I screwed my eyes shut, willing my brain to block out everything else—the Rockets, Moltres, everything—and just exist here in this moment.

    After some time, Starr let go, glancing away. “I’m glad you’re okay,” she said quietly.

    I shuffled a foot against the floorboards, struggling to think of what to say. But I couldn’t help suspecting that the longer we stayed here with Ajia, the higher the odds we’d get dragged into something we didn’t want any part in. And I just… I didn’t want my recklessness to hurt Starr.

    “I’m… I’m gonna go talk to Ajia. Gonna try to explain to her.” Explain what, I wasn’t quite sure. Just something. There had to be a way through this that wouldn’t leave me disappointing one of them.

    I left the room and glanced back and forth down the hallway. It was just dawning on me that Ajia hadn’t specified where she was leaving off to. I’d pretty much just have to explore the base until I found her. So I tried my best to stay glued to the wall and out of the rangers’ way as I wandered the halls. Fortunately, it didn’t take long for me to find my way back to the lobby, where I spotted Ajia pacing back and forth in a tight circle in the corner. Her expression brightened when she saw me approaching.

    “Ah, good timing, I was just coming to get you,” she said, giving a small wave. “Let’s talk outside, I don’t wanna get in anyone’s way.” She gestured to the door. I shrugged and followed her outside, down the wooden steps and around the cobblestone path that surrounded the building. Her movements were quick. Anxious, but controlled. Like her brain was moving at a million miles a minute, and she was struggling to keep up. Part of me couldn’t help suspecting that she’d led me outside in case she needed to say something that no one else should hear.

    “Alright, I’ve been talking with everyone else, trying to get an idea of the situation.” Her hands moved animatedly as she talked. “Sounds like Moltres is still raging, so we haven’t missed our opportunity or anything.”

    I blinked. “Huh?” I was hit with the distinct feeling that I’d walked into a half-finished conversation without even knowing what the subject was.

    “The rangers are still busy with the evacuation, so that means we don’t really have to worry about that. So we can just focus on the Rockets.” She tapped a fist to her palm like she’d just realized something. “You fought the combat unit head, right? Were you able to get any info?”

    From Ender? No, I’d been too busy trying not to get killed. Although… he had mentioned a few things. “He… did say that it was the kind of mission where he could have some fun, whatever that means.”

    Ajia paused, putting a hand to her chin. “Well that does seem to confirm that this is just an attention-grab.” Her eyes darted to the wall that way they did when she was deep in thought. “That’s good because they probably won’t confront us when we head back to the tourney site. Though it might make it harder to draw them out. I’m working on a couple of plans, but it’s a lot to juggle. The rangers aren’t gonna like this…”

    I stared at her, a familiar feeling creeping up the back of my neck. One that I hadn’t felt since the night of the Viridian attack. Ajia was still pacing, still muttering various things under her breath, but I wasn’t paying attention to any of it now that I’d realized what was going on.

    I’d… I’d have to say something. But the idea of doing so was just so intensely uncomfortable that part of me was tempted to just go along with everything she said, without question.

    “You’re… you’re doing it again.”

    Ajia paused, giving me a confused look. “Huh?”

    I swallowed hard. I didn’t want to say this, I really didn’t. But it had to be said. “You’re just assuming that I’m gonna be a part of this. I haven’t agreed to it yet, so… it shouldn’t be a given.”

    Ajia’s face fell. She bit her lip, clasping her hands behind her back. “Right. I’m sorry.”

    That was it? That was all it took to get her to drop it? Something was up.

    Ajia took a deep breath, her eyes sliding to the ground to avoid making contact with mine. “Can I ask you something? Have you ever considered rejoining the fight?”

    I gaped at her. “What?” Why on earth would she ask something like that? “I spent five minutes in the fight just now and I almost died, what kind of question is that,” I said, feeling the blood rush to my face.

    Ajia looked mortified. “I’m sorry. I really didn’t mean it like that, I just…”

    “You just what?” I asked, my voice heating slightly.

    Her eyes darted to the side. “I just… this conflict has a way of dragging people in whether they like it or not. I’d… really prefer if we were ready for it, you know?”

    It was a hasty excuse. Not nearly as polished as her previous ones.

    “Alright, spill it, what’s going on,” I said flatly.

    Her brows furrowed. “What do you mean?”

    “You’re hiding something. Again.” The last word had deliberate emphasis.

    “I’m not trying to, I just…”

    I clenched my fists. “You just what? Why can’t you just be upfront, ever?

    “It’s because of Mew!” she exclaimed suddenly.

    I froze. Mew? Why on earth did Mew care if I was going to keep fighting the Rockets? The idea of a Legendary caring about human affairs still felt… really weird.

    “Mew… wanted me to ask you,” she said slowly, struggling through every word. “I didn’t want to, but… she insisted.”

    “Mew.” I repeated blankly. This was all happening because of Mew. In a way, it was a small comfort that Ajia wasn’t trying to drag me back into this of her own volition. It at least managed to clear the fog of hurt and betrayal from my head. But in its place, a wave of confusion swept in.

    “Mew wants me to help you,” I said, more to myself than to her. “That doesn’t make any sense. Why can’t you just get help from the other chosen?”

    Ajia paused, heavily considering her words, almost like she was grappling with them in her head. Finally she took a deep breath and quickly said, “None of the other patron legends have picked a chosen yet. I was the first.”

    I blinked at her, stunned. “What? Is that… okay? Aren’t they short on time? Aren’t things supposed to get worse soon?”

    “Yeah, they are. And that’s probably why Mew’s—” Her words cut off sharply mid-sentence. “I probably wasn’t supposed to—” Again, her words cut off. She stomped a foot to the ground and yelled, “I’m sorry, I know!”

    I paused, the gears slowly turning in my head. “You’re talking with Mew right now, aren’t you?”

    She massaged her temple. “Yeah.”

    I honestly had no idea what to say to that. It was slightly discomforting to know that she was privately talking about me with someone else while I was right here.

    “I’m sorry. It wasn’t right to lay all this on you,” she said heavily, staring downward.

    I frowned. It was obvious by now that she hadn’t wanted to, so… I wasn’t mad at her anymore. Now I was just lost and unsure of what I should be feeling.

    Ajia shook her head, letting out a deep sigh. Then she turned to leave.

    I grabbed her arm. “Wait.”

    “No, I need to go,” she said, still facing away from me.

    “Ajia…”

    But she had already run off, her footsteps echoing off the stone pathway. For several seconds, all I could do was stare after her, still processing what the heck had just happened. It felt like I was being torn in two different directions. On the one hand, Starr, who wanted nothing to do with this fight, and who would only be hurt by seeing me throw myself into it. And on the other hand, Ajia, someone who couldn’t walk away from it even if she wanted, who was now being pressured to drag me back in for unknown reasons.

    But now… I guess I had just made my choice. The best thing I could do now was let Starr know that I’d successfully managed to stay out of this mess. She’d be happy to hear that, at least. And it was what I supposedly wanted as well. So why didn’t I feel happy about it?

    My shoes dragged against the wooden steps as I slowly trudged back inside the ranger station. Starr wasn’t in the lounge anymore. She must’ve gotten bored and wandered off. Or maybe she’d gone looking for me and Ajia. Who knows. Well, I was already sick of this room, and the entire base was full of ambient anxiety from all the rangers mobilizing. Maybe I could go back outside and wait for Rudy and Darren to show up. At least then I’d have the fresh mountain breeze and the sounds of the forest to lose myself in. Anything other than being inside my head right now.

    I turned to leave, but the door shut by itself. What the hell? I was just about to reach out and grab the handle when I felt a small prickle on the back of my neck, the hairs standing on end.

    And then suddenly Mew was there, right in front of my face. I jumped back, stifling a yelp and struggling to get a hold of myself.

    “Mew?! Don’t scare me like that!” I blurted out, clutching a hand to my chest.

    The psychic cat folded her ears back, locking eyes with me. <I’m sorry. I just needed to speak with you.>

    It took me several seconds to process that. “Me, as in, just me. Not Ajia?”

    Mew nodded. <Just you.>

    I relaxed slightly but still felt tense, with swirls of confusion clouding my brain. Why was a Legendary Pokémon taking the time to speak with a random human, especially at a time like this? I took a few slow steps over to the nearest couch and sat down, gesturing for her to follow me. The psychic cat drifted over lightly, her tail twisting and turning behind her.

    <So. How are you doing?> Mew asked.

    Why did she care? “I’m… doing alright,” I said warily, gripping the fabric of my jeans.

    <That’s good. Ajia was worried about you. She didn’t mean to cause you distress.>

    I paused, struggling to sort through the dozens of things I could say. “Ajia told me you’ve been asking her to talk to me about joining the fight again. I just… don’t get why.”

    Mew closed her eyes and turned away, clutching her tail with her paws and shaking her head ever so slightly. I wasn’t sure if I should be upset with her. Of course, I had to assume she had a good reason for pushing Ajia to say those things, but…

    Finally the cat-like legend lifted her head and stared long and hard at me with her large, sapphire eyes. Her gaze was concerned, with a shadow of guilt mixed into it.

    <It’s important,> she just said.

    I frowned. What was I supposed to take from that? I’d been hoping for a better answer.

    “Look, if you want the truth, I don’t know if I can,” I said, unable to keep the heated tone from leaking into my voice. “After everything that happened, I don’t think I have what it takes to fight Team Rocket anymore.” Was I so sure of that? Was that just an excuse? I was disappointing Ajia by hiding from the fight, but I was disappointing Starr by throwing myself into danger anyway. And even if I ignored both of them, I still had no idea what the right path was.

    <It may not be possible for you to stay out of it for much longer,> Mew pointed out.

    I swallowed. “That’s what I’m afraid of.”

    <Certain events that transpired last year may have altered your fate,> the legend said earnestly.

    I raised an eyebrow. “My ‘fate’? What are you talking about?”

    Mew paused, heavily considering her words. I couldn’t help noticing her eyes making the same tiny, darting motion that Ajia’s did when she was deep in thought. Were they… communicating right now?

    I felt a prickle of anger welling up, and I stood to my feet so that I was at eye level with her. “Why does it matter so much whether I’m involved in this fight or not? Why does everyone seem so invested in that? You can’t expect me to believe I’m that important. That my involvement is that necessary.”

    Mew fixed her eyes on me once again. <It’s not important for the sake of the fight, no. It’s important for your sake,> she said, her words strained.

    What? What was she talking about…? Important for my sake? So she wasn’t concerned about what would happen in the fight, but… what would happen to me? Why?

    Mew shook her head, glancing away. <I’ve said too much.>

    My pulse quickened. “No, Mew, hang on, what are you saying?”

    <I can’t…>

    “Are you saying that something bad’s gonna happen to me if I don’t join the fight?”

    <No, that’s not—>

    “What do you know?!”

    <Listen to me,> she snapped, staring me dead in the eyes with a desperate look. <I cannot say anything to influence your decision. This is up to you. Whatever happens, I have to trust that you will know what is right for you.”

    What on earth was Mew talking about? Know what was right for what?

    “Okay…?” I said slowly, still completely lost.

    And then Mew took my hand and began to glow.

    I flinched. “Mew?”

    In a flash, our surroundings melted away, instantly replaced with darkness. I jumped back from Mew like my hand was on fire, throwing a hurried glance at my surroundings. But I couldn’t make anything out. Slowly, my eyes slid back to Mew, a feeling of incredulous dread rising in my throat. She gave me one last desperately sad look and then vanished.

    “Mew!!”

    My voice echoed off the walls. But she was gone. I was alone.

    I took a few slow, shaking steps. The floor was made of rough, uneven stone, I could tell that much. And then my eyes slowly began adjusting to the semidarkness. I was in a small, wet cavern, the rocks glistening with water and glinting with the light of… something, though I couldn’t really see any light source. I could hear the sound of water crashing down behind me, though, and I turned around to see a large, crystal-clear pool filling half the cavern, fed by a wide, curving waterfall that covered most of the far wall. Then the rest of my senses returned; I shivered and rubbed my arms, overtaken by a sudden chill.

    “She teleported me…” I whispered to myself, “…but why?”

    My eyes slowly traced the walls. Wet stone surrounding all sides, with no openings. The waterfall had to flow in here from somewhere, but I had no way of climbing it, and no Pokémon that could traverse water.

    “I’m trapped,” I muttered in disbelief. “She’s trapped me here alone with no way out…?”

    And then a voice—a chillingly bitter telepathic voice—resounded in reply, <I wouldn’t say that you’re alone.>

    An overwhelming pressure gripped me from all sides, and my body instantly went numb. Not that voice. Anything but that voice. It cut through me like a knife, sending my mind reeling back to that fateful day when I made the biggest mistake of my life. It was the voice that had haunted all my nightmares since then—one that I’d desperately hoped to never hear again.

    From deep within the pool of water, two eyes, radiating blue, pierced the darkness with an icy stare that seemed to bore right through me. The glow illuminated the creature’s face, revealing a sleek avian head with a mouth curled into a smirk.

    <Welcome, human. Are you ready to face the consequences of the day we last met?>






    ~End Chapter 35~

    Next Chapter: It's all been leading to this.

    ~Chibi~
     
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2019
  13. 3DSRed

    3DSRed Alias RedAgent14

    As someone who just finished reading the latest chapter on FFN, I'm going to ask two questions I've been meaning to ask for a while:
    1. Why do Entei and Articuno not take on a Chosen (both from an in-story perspective and an author perspective)? 2. Is there an in-universe reason that all of the legends who take on Chosen are Tohjo legends, or is that just a by-product of the fic being around since before many other gens (and legendaries) were introduced?

    EDIT: Also, Mew is basically the "looks like a cinnamon roll, could actually kill you" character of the fic.
     
    Chibi Pika likes this.
  14. Chibi Pika

    Chibi Pika Stay positive

    Some excellent questions! And you're not the only person to have them, lol.

    1. Hoo boy, let's start with the authorial reason. The list of patrons was derived from the list of Legendaries which got captured by the protagonists in the original version. It was 2003 and I let all my friends decide, so it was, essentially, random. (For added fun, before I pared down the list to seven, Latias and Groudon were patrons. But not Latios or Kyogre. Yeah.)

    So... obviously I had to come up with an actual in-universe explanation much, much later down the line. ^^; Basically, 3000 years ago, those seven Legendaries did something that landed them that patron designation. Whether that was pure chance (in the right place at the right time) or because they decided to (and Entei and Articuno simply weren't on board with it) remains yet to be seen.

    2. As part of the above, I retroactively had to justify them all being Tohjo legends. Because yeah, that was 100% because they were the only Legendaries out at the time. There is an in-universe explanation yes, but that one I can say is "right place, right time." Whatever happened, happened in Tohjo.
    She really is. :D

    Now then. I suppose it's time I drop the wham chapter here, isn't it?

    This is it. The chapter it's all been leading to. I never made it this far in the old version. I've been waiting so long. But now it's finally time.



    ~CHAPTER 36: THE GUARDIAN OF THE WATERS~

    [​IMG]

    My breathing was shallow and my heart was pounding. I couldn’t move; I was frozen on the spot, barely able to think.

    Lugia called me here to kill me. That was the only thing my brain felt like generating, and it repeated it over and over again until I felt like I was going to be sick. The Legendary dragon-bird slowly emerged from the pool in front of me, trails of water streaming down silver feathers, eyes glowing blue with psychic energy. I’d seen it countless times in my nightmares, but here it was, in front of me, for real.

    I clenched my fists, swallowing hard. This was just like the last time. Not like the Rocket conflicts, not a struggle for survival. There was nothing I could do. Nowhere to run, no way to fight back. Helpless. I might as well have already been dead.

    But somewhere deep within the spiraling vortex of fear and panic, there was a tiny voice arguing that this didn’t make any sense. Why now? Why after so long? Why had Lugia let me live in the first place? Why was Mew in on this? Too many questions, my head was going to burst.

    Lugia raised a brow. <No response? Are you content to allow fear to control you? How pitiful.>

    I bristled. Had to do something, anything. I clutched at a Pokéball and held it up, my arm shaking. I’d battle. Yeah, that was it. We’d battle, and we’d… well we wouldn’t win, but we’d find some kind of opening that would let me escape. Any way out. We had to. The vaguest notion of how unrealistic this plan was prodded at the back of my mind, but I didn’t care.

    Lugia’s eyes narrowed. <A battle. You want to battle. That’s… amusing.>

    My fingers gripped the ball so tightly I could feel my pulse through them.

    The dragon-bird tilted its head ever so slightly. <But then… perhaps it’s a good sign that your first instinct is to fight.>

    I paused. Confusion drifted to the front of mind. But it felt more… puzzling than the barrage of panicked, unrelenting questions from before. Had… had Lugia been trying to get a rise out of me?

    But then… then the sights and sounds of what happened last year hit me in the face like a truck. I was standing in a grassy field, lit by moonlight and the glow of Viridian City on fire. I saw Lugia, but it was no longer standing in front of me, but rather, looming high above me, mouth curled into a smirk, eyes flashing hatefully as the psychic energy tore through my body. A sudden jolt of nausea overtook me, and I was sure that I’d been hit with the attack for a second time. But no… Lugia hadn’t done anything. Yet again, I’d been dragged back to what happened last year. Why did this keep happening. Why. Why. Why—

    <Are you quite done with your meltdown? I haven’t got all day.>

    The words snapped me back into reality. I was here, right now, standing in front of the Legendary in a water-filled cavern. The attack in Viridian was last year. I had to focus on the now.

    “What do you want with me?” I croaked.

    <For starters, I’d like you to pull yourself together.> It almost sounded annoyed.

    A surge of anger shot through me, shoving the terror aside. “Stop toying with me! You called me down here in order to get revenge, right? Are you gonna taunt me some more or just kill me outright since it didn’t work last time?”

    For some time, the Legendary gave no sign that it had heard me. I stood there, fists clenched, breathing hard, waiting for its response. My mind had tuned out the rushing water in the background—we might as well have been in total, crushing silence.

    <Are you under the impression,> Lugia began slowly and menacingly, <that I tried and yet failed to kill you on that day?>

    I froze, lost for words. It had sounded almost offended by what I’d said. For so long I’d wondered how I survived, and the only one I could talk about it with, the only one who even knew what had happened, was Chibi. But he hadn’t seen how it ended. I’d replayed it in my mind, over and over, unwilling to accept that the Legendary had just decided to let me live of its own volition. It didn’t make any sense. Not after I’d seen the unbridled fury in its eyes.

    “I… I didn’t think—” I started.

    <That much is evident,> Lugia cut me off. <But had you even given it a second thought, it would seem obvious, even to you, that had I really wanted to, it would have been all too easy.>

    “I know that!” I exclaimed, a wave of heated frustration washing over me. “And after today, what does it matter?!” It was like talking to someone who had a knife to my throat. I was trembling, muscles shaking no matter how hard I told them to stop. No matter how badly I wanted to appear unmoved by my total lack of control over the situation.

    With a reserved tone of voice, the dragon-bird replied, <If you must know, I had Mew call you here today because I wished to speak with you in private.>

    I took a step backward, muscles relaxing ever so slightly. It just wanted to talk? I couldn’t remotely expect it to be a pleasant conversation, but… alright. I could handle that. But still… why had Mew looked so anxious about sending me here? And why couldn’t I shake the feeling that I was still in danger?

    <Now is not the time to dwell on past events,> Lugia went on, waving a wing dismissively. <My concern is the here and now. Mew tells me that you think you can stay out of this war, even after all that has happened.>

    I blinked. That wasn’t what I’d been expecting at all. “Why do you care if I’m involved with the war against Team Rocket? Why the hell would it matter to you?”

    <As a matter of fact…>—Lugia’s words were quiet and meticulous—<it matters a great deal. The actions and attitudes of all the humans who have opposed the so-called Team Rocket are very relevant to the Order’s interests. I was told you had read the words inscribed upon the ruins of Midnight Island. Or did they slip your mind?>

    I stared, still trying to work through the conversation taking such a bizarre turn. “What, the thing about seven Legendaries making an alliance with humanity? Don’t tell me you’re one of them?”

    Eyes narrowed, Lugia replied, <And what if I am? Is that so hard to believe?>

    I paused. My mind pulled up the image of the dragon-bird soaring high over Viridian City, firing off brilliant orange beams that tore through whole city blocks at once. That wasn’t the image of a guardian who’d been tasked with keeping balance in the world. But I didn’t exactly feel comfortable saying that.

    “No… I guess not.”

    At my words, the silver bird gave a sort of self-satisfied nod. <Good. Now pay attention. The conflict between human and Legendary has been steadily worsening the past few years, and it is likely to reach all-out war by summer’s end. There are those on either side who have dedicated themselves to preserving the balance. But that alone is not enough. Two sides working separately toward the same goal are unlikely to succeed. But together… they might have a chance.>

    My eyes widened, and I dared to let a glimmer of hope rise within me. “You’re talking about the alliance, right? Are the Legendaries going to help form a new resistance against the Rockets?”

    <No. I do not trust human organizations.> My face fell immediately. Lugia continued, <The potential for conflicts and schisms and betrayal is too high. It was already disastrous for one of our number who rushed in too soon after a number of humans betrayed the Rockets two years ago. Some of our order—like Mew—are willing to take that risk. I am not.>

    What was it talking about? One of the Legendaries had tried to ally with a human before Mew? And it had backfired?

    “So… if you don’t want to join us, then how are you supposed to form the alliance anyway?”

    Lugia paused, shifting its wings while it considered its words. <The alliance between human and Legendary is intended to be between individuals, not just the two sides overall. It was believed that this would allow a more unified core when that alliance is put to the test.>

    I nodded. “You mean like Ajia and Mew, right? I heard her referred to as being ‘chosen.’ But… I thought that meant… I don’t know… that she had some kind of destiny in all of this? And it seemed to fit in with the prophecy, so—”

    With a scoff, Lugia said, <I’ve never put much stock in ‘destiny.’ Fate is nothing; action is everything. Your friend took action toward protecting the balance, and Mew selected her as a result. It’s as simple as that.>

    I sighed, running a hand down my face. Alright, it clearly didn’t intend to explain anything more than the bare minimum. And I had to stop thinking about the legend like a prophecy, because it obviously wasn’t. So… seven individual humans would get chosen because they had protected the Legendaries. And none of them were predestined. And it was based solely on their actions.

    But why was Lugia telling me all of this?

    Unless…

    I stared at the silver Legendary in wide-eyed horror, unwilling to believe it. It couldn’t be possible. It couldn’t be…

    “So… so you’re saying…” I swallowed hard and continued, “that I’m chosen? Even after what I did?”

    <Perhaps moreso because of what you did, among other things. You have connected yourself with the legends as few others of that rebellion have,> the dragon-bird answered.

    Because of it? Why in the… how—” I struggled, the full effect of what I’d just been told hitting me in the chest like a truck. This didn’t make any sense. Lugia was supposed to hate my guts—why else would it have done… that? But now it wanted me to be its chosen and this didn’t make any sense.

    Lugia closed its eyes in frustration and said, <Let me explain this as simply as I can. You are an interloper. You have no inherent significance in the legends, but your interference in the conflict between human and Legendary has forced you to become a part of them. The seven patrons of the Order are obligated to seek out those interlopers deemed to have the strongest connection to both the conflict, to the other interlopers, and to themselves.”

    My stomach had melted away to nothingness. “And I’m one of them. I’ve helped save Legendaries. I’m friends with a bunch of others who are also involved. There really is no way I can escape from that mess, is there?”

    <I doubt it. Unless you are willing to allow your allies to risk their lives while you save yourself,> Lugia said, giving me a rather disgusted scowl.

    “Of course I don’t want to do that! I just… I don’t know if I’ll be able to. Ever since the rebellion ended, I feel like I kind of… broke something. Like I couldn’t fight them anymore, even if I wanted to.” I stared at the floor miserably, my face burning. There, I’d said it. I couldn’t tell Ajia, but I’d told a freaking Legendary that had tortured me.

    Lugia’s expression softened. <In the end, it is your choice. I cannot force you. You’re connected to the conflict whether you like it or not, but your role in the legend is up to you.>

    I glanced up at the dragon-bird incredulously. That was a weirdly… understanding response it had given me. “I don’t get it. How do I have a choice?”

    <Simple. I cannot be your patron if you refuse. I would then select another.>

    “And you really have to pick a human to side with?” I asked, raising an eyebrow.

    Lugia let out what almost sounded like a growl. <I do not wish to go against the instructions given to the Order so long ago. Neither of our sides can prevail without the other. That much is obvious, from what we’ve seen of the conflict thus far.> It winced slightly, as though the admission was painful. <In particular, Mew seems to believe we will fail if we do not embrace our human allies. And of course, the humans will fail without our strength.>

    It was such a weird thing to consider—that Legendaries could actually benefit from having humans on their side. But then… in this sort of fight, there were a lot of advantages to being human, weren’t there? We didn’t have a humongous target on our back just from being spotted anywhere. We could sneak into Rocket bases, gather information, avoid traps, figure out the Rockets’ weaknesses… Not even Mew could get into a Rocket base undetected—not without help.

    <So. What will you do?>

    I froze. This had all happened so suddenly—I wanted more time just to process all of it. But then… I’d already spent all day agonizing over whether or not I should help fight the Rockets. And even throughout the past nine months… I’d always felt like I was hiding from it all.

    “This agreement… it’s not something that can ever be taken back, can it?” I asked slowly, my voice shaking. “I’d basically be saying that I’ll fight with you until we put things right for good, wouldn’t I?”

    <The alliance requires patron and chosen to have their spirits physically bound together. So yes, I would say this is kind of a long-term commitment,> Lugia said dryly.

    Right… I should have figured as much. Part of me always knew that I’d be drawn back into the fight whether I liked it or not. But then… if it really was inevitable, wouldn’t it be better to have a Legendary Pokémon on my side? Wasn’t that the best possible way to survive the war and protect everyone else?

    I took a deep breath. “Alright. I’ll do it.”

    Lugia’s piercing gaze seemed to bore a hole right through me. It motioned for me to step forward, and I did. My legs no longer dragged like lead as I moved them—already it felt as though a huge weight had been lifted from me.

    The avian dragon craned its long neck down until it was eye level with me, and for the first time I was struck by just how huge the Legendary was. Its head was small in comparison to its body, yet even that filled my entire field of vision as Lugia stared at me intently.

    <This decision cannot be made lightly, and it absolutely must be your choice. Do you swear to fight alongside the Order of Legends to protect the balance of the world?>

    The words echoed within me, sending my mind back to that day. The day that Stalker asked for my agreement to join the Rebellion. This was the same as that, wasn’t it? I had been uncertain at first, but then knew that it was something I had to do, for myself. This was no different.

    I nodded forcefully. No turning back.

    Lugia pressed its forehead against mine, and then the world came apart.

    A blindingly bright flash of light shattered my field of view as a wave of psychic energy shot through my entire being. I was ripped apart, flipped inside-out, put back together, and then shredded once more, over and over into infinity. What felt like white-hot metal coursed through my veins, dissolving any and all sensations in a spiraling vortex of pain. And then my brain split open, unleashing a torrent of images from the past year. All of my panic, all of my uncertainty, every hesitation I’d ever felt from the moment the fight began suddenly bombarded my mind simultaneously, fighting for dominance.

    It was too much. Too much failure and misery and despair at once. Impossible to sort though. And with each memory, the agony only twisted into me more and more like a burning spear. The ambush on Midnight Island, countless rebels brutally murdered. Trapped in the Rocket base with no way out, staring down death in the form of Mewtwo. The horrible mistake of using the Master Ball. Lugia flying high above me, glaring murderously, ready to end me.

    No. No, I’d already had to endure all of that. I had already survived all of that! Not again! I wasn’t going to run away anymore!

    I reached out blindly, but I couldn’t feel my body anymore and my limbs didn’t exist. Still desperately trying to claw my way out of the whirlwind, still feeling the tendrils of past despair licking at the edge of my consciousness, I suddenly realized that I had actually grabbed hold of something. And that’s when I felt it. A vision of Lugia’s eyes radiating an aura of sheer calm that didn’t seem possible anymore. It swept over me, engulfed me, and let my resolution bubble to the surface, unhindered.

    I was going to fight alongside the Legendary Pokémon, and we were going to prevent the conflict between human and legend from escalating to all-out war. This was actually happening, and all of my uncertainty was meaningless now. I had made my decision!

    And then my senses snapped back into focus in an instant. I was standing in the cave once more—no, kneeling—Lugia’s face still directly in front of me, still wearing that expression of pure calm that had dragged me free of the nightmare. I was holding tightly to its eye crests, almost hanging from them at this point. The legend didn’t seem to mind.

    <It is done,> Lugia said. <You are marked. The two of us, legend and human, are one.>

    I let go, allowing myself to slump to the floor, utterly drained. I sat there for several seconds as a light, airy tingling started building in my fingertips. Weird. I was pretty sure my legs weren’t going to obey when I tried to stand up, but then… it suddenly felt as though my entire body had become weightless. Was it an actual feeling, or just the contrast from the crushing weight of despair being lifted? I couldn’t tell.

    “What… what actually happened there?”

    Lugia hesitated. <It’s been described as our fates being intertwined. Obviously it’s something more real than that, but I don’t know what the actual process physically entails.> The last bit sounded uncomfortable to admit.

    I nodded distantly, not really keen on relaying what I’d just experienced. It stared at me for a few seconds, but then seemed to realize that I wasn’t going to share the details, because it drew itself back up to full height and went on, <Right. So… about being chosen. I should tell you what some of the unique effects are. All chosen and patrons have a psychic link that allows them to communicate mind-to-mind, regardless of distance. We’ll also be able to feel each other’s presence—since I’m already a psychic, I can feel yours through the link, but it might take you a while to do the same.>

    “Presence?” I asked. “What do you mean?”

    <Condition. Energy. The state of your mind. For example, if you die, I’d be able to sense it from not feeling your presence.>

    Great. Just what I needed.

    Lugia’s expression sharpened as it pondered what to say next, tail swishing back and forth behind it. <Be extremely careful who you tell of this—you cannot know who to trust unless they themselves have sworn a pact as well. Even your fellow rebels could be targeted by the enemy in the hopes of getting to you.>

    I paused, shuffling a foot against the rock. “But I can tell Ajia, right?”

    <Correct. You already know she is chosen anyway.>

    That was a relief. I couldn’t imagine going through something like this and not being allowed to tell anyone. It must have been maddening for Ajia to endure that last year—constructing that whole elaborate plot to free Starr and Mewtwo, and not even allowed to explain how it was going to work. Having to trust that I would just go along without question.

    “She tried to keep it a secret from me,” I said slowly, rubbing one arm with the other. “Did the fact that I knew about her being chosen have anything to do with why you picked me?”

    <Yes, that was… a factor. Remember that I said the strongest candidates for chosenhood would be connected to other interlopers.>

    There was that hesitation again. And there were still a few more details that didn’t quite add up. I squinted at the legendary and asked, “Why did Mew look so… down about sending me here?”

    Lugia turned away, as though it had been hoping I wouldn’t ask. <Mew was… concerned for you. You had far too much knowledge of the legends and the patrons for someone who I didn’t think could be chosen, not to mention you were closely acquainted with Rockets who have captured some of our kin. I was certain I’d have to kill you for these things, as well as for that capture last year, but Mew was the one who suggested that I might reasonably be able to choose you instead.>

    I didn’t know how to respond to that. Lugia had looked genuinely upset about it too.

    <Also… there is the choosing itself,> the dragon-bird continued, pawing at the stone floor. <It has to be of your own choice. So of course, if you knew you might die otherwise, your consent would have been forced, and the pact would not have worked. And with how conflicted you were about joining the fight… the pact might have failed anyway if your resolve wasn’t strong enough. It might have torn your soul apart. There were a lot of risks. Again, you have Mew to thank for convincing me to go through with it.>

    I shivered. Well that wasn’t a pleasant thought. But it was over and done with now. No point dwelling on what could have been. Although… there was still one last thing that had been bothering me all this time, and this was as good a time as any to learn the truth.

    “Was Mew the reason that you didn’t… that night in Viridian… you didn’t…”

    <Mew convinced me to spare your life, yes.>

    And there it was. The answer to the maddening question that had hung over my shoulder for nine months. In the end, it was as simple as that.

    <I am glad they did,> Lugia went on. <It would have been difficult to find another candidate with as strong a connection as yours.>

    That was a weird sentiment to hear from it. I mean, yes, it was purely a practical concern. But before that, it had sounded genuinely glad that it hadn’t needed to kill me, which was still so surreal after… after what it had done that night in Viridian. My mind had basically split the Lugia from that night and the Lugia standing before me into two different people just to have any semblance of being okay in its presence.

    <I will inform Mew,> Lugia announced suddenly. It craned its long neck upward and opened its beak, letting out a shrill cry that echoed throughout the cavern. “*Mew! It is done!*”

    Mere seconds later, Mew appeared in a flash of light, glancing around frantically until her eyes landed on me.

    <She has agreed?> Mew asked, throwing an anxious look at Lugia.

    <The pact is complete… we are linked,> Lugia answered with a reserved tone. But then the slightest trace of a grin crossed its face.

    And then in an instant, Mew’s eyes lit up and she swooped down right in front of my face, looking absolutely overjoyed.

    <That’s wonderful!> she cried, grasping my hand with both paws and squeezing it tightly. The psychic cat made eye contact with me, and her expression softened. <I know I shouldn’t sound so pleased that you’ll be following such a dangerous path. Or that anyone should, but… I’m just so glad it worked.>

    “Why?” I found myself asking. Why did a Legendary Pokémon care about the wellbeing of a single human? This was still so weird.

    <Why?> Mew repeated blankly. <You are one of my chosen’s closest friends. I couldn’t bear to hurt her.>

    Oh. Right. Yes, that made sense. Why was I reading more into it than that?

    <I imagine you must still have many questions,> Mew said with a sympathetic smile.

    I laughed slightly. “You can say that again.” Although one in particular had decided to surface in my mind, now seeing two of the patrons side-by-side…

    “Who are all the patron Legendaries, anyway?” I asked.

    Lugia blinked in surprise, then gave Mew an imploring look. She glanced back at it, nodding. The dragon-bird then said, <You already know Mew and myself. There is also Ho-oh, Raikou, Suicune, Zapdos, and Moltres.>

    I tilted my head. “So you’re all guardians of the greater Tohjo area. Is that… significant?”

    <We’re not sure why,> Mew said simply. Lugia narrowed its eyes slightly, but didn’t comment. I wasn’t really sure how it was possible for them to not know. After all, weren’t they all pretty open with each other about this stuff? At least, it had seemed like it.

    “So… which of them have already chosen a human?” I asked.

    Lugia made a slight huff that I took as a sign of disapproval. <Out of respect to them, I will refrain from answering.>

    I frowned. Okay, I hadn’t realized that was an invasive question. Except… the moment I gave it even a second thought, the answer became obvious: Ajia had already told me she was the only one.

    Mew had clearly pieced that together. <She already knows.>

    Lugia glanced away, looking mildly annoyed. <Alright, fine. Mew and I are the only ones, yes.>

    In other words, I was the second chosen. What a strange thought. For so long I’d assumed that there were a bunch of other people out there allied with Legendaries, and that Ajia had been doing secret chosen missions with them. But no. It was just us.

    And then the glaring red flag jumped out at me. “Wait… Raikou and Moltres. Both of them have been captured. How is that going to affect us?”

    <Yes, that is going to be… a problem,> Lugia said, nodding slowly. <That is the reason that I didn’t wait to choose you. With the Rockets stepping out of the shadows in such a big way, we decided to accelerate our plans.>

    I stared at it, perplexed. What did it mean by that? What plans?

    Mew’s gaze turned steely. <We want to use this opportunity to free Moltres.>

    My mouth fell open. “What? How?”

    <We still have yet to work out all the details, but the input from our human allies will be critical,> she explained. <I’ll be speaking with Ajia at length after I return you to the ranger station.> Oh right. I had somehow forgotten that she had teleported me here to begin with.

    “Where are we, anyway?” I asked, glancing around the cavern.

    <Underneath the Whirl Islands, in Johto,> Lugia said, gazing upward with an odd sort of fondness in its eyes. <It’s one of many places that I call home.>

    Those rumors that we’d all heard as kids… that Lugia had been spotted by the Whirl Islands. They were actually true. There was something weirdly comforting about that fact. It made interacting with the Legendaries feel less otherworldly, knowing that ordinary people saw them from time to time.

    Mew glanced back at Lugia. <I believe that’s everything for now?>

    The dragon-bird nodded. <Everything else can be handled long-distance.>

    Mew turned back to face me, fixing her clear blue eyes on me. <I can take you back now,> she said, holding out her tail.

    That… sounded nice. With all the fear and adrenaline having worn off, the cold, wet atmosphere was becoming more noticeably unpleasant. Mew offered her tail to me, and I held onto its tip. Our surroundings melted into shimmering light, then just as suddenly, we were back in the ranger station, like nothing had ever happened. It was wild to think that for the past half hour or so, I’d been clear across Johto, and now I was suddenly back in Kanto, back in the middle of the crisis hanging over Indigo. I never, ever would have expected half of the things that had already happened today. And the day wasn’t over yet. Not even close.

    The weight of it all was starting to press down on me from all sides. A pressure building in my head suddenly flared up, and I couldn’t help rubbing my eyes in an attempt to relieve it.

    <We’re glad to have you. And that includes Lugia, even if they won’t show it,> Mew said earnestly.

    I paused, swallowing hard. “It’s a lot to take in,” I admitted. “What do I do now? Am I supposed to just go back to what I was doing before?”

    Mew fidgeted with her tail. <I can’t really know how this must feel. Do you want to talk to Ajia?>

    I inhaled deeply. “Yeah. That’d be great.”

    Mew’s expression relaxed. <All right. I’ll tell her to come here.>

    And then Mew vanished, leaving me alone with nothing but my thoughts and the overwhelming feeling that my life was never going to be the same again.






    ~End Chapter 36~

    And with that, we're finally, finally into the real meat of this fic.

    Next Chapter: The power of friendship or something.

    ~Chibi~
     
    Last edited: May 6, 2019
  15. Namohysip

    Namohysip Dragon Enthusiast

    [These reviews from me will be crossposted from other forums, and I'll be following along there. I'm opening with the prologue!]

    This might be one of the best opening lines -- or I guess foreword? -- I've seen in a work here so far. Sure, it's a little cliche, but something about it has me intrigued so quickly. So, kudos for that.

    --

    Hoo, and here I am! Finally beginning whatever this crazy ride is gonna turn out to be, eh? I'm curious to see where this story goes, and this also doubles as the very first trainerfic that I'm ever gonna run across that I think is established enough to considered long-term. So any of those cliches you keep talking about that are seen in trainerfics? I won't be aware of them! I'll just see normal cliches instead.

    Overall, I thought this was an interesting dual-prologue. I guess the savvy side in me knew immediately it was a Lugia, but I suppose good job on not revealing that until the end, if only to confirm. It seems that those mythical creatures have a sort of awareness of the world even if they're holed up underwater or hidden away otherwise. And then we jump over to the totally-normal trainers who are totes not gonna be the heroes mentioned in the previous half. I think you did some nice setup and a good prelude to what's coming next. Still, I have no idea what to actually expect, so I guess we'll see.

    This sentence feels a bit long winded for me. The final four words in particular seemed egregious; I felt my mind's breath running out just saying it all.

    Ah, threads of fate, are we? I'm generally not a fan of "fate" tropes, but hey, I've seen it work before. When I read something, I always go in optimistically, so don't fret over this one.

    Wh--oh. That's right. First person. Huh. Threw me off for a second~. Also, either my reading comprehension has a huge gap, or I don't know the speaker's name yet.

    This was a nice one-line drop of worldbuilding that implies so much. Good work.

    I felt like this scene was a bit too quick / emotionally charged for what little buildup it had. I don't really have much investment in this, so when I see that reaction, I sorta felt it was a little overblown without knowing anything else, y'know? Or maybe I'm just more a fan of subtler reactions. Could be either, but this definitely needed more buildup, even if it was in the form of just a paragraph about a heart racing or a sinking stomach or... anything. Thoughts were good, but it still felt fast considering the yell and actions right after. I'm sorta envisioning it in my head and it's just a big reaction after walking up. Talk about making a scene!

    I'm nitpicking at this point.

    Overall, nice start. Looking forward to chapter 1 proper.
     
    Chibi Pika likes this.
  16. Chibi Pika

    Chibi Pika Stay positive

    Glad to have ya on board, Namo! It'll be fun to see your reactions to all the old chapters that no one's read in a while.



    ~Chapter 37: Combined Strength~

    [​IMG]

    I didn’t have to wait long. I had just flopped onto the couch, feeling an unbelievable wave of tension leaking from my muscles, when the lounge door flew open and Ajia rushed in. She paused when she reached me, clasping her hands behind her back.

    “Mew told me that you were talking with Lugia.” She paused. “How did it go?”

    There were a dozen things I could have said. A dozen ways to explain the ridiculous rollercoaster of emotions I’d just gone through. But all I did was open my mouth and say the two words that summed it up best: “I’m chosen.”

    At once, her entire face lit up. “I knew it! Yes! That’s amazing!” she said, flopping down on the couch next to me. But then a look of realization came over her, and she added, “At least… I think it is. I know you wanted to stay out of this mess, but…” She gave a bit of a confused laugh.

    I smiled weakly. “Yeah, I’m still trying to figure out how I feel about it too. It’s… a huge responsibility.”

    Ajia nodded slowly. “But… it also helps having someone at your back through it all.”

    Someone at your back… It was easy to forget that throughout everything we’d gone through last year… all those times she’d shown such impossible willpower… she wasn’t alone. How many difficult times had she needed to rely on Mew’s support?

    “When were you chosen?” I asked.

    She rested her chin on her palm. “It wasn’t long after the revolt, so… two years ago.” Her voice held an air of disbelief, like she was amazed that it had already been so long. “The resistance had broken apart after our falling-out with the commander, and I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t have any more connections within Team Rocket, Sebastian had just flat-out told me I was a tool, and I didn’t have any power to make a difference in the fight anymore.”

    I hesitated, unsure of how to word my next question. “Was… was it painful for you too? Being chosen?”

    Ajia nodded slowly. “It’s a test of resolve. All of the negative emotions connected to the fight, all at once. You’re either consumed by them, or push through and join your spirit with the patron’s.”

    Part of me couldn’t help suspecting that she hadn’t had quite as much uncertainty or trauma to fight through. But… no, that wasn’t fair. Ajia had endured more than her fair share of pain. Making it into some kind of suffering competition wouldn’t do any good.

    “Anyway,” Ajia went on, shaking her head as if to clear that topic. “It’s been such an incredible experience, getting to know Mew. I’ve learned so many things I’d never dreamed of. And I’m sure it’ll be the same for you and Lugia.”

    “Your Legendary didn’t try to kill you.” I had no idea why I said that, but the words were out of my mouth before I knew it.

    Ajia’s face fell immediately. “I… I’d forgotten about that,” she said quietly. “Did… did you ask Lugia about it?”

    I bit my tongue and shook my head slightly. Ajia and Starr were still under the impression that Lugia had made a mistake in attacking me. I wasn’t too keen on correcting that assumption just yet.

    “Well… I’m sure you’ll have plenty of chances to talk about it,” Ajia said, tapping her fingers together. “Though… I can understand if you don’t want to until you get to know Lugia better.”

    She could say that again. Right now I wanted nothing more than to pretend that the whole thing never happened. Even though part of me already knew that I wouldn’t be able to forget it. Just like I hadn’t managed to forget… various other things. Why would this be any different?

    The conflicted and hesitant look on my face must have been pretty obvious, because Ajia smiled reassuringly and said, “Hey, so… I know this all feels overwhelming and such. Like you’re lost and don’t know where you’re going. It was the same way for me. Back when I first got mixed up with Team Rocket, I never could have imagined it would ever lead to something like… fighting alongside the Legendaries.”

    My mind drifted back to the day that I saw Entei in the blazing forest. Of course I’d never expected anything like this at the time, but… looking back… In a way, it almost felt like I’d been heading down this path ever since that day.

    “You know, it’s kind of weird that the two of us both got mixed up with Team Rocket, completely separate from each other,” I said distantly. “I mean, what are the odds, right?”

    Ajia smiled. “Maybe it was fate.”

    I chuckled a bit. Lugia wouldn’t like that way of describing it.

    “Who knows.”

    We both fell silent after that. There were a million more things I could have asked her. We were both chosen. There finally weren’t any secrets left. But I had no idea where to even begin. This was all so new and strange, and there were so many unknowns that it was impossible to focus on any one of them.

    Ajia was the one who broke the silence. “I’m still really sorry that I dragged you deeper into all of this,” she said, folding her hands in her lap.

    I snapped my head toward her. “Hey. We went over that. I decided to join the Rebellion, okay?”

    She gripped one hand tightly with the other, her brow furrowing. “I should have been more suspicious of it from the start. I should have known that Sebastian was involved.”

    Hearing her say that was like a stab through the heart. It’d been so long since I’d had to think about how he’d used all of us.

    “I would have done it anyway,” I said quietly, a slight bitterness on the tip of my tongue. “I was already angry about not being able to help Entei.” It wasn’t as though I regretted joining the Rebellion. And yet…

    “I should have warned you better,” Ajia said, looking up at me.

    What would I have done if she had? Would I have still gone through with it if my friend—someone I looked up to and practically idolized—had told me in no uncertain terms that it was a bad idea? Where would we all be now? Me, still at home, bored and driveless. The experiments, still imprisoned. Starr, still on Team Rocket. That wasn’t a world I wanted to think about.

    “I think… I think part of me wanted someone else to go through this with me,” she went on.

    I stared at her, lost for words.

    “I mean, I know I’m not alone in this,” she added quickly. “I’ve got Mew, I’ve got my team, but…”

    It seemed like a weird sentiment… at first. But on second thought, I kind of knew what she meant. If I’d been going through something like that, without being able to talk to my friends… it would have felt crushingly lonely, even with Mew’s support.

    Ajia sighed deeply, her eyes sliding to the floor. “I shouldn’t want that. I shouldn’t be glad that your life will be in danger too. I didn’t want to be the reason you got dragged back into this, after you asked me to knock it off.”

    “I was glad too.”

    She looked up at me in surprise.

    “When I first started to realize that you were more involved in all this than I’d thought…”—I paused, taking a deep breath—“I was glad. Sure, it sounds bad to put it like that, but… we’re both the same. And I’m not gonna lie, there’s a part of me that’s terrified of all this, but…” My voice trailed off. “Well, we have Legendaries by our side, so that helps.”

    Ajia nudged my arm. “We’ve got each other too.”

    …Yeah. We did.

    I found myself taking her hand in mine, holding it tight. Now, more than ever, I was glad to have her by my side.

    “So… now that we’re both on the same page, Mew wants to talk to us,” Ajia said.

    My face fell slightly. Right. Couldn’t just enjoy the moment. We had work to do. Work that I’d agreed to when I became chosen.

    With a flash of light, Mew appeared before us.

    <How are you feeling?> she asked.

    “I…” I glanced at Ajia. “Pretty okay.”

    The psychic cat nodded, her eyes relaxing. <I’m glad. I do hope that it helps knowing that you’re not alone in all this.>

    I took a deep breath. “It does.”

    Ajia looked back and forth between me and Mew. “So… how have things been going back at Indigo?”

    Mew paused. <It’s been almost two hours and Moltres is still attacking the League,> she said, staring at the ceiling with a contemplative look.

    I raised an eyebrow. “Still?” I would have figured their point had been made by now. Even if Ajia’s deduction was correct and the Rockets were only doing it to make the Legendaries look dangerous. “What’s the point of dragging things out this long? It’s almost like they’re… waiting for something…” I muttered, my words trailing off.

    Mew drifted back and forth in midair, fidgeting with her tail as she spoke. <I’ve been watching carefully, during the times that I’ve haven’t been with either of you. Moltres has gotten into a few skirmishes with the humans, but nothing too serious.> She paused, looking pensive. <We don’t know how much longer they will be there. We must make our move to free them soon.>

    Ajia turned to face me. “We’ve been talking about it. Our biggest advantage is the fact that the Rockets are trying to make this look like a Legendary attack, like the one on Viridian last year. That means they can’t openly use the full strength of their forces to back it up.”

    Well that did explain why I’d only seen two Rockets and they’d generally avoided associating with Moltres throughout most of the attack.

    “So are we gonna try stealing the Master Ball, just like we did with Mewtwo?” I asked.

    Ajia shook her head. “Close, but I’m betting they’re not carrying the Master Ball on their person. Not after we freed Mewtwo like that.”

    Right. Of course it wouldn’t be that simple. The Rockets weren’t just going to repeat their past mistakes, but… “They’d have to have the ball nearby somewhere, right?” I asked, sitting up straight. “Just in case Moltres got knocked out?”

    She nodded. “Bingo. We need to force them to recall it.”

    A feeling of unease started to creep up on me. “How are we supposed to knock out Moltres?”

    We might not be able to, but we’re not gonna be alone.” She gestured to Mew. Oh… right. And I had Lugia, as bizarre of a thought that was.

    <Also. There’s someone I should introduce you to,> Mew added, gesturing to her side. The air next to her rippled and shimmered. Then a sleek crimson dragon suddenly appeared out of thin air. I jolted back, staring wide-eyed as it hovered right in front of my face without needing to flap its narrow, pointed wings.

    <This is Latias. She’s agreed to help us,> Mew said.

    “Latias,” I said blankly. Faint recognition stirred in the back of my head. “One of the guardians of Hoenn, right?”

    The dragon raised a clawed foreleg. “*That’s me!*” she said, her voice high pitched and melodious, like the chiming of bells.

    There was something bizarrely mundane about meeting a new Legendary Pokémon while seated on a couch indoors. I was so used to it always happening during missions or in deadly, tense situations that this was so… calm by comparison.

    <She has an ability that will be useful for this mission,> Mew said, gesturing a paw in her direction. Latias bowed her head. Then then surface of her feathers rippled, distorting, and suddenly she was just gone.

    I blinked. “Did she teleport?”

    “*I’m invisible!*” the dragon exclaimed, and the words were coming from right in front of my face.

    “Whoa,” I said, reaching out my hand and waving it in the air where she’d just been. I felt her claws touch my palm in return. When I stared very, very hard, I could just barely make out the slightest distortion in the air around my fingers, but other than that, nothing. Then the air rippled into her jet-like shape, and the dragon was back just as suddenly as she’d gone.

    “*So you’re the newest chosen?*” Latias asked, fixing her large, amber eyes on me.

    I smiled weakly. “Yeah.” But then my mind flashed back to what Lugia had just told me regarding the seven patrons. “Wait, but… you’re not one of the patron legends?”

    She shook her head.

    I frowned. “Why not?”

    Latias tilted her head, bemused. “*Why would I be?*”

    I paused, feeling a bit silly for asking. “Huh. I guess I still don’t really know what makes the seven… like that,” I said, rubbing the back of my head.

    “*Ah, yes,*” she said, a look of recognition crossing her face. “*None of us is really sure why those seven were selected to be patrons. It happened so long ago.*”

    I’d have to ask Lugia about it at some point. Maybe it knew more, since it was a patron itself. Although if Mew didn’t even know, then…

    “*Even though I’m not a patron, I want to do my part,*” Latias said, tapping her claws together. “*I know this place isn’t my home, but Mew’s helped me so much, and I want to return the favor.*”

    “Your home region is Hoenn, right?” I asked.

    Her feathery ears drooped. “*Yes, but… I’ve not been able to fulfill my duties as a guardian of Hoenn for some time now. Ever since my brother was taken…*” Her voice trailed off.

    I frowned. “Your brother?”

    She nodded softly, still looking down. “*His name is Latios.*”

    A chill fell over me. I’d heard that name before. That was… that was one of the Legendaries that Sebastian had captured.

    “I’m sorry,” I said quietly, hands clasped. “I can’t pretend to know how you feel but… I was devastated when I heard he’d been captured.”

    Latias drew herself back in surprise. “*Did you know my brother?*”

    My chest tightened and I glanced away. “No. But I knew the one who captured him. I… trusted him. And he betrayed everything we were fighting for.”

    For several seconds, Latias said nothing. Then she held out her arm and said, “*Then he has wronged both of us.*”

    I blinked. Then I slowly held out my hand, and she placed her claws against my palm.

    Suddenly, there was a knock on the door. Latias instantly went invisible. Mew dropped to the floor, fur shifting from pink to lavender, ears growing, tail splitting, until she stood there in her usual Espeon guise.

    Ajia stood up and went to answer the door, opening it a crack and glancing through. I craned my neck to see through it and caught a glimpse of Ajia’s ranger friend Kari standing on the other side.

    “We’ve got two kids out front asking for Jade. Friends of yours, I assume?” Kari asked. Ajia glanced back at me for confirmation.

    I nodded. “Probably my friends, yeah. I’ll be right out.” I waited until Kari left before adding, “Rudy and Darren. They were both on the rebel team with me; they should know what’s going on.”

    “Alright, go ahead and tell them,” Ajia said, holding the door open for me.

    I exited the lounge and made my way back to the front entrance, which was now a lot more open than earlier, what with most of the rangers having taken off for Indigo by now. Out front was where I saw them: Darren sitting at the bottom of the entry steps, picking at chipped paint on the handrail while Rudy stormed about the parking lot, kicking at loose gravel.

    Darren perked up when he saw me coming and gave a small wave. “Hey, good to see you’re alright. I know bad stuff always tends to happen when you get separated from us.”

    I rubbed the back of my head as I sat down next to him. “I wouldn’t say always…” But no, he was right. This really did keep happening. I found my gaze sliding over to Rudy, unsure if I should say something or just leave him to his own devices.

    “This is such BS,” he muttered. He was pacing, fists swinging at his side, eyes staring at the ground with such intensity that it looked like he was trying to set it on fire. “They’re gonna have to put the League on hold. Who knows when it’ll be back up? If ever!” He gave a particularly hard kick that scattered a wave of gravel through the air.

    I tapped my fingers together, glancing away. I had no idea whether or not he wanted me to comment, but saying anything felt too awkward, so I just stayed silent.

    “I was gonna make the top cut, I know it,” he said, clenching his hands in front of his face. “Only eight trainers went 4-0, and the girl I lost to was one of ‘em, so losing to her didn’t hurt my score much.” He glanced back and forth between me and Darren, clearly upset that neither of us had said anything. Then he pointed a finger at Darren and yelled, “You were probably gonna make it too! Doesn’t that bother you?”

    Darren looked awkwardly at me. “Well yeah, but I’m a little more bothered by the brainwashed Legendary terrorizing everyone. Just saying.”

    Rudy took a step back, clenching his teeth. “That’s not... I mean yeah, of course I care about that, it’s just…”

    I couldn’t really blame him for not focusing on Moltres. It was obvious he was stressed out by everything, and focusing on the tournament was just the easiest outlet.

    My ears caught Starr’s voice behind me, and I turned to see that she was in the entryway. Ajia was there too. And from the sounds of it, the two of them were arguing about something.

    Darren glanced back and forth between me and Starr a few times, furrowing his brow like he was trying to figure something out. Then he gestured for me to lean closer and held a hand to the side of his mouth, whispering, “Yeahhh sooo… when were you gonna tell us that you’ve been hanging out with a Rocket executive?”

    My stomach dropped through the ground. “She’s not on Team Rocket anymore.”

    He gave me a look like I’d just said something totally obvious. “Well yeah, I figured it had to be something like that, but… still would’ve liked an update.”

    “Hey, come on, it wasn’t really my place to go giving out her secret to everyone,” I said.

    He chuckled. “Alright, that’s fair,” he said, shoving his hands in his pockets. “Is it alright if I ask what the situation is?”

    I threw a glance back at Ajia and Starr. “We’re still working on a plan.”

    Darren paused, mulling something over in his mind. “Well, I guess let us know once you’ve got it figured out.”

    I opened my mouth to reply, but then paused, squinting at him. He’d already pieced together that I was going to be heading back to Indigo, hadn’t he?

    “I wasn’t implying that you had to come with me,” I said, slightly unnerved by his tone.

    Darren gave me a look. “You do realize we got the same training as you, right?”

    “I know that, but there’s nothing forcing you to be a part of it.”

    “Who’s forcing you?” he said with a bit of a smirk.

    I put a hand to my forehead. “No one, I just…”

    “What are you guys talking about?” Rudy piped up all of a sudden, as if he’d only just noticed we were talking without him.

    Darren stood up. “Jade’s going back to Indigo,” he said matter-of-factly, before I could give him the motion to shush.

    Rudy gave me an incredulous glare. I sighed heavily before standing up as well. “We’re gonna try to free Moltres.”

    In an instant, his annoyed and frustrated air had just vanished. He stared wordlessly for several seconds before turning away sharply, fists clenched. A wave of guilt crashed over me. Before today, the last time he’d seen Moltres was the night that everything went bad. The last thing I wanted was to reopen those old wounds.

    “I want to help.”

    I jolted. His words were cold and quiet in a way that was very unlike him.

    “What?” I said blankly.

    Rudy spun around suddenly, fixing me with a serious look. “I don’t want any crap like this happening again, got it?” he said, jabbing a finger toward me. “If we free Moltres, that’ll put a stop to it, right?”

    That was… a bit of a simplified view of the situation. The Rockets had other Legendaries. They were still a threat, even without Moltres. But still… dull images of that night kept drifting to the surface of my thoughts. If we could put a stop to that, even in one small way… it was worthwhile. But I already knew why it was important. That didn’t change that they didn’t need to be involved.

    Darren seemed to notice my hesitation. “We know what it’s like to fight Rockets. In a way that other people don’t. They shouldn’t have to go through that,” he said distantly, a strange sadness in his eyes.

    “And if it’ll get the tournament back on faster, then all the better,” Rudy added quickly. From the look in his eyes, it was obvious he knew that the tournament was toast. But it was an easy excuse.

    I gave a weak smile. “Yeah. That’s also true.”

    He folded his arms, looking satisfied. “Besides, you were gonna go back there anyway, yeah?”

    “Well… yes.” But that was only because I was working with the Legendaries. They didn’t have that luxury.

    “Then it’s safer if we stick together,” he said, like nothing was more obvious. “We gotta watch each other’s backs.” I couldn’t really argue with that.

    Without warning, Rudy stomped over with the same intensity that he’d been storming about earlier. And then he threw an arm around Darren’s and my shoulders, which was a little awkward since he was the shortest out of us (what with Darren rapidly approaching my height).

    “The three of us, we’re partners, got it?” Rudy said forcefully.

    “Where’s this coming from?” Darren asked with a raised eyebrow.

    “Got it??”

    “I got it, I got it!” I said, pulling myself free before I could lose my balance.

    Rudy stepped back, nodding sharply with a stern expression, like he’d sure showed us.

    Darren massaged his shoulder and said, “Let us know when you’re heading out, mkay?”

    It took me a second to realize that line was directed at me. “Right,” I said with a nod. Then I turned and walked back up the wooden stairs behind us.

    Inside the ranger station entryway, Ajia and Starr were still discussing something, and it didn’t seem like a particularly pleasant conversation. Ajia glanced up as I neared, looking grateful that I had arrived right at that moment.

    “Hey, so I’ve got a couple more things to figure out before we leave,” she said, her tone falsely cheerful. “I’ll be right back, okay?”

    It was pretty obvious that she was admitting defeat as far as Starr was concerned, and was hoping that I’d be able to talk her down. But of course, I didn’t point that out. I just said, “Sure, see you in a bit,” as she took that opportunity to conveniently go find someone else to talk to. Which just left me and Starr again. And now I had to explain that my plans had taken a total 180 from what I’d been implying earlier. Great. Somehow I hadn’t realized until now that this was likely going to be the most painful part of being chosen.

    “So Starr, uh…”

    I didn’t want to drag her into it against her will—after all, I’d been angry when I thought Ajia was trying to do that. But I still couldn’t leave her in the dark either. But how on earth was I supposed to bring it up?

    “It… sounds like Ajia’s gonna be helping out back at Indigo soon.” Because that wasn’t a hopelessly vague statement or anything.

    “I heard,” Starr said dryly, leaning against the wall without looking in my direction.

    “I don’t… I don’t know how I feel about her going alone,” I said slowly, fidgeting a bit. “She could probably use our help.”

    Starr folded her arms, brow furrowing. “I don’t want anything to do with any of this bullshit.”

    I bit my tongue. Couldn’t tell her I’d been chosen. Had to find some way around it. “Yeah, but… it’s gonna be our problem whether we like it or not, isn’t it?”

    I was starting to understand what Ajia had gone through. Even though she hadn’t been banking on Sebastian revealing her role to us back then… there was probably a part of her that had been secretly glad that he did. Because this was agonizing.

    Starr squinted at me disapprovingly. “Why are you suddenly so determined to be a part of this? What changed in the last hour?”

    Oh crap. She was more perceptive than I gave her credit for.

    “I… nothing changed.” Augh, this was torture.

    “Is this Ajia’s fault?”

    “No!” I exclaimed. “She didn’t try to drag me into anything.”

    “Oh good, so you’re just willingly throwing yourself into traffic. That’s great.”

    I didn’t want to dignify that with a response. But at the same time, I couldn’t help noticing the pain hiding behind the anger in her voice. Not even an hour ago, I’d tried to reassure her that I wasn’t going to put myself in danger, and now I was completely turning my back on that. Ajia, Starr, the Legendaries, my team… there wasn’t any way to make them all happy.

    Starr wasn’t looking at me. She was still leaning against the wall, staring out the window at the trees. She let out a frustrated sigh. “I need a moment. Don’t do anything stupid while I’m gone, got it?”

    “I…” I started, but she had already walked past me and gone out the door.

    ‘Don’t do anything stupid’? I couldn’t remotely guarantee that. And it wasn’t like I could just tell Mew and Lugia, ‘sorry I can’t help, my friend told me not to.’

    I let out a groan and sank back against the wall, sliding down it until I was sitting on the floor with my arms clasped around my knees. At this rate, our best option would just be to leave for Indigo without telling Starr and hope that everything went well enough that there wouldn’t be any cause for alarm when we got back. Or something. That idea felt kind of dishonest, but I couldn’t think of anything better at this point.

    I sat there for a few minutes, chin resting on my knees, trying to force my brain to think about anything else. Was my team was healed yet? I kind of wanted to talk to them—Swift in particular. And I’d have to let them all know what was up before we went back to Indigo anyway.

    I sat up straighter, glancing around the lobby. There weren’t any rangers near the healing station, but there had to be someone still onsite who knew how to use it. After all, the Pokémon returning from the emergency site would need healing, right?

    I had just gotten up to go check (maybe my Pokéballs had been removed from the machine and were just sitting behind the counter or something) when—

    “Hey Jade!”

    I turned to see Ajia peeking out from around the corner of a door that opened into the hallway. I tilted my head at her, nonplussed, but she just gestured for me to come over. So I shrugged and walked over, rounding the corner to see her standing with Kari inside a meeting room of some sort, featuring a dozen or so empty office chairs around a circular table. Kari shut the door behind us and Ajia kneeled in one of the office chairs, folding her arms across its back

    “Sorry about earlier,” Ajia said, rotating the chair so its back was facing me. “I tried to break the news easy, but… you know Starr.”

    I nodded in response as I sat down, not really too keen to think about it. “So, uh, what’s this meeting about?” I said, gesturing to the room.

    “Just finalizing our plan,” Ajia said to me. She then rotated her chair around to face Kari, who was currently leaning back against the door, reading something on her phone. “What’s the status back at Indigo?”

    Kari glanced up from the phone. “City’s been mostly evacuated; the Elite Four and the rangers are helping defend people ‘round the outer edge of the tourney site. If there was ever an opportunity for you guys to make your move, this is it,” she said in a strangely matter-of-fact tone. Like this was business as usual.

    “Wait, wait,” I said, putting a hand to my temple, trying to gather my thoughts. “How much does the Ranger Union know about the situation? Do they know that Moltres is being controlled?” I asked.

    Kari folded her arms. “We’d had our suspicions. But we didn’t have any proof until Ajia told us about the Rockets. She also said you guys are looking to free Moltres.”

    I shot an incredulous glance at Ajia. She’d been willing to just say that upfront?

    “If you ask me,” Kari went on, “I find it pretty hard to believe that the other guardians are gonna take this lying down. From what I saw of the Viridian attack, there were at least four of ‘em there. Shouldn’t this be left to them?”

    The Viridian attack. It was so surreal to remember that everyone knew about that. It wasn’t just some secret known only to the people who’d gotten mixed up with Team Rocket. It wasn’t like Raikou being targeted alone in the middle of the forest in the dead of night—everyone had seen it happen.

    “If any other Legendaries show up, they’ll just be targets,” Ajia pointed out. “There’s no way the Rockets would pass up that opportunity. Especially not with the tourney site deserted and no witnesses around.”

    Kari put her hands on her hips, giving Ajia an impatient look. “So what exactly are you lookin’ to do?”

    The slightest trace of a devious grin crossed her face. “We’re going to distract the Rockets when the other Legendaries confront Moltres.”

    And there it was. Now it was starting to make sense. Ajia had revealed just enough about the Rockets to get the support of the rangers while keeping our alliance with the Legendaries under wraps.

    “So now you’re banking on them showing up,” Kari said with a bit of a smirk.

    “Hey, you just said you didn’t expect them to take it lying down,” Ajia countered.

    Kari paused, looking reluctantly impressed. “Fair enough. You do your thing, the rest of us will do our part to protect everyone from the collateral damage. Cuz’ judging from the attack on Viridian… there’s gonna be a lot of it.”

    A chill fell over me. My mind drifted back to the rangers’ attempts to keep everyone safe while the Legendary battle raged on in the skies over Viridian.

    “Is… is everyone gonna be okay?” I found myself asking.

    Kari gave me a deadpan stare, and I couldn’t help feeling like I’d just said something unbelievably naïve. “It’s the Ranger Union,” she said flatly. “We’re not afraid to step up to protect people from raging Pokémon. Legendary or not.”

    I winced. Right. Had to remind myself, it wasn’t like they weren’t used to dealing with disasters. Still, I liked it better when it was just us against Team Rocket and no one else.

    “So you passed on the message, right?” Ajia asked.

    Kari had gone back to tapping on her phone. “Yeh. Just got the reply from my squad leader. She’s gonna let the cops and the Elite Four know to keep an eye out for suspicious folks ‘round the tourney site.” So we’d have their support as well. Granted, this also meant we’d have to stay out of their way.

    “Speaking of the squad leader, I need to get out on the field before she kills me,” Kari said dryly, stepping back from the door before opening it. Ajia stood up quickly and followed her out, and did the same.

    “Nothing we said leaves that room, okay?” Ajia said as the three of us walked down the hallway. “I know the Ranger Union won’t approve of us getting involved.”

    Kari gave an exaggerated sigh, tilting her head back to give Ajia a sideways glance. “Look, don’t blame us, we’re supposed to protect everyone alright? Letting a buncha random trainers into an emergency zone is a little counterproductive. And yes, I know you’ve got history with the Rockets, I know you’ve all fought them before, yada yada. That don’t make it any better.” She pocketed her phone and gave Ajia a serious look. “So I’m not gonna tell the higher-ups about what you’re up to, but please just keep whatever you’re doing under control, alright?”

    Under control. Somehow I already doubted that we could promise that.

    Ajia just winked. “Trust me.”

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    We had our plan, we had the Legendaries on our side, there was no sense wasting any time. Moltres wouldn’t be hanging around Indigo forever. It was time to make our move.

    I retrieved Chibi, Aros, and Swift from the heal station. I was going to let the three out to talk to them. But then on second thought, it would probably be best to let my whole team know about the plan at the same time. So I found a good spot alone near the trees surrounding the ranger station and let all six of my Pokémon out of their Pokéballs at once.

    Aros was still a little bit mangled—his wounds had hastily closed up with raw skin, which was the best that could be done with such a short heal. It would take an overnight treatment for him to fully recover. His energy levels seemed normal at least—antennae twitching with the usual alertness.

    “You guys doing okay?” I asked.

    Swift nodded with relief, while Aros gave a dismissive huff that generally meant he was upset about something, but that it could wait until he was ready to talk about it.

    Chibi glanced around warily. “*We had to retreat?*” I couldn’t help noticing his use of ‘retreat’ as opposed to ‘escape.’ An obvious implication that he expected us to go back. Still, I nodded.

    Jet tilted her head. “*Why? What happened?*” That’s right—she hadn’t been out at all since before the attack. Then again, neither had Firestorm or Stygian. The Charizard frowned, his brow creasing with concern as he realized that something had happened, and that he’d missed it. But the Absol was glancing back and forth between me and Aros, eyes narrowed suspiciously.

    Without much of an alternative, I launched into an abridged retelling of everything that had happened this afternoon. From the attack on Indigo, to the fight with the Rockets. From our escape to the ranger base to our upcoming plan to return and free Moltres. Swift and Chibi already knew most of it, although the latter nodded approvingly when I got to the part where he’d managed to knock Moltres down. Firestorm’s face fell progressively as the story went on. And through it all, Jet looked… worryingly unconcerned.

    “*I don’t really see the problem,*” Aros spoke up loudly. “*Doesn’t this just mean we’re gonna get the chance to fight those two Rockets again?*”

    Well, I was glad to see that he wasn’t shaken up by being utterly thrashed two hours ago, but still. “I mean… yes, but this isn’t exactly the sort of thing we should be happy about, and I don’t get why you’re so pleased.”

    Aros turned away with a look of indifference that was obviously fake. Stygian squinted at him suspiciously before giving me a sideways glance. Then her gaze slid back to Aros and she said, “*You, me. In private. Now.*”

    Aros groaned, but then she thwacked his leg with her paw before taking a few steps in that direction, roughly gesturing for him to follow her. I watched them wander off toward the trees, confused, but knowing well enough not to get involved.

    Instead, I opted to focus my attention on Jet. “So, what about you?”

    The otter tilted her head. “*What about me?*”

    I shoved my hands in my pockets. “This Rocket business is new to you. I want to know how you feel about it.”

    “*It’s great,*” she said brightly, and my heart sank through the ground.

    “It’s… really not,” I said, a little more flatly than I intended.

    Her face fell. Confused, the Floatzel glanced around at her teammates. “*I just wanna be a hero like you guys.*”

    Swift gave her a sympathetic half-smile, like he wasn’t sure how to tell her that there was nothing heroic about it at all. Firestorm stared downward, looking troubled.

    “I… that’s not…” I put a hand to my face, struggling to find the right words. “Look, I know the rebel stories sound, well… cool. But it’s not cool living them. I hope I haven’t made it sound like that, cause it’s really, really not.”

    “*You saved legendaries. And you weren’t even that strong when you did,*” Jet pointed out like she was stating the obvious. “*I’m strong. I could help.*” The hopeful look on her face was heartbreaking.

    “We could die,” I said, my voice dead serious.

    But the Floatzel just stuck her nose in the air and said, “*We’ve gotten outta tough scrapes before.*”

    “That’s—that’s not the same.”

    She folded her arms, giving me an incredulous glare. “*Well, you were already gonna help Moltres, yeah? So what difference does it make?*”

    I opened my mouth to speak, and then froze. “Right, I guess it doesn’t change anything.” Either way we’d be fighting Rockets. What difference did it make whether we all had the right mindset or not.

    “*If you’re not going to tell her, then I am,*” Stygian’s voice suddenly rang out, loud enough for me to hear her. I turned to see the Absol trotting back to us, looking rather disgruntled.

    “*Don’t,*” Aros called after her, but she ignored him.

    Stygian came to a stop once she reached us, then fixed her gaze square on me. “*That Rocket you fought. Her Flygon is his original.*”

    I tilted my head. “What?”

    “*His original,*” the Absol repeated with deliberate emphasis, like I’d somehow misheard her as opposed to just not knowing what that was supposed to mean.

    I stared blankly at her. His original what? She still wasn’t saying what—hang on. ‘Original’ wasn’t marked as a descriptor in her words; it was an object. His original.

    “That’s the Flygon he was cloned from?” I asked, gaping at her.

    “*Yes. That’s what I said,*” Stygian said in the tone of someone explaining something obvious to a child. Aros had begun plodding back over to the rest of us, looking equally disgruntled.

    That’s why you blew us off in that last fight?” I asked incredulously, snapping my head in his direction. “Settling some kind of grudge match?”

    The Flygon turned his back to me. “*I wouldn’t expect you to understand,*” he muttered, sounding genuinely hurt by my dismissive tone.

    I stared blankly. “Do you want to explain?”

    No reply. Of course not.

    I ran a hand down the back of my head. “I guess… it’s obvious that it’s important to you, so I won’t say anything bad about it,” I said, trying to keep the frustration out of my voice. “But seriously though, you can’t just bail on the rest of us in the middle of a fight.” Ignoring orders from me was one thing, but he’d put Chibi in harm’s way and completely screwed up our ability to strategize versus the Rockets.

    “*What’s it to you?*” Aros asked, still not facing any of us.

    “*If we’re fighting side-by-side, that means we’re relying on you to support the team,*” Chibi pointed out sharply, glaring at the Flygon.

    Aros’s antenna twitched impatiently. “*Alright, I got it,*” he said, smacking the ground with his tail fan. “*Is that everything?*”

    No, I still had plenty more I wanted to say. But none of it was necessarily helpful. Especially not heading into a dangerous mission where we couldn’t afford to be too angry at each other. I could only hope that Chibi would rein him in if he went off the rails again.

    “*Why is this fight your problem?*” Stygian asked all of a sudden.

    I tilted my head at her. “Huh?”

    The Absol’s ruby-red eyes bored into me. “*You’ve been talking about this mission like you don’t have a choice in it. Why?*”

    Ugh, was I just that bad at keep secrets? Then again... I couldn’t really think of any reason not to tell my team. Sure, Lugia hadn’t specified whether “not telling anyone” meant human, Pokémon, or both, but given the options, it clearly trusted humans the least. And wouldn’t I need my team’s support if I was going to protect Lugia anyway?

    …Ah, screw it.

    “Because I was chosen by a Legendary Pokémon.”

    Now that got a heavy silence out of everyone. All six of them stared at me, varying degrees shock, awe, and disturbed fascination crossing their faces.

    “*What,*” Stygian said, her voice a total deadpan.

    “*What does that mean?*” Chibi asked, fixing me with a serious look.

    I took a deep breath, searching for the right words. “You know how Ajia’s partnered up with Mew? Well… it’s like that, but with me and Lugia.”

    A sudden look of recognition crossed Swift’s features. Chibi blinked, staring off into the distance with intense contemplation. Firestorm, Aros, and Stygian still looked a bit skeptical.

    “Look. All this stuff happening with Team Rocket and the Legendaries. It’s big. A lot bigger than any of us could have imagined. And if it isn’t stopped, it’ll turn into all-out war. That’s why they’re recruiting humans to help them.”

    None of them really knew what to say to that.

    Swift was staring downward, considering something carefully. Finally, he looked up and said, “*You’re referring to the writings on Midnight Island?*”

    Aros turned to face him. “*Eh? You knew about this?*”

    Swift ruffled his feathers, embarrassed. “*We didn’t know how much truth there was to it. It could have been a myth and nothing more.*” He paused for a moment, and then looked up at me. “*But I suppose this proves it, does it not?*”

    I swallowed hard, nodding. “Yeah.”

    Next it was Chibi’s turn to pause heavily before making eye contact. “*You’re in this fight for the long haul now, aren’t you?*” The hybrid’s gaze had softened; he knew how conflicted I had been about rejoining the fight.

    I nodded again, and his ears raised slightly. “*Then you’ll have my support.*”

    “*Mine as well,*” Swift said, fixing me with a soft, reassuring look.

    “*Hell yeah,*” Jet said with an affirmative nod as I tried to ignore the sting in my heart.

    “*You already know my answer,*” Aros said in a low voice. Stygian gave the Flygon a sideways glance but then looked back at me and nodded curtly.

    Firestorm’s gaze darted between his teammates. “*I dunno what to make of this Legendary stuff, but…*” His eyes held a strange hesitation. “*It sounds important, so I’m with you.*”

    I glanced back and forth at all of them, overwhelmed. Even if half of them had their own agendas in mind, that was fine. We’d still be sticking together through this.

    I had my friends. I had Lugia. And I had my team. I wasn’t alone.

    I couldn’t help smiling. “Thanks everyone.”

    With that settled, it was probably time to get going. I grabbed my Pokéballs and recalled my team… all of them except one. I couldn’t explain why, just something told me to keep Firestorm out. The Charizard glanced around upon realizing that he was the only one still out, then tilted his head at me.

    I took a deep breath. “Hey, so… is everything alright?”

    “*I’m fine,*” he said, confused.

    I shoved my hands in my pockets, struggling to make eye contact. “You sure? Cause you looked like you had something to say. And I thought maybe it would be easier if it was just the two of us.”

    Firestorm glanced away, chuckling ironically under his breath.

    “Hey, come on. What’s up?” I asked him.

    The Charizard looked back at me, then let out a deep sigh. “*This is just like old times, isn’t it?*”

    “What do you mean?” I asked.

    He was silent for a while, mulling over what to say. “*I thought it had been long enough that we’d never have to go back to that life. Maybe that was naïve.*”

    Oh. That’s what was troubling him.

    I folded my arms behind my head, staring upward. “Maybe it was, but I believed it too.”

    “*I don’t want things to go back to the way they used to be,*” Firestorm said, tail curling around himself. He paused and then added, “*I don’t want to go back to the way that I used to be.*”

    I blinked, taken aback. “Hey, hey. That wasn’t who you are, alright? You’d just evolved, it was a crazy stressful situation, and you lost control.”

    “*That doesn’t make it less real,*” he said, closing his eyes.

    I sighed. “No. But it doesn’t have to define who you are. And the fact that it’s affecting you like this… I don’t know, doesn’t that prove that you won’t turn into that so easily?”

    Firestorm rested his claws on his belly, nodding softly with a contemplative look.

    I shuffled a foot against the dirt. “If you’re scared, I don’t have to send you out when we—”

    “*No, that won’t help,*” he cut in, shaking his head vigorously. “*I don’t want to feel like I’m hiding from it. And… this is important. We’re all on the same team, yeah?*”

    All of us were a team. And that meant doing anything we could to support each other. I took a few slow steps forward and rested a hand on the Charizard’s shoulder.

    “Hey. It’s gonna be okay. I’ll help you through this.”

    The corners of his mouth turned up slightly. “*I’m supposed to be the one to help you.*”

    I smirked. “Hey. None of that.”

    Firestorm chuckled. “*Hah… sorry…*” He shook his head and then straightened himself upright,

    “Ready to go?” I asked, holding out a fist.

    His gaze sharpened, some of the fire back in his eyes. “*Yeah.*” he said, tapping his own fist against mine.

    I grinned. “Alright.” And with that, I recalled Firestorm and took a moment to let it all sink in, alone. My first mission as Lugia’s chosen, right before me. No looking back. Only moving forward.

    And then, without warning, I felt an uncomfortable prodding at the back of my mind. Trying to ignore it, or focus on anything else only made it flare up twice as much. It was something related to Lugia. Something I’d forgotten. I’d forgotten to say something to it? No, that wasn’t quite right. More like… I was supposed to be paying attention to it. Yes, that was it.

    But how? It wasn’t exactly here. Or was it? I threw a hurried glance upward, halfway expecting to see the dragon-bird soaring overhead.

    No, not like that. Like this.

    Like what? This.

    I grabbed my head. What on earth was going on? It was like my mind kept flitting back and forth at random, and I couldn’t control its focus at all. One moment I’d be thinking one thing, and then out of nowhere it would fly off to something completely different.

    Here. Lugia was here. And I still wasn’t paying attention.

    What the heck did that mean?

    Pay attention dammit!

    I froze, blinking. “Lugia? Is that you?” I whispered.

    Yes. Obviously. The idea was laced with a thick air of irritation.

    “What… the heck is going on?” I muttered under my breath as I slumped against a nearby tree, struggling to process this weirdness.

    <I told you we’d have a psychic link, didn’t I?> the Legendary said, and finally, finally I was ready for it, able to distinguish its words from my own thoughts at last.

    “I… guess so,” I said distantly, still weirded out by the idea of its thoughts acting like my own. “But… I’ve heard telepathy plenty of times and it was never anything like this.” Telepathy felt like a psychic was broadcasting its thoughts. Like a signal, just one that was picked up by the mind instead of the ears. But this? This literally just felt like having Lugia’s thoughts come from inside my head. It was weird and alien and I didn’t like it one bit.

    A strange hesitation drifted from Lugia’s thoughts. <Well, you’re right that this isn’t strictly telepathy, but there shouldn’t be any functional difference.>

    I blinked. “Wait, it’s not? Then what is it?”

    <I don’t know, but—>

    “How can you not know?”

    <You think I know everything?> came the Legendary’s irritated reply.

    I wanted to say that it sure acted like it did, but that didn’t seem smart. Thankfully, Lugia either didn’t notice that thought or didn’t comment on it.

    <Also, you really shouldn’t say things out loud when we’re communicating like this,> Lugia went on. <Just direct your thoughts toward me.>

    I furrowed my brow. “I don’t really know how to do that. Saying words makes it easier to focus.”

    <Try it now.>

    I sighed. Alright. I didn’t want to, but this was kind of important, especially if I needed to communicate privately without giving away our connection. So I willed my thoughts to focus on the idea of Lugia as hard as I could.

    Could it… hear me?

    <Close,> it said. <I can feel a sort of… intent from you, but it’s not specific enough to get words. Focus on my presence. Feel it. Direct your thoughts toward it.>

    I closed my eyes and plugged my ears, trying to block out all other senses. I could feel my heart beating—faster than usual, but gradually slowing. But I shoved that feeling to the side, retreating into my own head, ignoring everything else. Just my thoughts. Not the forest, not the mission, nothing. Just my thoughts.

    And then… then there was something there. Like a thought that was just out of reach, hovering on the tip of my tongue but stuck in my subconscious. My mind kept slipping past it, but I willed it in that direction, grabbing at it like a faded memory.

    <Lugia?>

    <There we go. Loud and clear.>

    I opened my eyes, blinking. There it was. That inaccessible chunk of thought suddenly felt alive, distinct and separate from my own, but somehow just as familiar, like it had always been there. Its thoughts were still different somehow, but when I let my focus slip, it was like there was no longer any line between my mind and the legend’s. I could feel it there, this overwhelming, overbearing presence.

    <Not bad, the connection feels stable. You’ll still need to direct your conscious thoughts toward me if you want me to hear them—everything else will just feel kind of fuzzy and subconscious—but it shouldn’t take too much effort.>

    <Really? So… you can’t just hear all my thoughts?> I asked, a bit more overly hopeful than I intended.

    <By focusing on my presence, you’re opening a specific thought to me. Otherwise your mind will just be in the way. I suppose if I really wanted to I could force it aside, but…> It paused, dancing around the idea awkwardly. <Well, that wouldn’t do us any good.>

    I bristled. That wasn’t too comforting a thought. Sure, it was nice that I had the option of opening specific thoughts to Lugia, rather than just giving it access to the entire jumbled up internal monologue all the time. But if it really wanted to…? On the positive side, surely I’d be able to feel if the Legendary were prying into other parts of my mind than normal?

    <You feel skeptical,> the legend stated. <I understand that we have a long way to go before we’ll be perfectly in sync.> It could say that again. It felt uncomfortable enough having someone else in my head without it being that particular someone. Lugia had said we’d feel each other’s presence. Would it… notice the flood of anxiety that I got just from looking at it? Would it be able to feel the way my pulse shot up? God, I hoped not.

    <Anyway…> Lugia went on, <the reason I wanted to speak with you is this: Mew has informed me that you’ll be making the move to free Moltres soon.>

    I nodded instinctively before realizing that Lugia couldn’t see it. <Right.>

    <We won’t be able to fight side-by-side this time. Not if we don’t want to give away our position to the Rockets.>

    My chest tightened. <I know.>

    Lugia paused, its mind dancing around the subject. <So… what I’m saying is good luck. I would hate to have to select a new chosen so soon after finding one.>

    My stomach curled in on itself. That wasn’t exactly something I wanted to think about.

    Lugia’s mind flushed with awkwardness. <That was… a joke. I will see you when this is done.>






    ~End Chapter 37~

    Next Chapter: Lugia and Jade learn to work together, probably.

    ~Chibi~
     
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2019
  17. Sike Saner

    Sike Saner Peace to the Mountain

    Best entrance ever, everybody go home.

    His eyes were shifting back and forth with an audible swooshing noise during that entire last sentence.

    That's the best way for something magical to do anything!

    *skeksis noises*

    Ngl, I legit thought she was about to turn into a ****ing rock there for a moment.

    What a good pika.

    How that possibility failed to occur to me, I may never know.

    Awww.

    MEW PLS, you can’t just go jumpscaring people like that. :p

    And you can’t go warping people off without warning, either, you silly cat! That’s like a weird sort of jumpscare in and of itself. Instead of Mew suddenly being somewhere unexpected, Mew’s gone and put someone else somewhere unexpected.

    Ohhh heck…

    Yeah, I all too easily forget that that effing thing is more than 15 feet tall myself. XD;

    I’d suspected that process was going to hurt, and that it was going to be weird. Looks like I was right on both counts!

    Yeah, probably not a great idea to antagonize the psychic sea monster who’s probably in a pretty good position to remotely detonate your head. :V


    Anyway, dang. Jade and Starr’s friendship gets another rock in the road. I wonder if it’ll recover. Having to keep secrets can really suck sometimes, that’s for sure. If Jade ever gets to spill the Lugia-flavored beans (or something else spills them for her), I wonder if it’ll be too late.

    Also Latias is officially adorable. :D
     
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  18. Virgil134

    Virgil134 PMD Writer

    Heya! Been a while since last time, but here to review chapter 2 and 3 just like I said I would.

    Chapter 2

    Well you did just see them doing something illegal, Jade.

    Whelp, that escalated quickly. From kidnapping to worse. Though given that Jade saw buildings earlier and she said they were near Viridian City, how come nobody is hearing these shots? You’d think this would be a fast way to get the cops on you.

    Wait, Tyson? Does that mean the driver is that Team Rocket member from the anime’s Lake of Rage two parter?

    Man, Jade’s day is just getting worse and worse by the minute, huh?

    Hey will you look at that! Finally something going her way. Seems like her rescuer even has quite the personality.

    Objection! Red and orange flames aren’t hot enough to melt steel, meaning Typhlosion shouldn’t be able to break these chains. (Though more seriously, I did think the problem of Jade being chained was solved a little too easily)

    Certainly didn’t expect Rudy to come back like this. Though hearing the explanation how he got here certainly made sense. Swift is a clever birdy.

    Should she really be shouting like this? Since I assume the Rockets would be able to hear the group if they talk to loudly.

    I know Firestorm is obviously stressed here, but I’ve seen the artwork and I gotta say he’s adorable

    Rudy’s a confident rookie I see.

    Well that ain’t good. Also wasn’t expecting this fic to have hybrid Pokemon in it. I admit that’s something I typically wouldn’t read about, but the fic’s still keeping me entertained regardless.

    Edit: Heh, just read the notes. A good dose of self-awareness certainly never hurts :p

    Lmao, Spencer.

    Looks like thing just got so much worse. This should be fun.

    Chapter 3

    Spencer’s such a great rescuer.

    Whelp, it was a good attempt. Though now I wonder what sort of hybrid Razors is.

    This exchange is amazing but I have a feeling this attitude of Spencer is gonna blow up in his face so hard lol

    Alright that was sooner than I’d expected. Guess they’re not gonna beat Team Rocket by 100% sticking to game logic, eh? :V

    Heh, using Team Rocket’s supplies against them is pretty clever. Also it’s interesting to see how you have incorporated the game’s mechanics here by Rudy not being able to teach his Squirtle Surf. Same for there being different series of TMs representing the different generations. The latter is actually a headcanon I have myself. ^^

    Okay… I’m gonna be honest, this part broke my suspension for disbelief quite a bit. I’m not sure what felt improbable to me: the Pikachu somehow getting into a locked cockpit, knocking out the pilot while having no power left, or not only knowing how to crash a plane, but also somehow being capable of it with his tiny body. It’s probably the combination of all those things that makes this moment feel a bit… ridiculous. I’ve been enjoying the story so far, but this moment really made me scratch my head a little. I’m sorry.

    I know you said in the notes before the prologue that the first six or so chapters had some issues, but were moments like this what you were referring to? Regardless, I’ll look past it since you did warn about these early chapters having problems.

    That makes two of us, Jade… Though is this a lampshade to you not being happy with how some of the stuff in the first six chapters go? ^^;

    Anyway, I’m not sure how Typhlosion overpowered Tyson that easily given that Typhlosion weigh about as much as humans but are a little shorter. Surely Tyson could have pushed or even kicked Typhlosion off of him for a second and either grabbed his gun again, asked help from his Pokemon who were still out, or even retreated into the cockpit. Also how come there were no other Rockets helping Tyson? Seems strange it was just him and the pilot on that plane, especially since chapter 2 gave the impression there were more people onboard. Overall it really did feel like the tables got turned a bit too quickly and too easily.

    Gotta say, I quite enjoyed this talk between Jade and her Pokémon (Yeah I know, they’re not officially owned by her yet since she has no license, but I can see where this is going lol). I like how you’re giving the Pokemon some personality, since I feel like trainer fics typically tend to gloss that over. Also I’m curious about Swift’s opinion, since it’s definitely not something everyone agrees on. I wonder if there’s more to it given how surprised Jade was about it.

    Clever move from Tyson’s part. Not so fortunate for the heroes of course, but hey.

    Although it’s nice to see Jade going back for the Pikachu hybrid, how is Spencer riding Typhlosion? I’m starting to think Spencer’s Typhlosion is a hybrid himself with the stuff he’s been able to pull off so far lol.

    Also how come the Rockets solely resorted to guns and didn’t use their own Pokemon? Surely it would be more effective to use both.

    Ooh, is this a reference to Ariana saying in GSC and HGSS that the player can become an executive after beating her in battle despite his/her age?

    Hey, at least the executive didn’t forget that she has Pokémon. Maybe she could give some tips to the grunts.

    So, I really like this. Aside from it being smart thinking (yeah I know this plan instantly fails, but there’s no way they could have predicted that so I’m giving them a break lol), I like how Pidgeot can’t carry all three of them and Jade has to think a way around that. It sets up some limitations and forces her to think around that as opposed to a quick and easy solution like we’ve for example seen with Typhlosion destroying Jade’s chains.

    Alright, and that’s the end of chapter 3. Overall I did quite like both chapters, despite my criticism of chapter 3’s second half. Sorry if it was a bit harsh, but I do want to give my honest opinion to what I read. That said, I’ve definitely seen your comments about the first six chapters, so I won’t judge you or the rest of the fic for not and I’m sure the more recent chapters are a lot better. I’ll look forward to what comes next!
     
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  19. Chibi Pika

    Chibi Pika Stay positive

    @Sike Saner:
    asdf I didn't realize you'd be commenting on the April Fool's chapter, your reactions were amazing and absolutely made my day. xD
    Taking advantage of the fact that Mew can transform was one of my top priorities in this revision. :D

    Including plenty of teleport shenanigans was also high on the list. :p

    Making the process of becoming chosen totally nightmarish is one of my absolute favorite ideas from the NaNoWriMo draft.

    Lugia-flavored beans. I...

    (But yes, that will be happening very soon. In fact, it's happening in the chapter I'm currently writing!)

    @Virgil134:
    That bit was meant to happen just outside of Viridian City. However, as a couple reviews over on Bulba have pointed out, that bit is a bit weird and silly for several other reasons! So it's most likely getting the axe anyway.

    Okay, funny story! When I named him, that was not my intention at all! But I'm pretty sure I had seen that episode, and I wouldn't be surprised if it influenced me subconsciously. xD But for an example of something where I know I wasn't influenced, there's an upcoming chapter that is very similar to the Raikou - Legend of Thunder anime special, which I had never even heard of when I wrote it. :p

    Ok this is hilarious because this also just got pointed out over on Bulba! Man, was every other reader since 2004 asleep or something, how are these things only just now getting caught (lol I kid, I kid). Also there's the fact that the chains really have no reason to be there (if you're locking someone in a cell, why even have chains?) I honestly don't even know where 14-year-old me got the idea that a cargo jet would have holding cells with chains. I will definitely be tweaking this. :p

    :3

    Innnnndeed. Getting a dose of reality is an important part of his character arc later on.

    Ah, that's cool that you have that headcanon too! ^^ I wanted to bring up older TMs that haven't been in any Pokemon games lately, so making each gen into a "series" seemed like the best way to do it.

    Actually, the warning about the first six chapters was mostly regarding some of the super-cliched and unoriginal things on display. Amusingly enough, that bit's actually been a fan-favorite over the years. ^^; Sorry it fell flat for you. But! In the previous version he was only pressing random buttons on the console rather than tilting the wheel--perhaps that might have seemed more reasonable? Oh, and the other pilot was knocked out with an Iron Tail to the temple, that's a technique he'll be using a lot when out of electricity.

    Ahh, well, I do tend to have Pokemon pretty strong in this setting, and there's fact that Typhlosion could threaten him with fire (though I really should have described him as struggling a bit more). As for there only being two Rockets on the plane, that part is a little silly, yeah. Tyson even being on the flight was a last minute order from the admin, so Tyson clearly couldn't have been the intended copilot. That's gonna get tweaked. However, he was the only combat unit on board, so none of the others would have been armed.

    Giving the Pokemon a lot of character development and time in the spotlight is a major part of this fic, for sure. I'm glad you enjoyed it!

    Ahahaha. xD I'm not sure, but I think I got that bit from Gold riding Typhlosion in Pokemon Special? It's been a loooong time, admittedly.

    No actually, but I really like that parallel! :D That was a reference to the bit in Pokemon Special where Giovanni laments the fact that a trainer as skilled as Red isn't serving TR as one of his lieutenants. (Though it's worth mentioning that the young executive we see here is at least a legal adult, very much unlike Red, haha.)

    No worries, your comments were a lot of fun to read, and helped me come up with some good ideas for how to tweak the plane arc (which has always been a bit lacking compared to the upcoming S.S.Anne arc).

    Thanks tons for the reviews! ^^ Chapter 38 will be posted later today~

    ~Chibi~
     
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2019
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  20. Chibi Pika

    Chibi Pika Stay positive

    This chapter was a bit of a mess in the NaNoWriMo draft, but while writing it, it gained like 4 pages and became ten times more interesting. I think this is some of my favorite action writing to date. Enjoy!


    ~Chapter 38: Counterattack~

    [​IMG]

    A thick air of tension hung in the air as the four of us—me, Ajia, Rudy, and Darren—flew toward Indigo. I was riding Swift, Rudy had Fearow, and Darren had Skarmory. Mew had transformed into an Aerodactyl, flying alongside Ajia’s own Aerodactyl, no doubt intending to take advantage of that form’s incredible speed.

    The idea of four of us going in alone to fight Rockets was completely insane. But I kept having to remind myself that it wasn’t just us. The Legendaries would be joining us, and the Rockets would be way more inclined to pay attention to them. And the rangers already knew to watch out for anyone suspicious at the tournament site and they had the Elite Four backing them up. This was nothing like the old Rebellion missions. Just had to keep telling myself that.

    After a while, the trees started to thin out, and I was able to see the buildings of Indigo on the horizon. Smoke still billowed upward from the scattered fires Moltres had started around the tournament site. As for Moltres itself, the firebird seemed to be soaring in a wide arc over the whole city. Our group landed on the roof of a building on the western edge of the city, far from its current location.

    “So how many Legendaries are going to be helping us?” I asked Ajia.

    Ajia folded her arms behind her head. “Well we’ve got Mew, Lugia, and Ho-oh for sure. Mew was working on recruiting a few others, but hasn’t had much luck so far—they’re too concerned that this is a trap.”

    “I mean. It pretty much is.”

    Ajia chuckled. “Maybe so. But we’ve got a trap of our own. Oh, and Latias isn’t going to fight, she’ll be staying invisible and defending the others.”

    That was good. At least, it helped ease the fear that all this mission would accomplish was getting our allies captured. The biggest problem was that we didn’t know how many Rockets were scattered throughout the city. While Lugia and Ho-oh could easily take down Moltres, we had no idea how much danger they’d be in. Which was why we had no choice but to split up, to cover as much ground as possible. We wouldn’t be able to watch each other’s backs like I thought. I really wasn’t too happy about that.

    I turned to face Rudy and Darren, giving them both a serious look. “If anything goes wrong, get the hell out and regroup back here, alright?”

    “Don’t gotta tell me twice,” Rudy said, face full of determination.

    “No worries,” Darren said calmly. “Alakazam can make sure of that.”

    I wished I had some of that confidence. But then, Alakazam was the reason Darren had made it off Midnight Island with no casualties. There was no reason not to trust him.

    “Good luck,” I said.

    Rudy held out a fist, “We got this.” He gave me and Darren a stern look until we returned the fist bump. Then he flashed a thumbs up to Fearow, and the bird spread her wings and took off, swooping down into an alley and out of sight. Darren gave a small wave, and soon he and Skarmory were gone as well.

    I turned back toward Ajia and Mew, struggling to think of what to say. Ajia was the one who broke the silence. “See you when we’re done,” she said with a reassuring smile.

    I forced a grin. “Yeah.”

    Swift took off, and the two of us soared low over the tournament site. Had to keep our eyes out. While Swift focused ahead of us, I constantly turned my head in all directions, scanning for any enemies sneaking up on us. I was not going to let us get caught off guard again. Occasionally Moltres crossed into the airspace overhead, and I held my breath until it passed. We weren’t the target here—had to remember that.

    It was now easy to see the squads of rangers taking formation north of the city. And from what Kari had said, the Elite Four had to be among them, ready to strike back if Moltres got too close. There were probably enough Pokémon there that they could take down the legend in an all-out fight. But the idea of actually fighting a Legendary Pokémon wasn’t exactly high on anyone’s priority list. The fact that we even had a mental idea of how many regular Pokémon it took to bring down a legend… It was something I took for granted, but would register as totally foreign to anyone else.

    In any case, couldn’t get distracted. If Moltres was mainly sticking to the northside, then that was where we’d find the Rockets. I pointed this out to Swift and he took us in that direction. I knew we had to find them, but the back of my mind was desperately hoping that we wouldn’t. Each empty street and bare rooftop gave me a small relief, but it could only delay the inevitable.

    Suddenly, Swift jerked his head to the left. I followed his gaze and caught a flash of blue between buildings. What was that? The Pidgeot swerved back around to take a closer look. And there he was. The executive who had confronted us during the initial attack—Ender, was his name? He was sitting on the back of his Altaria, perched on a low balcony that gave him a good view of the air without putting him in full view. I wordlessly motioned for Swift to land on the roof of the closest building. His flight was softer than Aros or Firestorm’s. Faster than them too. That was why I’d picked him for this mission. But our opponent had the power advantage, so we couldn’t afford to give ourselves away.

    Slowly, one talon at a time, Swift stepped closer to the edge of the roof. He craned his neck to look over the edge. Ender hadn’t noticed us. Any second I expected him to snap his eyes in our direction. But no. He was just sitting there. Waiting. Eyes trained on Moltres the entire time. And he was wearing a Master Ball cannon on his arm that hadn’t been there last time.

    <Well if we weren’t sure before, we sure are now. Moltres is definitely bait,> I told Lugia.

    <Feels rather foolish to swoop right into a known trap like this,> the legend replied.

    <Yeah, well… it also feels pretty stupid to pick fights with an executive.>

    <We will both follow our foolish courses of action, then.>

    Was that a joke? I decided not to think about it.

    Our goal wasn’t to fight Ender outright. I knew that much. But my heart still pounded as we waited. The signal would be obvious, I knew that much. Just had to be patient. Couldn’t give away our position yet. Just a little longer…

    A bright yellow beam of energy shot out of nowhere, striking Moltres right in its heart. The firebird recoiled backward, screeching in pain. Up from the forest, Lugia burst into the air, spreading its wings to loom high above the plateau. It was a bit weird seeing the dragon-bird out in broad daylight, the sunlight gleaming off its feathers a stark white as opposed to its silvery sheen under the moonlight.

    From the opposite side of the sky, Ho-oh soared into view, wings shimmering with a rainbow sheen, blue flames licking its wings. The two zeroed in on Moltres, circling the smaller bird intently. But Moltres didn’t retaliate. Instead, it folded its wings back and shot toward the ground, soaring low over the buildings. What was it doing? None of the Rockets had approached it, so it must have been acting on orders that it got previously. Orders to avoid any other Legendaries? Why?

    Lugia and Ho-oh paused, glancing at each other. I could only guess that they were confused as well. But then it finally hit me. By sticking low to the city, Moltres was forcing Lugia and Ho-oh to fly low to engage. If they stayed too high, the firebird would have more than enough time to dodge their attacks. And the Rockets themselves were all sticking low to the city as well, so it would be easy for them to fire Master Balls from out of sight. Which meant that for any of the free Legendaries to strike back, they’d either have to put themselves in harm’s way, or attack the city. Of all the dirty tactics.

    Lugia must have noticed the same thing, because it asked, <Is there any reason we can’t simply destroy them?>

    Any reason other than the fact that it was implying callously murdering our enemies? Sure. The resulting destruction was exactly the thing we were trying to avoid. We were not turning this into another Viridian incident.

    <Let us fight the Rockets, alright?> I said. <We’ll be more maneuverable closer to the ground, and that way the rest of you can deal with Moltres. You shouldn’t have any trouble with that, right?>

    <Fine.>

    Had to trust that everything would go according to plan. Couldn’t afford to think about the Legendary fight when I had my own mission to focus on.

    Ender hadn’t taken his eyes off the Legendaries the entire time. His arm was trained upward, left hand hovering over the handle, ready to pull back the moment one of the free legends drew too close. He hadn’t so much as glanced in our direction the entire time. It was now or never.

    “Open with Tailwind, then go into a Feather Dance,” I whispered.

    In one smooth motion, Swift leaped from the rooftop and swooped down between the buildings, flapping his wings so fast that a powerful wind current filled the entire alley. The moment that was done, he switched to a light, fluttering motion, scattering countless downy feathers into the air around our opponents. Tailwind would give us the speed edge while also throwing off Ender’s cannon fire. Feather Dance would dull Altaria’s attacks, at least some of them.

    Ender stared back at us with an amused look on his face. “Interesting timing,” he said, glancing between me and the Legendary battle raging overhead. “Alright, I daresay it’s time to escalate things.” He tapped something into a wrist communicator. I held my breath. But he didn’t move from that spot. He just went back to aiming at the Legendaries while his Altaria kept a single eye trained on us.

    I felt a prickle of anger well up inside me. Did he seriously think we were afraid to attack him? Or was he just that unconcerned with our presence?

    “Air Slash!” I yelled.

    Swift snapped his wings forward, glowing blades of wind already trailing from the tips, shooting toward our opponents. Altaria waited until the last second before it raised a Protect, deflecting the blades away harmlessly.

    Ender slowly turned toward us, raising an eyebrow. “Playing hardball this time. Alright.”

    And then way the hell faster than it had any right to be, Altaria dove from the balcony and shot toward us. I pointed down, and Swift didn’t waste a second swooping under it and taking off in the opposite direction. We shot down the street, the wind following us and pushing us forward, most likely the only thing keeping us ahead of him. Swift kept his eyes firmly on the road ahead of us. Mine were free to wander. Just how close was he…?

    A window ahead of us suddenly exploded with dragonfire, raining shards of glass down from above. I buried my face in Swift’s feathers and tried my hardest to ignore the slivers of pain crossing my arms. I’d felt worse. Had to stay one step ahead of him. If he was chasing us, he wasn’t firing at the Legendaries. Just had to stay one step ahead. This was what we’d trained for. I could handle this.

    A shadow passed by overhead. I glanced up, expecting one of the Legendaries, but it was a Rocket I didn’t recognize, riding on the back of a Charizard, currently aiming a Master Ball cannon at a target I couldn’t see. Could I stop him? But Ender was right behind us, we’d be sitting ducks. I could let out Firestorm, have him target the other—no. No, staying on the run was safer than starting a head-to-head melee, I’d learned that much. It would probably be fine.

    Wait. Through a gap between buildings, I suddenly got a much better view of the Legendaries, and they were a lot closer than I’d realized. Moltres was pinned to the ground, thrashing about wildly in the middle of what looked like a battle park. Ho-oh was perched on its back, talons digging into the smaller firebird’s wings while Lugia fired concussive pulses of psychic energy.

    Dammit, they weren’t paying attention and the Rockets were closing in!

    Time slowed. A crack split the air, my eyes caught the flash of movement, the Master Ball, its target unaware. In my mind I saw it hit, saw that flash of red from the time I’d fired a ball just like it, heard Lugia’s horrified scream and then—

    A brightly glowing ball of mist deflected it at the last second, shot from thin air. I gaped at it in disbelief. And then a huge wave of relief crashed over me so hard that I almost lost my grip on Swift. Latias—Latias had saved them from certain capture.

    And then out of nowhere, Lugia’s voice stormed to the front of my thoughts and yelled, <Warn me next time!>

    <Sorry, I’m still getting used to this!> I replied. I’d seen it happen, I could have said something, I should have said something. I’d just completely forgotten that was even an option. But that was the entire reason we had Latias playing defense, right?

    A spear of irritation pierced my thoughts like a burning hot iron, and I only barely stopped myself from grabbing my head. Geez, Lugia’s emotions were stronger than I thought. I’d known that I’d be able to feel them, but man this was distracting.

    “*Are you alright?*” Swift asked, tilting his head to look back at me.

    “I’m fine, just keep moving,” I managed breathlessly. We couldn’t afford to stop. Not while we were still being followed by—

    I whirled around. Ender was gone. He was gone. The whole point of this was to keep him distracted. Of course he’d known that. Why the hell had I taken my eyes off him?

    “Hold up,” I said, pulling back slightly. Swift flared his wings out to slow our flight before making a U-turn back down the street.

    Dammit. I’d let Lugia distract me, and then I’d lost Ender. We had to find him, and fast. Letting an executive get free shots at the Legendaries was not an option here.

    Movement. Something glinting in my peripheral vision. Flames.

    “Look out!” I screamed.

    Swift turned his head and raised a shimmering white barrier just in time for a raging ball of pink fire to crash into it, scattering a wave of sparkling flares. What the hell was that? The fireball kept struggling against the barrier without dissipating, almost as if it were alive. Wait… it was. The Altaria was inside the fireball, face contorted with vicious fury. Ender wasn’t on its back. I glanced around hurriedly, but he was nowhere to be seen.

    The Protect flickered. Another second and we’d be toast. Had to do something, and fast.

    “Through that doorway!” I yelled, voice cracking. Swift dropped the barrier and pointed his wings back, plunging toward the ground like a bullet and pulling up at the last second to shoot clean through the opening, immediately braking to avoid hitting the opposite wall. We turned around just as the doorway exploded into splinters. I shielded my face with my arms, squinting at the frenzied ball of magenta dragonfire currently shredding the entrance. Swift took a few hesitant steps backward before darting behind the nearest support column. Altaria charged, tearing through the column like butter, and then the ceiling gave way.

    Swift jumped back, turning away from the falling debris, flaring his wings to keep me shielded. I flattened myself against his back, burying my face in his feathers yet again, dull pain assaulting my back with each chunk that hit me. Finally, it seemed to have settled. I cautiously opened one eye to take in the surrounding. The two of us had landed in a crumpled heap, covered by snapped boards and chunks of plaster, a fine mist of dust saturating the air. I coughed hard and breathed in too deep, which only succeeded in filling my lungs with more dust. Ugh. Had to get out of here.

    A violent screech jerked my attention back to our opponent. In the doorway, Altaria stood twitching, body still raging with pink flames. We couldn’t use Protect. Not enough time had passed. Couldn’t make it out of the room in one piece. No other exits. Only a second to act.

    “Sand Attack!” I blurted out.

    Swift swept his wings forward, and a wave of plaster splattered into the dragon-bird’s face. Altaria staggered back with a cough, squinting at us through the dust. And in that split second, Swift flattened himself to the ground right before the dragonfire flared up again and Altaria launched itself clear into the opposite wall, tearing right through it and landing in another room.

    Rubble was still raining down from the second floor over the entrance, and the hole was now mostly blocked. Had to make our own exit, then.

    I whirled around and ordered, “Air Slash!”

    Swift shook himself free from the rubble, then swung a glowing wingtip forward, unleashing a flurry of blades at a nearby window. Glass shattered, then a gust of wind swept the shards away. The Pidgeot leaped through the opening and launched into the air, beating his wings to take us away from there as fast as possible.

    Except… we weren’t trying to escape. We needed to stay close by. Even if my every instinct was screaming to just ignore Ender and his Altaria and go find the others.

    “Hold up, we don’t want to lose them,” I said. Swift responded by pivoting around in midair and landing on the roof of the building nearest the one we had just escaped from. This would give us a decent view of both exits, and then we’d be able to follow Altaria, hopefully to its trainer.

    Except nothing happened. I furrowed my brow, staring even harder. It had been at least a minute by now. Where was Altaria? It wasn’t trying to find us? And where was Ender, for that matter? If he wasn’t on its back when it raged out, then where the hell had he gone?

    I pointed downward wordlessly, and Swift glided down from the rooftop, landing in the middle of the street. I kept a tight grip as he cautiously stepped forward to peek through the crumbled doorway. But there was no sign of Altaria anywhere inside.

    “Where did they…?”

    Out of nowhere, a sudden needle of anxiety pierced my brain. Every muscle in my body clenched tightly as I was hit with the overwhelming feeling that this was very not okay, despite having no idea why or how or what was—

    Wait. Wait wait wait, this feeling wasn’t mine.

    <What happened?!> I asked Lugia.

    <Ho-oh was hit. Latias was able to destroy the ball before they could recover it, though,> it replied, a slight tremble to its voice.

    I let out a deep sigh of relief. The last thing we needed was to have to rescue another Legendary on this mission. Part of me wanted to tell Lugia just how distracting its emotions were, although I already knew that the response would be less than pleasant. It was my problem. I’d have to get used to it.

    “C’mon, let’s keep moving,” I said to Swift. With a few flaps, the two of us were airborne once again.

    Maybe it would be better to stick closer to the Legendaries. After all, that was where the Rockets were most likely to be. Just being in the general vicinity would hardly give away the fact that we were straight-up working with the legends.

    I pointed down a street that I was pretty sure led back to the park where the Legendaries were fighting. If the violent screeched and explosive blasts coming from that direction were anything to go off. That was when I spotted her. The female executive from before. Raven, was her name? She was riding the same Flygon as last time—the one that had soundly defeated Aros, this time wearing a blue and white scarf. Why did I have to keep running into all the Executives? Why couldn’t Ajia? Or Mew? Anyone who would stand a better chance than me.

    I could try to locate Ender once again. Or I could deal with the executive in front of me who currently didn’t have any opponents. I didn’t get a chance to make that decision before she spotted us though.

    “Back for more?” she just said. Then in a flash, she opened an array of Pokéballs. I caught sight of a large, black bird, then some kind of brown blur ducking behind an abandoned vendor stall, then a violet shadow tracing a path down the walls of the nearest building.

    Oh hell, she wasn’t playing around. No way was I going through the same crap as last time. I let out both Firestorm and Aros, then let Chibi out onto Aros’s back so he could freely abuse his lightning. The hybrid didn’t waste any time charging up a Thunderbolt to fire at Raven, but her Flygon avoided it so quickly I could have sworn he’d teleported. Swift put on a burst of speed just as a pulsing wave of darkness shot right at us, fired by the Honchkrow.

    “Another Tailwind!” I hissed. The Pidgeot looped back, flapping his wings faster and faster, and the resulting wind current swept through the alley, pushing at our backs and against the executive’s side. Honchkrow narrowed its eyes at us, struggling against the wind.

    A shadowy orb shot from nowhere, smacking into one of Aros’s wings. He shook off the blow and glanced around hurriedly, but couldn’t locate his attacker. Chibi muttered something to the bug-dragon, and the latter responded by slamming his tail into the wall, unleashing a shockwave that shook the entire building. A dark shadow fell out of the wall, forming into an implike body with a huge, toothy grin. A Gengar. Its eyes flashed red, and a spear of ghostly energy suddenly pierced its own body, trails of red mist leaking out from the hole. Aros tilted his head in confusion, but then more of the same red mist materialized around him… and zeroed in on Chibi, seeping into his fur. The Pikachu shook his head to clear it before retaliating with a lightning bolt, but Gengar had already phased back inside the wall. Chibi winced, teeth clenched like he was in pain. Wisps of ghostly aura danced around his head.

    All this time, Firestorm had been circling Honchkrow, breathing out scorching jets of fire to keep the bird off our tail. Raven and her Flygon were mostly hanging back, a good distance from the rest of the combatants. I wasn’t sure why, but I wasn’t about to question it. The moment they entered the fray, things would get a lot worse.

    We couldn’t keep this up for too long. I knew that. Sooner or later, we’d be overpowered. But we just had to keep it up long enough to hold Raven’s attention away from the Legendary battle. Just had to hold out until then. Lugia would give us the all clear and then we could get the hell out of here.

    And then a brown blur leaped up from a nearby rooftop, aiming right for us. Swift flared his wings to stall our flight. Too late. Blood splattered through the air. I stared stupidly, feeling my brain short-circuit trying to process it, my breath frozen, my stomach melting. Kabutops. It had slashed him clean across the neck, staining his feathers bright red.

    No. No no no! At once, I found my hand flying to my belt, fumbling with his Pokéball. Had to recall him before it was too late. Had to recall him before it was too late. Each second felt like an agonizing eternity as my shaking fingers found the button and pressed it and then recalled Swift in a beam of red.

    I’d recalled him in time, right? He’d live, right? He had to. He had to.

    Falling. I was falling. I’d just recalled the Pokémon I was riding on. But I had to recall him. I had to, it was the only way he’d make it. He was in stasis now. He had to make it. Still falling, had to do something. But he had to make it. Still falling. But Swift—still falling, had to do something.

    “Firestorm!” I yelled.

    Barely seconds later, I saw a flash of orange as the Charizard swooped under me and caught me on his back. Immediately afterward, I was forced to cling tightly to his neck as he barreled to the right to avoid blades of wind launched by Honchkrow.

    “*What happened? Where’s Swift?*”

    I buried my face against his neck, clenching my teeth and trying my hardest to banish that image from my brain.

    “*Are you okay?*” Firestorm asked.

    “I’m fine, just keep flying!”

    His neck muscles tensed. It was obvious he wanted answers, but he was holding back from asking them. My every instinct was screaming that we had to flee, or else risk having what happened to Swift happen to more of us, and—

    “*Watch out!*” Aros called out. I looked up to see his diving in front of us, the white light of Protect flaring up just seconds before a massive waterspout crashed against it, scattering a cold mist all around us. Holy crap, that was too close. That Hydro Pump would have knocked us out of the air for sure. Then Chibi had to fire a lightning bolt over my shoulder at Gengar, who’d been sneaking up behind us. Then more movement, out of the corner of my eye. A blurry brown shape. Blades flashing. Not again—

    “Metal Claw!” I yelled.

    Firestorm swung both arms in front of his neck just in time for the blades to bounce against them with a metallic clang. Kabutops sprang back, crouching on a nearby windowsill before leaping at us once more. But this time Firestorm was ready. He tilted a wing, changing our angle so the blades flew right past us. Then he reached out and grabbed the fossil by the leg, swinging it in a wide arc before hurling it straight into the pavement with a crack.

    I let out a deep sigh of relief. Then an agonized cry snapped my attention back to Aros, but… but it hadn’t come from him. I stared in horror. Chibi was lying flat on his back, thrashing wildly, purplish flames clinging to his body, eating away at his skin in places.

    “What the hell? What’s going on? What is that?!

    The red mist. From when Gengar stabbed itself. It didn’t seem to do anything at the time, but it had been stuck to him ever since, hadn’t it? Firestorm flapped his wings hard, attempting to blow out the flames, but they didn’t waver or react at all. Chibi clutched his head, lightning pouring from his body, but it didn’t help.

    “*What do we do?!*” Aros cried in between breathing out scattered plumes of dragonfire to keep our attackers at bay.

    “I don’t know!” I didn’t know how to help him, I didn’t know what this even was, and there was too much to focus on for me to think of what to do, not when we still had to fight off the executive’s Pokémon and—

    Chibi let out one last feeble cry before slipping from Aros’s neck and falling limply through the air. I automatically reached for his Pokéball and recalled him, staring numbly as he dissolved into red energy. Chibi, the most powerful member of the team, out of commission just like that, and I didn’t have the slightest clue how.

    And then, without warning, Flygon shot toward us like a bullet. I jerked backward in surprise. Dammit, of course she’d needed to wait until Chibi went down before she could really press the attack. It was too dangerous to get close to us otherwise. That was her plan all along.

    Aros zipped over to hover alongside Firestorm and me, facing outward so neither of us could be attacked from behind. The opposing Flygon circled us so quickly it was hard to follow it with my eyes. Aros lunged, slashing wildly, but hitting nothing but open air. It was too fast. How the hell was it this fast? What the hell was going on?

    “Feint Attack!” I yelled, desperate for something to land a hit on them.

    Aros glanced back at me with an uncertain look, but then the dark aura flared up around him and he slipped out of view. Seconds later, he reappeared in the other Flygon’s path, swinging his tail straight into its head. It tumbled over in midair, its momentum taking it way off-balance, and Aros didn’t waste a second darting in, his claws lit with dragonfire. He tore several wicked gashes across his original’s tail before it regained itself. The Flygon shot past him once, raking its fiery claws across his back, and before he could pivot around to brace himself for the second hit, it had already swooped underneath.

    I flinched the moment it hit. Aros howled in pain, and I cracked one eye open to a gaping wound running the length of his belly, bleeding freely. My hand flew to a Pokéball and I recalled him in a beam of red.

    Ugh, maybe that was too hasty. I’d get an earful for it later. It was a nasty wound, but not near as bad as… as what had happened to… No, I couldn’t let it get that bad with any of the others. But now it was just me and Firestorm against her, and somehow I didn’t think we had a shot against just her Flygon, let alone the rest of her team. If we took the fight to the ground, I could let out Jet and Stygian for backup. But then—

    <Moltres is down!> Lugia’s voice rang out in my head.

    I jolted. It was down? Already? Then again, that shouldn’t have been surprising—having to fight Lugia and Ho-oh at once, there was no way the firebird would be able to keep up.

    <We’ll still be nearby in case we’re needed, but we’re backing off just to be safe,> Lugia explained.

    <Gotcha.>

    Good, no sense risking the Rockets capturing them when we didn’t need to. That also meant that we had absolutely no reason to keep fighting a losing battle against an executive. Time to get the hell out of here. But that Flygon… it would be on us in a second, unless—

    “Scary Face!” I called out.

    In one smooth motion, Firestorm banked a wing to spin around on the spot, flashing a grotesque snarl at the bug-dragon right behind us. Flygon wasn’t ready for that move and jerked backward with alarm the moment it made eye contact. Its wingbeats slowed, muscles losing their tension, and for a moment it was almost frozen in place, so Firestorm took that opportunity to whirl around and bolt in the opposite direction.

    “Give ‘em a Smokescreen too,” I added, and Firestorm breathed out a billowing cloud of thick black smoke in our path. I covered my nose and mouth until it was well behind us. Then the road ended and we emerged into the same battle park where the legends had been fighting previously. I glanced around hurriedly until I spotted it—there, about fifty yards from us, was Moltres, lying prone, wings splayed across the dirt. There was something almost sad about the sight.

    Wingbeats caught my ear and my heart stopped, but then my brain caught up—they didn’t sound anything at all like the buzzing of Flygon wings. I turned in all directions to see Aerodactyl approaching us from the right, which meant Ajia—no wait, he didn’t have a rider. It was actually Mew!

    “*Stay close by, this is nearly over,*” she said.

    Mew folded her wings back and swooped down to land on all fours right next to Moltres. And then she just stood there. Waiting. She could just teleport Moltres away right now, if she wanted to. But that wouldn’t break the mind control, at least not for good. We still needed the Master Ball. She’d be ready the moment anyone tried to recall it; we just had to—

    A bright blue jagged beam shot out of nowhere, knocking Mew flying limply backward, frost coating her wings. I turned in the direction it had come from, and—

    My stomach plummeted. “What?! Articuno?!”

    The ice bird had just soared into view from practically nowhere, its long cobalt wings scattering a fine powder snow throughout the air. Mew shook herself off before launching back into the air, circling Articuno at high speed, breathing out explosive bursts of flame at it nonstop.

    <Articuno’s here! We need you!> I exclaimed. <But watch out, the Rockets are still nearby.>

    <On it!> Lugia replied.

    A red beam glinted in my peripheral vision. I turned to look in its direction and… wait. Moltres was gone! They’d recalled it?!

    Dammit! Articuno was just a distraction! Where were the Rockets? Who had recalled it? Where was the Master Ball?! I spun wildly in every direction, eyes struggling to find a focus in a sea of details, from the scarred park, to the roads, to Lugia and Ho-oh reappearing overhead, to—

    Suddenly, my eyes snapped to it. A Xatu, down by the ground, clutching a Master Ball in its talons. A white glow formed around it, and my stomach jumped into my throat. It was preparing to teleport.

    <It’s going to escape!> I cried.

    <Mew’s on it!> Lugia replied.

    A psychic glow encircled the bird just as it was flickering out of view. Mew swooped down, her eyes glowing the same shade of blue, and Xatu snapped back into clear view, right before it could vanish. She clenched her wing-hands, and the Master Ball flew out of the Xatu’s talons, shooting toward her. And then a second Ice Beam struck Mew dead on, knocking the Aerodactyl spiraling into the side of a building, crashing through a window. The Master Ball dropped to the ground with a clatter, landing in the road on the edge of the park.

    Articuno wouldn’t have the thought to grab the ball itself. Not without an order from the Rockets. And they were busy right now. I only had a moment.

    “Dive!” I yelled.

    Firestorm folded his wings back and shot downward. I flattened myself against his back, forcing my brain to shut out everything else. Not the battle raging overhead, not the attacks flying past me, nothing. Just the tiny purple ball sitting alone on the pavement below. Closer, closer—

    Blades of wind shot from nowhere and I felt the sting of pain as one tore across my arm. I clenched my teeth, gripping Firestorm even tighter. The Charizard whirled around to locate our attacked, but no one was there. What the hell? I glanced back at the ground to see a shadow materializing next to the Master Ball—a round body with broad wings and an eye-catching crest… Honchkrow! Of course! A dark-type. No way to use psychic abilities to wrestle the ball from it. Mew, where was Mew?!

    Hy heart sank. Mew was actually in bad shape after taking two Ice Beams from Articuno back-to-back, while in a flying-type body no less. The Aerodactyl had just pulled herself free from the building she’d been knocked through. Ice crystals covered her body; her wings twitched.

    Firestorm launched a stream of fire downward. If he missed and melted the Master Ball, that’d help us either way. But Honchkrow snatched the ball and melted into shadow almost immediately. The shadow darted out of sight, past a row of cars on the side of the road, and I could no longer follow it with my eyes. It could disappear into the city, rendezvous with any of the Rockets inside, and then we’d never see the Master Ball again.

    <It’s getting away!> I yelled to Lugia.

    The legend didn’t reply, but I felt its heart rate spike and actually had to clutch a hand to my chest. And then without warning, a brilliant yellow beam shot through the air. I froze open mouthed as it cleaved through several buildings like a hot knife through butter. Glass shattered, concrete gave way, the upper floors slowly collapsed inward. I gaped at the destruction in horrified disbelief. We were only a few blocks away from the evacuees! Lugia couldn’t just let wild like that!

    <What the hell was that?!> I demanded.

    <You said it was getting away,> Lugia replied defensively.

    I stifled the urge to scream. <How is blasting the city supposed to help?! You could’ve hit someone.>

    <Well if you’ve got it under control, I’ll just go back to what I was doing,> the legend said, its thoughts tinged with irritation.

    Ugh. Some help. We’d just have to do it ourselves.

    Firestorm’s wings strained; he was beating them as hard as he could but we weren’t gaining. Was Honchkrow even still heading this way? I couldn’t tell. Just had to keep my eyes peeled for where it emerged from the shadow. Where was Ajia? Why couldn’t she have been the one to deal with this. Why’d it have to be me, the one least likely to—

    Dammit, no, couldn’t let myself think like that. I could do this, with or without help. I could do thi—

    “Forgetting someone?” a voice said icily.

    Stones erupted from the ground in front of us. Firestorm swerved to the right, one of them clipping his wing. Then another stone shot up from that direction, and Firestorm had to throw his wings out to stop in time, then the third wave found its mark, bursting up right from under us. Stones dug into Firestorm’s belly, the shockwave from the impact shot through my body, and then we were down, skidding along the pavement before finally coming to a stop. I slowly stumbled off Firestorm’s back, dazed and in pain, limbs shaking. The Charizard pulled himself to his feet and clutched at his stomach with a grimace, blood streaming between his claws.

    That was all three of my flying mons out of commission. I grabbed Firestorm’s Pokéball, ready to recall him when he pushed my arm down.

    “*Either we both get out of here, or neither of us do,*” he said, spreading his good wing as wide as he could, keeping me out of view.

    Couldn’t let him face Raven alone. In a flash, I let out Jet and Stygian. Three Pokémon, one nearly incapacitated, going up against an executive. Her Pokémon were advancing on us now. Gengar, Flygon, Kabutops… the same Kabutops that… that had… (My mind suddenly generated the image of it doing the same thing to Firestorm, and I tried shoving aside but it didn’t want to leave, and—)

    In an instant, Gengar melted into shadow, Flygon’s claws flared up, and Kabutops dashed forward, blades outstretched. Jet and Stygian rushed forward to meet them, the former launching into a waterspout and the latter lighting her blade with dark energy. Firestorm tensed up, taking a half-step forward like he was about to jump into the fray. But then his eyes darted back to me and he didn’t move.

    A spray of water hit my arm. Gengar’s shadow had tried to slip behind us, but Jet had just cut the ghost-type off with a well-aimed Water Gun. The ghost paused for just a moment, shaking itself off irritably, and the Floatzel took that opportunity to lunge forward, dark aura cloaking her fangs. Across the street, Kabutops leaped back and forth, forcing Stygian to turn in all directions just to follow it with her eyes. The rock-type found an opening and darted forward, blades aimed at her neck, but the Absol parried with her own blade. Flygon approached her from behind, ready to tear into her with flaming claws. But then out of nowhere, Jet tackled it to the ground, locking her frost-covered fangs around its arm. That left Gengar free to target us—the ghost flashed a devious smile before letting its fingertips crackle with electricity.

    I didn’t have to say it. Firestorm raised a shimmering white Protect the instant Gengar let the lightning fly. A shower of sparks hit the asphalt as the bolt crashed into the barrier with a resounding crack. Gengar paused, frowning with disappointment. Without warning, Firestorm dropped the barrier and leaped forward, slashing wildly, his claws shrouded in a ghostly aura. Gengar let out a cry of alarm before dissolving back into shadow and regrouping with its teammates.

    I let out a huge sigh of relief. But it was short-lived. My eyes darted back to Jet, wrestling with Flygon, biting it repeatedly with icy fangs. Stygian, staggering backward from the force of a massive blue orb that Gengar had just fired at her. A chill ran down my spine. One of the executive’s Pokémon was unaccounted for.

    I spotted it a second later, leering at us from between two cars. Upon realizing that we’d noticed it, Kabutops broke into a run, blades flashing through the air with each step. Firestorm took a deep breath. He couldn’t use Protect again, so his claws went metallic. A scythe swung for his neck and he blocked it with a clang. Another one, from the other side; his other arm snapped up just in time. The Charizard kept his eyes trained closely on his opponent, watching, waiting… A third swing and this time he lunged forward, locking his claws around both blades at once. Kabutops’s eyes went wide, and it jerked its arms back, but the fire lizard refused to let go.

    And then my eyes caught movement, over by Raven. At her side, a wisp of dark aura had just faded into view, revealing a large black bird clutching a purple Pokéball. My jaw fell open. Honchkrow? It was right here?! And it still had the Master Ball?!

    “Thought we hadn’t figured out how you stole Mewtwo from us?” Raven asked, her words tinged with ice.

    A bolt of lightning fired from Gengar’s fingertips, catching the tail end of a waterjet. The Floatzel inside let out a scream as the electricity coursed through her.

    “Thought we didn’t know Mew would be here?”

    With a vicious snarl, Flygon smashed Stygian’s head into the side of a car repeatedly. Fiery claws tore red gashes across her snow-white fur.

    “The only question is how you’re working together with those monsters.”

    One after the other, the Absol and Floatzel collapsed onto the road, out cold. All of them down but Firestorm, who continued to grapple with Kabutops, claws locked firmly around its scythes.

    “I’m curious to know. But not curious enough.”

    Kabutops slammed a clawed foot against the ground, and pointed stones burst through the pavement, right under Firestorm. The Charizard’s eyes went wide; he coughed hard, blood dripping from his mouth. Then he staggered backward, sinking to one knee before finally collapsing.

    There was a moment where Kabutops’s eyes flickered between Firestorm and me. Like it was debating going over and just ending him right there. But then it opted to go for me instead. I took a step backward, feeling my blood turn to ice from the fossil’s cold, merciless gaze. It wasn’t even bothering with the speed anymore—it was just casually walking toward me. What the hell could I do to stop it anyway? Couldn’t outrun it, couldn’t fight back, no Pokémon left, no other options.

    <Lugia!!> I screamed mentally.

    <Hang on, I’m dealing with Articuno!>

    <Hang on?! I don’t have time!> I’d be dead before it got here! What the hell good was being chosen if I was going to die alone with my patron nowhere near me?!

    And then out of nowhere, Kabutops was knocked flying into the side of a parked car by absolutely nothing. I stared stupidly at the sight, unable to process it. What the hell had just happened? I didn’t see anything hit…

    Without warning, Honchkrow let out a squawk as something slammed into it, knocking the bird clear down the street. Raven’s mouth hung open with a mixture of shock and rage. The Master Ball clattered to the pavement, then lifted into the air just as fast. But there was no psychic glow—it had been grabbed by something invisible.

    Then, as if on cue, I felt a rush of wind next to me, and the air distorted into the jetlike shape of a crimson dragon.

    “*Get on!*” Latias cried.

    She didn’t have to tell me twice. I recalled all three of my Pokémon and then jumped onto her back. She was small. I didn’t fit on her back all the way, and she was obviously having a hard time lifting me. But she didn’t complain.

    “You can’t do that! Who the hell do you think you are?!” Raven screamed after us.

    Latias whimpered slightly as a Shadow Ball struck her belly, but she didn’t let her flight path waver. My breathing was shallow and my heart was pounding at a million beats a minute. We’d done it. We’d gotten the Master Ball, and we’d escaped, and I wasn’t dead. I would have collapsed with relief if not for the fact that we still had yet to make it to safety. There was also the fact that Articuno was still circling the skies ahead of us, filling the air with a vicious Blizzard. Latias shivered, slowing her flight so we didn’t get too close. Lugia was forced to hang back while Ho-oh pushed through the storm, blue flames burning across its body.

    And then a loud whistle split the air. Articuno broke from the fight immediately, diving below us to land in the center of the battle park. I spotted Ender closing in on it, his Altaria looking worse for the wear, covered in burns and missing plumes on its wings. In hot pursuit was Aerodactyl—the actual Aerodactyl—with Ajia on his back. So after I lost track of Ender, he’d run into her instead. I couldn’t help feeling a bit satisfied from seeing how much trouble she’d given him.

    I braced myself in case he decided to try anything on us. But he knew better than to pick a fight with Latias. He also knew better than to attempt firing a Master Ball at her. Not with so many opponents close by. Instead, his Altaria took him right above Articuno, where he jumped down to land on the ice bird’s back before recalling the dragon-type.

    “That wasn’t dumb luck… that was planned,” Ender called out, loud enough for us to hear him. “You were working together with them the entire time, weren’t you?” He laughed. “I think we’ll be taking that into consideration next time.”

    His attention snapped to the other Legendaries. To Lugia and Ho-oh, soaring high overhead, to Mew, still in her Aerodactyl guise, now flying over to meet us.

    He tapped a button on his watch and said, “We’re leaving.”

    Suddenly, the same Xatu from earlier materialized right above him. He reached out to grab its talon, and in a flash, they were gone.






    ~End Chapter 38~

    Next Chapter: Sometimes you just gotta prove a Legendary wrong.

    ~Chibi~
     

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