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Thread: Operation GEAR: The Firestorm Rebellion (PG-13)

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    Default Operation GEAR: The Firestorm Rebellion (PG-13)

    Well now, I bet none of you expected me to be back so soon, now did you?

    Welcome to my latest project. This has been in intensive development under wraps for quite a while now. It’s intended as a follow-up to the Enigma Shadow series, though reading said series is not required to enjoy this project. It’s like the Original Trilogy of Star Wars in relation to the Prequel Trilogy, in terms of required reading (which is to say, not much.)

    This first story of the project is rated PG-13 for violence, some scenes of war and some disturbing content. With that out of the way, let the curtain rise…”

    EDIT NOTE: 7/5/11

    This prologue has been edited to reflect a re-imagining of the backstory for the plot. Some dialogue and setting has been modified to suit this.

    -:-




    PROLOGUE






    [A view of the entire Earth from outer space is seen.]

    The planet Earth. A place unlike any other. A planet with incredible diversity in living things, from the smallest to the largest – and of course, it has humans and Pokémon alike! The wondrous creatures called Pokémon, numbering in the hundreds or possibly thousands, share every conceivable environment. They appear on the fields…

    [Hordes of Tauros, Bouffalant, Dodrio, Mamoswine, Manectric and Sawsbuck run on a grassy plain. Suicune then follows them.]

    …in the skies…

    [Many Altaria, Mandibuzz, Swellow, Braviary, Staraptor, Togekiss, Unfezant and Swanna fly past, along with a single Salamence and then Ho-oh.]

    …the sea, as well…

    [A large group of Milotic, Mantine, Huntail, Gorebyss, Wailord, Sharpedo, Stunfisk, Lumineon, Alomomola and Luvdisc swims past, followed by the appearance of a Lugia.]

    …not even the extremes of a volcano can deter them!

    [Pansear, Darmanitan, Torkoal, Magmortar, Rhydon, Rhyperior, Magcargo and Emboar lounge in a volcanic area, lorded over by a Heatran.]

    People interact with Pokémon in a variety of ways, but the primary fashion always has and always will be the Pokémon battle, a competition where trainers and Pokémon unite to find out who will reign supreme!

    [In a packed stadium, two boys – one wearing a white hat with a headband and red clothes, the other in a blue jacket and wearing a beret – battle using Crawdaunt and Lickilicky. Their opponents are two men, one in a dark cape and the other in a black suit with blue stripes, who are using Dragonite and Metagross. The Crawdaunt and Lickilicky both attempt to use Ice Beam on the Dragonite, but the Metagross uses its arm to block the attacks.]

    Most trainers care for and cherish their Pokémon, but unfortunately, not all do. There are countless criminal organizations that would exploit Pokémon for power and profit…

    [Several ‘Wanted’ posters, listing the faces of Team Rocket boss Giovanni, Executive Proton and Executive Ariana are seen.]

    Thankfully, for all that would do harm to the world, there are those that readily stand up against the evil.

    Seven years ago, the terrorist organization Enigma Shadow returned for its third bid at world domination, this time in the region of Oceannia. They were once again opposed by a man named Rich Mistbloom, who, along with his wife Anabel, daughter Olivia and many other allies, defeated the group’s leader, Queen Shadow, after fighting her forces over a two-year struggle. However, another even more sinister conspiracy was unfolding in the background, and its mastermind, Judy, appeared in the final act to execute her plan to enslave the mythical Arceus and stop an event known as the Day of Reckoning. When Judy’s plans backfired, Rich was forced to sacrifice himself to stop the Day of Reckoning from being brought about. He entrusted the care of his daughter to his friend, archeologist and scientist Matt Chiaki, before perishing.

    Five years have now passed since the Day of Reckoning was stopped. Rich Mistbloom’s deeds that day have become known all over the world, rendering him a hero to many. But, what inhabits the fates of those left in the shadow of a departed hero?

    To understand, we must first take a trip back in time…









    A beautifully illustrated storybook page sat before the girl’s eyes, depicting a city of stone buildings. A vibrant sunrise illuminated the sky above the town.

    “This is the story of the lost city of Argyros,” said the man reading the book. “Long ago, there was a city in the center of the Tohjo Continent called Argyros. It was a peaceful and beautiful place that radiated serenity.”

    “Why was it so peaceful there?!” asked the girl. “Isn’t such peace impossible?”

    “The people of Argyros were Tenganists. Peace was their way of life for the most part.”

    “Like Sheena?”

    “Yeah… like Sheena. Anyway, Argyros was blessed because its inhabitants had learned from someone that once held the Jewel of Life in his very hands.”

    To further his point, the man turned the page, revealing a depiction of a blonde man in a blue-and-purple toga holding a green orb in his hand.

    “The Jewel of Life was an artifact that contained the life force of Arceus. As this man had held the Jewel, some of that power became his own. He became wise and was able to teach the people of Argyros many things.”

    “But what happened to the city, then?”

    “It was destroyed.” Turning the page again, the image became one of a black, foxlike creature laying waste to the buildings from the earlier illustration. “The people of Argyros ended up in a terrible battle against an evil Pokémon known as Zoroark. Zoroark ravaged their city and could not be stopped. Finally, the man who brought wisdom to the land had to make a horrible decision and bargain with the monster. Zoroark left the survivors alone, but in order to keep that peace, one of the settlers’ own had to be given over to Zoroark annually.”

    “They had to sacrifice their own people?” gasped the girl.

    “Yeah, I’m disgusted by it too. I hope that what we find on this trip might tell us some secrets about what really went on there, though.”

    -:-

    In a museum somewhere, a large capsule was displayed as one of the exhibits. The container was about seven to eight feet tall, silver, and sealed with an airtight lock on top. It took up a lot of space in its exhibit, but that was nothing compared to the impossibly vast space it somehow contained within itself.

    In that space – a dark void going on seemingly forever – floated the body of Zoroark, seemingly bound by invisible restraints.

    Images of the past flashed through Zoroark’s mind. The battle with the settlers of Argyros was still vivid even countless years later; he still relished the smell of the fires he caused and what they did to stone and skin alike. But there was something else inside Zoroark’s thoughts: the man in the toga, holding a blue glass orb and addressing Zoroark amongst the burning ruins of the town.

    “Kratos…”

    More memories appeared to Zoroark. He recalled more of his negotiation with the man, but then, when the deal was done, the man used the orb in his hand to cast some kind of spell and take the upper hand. Just thinking of this event, no matter how long ago it was, made Zoroark become enraged. His sinister, glowing red eyes whipped open in the darkness, casting twin beacons of light through the murk.

    “Kratos!! I still remember how you took advantage of me eons ago… now, your descendants will suffer my wrath! Somewhere across the continuum of time and space… the time of my revenge is now here!!”







    [Silver and blue streaks of light cut through the darkness from the foreground into the background.]

    The Great Butler presents

    Pokémon:
    Operation GEAR

    [The lights fade into a red and gold tapestry that tracks upward. It is patterned with flowers and a ripple pattern.]

    Troy Baker
    Trina Nishimura
    Bridget Hoffman
    Caitlin Glass

    [The tapestry cuts off, revealing a view of underground ruins.]

    Kent Williams
    Mike Sinterniklaas
    Kate Higgins
    Ted Lewis
    Jason Griffith

    featuring David Bowie as Zoroark

    [The view flies into one of the temples, where the blue orb is found resting on a pedestal. The view then enters the orb and shatters the light within it.]

    - The Firestorm Rebellion –



    -:-

    “Careful, everyone! Please watch your step!”

    An employee in a light purple vest carefully guided passengers off the airplane that had just landed at his airport. There weren’t too many other aircrafts out on the field on that bright, sunny day, so there was a clear sight of the terminal building from where the plane was. A large sign on that building read “Indigo Plateau Airport – Welcome to the Tohjo Continent!”

    Completely disregarding the airport employee’s instructions, a girl came bounding down the stairs from the plane in a major hurry. Her blue hair was arranged to spread out widely in the back, was styled to have large curls hanging at both sides of her head and had an exotic flavor added to it by an attached blue flower. She wore pink boots tied with ribbons along with a simple blue top and skirt, completed by a belt with a star-shaped buckle. Finally, the girl was also wearing a long blue cape pinned down with golden shoulderplates, the cape being accented with silver bars and gold feathers running up the sides.

    “Come on, Matt,” she yelled, facing back at the plane. “Let’s go already!”

    “I’m coming, Olivia, I’m coming!” Following the girl, a man whose blonde hair reached down to his shoulders stepped out of the plane. While standing at the top of the stairs, he adjusted his glasses, in turn adjusting the ornate golden eyepiece mask covering his left eye. A sudden gust of wind blew the wide-brimmed blue hat on his head, causing the yellow feather stuck in the hat’s silver center to flutter wildly. Once the wind died down, the man looked in the direction it had come from and took a deep breath. “Ah, that crisp Kanto air. It’s good to be back after so long!”

    With that, Matt made his way down the stairs. His blue, silver-lined longcoat that had the same feathers as Olivia’s cape on its lapels shook as he abruptly descended. At the bottom of the stairs he rejoined Olivia, then searched inside of the dark blue messenger bag slung over his shoulder for something.

    “Sir, I’m going to have to ask you to make your way to the terminal,” said the employee. However, he stopped himself when he noticed the silver insignia printed on Matt’s bag, which depicted the wing of a Ho-oh on its right half and the wing of a Lugia on its left half, merging into a single downward-pointing claw in the middle. “Mister Chiaki, please excuse me. I did receive the arrangements from Commissioner Mistbloom regarding your accommodations. Your transport can be found in the main terminal of the airport once you present your information.”

    “Excellent. Thanks for your help.”

    After expressing his gratitude to the employee, Matt started walking toward the terminal with Olivia nipping at his heels.

    Something else was on Olivia’s mind, though, and her face turned slightly dour. “Matt, is my mom going to be at the tournament?”

    Immediately picking up on what Olivia was getting at, Matt scratched the back of his head and replied nervously, “Yes, yes she is. If you have things you need to talk to her about, I’ll be there to help set that up for you.”

    “Thanks, Matt. And thanks for everything you’ve done for me, too.”

    “Don’t worry about it. I would have done it even if I didn’t owe your father so much.”

    “Will my dad be at this tournament?”

    This question, on the other hand, caught Matt off guard. The dire desperation that drove him to lie to Olivia about her father’s fate five years prior resurfaced again, and there was only one thing that he could manage to say. “I don’t know if he will be there in person, but I promise you he’s watching.”

    “I wonder where he is… I really hope he isn’t so disappointed with me that he won’t even watch us there.”

    “Stop talking like that.” It turned Matt’s stomach to hear Olivia, who he had once known as a flawlessly upbeat person, be so dark. One thing he knew he couldn’t allow was for her to bear such thoughts about her father, who unbeknownst to her had sacrificed his life for her. “If we don’t enjoy ourselves, then he’ll be disappointed. Shape up, let’s have a good time.”

    After a beat, Olivia showed a slight smile. “You’re right, Matt. I shouldn’t worry too much.”













    END of PROLOGUE

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  2. #2
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    I loved the "movie trailer" type effects you used. I haven't seen anything like it so it was a really interesting way of starting the story. Like some of the other reviewers I feel I'm missing backstory but I'm not drowning in a sea of names or anything so that's okay. I'm glad you opened this story up so new readers like me could hop aboard.

    Your description was nice and I never felt over or under described to. I'm envious of the way you manage to weave the description in and out of the dialogue. The ending is nice and it makes me want to keep reading. Great job! I'm excited to see where this goes.
    Lol.

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    Holy crap, it's already here?!

    So, Olivia is now ten (and apparently in Matt's care). Hopefully she has more Pokemon than just Budew, Combee, and Minccino.

    Zoroark has awakened, and is prepared to exact his vengeance. On a side note, I noticed a similarity between the legend of Zoroark and the real-life myth of the Minotaur: both required someone from a city that begins with an "A" to send over people annually (although the Minotaur needed seven in contrast to Zoroark's one). I'm not too surprised, since I know from XD^3 that you did some research on old legends and the like.

    Can't wait to see how the tournament plays out. If Olivia's battling, then it should be very interesting.
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    This is a great prologue, and I'm happy to see you starting on another project as soon as you finish one.

    I really liked your "World of Pokemon" intro to the story. I thought you wrote very vivid description for that sequence.

    The story being told to the little girl (Olivia?) is a great start to this fic, and has a really epic feel to it. You really made it sound exciting and mysterious.

    And Olivia is cute as always! The dialogue in this prologue, I think, is really well-written and flows naturally, and I really like how you open the story with Matt and Olivia returning to Kanto. It really gets things off on an exciting foot.

    "Poe was the first writer to write about main characters who were bad guys or who were mad guys, and those are some of my favorite stories."
    -Stephen King

    I write odd slice of life stories about Team Rocket. If that's your thing, give them a look:

    Alpha Male- behind every friendship is a story. Perspective contest fourth place winner.
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    Survival- A novella about the unbreakable bonds between one man and his feline friend. 2011 Pokemon Big Bang story.


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    I feel like I'm going to miss a lot of backstory here, but I can't be half-assed to read through the old one if this one doesn't require prior knowledge. Of course, I can't be half assed to do a lot of things, but that's just me because I'm that way.

    Onto the review, I'll start with the opening scene.

    It's structured like a decriptive script, which is okay in certain respects, but I'm not too partial to it myself because, imho, writers should be a bit more consistent with presentation and style if not writing a comedy. Though, you know, there is the matter of the flexibility of creative writing and such, so if it works it works. Just so you know, it does work, and I commend you on that note. There is quite a bit of imagery in it, but if you're not familiar with the Pokemon movie intros, then I imagine the effect is somewhat lost, so yeah... not the best of choices for an opening. This also extends to the whole flashback opening sequence and the part with the title screen, which I personally find to be an unneccsary addition, seeing as the rest of the fic isn't structured like a script. You should know that the effect visual media has when transferred to a literary medium is somewhat dulled, but I'm pretty sure you'd have figured that out by now. Just throwing it out there in case you haven't because... well... you're using a such and such intro so I'm making an assumption here.
    “Kratos!! I still remember how you took advantage of me eons ago… now, your descendants will suffer my wrath! Somewhere across the continuum of time and space… the time of my revenge is now here!!”
    On a slightly more proofreadery note, I'm a bit annoyed by the two, consecutive exclamation marks in the above extract. Opinions may vary, but I generally prefer a single exclamation mark at the end of a forceful sentence. Yes, it might denote an extreme sense of power, but after a while it starts to get tacky and seemingly noobish, especially if the writer starts using three or more exclamation marks in a non-comedic fashion.

    Completely disregarding the airport employee’s instructions, a girl came bounding down the stairs from the plane in a major hurry. Her blue hair was arranged to spread out widely in the back, and styled to have large curls hanging at both sides of her head. A blue flower was affixed in her hair as well. She wore pink boots tied with ribbons along with a simple blue top and skirt, accented by a belt with a star-shaped buckle. Finally, the girl was also wearing a long blue cape pinned down with golden shoulderplates, the cape being accented with silver bars and gold feathers running up the sides.
    Continuing with me picking on grammar, there's this section with a few thigns tat stood out to me. First is the second sentence.

    Her blue hair was arranged to spread out widely in the back, and styled to have large curls hanging at both sides of her head.
    You don't technically need a comma there since the second sentence isn't an independent clause.
    A blue flower was affixed in her hair as well.
    I also feel this piece of info could have been placed in the previous sentence somehow because it seems so redundant to mention the hair twice. I'm not saying merge the sentences, mind, I'm saying describe the flower in the previous sentence.

    Finally, the girl was also wearing a long blue cape pinned down with golden shoulderplates, the cape being accented with silver bars and gold feathers running up the sides.
    And here: using 'accented' is redundant because it was already used earlier in the paragraph. Emphasized or something along those lines would be a better word.

    Moving on, there are other parts to do with grammar that I want to address:

    With that, Matt made his way down the stairs. His blue, silver-accented longcoat that had the same feathers as Olivia’s cape on its lapels shook as he abruptly descended.
    Again with the 'accented'?
    “Sir, I’m going to have to ask you to make your way to the terminal,” said the employee. However, he was cut off when
    Strictly speaking, he wasn't cut off. Nobody cut him off mid-speech, rather he trailed off or paused when he noticed that thing.
    After expressing his gratitude to the employee, Matt started walking toward the terminal, with Olivia nipping at his heels.
    Two things: One, a comma isn't needed there because you have 'with'. The comma there basically implies the preposition 'with' so having it there with the word isn't appropriate. You want "toward the terminal, Olivia nipping at his heels." The second part deals with 'nipping'. I'm not sure what definition you're using but nipping has always meant biting to me, so the mental image I got from that was amusing to say the least. Ever played an old game called Bonk's Adventure where you bite palm trees to climb them? Yeah, that's the kind of mental image I got except palm trees was replaced with ankles.

    Anyway, that's that for the grammar section. I can't comment on anything else because it all seems sound, but I'd watch for those little things if I were you. If I'm up to it, I'll do a bit on plot once I know more about it.
    ♫That's what I'm
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    (A parody of something, life possibly.)
    May contain traces of crack.

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    Man, I didn't expect this story to come so early. D:

    Anyways, Dawn already mentioned my thoughts on the prologue so far, but I give my quick thoughts on it. I really like the part with Zoroark awakening. There's this "Oh, dang!" moment in that scene.

    Yay for Matt and Olivia! It shall be exciting getting to see their interactions. Also, blehhhh why does Olivia have to be cute whenever something serious is mentioned. x_x

    Off to a good start. Looking forward to the tournament. I know it's going to be good!


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    Quote Originally Posted by moonlightning View Post
    I loved the "movie trailer" type effects you used. I haven't seen anything like it so it was a really interesting way of starting the story.
    As a reader, I like to visualize what's going on in the story. As such I also prefer to present things in a way that encourages visualization. From there, I like to format said presentation in a form many are familiar with - the way each Pokemon movie opens - to make the introduction familiar from the start and thus a bit easier to get into.

    Like some of the other reviewers I feel I'm missing backstory but I'm not drowning in a sea of names or anything so that's okay. I'm glad you opened this story up so new readers like me could hop aboard.
    I learned on past projects that I was making the mistake of leaving too much for new readers to infer, so I'm trying to deliver backstory information in more precise, clear pieces now. I'm glad to hear it worked at least a bit.

    Your description was nice and I never felt over or under described to. I'm envious of the way you manage to weave the description in and out of the dialogue. The ending is nice and it makes me want to keep reading. Great job! I'm excited to see where this goes.
    I'm glad you liked the description, and that you'll continue reading. ^^

    Quote Originally Posted by Mizan
    I feel like I'm going to miss a lot of backstory here, but I can't be half-assed to read through the old one if this one doesn't require prior knowledge. Of course, I can't be half assed to do a lot of things, but that's just me because I'm that way.
    That's okay, don't worry about it. What is needed to be known will be given as it goes forward, so there's no need to go back for the old one if you don't want to.

    There is quite a bit of imagery in it, but if you're not familiar with the Pokemon movie intros, then I imagine the effect is somewhat lost, so yeah... not the best of choices for an opening. This also extends to the whole flashback opening sequence and the part with the title screen, which I personally find to be an unneccsary addition, seeing as the rest of the fic isn't structured like a script. You should know that the effect visual media has when transferred to a literary medium is somewhat dulled, but I'm pretty sure you'd have figured that out by now. Just throwing it out there in case you haven't because... well... you're using a such and such intro so I'm making an assumption here.
    I have to say I'm really not sure what's wrong with the introduction that sets up the basic universe. I know I prefer to use it as and find great benefit in using it as a way to set the tone for what will follow immediately after in the first scenes of the actual story.

    I also disagree upon the visual media topic, to a point. It is accurate to say that the impact can be lost, definitely, but as I described above, I like to try and promote my readers' visualization of the events being depicted in the text, so I feel that if done properly a visual cue can be appropriate. I think we may simply have a difference in style here.

    I'm going to answer each of the smaller grammar comments without quotes for simplicity:

    -Agree to disagree on two exclamation points, but I have a rule where three or more will never be used except for the most extreme of circumstances, the very, very rare ones.

    -I wrote that passage when I was very tired, so I definitely concede the overuse of "accented" now that I see it. Thanks for pointing out for me so I can be more careful to avoid repetition as well as I can.

    -I thought about this when I said "cut off." What I decided to try and imply was that the man started to say more than that but did not complete a single piece of a complete thought before he noticed the bag, something that would essentially be only a few letters to indicate it being said at all.

    -"Nipping at one's heels" is an expression that commonly means following the person very closely. It may be unfamiliar to you if you aren't from the US, I don't know if it's used elsewhere.

    Quote Originally Posted by Morpher01
    So, Olivia is now ten (and apparently in Matt's care). Hopefully she has more Pokemon than just Budew, Combee, and Minccino.
    Not just yet, though technically she does since Budew evolved into Roselia. That will have to wait until a bit later.

    Zoroark has awakened, and is prepared to exact his vengeance. On a side note, I noticed a similarity between the legend of Zoroark and the real-life myth of the Minotaur: both required someone from a city that begins with an "A" to send over people annually (although the Minotaur needed seven in contrast to Zoroark's one). I'm not too surprised, since I know from XD^3 that you did some research on old legends and the like.
    Actually, to be honest this similarity is accidental. I didn't research that. It's certainly a welcome observation, though.


    Can't wait to see how the tournament plays out. If Olivia's battling, then it should be very interesting.
    Unfortunately, I'm going to have to disappoint both you and Bay here. The tournament's only a catalyst for the more important events of the plot, and Matt is the one entering it. You'll get your fill of Olivia battling in the near future, but it won't be here.

    On an aside, here's something for all of you to enjoy: the soundtrack for this story!

    http://www.youtube.com/playlist?p=PL67A635DE1B64CF1E

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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Great Butler View Post
    I have to say I'm really not sure what's wrong with the introduction that sets up the basic universe. I know I prefer to use it as and find great benefit in using it as a way to set the tone for what will follow immediately after in the first scenes of the actual story.
    No, it obviously works, I've said that earlier and no one else is complaining so yeah.

    I also disagree upon the visual media topic, to a point. It is accurate to say that the impact can be lost, definitely, but as I described above, I like to try and promote my readers' visualization of the events being depicted in the text, so I feel that if done properly a visual cue can be appropriate. I think we may simply have a difference in style here.
    Certainly it's a difference in style, that's evident. It's just that I don't usually add title sequences to fics and I'm not too partial towards them anyway, seeing as they're not a very popular way to start a prologue in literary works. If anything, the most I deviate is when using pseudocode in the opening of an SF fic, but that's about it. But if it works it works, as I've said, it's just a bit jarring to me, but you can forget that if no one else complains.

    -Agree to disagree on two exclamation points, but I have a rule where three or more will never be used except for the most extreme of circumstances, the very, very rare ones.
    For curiousity's sake, what kind of rare case would need more than three exclamation marks? Not that I'm disagreeing with you, but it's just that I'm curious, that's all.

    -I thought about this when I said "cut off." What I decided to try and imply was that the man started to say more than that but did not complete a single piece of a complete thought before he noticed the bag, something that would essentially be only a few letters to indicate it being said at all.
    I'm not arguing about the use of the phrase 'cut off', I'm more worried about the way it was presented. That is to say, "He was cut off" implies that an external force cut him off, rather than it being off his own will. I use "he trailed off" as an example because that pretty much implies stopping yourself from saying something. As minor a change as "He cut himself off when..." would be more appropriate imo.

    -"Nipping at one's heels" is an expression that commonly means following the person very closely. It may be unfamiliar to you if you aren't from the US, I don't know if it's used elsewhere.
    I'm not from a primarily English speaking country so certain everyday phrases and or slang escape me, though I do know a fair bit from TV. Like the word 'faffing' which I discovered last year when I moved to the UK. Funny word, that.
    ♫That's what I'm
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    (A parody of something, life possibly.)
    May contain traces of crack.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mizan View Post

    For curiousity's sake, what kind of rare case would need more than three exclamation marks? Not that I'm disagreeing with you, but it's just that I'm curious, that's all.
    I only use them in exceptionally intense circumstances.

    I'm not arguing about the use of the phrase 'cut off', I'm more worried about the way it was presented. That is to say, "He was cut off" implies that an external force cut him off, rather than it being off his own will. I use "he trailed off" as an example because that pretty much implies stopping yourself from saying something. As minor a change as "He cut himself off when..." would be more appropriate imo.
    In a way, I think something did cut him off - the sighting of the insignia. I can see your logic, and it makes sense, I'm just approaching it from a different angle.

    I'm not from a primarily English speaking country so certain everyday phrases and or slang escape me, though I do know a fair bit from TV. Like the word 'faffing' which I discovered last year when I moved to the UK. Funny word, that.
    And "faffing" is not something I'm familiar with, so yeah, it was just a language thing.

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  10. #10
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    Why is Olivia always so adorable? I kinda want a story with Anabel and Rich as kids to see where she gets her adorableness from. <3 If Looker's the number one cop in this one, I might just die from happiness. ;D

    I'm surprised that this is up so quickly. I honestly wasn't expecting this to be up until later this month, but here it is for me to read! I can't wait to read more! (:

  11. #11
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    You guys - I had some thoughts about the backstory for the plot of this story, so I made some edits to reimagine things. If you've already read the prologue, please read it again. I made some plot edits and took some of the advice in Mizan's post as well.

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    Beyond all ideals, the truth shall set you free...
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  12. #12
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    The plot should begin to advance here, so maybe this chapter will feel more fulfilling than the prologue did. It should, obviously.

    Bunny Spruce from “Nothing, Everything” is used with permission of that work’s original author, Bay.

    -:-


    CHAPTER 1: A New Beginning








    The Indigo Plateau airport was quite busy that day, with plenty of travelers coming and going from the various nations around the world. As a result, the high-tech terminal was packed with people, making Matt’s search for the pickup point of their transport rather frustrating. Taking great care not to lose his charge amongst the crowd, Matt gripped Olivia’s hand firmly but carefully with one of his own lavender-gloved hands.

    Olivia was cooperating, too – at least until they passed a sandwich stand in the terminal that had a television near its counter.

    “Today’s the day!” blared the voice of the announcer over the TV. “The charity tournament staged by the Frontier Society to benefit the reconstruction of Cinnabar Island will take place today at Indigo Stadium!”

    The announcer was then replaced by a woman’s flat, nearly-emotionless voice. “There are still opportunities to see the show, so please come by.”

    “Mom?!” Olivia jerked to a stop right in front of the sandwich stand, nearly pulling Matt’s arm out of its socket. “I just heard my mom’s voice! Mom, are you here?”

    “It was just the television, Olivia…” Initially, Matt grimaced at the delay in moving through the crowded airport, but he quickly brightened when he realized that this was another opportunity. He sidled up to the counter and tapped his finger on it, producing a rather loud clanking sound on the metal surface. “Excuse me, good sir.”

    Turning away from the TV, the middle-aged, mustachioed man that served customers at the stand smiled at his potential buyers. “Good morning to you. What can I help you with?”

    “We just want a couple drinks. I’ll take a Soda Pop, and…”

    “Some chocolate-flavored Moomoo Milk, please!” chirped Olivia.

    “Coming right up!” The man stepped away from the counter and headed to a refrigerated case a few feet away, from which he withdrew a tall plastic bottle covered in light blue wrapping and a smaller yellow container with “Fresh, Delicious 1% Moomoo Chocolate Milk!” written on it. He delivered the two drinks to Matt and Olivia, but found the appropriate amount of money being pushed to him before he could even ask for it.

    “Thank you,” Matt said, smiling as the server took the money in surprise. “By the by, would you be able to point us toward the pickup point for people leaving by car?”

    “Right around the corner, down the hall and to the left.”

    “Thanks. Have a good one!”

    “Same to you!” called the sandwich shop operator to his customers as they walked off.

    Holding Olivia’s left hand while she used her right to hold the chocolate milk, Matt led her along in the direction given by the man. They soon found themselves at an outdoor carport, where bright yellow taxi cabs were busily running in all directions to bring people to their destinations.

    “Now all we’ve got to do is find the car your mom sent to pick us up.” Straining, Matt searched through the packed rows of cabs and passengers for something that stood out.

    Sipping at her chocolate milk, Olivia was oblivious to Matt’s struggle. She was too busy staring at what she had seen herself only about a dozen feet away. “Hey, look at that.”

    “What?”

    “That cool limousine over there.”

    Matt directed his sight in the direction guided at by Olivia’s outstretched arm. Right near them awaited a high-class black limousine, its paint glistening in the sun. Next to it stood a chauffeur wearing dark sunglasses and a black suit with an insignia printed on the breast pocket.

    Recognizing the symbol on the man’s suit, Matt chuckled lightly to himself. “Never do spare any expense, even today, do you Anabel?”

    “Are we gonna get to ride in that?!” Olivia excitedly asked.

    “Sure looks that way. Let’s get on the move.”

    -:-

    Meanwhile, another gathering was taking place in a cave not far from the populated areas. This one wasn’t so legitimate, however. The small gathering of people in that cave didn’t have charitable means in mind at all.

    There were four of them, three men and a single woman. One of the men was dressed in mostly black, including a pair of white boots, a white belt and black beret to complement his sharp eyes and angular green hair. One of the other men was wearing a tattered white lab coat and round glasses, and the redhead woman had a white blouse and skirt that fit well on her curvaceous figure.

    One thing all three of them had in common was that somewhere on their clothes was an emblem of a red ‘R,’ identifying them as subordinates of the fourth member of their group, an imposing, middle-aged man in a black trench coat and fedora.

    “So four of our five are assembled, Master Giovanni,” reported the beret-wearing man, his voice quivering slightly.

    “Do we have a location on the missing agent, Proton?” responded Giovanni, the man in the fedora.

    “Yes, she is in the area doing recon, sir.”

    “Good. Now… this is the greatest opportunity for the resurrection of Team Rocket. Surely we all realize this.”

    “Don’t you think you’re coming in too light for this mission?” questioned the man in the lab coat, as he brushed a lock of his messy blue hair from his face. “I would think you’d need more manpower than you’ve got on this job.”

    “You shouldn’t be questioning Master Giovanni after he continued funding your research, Gideon,” Proton snapped, in an angry reproach of his colleague.

    “It’s true that the remaining agents at the Rock Tunnel hideout could be used here,” stated the woman, “but it would be an even bigger gamble. If we failed and they got caught as well, it would truly be the end of Team Rocket. That would be a most dreadful outcome, wouldn’t it?”

    “Yes, Ariana, you are correct,” Giovanni observed. “We will execute our attack when the trainers and their Pokémon are weak. Once we take over the stadium, we exchange all present for a sizeable ransom and announce our rebirth to the world. I lay my name on it, Team Rocket shall rise again!”

    -:-

    Matt and Olivia’s limousine ride wasn’t a long one, taking no more than fifteen minutes to take them from the airport to the grand stadium complex where the event was to be held.

    The complex was quite vast, with the stadium area itself taking up a full city block. Around it, a small but modern city played host to all kinds of facilities, from banks to restaurants to offices and hotels.

    As for the actual stadium and its immediate surroundings, the entire landscape was dotted with trees that stood up well in the weather of the area, which was a bit on the cold side. Ropes hung from tree to tree as well as between some trees and the buildings themselves, and hung on these ropes were gold-bordered red flags bearing the symbol of the Frontier Society, a stylized Poké Ball with seven small stars surrounding it.

    Walking up to the stadium’s entrance, Matt and Olivia were greeted by a young woman in a butler’s uniform.

    She bowed to them politely, then said, “Mr. Chiaki and Miss Mistbloom, welcome to Indigo Stadium. Commissioner Mistbloom isn’t here yet, but she has provided instructions for your accomo…”

    “Can you tell us where we can eat?!” Olivia cheerfully blurted out, interrupting the guide. “I’m really hungry!”

    Thankfully, the young woman was not offended by Olivia’s good-natured rudeness, though this was at least just a little because of who she was. “Yes. Please, right this way.”

    Matt and Olivia followed the guide into the building’s opulent lobby, where they had to make their way past many other guests. Some of these other people were going to the stadium’s various facilities, and those who weren’t going places were instead relaxing on large benches and watching prerecorded battles on numerous plasma screen televisions.

    Eventually, they reached the restaurant area of the complex. There was a bar made of shiny, polished oak, behind which lurked countless bottles of all kinds of liquors from around the world. Across from the stools at the bar, about three dozen dining tables covered in white tablecloths sat, ready for more formal needs by the customers.

    “Mr. Chiaki, Miss Mistbloom, please wait here until Commissioner Mistbloom has arrived.”

    “We will,” Matt answered. “Thank you very much. Now, let’s see…”

    “Matt!! Look at the pretty lady on the TV!”

    Olivia’s excitement was directed to a television near a seemingly abandoned table. On it was a woman holding a microphone, whose bright pink dress and yellow-and-pink, curled hair stood out vividly against the natural backdrop she was in.

    “Hello everyone, it’s Teachy TV time! It’s me, your hostess Yoko, and I’m at the Indigo Plateau for the Frontier Society’s charity tournament! I hope everyone plays along with me as I compete, and all of you remember to have fun too!”

    “I’ll have fun, I promise!” Olivia exclaimed to the television, clenching her fists in sheer passion.

    Watching all of this, Matt chuckled, then turned away. He didn’t want to interrupt the enjoyment Olivia was already deriving from their trip.

    A square object rested alone on the table right before Matt’s eyes. Intrigued by what it might be, Matt took a step closer to it. Its green wrapper bore the identification “RageCandyBar” and a Red Gyarados logo.

    “I wonder if Olivia would want…”

    A sudden flicking sound near Matt’s head made him freeze in his tracks. There was a switchblade right next to his face, warning him not to move.

    “It would be a good idea for you to step away from that RageCandyBar right now,” growled the young woman holding the blade, “otherwise I’ll have to open you up before I open it up.”

    “I don’t think that’s going to work on me,” Matt countered sarcastically.

    “What?”

    By this time, Olivia had noticed what was happening and pieced together the reasons for it, and stepped over in worry. “Matt, just get me my own candy…”

    The moment the young woman saw Olivia, her demeanor completely changed. She dropped her switchblade and lunged toward Olivia, grabbing her in a tight embrace.

    “OHHHHH!! You are just ADORABLE!” the mysterious woman squealed.

    At first Olivia didn’t fully understand what was going on, and was put off by this unknown person’s over-the-top admiration. She quickly got used to receiving this attention, though, and gave into a gleeful laughing fit.

    Matt could only watch as Olivia reveled in the spotlight the woman was giving her. He found it awkward, as the young woman’s rather curvy figure was not hidden much behind the revealing blue top she wore, although her long, flowing black hair – accented with red streaks – draped over some of her skin. What struck Matt as unusual, though, was that aside from her top, her other clothing was relatively tame, from her long, sky-blue gloves, form-fitting red pants and black boots. The only other thing that stuck out all that much were the two silver-lined tails attached to the back of her top as if it were a coat.

    “What are you doing?” he finally managed to ask.

    “Well a girl’s gotta protect her chocolate, right?” Laughing to herself, the woman stood and saluted to Matt by holding her right hand next to her right eye and extending her thumb, pointer and middle fingers. “Who are you two exactly?”

    “My name’s Matt and this is Olivia,” Matt answered, being accompanied by a courteous bow from Olivia.

    “Call me Nekou. Remember my name and the chance I remember yours could go up.”

    “Oh, I’m not going to forget much after all of this,” deadpanned Matt in response.

    “Hey! I remember you!” Somehow, Olivia had already gotten halfway across the room, and was now calling out to someone else. “You battled with my mom!”

    Catching up with Olivia while barely noticing Nekou lurking behind him, Matt nervously said, “Now, now, Olivia, let’s not be bothering others.”

    “But it’s the one my mom battled at the Grand Festival! The one Nando beat in Sootopolis City, too!”

    Indeed, when Matt looked up, he realized what Olivia was talking about. Though it took him a brief moment, he quickly recognized the girl, whose long brown hair came down from under a cream-colored hat that matched her shirt. Just like always, she was wearing her yellow shoulder bag, crumpled socks and pale shoes, too.

    “I didn’t expect to see you two here, Matt, Olivia,” said the girl.

    “And I didn’t expect to see you either, Trista,” Matt replied, smiling. “I guess Anabel invited you too. It’s been more than four years since you were in the finals at the Sootopolis Grand Festival, hasn’t it?”

    “It has, it has.” Noticing something that confused her, Trista’s facial expression became inquisitive. “Isn’t something missing? Where’s Sheena?”

    “We’re not seeing each other anymore.” Matt’s answer was mumbling and melancholy, and he couldn’t look Trista in the eyes while giving it. “It was on good terms though. We just decided that things weren’t what we both wanted.”

    “I’m sorry I brought it up…”

    “Oh, no, don’t worry about it!” Quick to change his tune, Matt rushed to ensure Trista didn’t think he was upset with her. “Everything was on very good terms. I do wish that we had managed to stay in touch, but I’ll meet her again sometime or another. No need to worry about that now. What’s been up since we last met?”

    “I’ve been taking some time off from traveling, so I’ve been unwinding back where I was born, in Whitegold City. This is the first big thing I’ve done in a while, actually.”

    “Whitegold City?” Olivia suddenly cut in. “That’s where your speech is, isn’t it, Matt?”

    “Yeah, it is.” Noticing Trista’s confused gaze, Matt explained, “After this, I’m going to Whitegold City to give a speech on alternative energy sources at a banquet sponsored by Everton International.”

    While Matt, Olivia and Trista continued chatting – with Nekou still lurking around – they were all unaware that they were being watched. At a table on the far end of the dining area, twirling the straw in his drink, was a young man with an air of mystery. Many of his features were obscured by the wide, dark hat, black longcoat and scarf he was wearing, but a scowl was visible on his face.

    “Matt Chiaki and the vile pretender Olivia Mistbloom… ugh. She does not even deserve to bear that name. All of you who call Rich Mistbloom a hero… I will personally exact vengeance on all of you!”

    Quite unexpectedly, the mood in the hall was changed when the televisions were switched from what they had on. All of the monitors first displayed a short animation of the Frontier Society logo, followed by a series of panning shots of the stadium.

    “Good day, one and all!” blared the voice of the stadium’s announcer, ensuring that all eyes were on one of the screens. “It’s a brisk but lovely day here at the Indigo Plateau, so welcome to the Frontier Society charity tournament to benefit Cinnabar Island’s reconstruction! Trainers have come from all over the world to both watch this battle and buy in as well. Now, let’s get started! To open the proceedings, we have Cinnabar Island Gym Leader Blaine and Frontier Society Commissioner Anabel to give some remarks.”

    The main chamber of the stadium – the battling area – was also its most extravagant. While the battlefield itself was not very different from that of an ordinary stadium, most everything else was. The walls, columns and floor around the seats were all done in various shades of gold, lending the stadium a majestic appearance. A retractable dome topped the chamber, as well.

    Above the battlefield was a balcony, and a man stepped out onto it, then approached the microphone unit set up on it. He wore a white hat with a red band and dark sunglasses that glistened in the light, along with a classy white vest over his distinctive crimson shirt. Also, he had a sharp white moustache, wore light brown slacks, and held a cane shaped in a question mark.

    “Hah! Welcome, all of you! As you might remember, six years ago, our beloved Cinnabar Island was destroyed by a fiery wrath from the bowels of our very planet. All that we knew was taken from us in a single night. But fittingly, as fire can tear down, fire can rebuild!” Blaine’s spirit burned as hot as the fire he spoke so lovingly of, energizing the crowd. “Like the phoenix written of in legend, Cinnabar Island will rise again, bigger and better than it ever was before! The Frontier Society's generous sponsorship of this tournament will allow us to rebuild our beloved home! Cinnabar Island will rise again! And now, Frontier Society president Anabel Mistbloom will deliver some remarks on this occasion.”

    To brisk applause, Blaine stepped away from the microphone. A second figure appeared in the darkness of the entryway to the balcony and slowly made its way out. The first thing to appear was a leg encased in a purple pant made of the finest cotton from exotic countries, quickly followed by the second. A rim of frilly white lace hung around the woman’s waist, as well as around the sleeves of her light-purple top.

    “My mom!” Olivia exclaimed, glued to the television. “She is here!”

    “Anabel is here…” Matt repeated. He was looking at the screen in shock – Anabel looked quite different than she did the last time they had met. Once a petite woman with a vibrant face full of life, the years since then hadn’t treated her well. Visibly malnourished – somewhat bloated around the midsection but very bony in the arms – her face was now sunken in, with dark circles under her dull, lifeless eyes. Her expression was just as empty, and her once short, vividly-purple hair was now a blank silvery shade and much longer, with bangs growing nearly over her eyes.

    This sad spectacle only continued when she attempted to speak. She opened her mouth, but no words came out, forcing her to nervously clear her throat instead. She then adjusted the microphone in front of herself while clearly struggling to find words.

    “Yes, thank you... as Blaine said, this is quite the occasion. A region-wide Battle Frontier where trainers of all skill levels could better themselves... we both dreamed of it. It makes me unspeakably happy to see its inception with my own eyes.” One wouldn’t know this by the pained look on Anabel’s face, which communicated many emotions but not happiness. “Three years ago, we set these events in motion. With the help of Johto’s own Professor Elm and Professors Aurea and Cedric Juniper from Unova, the Frontier Society undertook a great experiment to migrate exotic species of Pokémon from overseas to Johto and Kanto, creating the possibility for the first truly global adventure right in a trainer’s backyard. Aurea Juniper has continued studying the migration patterns and effects of these new Pokémon in their environments, providing enlightening findings that prove our project was successful. Now, three years later, the Frontier Society is finally ready to formally open. If Rich were here, he would truly be…” At the mention of Rich, Anabel choked up again. Her face clenched as she tried to fight back tears. “He would truly be proud of everything we’ve done to realize his dream. He always envisioned a competitive trail where anyone of any skill level could battle and improve while enjoying themselves, and we’ve finally made that come true. With Rich in our memories… let’s commence the tournament to honor the Frontier Society’s opening.”

    Putting aside his concerns about Anabel for the moment, Matt reached into his bag and withdrew a Dusk Ball, a special kind of Poké Ball colored mainly black and patterned with green circles. “Well, Tanya, the time we’ve prepared for has finally come. If we are to learn the truth behind what happened that day… it all begins here.”

    -:-

    When the tournament commenced, many tough trainers and Pokémon were pitted against each other. A total of sixty-four trainers entered for a series of one-on-one sudden-death battles. As he was slotted in the fifth bracket out of thirty-two, Matt had to simply observe the first four battles. He watched as Klinklang, a Steel-type Pokémon comprised of four interlocking silver gears – one of them with a simple face – and a spiked rim faced and was defeated by the Feraligatr commanded by a familiar young man with long red hair.

    In the second battle, Trista battled using Nova, her Typhlosion, against her opponent’s Lucario. She effortlessly won this battle and moved on. As for the third of the matches, it saw the Normal-type Bouffalant – a large buffalo covered with brown fur on most of its body save for its head, where an oversized black tuft resembling an afro grew – defeat a Fearow. Finally, in battle number four, a boy using a Dugtrio managed to overpower his opponent’s Exploud.

    When the time came for his battle, Matt found himself facing the mysterious trainer who had been watching him in the dining room, which, of course, he was still unaware of. The trainer didn’t care that Anabel and Olivia were both watching from their respective vantage points when he cursed Matt for being associated with them and with Rich, but when he sent out nothing more than a Drowzee, Matt casually threw him aside using Tanya, his Heatran, and her Dark Pulse. He didn’t even manage to learn the young man’s name.

    Sometime later, in the fifteenth bracket, the Teachy TV idol Yoko sent out her Meganium and managed to win against a Lapras. Some of the other matches in the rest of the first round included Kingler VS. Crobat, Porygon2 VS. Dusknoir, Mr. Mime VS. Staraptor, Gliscor VS. Zangoose, and Leafeon VS. Mismagius.

    During all the battles, Anabel sat alone in her own personal luxury box, holding a cup of coffee in her trembling, gaunt hand. Blaine had a similar box, but it was elsewhere in the stadium. Meanwhile, in the dining room, a man with thin black hair and thick eyebrows, who was wearing a heavy brown trenchcoat over his dark suit, sat at a table. He pretended to be watching one of the televisions but was barely paying it any mind, instead opting to thumb through a small notebook marked “Notes of Investigation” and glance suspiciously at other customers.

    The thirty-two remaining trainers were then divided into sixteen brackets for the second round. Yoko and Meganium had to defeat the Kingler trainer and had little trouble doing so, while the young man with the Feraligatr came out on top against the trainer using Mr. Mime. Trista wiped out the Leafeon facing Nova in one hit with Eruption. Matt had a great struggle in this round, as he was pitted against the Bouffalant trainer; he had to hit Bouffalant repeatedly with powerful Flash Cannon and Dark Pulse attacks before it went down, but Bouffalant did not have any especially effective moves against Tanya.

    Meanwhile, Nekou was still in the dining room as well, but her situation had changed greatly. She had a large spread of various foods before herself – several hamburgers, piles of French fries, bags of potato chips and pretzels, and a tall plate of macaroni and cheese – all of which she was relishing in along with the huge sodas she was hydrating herself with. Lying on the table amongst all of this food was the reason why she was able to do all of this – she’d stolen Matt’s credit card.

    With sixteen trainers remaining, the tournament continued. Over the next rounds, Matt faced a Glalie, which he defeated easily, and the Porygon2, which put up a mighty fight it very nearly won using electrical attacks. Trista and Nova had their own challenges, barely overcoming the swift, dangerous attacks of the Gliscor in the tournament with Eruption before coming up against Druddigon, a Dragon-type Pokémon with a rugged, spiky blue body, a red head, and jagged blue wings. Yoko, meanwhile, had to put her Meganium against a Lickilicky and a Slaking, both of which Meganium had to rely on her bulk to wear out and win against. Finally, the red-haired young man with the Feraligatr handily defeated the Mamoswine and Ninetales he battled.

    With that, the semifinal matchups were set. Trista would face Yoko, while Matt would face Silver, the Feraligatr trainer.

    -:-

    “Nova, use Flame Burst, quickly!”

    “Counter with AncientPower, Meganium!”

    Both Nova and Yoko’s Meganium, having taken several hits each in the course of their battle, still showed great amounts of energy as they went in for another clash. With an earth-shaking roar, Nova took the first move by belching out a large fireball. Meganium didn’t flinch in the face of this, however, and fought back by pulling up and throwing several rocks using psychic power. The fireball was hit by one of the rocks, splitting it up into smaller chunks that then got split further by the other rocks. By the time Meganium actually got hit, she only had to take a few smaller blows.

    “The two attacks all but cancel each other out!” declared the announcer. “How will Trista and Yoko move on from this?”

    Seizing on Trista’s hesitance, Yoko found an opening and showed a surprising amount of skill in doing so. “Meganium, Nature Power!”

    The flower around Meganium’s neck started to glow, followed by the Grass-type Pokémon creating a field of energy divided into red, blue and yellow.

    “That’s Tri Attack!” Trista growled as she saw the energy field coming rapidly toward Nova. “Nova, try to dodge it as you use Blast Burn and finish this up!”

    Just before the swirling vortex of energy swept over Nova, threatening not only to injure him but to possibly paralyze or freeze him, he fell forward to all fours. Tri Attack harmlessly sailed over him, prompting Yoko to scream in frustration. This stance was also perfect for Nova to carry out his own attack, using the fiery quills around his neck to engulf Meganium in a stream of flames.

    “Come on, Meganium!” Yoko cried. “I know you can get yourself out of this! Break the fire with AncientPower!”

    “Megaaaa…” growled Meganium, struggling desperately against the relentless force of Nova’s flames. She used every bit of energy she had left in a valiant attempt to pull up another AncientPower attack, but right as the rocks started to lift from the ground, her body gave out.

    “Meganium is unable to battle!” called out the battle’s referee, gesturing toward Trista and Nova with the flag in his right hand. “The winner of this battle is Trista of Whitegold City!”

    “And that’s it! Moving on to the finals is Trista, showing off her powerful fire skills once again!”

    -:-

    “How interesting that she makes it this far…” Anabel observed, watching Trista’s battle from her personal box. She silently recalled how, at the Pokémon Contest Grand Festival five years earlier, she had battled Trista and Nova in a semifinal match of her own. Beating Trista back then was a struggle, but it was a memory she was still fond of. Thinking of it also made her think of Rich, her late husband and Olivia’s father, but Anabel had numbed herself to the pain so much that she remembered only how proud he was of her winning the Grand Festival.

    Snapping herself partially out of her haze of memories, Anabel looked down at the coffee cup in her hand. It was empty, and this wouldn’t do for the level of exhaustion she felt. Sighing, she lifted her heavy, stiff body out of her seat and turned, intending to go refill the cup.

    Standing in the doorway, accompanied by her Arbok, was Ariana.

    “Honey, as much as I can appreciate the need for a good cappuccino, you ain’t leaving this room.”

    -:-

    Having plowed through the hamburgers and macaroni and cheese, Nekou was now devouring the rest of the pretzels and potato chips she’d racked up using the credit card stolen from Matt. She was oblivious to her surroundings until several people ran down the hall on the other end of the dining room.

    “Hm? Is something going on?” Nekou grimaced bitterly and reached into her pocket. “What a bother. It shouldn’t be so hard to get some peace to eat in. Screw it.”

    From her pocket, Nekou withdrew a small, rectangular device with a plus-sign shaped control pad, two buttons, a digital screen and two earbud-style earphones. She put the listeners into her ears and started using the control pad to click through the device’s directory, until she found the title ‘Alejandro.’

    “Finally, some peace and quiet.”

    Nekou hit one of the buttons, starting the music on her player, then went back to her food.

    -:-

    “You… I knew you looked familiar!”

    In the hallway connecting the other areas of the stadium to the actual battlefield, Matt had run into Silver and quickly come to a realization – though they had never quite met face-to-face before, Matt had seen Silver battle. It was at the Grand Championship of the Go-Rock Frontier five years earlier, though Rich – who had been Matt’s friend at the time as well – never battled him.

    “I know we haven’t met,” Silver coldly said. “I’m good with faces. You don’t look like someone I know.”

    “It was the Grand Championship five years ago, actually. I watched you battle because I was with Rich Mistbloom at the time.”

    “Oh, so you were his friend? I guess battling you should be a worthwhile challenge. A man like him would have been prejudiced with who he befriended.”

    “That doesn’t make sense,” Matt answered back as the two started walking side-by-side down the hall. “He was just a pretty easygoing guy from when I knew him. He wouldn’t hate anyone unless they really did something to earn that hatred.”

    “I didn’t know the guy, so I mean, there’s no love lost there that I have to fight you. You’re just a worthy opponent for me, that’s all.”

    Matt and Silver walked past a television screen on the wall just as it buzzed to life with a hijacked signal, catching them off guard and prompting them to stop.

    “Today… we are pleased to announce the revival of Team Rocket!” boomed Giovanni’s voice over a shot of the battlefield.

    “Team Rocket?” Matt uttered, his eyes widening to reflect the surprise he felt. “That band of criminals from years ago?”

    However, for as surprised as Matt was, the mixture of shock and rage on Silver’s face easily outsized it. “Team Rocket… they’re back?! I’ve had enough of these worthless…”

    “Yes! Yes! Being back they are, troublemaking once again, that is what they’re doing!”

    Running down the hall with his dark leather shoes banging loudly against the floor, the man in the heavy brown trench coat came up to Matt and Silver. He was in such a rush, though, that he had to catch his breath immediately upon reaching them.

    “Looker?!” gasped Matt. This was yet another person he knew in some way from the past. “Boy, this day keeps getting better and better. Let me guess, you knew they’d be here?”

    “Indeed, I did know in fact! The Team Rocket and its plan of resurrection has been tracking on my radar for a time that’s quite long!”

    “Whoa, whoa, back up,” Silver said in frustration, while shaking his head. “Who is this guy again?”

    “I am a globe-trotting elite agent of the International Police! My name… no, my code name, it is Looker. That is what they all call me. Currently I am being posted to the case of the Team Rocket and their resurrect…”

    “As you can see, Team Rocket has taken this stadium and its inhabitants hostage…” Several images flashed on the screen, including Proton guarding the defeated contestants with his Weezing, then Ariana and Arbok holding Anabel hostage in her box. “We, the executives of Team Rocket, hereby issue our demand. We demand $1 billion in cash to be delivered via a single helicopter from the Tohjo Continent government offices in exchange for the safety of all the hostages in the stadium.”

    “I didn’t think they’d be low enough to pull a stunt like this…”

    “An observation of astuteness, Matt Chiaki.” Looker turned to Silver and set his hand on the young man’s shoulder. “You shall now be becoming my assistant in rescuing the trainers who were defeated.”

    “What?! I didn’t volunteer for that!”

    “Too bad, having been drafted you’ve been. Matt, go to the main arena of battle! Take down the one who calls himself their boss of the Team Rocket, and I will be along shortly to bring him under arrest! Now, away we go!”

    Dragging a sighing Silver by the arm, Looker ran off down the hallway back toward where the chamber for the defeated trainers was. After shaking his head to get out his frustration over the situation, Matt turned and went the opposite way, toward the arena.

    -:-

    “What do you… what do you want out of me exactly?” Anabel uttered in sheer exasperation. She’d sent out a Gothitelle – a humanoid Psychic-type Pokémon whose black body was divided into conical sections, each with a white ribbon fronting them – but Ariana had simply blown her off.

    “Like I said, honey, I ain’t got a problem with you. There’s no reason for us to battle. It doesn’t fit in with the mission at all one bit. Although… this is one hell of a luxury setup you’ve got for yourself.” Gesturing around the room, Ariana continued, “Look at this stuff. Plush seats, fine carpeting, air conditioning accurate to the tenth of a degree… honey, I can tell you sure know how to appreciate the finer points of life, even if it’s not obvious on the surface.”

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  13. #13
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    “It’s how Rich would have wanted it!” Anabel blurted out, before even realizing it. “He would have built it this way for me!”

    “A man, huh? Honey, I think you’ve got to acknowledge to yourself that like it or not you want this stuff for yourself. It doesn’t matter if your man would have wanted it for you too, a woman does what she wants in the end. Now sit down and relax. I told you I have no reason to hurt you, all you need to do is stay in here and wait until the ransom is paid.”

    The two women stared at each other. Neither could say they truly understood the person she was looking at, but a certain spark of empathy between the two was undeniably there. It was as if they had both seen things just like their counterpart had, and the only difference was in their reactions.

    This moment didn’t last long, however. A reaction of tense surprise could be heard from the massive crowd outside the box, prompting both Anabel and Ariana to rush to the window.

    Standing out in the middle of the battlefield was Matt, looking around carefully as he searched for the culprit of the attack.

    -:-

    The first thing on Matt’s mind, actually, was ensuring that Olivia was safe. He had to search for her in the stands, but he did manage to spot her, and luckily, she seemed blissfully unaware of just what was going on. She most likely thought the attack was actually just part of the show, so she was still cheering as happily as ever.

    “Good, you’re safe,” Matt said to himself, verifying what he was seeing. Satisfied with his findings, he turned to face in the direction of Anabel’s box. “Leader of Team Rocket, show yourself!” he shouted loudly and brazenly. “If you are truly going to resurrect your team, show your power to me!”

    Matt didn’t actually think his words would have any effect, so when the sound of clapping reached his left ear, he turned toward it and let a surprised gasp escape the confines of his throat.

    He was being approached by Giovanni – whom he recognized from old news reports on the original Team Rocket as the group’s leader – and the criminal boss was sarcastically smiling and clapping. Seemingly, Giovanni was mocking Matt, and Matt knew it.

    “I’ll give you one thing, kid. It sure takes some real guts to face me head-to-head like this.”

    “Guts?” Matt snickered in response, a wry grin appearing on his weathered face. “What takes guts is trying to take an entire stadium hostage with, what, four guys?”

    Though that figure was nothing more than a product of Matt taking a stab in the dark, he was unexpectedly close to the actual size of the Team Rocket group, prompting a shamed grimace from Giovanni. The mob boss parsed his lips while setting his hand on the Poké Ball in the pocket of his suit jacket.

    “It sounds to me that you’re pretty confident in yourself. No matter how small my numbers are, it’s still my team against just you. Team Rocket will not fall! Excadrill, take him down right now! Metal Claw!”

    With lightning-quick motions, Giovanni pulled the Poké Ball from his pocket and threw it into the air, releasing a mole Pokémon whose body was brown with red streaks on its front. Above its white face was a silver iron spike with two curved protrusions rising from it, and likewise, similar spikes made up both of its paddle-like claws, which were each divided into three segments.

    Excadrill plummeted from the height at which it emerged at a great speed, with her right claw drawn back and glittering like metal in preparation for a fierce strike on Matt himself.

    Matt just grinned, not fearing the overwhelming might of the Pokémon facing him.

    Just when it looked like Excadrill’s attack would connect, a shower of sparks indicated that it had hit something that wasn’t quite what Giovanni had expected. Matt had his right arm raised up to protect himself, and protruding from the sleeve of his coat was a silver, pointed metal blade. This rendered Excadrill’s attempted strike completely useless, and with a mere swing of the arm he was using to defend himself, Matt threw Excadrill back.

    “What the…?!” gasped Giovanni, genuinely surprised at what had just happened.

    It wasn’t until what he saw lurking under the now-open eyepiece on the mask covering the left side of Matt’s face that he began to piece things together. Where Matt’s right eye was blue, his left eye was a vivid red. When a small spark of electricity jumped up Matt’s face, making him shudder and close the eyepiece, it just confirmed Giovanni’s suspicions.

    “All of those unusual traits… you’ve got a cybernetic body, haven’t you?”

    “You’ve got me,” Matt admitted, retracting the blade back into his arm. He seemed bitter instead of proud about his abilities. “Just about my entire body was taken from me by the deeds of Team Galactic. My arms, my eye, my left leg… my only choices were to become a living science experiment or spend a lifetime as a nearly limbless stump stuck in a mechanized suit. You can see which one I chose.”

    “Impressive…” Giovanni actually did seem visibly impressed, though by what wasn’t quite clear immediately. “What conviction. A man like you would be a valuable asset for an organization like Team Rocket.”

    “Well you can count me out,” Matt said forcefully. “I owe loyalty to only one cause, and anyone who stands in my way will be eliminated. That is something you can depend upon.”

    “Then show me the force of your convictions. Let me see with my own eyes what kind of power you possess!”

    “If you want it so badly, have it your way. Reuniclus, make your mark!”

    From his bag, Matt produced another of his own Poké Balls, which burst open to release a rather unusual creature. Its main body was similar in shape to a cream-colored, humanoid figure with a large head, but containing that was an external body made of a green, jelly-like substance. This bizarre gelatinous mass shaped ears and two three-fingered hands around the internal body, held up by floating orbs of varying sizes within the jelly.

    “Excadrill, Hone Claws, let’s go.”

    Excadrill’s silver claws began glowing brightly as she crossed them. Just as quickly, she abruptly separated them, making them grow slightly longer and sharper.

    “A move that raises the power of future attacks,” Matt carefully observed. “Unsurprising from a man such as yourself. Reuniclus, hit it with a Focus Blast!”

    Rising high into the air, Matt’s Reuniclus pulled back her arms and focused the energy between her hands, creating a ball of light-blue energy. Once she had taken careful aim, Reuniclus took careful aim and threw the sphere at Giovanni’s Excadrill, hitting her with explosive force that scuffed up the metal on her body.

    “I won’t stand for such a thing!” Giovanni growled at this turn of events. “Excadrill, bring down that pest right now with an X-Scissor!”

    Shaking off the pain from the hit she’d just received, Excadrill started running forward in Reuniclus’s direction, then made a great leap into the air to close the gap between them.

    “Use Flash Cannon to stop it!”

    Reuniclus’s body took on a bright shine as she absorbed light energy into herself. The glow of her external body blocked her vision of where Excadrill was, but she could still sense where her opponent was positioned. That was lucky, for Excadrill was just about to hit with a cross-slashing attack at close range.

    The X-Scissor never connected, though. Right before it made contact, Reuniclus released all of its energy, resulting in a bright explosion of smoke and light. Excadrill was thrown to the ground, while Reuniclus disappeared into the cloud.

    “Finish it off with one last Focus Blast!” Matt cried out, thrusting his right arm out.

    There was no way Excadrill could have seen it coming. The blast that rained down came right from the aftermath of the clash between Flash Cannon and X-Scissor, leaving her a sitting duck. She fainted nearly immediately upon being struck by the attack.

    “You’ve bested me in this round, but it’s not over. Excadrill, return! Now, Donphan…”

    Giovanni reached into his pocket for another Poké Ball, but suddenly, he found himself unable to move his arms. Twisting his head around to see what was wrong, he discovered that Matt’s Reuniclus had somehow gotten behind him and was gripping his arms, rendering him immobile.

    “How the mighty have fallen,” Matt said sarcastically, mocking the fallen Team Rocket boss as he approached the pair. “Good job, Reuniclus, keep him trapped.”

    Coughing, Giovanni panted, “What do you want from me?”

    “Truth.” It was evident that Giovanni did not understand what Matt meant by the confused expression that appeared on his face. Matt also picked this up, and continued, “You were on the top of the world in the circles of villainy and secret societies for years. Surely you picked up some… intelligence that is useful to me. Tell me, what do you know about the incident in La Ciudad Dorada six years ago?”

    “Don’t you know everything about that? You were there!” Seeing that Matt wouldn’t back down, Giovanni resigned himself to answering. “The prince of that country, Count Fernando the Eighth, murdered his parents to instigate the conditions for a revolution. He then got the Heatran you captured – the one from Cinnabar Island’s volcano – to create the conditions for a drought, which he would then solve to earn the gratitude of his people and the right to become king. The final piece of the puzzle was his inviting you to solve where the Golden City of La Ciudad Dorada was hidden, which you did, but you also defeated him and led to his death.”

    “That is all true. Certainly you kept up on your current events then. But…” Matt’s face suddenly darkened considerably. “That’s not what I want to know about. During that incident, I started to care about someone quite deeply. Her name was Eleanor Laplace and she died due to Fernando’s actions… and I have reason to believe a secret group known only as the Guild was involved. Fernando the Eighth accused me of being one of them even though I wasn’t. I want to know everything you know. Tell me about the Guild and what it is.”

    “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” For once, Giovanni was being relatively honest with someone outside of his own allies. “The Guild only existed back in the nineteenth century, where it was involved with the downfall of the Colchester family that ruled this entire continent at the time. There is no more Guild now.”

    Somehow, Matt wasn’t satisfied with this response. He suspected that Giovanni was withholding details, but he was also able to see that getting anything more out of his captive would be impossible. Luckily, just then, Looker came running out onto the battlefield.

    “Ah, well done you have done, Mr. Chiaki!” the detective complimented. “Captured the Executives called Proton and Ariana, that I have done. Seeing that I am that you caught the boss, Giovanni!”

    “Yeah, here he is. It’s not like he has anything interesting to say, so hand him over, Reuniclus.”

    Giovanni growled to himself, as he didn’t appreciate at all the casual insult leveled at him by someone he already didn’t like. He didn’t have much time to wallow in his anger, though, as Reuniclus abruptly shoved him right into Looker’s grasp. With swift movements Looker restrained Giovanni with handcuffs pulled from the deep pockets of his trench coat.

    “Under arrest, that’s what you are, criminal scum!”

    In his own mind, Looker was extremely proud of his work. Enraptured in this bubble, he dragged the miserable, grumbling Giovanni off into the hallway back into the other parts of the building, not even noticing Silver standing there at the passageway. For a split second, as the two men brushed past him, Silver exchanged a heated, angry glance with Giovanni.

    “You were bested again, father,” Silver mumbled, once he was again alone. “If you couldn’t defeat him alone, I have no chance against him either…”

    -:-

    “What do you mean he resigned the match and left?”

    It was about twenty-five minutes after the failed raid on the stadium came to an end. Matt and Olivia had reunited in the dining hall, where things had largely gone back to normal, and he was now being informed by a tournament employee of the fact that Silver had abruptly forfeited his upcoming battle and left, leaving Matt to head to the finals against Trista by default. He didn’t understand quite why Silver would do this, given that the Pokémon he was using had a strong matchup against Tanya.

    “The final match will be held tonight,” revealed the employee. “Please feel free to do what you wish until then.”

    “What was that about?” Olivia had suddenly appeared at Matt’s side while the employee walked off. “You forfeited your match?”

    “No, I didn’t. Silver did. Sounds like he just had a change of heart after that little row just now with Team Rocket. Olivia, want something to eat? There’s not much else to do.”

    “Yeah!” chirped Olivia happily. “Just get me a burger and I’ll be good with it.”

    “Sounds good to me. I could go for one too.” Matt reached into his pocket and felt around – then paused in shock. His credit card was gone. “Damn it, I didn’t need this today,” he angrily spat. “Olivia, have you seen where my credit card’s gone?”

    “Nope,” Olivia answered with a shrug. “Think someone took it?”

    “We’re about to find out. Reuniclus, make your mark!”

    Once again, Matt took the ball containing Reuniclus and threw it into the air, setting the gelatinous Psychic-type free.

    She looked at her trainer and said inquisitively, “Ranku, ranku?”

    “Reuniclus, I need your help. Use your psychic powers and lead me to where my credit card went, would you?”

    “Rankuku!” A soft blue light filled Reuniclus’s eyes as she started using her powers, filtering out slightly to give her body a similar hue. She quickly turned around and began floating off, prompting Matt and Olivia to hurry after her.

    It didn’t take long for the trio to discover the source of the trouble. They all understood when they were led to the table where Nekou had now finished off all of her food save for a huge slice of chocolate cake she was rather messily eating. She was too busy enjoying the food and her music to even notice Matt and Olivia right away.

    She only snapped out of her aloof state when Matt walked up to the table and reclaimed his credit card, which was still sitting right there in the open.

    “What gave you the right to take this?” he snapped.

    In response, Nekou merely raised her face up by tilting her head back, smiled, and took an even messier bite of the cake. “I don’t care. Too busy enjoying this cake.”

    “What?!” Matt was flabbergasted at her attitude, and let it be clearly known. “Take the damn earphones out and listen to me!”

    “Fine,” Nekou sighed, pulling out the two small devices from her ears. “What do you want?”

    “What do I want? Well, you only stole my credit card and racked up what’s got to be a good couple hundred dollars of charges on it!”

    “You wouldn’t want a poor girl like me to starve, now would you?” As she whimpered this, Nekou leaned forward, allowing her chest to rest on the table.

    “Olivia, don’t look at this.” Evidently Matt saw right through Nekou’s ruse. “Don’t even try to play these games with me, Nekou.”

    Nekou’s forced sweet demeanor disappeared instantly, getting replaced by a catty scowl. “Oh, **** it, fine. What do you want out of me?”

    “You’re going to be working for me from this point forward. I don’t care if a deadbeat like you hasn’t worked an honest day in her life. You’re working for me until every penny of the debt you now owe me is paid up in full.”

    “So what’s my first assignment, hmm?” Nekou’s mischievous personality had reemerged, and further, she was in the mood to cause trouble again too. The look on her face was just as shifty. “You want me to do some special tasks for you?”

    Matt instantly understood what she meant, and it made him jump in horror. “No! No, no, no, no, no!” None of them realized that they were beginning to attract a crowd that was staring at their antics. “I want you to act as my assistant, that’s it!!”

    “Your… personal assistant?”

    Overwhelmed with embarrassment and frustration, Matt leaned on the table with his left hand and pressed his right hand against his face.

    “I’m not having this discussion with you. You do what I say, that’s it.”

    “No, you listen to me. I do what I feel like doing. If that just happens to be what you want me to do, you’re lucky.”

    Matt just stared at Nekou, completely exasperated at what he’d gotten himself into. It took him some time to find something to say, and when he did, it was a very simple question. “So how did you get the card off me in the first place, without me noticing?”

    “I didn’t. Marie did.”

    “Who’s Marie?”

    As if on cue, a Sneasel popped out of Nekou’s hair, having been clinging to her back and using her hair as a curtain to hide behind the whole time. She enthusiastically said her name and waved, her adorable appearance provoking a reaction from Olivia.

    “Awwww, it’s so cute!” Matt’s young companion cooed, getting as close to Marie as she possibly could, visibly unnerving the Sneasel. “Aren’t you just the cutest thing? There’s no need to hide!”

    “She’s kinda shy,” Nekou warned, “so back off.”

    “I get the feeling that they’re alike in more ways than just this…” thought Matt as he watched this bizarre scene continue to unfold.

    “Give me a rum, on the rocks. I need one.”

    One person who benefitted from the spectacle created by Nekou’s antics was Anabel, who was able to slip into the dining hall and reach the bar unnoticed. Olivia didn’t notice her mother’s presence until Anabel was already seated at the bar and receiving her drink.

    “Mom! Mom, hi!!”

    In an instant Olivia was across the room and next to her mother, leaving Matt and Reuniclus to catch up. Nekou carefully watched, but did not get up from her table.

    “Mom, I’ve been looking for you!”

    Though she looked at her daughter and smiled slightly, Anabel cringed at the sound of Olivia’s voice, something that Matt quietly picked up on. “It’s good to see you again, Olivia. You’ve grown into a fine young woman.”

    “Thanks!” Olivia’s unfailing cheerfulness completely revealed the fact that she didn’t pick up on her mother’s sorrow at all. “It’s all thanks to Matt taking care of me, though.”

    “Oh, now, now, there’s no need for that.” It wasn’t that Matt felt he didn’t deserve the credit. He certainly believed he had earned recognition for his efforts tending to Olivia, but he didn’t feel comfortable getting such praise from Anabel. “Just keeping a promise.”

    “Was Dad mad at me?”

    The question that had been on Olivia’s mind from the beginning finally came out, interjecting itself into the conversation like a knife. While Matt simply shuddered and then paused fully, surprised by Olivia’s boldness, Anabel’s reaction was another matter entirely. She slowly reeled back, her eyes widening in horror while their pupils shrank. Water could be seen forming in the corners of her eyes as well, but again, Olivia missed it.

    Matt knew he had to jump in. “Olivia, don’t ask such a thing. Of course your dad wasn’t…”

    “I want to hear it from Mom!” snapped Olivia, taking Matt completely aback. He hadn’t suspected for a moment that the girl was capable of such a reaction. “She knew him better than anyone else!”

    Olivia’s outburst cowed Matt, and he wisely chose to withdraw from pressing the issue further. He backed off to allow Olivia the space she needed with her mother, who thankfully seemed to have recovered from the shock of the original question.

    “Dad wasn’t mad at you, Olivia…” Anabel finally managed to respond, albeit in a voice that was barely above a hoarse whisper. “He loved you more than he loved himself. Even more than he loved me. You were his world.”

    “Then why did he abandon us? He promised he’d never leave you and me, Mom! He promised, and he’s been gone for five years now!”

    “You have to understand, Olivia…” The raw negative emotion was beginning to return to Anabel once more. “Sometimes things are demanded of people that require them to leave everything behind. The trip your dad went on… he did it for us, believe it or not.”

    “But five years?!” It was becoming increasingly evident that a lot of pent-up anger and frustration was erupting in Olivia, too. Her eyes were watering, and her voice started to sound scratchy as she continued to yell. “Mom, you have to realize now, Dad left us behind to pursue his own dreams all alone! He didn’t love us anymore!”

    Those words struck many chords in Matt, who was watching quietly from the sidelines. Hearing Olivia completely lose faith in her father drove so many emotional stakes into him that the fingers of his mechanical hands shook with metallic shudders. It contrasted with the situation Matt himself had come up in – neither his mother nor father cared much at all about him or his younger sister Amanda. Worse yet, she was born with deformed legs that doomed her to a wheelchair, and ended up becoming blind due to an accident during an experiment conducted by his father. Eventually the two of them ran away from home, only to be stuck in a blizzard outside Snowpoint City and nearly killed.

    Matt knew the truth about Olivia’s father Rich and what had happened on that day five years earlier, which had come to be referred to as the Day of Reckoning by those familiar with mythology. He was there and so was Olivia, but Olivia was so distracted by the presence of multiple Legendary Pokémon that she didn’t notice what had happened. On what was called the Day of Reckoning, the Legendary Pokémon Arceus was summoned into the world from its Beginning Dimension by an insane woman ironically trying to prevent the prophecy predicting the Day of Reckoning from occurring. She took control of Arceus but her plan went horribly wrong, resulting in Arceus going on a rampage that very nearly resulted in the destruction of the entire universe. Heroically, Rich sacrificed himself to protect the entire plateau they were on from being annihilated by a falling meteor, and he died in Anabel’s arms. From that point forward, nobody was able to tell Olivia the truth about her father’s fate, instead feeding her the lie that he had gone on a short-notice trip. Even in the five years that Matt had been tutoring Olivia as per Rich’s final request, despite her escalating suspicion about the story, he was never able to bring himself to tell her the truth.

    His desire was simple – preserve the truly well-placed belief Olivia had in her father. It was for that reason that watching her lose all faith in him broke Matt’s heart. He simply couldn’t stop himself from interfering again after this.

    “Olivia, go play with Nekou. I need to talk to your mom a bit myself. Maybe Minccino will want to meet Marie.”

    “Oh, that’s a good idea!” Luckily for Matt, his suggestion somehow distracted Olivia enough to get her mind onto a different subject. She rushed back over to the table where Nekou was still sitting and released her Minccino, a small, gray chinchilla Pokémon with large ears, from its ball.

    Satisfied that Olivia’s attention had been sufficiently diverted, Matt sat down at the bar next to Anabel. A visible sadness filled his one uncovered eye, reflective of the anguish he felt over Olivia’s naiveté. “Don’t you think you’re going to have to tell her soon? How much longer can she go on thinking Rich just up and left us?”

    “And you would have her lose the one thing that makes her have any belief in going on with life?” Anabel snapped back, her voice coming out in a hiss garbled by the rum in her throat. “If she believes he’s still out there, at least she has a reason to keep living… she’ll keep going on looking for him…”

    “But she’s believing in a lie,” Matt tried to reason, “and that’s going to make her hurt even more when she eventually does find out the truth. You’ve got to think of that!”

    Anabel ignored Matt’s plea and put her hand to her head while slumping forward in her chair. “Ugh… I have such a ****ing hangover…” Even with this fact, though, she didn’t hesitate to down even more of the alcoholic concoction available to her.

    “Are you sure you’re okay?” The erratic behavior he was witnessing was beginning to worry Matt profoundly. He hadn’t known Anabel for all that long before Rich’s death, but he knew that this was nowhere near normal. “Anabel, please, listen to me. Your hair’s gone white, you look malnourished, you’re drinking heavily… you can’t be coping like this.”

    “Like you’re any different?! Don’t dare project your problems onto me!”

    Matt grunted and pulled back. Anabel’s words were true, overwhelmingly so. Over the years since not only Rich’s death but the incident in La Ciudad Dorada – including Eleanor Laplace’s death, the actions of Fernando VIII and the emergence of knowledge of the Guild’s supposed existence – Matt’s hair had grown much longer, he’d developed five-o-clock shadow and had started turning to drinking himself to escape his own demons. Of course, that was all on top of the extensive surgeries and rehabilitation he had to undergo in order to receive his cyborg body, without which he wouldn’t even have normal mobility. He had been burned badly during the La Ciudad Dorada incident, then the problems were compounded when he was trapped in the evil Team Galactic’s UFO as it exploded at the climax of Rich’s battle against them. Indeed, Matt realized right away that he was just as broken as Anabel, if not more so, and handling it as poorly as she was.

    “Look at this scene, the two of you moping around. You’re even more undeserving than I thought.”

    The tense exchange between Matt and Anabel was interfered with by, of all people, the mysterious trainer Matt had crushed in the first round of the tournament. He still obscured most of his face with a scarf and hat, rendering his identity completely unknown.

    “Who are you?” Anabel wondered aloud. She should have been aware of his name, having watched the entire tournament, but remembering it was the last thing she was thinking about.

    “You’re back after I humiliated you out there? Whatever you’re talking about, you’re probably the most undeserving of all. What are you talking about anyway?”

    “The legacy of Rich Mistbloom,” the mystery trainer answered, remaining perfectly serious throughout. “You, Matt Chiaki… Anabel Ein, the harlot who seduced him… and Olivia Mistbloom, the usurper who resulted from that wretched union… all three of you are my targets. None of you deserve the limelight of that bastard’s legacy, and I will see to it that the truth is told to the world. You asked my name? My name is Renzo. Remember it, as one day I will bring down the entire tainted pyramid upon your heads. It will be an epic event.”

    Before his forced audience could counter with anything at all, Renzo turned and stormed off, leaving the dining hall and the stadium entirely. Left stunned, Matt found that his only option was to try and console Anabel, who was beginning to tear up from the insults Renzo leveled at her and the people she cared about.

    “Anabel, he’s just a jealous poser. Don’t pay attention to people like that. He just wishes he had the kinds of things you have.”

    “I’m a harlot and I seduced Rich…? I really, genuinely loved him…”

    “No, no, don’t listen to those things! I know you loved Rich, and I know you love Olivia too. Don’t listen to people like Renzo.”

    Anabel tilted her head upward so she could meet Matt’s gaze. She stared right into the intense sincerity in his visible eye, and she was sure that underneath his eyepiece, his cybernetic eye reflected the same. Just that gaze gave her the consoling she needed, and she was able to wipe the tears from her eyes.

    “Matt? Matt, there you are!”

    Much to Matt’s pleasant surprise, the voice calling to him this time was not only recognized, it was friendly too. His mouth cracked into a slight smile as he lifted and turned his head toward the voice’s source, a woman wearing a sharp, black-and-gray business suit. She had sparkling blue eyes that contrasted against her brown hair, which was arranged into a pair of long, wide ponytails.

    “So you finally made it, you little trickster!” Matt chuckled, offering the girl a handshake, which she firmly accepted.

    “It was a long ride to get here, but it sure was worth it.” Spying Anabel, the woman became visibly concerned and asked, “Did I interrupt something?”

    “No, not at all. Let me introduce everyone… Anabel, this is my friend Bunny Spruce. She’s an archeologist and historian of some note who I’ve worked with in the past. Now we’re organizing an expedition up to the mountains near here to find the Argyros Ruins.”

    “They’re ruins of an ancient town settled by devout Tenganists thousands of years ago,” Bunny further elaborated. “The town has been gone since ancient times, but we wanted to go see it and look for anything about their culture we could find. And Matt, I have to tell you...” Before continuing, Bunny smiled broadly. “The advance team located the site. I know exactly where the Argyros Ruins are. Are you ready to go see them?”

    “Of course, do you even need to ask?” Matt stood and nodded to Anabel. “Anabel, feel better, okay? I’ll be back in a few hours and we can talk more. Bunny, how about I introduce you to my own team?”

    “Go right ahead. I’ll need to know them anyway, after all.”

    After taking several steps away from the bar, Matt beckoned for Bunny to follow him, and the two of them walked to the table where Olivia and Nekou were watching Minccino and Marie play under Reuniclus’s watchful eye.

    “Bunny, first, you’ve already spoken to Olivia before.”

    “We haven’t met since I gave that guest lecture at the Rustboro School four years ago, but I remember you well,” Bunny said, extending her hand to Olivia. “You’ve grown into a fine young woman, Olivia!”

    “You got that right!” was Olivia’s cheeky response. It would have come off as arrogant if she wasn’t giggling while she said it.

    “The final member of the team is… this one…” Matt sarcastically said while gesturing toward Nekou. “Her name’s Nekou, and she’s working as my assistant for a while to pay off some debts.”

    “Bodyguard,” Nekou suddenly chimed in, attempting to derail and ruin Matt’s explanation. “I’m guarding his body.”

    “This is going to be one pleasant trip…” Matt thought, slumping over in annoyance.

    -:-

    Not far from the stadium, Giovanni sat alone in a small room in the basement of an unknown facility. He was sitting on a small metal chair at a table and had his hands cuffed behind his back.

    When the door on the far end of the room opened, Giovanni looked up, but he only growled when he saw that it was Looker, entering with a cup of coffee in his hand.

    “I won’t make your job easy,” snapped the criminal boss.

    “Now, now, not be I wanting you to do that,” Looker answered, sitting down at the table. “If easy is the interrogation, then fun it isn’t. I just am having of a few questions to be asking of you…”

    -:-

    Somewhere, in a small temple contained within a cave, a flash of light appeared. It expanded rapidly until it was a radial cluster of energy, almost like a portal. A Pichu spilled out of it and stumbled up, scratching her head as she attempted to figure out her surroundings. She wasn’t just any normal Pichu, though – her left ear had three pronounced spike-shaped tufts protruding from its tip.

    “Pichu?” she said, her voice echoing through the empty stone chamber.











    END of CHAPTER 1

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    You did fantastic work on this chapter! I really enjoyed reading all of it, and you've improved even more. You did really well with the descriptions of places in this chapter, like the stadium the battles took place in, and at showing the brief scenes of battles. I felt like you also wrote dialogue especially effectively in this chapter, and managed to capture the emotions and feelings of all the characters perfectly. The way you wrote the Rockets, especially Ariana and Giovanni, was flawless, and captured them and their personalities very well, and you should be happy about that. I also liked how you had Anabel at the absolute end of her rope in terms of her despair- it was devastating seeing her fall apart and seeing her forced to lie to Olivia about Rich's whereabouts, as well as Matt's insistence she tell the truth. You made it clear she's been broken and destroyed by her pain.

    The way you worked in the little flashbacks was excellent and seamless. You showed what needed to be shown without distracting from the main story, and that's often hard to pull off.

    Overall, very good work!

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    More please

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    Dawwww, Olivia is still so adorable! ;D I didn't expect her to snap at Matt though. That was a nice little change in her normally naive & cheerful attitude.

    AND NEKOU. AHHHH, I WANT HER. WE CAN BE CHOCOLATE BUDDIES TOGETHER. AND LOOKER MAKES A RETURN! <333

    All in all, it was a good chapter. I adore this story. It's really nice to see the change in Anabel and how she's affected by all of this. Really, keep up the good work! =D

  17. #17
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    The first part with Giovanni and the other Rocket executives is interesting. Resurrection of Team Rocket? This shall be good. *nods*

    Aw, I love Olivia. She was very adorable when she said she was hungry and also excited over the tv show. And woot, Nekou! Great first appearance there—indeed, a girl’s gotta have her chocolate. :P It’s also nice to see Trista. I quite like her a lot in Pokemon XD^3.

    Oh man, Anabel…:< Dang it, those ~FEELINGS~ from the ending are coming back. ;_; I find it a bit weird though Olivia didn’t catch on when her mother said “with Rich in our memories.” I would O: Other than that, I thought it’s quite interesting Professor Juniper is doing that migration program.

    Hm, I kinda wished you showed the battle between Matt and the mysterious man, or at least the last part of it. I know it would mean making this chapter very long, but I don’t know I didn’t like how you set up the mysterious man to have his revenge over Matt, only to set aside the battle altogether. I LOLed though over Nekou using Matt’s credit card for food.

    The part where Anabel reflects her battle with Trista, all I’m going say is this:

    Snapping herself partially out of her haze of memories, Anabel looked down at the coffee cup in her hand. It was empty, and this wouldn’t do for the level of exhaustion she felt. Sighing, she lifted her heavy, stiff body out of her seat and turned, intending to go refill the cup.

    Standing in the doorway, accompanied by her Arbok, was Ariana.

    “Honey, as much as I can appreciate the need for a good cappuccino, you ain’t leaving this room.”
    Oh noez, Anabel! D:

    The battle between Matt and Giovanni is short but fast paced and nicely done. I also like how Reuniclus hold off Giovanni for a while, haha. Also, woot for Looker's appearance! I always love that guy.

    So Matt and Nekou are working together now? Looking forward to that, LOL. Ouch with Olivia snapping at Matt and Anabel at her worst, but it's to be expected.

    Woo, my Bunny! I want to say real quick Bunny doesn't use contractions, although after NE she grew out of that habit...In fact, Bunny not using contractions bothered me after I finished NE and wanted to change that if I ever decided to do a huge rewrite of NE. ANYWAYS, yeah I'm fine with Bunny speaking like a normal person. XD;

    So yeah, overall Chapter One a lot. Dawn and Felly already said my thoughts over this chapter. Can't wait for Chapter Two!


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  18. #18
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    “Bodyguard,” Nekou suddenly chimed in, attempting to derail and ruin Matt’s explanation. “I’m guarding his body.”
    One chapter in and Nekou is already my favorite character in this entire story.

    This is already very interesting. Anabel's dealing with Rich's death is nicely touched upon, and Silver's appearance is also welcome. And, of course, what would Silver be without a bit of Team Rocket thrown in? I have to wonder, though, how long Giovanni will be in police captivity. I also have to wonder why Matt's Reniculus is unnamed, while the rest of his Pokemon (Tanya, Sally, etc.) all have nicknames. Maybe he hasn't thought of one yet?

    Now, I wanted to save a special sentence or two for Renzo, because given a little hint dropped by Zook back in XD^3 (and my thinking too much), he's clearly going to be a prominent antagonist. Matt and the others shouldn't be putting him out of their minds too soon, methinks.

    Can't wait to see what happens in the future, especially whatever it is Renzo has planned. Should be intriguing (because I've used "interesting" too much already).
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    Quote Originally Posted by Morpher01 View Post
    One chapter in and Nekou is already my favorite character in this entire story.
    There's plenty more of her in store. A lot more. And you will not be displeased.

    This is already very interesting. Anabel's dealing with Rich's death is nicely touched upon, and Silver's appearance is also welcome. And, of course, what would Silver be without a bit of Team Rocket thrown in? I have to wonder, though, how long Giovanni will be in police captivity.
    The answer comes in the next chapter.

    I also have to wonder why Matt's Reniculus is unnamed, while the rest of his Pokemon (Tanya, Sally, etc.) all have nicknames. Maybe he hasn't thought of one yet?
    Not sure when I would be able to work this in, so I'll mention here that he got it in a trade in the interim time.

    Now, I wanted to save a special sentence or two for Renzo, because given a little hint dropped by Zook back in XD^3 (and my thinking too much), he's clearly going to be a prominent antagonist. Matt and the others shouldn't be putting him out of their minds too soon, methinks.
    At least one of your predictions is right. I won't say which one.


    Quote Originally Posted by Bay
    Oh man, Anabel…:< Dang it, those ~FEELINGS~ from the ending are coming back. ;_; I find it a bit weird though Olivia didn’t catch on when her mother said “with Rich in our memories.”
    Olivia's very naive and in denial about the whole thing. She thought Anabel meant to remember him because he left.

    Hm, I kinda wished you showed the battle between Matt and the mysterious man, or at least the last part of it. I know it would mean making this chapter very long, but I don’t know I didn’t like how you set up the mysterious man to have his revenge over Matt, only to set aside the battle altogether.
    I already explained this in the chat, but it was a deliberate choice in order to foster both a strong visualization for the difference in power between Matt and Renzo and a sense of mystery for just what he wants, which will be elaborated on sometime in the future.

    Quote Originally Posted by Felly
    Dawwww, Olivia is still so adorable! ;D I didn't expect her to snap at Matt though. That was a nice little change in her normally naive & cheerful attitude.
    She's a little more complex than she used to be. Given that she's fourteen now, it should show.

    AND NEKOU. AHHHH, I WANT HER. WE CAN BE CHOCOLATE BUDDIES TOGETHER.
    Everyone wants to be Nekou's chocolate buddy.

    Thanks for the reviews so far, everyone! I'm hard at work on the next chapter, which will probably be quite a bit longer.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rudruma View Post
    Dude seriously you must take at least a YEAR to update :/
    I assure you, I'm working on the next chapter. It's taking so long because it's significantly longer than the others so far.

    Why don't you tell me what you've liked so far while I work on it?

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  21. #21
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    Well, now that I've caught up with your works, I've finally gotten into reading The Firestorm Rebellion. I've got to say, you've really improved in your writing since I last read the stories you're trying to tell.

    So far, this is a pretty strong start, and I'm really enjoying myself reading this. I'm loving what you've unfolded so far with a prologue and chapter, and you've got a nice story to start. Your overall writing is great as usual, but I'm loving all of the characterization within.

    It's been interesting to see how Matt and Olivia have formed since the events of XD^3. For whatever reason The Six Million Dollar Man kept coming to my mind with Matt, but I wouldn't want to make a real joke out of it.

    I really love how Anabel's developed. Granted, we all wish things could be happy, but to see what has happened to her after Rich's death is a unique and intriguing. I know I never saw this while reading XD^3. It's a surprising, well-done concept. I mean, I can understand any husband/wife would be depressed if they lost their spouse, but I certainly didn't see Anabel becoming this. It's definitely depressing and gives off a saddening vibe, but it definitely works.

    Of course, glad to see the characters from the canon that you've brought in, such as Team Rocket's Giovanni and executives, Looker (gotta love the man that hides behind poles), Silver, and I'm sure there will be plenty of others that will be fun to see.

    I'm loving some of the new characters so far, especially Nekou. God, she is such a troll, in the most amusing way. Now that she'll be tagging along, I can see some pretty humorous character development ahead. And on a random note, as much as I dislike Lady Gaga, I can easily imagine Nekou listening to Alejandro. IT. WAS. PERFECT.

    And now for me to do some pointless analyzing:

    Quote Originally Posted by The Great Butler View Post
    “We, the executives of Team Rocket, hereby issue our demand. We demand $1 billion in cash to be delivered via a single helicopter from the Tohjo Continent government offices in exchange for the safety of all the hostages in the stadium.”
    I'm sure there was no intention on this at all, and I don't know why, but I seriously imagined Dr. Evil planning to hold the world ransom for one million dollars.


    Quote Originally Posted by The Great Butler View Post
    Just when it looked like Excadrill’s attack would connect, a shower of sparks indicated that it had hit something that wasn’t quite what Giovanni had expected. Matt had his right arm raised up to protect himself, and protruding from the sleeve of his coat was a silver, pointed metal blade. This rendered Excadrill’s attempted strike completely useless, and with a mere swing of the arm he was using to defend himself, Matt threw Excadrill back.
    I'm feeling some FMA allusion, which is awesome to take advantage of Matt like this.

    All jokes and randomness aside, I'm thrilled with how this is going so far, and I can't wait for the upcoming chapter two. I'm really looking forward to it, as well as this story as a whole.
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    Apologies for the incoming chain posts. The new chapter is ready but I need to reply to the reviews separately.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jolteon Jordan View Post
    So far, this is a pretty strong start, and I'm really enjoying myself reading this. I'm loving what you've unfolded so far with a prologue and chapter, and you've got a nice story to start. Your overall writing is great as usual, but I'm loving all of the characterization within.
    Thanks. Characterization is what I'm really putting my stock in this time, so it's good to know that it's coming off well so far.

    It's been interesting to see how Matt and Olivia have formed since the events of XD^3. For whatever reason The Six Million Dollar Man kept coming to my mind with Matt, but I wouldn't want to make a real joke out of it.
    Haha. That comparison is apt, even though it's not what was at the front of my mind. See below for more.

    I really love how Anabel's developed. Granted, we all wish things could be happy, but to see what has happened to her after Rich's death is a unique and intriguing. I know I never saw this while reading XD^3. It's a surprising, well-done concept. I mean, I can understand any husband/wife would be depressed if they lost their spouse, but I certainly didn't see Anabel becoming this. It's definitely depressing and gives off a saddening vibe, but it definitely works.
    Her characterization was something I worked especially hard on. I thought, how would this happen to someone, realistically? Not only did she lose her husband, it brought down her entire world. She was someone with simple, rather traditional desires, and she was living in an ideal, happy world just being Rich's wife and Olivia's mom. Now Rich is gone, and compounding the problem, Olivia is growing up. She's quickly losing all her anchors on her reality. Once I came to my conclusion about that, I exaggerated it a bit because everything in my universe is exaggerated from real life, but I think at its core it's something that can be realistically related to.

    I'm loving some of the new characters so far, especially Nekou. God, she is such a troll, in the most amusing way. Now that she'll be tagging along, I can see some pretty humorous character development ahead. And on a random note, as much as I dislike Lady Gaga, I can easily imagine Nekou listening to Alejandro. IT. WAS. PERFECT.
    You are going to love her. She's not just going to be a humorous troll character, either - but you will enjoy her presence the whole way through.

    I'm sure there was no intention on this at all, and I don't know why, but I seriously imagined Dr. Evil planning to hold the world ransom for one million dollars.
    *snerk*

    That made me laugh, I'll admit, even though I was playing it straight.

    I'm feeling some FMA allusion, which is awesome to take advantage of Matt like this.
    While this is not inaccurate, I think it is worth pointing out that the main conceptualization for this aspect came from Jeremiah Gottwald, who was an actual cyborg, whereas Edward merely had prosthetics. That difference is reflected in the arm blades - Edward's was a transformation of his forearm, while Jeremiah's (and thus, Matt's) extends and retracts from within the arm.

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    Pressing on. In this chapter the significant part of the plot starts moving in full.

    It is important to note that there has been a major change of plans concerning this project going forward. Previously, this project was to be made up of three stories, but the second – this story’s first sequel – is being removed with its events being folded into other things. At the conclusion of this story the plot will advance directly to the third story.

    -:-


    CHAPTER 2: The Nostalgia of the Life Orb







    Looker’s questioning of Giovanni had gone on for some time, but the two were still seated at the table in the dingy holding room. Giovanni’s threat to make the interrogation difficult had been followed through on, as he attempted to avoid answering as many things as possible. Despite this, Looker was relatively satisfied with the answers and confirmations of Giovanni’s plans he was receiving.

    “Now, want to be knowing I am of those that were working with you on this plan that was half-baked. Already arrested I have, the ones calling themselves Proton and Ariana. Want to be knowing more about these two…” From his files, Looker pulled two documents and thrust them onto the table before Giovanni’s eyes. “N. Lalume and G. Neumann. These two haven’t been being rounded up. What I am wanting to know is about them.”

    “Lalume had nothing to do with any of this. She just does what I tell her to do, and even then, she doesn’t always listen. She’s a wild one, an independent and free mind that takes orders from noone. Gideon on the other hand…”

    Just then, Giovanni was interrupted by the sound of the interrogation room door opening. One of Looker’s subordinates was standing behind it.

    “Mr. Looker, sir. There’s a call for you.”

    “Then seems it be that we will have to put this interrogation of questioning on hold. Excuse me.”

    Looker rose from his seat, and after taking note to push the chair back under the table, exited the room. Right outside, the officer was waiting with the phone, which he handed to his superior immediately.

    “Hello, being this is Inspector Looker.” Suddenly, Looker’s face changed as he heard whatever the person on the other end of the line was telling him. His blank expression became one of surprise. “You really are certainly sure that such a thing is being appropriate? Being a large risk, it is. …Oh, no, sir, never would I think to backtalk you. That is not something I would ever be caught not not doing! Got it I am having. Goodbye, sir.”

    After hanging up the phone, Looker stepped back into the interrogation room, where Giovanni had almost literally not moved at all. As he rejoined his prisoner at the table, Looker leaned his elbows on the desk and clasped his hands.

    “Now, being I am authorized to offer you a deal. I have been being informed by the superiors above me that this man, the one named Gideon Neumann, is a primary target of importance. For that reason, the order of direction I have been given is to offer you this: if you are agreeing to assist in the takedown and arrest of Gideon Neumann, being I will to allow you off with only house arrest.”

    The news of this change in events surprised Giovanni greatly, causing him to widen his eyes and then blink repeatedly. “And what of my associates?”

    “Given they all will be one last chance to reform. All remaining members of the Team Rocket will not be getting arrested for any past crimes unless they are committing more of them. It is all sitting here, graciously waiting before you for your approval.”

    Giovanni evaluated the offer. On the surface, he thought about rejecting it due to being unwilling to accept the idea of house arrest. He was used to his freedom, and having the police monitoring his every move felt too invasive. Further thought made him realize how unnecessary that worry was, however, as he had plenty of ways he could subvert the surveillance. Old ways of evading the eye of law enforcement from years past would work just as well for this. With that decided, Giovanni’s thoughts turned to his followers. Though many of them had been peeled off by the increased zealousness of both the Tohjo Continent’s government and the International Police in hunting them down over recent years, he still held on to a core group of loyalists. He knew he could have never reached the power he once held without their help, so if he had to go down, he decided he owed it to them to let them have another chance. Throwing Gideon under the bus would be a price he’d have to pay.

    “I never trusted Gideon all that much anyway,” the crime boss finally mumbled to answer, his eyes closed reflectively. “Your terms are acceptable. Let’s take him down.”

    -:-

    Matt, Olivia, Bunny and Nekou were hiking on a trail in the mountains about three miles from the stadium. The trail was relatively straightforward, but it was clearly not well-traversed, a fact made plain by the crunching foliage and rocks under the group’s feet.

    Of the group, Matt and Bunny were in the lead, with Reuniclus floating nearby. In Matt’s hands was a thin tablet computer displaying a map of the area, supplemented with the information that Bunny was providing.

    “It won’t be long now,” Bunny pointed out, peering at the map on Matt’s computer screen. “The Ruins were just a little further up this trail.”

    “I haven’t been this excited for a study since La Ciudad Dorada six years ago.” Matt’s manner was a bit more cheerful than it was just a short time earlier. He was walking with evident energy, and judging by his interest in the upcoming research, it quite plainly was something he needed to invest his attention in. “I wonder what we’ll find there. They say that Argyros was quite the civilization.”

    “Will you two keep it down up there? I’m trying to read!”

    Trailing Matt and Bunny, Nekou was lounging on the back of Tanya, Matt’s Heatran, to avoid having to actually walk the whole way up the mountain trail. She was amusing herself by reading a book while she snacked on a bag of bacon strips that she had stored between her breasts for convenience. Matt had not been paying attention to her in the least after giving in and letting her ride on Tanya, so when he turned around and saw this sight, he stopped dead in his tracks from the shock.

    “Who are you to tell me to be quiet when you work for me? And how about you stash your food somewhere a little less vulgar while you’re at it!”

    “You mad?” Nekou taunted, clearly encouraged by Matt’s complaints. “I’ll put my food wherever I want. Deal with it.”

    “I guess you’ve forgotten who you work for, you leech.” Suddenly, Matt noticed the actual book Nekou was reading. “A book on the Periodic Table of Elements?” he stuttered in complete surprise. “You’re a scientist?”

    “I just have fun dicking around with chemicals and such,” was Nekou’s casual reply. “I just happen to be good at what I do. And reading books like this makes me even better.”

    Sufficiently quieted by this unexpected discovery, Matt turned back around and began leading his group up the trail. His mind was now filled with new questions, primarily just who Nekou was, if she could actually be a brilliant chemist with her erratic behavior.

    “Nekou, where are you from?” Olivia’s question indirectly put Matt’s thoughts into words. It also helped by breaking the awkward silence that had briefly set in.

    “I don’t know where I was born,” Nekou answered with surprising bluntness, even though she hadn’t really been asked this, “but I grew up in Mahogany Town, then I lived in Viridian City for a while. My parents moved a lot. What about you, Bunny? How do you know my new bodyguard client?”

    This remark made Matt cringe, but Bunny was unaffected by it. “A few years ago, we met up in northern Sinnoh. I was researching the Plates, the mystical items that are said to be pieces of Arceus’s power. Also, I was trying to stop my old mentor, who was also after the Plates.”

    “The son of a ***** shot me…” Matt added, his words carrying overwhelming bitterness. “I’ve been through worse, but still…”

    “That’s actually an interesting story.” Both Matt and Bunny were caught off-guard once again by Nekou actually saying something complimenting. “And I know your story, Olivia. You’re the daughter of the famous hero Rich Mistbloom and the Frontier Society commissioner. Now you’re living with the body I’m guarding as you gear up to start your own training journey, since your father…”

    “…left on a trip and never came back.” As he interrupted Nekou’s sentence with a conclusion of his own, Matt shot the lounging young woman a sickeningly serious look. Even she was able to realize to back off of the topic because of the intensity of Matt’s gaze.

    Mere moments later, though, her intensity returned. “Watch out!”

    Caught completely off guard, both Matt and Bunny barely had the consciousness to get out of the way of the Ice Beam that was aimed at them from the sky. They frantically searched around for the source of the attack, but were unable to locate it.

    “What just attacked us?” Bunny screeched, briefly overcome with panic. “I didn’t see a thing!”

    “Nekou, what was it that you saw? You saw it, didn’t you?”

    As she climbed carefully down from Tanya’s back, Nekou simply pointed into the air and said, “It’s right there.”

    Matt and Bunny whipped around again, just barely making it in time to catch a glimpse of the Pokémon assaulting them. Though clearly avian in nature, it looked unlike any typical bird. Its main body was ball-shaped and mainly colored green, with a wide, jagged black stripe going around the middle. Inside that stripe were two round blue eyes, and a black, three-pronged appendage emerged from each side. Atop its body was a black outgrowth with another eye on it, and the Pokémon’s two wings – each comprised of four oversized feathers colored mainly yellow – surrounded it. Four more feathers of similar coloration hung from the Pokémon’s underside.

    “That Pokémon…” Memories of a bygone time flashed through Matt’s mind. Though he could not recall the species name of it, he had seen the Pokémon before. It was one of the Pokémon used by Queen Shadow, the antagonist whose final battle with Rich Matt had witnessed five years prior.

    “It’s a Sigilyph,” Nekou informed, her tone becoming unusually serious. “They’re said to guard ancient towns even in this modern era.”

    “Then this is where the Argyros Ruins are!”

    “You’re right,” Bunny confirmed, “this is the place. But we’ll have to beat Sigilyph first, and I wasn’t prepared for this…”

    “My dad fought a Sigilyph,” Olivia chimed in, recalling the same events that Matt did. “He said it was a Psychic and Flying-type. I know you’ve got something to beat that.”

    Matt looked up to Reuniclus, but then nodded, deciding that she wasn’t right for the job. Instead, he reached into his bag and removed an Ultra Ball, a Poké Ball with yellow and black instead of red on its cap.

    “If it’s a Flying type, then Ice will be effective. Subzero, make your mark!”

    Once it was thrown into the air, the yellow-and-black sphere erupted in a great flash of light. The light, in turn, produced a small bear cub of about two feet in height. His rotund body was primarily white in color, but from the neck up, it was varying shades of blue.

    “Cub-pshooo!!” sneezed the Pokémon, a Cubchoo. A large, watery drop lowered from his nose because of this.

    Seemingly angered further by this apparent intrusion on its territory, Sigilyph raised its wings upward, then cut down with the right-hand one, creating a glowing blade of air that sliced directly toward Subzero.

    “Counteract it with Ice Beam!” Matt commanded, his voice echoing through the mountain pass.

    Subzero attempted to inhale to gather energy for his Ice Beam, but instead, he sneezed again. A quantity of somewhat watery mucus was dislodged along with the freezing beam itself, and that beam struck down Sigilyph’s Air Slash on contact. Already thinking one step ahead, however, Subzero was already prepared to sneeze out a second Ice Beam, this one hitting squarely into Sigilyph’s left wing. As the cold radiated through its body, Sigilyph cried out.

    “Sigilyph guard old and forgotten towns,” Bunny informed. “We must have made it angry by coming here.”

    “It can’t tell that we mean no harm?!” Olivia blurted out, feeling worried due to the memories connecting the Sigilyph species with her father’s antagonist.

    “Well, there’s only one way we’re going to get past this. Subzero, hit it again with Ice Beam!”

    Subzero’s dripping mucus froze into yet another Ice Beam, clipping Sigilyph across the right wing. In retaliation, Sigilyph angrily called forth energy from the mountain trees surrounding the path, using it to create a sphere of green light that crackled with power. This Energy Ball attack, when it was thrown by Sigilyph, struck Subzero squarely in the chest.

    Although the wound left on Subzero was not especially major, he still wailed and thrashed in pain. His small body was not strong enough to withstand even this blow.

    “Subzero, you’ve done your job. Come back and take a rest.” Matt held up the Ultra Ball, bringing Subzero back to its confines with a beam of red light. “Reuniclus, it’s your turn now. Shadow Ball!”

    A black sphere with a glowing core took shape between Reuniclus’s hands, letting off sparks as it grew. Sigilyph was able to recognize this as a threat, however, and attempted to hold back the attack using its own psychic power. A soft purple glow appeared both in Sigilyph’s uppermost eye and around Reuniclus’s body, which rendered Reuniclus unable to move and throw the Shadow Ball.

    “That won’t work so well, Sigilyph. Reuniclus, take it away!”

    Reuniclus valiantly struggled against Sigilyph’s psychic powers, attempting to shove her arms forward and release the Shadow Ball. Matt had underestimated Sigilyph’s strength, however, and it was not long before Reuniclus found her attack attempt again coming back at her.

    Matt’s thoughts started to race. Did he bite off more than he could handle? This question gnawed at him, eating away at the persistent doubt he always had about his capabilities as a Pokémon trainer. He tried to force through the truth – that there was surely a way out of the situation – but his pessimistic nature got the better of him.

    “I guess my bodyguard duties extend to even this, then,” Nekou said, stepping forward with a slight chuckle escaping her lips. Though Marie, her tiny Sneasel, was perched atop her head, Nekou wasn’t planning to use her. She had another Poké Ball in hand, which she threw while calling out, “Dalian, use Thunderbolt!”

    A Pokémon with the appearance of a small girl appeared from within Nekou’s Poké Ball. Her body was mainly black and shaped like a skirt-wearing torso with thin arms and legs. Two white, ribbon-like objects hung on her front, while a third was on her back. Four more lined up on her head, around her round pigtails. A pair of white-and-blue eyes and a set of red lips completed her purple face.

    “Gothriii!!” Dalian screeched. Her petite body somehow generated enough electrical energy to shock Sigilyph quite significantly, enough to release Reuniclus from its grasp. The tips of Sigilyph’s wings were left burned, as well.

    “Thank you. Reuniclus, finish this!”

    Free from the psychic restraints of Sigilyph’s power, Reuniclus finally let her Shadow Ball loose, impacting on the colorful flying Pokémon and sending it crashing helplessly to the ground in a cloud of dust.

    “Now, everything comes together and the answer becomes clear! Go, Poké Ball!”

    With a showy flair, Matt spun around on his heel and threw an empty Poké Ball at the fallen Sigilyph. It split open, turning Sigilyph into red light, and drew the Pokémon inside. As Sigilyph thrashed around within the ball’s confines, the sphere rocked violently, but soon enough its resistance subsided. The ball became still, and a moment later, a flash of light and a ping indicated a successful capture.

    “Matt got Sigilyph in the end!” beamed Olivia, her grin reaching from ear to ear.

    On Matt’s part, he merely stepped to where the ball lay in the gravel of the path and knelt down. He leaned over the Poké Ball with a thin tablet computer he took from his bag.

    “Let’s see here. Psychic-and-Flying type, ability is Magic Guard, and it’s female. In that case, I think I’ll name you Ayingott.”

    “That’s a really pretty name,” Bunny said to Matt as he rose. “Good thing we got out of that scrape.”

    “He couldn’t have done it without my help and my Gothorita friend Dalian,” Nekou interjected in a deadpan manner. “But, that said, maybe you aren’t so bad after all. You should be a fascinating observation subject.”

    “At least you’re regarding me with a little respect now. It’s a start.”

    “Don’t rest on it,” Nekou sniped back. “You’re already not impressing me much.”

    “And what could I do to fix that?” Though he really wasn’t interested in playing this game with her, Matt figured that if he entertained Nekou’s rants, she’d be pacified for later.

    “I want books and food and a lot of really nice things. I want the finest things I can have. I want my Pokémon to have the finest things, too. I want to be able to sit in a really comfortable bed lined with the softest sheets, and have plenty of books to read, and lots of snacks to eat and beer to wash them down. And be able to make as much of a mess as I want because someone else will clean it up. And I want…”

    “Alright, that’s enough!” Matt was unsure if Nekou’s rambling outburst was actually serious, but he didn’t feel like taking the risk of letting it go on further. “You really want a lot of things in life, don’t you?”

    “They’re not all that complicated…” Nekou coldly added, shrinking back as she did so.

    Surprisingly, Matt smiled. “Good point. Those are some pretty simple desires.”

    “Those things sound nice,” Olivia suddenly chimed in. “I want them too.”

    Caught completely off guard, Matt found his attempt to be positive completely derailed, and he could only run his hand down his face in exasperation to react. Already he could see where things would be going, if Nekou was going to be an influence on Olivia. He thought to himself that the only way things would ever turn out normal was for the whole thing to be a joke.

    “You guys! This way, quick!”

    While Matt and Nekou had been having their discussion, Bunny had gone further down the trail and was now waving to them from a short distance away. Now that their path was clear and they had an idea of where to go, Matt and Olivia ran after Bunny, while Nekou contemplated getting back on Tanya’s back for a minute before following as well.

    Where Bunny was leading them took the group a bit further down the trail, then down an old set of stone steps that formed a leftward curve as they went down. Nekou and Olivia actually went ahead of Matt at this point, as he had to send Tanya back into her ball due to the fact that the stairs were quite narrow.

    “Matt, Matt!” Olivia’s voice could be heard echoing back up the path, a distinctive excitement easily apparent in it. “Hurry, get down here now! It’s beautiful!”

    “I’m coming! Just wait a minute, would you?”

    The material Matt’s boots were made of did not agree with the cold, moist stones comprising the stairway, resulting in him slipping in his haste to descend them. He only was able to make it about halfway down before he completely lost his footing and tumbled down the rest of the steps. The fact his body was mechanical acted both in and against his favor; while the reinforcements kept him from being badly injured, they also exponentially increased the amount of noise he made as he fell. At the bottom, he just laid on the ground at first, unmoving out of shock.

    “Watch your step, you might fall.” Nekou’s warning was coated with sarcasm, and she said it anyway despite knowing it was well beyond the point of relevance.

    “Matt!”

    Showing much more outward worry about her friend and colleague, Bunny rushed to Matt’s side to help him up. He was just shaken, and after brushing himself off and flexing his neck to rid himself of the cramp in it, he chuckled about the spill.

    “Well, I guess that life would be boring without something unexpected happening!” he joked. “Bunny, Olivia, what’s got you two so worked up?”

    “Look, over there!”

    Matt’s gaze followed the direction indicated by Olivia’s pointing. It wasn’t long before he saw what she meant – just a short distance further ahead was what appeared to be the ruins of a small town. There were a number of stone homes in various states of collapse and a ruined, dried-up fountain visible.

    “The Argyros Ruins…” Matt exclaimed in awe, his organic eye widening with the childish excitement coursing through his body. “Come on, all of you! Our goal is right in front of us!”

    When Matt ran off in the direction of the ancient town, it was Olivia that immediately followed him, as her excitement was very similar to his. Bunny didn’t hesitate, but she held herself back from getting too worked up.

    Nekou, on the other hand, tried to introvert her feelings. “I would have rather seen this in a book,” she mumbled as she headed forward. “Then I would be able to take it in at my own pace.”

    There was one thing none of the four noticed, though, despite their varying emotions on the discovery – the bespectacled, lab coat-clad man watching them from the brush. With his glasses glowing, he snickered and moved to follow them.

    -:-

    Looker sat at a desk in the International Police facility, sipping at a cup of coffee as he reviewed the files on his subjects and their recorded testimony to him. Another male officer, one of his subordinates, was sitting opposite him.

    “So what have you discovered, Mr. Looker, sir?”

    “Glad I am that you have been asking that. Well, after acting to be reviewing everything, to one conclusion I’ve arrived. The one called Gideon, he has gone rogue from the Team Rocket group of remnants. Something there is motivating him to betray his ones who are employers and be acting on his own.”

    “Do you know what he’s after, though?”

    “That I do not. It is of most vital importance that we arrest and apprehend the man named Gideon Neumann as soon as can be possible.”

    -:-

    The rotted wooden door of one of the houses was pushed open, creaking sickeningly with every inch it moved. Once daylight was allowed to filter into the dwelling, its interior illuminated softly, giving Matt the visibility he needed to enter. Olivia, Bunny and Nekou followed, but not closely.

    Noting that his surroundings weren’t bright enough for any studies to be conducted, Matt reached into his bag and removed a small electric lantern, which he activated with a knob-like switch on its top. Though it was only about five inches tall, the lantern threw an unbelievable amount of light, creating well more than what the group needed. Matt set the lantern on a nearby table made of crumbling wood pieces and looked around.

    “This place… look at all this!” Something about the small kitchen area in the far corner of the house attracted Matt’s attention, so he ran over to it, taking out his tablet computer as he did so. “Look at this wine,” he gasped, scanning several old bottles with the computer. These gray-colored bottles were each emblazoned with an elaborate insignia similar to a coat of arms. “It isn’t possible…”

    “Matt, over here.” Bunny had gone to a cabinet not far from where Matt was, and had become visibly stunned by what she’d found inside. When Matt joined her, she said simply, “This is what I think it is, isn’t it?”

    “You’re dead-on correct,” Matt replied, confirming their guesses by scanning the various eating implements and dishes inside the cabinet with his computer. “This stuff all matches up perfectly to ancient Michinian culture.”

    “But how is that possible?” questioned Olivia, her face wearing a look of utter confusion. “Michina Town is way north from here, way up at the end of Sinnoh. Is it really possible for their culture to be here too?”

    Matt smiled. “You’ve learned well, Olivia. I’m proud of you for asking questions like this. Let’s evaluate this.” After handing the computer to Bunny, Matt again reached into his bag, this time taking out a soft vinyl keyboard that he unrolled on the counter in front of himself.

    “Are you getting all this?” Bunny was plainly fascinated by the objects she was seeing even as she was scanning them. “Well, we know Argyros was heavily populated by Tenganists, right? Maybe it’s just coincidence that the culture here and the culture in Michina Town nearly match.”

    “I suppose it’s possible.” Even though he no longer had the computer himself, Matt was able to contribute using his portable keyboard. He was able to see all the data through his mechanical eye even without uncovering it, so he continued to type, the keys making plastic, squishing noises with each hit. “I think it might be that the people here immigrated from another Tenganist area. What do you think, Olivia?”

    “Well, it probably isn’t coincidence, and it probably isn’t as simple as that the settlers of Argyros just decided to move here. If you’ve taught me anything, there must be a connecting event, an ‘X’ factor. If we assume the ancient people of Argyros moved here, why did they do so?”

    “Excellent questions, Olivia. That’s the goal of our work, to determine exactly what that hypothetical “X” factor is. Nekou, you want to give it a crack?”

    There was no answer, which prompted Matt and Bunny to turn around. Nekou had found her way into a hidden storage space, where a number of treasures were being kept, and was now reveling in her own personal discovery.

    “Nekou, what are you doing?!!”

    “I made a find of my own,” she replied, unflinching against Matt’s reproach. “All this stuff is mine now.”

    “You can’t take all of that,” Bunny corrected. “It all has very high archeological value. A vase? Jewelry? Coins? All of that should probably be in a museum, not in your hands.”

    “Step off, I told you it’s mine. You keep your share, I’ll keep mine. That is, unless you don’t want to play fair, in which case I’ll be more than glad to keep my share and take yours.”

    “Now, now, that won’t be necessary.” The escalating tension was clearly getting to Matt, and he wished to avoid a conflict by stepping between the two women. “Bunny, she does have a point about it being her find, but Nekou, you really should realize the value of those objects. I’ll tell you what, how about you take one thing?”

    “You say I can take one thing?” Nekou answered without hesitation. “Fine, the thing I choose… is everything.”

    The reaction Nekou’s clever remark elicited was just what she wanted. From her vantage point crouching on the floor, she watched as both Matt and Bunny threw their hands up in the air and turned away. With only Olivia’s eyes on her, Nekou chuckled and selected a golden coin from the trove as a good-luck charm.

    “I think we’ve seen all that’s to see in this house,” Matt declared as he rolled up and stored his keyboard away. “Let’s take a break and then go look elsewhere in town for clues. Anyone want some water?”

    All three of his team members raised their hands at his request, so Matt removed four clear plastic bottles of water from his bag and distributed them amongst his group. Each of the bottles was vaguely cylindrical in shape and bore a wrap-around label, which depicted a mountains-and-sky horizon with the words ‘Fresh, Delicious High-Mineral Water’ written across it.

    There was a silence that lasted several minutes before Bunny spoke through her sipping the water. “Already, this trip is worth it. Wouldn’t you guys agree?”

    “It is pretty nice to get out of the classroom,” said Olivia, before grimacing and adding sarcastically, “for what feels like the first time in forever.”

    “It can’t be helped, Olivia.” Matt knew that Olivia’s passive-aggressive remark was aimed at him, so he had an excuse at the ready. “I don’t even know how I got the time off that I’m getting. Selling this to my backers at the Angel Corporation wasn’t easy.”

    “You got in with the Angel Corporation?” In a truly rare instance, Nekou was genuinely interested in the topic of conversation, and sat down on one of the chairs at the table. “If they agreed to finance your work, you must really be up to something big.”

    “Well, my research has been in two stages, really. First of all, this.” To show what he meant, Matt lifted his arm and for a brief moment extended the blade in it. “All the development and execution that went into turning me into this thing… they thought it had some potential applications in the medical field, so they financed it. I can’t say I disagree, either. I really only wanted to undergo all of this because I think it could help my sister one day.”

    “How is Amanda, speaking of her?” Bunny chimed in.

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  24. #24
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    “She’s doing well, actually. She moved in to live with Anabel… I think that it helps Anabel to have someone to take care of.” Noticing Nekou’s inquisitive glare settling intensely on him, Matt realized he had to explain further. “My sister Amanda was born with deformed legs that relegated her to a wheelchair, and then suffered terrible injuries to her eyes that robbed her of her sight. I’ve hoped that by undergoing these experimental modifications to repair my own damaged body, one day these things will have applications that will give her her mobility and sight back.”

    “That’s good that you’d watch out for your sister in such a way.” Nekou’s compliment was delivered glumly, implying something else was on her mind. “I wish I had a sister I could care for like that. Anyway, what was the other reason?”

    “Other reason?” It took a moment for Matt to realize what Nekou was talking about. “Oh, my research. Well, for over a decade now, I’ve been working on developing a new system to produce energy. You see, I’m from Snowpoint City in Sinnoh, where it’s naturally cold and miserable weather all the time. When I was growing up we were fortunate enough to have enough money to keep our house heated, but I saw a lot of people who didn’t have that. It gave me the goal to develop an energy source that would be relatively inexpensive and produce large amounts of clean power so nobody in Snowpoint City would go cold in their own homes again. And after many non-starters… I finally came up with something, and over the past ten years, I’ve perfected it and put it into use in Snowpoint City… and it worked. It reduced the city’s oil consumption by sixty percent in less than six months.”

    While Matt talked, Olivia simply sat and pouted, having heard this story plenty of times before. Bunny simply listened respectfully, but Nekou was seemingly jumping out of her skin, leaning forward and listening intently with wide, excited eyes. Picking up on how the scientific angle of all this was thrilling to Nekou, Matt took his reclaimed computer and entered a command into it.

    “Here, watch the video.”

    Matt turned the computer around, allowing his companions to see the screen. On it, a video comprised of several scenes strung together with narration played; the first of these scenes involved images of an offshore oil rig.

    “Over the past one hundred and fifty eight years, crude oil has become a cornerstone of the world’s functionality. This simple substance has become a piece of everything in the world, working its way into science, politics, war, investment and enterprise. Truly, the ones who control the world’s oil supply control the world itself. But with problems of depletion and pollution mounting, what if this no longer had to be the case?

    Introducing the ALEA, the Absolute Limitless Energy Allocation system. Brought online for the first time in 2011, it has been successful in drastically reducing oil consumption in areas where it is in effect.”


    The image, which had transitioned to an ALEA logo after the oil rig disappeared, now changed to a shot of an underground tunnel with glowing orbs colored red, green, blue and jewel-like colors.

    “ALEA functions based on processes of nature itself. The system harnesses the power of Spheres, items found all throughout the world’s underground areas. Once buried in the ground, Spheres develop and grow naturally over time, giving off natural energy in the process. By using cartridges filled with nutrient-rich soil with Spheres buried within, ALEA harnesses the energy given off by growing Spheres to provide massive amounts of clean, safe energy for everything connected to the system’s network. It is truly a page-turning breakthrough destined to change the world.”

    As the video ended, Nekou immediately blurted out, “Nice circlejerk. Your invention is kind of impressive.”

    “I’ll just ignore that insult and accept the compliment. I’m on my way to give a speech in Whitegold City, because the Angel Corporation is interested in subcontracting my work through the power plants owned by Everton International for an expansion of the ALEA system. That’s where we’re going after here.”

    “Hey, Matt, riddle me this…” Having grown completely disinterested in the conversation, Olivia had gotten up to investigate something she’d suddenly noticed. Her interruption came as she ran her finger down the interior wall of the house, and she did not turn around. “…you said this city was wrecked and abandoned millennia ago, didn’t you?”

    “That’s how the story goes.”

    Olivia abruptly whipped around, her eyes filled with a defiant sense of inquisitiveness. “Then tell me why the decay of the building doesn’t look thousands of years old?”

    Matt’s eyes widened, and he stood up quickly. He hadn’t even considered the possibility raised by Olivia, yet, as soon as she raised it it made perfect sense. In a flash he had his computer out again, and was using it to analyze the composition of the wall.

    “Well ****,” he suddenly blurted out. “I’ll be damned.”

    “What?” Bunny quickly asked.

    “Olivia’s right. The aging on this building doesn’t match up to the stories at all. Destroyed and abandoned five thousand years ago? Sure, try more like one hundred and fifty or so.”

    “Doesn’t that change everything?” Once again, Nekou’s thoughts were on focus, even if only because she found the discovery interesting.

    “Indeed, this finding could completely revise the entire…”

    Bunny was suddenly cut off by what seemed to be an earthquake. The whole house shook violently, enough to send the old wine bottles tumbling over. Dust was shaken from the ceiling as small cracks appeared in it as well. Looking up and seeing this, Matt immediately became visibly alarmed.

    “Bunny, it can wait! Everyone out, this place is going to go down!”

    -:-

    Looker was still sitting at his desk, pouring over the information provided by his interrogations of Giovanni, Ariana and Proton.

    “The question is being, what is the man named Gideon actually being after?” Looker asked himself aloud. The notes hadn’t provided an apparent answer, and it was frustrating the detective. “Must I be finding the solution to this mystery, yes!”

    One of the officers appeared in the doorway, rapping on the opened door to get Looker’s attention. Once the sound reached Looker’s ears, he looked up from his work.

    “Excuse me, sir, there’s been an incident.”

    “Has there been being? What sort of incident was it happening to be?”

    “A small earthquake was just detected moments ago in the mountainous region not far from here. It would appear it’s the same place where Matt Chiaki and his friends went.”

    Looker wasn’t very interested in the news until the part about Matt came up. Connecting two opposite sides of the problem in his mind, Looker jumped up and declared, “Be preparing a team of investigation for the region of mountains, post haste! If anywhere we will find the man named Gideon right now, that place is going to be happening to be the place where it’ll happen!”

    -:-

    The cause of the earthquake became crystal clear to Matt and his group once they made it out of the house. Towering over all four of them at nearly ten feet tall, the gray-bodied golem Pokémon was an intimidating sight. Some parts of its body were darker in color than others, such as its chest, which also had a jagged, glowing yellow line cutting across it; this line was also overlaid by an oval-shaped brown seal of some kind. Similar lines formed spirals on its shoulders and large hands, and also created what appeared to be its eyes, a straight vertical line alongside an ‘L’-shaped line.

    “What’s that thing?!” Olivia shrieked, her whole body filling with a startled fear due to the creature’s unexpected appearance. “Is it a Pokémon?”

    “It’s a Golurk…” Almost seeming to confirm Nekou’s statement, the Golurk released a low, mechanical-sounding rumble in which its name could be made out.

    “Well it doesn’t matter much what it’s called,” Matt brashly remarked, seemingly un-intimidated by the Golurk. “If it’s a threat, I’ll eliminate it. Looks to be a Rock-type, so… Reuniclus! Wipe that thing out with Focus Blast!”

    “Rankukuru!” cried Reuniclus, making a sudden return after spending some time floating behind the others. She brought her hands together and created the pulsing, light-blue orb of Focus Blast, which she then threw right at Golurk’s chest.

    What happened next prompted gasps from Matt, Olivia and Bunny, but an indifferent huff from Nekou. The Focus Blast simply passed right through Golurk’s body, not injuring it even a small bit.

    “What just happened?!”

    “Golurk isn’t a Rock-type at all,” Nekou dryly informed. “It’s Ghost and Ground. No wonder you need me to protect you.”

    While Nekou insulted Matt, Golurk was itself on the move. It took another heavy step forward, then reeled back and swung its right arm in a punching motion. There wasn’t any overtly obvious reason for Golurk to do this, as it still wasn’t standing near anything, but the meaning quickly became clear – a second fist, this one made of shadows, emerged out of thin air near Reuniclus and punched her right in the face, sending her crashing to the ground.

    “Reuniclus, hold on!” Matt shouted. He ran to his fallen Pokémon while Nekou and Bunny stepped forward.

    “I’ll take care of this. Marie, prepare yourself!”

    Grateful for the chance to fight, Marie jumped off of Nekou’s head. The small Sneasel bravely faced its oversized foe, showing no evident fear despite Golurk towering over her.

    “Don’t be foolish,” Bunny interrupted, wielding a Poké Ball of her own. “You might have a type advantage, but you can’t do this alone. Sky, help out as well!”

    Bursting from the ball Bunny threw was the Ghost-and-Flying-type Pokémon Drifblim, carrying the nickname Sky. He unfurled his four ribbon-like arms from his purple-and-lavender balloon body, letting out a gentle cry as he did so.

    “I guess I’ll accept your help this time, but next time, stick to learning what a Golurk is.” Nekou didn’t see the glare she got from Bunny for this remark, but it was highly likely that it was exactly the reaction she was aiming for. “Marie, take out Golurk’s legs with Ice Beam!”

    Aiming to immobilize the golem Pokémon, Marie exhaled a concentrated ray of freezing energy, moving herself skillfully to sweep it across both of Golurk’s knees. Indeed, it seemed to work – Golurk grunted as it felt the pain of its legs freezing up, and blocks of ice formed around its two lower limbs.

    What Nekou and Bunny both clearly didn’t anticipate, however, was what Golurk would do next. After shaking off the shock of the ice, Golurk simply responded by retracting its legs upward into its body. A strong flame replaced them, essentially turning Golurk into a living rocket.

    “I didn’t think this would become an aerial battle. Sky, use Shadow Ball!”

    Just as Golurk lifted off, it was hit in the face with a sphere of darkness launched by Sky. It lurched backward, groaning its name again, but recovered quickly. With great speed, Golurk had retracted its left hand and turned that arm into another rocket, giving itself more propulsion, which it promptly used to launch a Mega Punch attack at Marie.

    Nekou smiled wryly at this seeming threat. Though Golurk smashed its fist into the ground, making the entire landscape tremor in what was actually a second attack – Bulldoze - before it knew what had happened, Marie was gone from sight.

    “Goluh?” the puzzled Pokémon mechanically wheezed.

    A sudden sensation tickled the back of Golurk’s body, which was quickly realized to be Marie perching on it. While Marie laughed mischievously, Golurk began waving its arms frantically, desperately trying to get the Sneasel off of itself. With the shape of its body and arms, however, this was impossible.

    “That’s what training to take advantage of your small size will get you,” Nekou smugly boasted. “Give it another Ice Beam.”

    This time, the Ice Beam was focused to one location – the back of Golurk’s head, where its body and head connected. Golurk’s agonized, robotic roar echoed through the area, and it was finally forced to reactivate its legs and land.

    “Nekou! Bunny! Let me finish it!” Having sat out the whole battle, Olivia finally decided she wanted a piece of the action. “Roselia, let’s play! Energy Ball!”

    Olivia’s Roselia emerged from the Poké Ball she threw, and immediately gathered the power she needed to use an Energy Ball. Just before the orb was thrown in Golurk’s direction, Marie performed a skillful leap off of its back onto Nekou’s head; after that, Roselia no longer restrained herself and let the attack loose.

    The Energy Ball crashed into Golurk’s chest with explosive force, throwing it into a stone wall about two dozen feet away despite its size. It did not rise again after this, making it clear that it was defeated.

    Cradling his fallen Reuniclus in his arms, Matt spoke up, “That was impressive… thanks, you guys. Olivia, you’ve gotten pretty good.”

    “Well obviously. I have to do my best to guard your body, right?” Nekou didn’t even give Matt a chance to respond to this provocation before adding, “But, you’re right. Olivia, for someone with no badges yet, that wasn’t bad.”


    “Thanks! Now that I’m finally going to get to be a trainer, it’s good for me to get in practice, even like this. Roselia, how are you feeling?”

    “Roselia!” chirped the small Grass-and-Poison-type. It was openly proud of its accomplishment, even if Marie and Sky had done all the work.

    “I thought so. I owe you two thanks too, though, Sky, Marie…”

    Sky did not respond drastically to Olivia’s comment, only making a slight pleased expression. Marie, on the other hand, showed just as much smug pride as her trainer, and drank in the praise.

    While Bunny and Olivia sent Sky and Roselia back into their Poké Balls, Matt comforted Reuniclus one last time before recalling her as well. “Let’s regroup, then. I’d think that Golurk’s Bulldoze was the source of that earthquake.”

    “It wouldn’t surprise me,” Olivia added, “but why was that Pokémon here?”

    “Golurk is a Pokémon created by an ancient civilization,” Nekou revealed, back into her genuinely helpful mode. “A lot of things about it and its pre-evolved form, Golett, remain mysterious. They’re powered by some kind of unknown energy, but nobody has been able to determine just what energy that is or how it works. Regardless, Golurk were created to act as guardians. It’s possible that this Golurk was here to be a protector of Argyros and simply never left after the town was abandoned, and then we woke it up. Sigilyph was probably tasked with protecting this town, too.”

    “But if the town was in fact abandoned thousands of years ago…” Matt appeared deep in thought for a brief moment, but quickly shook it off, his mind overrun with confusion. “It doesn’t add up. If the town was simply left, wouldn’t it then progress that the people would decommission Sigilyph and Golurk from protecting it? Why leave them here?”

    “Wouldn’t it suggest they were forced out?” Olivia suggested.

    “I agree,” Matt said with a nod. “We have to look for evidence in this area that the city wasn’t willingly abandoned, and anything that would prove it was emptied out much more recently than we initially thought. I’m very suspicious that what we’ve been told about Argyros may be lies, all of it.”

    It was just then that Olivia spotted something moving out of the corner of her eye. “Hey, guys! Look over there!”

    “What is it, Olivia?” Even though Matt and the others all turned, they failed to see what Olivia did. In their vision, nothing was moving or out of the ordinary. “Are you seeing things?”

    “No, I definitely know it was there!” Cupping her hands around her mouth, Olivia called out, “Hello!”

    Bunny sighed. “There’s nothing here, Oliv…”

    A small cry suddenly cut her off, and from behind a nearby rock, a yellow ear with black outlines ending in three spikes appeared.

    “Chu, pichupi!”

    It was the mysterious Pichu that had appeared in the ruins earlier. The humans were more surprised by its presence than the Pichu was of theirs, so when it jumped from behind the rock and ran, it was not out of fear. It almost seemed that Pichu was beckoning the four to follow.

    “That Pichu’s adorable! Come here, let me get close to you!”

    Of course, Olivia was the first one to take the bait, chasing after Pichu without hesitation. This essentially forced the others to follow after her, though Nekou was clearly infatuated with Pichu as well despite trying to hide it.

    “Did Olivia see Pichu despite the rock being there?” Matt thought to himself as he ran. This question puzzled him almost as much as the historical questions running through his mind from earlier.

    The ruined town, its defeated protector and all its treasures were left behind as the group pursued the beckoning Pichu. It led them out of the village into a field, where their feet sank down slightly into the soft dirt, leaving prints behind. Soon, though, the pliant earth itself gave way to a much harder landscape, dotted with rocks and rampant weeds.

    “Olivia, watch it!” Bunny called ahead, mindful of the ever-increasing number of hazards. “Be careful you don’t trip!”

    “Oh, I’m fine!” Olivia confidently chortled in response, keeping her mind focused solely on catching up with the object of her current affections.

    At least, Olivia was confident until the ground gave way under her feet, causing her to sink out of view of the others. Before she was even gone from sight, they became greatly alarmed and concerned for her safety.

    “Olivia!” cried a fearful Matt. At once thoughts of failure attacked him, making time seem to come to a stop. After all the promises he’d made to himself and others to take care of and protect her, the last thing he could handle was something happening to her in a preventable freak accident.

    His anguish was not long-lived, thankfully. When he reached an abrupt edge where the field dropped off, he discovered that he was standing atop a wall of ancient stone bricks about twelve feet high. Olivia hadn’t even fallen, the portion of the wall she had stepped on was loose and had given way, causing her to slide to the gravel path at the bottom. Matt jumped down to join her, and helped her get back on her feet.

    “Olivia, don’t do that again,” he scolded, albeit in a protective way. “I can’t have you running off like that.”

    “Oh, don’t be so stuffy. I don’t have to take orders from you.”

    Matt backed up slightly, preparing to reprimand Olivia, but he never got the chance to. A sudden breeze alerted him to the fact that Nekou had arrived and jumped down from the top of the wall as well.

    “Sounds like she’s got total ownership of you,” Nekou uttered without skipping a beat. “She made you her *****. No wonder you need my help, it’s to serve her.”

    “That’s right, I get what I need out of him… and I need a lot.”

    “Stuff it, both of you,” Matt snapped, removing his hat briefly so he could run his hand through his hair in frustration. With everything weighing on his mind that day – the tournament, his concerns about Anabel’s well-being, Team Rocket’s halfhearted comeback and the mysteries of Argyros – he didn’t have the capacity left to deal with not only Olivia misbehaving but Nekou deliberately provoking her into doing so.

    Luckily for him, Bunny provided a distraction from the top of the wall. “Hey, you guys… I don’t think I can jump from here, and the ground doesn’t look stable…”

    “Just jump, I’ll catch you.”

    Matt’s assurance gave Bunny the confidence she needed to swallow her fear. After hesitating for a moment, she took a slight, shaky step forward, then gave in and threw herself over the ledge. Just as he had promised, Matt skillfully caught her with no difficulty at all, then righted her and set her down on her feet.

    “See? That wasn’t so bad.” he said with a smile.

    However, Nekou just could not let this opportunity pass. “Of course it wasn’t bad, you had the human landing cushion watching out for you.”

    “Oh, just…” Realizing the futility of his situation, Matt prudently decided not to even try to argue with Nekou any further at the moment. Instead, he turned his attention back to Olivia. “Which way did that Pichu go?”

    “That way.”

    Olivia pointed directly down the path, which ended in an entrance of some sort made of stones. A tall, rectangular opening rested directly on the path, while an opening shaped like an up-pointing arrow was above it. Intricate curves were carved around both spaces, but the years that had passed had not been kind to the stone face and many of them were damaged.

    Seeing this alluring relic intrigued Matt’s senses, and he hurried over to examine it. As he ran his gloved hand over some of the stones to feel what was left of the carvings, he could hear the others approach from behind.

    “This is a tomb or temple of some sort, I think,” he stated without turning around. “Why would Pichu be trying to lead us here? I get the feeling something big happens to be in here…”

    “What are we waiting for, then? Let’s get movi…” Suddenly, Olivia was interrupted a sharp pain that shot through her brain, causing her to fall to her knees.

    “Olivia!!”

    Though Matt, Bunny and Nekou all cried out to her, it was Bunny that made it to Olivia’s side. Olivia resisted Bunny’s attempts to help her up, instead staying on the ground with one of her
    hands firmly pressed against her eyes.

    “I… I see it…” gasped the girl, whose breathing had become labored.

    “What do you see?” Matt worriedly inquired. “What is it?”

    “Inside the shrine… there’s a bright light… Pichu… and we’re there, too! There’s a treasure, and… ugh…”

    Olivia fainted and fell to the ground, but Bunny quickly helped her back up. The girl was breathing heavily, making her body heave and tremble while sweat rolled down her skin.

    “Inside the shrine…” she repeated, with her face contorted into a look of utter pain. “We find the treasure, and Pichu’s there… and the bright light…”

    “Does any of this make sense to either of you?” Desperate to understand Olivia’s words, Bunny looked up toward Matt and Nekou, pleading with her eyes to them for the answer.

    That answer, however, wouldn’t come. Matt simply shook his head and responded, “I don’t have the slightest clue what that means. I can’t help but feel, though, that it’s connected to these ruins. More than ever, I’m now convinced that this place is hiding an immense secret.” Reaching into his bag, Matt took out and turned on his lantern again. “Nekou, stay with Bunny and make sure Olivia is okay. I’ll lead the way in.”

    For once, Nekou actually listened to what Matt told her to do, going to Olivia’s side right away. Together with Bunny, Nekou aided Olivia in walking as Matt used the lantern to guide them into the shrine.

    Inside, it was difficult to see anything. The shrine’s interior was undoubtedly vast, judging by how little the lantern actually illuminated. Every movement the group made echoed inside the cavernous hall, even though they had no idea where they were actually going.

    “This is a waste of time,” Nekou complained. “Give us more light somehow, or let us go back.”

    “I think I’ll take that first option. Tanya, make your mark!”

    Matt threw the Dusk Ball into the dark air around his group, and as soon as Tanya materialized from it, the natural glow her body had from the internal fire all Heatran possessed cast light throughout the entire shrine.

    All four members of the group looked around the spacious interior of the temple in awe. The chamber was even bigger than any of them had initially thought, a gigantic underground dome that had to have been at least forty, possibly fifty feet tall at its highest point. What remained of ancient carvings spread all throughout the hall, and what looked like broken pedestals and artifacts of various types were scattered about everywhere. It appeared that pieces of the ceiling had at some time fallen down, damaging them.

    For a short time, the group simply surveyed their surroundings, awed by the vast amount of history all around them. Even with most of the shrine’s contents broken, there was still enough left of them to provide plenty of fascinating subjects to study.

    One treasure soon stuck out, however. Half-buried in the wreckage was an orb made of blue glass which, despite its color, blended in rather clearly into its surroundings.

    “Is that the treasure you saw?” Matt asked of Olivia.

    “Yeah, that’s it. And since that’s there…”

    Matt, Olivia, Nekou and Bunny all raised their gazes collectively, and indeed, not far from the orb, positioned about a foot off the ground, was the glowing energy cluster. It was hidden from view from the entrance by a pillar.

    “It can’t be!” Bunny exclaimed incredulously, unable to believe what she was seeing. She took a step toward the shining portal and gasped, “It’s… a Time Ripple?”

    “I don’t believe it, yet…” Analyzing some hastily-gathered data using both his artificial eye and computer, Matt was stunned by the unusual energy readings coming out of the cluster. “It would indeed appear to be a Time Ripple…”

    “Pi, chu!” Suddenly, Pichu re-emerged from the broken ceiling tile it was hiding behind. When it ran to the Time Ripple and started gesturing toward it, Matt and the others finally understood what was going on.

    “Pichu must have time-traveled and come through that Time Ripple into our era,” Nekou theorized. “But where did it come from? What time period? Tell me you can figure that out.”

    Matt sighed and said, “It’s not possible to analyze everything.”

    Ignorant of the discussion her older companions were having, Olivia slowly drew closer to Pichu and the Time Ripple, completely unaware of any risks she might have been taking. Both the strange light and seemingly innocent Pokémon fascinated her, and she had single-mindedly decided to discover their secrets on her own.

    “Porygon, Swift!”

    Olivia never made it to Pichu and the Time Ripple. The peaceful scene was interrupted when a blast of star-shaped rays impacted right in front of her, throwing her back to the floor. Her scream interrupted Matt, Nekou and Bunny, the former and latter of whom became alarmed nearly instantly as their heads turned toward the source of the command at the entrance. Nekou, on the other hand, just remained strangely stone-faced all the while.

    Standing in the entryway of the shrine alongside his Porygon was the bespectacled man with the messy blue hair and lab coat… the Team Rocket scientist named Gideon.

    “Who are you?!” Bunny angrily demanded while Matt ran to Olivia’s aid. “What gives you the right to do that?”

    “My name is Gideon… that is, Gideon of Team Rocket. If you ask me, I’m quite surprised that you don’t know who I am already, but what that tells me is that my mission is one I will have no problems fulfilling alone.”

    “Your mission? Have you forgotten that I already beat your boss and helped get him arrested?”

    “Giovanni is not my boss, which is something else you should have already been aware of.” The amount of confidence the traitorous scientist was exuding actually topped that which Giovanni himself showed, and it was something Matt was especially able to pick up on. This man had come with a goal. “Oh well, I guess it can’t be helped. I do owe you some thanks, though… I was only on a mission to recover that Life Orb. The fact you helped me find a Time Ripple too just makes my fortunes greater. Now, step away from what is rightfully mine!”

    “I don’t even know what this Life Orb is, but it can’t be a good thing if you or Team Rocket or whoever capture it. Tanya, come forth! Flash Cannon!”

    “Porygon, Double Team!”

    Unintimidated by Tanya’s thunderous footsteps, Porygon stared her down, even when a Flash Cannon attack was sent its way. It responded by simply creating several copies of itself around the place where it had been floating, with the original position now occupied by a clone that absorbed Tanya’s offense, rendering it useless.

    “Now use Zap Cannon!”

    It was now Porygon’s turn to go on the offensive, and it used the energy in the air to create a circular field of electricity that eclipsed even Porygon’s own body in size. Luckily for Matt and the others, it was slow to form, allowing them plenty of time to prepare.

    Matt jumped to the right, and prompted Olivia and Bunny to move to their left. He then commanded, “Cut it down with Dark Pulse before it can fire!”

    Unfortunately, Tanya was too slow, and Porygon managed to launch the Zap Cannon first. The wave of dark rings that made up Dark Pulse did hit Porygon, but the damage was not severe besides a few burns on its body.

    As for Porygon’s attack, it completely missed and struck the ground separating Matt from Bunny and Olivia. All three were knocked down by the recoil surge of energy that the blast created upon impact, but while Matt and Bunny were merely stunned by their falls, Olivia fell just a little bit further and had her hand brush against the Time Ripple.

    Something was triggered when Olivia touched the Time Ripple, even as briefly as she did. It started pulsating more violently than it had been before, and also began expanding and getting brighter. Everyone in the room could only look on in stunned silence as the blinding light flooded over them. Finally, there was a bright flash, which faded to reveal another startling development – everyone, both human and Pokémon, had disappeared.

    -:-

    Back in the ruined town of Argyros, not far from the chaotic events breaking out in the shrine, Looker sprinted into the same area where his subjects had been earlier. He surveyed his surroundings diligently, noting the one house whose door had been left hanging open, and the fainted Golurk lying in a pile of smashed stone bricks on the town square’s far end. His attention was soon diverted by an arcing beam of light shooting into the sky from just outside the town, however. That light was coming right from where the shrine was.

    “Seeming it is that something of large size is quite happening here!” he exclaimed, though noone was around. “And Matt Chiaki is to be found nowhere, nor to be Olivia Mistbloom… backup will be of the utmost requirement!”

    -:-

    What was happening terrified Matt more than almost anything he’d ever gone through in his life, and Olivia, Bunny and even Nekou weren’t doing any better. Even Gideon, who had been dragged into this mess along with the heroic foursome trying to stop him, was covering his eyes and screaming.

    All five humans, plus Tanya, Pichu and Gideon’s Porygon, were falling. They weren’t just falling anywhere, though, like off a cliff – they were falling through some kind of bizarre space filled with blue clouds and strange crystalline objects that looked like giant diamonds. How they got here, none of them knew, they only could figure out that something happened when Olivia accidentally touched the Time Ripple.

    And yet, as abruptly as this event began, it suddenly ended. Matt, Olivia, Nekou, Bunny, Tanya, Pichu, Gideon and his Porygon were all deposited back in the field just outside the shrine. However, something even more unusual was going on – whereas the field had been overgrown with weeds before, it was now well-landscaped and neat. The stones that comprised the wreckage now were built into stone torch structures, which were lit.

    Completely baffled by these strange developments, Matt looked around, then up at the sky. “The weather’s changed, too. It was sunny enough before… now it looks like it might rain. What is going on?” Suddenly realizing something else, Matt gasped and turned around. “Olivia! Olivia, are you okay?”

    “I think so…” Olivia shook her head, seemingly stunned but unharmed. “I feel a little weird, like I just watched a hundred hours of movies straight.”

    “You’re lucky you didn’t come out much worse, given that you touched a Time Ripple.” Nekou’s air of knowledge clearly surprised her companions, but this time, she remained completely serious instead of trying to instigate them. “The effects of people touching the Time Ripple have been documented in several cases, most notably that of Grings Kodai, the businessman who used its energy to grant himself profound abilities of premonition. What intrigues me, though, is that Olivia seems completely fine now... but exhibited some of the symptoms before she even touched it.”

    “But that doesn’t make any sense,” Bunny commented, while Olivia simply looked around in confusion. “How would she be able to show symptoms of something before being exposed to it?”

    While listening to his companions’ thoughts, Matt shut his eyes and reflected on the things only he knew. There was an idea that came up in his head as a possible explanation, but it was so grim that he immediately discounted it and refused to think further of it.

    Meanwhile, during all of this, Gideon was attempting to slink away quietly with his Porygon. “I don’t know what’s going on here,” he whispered in a low, hissing voice, “but I sure don’t feel like sticking around to find out. This ain’t worth it.”

    “Hold it right there, you invader!”

    The situation took an even sharper turn for the worse when Gideon found his escape route blocked. A group of about a dozen soldiers, all clad in red armor bearing badges emblazoned with a curved ‘Z’ insignia, poured from the direction of the city. With the soldiers was a group of Magmar that numbered about fourteen in size, and coincidentally, the city was no longer ruined, either.

    “What… who are you all?!” Gideon exclaimed. He too was unable to figure out what was happening, so the sudden presence of unusual soldiers just made the problem even worse.

    “On the orders of Colonel Nixon to secure this area, you’re all placed under arrest!” cried the leader of the soldiers in a flat yet commanding voice. “Magmar, Flame Burst!”

    “Stop them with Swift!”

    Each one of the fourteen Magmar loosed a single fireball from their pursed lips, all aimed straight at Gideon and his Porygon. Though their tight targeting made their attack a greater threat, it also was their most significant weakness. Porygon’s Swift was able to cut down all of the fireballs well before they reached their collective target.

    The explosions of the fireballs created a vivid light that caught the attention of Matt’s group. “Shit!” Nekou spat out the moment she saw the soldiers. “All the questions will have to wait. We have to get out of here!”

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  25. #25
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    “The temple… if we can get back into the temple…” Matt’s thoughts were interrupted by another blast from one of the Magmar flying by his head. One necessity abruptly precluded all others to him, and he seized Olivia’s hand. “This is too dangerous. Stay by me, Olivia!”

    “Sky, Balin, come out and protect us!”

    Bunny’s Drifblim, Sky, appeared again, along with her second Pokémon, a Ninetales named Balin. Balin’s lithe figure provided an elegant counterpart to the distinct shape of Sky’s body, making them a well-matched team in terms of style.

    After getting the two Poké Balls she’d thrown back in her hands, Bunny then commanded, “Sky, Shadow Ball! Balin, Psyshock!”

    Balin’s eyes lit up with a bright light, and he materialized a gray wave of psychic power using it. This beam swept across the group of Magmar, inflicting several of them with wounds similar to those of being struck with a blunt object. Sky followed up by taking aim at the Magmar he judged to be the strongest and slamming a sphere of shadows into its chest, knocking it down.

    “Target the rebellious ones first!” cried the lead soldier.

    At that order, the group of soldiers fractured. Five of the men took three of the Magmar and surrounded Gideon and Porygon, while the six other guards and three Magmar attacked Bunny, Sky and Balin. Neither Bunny nor Gideon tried to battle further in such close quarters, but when the soldiers seized Bunny by the arms, she became physically violent in a hopeless attempt to fight back.

    “Bunny!” Matt’s agonized scream sliced through the open air of the field. He refused to give up on her and resolved to fight despite the fact the lead soldier still had seven Magmar able to fight under his control.

    It was then that Matt felt another hand grab his arm. “We can save her later,” Nekou forcefully said. “If we also get captured, who will save us?”

    “Are you just suggesting that we let these guys have their way with her?! We may never be able to find where they go!”

    “They won’t go far if what I’m suspecting is right. We need to gather more information and find out what we’re up against before rushing in like a bunch of Tauros…” Looking up, Nekou spotted the leader of the troops slowly advancing with his seven Magmar while his henchmen subdued and restrained Bunny and Gideon. “We have to go, now! Hurry!”

    Before Matt could object, Nekou tossed a smoke bomb to the ground, creating a shroud of cover for her. She then pushed Matt and Olivia onto Tanya’s back and prompted the Heatran to follow her back into the shrine.

    “Magmar, clear away this smoke!”

    The seven Magmar still immediately in the employ of the lead soldier all used their Flame Burst attack again, clearing away the smoke with the fireballs they produced. Even then, though, it was far too late; Matt, Nekou, Olivia and Tanya were gone. He glanced around for a moment before turning to one of his subordinates.

    “You there! Take the two we have in custody to Colonel Nixon for questioning. I will personally deal with the ones who got away.”

    “Sir!” exclaimed the lesser-ranked officer obediently.

    Following the orders of their leader, the eleven soldiers dragged Bunny and Gideon off. As she was being forcibly moved along Bunny growled under her breath, “Don’t you screw this up, Matt. I’m sure you still want me on your side.”

    -:-

    The interior of the shrine was affected by the odd phenomenon, too. All the damage that had been previously exhibited was gone, and now the insides of the vast dome looked like a palace of sorts. Treasures such as ornate pottery and well-designed paintings were arranged all around the chamber, granting it a rich air.

    Matt didn’t care about any of this, though, as unusual as it was. He slumped to the floor from Tanya’s back in the center of the chamber, overcome with a sense of defeat for what he assumed was the loss of yet another friend.

    “I let her down,” he mumbled, his voice so dispirited, so broken, that it could barely be heard. “I swore I wouldn’t let anyone else get hurt, and now I can’t even protect my friend from those soldiers...”

    “Listen to yourself. You are only letting her down if you really give up on saving her. You have to stop seeing everything in such black and white terms, because under those, all you see is either total, immediate victory or total, immediate defeat.” After brushing a lock of her hair out of her eyes, Nekou continued, “The first thing we have to do is identify what has happened and gather more information on our surroundings. That’s the top priority in any mission such as this. Once we know what we’re doing, saving Bunny will be easier.”

    Refreshed by Nekou’s words, Matt stood back up slowly. “You’re right. Thanks for caring about this even though I dragged you into it.”

    “Don’t get the wrong idea. I’m only doing my job.”

    “Sssh!” Olivia suddenly hissed, something having perked her attention enough to make her stand on edge. “I heard something. I think someone else is in here with us.”

    “I’ll handle this. Dalian…” Nekou carefully opened the Poké Ball she needed to release Dalian, who appeared at her trainer’s side. “Use your psychic power and scan this chamber.”

    “Riii tah.”

    The Gothorita’s eyes came aglow with soothing blue light, and she let out a gentle hum of her name that filled the air like a peaceful melody. After several seconds of meditation, Dalian abruptly whipped around at about a sixty degree angle and gestured toward a pillar.

    “Thanks, Dalian.” Rising her gaze to the pillar, Nekou called out, “We know you’re there! Show yourself!”

    The sound of a stunted footstep responded to Nekou’s demand, followed by a leg wearing a brown wooden sandal emerging from behind the pillar, shortly in turn followed by its owner. It belonged to a young woman dressed in thick and long hooded robes of a plain blue color. Her exact age was hard to estimate, as her matter of dress made her appear much older than she actually was; her youngest trait was her wavy, shoulder-length blonde hair which clashed with the color of her robes.

    “B-begone,” she stuttered, narrowing her vivid green eyes as she shakily backed away from the three. “Leave this land at once, vile creature masters who control the forbidden creature!”

    “Creature masters? Forbidden creature?” Olivia wondered.

    “This just puzzles me even further,” Matt stated in reply, adjusting his hat on his head. “Written records that have been recovered from the ancient Michinians are filled with references to terms like ‘creature master’ and ‘magical creature’ that are now widely accepted to be referring to Pokémon trainers and Pokémon from that era. Why would someone here and now be using such langua…” A sudden realization came into Matt’s head, one that horrified him so much that his visible eye widened as much as it possibly could while his mouth sank into a formless shape. “Is it possible that we actually have…”

    “Here you are!”

    Spinning around, Matt, Nekou and Olivia found that the leader of the soldiers had found where they’d gone, still with his seven Magmar in tow. The man wore a smug, sadistic smile created from his pleasure in having cornered his targets. To him, his work was just like the survival of a wild animal, like a lion on a vast plain, and as such, subjects who violated the space he was to guard were just like the proverbial lion’s prey. He relished the thrill of hunting those unfortunate enough to land in his sights.

    “What did you do with my friend?” Matt demanded.

    “She’s going to be questioned by Colonel Nixon, my superior.” Looking up, the soldier noticed the blonde woman, and his smile broadened. “So you lot are working with these suspicious spies, now? After what Colonel Nixon warned you would happen should you try to rebel against his orders? I guess I’ll have to exercise some control. Magmar, Flame Burst! Torch her treasure!”

    “NO!!” the woman cried as one of the Magmar turned toward several pieces of pottery and a painting. “Please, stop!”

    Ignoring her frantic pleas, the Magmar continued its attack and spat out a single fireball that would still be enough to destroy the precious items. However, it never reached its targets, as Matt fearlessly dashed into its path and cut it down with a single swipe of the blade in his right arm.

    “You’re going to get yourself hurt if you do stupid things,” Nekou scolded, though her voice reflected a slight hint of admiration for his recklessness.

    “I don’t care! The stuff he’s trying to destroy is more important than me!” This statement took all three women in the room back, for varying reasons. Both Nekou and the blonde woman had never seen someone so willing to throw themselves away for a seemingly minor cause before, while Olivia had never grown to understand the meaning of making such a sacrifice except for a relative. Matt, meanwhile, wasn’t done fighting back. “Tanya, use Dark Pulse to knock back those Magmar, but be careful not to damage anything.”

    Tanya stomped forth to face the small army opposing her trainer. She opened her mouth, allowing a vortex of dark energy to burst out; this managed to hit most of the Magmar, but not with enough power to outright defeat them.

    “Minccino, help Matt and Tanya out! Aqua Tail!”

    In a flash, Olivia was in the battle as well, having sent out her Minccino. The Normal-type Pokémon lashed her tail, which was glowing with a flowing blue light, into the bodies of one of the Magmar. Immediately upon impact, that Magmar cried out, feeling all its insides tighten from the force it had just been hit with. It collapsed back into its companion behind it.

    The soldier growled, then threw his hand forward. “Magmar, Focus Blast!”

    One of the Magmar moved to the front of the group, then brought its hands together to form a
    tightly-packed sphere of light.

    “Tanya, Dark Pulse again!”

    Before the Magmar that was trying to attack could do so, another of Tanya’s Dark Pulses flooded over it, causing the Focus Blast to explode while the energy was still in its grip. The backlash from the explosion hit all of the Magmar brigade and their human leader as well, finally prompting him to flee. No prey was worth the amount of trouble he was having.

    “It’s over, finally,” Matt whispered, clearly relieved that the ones threatening his group were gone. “We can’t rest. The longer we wait to save Bunny, the less likely it is that we’ll succeed.”

    “Um…” The blonde-haired young woman’s attempt to speak up interrupted Matt’s thoughts, and he turned to face her. “Th-thank you for stopping them from damaging this shrine.”

    “You’re very welcome. History must be protected, after all, so future generations can learn from it.” Realizing what he’d said, Matt reflected on his words carefully. “History… future… yeah, something like that.”

    “If you want, I can help you!” blurted the woman.

    “Weren’t you just saying how we were ‘forbidden creature masters’ and all of that?” Nekou coldly asked.

    “I was wrong. I see now that you are good people. Please allow me into introduce myself. My name is Agenta and I am a maiden of this town.”

    “Just like Sheena…” Matt mumbled, before remembering his manners and bowing in a short but polite manner. “I’m Matt. I’m a scientist researching this area. These two are my student Olivia and my assistant Nekou, and…”

    “Bodyguard,” Nekou corrected, giggling ever so slightly. “I’m his bodyguard.”

    “Oh, just knock it off already, I’m tired of hearing it from you! Anyway, that’s them, and the girl those soldier guys carted off was Bunny, my friend. We have to save her.”

    “Well, I’m pleased to meet you… and I’m pleased to say my magical creature and I can try to help. Golurk, please come.”

    Quite unexpectedly, a Golurk emerged from a dark corner of the shrine, having been hiding there the entire time. Matt, Olivia and Nekou, all being used to the appearance of a Golurk by now, were not as shocked as before at its size. With her Ground-and-Ghost-type companion, Agenta slung a brown satchel over her shoulder and motioned for the trio to follow her out of the shrine.

    -:-

    Clunk.

    The metal key resonated loudly when it was turned inside the lock of the jail cell where Bunny and Gideon had been thrown. They had been brought to a brig aboard a giant ship made of wood floating on a nearby lake, and the only unusual trait of their dull confines was a porthole on the wall of the cell itself.

    “Let us go!” Bunny screamed through the bars as the soldiers emotionlessly left the room. “Better yet, let ME out! Leave this guy here!”

    “It won’t do you a lick of good,” Gideon uttered. “Even if they did let either of us out, where would we go?”

    “Back to where we were, of course!”

    “How pitiful, do you not understand yet? We are at the center of a profound scientific and supernatural event with untold consequences. I don’t know what kind of superpowers that little girl you were hanging out with has, but she has singlehandedly made the impossible possible.”

    Outside, the soldiers had made their way to a pair of large, ornate doors outlined with carefully-carved decorative curves. The lead soldier took hold of the knocker on the door and struck it against the wood, generating a dramatic sound.

    “Colonel Nixon, sir?”

    “Come in!” a voice from inside the room replied.

    Heeding the voice’s order, the men moved into the room. It was the ship’s leader’s office, richly furnished with furniture made of the finest lumber and floors lined with plush red velvet carpeting. Golden treasures like statues and pottery lined the walls, along with gorgeous paintings in equally gorgeous frames.

    The military leader who controlled the soldiers sat in a huge leather chair at a desk sitting in front of a full-length picture window overlooking the lake. He wore a red uniform dotted with golden arcs, and over the left half of his body, a crimson cape pinned down by a golden shoulderplate with three pipe-like protrusions jutting from it. On his head, he wore a bright red powdered wig that not only had three rolls on each side, but three hooks sticking out of the top as well.

    “So there was a breach in the north sector?” the man, evidently the Colonel Nixon the soldiers had spoken of, asked of his followers. “Speak! I can have nothing impede me!”

    “Several strange people appeared near the temple,” admitted the lead soldier, a sense of nervousness overcoming his mind. “We led an attack against this unknown threat. The group numbered five humans in total. We arrested two of them, one male and one female. The others…”

    “Are you to tell me that the other three escaped?!”

    “I’m… very sorry, sir. They fought back. We had to withdraw to regroup our forces.”

    “I see. Very well then…” Nixon calmly reached for the bottle of champagne sitting in the bucket full of ice on his desk, opened it, and filled a glass with the sparkling fluid. After taking a leisurely sip, he said, “Repair your forces and take no further action. The fated day is tomorrow. Tomorrow… I will bring forth Zoroark and destroy the empire of Caitlin XVI!”

    -:-

    Matt, Olivia and Nekou all rode on Golurk’s back with Agenta as they flew over the restored but still ancient-looking buildings of Argyros, until they arrived at their destination on the banks of a vast lake. The trip seemed to take very little time, as looking out at the inexplicably-repaired town fascinated all three of them.

    Their arrival was at a rather large compound built of pale limestone, looking more like a fortress than a typical house. Windows dotted the sides of the irregularly-shaped structure on both the inside and outside of the square boundary created by its walls, making it possible to see that most parts of the building had three floors, with four in some places.

    Agenta guided her new friends under an arch and into the courtyard, which was overlooked by multiple balconies and dotted with a few carefully-tended plants. They nearly got lost from their sheer fascination with the gorgeous sights of the modest and elegant building, but Agenta kept them on track until they reached a wooden door with a carefully-carved image of the Legendary Pokémon Arceus on it.

    “Please, welcome to my home, the Argyros Shrine.” Setting her hand on the door, Agenta carefully pushed it open, leading Matt, Nekou and Olivia into a corridor dimmed by its brown, wood-panel walls. Sunlight filtered in through the latticed windows, giving the hall a subdued, peaceful feeling. “Mother? Mother, I’ve returned!”

    “You didn’t mention we’d see your mom,” Olivia said, her intentions immediately obvious to Matt. “Is your father here too?”

    “My father… isn’t here anymore,” Agenta responded, turning away and choking back a tear.

    Matt found himself in a very uncomfortable position. Olivia was clearly trying to talk about her issues over her father and the effects his disappearance had on those left behind, but she only ended up opening a sort of Pandora’s box when Agenta turned out to be in the same situation. He didn’t know what to say or do.

    He breathed a sigh of relief when Agenta’s mother finally rushed into the hall. She looked very much like her daughter in both physical appearance and clothing, albeit with an aged face and no hood on her robes. The older woman was also holding a tiny child wrapped in a blue blanket in her arms.

    “Agenta, you should not be so irresponsible! Your sister is here sick and you’ve taken far too long bringing back the herbs to make medicine! And then you bring back this aberrant lot of strange people!”

    “I’m sorry, mother… but I did bring back the herbs, and these people… they came here by accident and helped to protect the temple…”

    “Yes,” Matt added, “I’m sorry for any trouble we might be giving you. We just want to find out where we are, find our friend, and go hom...”

    Matt suddenly found himself being cut off, however, when Nekou shoved past and boldly put the back of her hand on Agenta’s baby sister’s forehead. “She’s burning up! This child is very, very ill and needs help!”

    “Excuse me, do not tell me what my daughter needs!” hissed Agenta and the girl’s mother. “I know very well she is sick, so I don’t need to hear it from someone in such vulgar garb!”

    Nekou pulled her head up to meet the woman’s gaze directly. “You can spend time insulting me for my choice of clothing, or you can let me help you. Agenta, show me what kind of herbs you have in your bag.”

    “Huh? Oh, right…” When Agenta opened the satchel, Nekou immediately began rooting around inside of it, looking at and comparing the various items inside. “Are these what you need?”

    “They should do fine. Matt, I’ll need to borrow Tanya for her heat, and some water to prepare the medicine with.”

    -:-

    Over the next ten minutes, Nekou busied herself mixing the selected herbs she needed with the water and heating this mixture on Tanya’s back. The end result was a concoction with a somewhat unusual and unappealing gelatinous texture. Matt, Olivia, Agenta and her mother all moved to a dining room and were seated at a long table when Nekou came in with the medicine sitting in a spoon.

    “Do you honestly expect me to…” Had Agenta’s mother finished that sentence, it would have been a question about if Nekou really thought she’d give her infant daughter the medicine. However, she had to correct herself when the sickly child in her arms hacked out a terrible, wrenching cough. “If you can do something, please do it. We need it…”

    Nekou leaned over and carefully lowered the spoon toward the girl’s mouth. “Here, be careful now… this’ll help you feel better…”

    Almost immediately upon sipping down Nekou’s creation, the girl calmed. She stopped coughing, relaxed in her mother’s arms, and could be heard sleeping peacefully. The sight of this development instantly caused Agenta’s mother’s icy façade to melt.

    “Oh… thank you, so much. It’s the first time my little one has been at peace in days…”

    “See, mother, I told you they were good people.”

    “I’m sorry I doubted you,” Agenta’s mother said to Matt, Nekou and Olivia. “Please forgive me.”

    “Don’t worry about it. Like I said, we’re just passing through and want to gather some information before leaving.” Lifting his head slightly, Matt continued, “I’m going to just need to ask you a few questions about this place and the circumstances going on. First, let’s introduce ourselves. My name is Matt, and I’m studying the history of this place. This is my student, Olivia, and my bodygua…I mean, assistant, Nekou.”

    “It’s a pleasure to meet you. You already know my daughter Agenta. I am Althea, the guardian priestess of this shrine, and this little one here… this is Catherine.”

    “You all have really pretty names,” Olivia commented rather unexpectedly. “They’re like mine.”

    “You’re very kind.”

    “Now, Althea, since we’re all introduced, I need to speak to you about some things. First, when our group arrived here, the city and temple were in ruins, but by the time we met your daughter, everything was rebuilt and structurally sound. What can you tell me about that?”

    Puzzled by this question, Althea curled her nose. “What are you talking about? This town has been this way for thousands of years. It hasn’t been destroyed since the great war with Zoroark in ancient times.”

    “But that would mean…”

    Anticipating Nekou’s thoughts, Matt immediately cut right to what he suspected. “Now, next question, what year is it currently?”

    “According to the calendar introduced by the government ruled by Queen Caitlin XVI’s family, we are in the year one thousand eight hundred and fifty. Shouldn’t you know that?”

    “I ****ing knew it,” Matt mumbled, his dubious hunch confirmed. “We time travelled. Olivia, when you touched the Time Ripple, you activated a chain reaction that brought us all back in time.”

    “Is that even possible? I did that?!” Olivia couldn’t understand how anything she’d done had caused such an event. She did believe that time travel that time travel could be accomplished, but she’d never done much studying into the subject and therefore was left completely stunned by the revelation.

    “Time… travel?” Agenta wondered aloud. “I don’t understand…”

    “It makes sense that you wouldn’t, so don’t worry,” assured Matt. “You see, we are from the year 2012. While we were exploring the ruins of this place that exist in our time, a phenomenon occurred that transported us backward to this time period.”

    “But if you now exist in this time, assuming that your claims are actually true, would your actions here not themselves destroy the line of continuity that created your future in the first place?” Though she had just been introduced to the concept of time travel and did not believe in it very much at all, Althea demonstrated a surprising amount of understanding regarding it. She had already discovered the controversy of time paradoxes, which remained an intensely-debated subject even in the future.

    However, Nekou had her own things to add to the subject. “It remains a contested subject within the scientific community. There are a lot of variant explanations for time travel and its effects, but one in particular demonstrates that time paradoxes may not even exist in the first place. This theory describes that there are countless, infinite universes running alongside each other, without interacting at all. Each universe has differences that make it unique from the others, and if time travel is carried out, the temporal plane will self-correct. Now obviously, this has never been proven, but it makes some amount of sense.”

    “I’m sorry my self-appointed bodyguard just bored you with her drivel.” Matt ignored the dirty, upset look Nekou shot him and continued, “Now that I know we time travelled, this is even more important. How do we get back home?”

    “We can’t help you on that,” Althea answered, “but we know someone who might. His name is Bjorn Zerossen and he is the government official in charge of this area.”

    “The government control of… wait, did you say his name was Zerossen?”

    “What of it?”

    “It can’t be…” The name was all too familiar to Matt – in his time, he had once gone to school with a young man named Viktor Zerossen. Together, they had created an impressive body of work, complementing each others’ skills with robotics and physics. It all went bad, however, following a tragedy where their mentor’s daughter was killed in a freak accident, leaving Viktor Zerossen with intense survivors’ guilt and anger at Matt for surviving too, prompting him to rebel and adopt the once-affectionate nickname of “Zero” as his new name. As Zero he engaged in increasingly unstable attempts to resurrect her, eventually ending up enlisted with the villainous Team Galactic.

    Matt hadn’t seen him for years, but still, hearing the last name Zerossen raised uncomfortable flags. Althea, Agenta, Nekou and Olivia all picked up on his sudden trailing off, and stared at him until he realized that they were doing so, at which point he snapped back into consciousness.

    “Tell me more about this government power structure overseeing Argyros Town, then.”

    Althea nodded her head. “You see, after the great war with Zoroark, Argyros was a self-governing land until the seventeenth century. It was then that the Colchester family, led by the current queen’s ancestor Caitlin I, swept across the Tohjo Continent, subjugating all lands in their way. There was a brief battle, but Caitlin I quickly struck a peace treaty with our people and the problems were resolved.

    The ruler of the Tohjo Continent today is Caitlin XVI, and she has installed General Bjorn Zerossen as the military executor of this land. He is a kind man who is respectful of our culture and tries to make us happy with life as subjects of his queen in as many ways as he can. But…”

    “But what?” Olivia questioned. “Did something bad happen?”

    “General Zerossen’s deputy, Colonel Nixon, eventually took an interest in this area as well. He studied our carefully-preserved culture and tradition carefully, and discovered the horrific secret we guard… that once annually, we must sacrifice one of our own people at the temple to Zoroark, or else the treaty our ancestor Kratos made will be broken and disaster will face us again. He wishes to usurp control of this time for us and use it to his own advantage.”

    “I don’t understand,” Nekou reasoned, shaking her head. “If you make the sacrifice every year, and he wants to do it instead, what difference does it make?”

    “He doesn’t care about one core piece of our culture – we don’t use the same calendar the people of the kingdom do. For us, one year is defined as the time between two periods of the sun completely disappearing from the sky.”

    “The total eclipse of the sun…” Suddenly, Matt understood what Althea was trying to say, and his expression intensified as the urgency of the situation became clear. “You already made the sacrifice for this year by your calendar, didn’t you? And he wants you to make another out of order?”

    “That’s correct. He does not care that making the sacrifice twice in one period of time could possibly fully summon Zoroark back to life. In fact, he is probably banking on it.”

    Agenta abruptly stood up, causing an awful screech by pushing her chair against the floor. “I have… to go cleanse my mind.”

    Matt, Olivia and Nekou stared as Agenta left the room; none of them had expected the young woman’s strange behavior. Picking up on their surprise, Althea stood herself and made her way over to a large, ornate wooden cabinet nearby. With her free hand, she opened it and carefully removed an object – the same blue glass orb that the group had found in the ruined temple in the future.

    “This is the Life Orb,” she revealed, “or, this particular one is a replica of the Life Orb. It’s a treasure that came from our ancestral homeland and was once used by Kratos, the great hero who did battle with Zoroark and saved our people. Today, it is an important item because of the fact that the sacrifices must be made using it. We plan on giving Nixon this false Life Orb to try and thwart his plan.”

    “Let me see that.” Matt carefully examined the fake Orb once Althea gave it to him. It was carefully crafted, and to the uninformed, it could easily be mistaken as the real thing. “Please allow me to keep this for now. I still need to ask Agenta some more questions.”

    “She likely went to the shrine deep inside this compound to try and purify herself and her mind so she can see the path forward. Go talk to her, and you three can stay the night here.”

    “Thank you very much.” Matt put the fake Life Orb in his bag, then tipped his hat to Althea and walked through the doorway Agenta had used to leave. Behind him, he could hear Olivia and Nekou giving similar wishes.

    -:-

    The sun was nearly completely down over Argyros, and the moon had almost fully replaced it. This odd mixture of daylight and moonlight shone through the gallery window behind Nixon’s desk, granting a sinister, almost otherworldly glow to the wicked colonel and his room full of spoils.

    He was not the only one sitting at the desk now, however. While he continued sipping from the champagne in his glass, he was questioning Gideon, who had his hands tied to the back of the chair he was in. They had been talking for some time, long enough for Nixon to confirm to his own trust that Gideon really did come from the future; Gideon had reached this conclusion on his own in the jail cell. The subject had now turned to why Gideon was at the temple in the first place.

    “It’s in your best interest to be honest with me,” Nixon said, his slow words coated with suave menace. “If you come clean now, I can see to it that your fate is a little better than it can be.”

    Feeling defeated after the long interrogation he’d endured, Gideon finally gave in. “My boss ordered me to recover an item called the Life Orb from the ruins. To that end I followed the others to the ruins, but when I tried to take the Orb, the Time Ripple was initiated.”

    “I see.” Leaning forward in his chair, Nixon postulated, “It would seem you have enough of a connection to the Life Orb that I cannot get rid of you easily. What would you say to a partnership?”

    “What are you talking about?” Gideon feared that Nixon was using ‘partnership’ metaphorically, and didn’t want to think about what it could really mean.

    Instead, though, Nixon rose from his seat and casually made his way toward the left side of the room. “Exactly what I said. A partnership. You see, in addition to being the deputy of General Bjorn Zerossen, the military executor of this district, I am also the current leader of the religious society known as the Order of Illusion. Founded by my ancestor, the man known as Marcus the Betrayer, the Order of Illusion has long stood against the teachings of the Tenganists. Even so, their culture holds important keys for us… my goal is to resurrect Zoroark, the mythical beast that once ravaged this land, and ally myself with his power to overthrow the empire of Caitlin XVI. After that, I shall create a theocracy ruled by the Order of Illusion, with myself at its head and Zoroark at my side. With all opposition eliminated, none will be able to stop the Order of Illusion from making our beliefs come true!” Seemingly catching himself before falling completely into madness, Nixon turned slowly and ominously to Gideon. “And the key to all of that is the Life Orb, the very item that you came here to find. So what do you say? If we team up, together we will be able to obtain and control the Life Orb, and bring Zoroark back into this world!”

    Gideon hesitated. On the surface, Nixon’s plan seemed completely mad, but the more he pondered it, Gideon couldn’t help but see an opportunity in it. In truth, despite the man’s rank, Gideon looked down upon Nixon, believing him to be not as intelligent purely because he was from an earlier, more archaic time period.

    “I agree. Let’s work together.” Because of his assumption regarding Nixon’s intelligence, Gideon arrogantly assumed he could outsmart the military executive and cult leader. The moment he accepted the proposed partnership, he already was thinking of ways to steal the Life Orb from Nixon and escape back into the future alone.

    “Wonderful!” Nixon exclaimed as he took a mounted saber off the wall with his right hand. Using it, he cut the ropes binding Gideon with a single deft, masterful swipe. Once his new partner was free, he explained, “I will personally oversee the collection of the Life Orb and the preparations to call forth Zoroark. I have also already prepared a very special secret weapon to deal with any opposition.”

    “A secret weapon?”

    “Yes, it is right over there.” Nixon pointed over at a stone-gray cannonball on a pedestal nearby, then smiled. “Inside that is the weapon that grants me the kind of power even General Zerossen cannot oppose. Soon, I will be completely and utterly invincible!”

    -:-

    In the present, Looker had returned to the stadium complex to meet with his subordinates. They went to a table in the dining room of the main building to discuss their findings from the day.

    “Traveling I did to the ruins of Argyros, trailing Matt Chiaki,” the detective revealed to his henchmen. “However, ruined being it was. It was appearing that they were leaving in a big hurry of great urgency, because they were being leaving doors open and not cleaning up the square of the town after creating a mess!”

    “Their whereabouts, Mr. Looker?” asked one of the policemen. “And what of the suspect, Gideon Neumann?”

    “Whereabouts, they could not be found. There was a flash of light being bright and nowhere to be found they were. Gideon Neumann, Matt Chiaki, Olivia Mistbloom, not a one of them were located in any location that could be found.”

    “My daughter is missing?!”

    Looker and his officers had sat down close to the bar, and as such, they were overheard by Anabel. Anabel had still been drinking all this time, but by now had drastically slowed the rate of her alcohol consumption. Her hangover was gone, but because of her depression, being so drunk only served to stabilize her mood.

    “I asked you a question. Where is my daughter?!!” Even though her grip on sanity was artificial and created by the alcohol, Anabel was losing it again from hearing that Olivia was missing. The idea of something happening to Olivia was the last thing Anabel could stand.

    “I-I’m being quite sorry, Anabel,” Looker answered nervously. “We are… we are being engaged in a search plan right now. She should not have been getting separated from Matt Chiaki and the others who were being with him. Hopefully, soon we will be finding them all.”

    “I’m joining you!” Anabel’s bold, defiant declaration surprised Looker and all of his men. She was plainly too intoxicated to do much besides sleep, judging from the woozy look in her eyes and the flush in her face, but she remained completely lucid somehow. “I will not let anything happen to her!”

    (Banner by Matori)
    Beyond all ideals, the truth shall set you free...
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