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Chapter 26: Into the Abyss :iconpokefan1337:PokeFan1337 1 0
Chapter 25: The Long Night Begins
Chapter 25: The Long Night Begins

Lab Ein – Fornia Region
"Tell me the odds again, Ein." Caleb Pravus stared down at his prize, grinning.
The lab coated doctor would've flipped his brown hair flick, if Pravus hadn't made him cut it off. Instead, he pushed his glasses up by the brim. "Given the species' popularity, incompetent archeological skills of our race at the time, and the tectonic upheaval of the Stoney Mountains, the odds of finding an intact specimen, let alone one a Mew fused with..."
He was silent for a good thirty seconds as his brain mathed out the numbers. Finally, he sighed, his monotone voice sounded bored. "Astronomically small."
Pravus gave him a look, but let it slide. They had other things to discuss. "Gender?"
"He hasn't figured that out yet." Ein said, smirking.
Pravus rolled his eyes. "Spare me the PC BS, and just say 'male', or 'plug' if we must use analogies."
Ein sighed, looking down at his creation. "It doesn'
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Chapter 24: Rise With The Storm (2)
Eastern Fornia Region – Yavano Tribe Lands
Alex and Jess had all but stumbled into the local Yavano tribe's main camp, and after giving them a moment to cool their surprise and lower their strange metal spears, they'd used words to avoid a conflict, though, as he'd told them something of who they really were, and that they were Trainers, several of the 'red-skinned' men had grinned. Even here, there were people up for a battle.
After hearing they were from Unova, the tribe's Chief, Long-Fang, had made an appearance, and invited them to enjoy some of their Leaf. It was quite a bit stronger than anything they usually smoked, but it went a long way to easing the tension of a first contact. The Chief himself had unusually large canine teeth, but given that Alex had a fair bit of strangeness himself, most notably the tips of his ears which became more pointed by the day, he didn't comment, or stare. Jess hadn't seemed to mind either, and found his ears amusing, claimi
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Chapter 24: Rise With The Storm (1)
Chapter 24: Rise With The Storm
Northern Unova – Unova University
Once Alex had his Aron, he'd visited his brother, who was in the middle of a summer-long experiment at the University's lab. He looked around as he entered the lab building, and he felt his team drawing his gaze towards one of the lab's habitats. Then, he saw why.
It was an Amaura, clearly a hatchling, and it was as white as the snow within its habitat. It looked to have once produced berries, like the other Amaura and Aurorus habitats nearby, but evidently the little one had frozen all of it.
Each of his team told him to go to the little one, and Alex approached the Pokémon, and reached out to it in a manner not unlike a Ralts, with emotion. Good feels flowed into the shivering Pokémon, and that was when Alex noticed. This Amaura was pure ice type.
"He's the most recent hatchling in this line that we've been breeding specifically for Special Attack power. Moreover, like
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Fornia Mk1 by PokeFan1337 Fornia Mk1 :iconpokefan1337:PokeFan1337 2 0
Mature content
The Once and Future King :iconpokefan1337:PokeFan1337 1 2
Chapter 23: Taunts, Tales, and Teleportation (2)
This was how Alex spent those three months before Fornia. Training in the Swamp by day, and adventuring at night. He was battling tons of trainers, and seeing many battle styles. More than once, a wandering blackbelt had even challenged him to a battle of martial arts, and not Pokémon.
Arthur, after returning from his Grove adventure, informed his trainer that there were many Gallade who were considered great knights in the Pokémon Leagues throughout the States. For a reason he kept private, he wanted to travel to those Leagues, and battle those Gallade. Having read the same legends Arthur had, Alex could guess why.
The Sage had been right, as always. His species had a thing for tournament battling. Shruikan and Blaze helped expand the number of places they could teleport to, by the day. Alex was making a trail essentially, slowly reaching ever closer to Fornia. It was impressive just how massive the continent was, and he knew once he got in range of Fornia that he'd
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Chapter 23: Taunts, Tales, and Teleportation (1)
Chapter 23: Taunts and Tales and Teleportation
The State's Eastern Coast – Jinia Town
The first thing Alex had done on his way south from his subtle return to his Alma mater was return home, to show Eric the cache of documents their granduncle had found on the Arceans. Once he'd read through several, including those detailing what had happened to Elaine, Eric understood his brother's disdain for the group, and admitted he'd been skeptical about what Alex had told him a few days earlier about Norstad. It seemed like something out of a story, a cult that powerful, led by a man so blatantly evil, but he couldn't deny hard evidence when it was right in front of him. He still didn't buy into that bit about Thor though.
He'd offered to go to Fornia as well, but Alex had convinced him to stay in Unova, to study, and run the lab instead. He also gave him a method of contacting Tao, and once he'd announced that the Redwood Lab was open again, something st
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Pokemon World MK4 by PokeFan1337 Pokemon World MK4 :iconpokefan1337:PokeFan1337 3 0 Unova Mk 1 by PokeFan1337 Unova Mk 1 :iconpokefan1337:PokeFan1337 2 0 Tao's Pokeball by PokeFan1337 Tao's Pokeball :iconpokefan1337:PokeFan1337 3 1 150 Million Years From Now by PokeFan1337 150 Million Years From Now :iconpokefan1337:PokeFan1337 1 0
Chapter 22: The Best Laid Plans (2)
Northern Norstad - The Fairy King's Tower
Several days had passed since the fall of the World Eater. Alex, Jess, and Connor had all been welcomed as heroes in the hall of Faarangar, and had earned the aid of Shor as well, should they one day require it. Naturally, Alex had been fascinated with the 'god', for upon getting a proper look at him, not distracted by a major battle, he'd discovered that he too had a dual typing. Fighting, and electric.
Shor had soon realized that humans were no longer as…gullible as they had been in the past. They had grown up, fallen, and then rose again. Even the Earth was vastly different to how he remembered it. Eventually, after several mugs of mead, Shor hinted that his origins were in the stars, but beyond that, refused to reveal more. That night had been spent singing songs, drinking mead, smoking plants, and enjoying the hard-won victory against the dragon, and the Prophet. The fact that he'd retreated at all still nagged at Alex, but he
:iconpokefan1337:PokeFan1337 2 1
Chapter 22: The Best Laid Plans (1)
Chapter 22: The Best Laid Plans
Norstad – Valaskjalf's Main Hall
Alex and Jess looked up at the sky, as the clouds had suddenly turned dark, not dissimilar from when he used the Strunzul. Then, the sounds of battle became clear. Heavy booms of thunder echoed from the gap in the newly formed door behind the village's main hall.
Alex shouldered his way free of Lokra's grip, and met her gaze. "No offense to your…king, but Pravus is our quarry on this hunt."
He glanced at the sky again, as the clouds arced with streaks of lightning. He remembered then something his granduncle had told him once about this particular weather formation, when he'd been younger. When the clouds boomed and lightning cracked the sky, it meant Thor was hammering away at something. Growing older, he'd learned his ancestors had also considered it a sign of rage sometimes, and a bad omen at sea.
Jess picked up on his thoughts, and the same underlying excitement w
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Chapter 21: The World Eater
Chapter 21: The World Eater
The World Forge – Mountain Adjacent to Hrothofkiin, Several Weeks Earlier
"Show me what you already know. Let me taste of your Voice, 'hero'." His Rayquaza's semi-mocking tone echoed throughout the volcano. For some reason, he could not sense the Legendary Dragon, and it made battling him much more difficult. Even Shruikan could not follow his stealthy movements through the smoke-filled air.
The inside of the volcano was largely obscured, and had Alex not spent so much time around smoke, both from the Leaf and a certain super powerful dragon, he likely would've coughed himself raw, but it didn't seem to bother him. Whatever the Graybeards had done had changed him, it seemed. He was eager to test his new limits.
Suddenly, Alex's vision shifted, and he recognized sight through Leo's eyes, which cut through the obscuring smoke, and were all but immune to trickery. Alex gave the mental equivalent of a glance to his Luxray, who preferred to ke
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Chapter 20: The Way of the Hyper Voice
Chapter 20: The Way of the Hyper Voice
Hrothofkiin – The Seidr's Isle
On the Seidr's Isle, there is an order of men, rather than Pokémon, who make their home in the volcano-riddled hell-scape, and use the power of their Voices to keep the elements from annihilating their fortress. It is known, as Hrothofkiin.
Pokémon do inhabit this fiery island. Species like Magmar, Magcargo, even a smaller breed of Charizard, but they take little notice of the humans within their midst. Indeed, most have no idea what humans even look like. It's one of the last places on the planet free of their meddling.
In this high fortress among the volcanic peaks of flame and ash, the 'Graybeards' as the locals call them, watch over their homeland of Norstad, from one of the three highest locations in the region, the other two being Ymir's Wahlom, and Valaskjalf, the home of those who ride Articuno.
It is as their nearest and greatest of volcanic peaks erupts, wit
:iconpokefan1337:PokeFan1337 1 0


Mature content
Pokemon: the Eternal Darkness Chapter 1 :icondarkprinceriku:DarkPrinceRiku 1 0
Pokemon: Lee's Kanto Arc, Chapter 1
Viridian City
Every day is a new start for a trainer-coming out into the world, getting stronger with Pokemon, fighting against the injustice that people face. And today, another trainer gets ready for an adventure, reaching the age of 10. Now, he is a kid, but when he finishes his journey, he shall be an adult...
"Lee! Are you done packing your bag?"
"I've just finished, mom, I'll be down in a second!"
Lee combed his black hair down, covering a bit of his glasses. Then he picked up his green trucker cap, pushing it down until it fit onto his head. A quick look in the mirror and he smiled-perfect, ready for the adventure ahead of him. Picking up his yellow bag, he wore it on his shoulders, the weight pressing onto his red-orange vest, and the shirt and skin underneath it.
Opening the door of his room, he walked down the stairs, his mother waiting down for him at the stairs. Reaching the end of the stairs, Lee flinched as his mother sprayed him with Repel.
"There you go, honey, b
:iconj-k-123:J-K-123 2 13
The Power of Steel by IndexSFM The Power of Steel :iconindexsfm:IndexSFM 100 10
PKMN Burst 28: Best-Laid Plains
Chapter Twenty-Eight: Best-Laid Plans
Terra's POV
"Why the hell are all these Meowth in my restaurant?"
I gulp. Paul looks pretty angry. "Well... reality was collapsing all around us and this is where Hoopa transported us to...?"
"Oh, it's Hoopa's fault, huh? I'm going to have words with that little imp." Paul looks around the room. "Where is it, anyway?"
Nobody knows what to say to that. How could we? Gladion especially. I can tell from the look on his face that he blames himself for the disaster.
I take a deep breath. "We... we lost Hoopa in the reality quake," I confess. "She couldn't go through her own rings."
"Oh," Paul says, looking awkward. "I... I'm so sorry."
There's a silence, a silence that sees Gladion hanging his head and everyone else trying not to look at him. Trying not to blame him. Even Gary, for crying aloud.
And then someone starts banging on the door. "Open up! Open for Hoopa!"
Half the group falls all over each other trying to get to the door. In the
:iconeurekatrollcat:EurekaTrollcat 1 0
Shadow of Giratina by ConvoyKaiser Shadow of Giratina :iconconvoykaiser:ConvoyKaiser 23 0
Gold Standard - Chapter 1
I wasn’t raised under the assumption that I would become a pokemon trainer. I was the child of the founders of the most prominent media company in all of Johto, and doubts that I wouldn’t carry on this legacy never crossed through my parents’ mind. I was supposed to be some phenom businessman, or journalist or... whatever. I was never given a concrete answer. Truth is, I never knew what I was supposed to be. I only knew what I couldn’t be.
My parents were wealthy, and that may even be an understatement. I was enrolled in the most prestigious schools, given the coolest gifts a kid could ever dream of getting, taken on the most luxurious of vacations, but I was never exposed to any pokemon. Ever.
As my tenth birthday approached, it seemed as if my classmates could only talk about training. They shared their plans for their future adventures, the gym battles they’d partake in, and the pokemon they’d catch. The list went on and on, but I never understood
:iconnational-gs:National-GS 2 0
IAPL: World Map by NikNaks93 IAPL: World Map :iconniknaks93:NikNaks93 74 77 Pokemon: RED vs. BLUE by e-hima Pokemon: RED vs. BLUE :icone-hima:e-hima 385 12 Pokemon Gaang by Hapuriainen Pokemon Gaang :iconhapuriainen:Hapuriainen 1,034 112 Pokemon by PurpleBlades Pokemon :iconpurpleblades:PurpleBlades 2,307 125 Pokemon Rim #1 - Invasion, Day One by Pokemon-FR Pokemon Rim #1 - Invasion, Day One :iconpokemon-fr:Pokemon-FR 188 35 Jazmin123B by JazminandJazz Jazmin123B :iconjazminandjazz:JazminandJazz 33 90
TAOP Episode 36: The Finale!
  “Hello, little sister. It’s so nice to see you again.”
  “What are you doing with Mom and Dad?” I demanded.
  “Oh, nothing. Just using them as hostages.”
  “Why?” I asked. “The Clor’th attacked our village. They’re trying to kill and enslave us.”
  “Trying to kill or enslave you. I made a deal with them.”
  “Don’t do that!”
  “Bit late. Should have told me before they INVADED OUR VILLAGE.”
  He grabbed Mom and held her over the side of the cliff. Muffled screaming ensued.
  “No! Please! I’ll do anything! Just don’t kill her!”
  “Alright, then. Join the Clor’th.”
  “Ok. I will.”
  “Good.” Mom wiggled.
  “Stop struggling, Mom!” He said. “I’m going to have to fuse you with a human later. I advise you accept your fate
:iconpinelopikirliagirl:PinelopiKirliaGirl 2 16
Pokemon Rangers Layla and Zangoose - RotGRS -0
Pokemon Rangers Layla and Zangoose
Ruin of the Go-Rock Squad

   Ever since I was little, I pondered the question. What did I want to be when I grew up? All the other children at the preschool knew what they wanted to be. From trainers to professors to coordinators to breeders... Everyone knew what they wanted to be.
Not me though.
I was always rather smart growing up, so a scientist seemed like a good fit, but I wasn’t quite that smart. I was very pretty, or so a lot of people told me most of my life, so many thought I'd be great as a coordinator, but I didn't see the point of contests and I didn't like fancy or elegant events.
Now, being a trainer did sound tempting, since I did like pokemon and I was very brave, plus I was rather good at battling with strategy. Sadly, I was never the friendliest person. I wasn't any good at making friends, so going on a journey that revolved around making friends didn't work out for me. I wa
:iconsonicranger-1:SonicRanger-1 2 0
[Comic] Goddess of Life X God of Dead 10 by vavacung [Comic] Goddess of Life X God of Dead 10 :iconvavacung:vavacung 257 43 Pokemon White by Eclipse4d Pokemon White :iconeclipse4d:Eclipse4d 79 3



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Who stays up till 4 am on his birthday to finish this fucking re-write?

This guy.

What can I say except, you're welcome.

It was supposed to take a few days, but who knew eight hour shifts could turn days into a month. And who knew DA would make me split six of the rewritten chapters? Yay tiny word counts.

Anyways, the beginning of the story has changed. A lot. But at least it makes sense now, and is less cringey. Now, finally, we can continue on with the main story. As soon as I find some cannabis. Stay tuned lads, because we're going full Skyrim. Visk Nau Joors!
  • Listening to: Viking Gods
  • Reading: My own stuff four times.
  • Watching: Pfft, watching requires free time.
  • Playing: lol, I wish
  • Eating: Buffalo chicken strips.
Welcome. This is where I post the majority of my fanfic, and things relating to it, like my feeble attempts to draw maps in paint.

Any feedback is appreciated.


PokeFan1337's Profile Picture
Artist | Hobbyist | Literature
United States
I'm a writer, living in 'murica, writing as more of a hobby than anything else. Apparently I'm good at it, so I figured I'd try some fanfiction with a universe I actually know.

If you read anything I write, you should be able to figure out what I'm into. I drop references all the damn time.

If you draw my OC trainer I'll love you forever.

I might commission something. If I ever get money. lol


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Chapter 26: Into the Abyss

Three Days after Colville Burned – Unova Region

Word reached the dragon that the Governors of the thirteen 'states' that had come when he'd called, had finally arrived. Tao had expected the first plan to fail. They'd given Pravus too much time. Time to mobilize his cult. His army. Whatever he'd escaped Norstad with. He'd had half a summer to set things in motion, and he certainly had now. As soon as Alex entered Fornia, the Prophet had started mobilizing. The Rebel spies had been fed false information, and the 'holy army' formed undisturbed. Now, they'd made their way up Mount Battle, and had claimed it in the name of the Church. Evidently, it was now a part of Fornia.

Almost immediately after hearing this news of aggressive action by the massive Fornian army, the other Governors not under Pravus' thumb had received the Unovan Dragon's summons to the ancient seat of his empire. The Dragonspiral Tower. It was now much as it had once been in ancient times.

The followers of the dragon attended to their guests between martial and Pokémon sparring sessions. After a night of rest, for many had traveled far, they'd gathered at the top of the tower, which now acted as an open-air meditation area under a dragon-sized pagoda-esque structure, rather than a battle arena. Now that he had so many students, the battles were held outside the tower, within the natural forest. The trees always made things interesting.

"Thank you for coming. We've much to discuss." Tao was upright, resting on his coiled body much like a Rayquaza did whilst sleeping. "As you've no doubt heard, the Arcean Church is mobilizing. They're determined to spark a war with the east. They've raised a massive army to do so. Make no mistake, their ultimate goal is to conquer us, State by State, and reform the old empire under the Prophet."

The leader of the Kanadians spoke then, an elderly man of tribal descent with the classic black hair, and darker skin tones. Kanadia had several tribes that sailed on its frosty oceans, and this man's garb marked him as one of them. "Is there no way for peace to be maintained?"

The dragon shook his head. "They're marketing it as a 'holy war'. Their soldiers are devout, and fanatical, to the point of violence. Evidently, my powers and philosophy are the antithesis of everything the Alpha Pokémon stands for. So sayeth the Arcean Church."

The room stayed awkwardly quiet before someone among the crowd of leaders spoke. "Is it?"

The golden eyes of the massive dragon arced over the suddenly slightly terrified men who, in that moment, suddenly remembered they were very very small compared to this Pokémon straight from prehistory. His massive eye stopped beside the Governor of Transylveticut. A thin man in a nice suit, with a thin moustache, that curled up at the edges into little swirls.

Of course. The man who lived in daily fear of the Swamp. Transylveticut was famous for its massive Swamp, which was too deadly to enter, and its superstitions, that most of the other States simply found silly. The dragon spoke once more. "I will forgive that, for it has been millennia since I was last whole, and you humans have a tendency to forget, what with your short life spans."

The dragon rose slowly as he spoke, wings expanding, as he towered over all of them. His eyes flashed with psychic power. "See now, leaders of the States, and behold the history you have forgotten." He linked to each of their minds, and was pleased to see that among the many emotions the group of leaders were feeling, treachery was not one of them. These were hard-working men who wanted to see their people safe, and live through a time of peace. Unfortunately, nobody ever really wanted to be the target of a madman with an army. This was simply another stumbling block they needed to surpass. Tao had a feeling it would make them stronger.

The scenes he displayed for the gathered leaders showed the details, at least some, of his own creation by Arceus himself. Tao was bid to guard this continent, and use his awesome power to promote peace, and balance. Of course, in those days, the people who lived upon the continent had other ideas as to who should rule it. The wars of the ancient past had been large, and brutal, but Tao had sought out those who did not want to fight, who did not give in to their anger, and taught them the secret of true power. They were his first students, and they were Legendary for being all but unstoppable in those ancient combination of divine wisdom, divine weapons, and divine power had made them superior to any foe.

Tao spoke then, to each of them. "I have always been a peaceful minded being. I do not like violence. I do not like killing that which I've no intention of eating. I do not like wasting life. But mark me, if the balance is disturbed, I will do what I must. Every time, regardless of who my foe is."

"What if Arceus broke the balance?" Someone asked.

Tao gave a heavy sigh, and the smoke from his nostrils filled the pagoda, and covered the round wooden table they'd gathered at. Thankfully the windy benefits of being thousands of feet high meant that it didn't linger. He didn't bother looking for the speaker. "If the Alpha Pokémon ever willingly disrupts the balance, then weep, little human. For the end of existence will be nigh."

What he showed next was a series of disturbing images. Humans, and Pokémon who could not be dissuaded, lay dead by the thousands as Tao hovered over their battlefield. His sparking claws were covered in blood, as was his maw, and he wept openly at what he'd been forced to do to quell the senseless bloodlust of those ancient days, and restore balance to his new land.

From that senseless destruction though, came something truly impressive. The Dragon Empire. The golden age of the land known as Unova, which stretched from coast to coast, and flourished under the One Dragon's guidance. Each of the leaders was treated to a sped-up view of the Empire growing, flourishing, and many could not believe just how large it had truly been. The history books didn't do it justice.

As the visions began to fade, the men were given an aerial view of three spires on a recognizable chunk of land. The Dragonspiral, to the west, the Imperial Palace on the easternmost coast, and finally, one massive tower that, to this day, stood over Castelia as a home to visiting foreigners of political importance. Unity Tower. There had even been a city around the one in the past, as well. In fact, as the men looked closer, they saw that all of what was generally referred to as Unova's capital had, at one point, been one single massive city. Seeing this, and knowing what the region currently looked like, was humbling. Nature had reclaimed their dying ruins of an empire in the chaos that had followed the dragon's split.

"You asked if my power and philosophy went against the Alpha." The dragon spoke, "My power is of the Alpha, as are my teachings. None understands the importance of maintaining balance, and the price it takes to do so, better than Arceus."

The Governors looked amongst themselves, as they spoke quietly, even though many assumed the dragon could hear them anyways, which of course, he could. He let them bicker though. They were politicians after all. Arguing was their forte. Finally, Unova's Governor stepped forward. He gave a bow in the old style, right fist to left open palm. The dragon returned it, and then, the man spoke. "What do suggest we do, Dragon of Unova?"

The dragon, who had remained hovering over the group, now rearranged himself as he returned from stretching over them, and gave the man a grin that sent…not fear, but a chill of what could almost be excitement up his spine. It only grew as he processed what the ancient Pokémon said.

"Reform the Empire."

Thankfully, nobody seemed to outright reject it, though there were more than a few rumbles of discontent. It warranted discussion at least, and it wasn't like everyone in the room hadn't considered it before. There had always been one point of contention, though. The Unovan Governor repeated it to the One Dragon. "And who would be our Emperor?"

The dragon's grin only grew. He found it amusing that humans, even after thousands of years, had changed so little. A taste of power, real power, and many would salivate at the thought of ruling it all. Several were right that very moment, their twisted egos mentally listing reasons they just knew the dragon would say their name, and catapult them into the position they deserved over their rivals. His response shattered their ambitions. "I've already chosen my Champion. And given that he's just spent the summer in enemy territory, and is quite frankly the strongest trainer we have available, he's the right commander to lead our forces."

"What about N?" Someone asked. The Dragon's eyes softened.

"He has returned to the wilds…defending Unova for so many years against the shadow of his father…it took a toll on him. He realized that his obsession with hunting Ghetsis down had caused him to ignore something as obvious as reforming the three dragons into One. Once Ghetsis finally passed, his drive to battle faded. Consider him unavailable, for this conflict." The dragon mused, silently as the men took in his words, and began to bicker. Ghetsis himself had almost accomplished it, albeit in a twisted manner. Yet it had avoided the former Champion's notice entirely.

Every aspect of himself had liked N. He'd saved Unova, and several other regions, many times over the years. He'd said he was leaving to train, to find a new level of power the bond between humans and Pokémon could give, but Tao doubted he would have success. Not any time soon, at least. Only one other power rivaled Mega Evolution, but nobody had rediscovered that method. It had been effectively purged from history, for good reason. Some things were best left forgotten.

The Governor's debate was far more intense this time. The majority were opposed to the dragon's suggestion. Unova, and a few other State leaders, remained neutral for the moment. There would need to be a vote, but it seemed obvious how that would go. The leader of the eastern half of Texico spoke up then. "We've always seen fit t'govern ourselves, pard. Why would we put a whelp in cherge of our people? Any ijit can battle Pokémon."

The dragon's golden gaze fixed on the man with the classic Texican hat, which was white, and matched the rest of his fancy suit. Few of these men had issues with flaunting their material wealth. He resisted a sigh. "Because he is the one among you who proved himself worthy. Billions of humans on this continent. Thousands of years, and yet not one of you managed to do what he did. I lost count of how many times the balance of the world nearly fell because one of your kind found one of the Orbs and tried to use it to take over. Even when both parts of me were awake, you viewed me as two separate dragons, and that was how I remained. Even N did this, though he more than anyone understood my situation."

The dragon stared at each of them as his commanding mental voice rang through their skulls. "Redwood is…different. He looked at me, and saw a being torn apart. He had the power, and the instinct, to reunite what was sundered, and ever since, he's done nothing but use his considerable strength to keep the peace. Only one other human has ever absorbed my lessons so…thoroughly. The First Dragon Emperor." The Governors who opposed, quieted then. All knew the legends of the last three Emperors, but the first had been a dragon of a different scale. Wise, powerful, and fair he had crossed the continent on foot, and slowly, convinced the warring people to unite. It had taken a lifetime, but when he'd finished, his offspring had inherited the largest empire the Earth had seen since the old civilizations fell so very long ago.

Were it not for the curse of mortality, he could have gone on to unite the planet. Alas, his daughter did not possess his abilities, and despite Tao's best efforts, her...desires...had led the burgeoning superpower to the brink of civil war when the time came to name a successor. Thus, the Trials had been devised, first by humans, then by the dragon. Seven times they'd passed the rules between them, until it was finally done, but the results spoke for themselves. Peace and prosperity reigned for millennia until the Dragon was torn apart, but given that the last Emperor's sons had not faced the Trials, many Unovans still believed them to be infallible at picking a successor. They had never failed.

The men huddled again, and while a few had changed their minds at the dragon's words, most remained unconvinced. Unova's Governor spoke again. "Wise dragon, we would like the opportunity to examine your choice, if we may, if only so that those with doubts may have them assuaged. I know how strong your Champion is, I've met him. I agree with your choice. With guidance from us, and yourself, he could be a fine Emperor, but the others are proud, independent leaders. They need more than a voucher for something this…monumental. With your blessing, we wish to test his capabilities. As we did in the old days."

The dragon pretended to ponder for a moment, and hid his smirk. He did feel slightly guilty using the human leaders like this, cleverly baiting them down the path he wished this conversation to take. It was necessary though. Fornia was a legitimate threat, and the east needed a figure to rally around. "Very well. How will you test him?" He already knew, but he knew how humans got when they realized he could read their minds.

After another huddle, though this one only lasted five minutes instead of twenty, they agreed, and told the dragon what they intended. He'd tried not to break into laughter, and as always, kept his composure. He told the group that he would summon the Champion, and that they were free to enjoy his tower as his guests.

Once they'd all left, he began packing a bowl in his favored piece, the storm-forged glass he'd made but recently. Though it was new, it was growing on him. He'd almost decided on a nickname for it, even. He chuckled quietly to himself as he puffed the clouds of smoke into the cold autumn afternoon. "Humanssss…sssso very predictable." He shook his head, and then turned his golden gaze east across his barely recognizable lands. His divine gaze could just make out the murk of what the humans now called the Abyssal Ruins. Once, it had been a palace so lovely, even Arceus had enjoyed visiting it. Now…nothing remained but sand and ruin. The dragon grinned to himself. For now.

Rebel Canyon Base - Fornia

Alex stood from the shell of his Torterra, who many admired with long looks. He was rather pleasant to observe. The perfect melding of earth and life was…calming, almost. This was fortunate, for his Trainer's words would likely confirm their worst fears.

"Fornians, Tribespeople, Rebels, I know I am new here, but bend your ears for a moment. It's important." He was in the main room of the base, a massive cave, really. It was full of tech, supplies, and equipment. A gleam of something bright and multicolored caught his eye. He did a double take. Were those Plates? What were elemental plates doing here? And how were there so many? So many questions. He buried them, for the moment, as the base gathered around. The Chief had told several of his underlings to run down the halls when the Unovan began speaking, and they had done so. Within minutes, the entirety of the Rebellion, or most of it, had gathered in the cave. There was almost not enough room.

"Many of you have seen the clouds." He started, and the murmurs began immediately. The sun had just begun to set, but rumor was that the sky had been darkening unnaturally all day. Given the intense and oppressive heat outside the canyon, many did not leave the caves. "They are ash clouds, from the trees of Colville. That's where it started, anyway. The north burns, and the Prophet's own Hand lit the blaze." He'd kept his battle cam recorder on, as it had proven incredibly useful, and now was no exception. He expected footage of what was basically a zombie would go viral quite quickly. He'd let someone else put it on the PokéNet this time. Like the media. He had enough eyes on him already.

The murmurs increased to panic, as the most common first thought was 'what if we're next?' A few former Arceans even started shaking where they stood. "This is what we get for defying the Prophet!" Someone shouted, but she quickly clamped her hands on her mouth as everyone glared in her general direction. "Sorry…old habits…" She was trying not to break down completely. Fear had that effect.

"Rest easy, Rebels. I did not say he'd come here next, though he will eventually." The growing hysteria died down slightly as Alex used his Voice in a different manner. Tao had taught him the trick, and he had to admit, it was useful. A bit of power, the right tone, and humans were naturally, subtly influenced to focus harder on what he was saying. Naturally, the result was silence.

"I have a way out of this place, a direct line to Unova. We can get there today. All of us, even those in the other bases." He gave them his best smirk, and tried not to shudder with anticipation himself. He'd been preparing for this for months, and now, the war scenario was actually happening.

"How?" Someone asked.

Alex gave the dragon the mental equivalent of a nudge, and in an instant, the One Dragon appeared within the massive cave. He floated above them in a long circle, and had just enough space between the crowd and the pointy, potentially deadly stalactites above him. His scales would protect him, but the humans below looked somewhat fragile. But then, they always did.

The dragon smiled as, almost in unison, the people put their fists to their palms, and bowed in the old style. It was a style that was universal on this continent. Vestiges of his Empire were everywhere. If he could but unite them, they could rebuild rather quickly. His serpentine form arced gracefully over all of them, taking in their faces, and already noticing some hereditary features from his time. For whatever reason, even with Arceus' own blessing, the human race seemed unable to physically change their form much. Their minds had grown, but their bodies remained largely the same. All that really changed was how well the humans took care of them in this age. Though he supposed that millennia of eating nothing but berries and Pokémon, two things Arceus' gift had directly effected on an evolutionary level, might also be a factor in their longer, if still pitiful life spans.

"Hello again, children of the land. It has been some time. Come, and I will once more take you to the safety of Unova, with the same promise that we will one day return. Though your homes may be burned…" He trailed off, hoping one among them would yet remember the ancient words.

The Chief stepped forward, and smiled. "The land endures. We remember your lessons, great dragon. Our loyalty is, as it was in those golden years, yours. And your Champion's. We will follow your counsel, and the ancient agreements, when the conflict ends."

The Dragon eyed the Chief. "If this conflict goes poorly, it may mean the enslavement of everyone that is not an 'Arcean'. That is how close we are to Unbalancing, my friends."

The Chief's eyes were wide, as were all of the tribe's. "Are we so far gone already? How did we not see?"

A massive talon, currently not on fire or sparking with electricity, rested upon the Chief's shoulder, and a golden light filled the cavern. "Have hope. Every night must have a dawn." With that, he lifted back into his circling in the air, and then spoke to them all. "Gather your possessions, little humans. We Teleport to safety in five minutes." He knew it would likely take them longer, but he could wait. His patience was infinite. He scanned for his Tamer, and sensed his thoughts.

The dragon's voice echoed in his skull. "Where are these plates? Show me."

Alex directed his gaze, and the dragon followed it. He floated over, and the people around watched, clearly interested, but also tried to pack at the same time. The dragon looked at each, and then glanced to his left. "These are from a cache. Evidently, one of those tasked with safeguarding these did not do their job well enough."

"Do not be in a rush to judge, mighty dragon." Came Brad's voice, as he came around the left corner, and stepped next to the pile. "The Arceans dug these up, and I can guarantee you that if they had a guardian, it's either enslaved and corrupted with Dark Matter, or was killed off for resisting too much."

The dragon's eyes went wide. "They would not dare kill mythical species. They are unique, precious, powerful. Pokémon born of the fusion of Arceus and the evolutionary spiral."

Alex blinked. "The what now?"

The dragon literally brushed him off, with his massive tail, the way a male Pyroar did to its cubs. He forgot how attentive his latest Tamer was. It was almost irritating, not being worshiped as a deity anymore. In the past, humans had simply smiled, nodded, and accepted that he sometimes used strange terms they could not dream of understanding. But then, he'd never asked to be deified in the first place. The humans had done that by themselves, and they'd outgrown most of those tendencies over the millennia. He had no intention of dragging them backwards. "Never mind. You, Fornian, are familiar with where these were dug up. Now tell me. Did you ever hear legends of who specifically guarded your mountain?"

The once more tan and blonde trainer thought for a moment. Like Alex and Jess, he'd ditched the disguise once subtlety had been thrown out the window. "Azelf, I think. There was a crater-lake atop the mountain…but I guess the Arceans drained it. Before they burned everything."

The dragon sighed. "If they have one of the Lake Guardians, we may be in serious trouble." The two trainers raised a brow as the dragon spoke to them, and them alone. "As you know, Mew was one of the first Pokémon Arceus created. As such, it's quite powerful, and you've seen how messing with the base genetics can increase its strength. The Lake Guardians appeared not long after interacting with humans, and they settled by lakes the world over. Typically, there are three on every continental landmass."

Brad spoke then, also within his mind. "So they're strong. And? Pravus has plenty of Pokémon stronger than Azelf."

The dragon sighed, as he shook his massive head. "You don't understand, and I do not have time to enlighten you. Just know that if Pravus has Azelf, and the other two, he could very well tame me, and force me to obey him. Like the Spear Pillar incident."

The two trainers shared a look, as they both very much understood. Everyone had heard the rumors of the mysterious power that had literally bound Time and Space in one place, and summoned Giratina's epic wrath. Pravus could not be allowed to create another chain. This time Alex spoke. "I have an idea of where Uxie resides. Jess knows about Mesprit…but she refuses to talk about it."

The dragon stared at him. "Have her go confirm whether Mesprit is still in her lake. You do the same for Uxie. Send Arthur to check."

Alex nodded, and called the Gallade out. He mega evolved, and then Teleported to where they'd once come across the mythical psychic type, as they were traveling west. Alex picked up a crystal from the nearby pile, and raised a brow at the dragon. "I thought these felt weird…they're dead. Just rock. Fakes?"

The dragon shook his head. "Merely dormant. It would take divine energy, like mine, to wake them up again."

Alex nodded. "Then we should take what we need, and you can give the rest to the trainers you deem worthy of leading. I trust your judgment, oh wise dragon." He couldn't resist his smirk.

The dragon sighed, and the pile of plates and crystals was illuminated by a golden circle of light on the rock surrounding them. The light flared, and then, Alex felt it. Any human within a hundred miles that had any kind of latent psychic senses, felt it. It was power. The power of the Alpha.

As Alex and Brad took what crystals they needed, Brad eyed one of the plates. "What do these even do, anyways? I get how the crystals work, but these seem…different."

Tao took the plates and crystals the two Champions did not require, and with a twist of his claw, hid them somewhere safe. A temporal pocket dimension that he alone could reach into from anywhere. "The plates are essentially just crystals, and the crystals are shards of one of Arceus' own Plates."

Alex blinked. "What? What do you mean? How are there so many if they belonged to the Alpha?"

The dragon's massive eye focused on him, as it usually did when the dragon grew irritated at his constant questions. "Arceus had to shrink his form to interact with this planet, and even then, he was still so large, his mass accidentally pulled in a planet-killer of a meteor towards the Earth. He shattered it with ease, and then noted how the remnants covered the planet, albeit briefly, before burning up. He then decided to give this fallen world a gift. He used his Judgement, and found the Earth worth saving. That, little human, is why there are so many shards over your planet."

Alex opened his mouth to speak again, but Tao cut him off, reading his thoughts, and simply answering. As he did, when the questions of the secret history of their world could not cease from spewing from his Tamer's mouth. His hunger for knowledge was ravenous, but then, most of his student's shared that trait. The promising ones, anyways. "Your burned, frozen, and drowned husk of a world was so out of balance when the Alpha found it, his gift was necessary. It was the sorry state of your world that had even garnered his notice at all. This is why most of these plates have such little power left. Much was drained to help nature regain balance."

Alex simply nodded then, as Tao continued. "Your ancestors, while not as advanced technologically, had a very good grasp of how to wield and manipulate the energy introduced to them by the Alpha. With this knowledge, they took the broken shards of Arceus' power, and made them into items that boost the power of a Pokémon's attacks just by holding them."

The two Champions shared a look again, and Brad nodded, then spoke again. "I knew that much…but given what they are, I figured there was…more…to them."

The dragon brought his massive golden eye down to the humans, and they remembered just how small they were. "There is more to them, but if you wish to draw out that power, you will have to figure out how by yourselves."

The two simply nodded, and began attaching the plates to their partners. All save Arthur, Shruikan, who could not fit in this cavern anyways, and Gelauros, who was still a bit young for such power. As with Shruikan, each of the plates bonded to the Pokémon it touched, and infused them with power. They stayed where they'd been affixed, melding seamlessly, and apparently painlessly, to the Pokémon in question.

Once everything was finally gathered, Tao Teleported.

Icirrus City - Unova

Moving objects and humans to a space thousands of miles away wasn't hard, persay, it simply took energy, depending on what was being Teleported. After several trips back and forth to each of the bases, Tao was genuinely tired. The results though, were impressive.

The entirety of the Fornian Rebellion sat in the shadow of the Dragonspiral Tower. There was a wide, circular garden that enclosed the base of the massive structure now, and to the immediate north, a forest. One which had grown to immense size, despite the upheaval the raising of the tower had caused.

Icirrus Town had changed quite a bit since Tao's return. In the space of a year, the population of the usually remote town had quadrupled, and the locals soon became a minority, forgotten in the flood of Unovans desperate for the dragon's wisdom. Now, the newly crowded town, and all its inhabitants, surrounded the new arrivals as word spread that the One Dragon arrived. His long snaking body was obvious, even from a distance.

There were a few murmurs as the Unovans noticed their weapons and tech, which had been Teleported with them, when possible. There was a flash of green in front of the new arrivals, and then the very earth shook.

Slowly, the unmistakable form of the Champion rose above them all on a rising pillar of earth. He was standing, arms crossed, on his Torterra's shell, newly adorned with a beautiful jade colored Plate. Once he was high enough, the turtle stopped lifting the ground. "Unova! Gather the media. There's…news."

It didn't take long for those with such connections to be summoned, as Alex had tipped off several he'd come to trust, Haley included, to stay around Icirrus. As he saw the blonde amongst the varying trendy neon colored hair her cohorts were sporting, he smirked. They stopped at the edge of his 'pillar', and then they gasped in unison as their bodies were raised into the air by a strange blue power.

Once they reached the top, a few looked disgruntled, but Haley cut off any words of anger with her eagerness. "Champion! You've…returned." The look of excitement faded into one of disbelief as she saw their mysterious Champion sitting on the shell of his Torterra, several cups of steaming tea floating by his head.

He sipped his own nonchalantly, and smirked. "I did promise a story…"

"You said you'd tell us about the Swamp." She remarked, crossing her arms as the others joined her, each taking their cup as it floated to them.

"Wow! This is good…sorry…" Haley glared at the one who'd spoken, and sipped her own tea. She blinked. It was actually delicious, and her brain said, 'drink more of this immediately', but there was a story. That came before all else. She raised a brow at the Champion, expectantly.

"And I will tell you of the Swamp, for it's a point of contention for those who would war with us. But right now I need all of you rolling. This is important. For those of you who haven't noticed yet, there's a reporter here from every State not currently under the sway of the Arcean Church." A few of them shifted uncomfortably at his words.

"Look, Alex, we don't want to get in the mid-"

"It's too late for that." Alex interrupted whoever had started speaking. "War has broken out, and the front lines are already being drawn. The east and the west are once more at war." He gave them a moment to process. "This isn't about me, or my feelings on the Church. Or their issues with me. This is about Caleb Pravus' ambition to become the next Emperor."

Haley spoke this time, "What do you mean?"

"Tao has informed me; the time has come. One way or another, this continent will once more be united. Either under the Dragon, and whoever he names Emperor, or under Pravus, who will force his doctrine on all of his subjects, one way or another."

"Wait a minute," the man he'd invited from Kanadia spoke up now, "Are you saying there's a chance Tao would name you our Emperor? Politics and Pokémon are two very different things, Redwood. I will freely admit you're very good at battling, but what do you know of running an Empire? Our Emperors of old were trained from birth to rule fairly."

"And look how that turned out." Alex retorted. "It doesn't matter if it's me, or N, or Hilbert, or any other worthy candidate in the eastern states at the moment. The point, is that we're on the brink of war. The Governors are in the Dragonspiral Tower at this very moment, waiting for word on who the Dragon will name."

"Not quite."

The two words thundered in the air as the massive serpentine form of Tao arced down from the fog of wonderful smelling clouds that had subtly sprung up around him as the humans dithered. "You have their eyes?" He spoke mentally, to his Tamer. Alex nodded.

"Behold humans!" His telepathic baritone thundered for all to hear then, "Your leaders have an announcement." The massive dragon circled the entirety of Icirrus, his equivalent to hovering, and the fog he'd created faded under the beat of his enormous wings. The gathered leaders of the Free States had come onto the balcony right above the tower's entrance for their announcement.

Unova's Governor stepped forward then, and bowed to the dragon above before addressing the Champion, and the gathered media representatives. By now, most eyes were upon them. Word of war traveled like wildfire. "After some advisement from the One Dragon, we have agreed. With this brazen move by Pravus and his Church, especially after the burning of Colville, we cannot ignore it any longer. War is inevitable."

Kanadia's Governor spoke then, looking down at the new arrivals. "Fornians, brothers of the west, who would you follow in reclaiming your home?"

Each of the Chiefs had been gathered, all save for Colville's, and it was the Canyon's Chief who spoke for them then. "We support the Dragon, my northern brother. We will support his Champion, the one you call Redwood."

"We are all in agreement, then." Unova's Governor said again, "The Dragon has chosen, and as in ancient times, his candidate will be tested. Champion, do you accept this test? Understand that you may very well die if you even attempt it."

Alex finished his tea, and placed it on Terra's shell. The grassy surface covering the shell swirled around the cup, holding it in place as his trainer launched into the air, surrounded by psychic energy. He floated up to the tower, and bowed in the air, fist to palm. "If you are all in agreement with Tao's choice, then I accept. What is my task?"

The Governor nodded at the Champion. "Go to the Abyssal Ruins. Find the centermost chamber, and retrieve what lies within. You will know it when you see it. If you are worthy, we will know. If you are not…you will never leave that place. Good luck."

If the Champion was concerned, he didn't show it. He instead nodded, and floated back down beside Terra. He motioned for the gathered representatives of the media to come down from the shell. Luckily, they'd finished their tea. The cups were rather tiny.

Haley crossed her arms under the ever-impressive cleavage. "You promised a story."

Alex smirked, and flashed a pair of UPBs, or Universal Poké Bus. "On these, you will find a firsthand account not only of hard evidence that Caleb Pravus' own hand lit the fire that burned Colville, the source of the darkness that now blankets Fornia, but also of several…let's call them 'indiscretions' committed by several of the Arcean Church's own higher ups." He offered them to the group. None of them moved. At the mention of the Prophet, all but Haley and Joey, who was still filming all of this, had gained expressions of reluctance.

"Listen, Champion, I know I owe you and your Swampert for stopping that avalanche back in Ontarec, but I don't want to get involved with the Arceans. The rest of Unova has no interest in this ego war between you and their holy man." The man who spoke then looked little different from most other Unovans with his black hair, pale skin, medium build and brown eyes, but then, beyond incorporating elements of black and white in their outfits, they didn't really have 'cultural clothing'. Unova was huge, and humans came in many varieties.

Alex sighed, and then walked forward to the only one of them who still had fire in her eyes, that instinctive need that would drive her to dig into this. He nodded once at Haley, and then looked at the man who'd spoken. "Watch the videos, Kaleb. You'll understand then what Tao and I already know. What our enemy really is. This is unedited, first-person viewing of the people Pravus knowingly puts in positions of power. You can't fake this level of realism." He looked down at the pair of devices in his comparatively oversized, gloved hand. "I wasn't able to stop any of it over the summer. Not without revealing myself neck deep in unfriendly lands. But I did leave my BR in the rooms they used to commit these acts. Triggered by the door opening. I had to shorten the recordings to thirty minutes, rather than just let them record indefinitely. The battery burnt out the first few times…but I soon discovered I didn't need thirty minutes. These…pathetic excuses for men didn't waste time. Ever."

After a reluctant nod from Kaleb, Alex recalled Terra, packed his cups and pot away into his bag, and shot into the air on his own power, headed east. He hadn't noticed at first, but flying was ridiculously easy now. In fact, most of his abilities had seemed stronger, since he'd stopped hiding them.

Picking up on his thoughts, he heard the dragon, who yet circled the city, speak to him as they passed in the air, with the speed of thought.

"It's the build-up. You've expanded your reserves by not constantly draining them with training. Now, lifting even your large form is easy. You'll find your special attacks are stronger as well."

The Champion smirked, and patted his unlit plasma sword. "I'm better in close range anyways. I always wondered why you taught me the sword and the staff. Did you foresee this or something?"

He saw the dragon smirk, "No. I trained you in the sword because, if you recall, you were so bad with the staff, you accidentally knocked Arthur out while practicing basic moves. Twice. A practice sword is essentially half of a staff. If you could master that, you could grasp the other. Eventually."

Alex rolled his eyes, and continued flying further away from Icirrus. The dragon coiled directly above the growing city, and shot an awe-inspiring spectacle of ice, fire, and lightning into the air with a single breath. "Go. I know you will overcome this. Dovahkiin."

The Word reverberated in his head in a familiar, and not unpleasant way. He'd gone far too long without practicing his Shouting, too. Tao had stirred the urges he'd buried through the long summer, but now, he felt like one peep could crack open the sky. He decided to take a minute to balance the motivation with the calm he needed for battle. That, more than anything else, was the key to Tao's fighting style.

The gathered crowd of people, which had only grown larger as word had spread like a Fornian wildfire across the region, gave wild cheers. Some even chanted, though they didn't seem to be able to agree on shouting 'champion', 'emperor', his name, or any of the other titles he'd evidently gained, but couldn't make out in the din. The people seemed to agree with the dragon's choice as well. He only hoped he was worthy of their admiration.

The cheers of support audibly faded as he flew away from the town, and he hovered on the outskirts. After discovering a shared love of the Leaf, the Fornian trainers within the rebellion had introduced the Unovan to something they called a 'vape'. With this strange pen-like device, they inhaled the oils derived from the Leaf in a relatively harmless fashion. It had a stronger effect, a lack of smell, and was incredibly portable. He had to admit he liked the ease of access, but he'd always prefer a bong.

Still, it was convenient to have on hand, for times like now, when he had to give Jess a minute or five to realize that they were leaving. He'd just finished packing the absurdly portable device back in its safety-container within his backpack when a familiar ball of red hurtled into him with the full speed of a psychic-powered tackle.

By pure coincidence, he'd parked himself by a clearing within the forest that spread between Icirrus and the center of the region. They landed hard on soft grass, but since he'd manage to toss his pack somewhat safely out of harm's way, Alex didn't mind taking the hit on his back. Nor did he mind the beautiful, smirking redhead who shifted into a straddling position atop him.

"Emperor!? Seriously?" She was trying to sound irritated, but she kept giggling. The good mood was infectious. Their surroundings also helped. Golden grass, leaves with fall colors all around. As spots went, it was not bad at all.

"It was Tao's idea. He said the east needed someone to rally behind, or they'd end up fighting each other." Alex smirked up at her, though it faded slightly. "Even with me leading our forces, he thinks there's a strong chance Pravus could win this. Fornia is a fortress. The best the east has is Unova, and they've attacked directly several times now. The closest thing we have to Sacreus is the Dragonspiral, and that's surrounded by innocent bystanders these days."

Jess shook her head, and suddenly, Alex found himself surrounded by hair. Not that he minded. She always managed to smell amazing. "You'll be fine. You have a plasma sword. That pretty much beats everything. Especially when combined with psychic powers."

Alex rolled his eyes. "We don't even know what Pravus is. From what the Chief showed us, he seemed to devour the very life around Vega. What kind of…thing…can even do that?"

"Whatever it is, I'm willing to bet it's susceptible to being sliced in half. By plasma. Have I mentioned how much I love your sword?" She sighed, and laid her head on his chest.

"You know, some people could take that as innuendo." His words had a sarcastic tinge to them.

"With you, everything is innuendo." The redhead tilted vertically to look at him. "Make me an Empress. Then you can have your 'innuendo'."

He let the quiet grow for a moment, holding his tongue until he felt her gasp slightly. He smirked, and winked for good measure. "If that is what you wish." He reached for the power needed for Teleportation, but she stopped him, with the speed of thought.

Her face was crimson after that. "On second thought…you should probably take care of that before you go wandering into underwater ruins…that you might not come back from…"

He rolled his eyes, and their bodies as well, and smirked down at her. "Stop. You know my tendency to survive these things. Besides, every other Champion has already gone down there. I'm probably not going to be able to find anything."

Mentally, they both doubted that, as he always found something, but it was having the same thought at the same time that made them pause in amusement. She smirked up at him. "Stop talking."

Sacreus – Fornia Region

"Turn it off."

It was a brief command, but like all of his commands, it was obeyed with machine-like swiftness. Caleb Pravus, Arceus' own prophet, sat on the obsidian throne-like structure within his command center. Shrouded as he was in a spherical blob of darkness that was deeper than the rest of the red tinted command room, all that was visible to his obedient minions of their Prophet was his eyes, which flared a deep purple when he spoke.

The glow faded, as it did when he went silent, and the room waited for his commands. His Hands, the important ones anyways, flanked him on either side. The room was octagonal, and filled with various screens showing different data. The one that was now silenced, had been broadcasting one of several eastern media networks.

Redwood's message had reached the entirety of the east, which presented an opportunity. "Why didn't you interrupt it?" A female voice, belonging to the sister of his former Right Hand, a position she had now willingly filled, broke the silence. It was a long moment before the eyes flared again, and the prophet answered, his mental, ethereal sounding baritone echoed in their ears with sarcasm and hints of mirth.

"Did you not hear? War is...inevitable. And their Champion is on his way to the ruins." The eyes shifted in the shadowy blob, and stared down the Hand of Death. "Make sure the ruins play home to yet another failed candidate. Understand that there will be no more 'mistakes'. Accomplish your mission, or die trying."

The Hand in question was sporting a new scar on his neck, the edges of which peeked just enough over his uniform to be seen. His pale skin made the sutures holding his head on stand out rather obviously. His words were monotone, and low as they rumbled through the room. "What is dead, may never die." His eyes narrowed. "But…the Redwood whelp yet lives. I will correct this...oversight. They do tend to happen when I am not properly equipped. I need my team. For all the ridiculous rumors around him, I will grant that his tools are quite strong."

After a long moment, the eyes blinked once in acceptance. "Granted. Use them well. I do not have time to waste replacing them." The Hand bowed, and left the chamber to begin the long trip to Sacreus' surface. The eyes turned to one of the minions working the tech that served as a direct line to the Arcean forces currently in Orre. The posturing had done exactly what he'd wanted. His enemies had gathered. Now all he needed on this fire was fuel.

"Tell General Marius the time has come. I want the stone as soon as possible. Don't let the locals hide it." His words were followed by the usual 'yes sir', and those assembled watched as the blips representing their troops surged down Mount Battle. Taking it had been easy, and after cutting power to Phenac City, the residents of Orre were essentially blind to their presence, and even if they had noticed the army, they had no method of sending word of the attack to their allies.

In one fell swoop, Fornia gained thousands of miles of land. Most of it was desert true, but the border was all the Arcean Prophet was focused on. For the first time in centuries, the western states had a hard border. They also could now easily defend Fornia from both sides. It had taken longer than he'd wanted, to solidify his western coast, but it had been done. Now, he didn't have to worry about an attack from two sides.

It was about five hours before the 'mission accomplished' signal came from the General in charge of the southern lines. If the shadowy prophet was pleased, he didn't show it. "Good. Have them split in half between Texico Point and Utado's border. Any word from the Dakota region?"

The response was quick. "Yes, my Prophet. The Dakotans have pledged fealty. All criteria have been met."

The shadowy ball that had encased the Prophet since the burning of Colville swelled, and then faded away. Pravus sat comfortably on his throne, and the grin upon his unblemished face could cause nightmares. "Send word to our media, then. The time has come."

The shadows faded as the tech crew set up the lighting the public would need to see their leader on screen. Finally, the lights turned green, and the Prophet stood. He was the picture of what every Arcean strived to be, and as his charismatic crowd-wooing tone began being echoed across the western states, it wasn't hard to see why his people loved him so much. While in public, he was quite charming.

"My people! Faithful Arceans, trainees, converts, and new allies, I have an announcement. The Alpha spoke to me last night, by way of a vision. He showed me who was responsible for burning our forests, and blackening our skies." He paused for effect, and then focused his dark eyes on the camera directly. "Unova. More specifically, their Champion. My own Hand confirmed his presence in the area. His crimes are obvious, and he cares not. Now, I now many of you have heard rumors, of our 'aggressive actions' in Orre, but know this. The people of Orre have always claimed to be peaceful. Loving. Uninterested in politics between the east and west. This reputation is nothing but a farce. After sending my own Hands to figure out the true intentions of our neighboring region, we found hard evidence of correspondence with Unova, and those who would oppose our Alpha. They were the ones who let the psychic puppet into our lands so he could enact his nefarious deed for his deranged psychic type overlords."

The Prophet's tone grew grim as he steepled his fingers, and leaned towards the main camera. "Though it pained me to do so, my only option was to take their lands quickly, before the Unovans entrenched themselves, and began spreading their nonsense about nature, and balance. I am proud to report that our forces were able to take the region without the loss of life. Now, we have a strong, united eastern border that will keep our enemies at bay."

The Prophet stood then, raising both arms as he continued orating. "This is not the only news. With the blessing of the Alpha, the Church has decided to erase the borders separating our allies' lands. They are no longer necessary. Nor is any reading material, digital or otherwise, originating from Rebellious sources, like Unova. Stay tuned to your Church-approved channels, and you will know the Alpha's rewards." Pravus lowered his left arm, and the right's hand curled into a fist as he continued his tirade. "The Alpha has decreed it! With the removal of these restrictive, unnecessary borders and new policies, once more, our land will be whole. We will not roll over for the Unovans, we will take their lands, by force if necessary, and show them the true Path to the Alpha! One Fornia, under Arceus, now and forever!"

The Prophet made a motion across his throat with his hand, and the recording lights switched off. "Send word to the Kipnuk and Arciana regions. The time has come. They know their objectives." The person he'd commanded fiddled with his device for a moment, before nodding to his Prophet. The word was given. Pravus grinned. "Now then…give me a report on our star player."

A female minion, clad in the usual navy-blue suit that bore all sorts of medals, proving her years of dedication and loyalty to the Church, and the Prophet, came forward at his words. "The subject was extremely effective in combat, exceeding even our lowest parameters…however…he did hit…a snag."

The Prophet's eyes flared red for a moment, before fading. "What kind of snag…"

Chapter 26: Into the Abyss
Welp. Quicker than last time. Expect more soon, because I actually have days away from hell this weekend. Not many. But enough.

Next Chapter:

Pokemon (C) Nintendo

Chapter 25: The Long Night Begins

Lab Ein – Fornia Region

"Tell me the odds again, Ein." Caleb Pravus stared down at his prize, grinning.

The lab coated doctor would've flipped his brown hair flick, if Pravus hadn't made him cut it off. Instead, he pushed his glasses up by the brim. "Given the species' popularity, incompetent archeological skills of our race at the time, and the tectonic upheaval of the Stoney Mountains, the odds of finding an intact specimen, let alone one a Mew fused with..."

He was silent for a good thirty seconds as his brain mathed out the numbers. Finally, he sighed, his monotone voice sounded bored. "Astronomically small."

Pravus gave him a look, but let it slide. They had other things to discuss. "Gender?"

"He hasn't figured that out yet." Ein said, smirking.

Pravus rolled his eyes. "Spare me the PC BS, and just say 'male', or 'plug' if we must use analogies."

Ein sighed, looking down at his creation. "It doesn't really matter, though. He's the only one we can make. We used all the other samples to make this one. And he's still part rock type."

Pravus grinned. "Oh, don't worry, we'll have a dragon crystal soon enough. It's on its way here as we speak." Ein rolled his eyes. One didn't need to be a genius to know how that encounter would go. Hundreds of team bosses, every bit as strong as Pravus, had fallen to younger trainers, with less experience. All of whom had also gone on to be Champions as well. Unova especially, had a habit of forging strong Champions. As did Kalos.

Ein looked down at his creation again, and sighed. Pravus did have numbers though, and when it came to Pokémon, that was all one really needed. Empires like this cult were what made creating creations like his Veloraptar possible, and he would be perfect to lead their numbers... when he was finished.

The Pokémon being admired by the two men high above his paddock smelled delicious to the creature within. He eyed them, still hungry after devouring the Gogoat they'd all but dangled in front of him. He knew they'd been testing his leaping height, and soon after that first meal, the metal bar had been built overhead.

He hated how it loomed over him, but he especially hated the 'human' that eyed him like a meal. When he had been alive before, the humans had run from him in terror, but then, he'd been much faster, almost able to fly in those days. This new body, while physically stronger, was still flawed. He could run roughly the same, but he always felt slow. Imperfect.

His eyes turned to thin vertical slits as he scented more prey. Evidently, this…circular…thing they'd trapped him in had prey within it. He trotted off through the foliage, wincing at how loud his steps were. How was he supposed to hunt like this?

Colville - Northern Fornia Region

Brad had, like his partners on this endeavor, made contact with friendly allies in Fornia's northern areas. The north was a natural forested buffer between the Takoma region and most of Fornia, and with the exception of the city of Pravia to the east, the Arceans didn't seem to mind the tribe's presence to the west.

Brad had trained his Charmeleon against the Rebel trainers, and he had finally evolved the previous evening. They'd camped out that night, with the young Charizard folding his wings into a tent, as his father had shown him. Evidently, it was something Alex had him do often, though usually Shruikan was the better choice, as he was now enormous.

It had been a jarring thing, being shoved back into Arcean society, falling into old habits, like praising the Prophet in every sentence he was mentioned. From his new perspective, he now saw how deviously ingenious Pravus' set-up was. It was designed for subtle, effective brainwashing. So subtle, the average person couldn't even tell they were being molded. Some resisted, of course…but they soon either fit in the mold, or vanished. This was why everyone wanted to stay out of trouble. Justice in Fornia had a tendency to be swift.

Though he'd initially entertained thoughts of rejoining his people, the corruption in the world Pravus had built soon became obvious. Taking a cover job as a member of one of the Church's many 'media branches' had been tedious, but the monotony of doing seemingly meaningless tasks had been broken up one day when a group of Task Force members entered the writing room of their little studio, by force.

They'd asked for a specific writer of a specific article that, evidently, Pravus himself had read, and not liked. The consequences for producing 'sub-par work' involved every member of the twenty-man squad taking their chance to beat on the writer in question, long after he'd lost consciousness.

The job, which he had admittedly lingered at due to his feelings of nostalgia, was quickly abandoned soon after that incident. Indeed, Brad had simply vanished one day, and nobody, not even the security in charge of keeping the writers writing, could tell how he'd left. Nobody knew what Pokémon he had at home, as he was new, and Pokémon were not for the workplace. Not at their level, anyways.

Brad had put the Sage's training to good use, and eventually, had discovered the northernmost tribe in Fornia after wandering blindly through the wilderness. The more he had thought during his trek, the more he'd noticed. The Arceans had seemingly no interest in this beautiful, fertile land. It was hard to find in southern Fornia, but the areas he'd hiked through were full of mountains, forests, and even rare Pokémon. It was entirely out of character for Pravus to ignore it.

When he discovered Colville, a city among the massive trees that grew throughout the region, he began to understand. The tribespeople here were not only expert trainers, they could also move stealthily through the trees of their land with almost unnatural skill. Their guerrilla tactics were all but unstoppable, and every time the Arceans had tried setting up a site to dig for fossils or cut lumber, the tribe had stopped them. Given how far they had to transport everything, the losses in equipment, fuel, and even manpower were significant.

Eventually, Pravus had given up on the area, though why, nobody quite knew. Some guessed he would deal with it later, after the Unova threat was taken care of. Most Arceans didn't seem to care either, for they only had cities on their borders, and were happy to leave the wilderness to the 'savages'.

Colville was not unlike the base hidden within the Majestic Canyon. Though most of the people and supplies moved through the massive trees with a relatively complex pulley system, those who could, preferred having their partners use Vine Whip to swing through the trees. These were usually the stronger trainers, sent on guerilla strike missions at supply lines.

Like Alex and Jess, Brad had acquired a fossil on his way to this city in the trees, and after some training, his new Archeops moved through them just as silently. Once his newly assembled team was ready, after he'd caught, trained, and evolved the partners he needed, Brad asked the tribe to help him with another mission that required stealth.

Tracking down his family had taken days, and he'd already stayed in Colville longer than planned. Alex and Jess were likely on their way to Mewsia, the only city on Fornia's lovely coast that wasn't entirely under Pravus' thumb. It was through this port that foreigners were allowed to trade and converse with specially selected Arceans, who would give the best impression of the culture their leader envisioned. Their loyalty was, apparently, unbreakable.

Alex had said to take as long as he needed, though. They were going to contact him when they made their move. Until then, he didn't have to rendezvous, so he stayed, and he searched. The Pineus family, to which Bradley belonged, had owned a simple estate in the mountainous area of north-eastern Fornia. An entire mountainside, which had been in their family for generations.

Proud Arceans had been raised there, but none had risen like Bradley. He'd been the only Hand of the Prophet. He could only imagine what was left of his home after defecting, but he wasn't expecting what he found. Ash covered everything, and the entire mountain had been burned bare. Machinery belonging to the Arcean's fossil recovery branch was already boring into the mountain, and from the looks of the lights over where his home had stood, they had met with success.

Brad smirked, as he mentally whispered to his Archeops. "What do you want to bet they've found elemental plates and crystals?" His smirk widened. He'd memorized what the three of them still needed, and aside from Dragon and probably psychic, the other crystals could be found.

Brad had always known that his family's mountain contained power. The Pokémon raised on those once fertile slopes had always been powerful. He had not however, expected to find at least ten of every elemental plate, just lying around the camp. It made some sense, as in reality, nobody but Brad and his family lived out here, but it still seemed careless. Evidently, the leader of this operation was a 'fun boss', and rewarded hard work before safely storing assets. Brad's smirk grew grim as he eyed the plates. That was definitely against protocol.

Taking them all but guaranteed ruining someone's life, career, even marriage potentially. Some worker here would talk, the overseer would be replaced…ruined, and the digging would continue. But then, if he did nothing, what had already been dug up would be exploited further. The Arcean Fossil Organization was famous for digging deeper than they should.

A familiar voice echoed in his head. "Examine the man whose life you fear to ruin. He has no mental defenses. These people's minds are wide open. Go. Look."

Brad tensed atop his mount as he replied in the same manner. "Yes, Master." He reached out, and examined the man's mind. Thankfully, the illegal alcoholic beverages, and other substances, were clouding what senses the man did possess. Brad's intrusion went unnoticed, as he examined each memory, each thought, feeling, emotion.

What he found sickened him. This was a man who enjoyed his power, and while he could keep his workers happy, he enjoyed those who needed to be punished in truly disturbing ways. He reached for the plates, when he paused. "I'm not seeing every angle." He felt the sage's approval.

The bad emotions were easy to notice because they stood out. Among the kinder memories were his children. But even here, Brad was disappointed. They were far too reminiscent of his own childhood. He'd never seen his parents enough, as he'd been off being educated, at their expense. It had all paid off when he'd become Champion, but that had almost been worse than being a strong trainer with a Rayquaza.

He saw that this man's own offspring truly mattered little to him. Beyond making sure they were decent Arceans, he didn't seem to acknowledge their existence. The work he did, for the fate of the planet, was far more important. Finally, Brad left the man's head, his hope in humanity fading. He shoved the plates into his bag, but surprisingly, they were incredibly light. His eyes counted each of the types, three times over. No need to be greedy after all.

As he looked at just how many there were though, he reconsidered. The Rebellion could use trainers with plates…and the knowledge of how to tap them. Between his Marowak and Scizor, the stealthy trio managed to grab many sets of plates, before he'd felt they'd pushed their luck. They left when someone shouted, drunkenly, that the pile of plates had shrunk.

The overseer had laughed, and said they'd just dig up more, but nobody had cheered at that. They'd just finished working, dammit. They needed, earned, this reprieve. As the mood in the camp turned dark and mutiny-ish, Brad and his loyal flying, stealthy partner headed south.

He'd found the remains of his home, of course, and had been able to access some of the tech that survived. They may have been isolated out here, but his family had never lacked for gadgets. The last record, from several months prior, said they'd been moved south. So south they went, following the trail.

Though the area around the massive desert in the region was sparsely populated, what towns did exist, Brad searched through. There had indeed been a large truck with his family name on it that passed through. On their way to Sacreus, or so they said. Brad swore.

Sacreus was a unique city, in that it had once existed in an age before Pokémon. Then, a meteor had struck it, leaving nothing but death and destruction. Some said it was that event that sparked the final fall for humanity, but nobody really remembered why their race had fallen anymore. The ancient past was the ancient past. They hadn't even had Pokémon, so why learn about them? The ancient's way of life had failed. To most modern people, they were irrelevant, save for the rebooted entertainment franchises resurrected from the remains of the Old Net.

Sacreus had been rebuilt over time, as people came to live in the crater. It had once been fertile, but the city that grew within the crater soon drowned out what natural life had come from the ancient impact and destruction. Sacreus had natural defenses, hills for miles around it, and a plasma shield that could cover the city in times of need. Just in case of impending meteor strikes.

The city had, over the years, also extended downwards. For hundreds of miles, it was said to be a steel under-city that people actually lived in, sometimes for their entire lives. Pravus' headquarters was at the bottom-most level, and reaching it any other way but through the cult required one to magically dig through tons of rock, and then several feet of metal. Thankfully, they'd brought a mountain-eater with them. But he was, if the plan was on track, still training.

Alex had wanted to avoid Sacreus entirely, as being recognized in Pravus' home turf would be quite bad. The city was thoroughly checked for traitors, and people were switched out all the time if they became suspects of some usually imaginary crime.

Ignoring the upper levels and going for the head of the snake via Cenomons was the best option while they had stealth on their side. Brad had agreed. Much of Arcean society depended on the Prophet. He was a 'holy' man, touched by Arceus, and blessed with apparent immortality. He was the will of the 'God Pokémon' as the locals called him, made manifest. He was also what everyone secretly feared.

Anyone who went against Pravus tended to vanish. But the mere thought of betraying their leader was, to many Arceans, unimaginable. A concept they couldn't even consider…not while he yet lived, at least. Oddly enough though, a few of the latest generation had begun to outright leave because of the rampant abuse within the system. Brad hadn't seen many of them in Colville, but those Fornians were the ones who'd sparked this rebellion. He didn't wonder how they might react to seeing their cult leader fall, for from his point of view, anyone who'd suffered at his hands knew there could only be one fate for such a person.

With his parents likely sequestered within the fortress crater-city, Brad resigned himself to waiting. His siblings though, he knew exactly where they'd be. He'd wanted more than his parent's aid to free them, as he was familiar with how heavy security was at the living quarters for children, but he could manage on his own.

He had his stealthy Scizor zip around the camp, once he'd reached it. They called it a dig site, but it reality, it was a work camp, where children of loyal Arceans toiled away, mostly mining useless rocks. Occasionally some would find a fossil, but those were always taken away quickly. His Scizor returned several minutes later. It had been hard finding two specific blonde, blue-eyed tan children amongst so many others, but the intelligent bug had managed it.

Brad eyed the building for a long time, and eventually recalled his Scizor. He would do this himself. He reached out with the psychic power he'd previously ignored. It was a part of him, and now one he embraced. He found the mind that he recognized as his youngest brother's, and made contact.

"Sam. Wake up. It's your brother. Think your responses, and I'll hear them. Do you understand?" It took a few moments for the groggy preteen to come to consciousness, and realize he was not in fact dreaming.

"Brad? How are you…"

"Later. Listen to me, you need to get ready to leave. Bring our sister." He sensed their youngest sister lying near him, but of the elder there was no sign.

The boy's mind lit up at the thought of not being in the living hell that was the labor camp, but fear kept him hesitant. It was, after all, the Church's strongest tool. "We can't just walk out. The guards will see us. The others will tell. We'll get beaten again..."

"Don't worry about them, just pack your bags. I'm getting you both far away from here. Where's Lisa?"

The younger brother paused for a moment, and then thought, "I don't know…she's…changed, Brad. She's on the fast track to becoming a Hand of the Prophet."

Brad sighed. He knew what that meant. His defection had only served to inspire 'loyalty' to the cause, and Pravus was all too glad to keep a potential hostage nearby. The fact that she was also rather attractive certainly had nothing to do with her meteoric rise to the Prophet's side.

That meant that over half of his family, his parents and sister, as well as any aunts or other relatives who hadn't cut ties already were likely to disconnect from them once it was discovered they'd escaped. Still, he'd decided early on that if he could only save a few, he'd want to get the young ones out first. He knew far too well what teenage years in the church were really like.

His Lycanroc and Cloyster had taken out the guards around this particular building, and while those who were unconscious would recover, those frozen in ice would have a long wait to melt. Sunrise was far off. Brad had his Lycanroc guide the two children out, and once they were out of the building, he put them on the wolf's back, and had him carry them to Archeops.

He covered their tracks, mended the barbed wire fence that surrounded the work camp, and left no trace of which direction they'd gone. The security here was competent enough to follow tracks, but if there were no tracks to follow, they'd be significantly slowed. Enough for them to get away.

As his large, female Archeops carried them into the sky, his brother babbled away about fossil Pokémon, while his youngest sister, who was six and considered old enough to work, simply clung to her big brother. She would likely be pretty as well, though Brad also knew the camps were a home to many with darker perversions. Such people had an unfortunate tendency to rise to positions of power within the church. He sincerely hoped she'd avoided such men.

As his Archeops flew north, towards the relative safety of Colville, she flew just high enough for Sam to reach up into a cloud, and discover they were rather wet, not fluffy. Then, the large Pokémon stopped, and squawked for her master's attention.

They went into a steep, gliding dive and came out over the forests of the north-eastern part of Fornia. Brad swore, and quickly turned the ancient bird around. It would be a longer flight, but he could use his Charizard if necessary. The Canyon Base was the largest one the Rebellion had left.

Deep Within the Majestic Canyon – Fornia Region

Alex approached the strange orb at the end of the cave the Chief had led them to. Jess had remained at the base, and began the arduous task of learning who everyone was. She wasn't irritated though, as she knew he'd be joining her very soon.

As he looked at the orb, he noticed that it was black on the edges, and white within. Alex glanced at the Chief, who watched him, silently, probably musing to himself with his inner monologue. He did that a lot, and never noticed his tendency to mutter aloud when he mused after toking his pipe.

Alex put a hand on the orb, and smirked. The strange sphere shifted to a familiar swirling pattern of Eternal Balance, and the Pokémon within woke up.

Electric and ghost. That was the first thing Alex saw, and then he realized what he was looking at. It was Rotom, of course, but its black and white form was tied to a similarly colored crystal at the bottom. As the ghost saw the human, it reflexively melded with its' crystal, and a pair of golden eyes stared at him from the object he currently possessed.

Alex knelt down and lifted the crystal up. The ghost within eyed him the entire time. "Hello there." The crystal blinked its golden eyes once. "I'm Alex. The Champion of Unova. The one who reunited Tao." At the dragon's name, the eyes grew brighter.

"The dragon is whole?" The voice was almost incoherent, and faint.

"He is, Old One." The Chief said from the back of the cave, waiting patiently.

The Rotom seemed to stare through him as it processed his words. Alex had no illusions about the intelligence of the Pokémon before him. He could sense the power the ghost had, and knew it was at least as intelligent as Tao, and probably almost as old. The ghost's mind felt ancient.

The crystal suddenly flared with electricity, searing his skin, and he winced. He'd learned to hold in a reaction to pain early in his martial training with the dragon. He noticed the small crystal mirroring his smirk, and Alex arched a brow. "Is that it?"

The Pokémon stared at him, and the voltage increased. He was ready now, though. His eyes flared as he guided the current harmlessly through the parts of his body that could handle such intense shock, and into the stone below him.

The ground flared in a familiar Taijitu swirl, as the two bonded. Sparks began arcing through the air as the tiny Pokémon gave the human as much as he dared. The equivalent of a Thunder attack. Hopefully, it would only knock the human out, but he could never judge how much they could really take.

Finally, it stopped. The crystal shivered in approval, and then glowed entirely white. Alex stared at the crystal for a long time before deciding it was too similar. He tossed the crystal into the air, on a hunch, and the Rotom within burst free with a satisfying, and sparky, yawn. "I really hate not being able to leave that thing! At least you figured out how to open it. The last guy took two weeks." His voice was higher now that he was free, and he sounded like his trainer when he spoke. It was, somehow, both familiar and strange at the same time.

The small ghost type continued arcing his plasma body in ever more twisted shapes. Alex's eyes were on the crystal though. He'd heard of ancient devices that could contain Pokémon, and those that still existed always had unusual Pokémon within.

Alex pocketed the strange crystal, and shrugged. A Pokéball was a Pokéball. It was common knowledge that ancient civilizations from the early years of the Dark Times had been able to capture and battle with Pokémon. Devices like the crystal had been common, and far more unique than Pokéballs could ever really be. Battling, as a sport, was ancient in their world. An honored tradition that went back to the rebirth of the human race. In a time of chaos, it had united the world.

He found the small ghost eyeing him, and where his crystal went. He valued it, clearly. Alex reached out then, and brought the new member of their team into the mental web that connected his team. He could tell the ghost was impressed, and Alex smirked. The plasma being was already conversing with several of his partners, and giving them battle advice.

The Chief approached the suddenly still pair of trainer and Pokémon, tapping Alex's shoulder. The two blinked, in unison. "He sounds like you..." the Chief remarked. Alex simply nodded, flexing his hand as he focused on healing the burns. Recover was, unfortunately, still a mystery to him, move wise. He could make it seem easy, as he had against Connor, but if he was honest, Tao had mainly healed those wounds. They'd been rather serious. "We should return to the base. Your partner apparently just checked in…with news."

Alex raised a brow, momentarily blank on who was being referred to. "My partner…? Not Jess…then…oh. Ohhhh. Brad? What news does he bring?"

The Chief stared at the Unovan for a long moment, then sighed. "Nothing good…" He pointed to the north then, as they'd reached the top of the footpath that led up the canyon wall.

Alex's team joined them, staring in disbelief, and perhaps for the first time understanding just how depraved their foe was, and the lengths he would go to in order to crush rebellion.

The entire sky was turning black, and not with electricity. That, he could've handled. These clouds had something dark drifting down from them, and, they were blowing in from the north. The Chief grimaced. "It has begun. Colville has fallen."

Alex shared the Chief's grim look. He recalled everyone, Rotom included, as Shruikan leapt into the valley below, and circled around for rapid ascension. "I need a better look. Meet me back at the base." Before the Chief could respond, the Unovan Champion had grabbed his Salamence's tail, and was already in the air, climbing the massive back of his black dragon. The huge beast flapped into the sky, through the ashy clouds, and then above them.

Shruikan picked up speed by the time Alex had grabbed onto one of his head horns. Dragon energy surrounded both of them as he mega evolved, and accelerated. A normal Salamence in this form could cross continents in mere hours. Flying a few hundred miles north was easy.

It took an hour, but eventually they figured out where the smoke was coming from. Ash clouds blanketed the area for miles around them, and as Alex recalled his dragon, he fell through the foul clouds, and let gravity control him for a minute.

He had time before he'd need to float, so he fell, and as he did, he saw. Normally, he imagined, the trees that had made up this base of tribespeople were likely invisible. Now though, there was a disturbingly perfect circle of charred trees, miles in diameter, that had encompassed the entire settlement. Nobody had run away unscathed.

Just as he was wondering what sort of Pokémon could unleash this kind of flame in such a perfect circle, he felt eyes upon him from below, and reached for his power. His large form stopped, hovering in the air, and he rapidly ascended towards the clouds again.

It was already too late, though. Blaze popped free of his ball, wings and body enveloping his trainer as the cone of flames shot up at them from the ground. Though they were intense, it would take far more than that to take his Charizard down. Alex slid onto his back, as his partner glowed with red energy from the crystal. They shot into the clouds, and waited above.

They heard the wing flaps as whatever had struck at them rose into the clouds, and Alex felt a familiar sensation of 'oh shit' run up his spine as he spied his opponent, and what he was riding. It was a Noivern, but something about it was…off. It had traded the flying typing for dark, and shadow energy emanated from it. Its eyes only wanted to kill, and as it saw Blaze, it began to drool. Its mouth was covered in blood, and it took Alex a moment to realize where it was likely from. Picking off stragglers of a disaster. This was a special kind of depraved trainer then, and likely one of Pravus' hands. He fit the description.

The man atop the monstrous dragon was clad in similar garb to what the examiners in the Swamp wore, though where theirs was 'camouflaged' this man's was entirely black. Though he wore a similarly colored beret, and Alex had always found them a bit silly, it did nothing to detract from the imposing presence he gave off. A familiar chill in the air. That sense of dread that so often accompanied death. It seemed Pravus wasn't the only one with tricks.

The man wore a green monocle-type device over his left eye, and as he stared at Blaze, his smile grew. "That's the one." He said to the Noivern. He raised a gloved hand, and it flared with dark type energy. "Feast, Carporian."

At the man's words, an almost invisible crystal, for it blended with the man's choice of attire, began to glow, and the Noivern began to change. A smaller pair of wings sprouted from its sides, and the tail gained fin-like appendages. Most notable however, were the pair of massive fangs the dragon now sported. It panted as the change finished, ready to run wild.

Normally, Alex would've enjoyed seeing a new Mega Form, but he knew a bit about Noivern, and could only imagine what their mega state was like, let alone under such a dark trainer. It was very likely that he'd lose control of that dragon. Even Blaze could tell it was growing annoyed with its rider. It had grown larger, angrier, as his trainer formed a leash of dark energy from the crystal, and wrapped it about the dragon's neck.

Shruikan, for his part, agreed with their assessment, and used it to his advantage. He'd been called out again once they'd come up in the clouds, and had been told to fly even higher. Now, the low thrumming sound of his wings slicing through the air was the only prelude to the Charge Beam that followed. The Noivern glared at where the sound came from, but did not expect what was streaking down from the sky to be a Salamence.

The electric beam struck the Noivern with deadly precision as the massive dragon zipped past. Not only was the beast weakened, but his rider was struggling to stay on, and cursing at his mount for being so blind. Preoccupied with his trainer and his injuries, the Noivern did not see the Dragon Tail Shruikan aimed their way as an afterthought. The sheer size of it caused the bat-like dragon to slam into the ground below with a thunderous boom.

"Time to leave." Alex said, as he recalled Blaze, and hopped once more on Shruikan. He headed south again, before the Noivern could recover. By the time it did eventually fly up again, they were long gone. The bat-like dragon was furious, and with a single flap, it cleared the ash clouds for miles. It hadn't had a chance to use its power at all. The other dragon had robbed it of a battle.

The Hand of Death, now once more perched on the dragon, grimaced. He hadn't even had time for banter. He loved banter. Of course to him, banter was the screams of pain he drew from his targets. His dark expression shifted to one that could cause pure terror in even the manliest of men. The grin of a hunter who sees prey. By pure chance, the clouds obscuring the black Salamence had been within Carporian's range. Though the attack probably hadn't damaged the dragon from so far away, it had revealed him, and his rider. They had yet further to go until the undisturbed clouds of ash could cover them again.

His hunter was already moving, for he'd spotted the prey as well. Though to him this would be more of a match between rivals, rather than a hunt. The Noivern had felt the thunder of that dragon first hand, and he would not underestimate him again. Each flap of his wings propelled him towards his target, and from below, the annoyingly fast hatchling followed.

The Noivern ignored it, and instead unleashed the power of his Voice, now that they were in range. The boom had shocked Shruikan, making his entire system tense up from the sheer power of the vibrations behind the attack. The dragon had continued soaring, but was slowly descending, and couldn't dodge. Alex had been trying to find the pressure point by the back of his skull for several minutes, but his scales were too thick in his Mega Form.

He'd had Shruikan drop it, and of course as soon as he let the power go, the damned Noivern cleared the sky. By the time Alex pressed the pressure point, causing Shruikan's wings to work again, they had fallen several hundred feet, and the fanged dragon had gained on them with speed. Then, they heard its Voice. It was untrained, but the sheer power of it was all that was really needed. Shruikan took the hit hard, and Alex knew they needed to turn this around quickly.

Shruikan used his own Hyper Voice, and Alex smirked at his choice of words. So that's what he'd learned from Rayquaza. He'd been keeping it a secret for a while, from everyone. "Dovah Envok!" The black dragon's eyes flared, and an aura of bluish-purple energy formed around him as he rapidly moved towards the Noivern.

A familiar cone of flame came for them, but Shruikan cut through it. His Dragon Ascent wasn't perfect like Rayquaza's, but it was still strong. Where the Legendary dragons could shift their power from dragon to flying, to mega evolve, other dragons used dragon energy, and used it as a powerful physical attack.

The energy hit the Noivern hard, and this time, his trainer knew there would be no second wind. The Hand leapt off his mount, and let it crash below in the mountainous forests that made up much of this part of the region. The Hand himself floated, a dark aura surrounding him. Much like his servant, he simply hadn't had time to use it before. The black dragon had been too quick.

He drew another ball from his belt, and Alex recalled his own partner, as he floated with his own power as well. Apparently, this battle was happening. The black clad man grinned at him. "There's no running from trainer battles."

Alex rolled his eyes, and as he did, the man threw a Dark Ball. An Absol appeared, as dark and shadowy as the Noivern it was partnered with. This one's expression was entirely different. It took one look at Alex, and began trying to resist its trainer. To no avail. The power that controlled it now, and bonded it to the Hand, was too strong. It looked on helplessly as its trainer commanded a Razor Wind.

Arthur appeared in a flash of purple then, from the ball Alex had drawn as well. A Psycho Cut canceled out the attack, but that didn't stop the Absol. It kept shooting the bursts of wind, but luckily, Arthur could use Psycho Cut just as much. It was one of his favored moves now, mostly because of its versatility.

Eventually, the fight had devolved into a Night Slash tradeoff, between the Absol's horn, and Arthur's blades. When he tried a Shadow Ball to gain some distance, the Absol copied him, and the resulting explosion pushed both back. That, was when they mega evolved. Arthur's arms began glowing gold as soon as he finished, but the Absol looked downright miserable.

Arthur reached out to it. "It's okay…I know you can't stop attacking. Don't stop fighting his control. I can free you of this curse, but you need to keep resisting!" The Absol blinked as it processed the words.

"Aerial Ace." The Absol shot forward at the command, and Arthur met the attack with a Night Slash, cancelling it out. The stalemate resumed, and the usually smirking knight, this time, had a look of irritation on his face as the battle dragged one. Neither Pokemon could get an edge, and what kindness Arthur had shown at first had melted away in the ferocity of the pointless, yet epic clash. "I don't have time for this…" His irritation echoed in his telepathy.

Each Night Slash counter punctuated his words as he grew furious. "I. Have. Better. Things. I. Could. Be-Doing!" He came down in a horizontal slash, finally scoring a hit on the Absol. Not that it did much. The Dark type energy shifted back to gold, and the Gallade narrowed his eyes. "This ends. Now."

Alex watched his Gallade, one eyebrow raised. Where in the hells did he want to be? They'd been preparing for battles like this for weeks, but evidently Arthur didn't care at the moment. He did Teleport away often enough, but he always came back. That was the unspoken agreement. His trainer didn't care what he did, so long as he was there when battle called. He supposed everyone might get sick of that, though. Especially as strong a spirit as Arthur. He was royalty, after all.

The Gallade glared at his trainer, and then focused on his Sacred Sword. The Absol, seeing an opening, powered up an Aerial Ace. Or rather, he tried. His horn simply didn't glow as he charged forward and struck. Arthur's strike caught the Absol as they passed in the air, and the Mega Form dissolved.

The Gallade wasn't done, though. He landed and turned in one smooth movement, arms still ablaze with golden light. He was building the fighting type energy for something. Changing the fighting type into something else. His trainer nodded, as he understood what his eyes were showing him.

The energy had a familiar symbol psychically associated with the attack, the symbol of Arceus. This could only be one kind of energy. Light energy. He supposed it made some sense… legendary fighters usually ascended to the heavens in the legends. He guessed it was fairly rare though, but if anything could counteract Dark Matter…that would be it. It'd worked before, after all.

The Gallade touched a burning sword tip to the downed Absol's bluish-black oval on its forehead. The shadow faded, in the face of the light. The Pokémon sighed, then collapsed, fainted. It could've gone several more rounds, like Arthur, but the removal of the shadow had knocked it out cold.

The smile Arthur had gained shifted to an expression of cold rage as a black light hit the Absol, and recalled it. "Pointless." The Hand said, smirking. "I admit…I did not expect this kind of strength. I should've brought my Legendaries. Pravus suggested as much. You're yet another monstrously strong trainer that's appeared from nowhere. I get it. But that doesn't mean we'll give up. Not even someone like you can take all of us down. We are relentless."

He flung another ball. "Go! Tyrannus!" The Tyranitar had barely appeared, before its master forced it to the next level of power. It roared not in rage, but agony. Alex stared, trying not to wince. He'd wanted to see what mega evolving with these stones could cause, and now, it was obvious. He had no illusions that he'd started this. The Arceans were the kind of group to analyze and then copy their enemies. What didn't take them out, made them stronger.

He'd battled other Tyranitar, though, who'd achieved this state the right way. Their power had been even greater, because the crystals could empower attacks. What had been learned in the Swamp was spreading, but it didn't have to result in harm. They just needed a way to keep this kind of power away from people like Pravus and his Hands.

"Send as many as you want, I'll take them all!" Arthur rushed in again, swords blazing, and right as the Tyranitar loomed over him, he vanished, and reappeared behind the Hand himself. The swords crossed over his neck like a blazing guillotine. He stared up at the Tyranitar then. "You don't need to obey him anymore." His arms moved, the man's head fell, and then, it started to chuckle.

"That's adorable. So righteous. Tyrannus, remove the princeling. Sweep his legs." As ordered, the giant Pokémon turned his sights on Arthur, who frowned. It was clearly obeying, not rampaging. "It's not out of control…it's loyal…" Arthur confirmed to his trainer, as his opponent formed charged forward, claws wreathed in ghost type energy.

Where a normal Sacred Sword used fighting energy, light energy evidently had some effect on ghost. The attacks cancelled out, but the Tyranitar was relentless. Several got through Arthur's guard, hammering him onto his knees. Alex recalled him as the Tyranitar formed a Hyper Beam with one intent. It shot the energy anyway, not caring that its opponent had escaped, and set its sights on the trainer that had robbed him of his kill.

His master's head, which had been retrieved by his body, now smirked from the palm of his hand. "End him."

The Tyranitar paused, panting, which gave Alex the time he needed. "Hydrus. Finish this." He drew the ball, smirked, and then threw.

The Swampert in question shifted almost as rapidly as the Tyranitar had. Their method was definitely slower, though. The dark shift had been almost instant. Tyrannus recovered, and charged once more. The dark claws returned, but Hydrus smashed them away with Hammer Arms, and followed that with a Water Pulse immediately after opening his guard.

The Tyranitar went soaring back into the wilderness they were fighting in now. The flames from Colville and the dark clouds made the setting ominous. All it needed was lightning. An Ice Beam froze the Pokémon solid where it lay, and before the Hand could recall it, another Ice Beam froze him.

Alex Teleported then, to the tent he'd been given at the Rebel's base. He'd recalled everyone and left quickly more times than he'd like to admit, but being able to be somewhere else instantly made terrifying situations a lot more interesting.

He looked around the tent, and then grinned, as he spied his lover. It shifted to a frown of disapproval as he saw his newest partner was here as well, and not in his ball…crystal…thing. Apparently, he'd snuck away with the Chief, rather than join the others in danger.

"You need a name, don't you… hmm." He eyed the ghost, who shook its head as it spoke.

"If you rename me, I'll have to change crystals. It's an ancient tech thing. Just call me Rotom, human. It's easy, and you can pronounce it."

Alex raised a brow. "Are you telling me I couldn't pronounce your name?"

The ghost stared at him, deadpan. "I'm saying my name and your language aren't even compatible."

Alex smirked. "You're not a Terran Pokémon are you…" The Rotom's eyes went wide. "Hah! I knew it. Your mind felt different to any other Pokémon I'd sensed, but after that battle we just had, I noticed. Your life energy, what's left of it, is from a different world."

The Rotom sighed. "I mean…technically…not really…but if that's how you want to understand it, you can work with that." The Plasma ghost yawned then, and twirled something between his plasma appendages. Alex blinked.

"You little…did you steal my staff!?" Jess giggled from across the room doing…whatever she was doing to her hair. Beauty products. Girl things. It was foreign to him. She usually didn't speak during these morning rituals, but now, she did. "He totally stole your staff. We've been toying with it all morning."

He eyed it, but it didn't appear to be covered in liquids. So that was something. He stared at the Pokémon holding it, and then got an idea. An idea that just seemed right. He sent it to Tao, who approved, and chuckled as he did so.

"Phaspiro." He said, smirking. "That's your name."

"Phaspiro? Did you take 'phasma' and add 'iro' to it? Why? Because it sounded cool? If we're going for cool, why not call me Stormageddon, Destroyer of Worlds? Honestly, you trainers-"

Alex shrugged, cutting him off. "I like it. Round Table?" He said to their partners. Arthur had been given a revive, but was still tired. He gave an 'aye', though. Everyone did. Alex smirked. "It is decided. I dub thee Stormageddon. Welcome to the team, Stormy…you can reside in this, now."

He made a gesture with his hand, and wrenched the staff free of the ghost's grip easily. With a thought, it formed an opening just the size of the ghost's crystal. The Rotom's eyes went wide. "Waaaiiit wait wait, that crystal has untapped electrical power, to control it you'd need-"

Alex cut him off again. "The essence of the Master of Fire, Ice, and Electricity." The Rotom tilted his head, then nodded, as he agreed that would probably work. Before he could say as much, the plasma ghost was recalled into the crystal, as Alex pushed it in, and the staff closed around it.

It gained a pair of eyes, and grinned at the trainer. "Oh, I can work with this…" The staff began to change from within from something simple, to a container with much more…potential. It retained the colors, but shrunk. There was a hollow center, through which, Alex could see the shine of the crystal. Something was obscuring it though, that almost looked like…wiring? "Don't look directly into it, you idiot."

Alex turned the strange device away from him, and then noticed a button on the small object. Stormy's eyes and smirk appeared above it. "Push it. Push the button, little human."

Alex gave the ghost a look. "It's not going to fire some laser projectile, right?"

The ghost grinned. "Not a projectile."

Alex's eyes went wide as he realized what he was probably holding. "Oh…yes. So very much yes…" He looked around, realizing their tent was a bit cramped. "This needed a more dramatic reveal anyway. Outside we go!"

He ran out, object in hand, grinning like a child. Jess was behind him, more curious than anything. Evidently, she'd fixed whatever needed fixing. "What exactly are you up to? I was only half paying attention in there."

Alex simply smirked. "You'll see." He ran to the topmost cliff of the base, and then shot into the air, not caring about hiding his power at that moment. Once he found a suitably far, suitably high ledge to perch on, he pressed the button.

The smaller former-staff blazed to life, as a dual colored beam of plasma extended from the hilt where the crystal now resided. Alex laughed in dibelief. It was a fairly long blade. Deadly looking. It hummed as he twirled it around, still not quite believing this was actually happening.

The hilt of the sword-like weapon smirked at him. "The name, is Lux. Luxundus is the full version, but literally everybody calls me Lux. You probably should've asked my name, rather than assumed I needed one."

Alex rolled his eyes. "You stole my staff."

The hilt grinned. "And turned it into a plasma sword."

"Fair point." Alex twirled it around again. "You know…I've heard some of these can extend from both ends…"

The ghost laughed. "Find another super rare extraterrestrial crystal whose origins are a mystery to you, then. I'll make another blade."

Alex smirked, and lifted his sleeve, revealing where he kept most of his crystals. Each fit into the edge of his gloves, around his wrists in an obvious homage to a certain first season of a certain old Earth anime involving cards, dueling, and monsters, but were less bulky. The gloves were, like the rest of Tao's clothing, super comfortable, and form fitting. "I have thirteen."

The ghost eyed them, then nodded. "I can use all of those. With this container, anyways."

Alex chuckled, "I just found our secret weapon." He turned to Jess, who'd followed him, and had thus far been staring with a knowing smirk. She'd been in his head. He'd always wanted a laser sword. They were iconic. And so useful.

He pressed the button again, and let the hilt hang from his belt. Under his robe-like jacket. He smirked, trying not to laugh at the similarities to his childhood heroes of the ancient past. There were some differences, however. The nine miniaturized balls that hung alongside the hilt on his belt. He wasn't going to hide them anymore. Their surprise advantage had literally gone up in smoke. Had he been wearing regular pants, they would've surely fallen.

He turned his gaze northward, towards the clouds of ash. "I found one of Pravus' goons. He managed to take Arthur down. Hydrus cleaned up, though. Whatever chance we had at stealth is gone, now. We don't have time to wait in enemy territory while we train Ceno."

Jess stood next to him, eyes wide as she saw the sheer scope of it. "That just came from Colville alone?"

Alex shook his head. "It's spreading."

She looked up at him, eyebrow raised. "So, what do we do now, wise leader?"

He gave her a look. "Plan B, obviously. That one's more fun anyways."

Jess rolled her lovely blue eyes. "You only think it's fun because you and the Council of Dorks like smoking together."

He winked at her. "You could join us…but I know how you get around that much testosterone. And Leaf."

She sighed. "Just tell your dragon. I'll go talk to the people I already know. You get the Chief."

Alex nodded, and then reached out to Tao. While he was a part of their mental web, he was more…web-adjacent, if only so the stray thoughts of a Legendary and ancient mind, full of things best left forgotten, did not reach the ears of his impressionable hatchling of a trainer.

"Plan A failed. Pravus burned the north." Alex gave the dragon a moment, either to process his words, or finish whatever business he was in the middle of.

Finally, a response. "Plan B it is, then. Come home, young hero…there's something you need to face."

Alex let the contact fall, and smirked. There was always something else to face. It had a habit of making him stronger. He opened his Pokédex, out of habit as he checked the time, then paused as he saw the date. They'd been in Fornia much longer than he'd realized. Almost half the summer, which was now ending. "Two years to the day…huh. It feels longer. Right Terra?"

The giant turtle joined him with a flash of green, and inhaled the warmth of the late summer day. "It does…but I would not change a second of it."

His trainer gave him a scratch under his mossy, dirty chin, and then hopped on his back. He began packing a bowl of the Leaf as the turtle brought him down towards the other humans the long way, so he could enjoy the sunlight while the sun yet shone. The clouds were clearly unnatural, and they were spreading. Alex knew this was likely the first step of whatever Pravus had lined up, and knowing him, it would be brutally effective.

Chapter 25: The Long Night Begins

So glad it finally fits in one post. Lack of Cannabis slowed this one for a bit. Then I found out it comes in vapes now. So that's a thing. Maybe if I ever stop working and sleeping I'll have time to write the next one. Enjoy.

Next Chapter:

Pokemon (C) Nintendo

Eastern Fornia Region – Yavano Tribe Lands

Alex and Jess had all but stumbled into the local Yavano tribe's main camp, and after giving them a moment to cool their surprise and lower their strange metal spears, they'd used words to avoid a conflict, though, as he'd told them something of who they really were, and that they were Trainers, several of the 'red-skinned' men had grinned. Even here, there were people up for a battle.

After hearing they were from Unova, the tribe's Chief, Long-Fang, had made an appearance, and invited them to enjoy some of their Leaf. It was quite a bit stronger than anything they usually smoked, but it went a long way to easing the tension of a first contact. The Chief himself had unusually large canine teeth, but given that Alex had a fair bit of strangeness himself, most notably the tips of his ears which became more pointed by the day, he didn't comment, or stare. Jess hadn't seemed to mind either, and found his ears amusing, claiming that now, he could follow his granduncle, and become a 'full Vulcan'. He considered that a noble goal.

The tribesmen, over the flames of Chari's tail, explained the current state of Fornia, and their Alliance with other 'pale-skins', and after a night of rest and a proper wake-and-bake, the tribe gave them food, supplies, and then pointed them towards the nearest 'Rebel Base'.

The base, as it turned out, was none other than the Majestic Canyon. Surrounded by the massive Great Mohave Desert, the canyon was a massive series of red rock walls, carved away by a river that was older than any tree, person, or Pokémon, and would likely outlast them all. It was at least a thousand miles long, or so the Yavano had said, and if you didn't have a guide, getting lost was easy. Many Pokémon also lived in the canyons and waters of the area, that had no qualms about killing humans. Usually, they were fine with subsisting on the enormous Wepear berries that grew in abundance amongst the rocky crags.

Within one of the many smaller canyons that made up the massive one, the local Tribes and Fornians had created a base from which to operate. In an amusing twist of fate, they'd also given them a Holociever number to call, and it was identical to the one they'd been given by Alex's granduncle. They'd told him to use it near the canyon, so he'd waited to do so.

Jess had found a Heracross on their way down to the Canyon, and the powerful female, who she'd called Hera, had been quite useful. Not being able to fly was rather irritating, especially for skilled Trainers. Having a partner that could carry you really was incredibly useful. Especially on stealth missions. She'd proven her strength to the skeptical Redwood by carrying both of them to the Canyon. Evidently, drinking the essence of Redwood trees had made these Heracross quite strong. Jess had remarked that she had done something similar, and had also grown stronger soon after. They'd had to land, as the ensuing laughing fit from the pair made flying hard. Thankfully, they had already arrived.

Alex ignored the giggling females as he dialed the number. The conversation was as awkward and brief as any random phone call, but once he'd mentioned the Yavano, and his granduncle, he'd been told to stay put. Someone was coming out to meet them, apparently.

That someone turned out to be the Dragon Type Expert, Professor Dracaena. She'd rode in on a female Charizard that truly highlighted just how much of a runt Chari was, despite her strength and almost crimson coloring.

More than that, there was something familiar about her coloration. It took Alex longer than it should have to notice that it was identical to Blaze's, which had always been a bit more red-orange than most. Considering the amount of variation in scale patterns Charizard had these days, that hadn't been too noticeable. Pokémaniacs didn't exactly ooze excitement when facing a slightly-deeper-orange-than-normal Charizard.

The Professor approached, leaving her own Charizard to laze in the hot sun. She was an older woman, who looked ready to raid a tomb, and had the gear to do it. The traditional white lab coat was shortened, just barely longer than her beige shorts, and a pair of what looked like a hybrid of goggles and glasses hung from the neck of her ordinary white undershirt.

As she looked the pair of them over, she focused on Alex, and smirked. "Now that's a Redwood. I'd know those eyes anywhere. I'm Professor Dracaena, an expert on dragon types. I knew your granduncle. I heard he passed on."

Alex nodded, his face as impassive as ever. He nodded at Jess. "This is Jessica Gladstone. She's helping me liberate this region." The two women shook hands, but otherwise didn't speak. He couldn't tell if they liked each other or not. They were as unreadable as cats, and he had long since given up trying to divine the many moods of the fairer sex.

The Professor raised an eyebrow. "Liberation, hmm?" She glanced at Jess again, who kept her own face as impassive as Alex's, and then, the Professor shrugged. "If that really is your goal…you've come to the right base."

They all flew in on their Charizard then, as the Professor had assured them that this was one place Arceans avoided. Jess left Alex to take the lead in asking questions this time, and after explaining why they'd come, the Professor agreed to help them. When asked why the Arceans avoided such a gorgeous canyon, she answered.

"There was once a city out here, in the desert, around three centuries ago now. Vega. Or so the ruin experts call it. It was a hub of…entertainment. Music. Lights. Food. Water shortages. People from all over the world came to enjoy themselves in Vega City. Then, in the space of one night, or so the stories claim, the Prophet himself obliterated the city, claiming that it was the 'will of Arceus' that such a hive of scum and villainy be erased from the world."

Alex raised a brow. "Was it?"

The Professor shrugged. "Nobody knows how Vega became a ruin, but the local tribespeople, who live off of this canyon, have a much different story."

Jess chimed in then, "How much different?"

The Professor smirked. "If you really want to know, all you need to do is ask. Chief Sike has a powerful Noctowl. With his help, they've shared what they know of the 'Vega Event' with whoever wishes to see."

Having learned several of the customs from the Yavano, such as how to properly greet a Chief, and interact with their fellow tribespeople, the couple had managed to surprise the local tribe here, as well, by showing genuine respect. They were led into one of the many caves the tribespeople used for smoking, and once they'd settled into a circle around Blaze's tail, as he'd offered it freely, the flames shifted to blue, and the napping fire lizard smirked. Alex rolled his eyes. At least he hadn't mega evolved in the middle of the Chief's toke on the pipe.

The Chief was an elderly man, though whether he was actually feeling his age, or just had wrinkled, weathered skin from the sun and desert, was hard to say. His hair was entirely black, but then, Alex had yet to see a tribal elder with grays.

A smirk appeared on the old man's weathered face as he eyed the Charizard supplying their fire. He looked harder, as he recognized something he hadn't seen for a long, long time, but then remembered he was in the presence of foreigners. He kept his composure as he spoke, "His fire is strong. Eastern trainers are as powerful as the legends say they are."

Alex shrugged, and then looked around the circle. Jess glared at him, but he ignored her, for the moment, as he took in the people they were sitting with. A brief, cautious glance at their minds told him all he needed to know about these people.

Their mental defenses were quite strong, as strong as their own at least, and actually reading their thoughts would be a challenge. He discovered a new dislike for crowds after acquiring and developing his psychic senses, for many of the huddled masses of Unova kept their minds completely unguarded. It was hard to ignore, and he'd begun to understand why the Sage lived in a Swamp.

That was when he finally noticed, since actually going undercover, everything was so much quieter. It was strange, in a good way. "Thank you. I was wondering, Chief, if you wouldn't mind sharing the tale of Vega's destruction with us. We haven't heard of it in the east, and I have a feeling we should have already."

The Chief eyed the stereotypical Fornian tan and blonde hair, but those eyes…those, looked genuine. The Chief nodded, and as he did, the was a low hoot above them. As his Noctowl used its power on the fire, images appeared in the flames, and they shifted as the Chief spoke. "To understand Vega, you must understand the history of Fornia. Long ago, there was peace between the entirety of the western continent. We had peace with the east as well, for the Dragon God ruled us fairly, and maintained the balance of nature, upon which all of us live. His Empire was vast, and his Tamer fair in judgement. Those were good days."

Alex looked down then. He knew what came next, and resisted sighing as the Chief continued to speak, "Then, the Dragon was passed to his Tamer's two sons. Their rivalry split the dragon in three, and the balance was lost." He packed a long, wooden pipe as he spoke, but Alex couldn't get a clear look at it.

"At first, we of 'western Unova' did not experience any noticeable difference. Indeed, after several centuries of peace and prosperity, the Dragon became a myth, and the fertility of the planet was attributed to the planet itself, and its connection with Nature, rather than a Pokémon that may or may not have existed, long ago. Protecting the wilderness became a top priority of the newly forming governments who, since the Unovan Empire had collapsed, began planning to govern themselves."

"We were a naïve group of nations, young, enjoying the new freedom from heavy imperial taxes. No longer did we have to fund a war that did not concern us. Our wealthy grew great in number, but we had no idea what our wealth would attract. Eventually, these new, rich, former farmers gathered in a single place to enjoy their surplus of currency from selling their surplus of crops. Without an empire to give them to, they had seized the power from the dead empire's infrastructure, and set themselves up as large kingdoms."

The Chief's eyes narrowed, slightly. "Basically…we were a region ripe for conquest. Nobody remembers exactly how long ago Pravus took power, but he's well past his normal span. Though, recently, it's been rumored that his 'immortality' is fading."

The old man focused on the two foreigners then, "When he first arrived here, he was weak. He destroyed Vega, and all living things around it for thousands and thousands of miles. This desert exists because of him, and this Canyon is a pale shadow of what this land used to look like. I have a feeling he's going to try something more drastic, now. To make sure he doesn't have to deal with the consequences of destroying a city again. Immortality is his sole desire, and he would gladly disrupt the Balance of the world to gain it."

Alex's eyes narrowed then. He'd had a feeling this might be the case. "He dangerous, and he has to go down. I understand."

He looked around the circle again, and decided to trust these people, if only a little. He knew removing his disguise would be painful, for it was fairy type in nature, and Jess could always force him to keep it on, for she had no issues using the crystal. For him, it seared his skin, and ignored his attempts to connect with it. He'd had difficulty with the ice crystal as well, for it made him quite chilled, but in Fornia's heat, it was a perfect balance of temperature.

"Thank you, for sharing that with us. There is something you should know, too. The One Dragon has returned, and I am the one who made him whole once more. Understand who you're allying with, because the only way a Cult like this comes down is with coordinated strikes at its' foundations." Jess gave him the mental equivalent of a hard pinch, but he resisted wincing as he took his own toke, and let those gathered absorb that information.

That, was when his obedient partner and friend for life decided to tap into the power of Arceus, and mega evolve. Alex barely dodged the sudden increase of the blue flames, but the other tribe members just stared in awe. He still had eyebrows, but the pipe had been a bit scorched. He glared at Blaze, who continued to nap, and smirk.

The chief was silent for a long while, and as the silence grew, he felt the room's eyes upon him. Unova's Champion was, supposedly, as strong as the Dragon he'd reunited. A dragon in his own right, apparently, or so the newest rumors claimed. Those rumors had also come with a title. The Dragon of the West.

A long look at the awakened form of the Charizard bonded to this Trainer finally convinced him of what was needed. "The Arceans have much hate for you, Champion… I don't know what you did to Pravus, but I have never seen him so…openly furious at a person. You are, quite literally, the face of the Unovan threat he's preparing his people to fight against. Normally, I would decline your aid, for it is costly, but you come to us with trust, titles, and a Charizard from this very region. Even your surname hails from here. I would be a fool to ignore these signs, but I would also be a fool to ally with you, for when the Arceans discover you, and it is a when, not an if, they will use everything they have to eradicate you. Their Prophet recently labeled you as the Spawn of Giratina, and commanded your death. You'll be hard pressed to find true allies among his cult."

Alex passed the pipe on as the Chief spoke, and the Trainer beside him, a member of the tribe, took his own toke from the newer, stronger flames eagerly. The scent of their Leaf was similar to the Unovan variants, but stronger. He felt his psychic power eager to be set free, but thankfully, he'd learned a long time ago how to contain it. Still, his aura burned bright, and he saw Jess staring. "So…what will you do?"

The Chief grinned as the Redwood spoke. "I'll test you, and your Charizard, and if you prove worthy, you will have our support, now, and should your mission succeed, forever."

One of the female tribe members around their fire coughed hard, as she'd been in the middle of a toke of her own when she'd heard the Chief's idea. "But they're ignorant foreigners! They can't face that Trial. They'll be crushed."

The Chief smirked at the woman. "Our Alolan cousins survived it."

The young woman's brown eyes narrowed. "They had a full set of crystals. And Plates. You know well that these two do not.

The Chief eyed the foreigners again, and Alex shuddered as he felt the man's gaze staring straight through his disguise. The Chief smiled slightly, and shrugged. "They have what they need."

Fornia Region – The Majestic Canyon

After some sleep and some breakfast, the Chief led the two foreigners to where the Trial was held. Deep within the Majestic Canyon, even deeper than the Rebel's base, was a series of large valleys that were home to Fornia's Charizard. They were known for being hard to control, as well as for their love of battling. The only other concentration of their species large enough to rival these canyons was the Charicific Valley, in Japan, who were known for exactly the same thing. This was a place for their species to grow stronger.

The Dragon Mountain of Unova was considered a home for them as well, but in truth, Charizard were not as abundant there as they were in these valleys, given that the mountain was shared by many species. Here, only one predator reigned supreme, and the only other carnivorous species were ones who fed on the remains of what the fire lizards ate. When it wasn't entirely ash.

It was a perfect environment for them, really. The sun burned brightly, and made the battles that much more intense. Alex stared down into one valley in particular. Most of them were lush and green on their narrow bottoms, save for the dots of orange and red that marked the younger members of their species. Caves marked the sides of these fertile areas, and flashes of orange could be seen within them, as well. Nests, then. Avoiding them would be a good idea.

The tribespeople had a tradition of battling the strong Charizard, and instead of capturing them in Pokéballs, they were given an egg, if victorious, and judged worthy. It was what made this particular tribe able to live so close to Arcean territory. As long as nobody outright attacked them, their partner's flames wouldn't be a threat to 'civilized society'. That hadn't stopped Pravus from trying, but in recent years, he had focused on fossil hunting, rather than the potential tourism the Canyon could bring in.

The threat of annihilation didn't stop the tribes from helping the rebels, for they knew well that there needed to be peace, trust, and above all unity between their people, and their pale-skinned neighbors. They could not ignore Pravus. He wasn't going away. Tales from eras so far past the modern world had forgotten them always kept the tribespeople wary, and while in the beginning there had been suffering, eventually, peace had been reached. The fall of the human race had ensured that. In the chaotic aftermath, they had been faced with a similar decision: ally with the pale-skins, or die.

"Why do your people wish to help the rebellion?" Alex asked the Chief, as they hiked. Though it was easy to mistake from up above, these valleys were truly massive in scale, and traversing them on foot was sweaty work under the blazing sun. Still, this too, was a tradition. He had no intention of disrespecting the tribe's ways. From what he'd learned of them, there was likely a very good reason they needed to walk.

"Caleb Pravus is a blight upon the land. His cult has mined the earth relentlessly for fossils, though, recently they've lessened…rumor is, they found what they were mining for. But they've ignored the cost. Homes, destroyed. Pokémon, captured…or worse. This land needs to heal, and it will not be able to until the Arceans are no longer spurred into destroying it in the name of their leader." The Chief's tone was even, calm, but Alex could feel the latent tension in his words, a simmering rage. The Arcean's Prophet had done…something to earn the tribe's fury.

"If you'll pardon my rudeness, Chief…this seems to go beyond a simple desire for a change in leadership. Your people are as involved in the base's operations as the former cult members. The Yavano educated me, somewhat, on my way here. I know how much you're risking."

The Chief paused in his walking, and then turned his head towards Alex. Given that they were at the back of their group, which included several other Trainers, the others kept going. "Mmmmm. Your words are brash…but honest. Your…insight…serves you well, Champion of Unova." He continued walking, and speaking, for their journey was long. "You are correct. My people have a personal stake in seeing Pravus brought down."

Alex kept his words short, and direct. "Why?"

The Chief did not answer for a long time, but eventually, he said, "When he first came here, Pravus convinced your fellow pale-skins to follow him with…disturbing ease. We suspected treachery, for even then the Arceans began slandering us, despite our long-standing friendship. Their attitudes changed…almost overnight. Then, Vega was destroyed. For well over a century, he had his minions persecute and belittle our people, making us out to be worse than savages. Any who associated with us, were shunned. Trade stopped, and tensions grew…then, one day, many years ago, we received a message. An offer for peace, an apology, and the promise of trade. The first in generations."

He was silent for a long time again, but Alex let him think. He hadn't been lying when he said he'd understood just how much they risked by helping the rebels so much. His entire tribe, if things went poorly, would likely be wiped out. All their history, stories, practices unique to them, and their home, gone. He was, in short, risking everything to help stop a tyrant. They all were.

"My…daughter offered to meet with Pravus when he sent word that he wished to establish more…concrete ties to our tribes, and to stop the slanderous lies his followers perpetrated about us. I told her not to go. I told her it was a trap. She did not listen. She went to the Oasis of Glory, and for a while…we had peace." He almost spat the word.

Alex couldn't see his face, but he did notice the reddish skin on the Chief's knuckles turn white as he gripped the staff that marked his station, a long metal rod essentially, decorated and carved with runes he couldn't rightly place. It also served as his 'belt', for Pokéballs in the colors of his tribe, brownish red, yellow, green, and blue, filled each slot on the staff. Alex did a double take as he noticed there were ten, not six.

His distracted gaze took in something else, a symbol of sorts on each ball. A circle split into four parts, depicting what looked like the waterfall that hid the entrance to the rebel's base, rocky outcroppings in the red of their home, an image of the food they grew, Cornn Berries, amongst other things, and an image of a Gogoat with a Charizard circling above it in the sky. Each image surrounded another circle, and he had to resist a smile. He'd know that symbol anywhere. Tao's influence still remained here, even after so very long.

It was good that the Chief paused for long periods of time between speaking, but as he spoke again, Alex's attention refocused. "One day…we received a summons to the Oasis, the place where, supposedly, Arceans go to relax and enjoy the fruits of their toil, for a time. Pravus and my daughter had decided to wed, and he invited every member of every tribe in the region..." The Chief sighed, heavily. "With one hand, he offered peace, and all while his followers made us out to be monsters. I did not go, as I did not approve. I could not speak to my daughter either, for Pravus had his claws in her, and she refused to speak to someone who wasn't a part of 'Arceus' calling'."

"Obviously, it was a trap. I warned my fellow Chieftains, but even our combined words of caution could not dissuade all of our people who were curious, angry, or a mix of both, from going. I…am told that my…my daughter addressed the crowd of her own people who came to see a ceremony our tribes simply do not practice, and with a word…betrayed them. The Arceans in this 'Oasis of Glory' are little more than soldiers, and underneath the pretty resort façade, lies a labor camp, full of prisoners…and anyone Pravus doesn't want causing trouble. To this day, he claims my people can leave whenever they wish, and yet they do not return. The bars and electric fences make that rather difficult, as do the armed humans, and their Pokémon. Only a few have managed to escape, and apparently, many do not survive their attempts."

The Chief glanced at Alex again, as their group stopped before the edge of the flame-marked valley of rock that served as the arena for the fiercesome fire lizards that called this place home. "This is why every tribe has agreed to help this rebellion. We must free our people…and theirs. Fornia must be free, again. Then, perhaps, balance can return to our home."

Alex pulled out Tao's Pokéball, and he resisted a smirk as he heard the other Trainers, mainly those of the tribe, inhale sharply at the symbol upon it. They had all listened quietly as they realized the Chief was telling a story, essentially. Now, this foreigner pulled out a ball that, to their eyes, was infused with the One Dragon's power. Or rather, a trace of it.

This ball had held him at one time, evidently, but this Trainer had wisely kept him free of it. Alex offered the ball, and the Chief eyed it closer, and then handed it back. Alex held his hand on it, for a moment, as he spoke "I am the bringer of that balance. The Dragon's will works through me. You have my word, Chieftain, I will see your people free. We will set them all free."

He took the ball back then, pocketing it. The Chief nodded, once, and then stopped walking, and raised his staff. "We shall see. Behold. We are here."

The valley in the center of this area was a canyon in its own right. It was also where most of the contests of strength were held, and as a result, the once red rocks had turned black from centuries of fire duels. As they looked into the blackened valley of stone, they saw him. Every colony has a leader, and this one was no exception to the rule that such leaders were, usually, large, powerful, and stronger than normal.

The Charizard that served as the king of these fierce Pokémon, for no other title fit his bearing, was massive, and napping. As the group approached the edge of the blackened canyon, the massive fire lizard opened one eye, and in an instant, a fiery Aura of red and white surrounded his form. Alex swore, loudly.

The Charizard of the tribe's Trainers popped free of their balls as they watched the two foreigner's partners were called out, and approached the Totem Pokémon. Apparently, that was what they were called here, as well.

As Blaze landed before his opponent, he glanced at his trainer, and nodded. Alex called on the crystal again, and empowered his partner, who took what he needed to mega evolve, and then cloak himself in a similar aura. The power faded, and the magma colored aura held perfectly. Alex grinned. He'd been trying to perfect that for months. Naturally, he understood it when he needed to. That was how he'd always learned, after all.

As the older Charizard stood, Alex noticed that they weren't all that different in size. It was the shape that was different. His wings were smaller, but his claws were enormous. He could likely fly when he needed to, but this Charizard obviously preferred the ground. That meant he likely preferred physical moves as well.

A torrent of Flamethrower burned over Blaze, and the fire lizard yawned, as he inhaled the intense flames, and grinned. His flames turned blue, and his claws became shrouded in deep red, and orange colored energy. The same as the magma from which he'd evolved.

The younger Pokémon shot forward, and after a flash of red, Chari was behind him. The older Charizard glanced at the pair, and snarled. Technically, one's mate could join a duel. If it was to the death, or for leadership. He glanced at the humans, and then understood. They wanted his help for something, and they were fighting to prove they were worthy of it.

The older Charizard smirked, and spun, as a tornado of flames shot into the air, then, a similarly red pair of Dragon Claws rose out of the flames, towards the two fighters. Though the claws were massive, they missed Blaze, or rather, skirled off his aura. Chari went down, however, landing hard, but relatively uninjured. Blaze eyed her, and then bid her to stay put as he rejoined the battle.

The female did as she'd been asked, as she'd smashed a wing into the rock after being hit. There was no reason to go in now. In the air, Blaze would have to defend her and also attack, and on the ground…well, this Charizard could handle her there, too. She stayed back, as the two males smashed together repeatedly.

For all the fire and claws, neither one seemed to be damaged much, and once it was clear they were drawing towards a stalemate, Alex gave his partner useful information, and a strategy. Battles were as much mind games as they were fights, in contests like this, anyways. A moment's distraction would tip it.

Blaze smirked as he heard and agreed with the plan. His Trainer was convinced that this Charizard was his sire, or at least related by blood. They shared the same features, though Blaze's wings were nowhere near as small.

Blaze's Dragon Tail canceled out another Dragon Claw, and the younger fire lizard snarled in the tongue of their species to the older one. "You…are related to me, aren't you…we are similar…"

The elder paused, and the battle did as well, as he eyed his opponent properly, and then nodded. "I did not smell it, but now I see it. You are of my blood…a son I thought lost." He raised a claw and it burst to life with red draconic energy, "But that changes nothing. You started this battle…I will finish it!"

Blaze then did his best imitation of a human shrug, which actually looked halfway decent. He dodged with the speed of the wind, as his own Dragon claw ran along the outer edge of his opponent's. "Very well. I just thought you should know, I have offspring as well."

The older fire lizard's attack paused, eyes widening at the news, for it was always a wonderful thing to have more family. Blaze took the second he needed, and slid his Dragon claw up the older Charizard's burly arm, neck, and then face, in a powerful upwards slash.

The two broke apart then, and the elder was panting. A critical hit, and one that had taken out an eye. Not permanently, but it would need to heal. The claws hadn't actually cut his skin, either. Only faint black marks showed where they'd passed, scraping against the elder's aura shield. Blaze had actually gotten through it around the neck area, and it had not re-formed. In fact, the aura had dissipated entirely now.

Slightly irritated with this new injury, the elder snarled. "Enough, whelp. What do you and your humans want of me?"

Blaze glanced up at his trainer as he mumbled softer growls. "Something about a Trial…"

The older fire lizard grinned. "Ahh. The Trial…why didn't you say so?" He rose again, and though the aura didn't re-form, two other, smaller, Charizard stepped forward to join him. They were comparatively large, but against the King and his offspring, everyone was small. The two arrivals engaged Blaze immediately, but he had fought battles like this before. He could handle a pair of his kin, but he flew higher into the smoky air regardless, as their flames followed him. He didn't want his sire interfering as he dispatched these two.

Occupied as he was, for the two the King had chosen were skilled aerial fighters, Blaze did not notice what went on below. Five other Charizard, each an elder in their own right, surrounded their King, and freely gave their power…so that he might attain the same level as one bonded to a human. Fire type energy poured into the massive Charizard, and like his offspring, he retained his typing and colors as he mega evolved. He was stronger now yes, but most importantly, his wings were now capable of lifting his massive form, which was mostly muscle.

The air boomed as he lifted off, and the weakened elders below curled into circular piles of orange scale, their wings forming a tent above them as they meditated, and kept their own power supplying their King's.

Luckily for Blaze, he had a pair of eyes with a cliff-side view, and saw his sire coming. There was a layer of thin cloud between them, though it was mostly just smoke, it obscured one's vision regardless. Blaze maneuvered his opponents into position, and then kept them there, as his father ascended.

He burst through the clouds with a powerful Dragon Tail, unable to pause as he realized who he was swinging at. The two new opponents went down, and once more, the battle was even. Like Chari, they had smashed into the stone canyon walls, and would need time to recover in order to battle again.

Father and son clashed again and again as the sun turned the sky red, and the sun began to set. Getting here had taken almost a full day, and the days had begun to grow shorter. The summer was halfway finished, and the days were once more shortening to reasonable length.

Seeing another stalemate approaching, Blaze knew this would likely be it. Though he wouldn't admit it, those two had damaged him, almost as much as he'd damaged his sire. The next decisive blow would finish this contest, and he intended to win.

"Wait for an opening…do not rush…" His trainer's words echoed in his skull, but this time, he listened. His partner had become a skilled fighter of his own kind, and what worked well in battle for him had often translated just as well into his team's battles. "Move with the wind, and let him strike the air. He is tired, though his stamina will likely outlast yours. Use your speed to deliver a blow, you can't match him physically."

Blaze did as ordered, looping through the air as his sire's claws furiously slashed through it. He was picking up speed now, and could feel his wings starting to strain. Moving fast enough just to dodge was taking a lot of focus. He would need that focus for a useful attack. Then, he had an idea of his own. His trainer, smirked, and encouraged him to go for it. His battle instincts were great, after all.

He flew high then, high into the smog-filled clouds over this part of the Canyon. Each wing beat cleared it away, and Blaze knew he couldn't use it a second time. He'd need a different trick.

Finally, he flew straight up, and in a masterful display of aerial maneuvering, he came down at his still ascending opponent with a Dragon Tail propelled by gravity. Two large claws came towards him, and then his sire launched them at his progeny in an x-shaped cris-cross that flew through the air. Blaze smashed through them with his tail, and circled around into his own Dragon Claw.

The elder had let his upwards momentum stop, but Blaze had far more after falling. Smashing through the dragon energy had slowed him only slightly, and once more the offspring scored a hit upon the King, who grunted, and fell back first towards the ground. He turned slowly in the air, and let his massive wings stop him, but he still slammed onto the ground quite hard, and did not rise to battle again. His mega form faded, and he lifted his tail up into the air, the sign amongst their species that told their enemy they were done battling. Charizard did not typically kill fellow Charizard, after all.

Up on the cliff's edge, the Chief turned to Alex, and smiled. "You have trained that one well. If all of your partners are that strong, Pravus is doomed."

Alex shrugged, scratching his blonde hair. "Well, six of them are. The other three are a work in progress…and I still need my last one."

The Chief eyed him again, and then nodded. "A ghost type…I think I know one who will work well with you…if you can convince him to battle."

Alex raised a brow, but the Chief spoke before he could. "But we will see to that in the morning. For now, let us feast among our fiery brethren!" The other fire lizards shot their flames into the air, and as they did, Blaze flew past them, spinning into the air, and then fanning his wings out as came down again, and landed on the cliff. Chari followed soon after, favoring her wing, but still capable of flying straight up. It was, after all, one of the easier maneuvers fliers used.

That night was spent around the King's tail flames, and as the entire group of humans gathered around, their own partners joined their tails with his. Blaze did as well, and together, they shared and recovered energy as the humans partook of their intense fire to burn and inhale their smelly plants.

Chapter 24: Rise With The Storm (2)

Well, not 16k, but close. Hopefully the next one won't take so long to write. Knowing my work schedule though, it probably will. Although, if we're being honest, BfA is mostly to blame for delaying this one. Surprisingly decent expansion...for filler.

Next Chapter:

Pokemon (C) Nintendo

Chapter 24: Rise With The Storm

Northern Unova – Unova University

Once Alex had his Aron, he'd visited his brother, who was in the middle of a summer-long experiment at the University's lab. He looked around as he entered the lab building, and he felt his team drawing his gaze towards one of the lab's habitats. Then, he saw why.

It was an Amaura, clearly a hatchling, and it was as white as the snow within its habitat. It looked to have once produced berries, like the other Amaura and Aurorus habitats nearby, but evidently the little one had frozen all of it.

Each of his team told him to go to the little one, and Alex approached the Pokémon, and reached out to it in a manner not unlike a Ralts, with emotion. Good feels flowed into the shivering Pokémon, and that was when Alex noticed. This Amaura was pure ice type.

"He's the most recent hatchling in this line that we've been breeding specifically for Special Attack power. Moreover, like most 'fossil' Pokémon these days, the rock typing impurities have been lost. We have their entire genome, finally." Eric said, approaching as he noticed his brother, staring at the tiny Pokémon.

Alex smirked. "My team insisted that I pet him. He doesn't seem to mind." Indeed, the habitat had started to look slightly greener since the trainer had started scratching the hatchling. The sounds of enjoyment the little male was making were adorable.

He'd almost thought it was female, but had then noticed the tips of the frilly ridges along its neck. They were more of a deep blue, rather than pink. There was that, and the electronic sign on the door of the habitat that had listed his gender with true Pokédex accuracy. The ridges had been pure white a moment before, but the blue was actually working nicely with the pure white of the skin. He was adorable.

He felt Terra give the mental equivalent of a nudge. "Can we keep him?"

Alex smirked. His team was becoming clever. They knew he'd be reluctant to take an ice type because of Terra's dislike for it. Having him ask, was supposed to remove that hesitation, apparently.

He spoke directly to his first partner then, and gave him the mental equivalent of a stare, with his third eye, for a long moment. "They freeze the air around them, and you heard Eric. He'll be strong. Are you sure you want an ice type like that around?"

Terra seemed to chuckle. "If I did not, I would not have asked." He rolled his eyes. "Humans."

Eric handed the Pokémon an Oran berry as Alex's focus snapped back to his surroundings, and the little long-neck stared at the lab-coated student, motionless. Alex scratched the spot under his chin again, and then gave him a Sitrus berry. It made adorable sounds of enjoyment as it devoured the fruit, and Alex smirked at his brother. "Is this the first time he hasn't frozen what you've given him to eat?"

Eric rolled his eyes. "We get it. You're psychic."

Alex smirked. "You don't need psychic power to know a hungry hatchling. Where's the mother?"

Eric's expression grew dark for a moment. "Frozen. Passed on. The others abandoned him after that. He needs a social learning environment, or he's going to end up losing control of that power. He needs to learn his limits, and not fear it…"

The Professor-in-training paused, as he saw his brother's smirk shift to a grin.


"Oh come on!" Alex said, chuckling as the tiny Pokémon rolled on its back, and demanded a belly rub. Leo had joined him, for that. They all enjoyed their trainer's hand scratches, but sadly, they all could not fit in the lab. "Look at him, he needs us. And, I need an ice type. As well as my crystal."

He looked at Eric, and Eric sighed, pinching his brow. After a moment, he pushed his glasses up, and the lighting in the lab turned them white. Alex resisted laughing. "Fine. He's yours. But I expect regular reports on his health. I'll get your crystal." Since returning from Norstad, he'd had three whole months while Alex was off 'preparing' to study it. Evidently, it had come from a village of Articuno riders. He'd supposed if anyone would have shards of an Ice Plate, it would be such a village.

Alex was painting a Luxury Ball in the white and blue colors of his new partner, who seemed eager to enter the ball for some reason. Finally, he booped his nose against the button, and it dinged shut immediately. It twitched in his hand then, and made sounds of enjoyment as the little Pokémon ran around within his new home. Alex smirked. Hatchlings. At least this one wouldn't eat his ball. Four times.

Cenomons, or 'Ceno' for short, was now in a Heavy Ball, one that had stood up to his jaw strength. Evidently the Ultra Ball had been unacceptable, so the little Pokémon kept eating through them until his trainer got the message. Alex had brought him into the mental 'web' that made up his team, then and the little one learned to use words, rather than brute force. At least with them.

As Eric finally returned, crystal in hand, he eyed the newly painted ball. It wasn't so much 'paint' as it was using a stylus to draw, color, and pattern Pokéballs to suit their trainer's preferences. Naturally, the woman who'd invented this tech had made a fortune when the Pokéball companies bought it from her. By this point, it was standard with most balls. Styluses were, of course, sold separately.

Alex eyed the Icium crystal, and Eric sighed again as he handed it over. "Don't teach him anything ridiculously powerful right off. His affinity for special attacks is…off the charts." Alex rolled his eyes, and his brother glared at him. "Seriously. Don't teach him Ice Beam until he learns it on his own."

Alex smirked, and gave Leo a scratch. The large cat had come for the belly rub, but had stayed, waiting for a moment like this. He gave Eric a feral grin, and the Professor-in-training shifted uncomfortably as he recalled how well Leo had handled such attacks.

Alex smirked. "I think he can handle it. If he can't, I'll teach him." In reality, he was planning to let the little one mature a bit. Pokémon grew faster than humans, as a rule, so a few weeks wouldn't be too long of a wait.

Eric raised a brow. "Teach him what? Those overpowered C-Moves?"

Alex held up a finger. "No. Just no."

Eric's brow rose higher. "But the 'c' is for cryst-"

Alex's finger pushed against his brother's nose, booping it. "I said…No."

The younger brother waved his sibling's finger away in disgust. It reeked of Leaf. Of course he'd had a bowl before coming. Typical Alex. "Fine. Tye-jee-too moves." He mumbled something about 'foreign moon languages', and then his gaze fell to the crystal. "Do you really need it so soon? We're learning so much. That thing literally gave us the perfected Aurorus genome. I touched it to mine, and it turned pure ice type. It literally rewrote strands of DNA. With a touch! It's incredible."

Alex shrugged. "I'm sorry, I need it back. It's high time we got to Fornia. We've given Pravus far too much time with…whatever he managed to escape with."

Though he'd gone over the events a hundred times, Alex still couldn't figure out why the Arcean Prophet had retreated. He'd gained the upper hand with his Gigalith, and then just vanished. It defied logic. Most likely because Pravus knew something he was as yet unaware of. Finding out what he'd learned or retrieved was their main objective. For now. And it required quite a bit of stealth.

Eric pushed his glasses up by the center rim, and sighed. "Alex, those crystals are shooting pure Arceus-level creation energy into the Pokémon who use them. For attacks, and for evolution. It can't be healthy."

"If it isn't, we'll soon find out." Alex said, eyeing his new Pokéball, as he teased it with his mind. It glowed blue, and was rocking slowly. The hatchling within was already sleepy. After going so long without food, or family, he needed a nap. "I've been monitoring those using the crystals for evolution for a while now. Where I can, anyways. There's rumors of problems with Mega Evolution in general, but I can never find anything solid on it. When and if there is a case, I'll deal with it. Personally. Then I'll stop it from repeating."

Eric stared his brother down. "And what if your 'case' ends up being unfixable? What if every case results in a death? Will it be worth the risk then? What if it can't be fixed?"

Alex smirked at his brother. "Can't? There is no can't. There is no try. If something needs to be fixed, I'll find a way to fix it. It's that simple."

Eric sighed at his brother. "Tell your Sage that giving you Teleport was a bad idea." Alex smirked.

Several Days Later – Victory Plateau, Unova

Alex waited patiently at the top of the Victory Plateau. He'd Teleported in five minutes ago, and this Challenger was still walking up the stairs. The Unova League tournament had just ended, and this summer's newest hotshot had fast tracked his way to the Champion. Through the Four.

Five minutes became ten, and though the wind howled across the barren battlefield, Alex didn't mind it. It was cold on the plateau, true, but Norstad was much colder, he could wait hours up here, despite the relatively hard wind. It was rather nice, when you had it to yourself. Finally, the Challenger came in, looking confident. They always did.

Being the Champion of the hardest League in the world, Alex had the option to give his challengers a choice.

Battle six on six against his team, and claim victory over the entire Victory Plateau, or, battle six on one…against the Unovan Dragon, and become the Champion. Given that they had enough Champions already, Tao had come up with this system early on in Alex's reign, and nobody in the League had objected. Tao knew what having too many Champions could do, and even Hilbert had agreed that there were enough, for their League at least. The Victory League was not the only League in Unova, but it was the strongest.

All who fought the Dragon, lost. Alex refused to battle them again immediately after that, not that the six on six match would've helped. Alex's team was, supposedly, just as strong as Tao. Stronger even, if one believed such rumors. Most Challengers went for the dragon, however, always staring blankly in surprise as their Master Balls failed to capture the dragon that already had an 'owner'. It was depressing how many trainers with enough skill to beat the Four opted to try for an easy victory to claim the title of Champion. Those, did not get invites to the Dragonspiral Tower.

What few Challengers that did decide to battle Alex, or whichever Champion was available, also usually lost. Both Hilbert and himself had perfect records in such battles, and often, trainers were sent home, or to the tower. Some came solely because they'd heard that was one way to receive training, and both Alex and Hilbert had told the others that those trainers especially should be sent to the tower. The desire to learn was usually a good thing, and they left it to Tao to sift the worthy from the unworthy.

Others, simply wanted the prestige beating the Victory Plateau's Four would bring them. A record like that, especially with a win against a Champion, could open doors for a Trainer. Alex's own record had caught more than a few eyes over the past several months, as he had many wins. He'd stopped keeping track of them ages ago, but evidently one of his devices was just automatically recording the numbers.

Hilda had all but ordered him to start 'marketing himself', and once he realized just how much demand there was for random Champ-themed merchandise, for some reason, he'd allowed her 'marketing guy' to start 'selling his image' or whatever. Evidently, that meant giving him shelf space next to the other Champions on the Join Avenue.

He didn't understand half of the obscure business-like nature of selling these random products, so he'd left it to the strange man who seemed to gleefully enjoy and revel in it. As long as the impressively large paychecks kept coming in from the sales, he didn't mind doing the occasional cameo in Pokéstar Studios, either. Whenever the strange man called, it was usually with such an offer. Or to talk about how great his shorts were.

Finally, the Challenger crested the top of the stairs, but before Alex had a chance to speak, the trainer on the opposite end of the field spoke first, as he stepped into the light, and pointed a finger at the Champion. "I want you Redwood. Not the Dragon."

Alex glanced at the trainer harder. He seemed familiar…and then the Emboar on his undershirt, below the black leather biker jacket, reminded him. The kid from Aspertia, with the Tepig he'd passed over for Terra.

He hadn't lost any of his protagonistic charm. The flame tips of his hair were now done all the way to the roots. He'd acquired black sunglasses, and Alex didn't need psychic power to know he had a motorcycle downstairs.

Alex shrugged, still clad in the robes from Tao's otherworldly tower. "Fine. Single or double? I don't do triple battles up here, or any of that rotating nonsense…sometimes, less is more."

The flame haired kid, who had to be fifteen going on sixteen, swiped his thumb across his nose, and smirked. "Double, then. Doesn't matter, I'll crush you in any battle!"

Alex rolled his eyes. Then again, for all he knew, he was about to be blindsided by a plot armored protagonist. He kept his guard up, suspiciously. The kid was only normal typed…still, he had managed to beat the Four.

Alex had recently begun to help each of them, including Nick, to embrace their inner power, and gain the ability to use plate crystals. Then, he'd taught them how to do one Taijitu move. The others, they would need to learn on their own, if indeed they could learn them at all. Most trainers seemed to be able to handle one or two.

Down in the Swamp, it was another story. Everyone there was a professional, and almost all of them had every kind of plate crystal. Alex hadn't believed there were so many crystal users in one place, until he'd lost several matches to trainers who outmatched him because of their versatility with attacks and combinations, all fueled by crystal power.

Alex had surmised that there were only a limited number of types, and thus, a limited combination of balanced energy attacks. Some, like fire and flying, he'd discovered, had simply been incompatible. Blaze could power up his Flamethrower with the flight crystal, but forming a balanced sphere of fire and air, was quite difficult. The result was usually an explosion.

Many trainers had begun to spread word of what this supposedly super-strong Champion had on his team, and he knew there would be trainers designed to break him, but that was what his other four were for. Honestly, they needed the experience more than his original six.

They were his best kept secret, though they were still quite young. His newly evolved Lairon had lived up to his name, and devoured everything he could in the obscure, un-mineable mountains Alex discovered via Teleport. He'd needed quite a bit of metal to evolve, but there was always metal being formed on this planet. The humans of this era did not want for resources.

The Aron species was often where builders got their materials from. They literally shed metal, and were quite good at battling. It was just common sense to have them around work sites. There were more than a few decent trainers who also worked construction.

Focusing on the Challenger again, Alex shrugged. He hadn't noticed that he'd been silent for a good minute. The intimidation factor was starting to wear off as the Challenger waited, impatiently.

Hilda and Rosa always gave him crap for not being 'menacing enough' to scare off most challengers. Back when Kanto had held the title for 'hardest League in the world', Lance, their leader, had been shrouded in mystery, and dragon types. The Champions who beat him were likewise rumored to be strong. After battling against Red in the Swamp, he understood.

He decided he could always attempt the 'edgy but cool' thing Lance and even Gary Oak had done, at one time, and this poor kid would help spread his reputation. He'd send him to Tao, as well. He'd be fierce, with a bit of training.

"Very well. A double. That'll make it shorter." The flame kid's smirk faltered, as he saw Alex's. It was way too confident.

A flash of green and black came from the belt of the Champion, and he spoke to his team, "Hold off. Let's see if this one is worth evolving for." He could hear the cameras whirring around them as they floated into the air, and began recording.

The League ref's voice came over the intercom, hidden both out of sight, and away from anything the Champion could break. "This League match will be a Double Battle. The Champion may not substitute. The Challenger may do so as often as he desires. Begin!"

"Verrignus! Leif! Go!" The same Emboar from last time appeared alongside a Leafeon now. They both looked strong, but Alex saw no reason to worry. Terra and Shruikan were quite tough, and made an excellent team.


Shruikan flapped into the air, and as he bathed the plateau in flame, Terra looked unfazed. Ground types could handle fire easily, and this wasn't directed at him. The air became distorted by the heat. The Leafeon countered with a Razor Leaf, only to find that in the new heat of their battlefield, the leaves were all but useless, as they turned to ash halfway across.

That applied to Terra as well, but that didn't matter much for this battle. He wasn't using Razor Leaf, or kid gloves. "Earthquake." Alex spoke again, and his starter reared up onto his hind legs, before coming down. The force of the slam shattered the ground. Massive, steaming boulders rocked both of their opponents.

"Verr, punch the boulders!" The Emboar turned, smashing them apart with Brick Break as the attack rocked him. He managed to take less damage, but his Leafeon partner was down. "Bufo, you're up!"

A Seismitoad appeared next to the Emboar now. "Hyper Voice!" Alex tried not to smirk, and failed.

The large frog's seismic tones were rather impressive, as they shattered the rest of the boulders, flattening the field once more, and while his Voice was untrained, it was actually somewhat strong. The Emboar ignited his fists on the flaming beard around his chin, and charged as his trainer pointed at Terra and shouted, "Fire Punch!"

"Aerial Ace."Alex kept his arms crossed as he gave the orders, and stayed completely unreadable. Both Terra and Shruikan knew many moves, so did his entire team, but usually he tried to limit himself to four. In League battles, at least.

Thunder boomed through the clouds above the plateau as his enormous black dragon arced down, and slammed the fire pig, hard, with a type advantaged move. His punch never even came close to searing his scales, such was his speed, even with all his added size. The darkness of the night also helped. Shruikan was quite hard to see, when he didn't want to be seen.

The Emboar smashed into what was left of the stairs Challengers ascended to reach the plateau, and Alex sighed. Aside from not being menacing, constantly breaking the plateau's marble foundations was another thing he received crap for. He could fix the earth of the field itself, but marble and stone were different. Apparently. He took Terra's word for it.

"Energy Ball." Terra's attack shot towards the Seismitoad, who managed to catch it for a moment with the vibrations from his hands. It eventually overpowered him however, and he too went sailing backwards, unconscious.

Alex glanced at the fainted pair of Pokémon. He knew one of them was the kid's starter, and when your first Pokémon went down, it usually meant the battle was as good as done. He'd been wrong before, though.

"You can back out now, if you like. Your record will still have four victories on it. Nothing to sneeze at, since they're from this League." The Champion still had his arms crossed, as he waited for the trainer's response.

"I still have three left-"

Alex cut him off. "That's your first Pokémon lying by the stairs there. Do you really want to make your other three fight a battle your strongest couldn't win?"

The spiky, flame haired kid called his three out then, and Alex eyed them. A Noivern, Weavile, and Aegislash, all fairly strong. He had to admit, the kid's team had most of the types covered for. It was balanced well.

"What do you guys think?" The kid asked, as the three eyed their opponents.

Alex gave the command, mentally, and had to resist a smirk. "Rise with storm, my 'Viking Gods'." It was the nickname Percival had given the pair when he'd wanted a double battle, thinking it would be any different from a single. Given that it had been practice, they had decided against mega evolving. Terra had actually fainted, as he usually did against ice trainers, when he didn't mega evolve, but Shruikan had won the day in fiery retaliation.

The plate on his Salamence's chest flared, and his form became that of a Mega Salamence. The storm clouds around the Plateau increased in size and darkness. The heavens thundered at his arrival, and his roar was just as loud and intimidating as the fury of nature. Terra was similarly changed as the light from the Grassium shot into his form, and mega evolved him.

One roared, and the heavens roared with him. The sky flashed, and the massive form of the Mega Shruikan glared down at the three remaining Pokémon. Terra, for his part, slammed the plateau with his clubbed tail, shaking the entire conical mountain their League was perched upon. The very earth felt ready to shatter under the power of that Torterra.

Whatever enduring confidence the kid's team had, vanished in the face of these masters of the earth and sky. These battles were as much a head game as they were a contest of strength and skill. Too many people forgot that.

He was being kind again, though, and he knew it. Lance would've crushed his opponent's entire team with the ferocity of his dragons, and sent them back to the Pokémon Center. Laughing.

He decided then to be the Champion he'd always wanted to be. A kind one, a strong one, someone Unova could rely on, just like N. If everyone became too afraid to battle, he'd never get challenged. Still, there were times, like now, when a challenger's team simply had no chance, and needed more training, lest they get seriously hurt.

"Go to the Dragonspiral Tower. Train there. The Unovan Dragon will make you strong enough to challenge me, team to team." The two trainers locked eyes. "After all, that's what made my team so strong." He left out the whole traveling dimensions and space-time differentials thing. Years of training had the same effect, no matter the plane you were on.

The kid glanced at his Emboar again, then nodded. "Right…we'll be back for you. My Emboar will never stop until he proves that you should've chosen him."

Alex raised a brow. "Your Emboar will never win until he accepts the trainer he has, not the trainer he wanted, a very long time ago. Good luck getting that through to him, though. There's a reason I didn't choose a stubborn Tepig."

The kid chuckled, wearily. "A wise choice…but I can handle his stubbornness. I'll take your advice, Champion. Then we will return." The two bowed in the Unovan style, fist to palm, grinning. They shared a vegemite sandwich and a bowl of Leaf grown on Terra's shell before parting, in true Unovan trainer fashion. Alex had even given him a small bag of it. He called this strain 'Green Monster'. Terra didn't seem to mind.

Alex watched them go, and let the power fade, and his partners returned to normal. He patted each of them. "Well done, you two. At this rate, we'll run out of challengers."

"You've got to be bloody kidding me! Again!?" Alex shared a look with his partners as the enraged tones of Rosa climbed up the stairs to the mostly-smashed entrance. He sniffed, and the familiar scent of burned Leaf was still hanging around. That too was another thing Rosa had forbidden both him and Hilbert from doing up here. He glared at the cameras, which were still on. Bloody robots never turned off.

He chuckled, "Time to go!" With that, he recalled his partners, and Teleported himself and his team back to Jess' room. It had become their unofficial preparation area for the impending cross-continent journey. She'd gotten the room to herself, as after a month of listening to the 'famous couple' going at it in the privacy of the bathroom (what little there was), her roommate had requested a transfer. Being ultra-rich, Jess hadn't seemed to mind that the price of renting her room doubled for the rest of the semester.

They'd spent a lot of time in the room over the course of the semester, though it was mostly sans clothing. Being able to Teleport almost anywhere gave them a wide range of places to enjoy each other, but they both agreed her room was nicer. Cozier.

Final exams were over by now, and the only students left on campus were either flunkies, or people who really needed to take a break. Eric was in the latter category, as were his lab buddies. Alex had taken to calling them the 'Braintrust', and the nickname had stuck. Even amongst their Professors.

With him sleeping on campus, Alex's hovel in the Swamp had turned into the island's local recreational area, and had grown to include more beds. Battles were held, Leaf was smoked, naps were taken.

After finding crumbs and what he sincerely hoped was jam in the hammock that passed as his bed, he'd decided to sleep in civilized quarters at night. Jess hadn't seemed to mind. They'd tried looking for a real house somewhere, but the prices were truly insane, and the upkeep was even more so. And, why should they pay for a view they could get just by visiting a memorable spot they could Teleport to?

Eventually he'd offered to build her a house, something his instincts immediately regretted, as he saw the look in her eye. She'd kept her thoughts on the matter hidden as well, a hard thing to do given that they were but a thought away from each other all the time these days. She'd accepted his offer, which had led to research, some math, and the conclusion that Cenomons would need well over forty years of shedding, as an Aggron, just to get him some of the materials he'd need.

Then there was everything else that went into buildings that he'd never considered, as he'd literally built a home out of mud and vines, and had been content with it. Now he had to account for plumbing, wiring, heating, power, air flow, location and thousands of other tiny yet important things.

Needless to say, he put it on the back burner. They'd be camping for a while anyways, until they found lodging in Fornia, though he supposed they could always sleep elsewhere, and Teleport back in the morning. The only problem with that was risking not remembering where they'd stopped the day before, and losing yet more time playing catch-up.

Thus, they'd decided to try to camp out as they crossed the Stoney Mountains, sneak into Fornia, and then find a hotel or something they could use as an anchor. The reason they didn't already have one had been yet another factor in what had kept them waiting well into June to depart. The only way to get into Fornia was by air, or sea.

The sea routes were all thoroughly patrolled by the many battle-capable yachts that the Arceans used to advertise how well-off and prosperous being one of them was. Given how well their airships had been constructed, Alex didn't really consider their navy a threat. Not yet, anyways. Sacreus, Fornia's capital, was landlocked so it made little difference.

With the sea cut off, and no desire for plane travel and the level of scrutiny it brought, that left traveling over the land, and after a test-incursion, they realized just how famous Blaze had become. He'd been recognized and chased for miles outside Fornian territory, and only a quick recall and Teleport had saved their bacon.

The footage of him battling Lizardon was still one of the most popular things on the PokéNet, even though a year had almost passed. Evidently, they'd seen it in Fornia too. Alex hadn't even tried Shruikan, much to the dragon's dislike. He'd claimed the night could conceal him, and Alex had countered that his 'hundred-foot wingspan' blotting out the stars would give them away. As would literally any light, for the night was dark blue, not entirely black.

Thus, they'd decided on going full tourist, and playing the role of conversion-friendly newlyweds. Two tan, blonde, blue eyed strangers on the precipice of breeding. The Arcean who'd approved them for travel in their territories had practically drooled when he realized the potential. Evidently, recruiting couples was a big deal.

Now, everything was ready, packed, and as Alex bamfed into the dorm room again, he blinked, as he noticed his love, talking to a strange man. It took him longer than it should have to recognize the student in charge of dorm housing, but he was kind of proud that his paranoid, skeptical mind hadn't immediately leapt to worries of backstabbing.

The man just stared at him, and Jess sighed. They'd tried keeping the ability to Teleport somewhat secret. Like most secrets, it had gotten out almost immediately that the Champion could get where he needed to instantaneously. Apparently, Unovans thought that was a good idea, and he supposed having a defender who could pop in literally whenever was a somewhat comforting thought. And probably a decent deterrent against crime.

"Don't mind him. He's carrying the bags. Here's the key." Jess said, as she handed it over. The man nodded, and then promptly left.

He was glad to be rid of them, honestly. They were quite loud, and had stayed well over a month past the end of the year. Since the girl was rich, the increasingly absurd room rent hadn't driven her off, and since her lover was the Champion, and an Alumni, they couldn't really just tell him to scram. Especially since he could just poof right back five seconds later, and nobody would be the wiser.

There were four bags in all, their usual two, and two solely for sleeping bags. They hadn't bothered with a tent. Arthur popped free of his ball to grab the extra bags, and then they all Teleported once more, to the rendezvous spot.

The Sage had informed them, after some deep meditation, that their journey would go as well as it needed to if there were three entering Fornia, not two. Tao had divined much the same, and even had a suggestion as to who else should come along. He'd grown up in Fornia after all, and though he'd needed a better disguise than tanned skin, Brad had still proven himself somewhat capable.

He'd had only a Charmeleon when Alex first found him, and as the son sparred with his father, Blaze, the two humans had talked. Brad had been reluctant, at first, to go back to the region that had essentially controlled his entire life. After but a few months in Unova, he'd started to understand just how bad things were back home. Just how strong the delusion really was, and what kind of effort would be needed to remove it.

Alex had reminded him that his family, though they likely claimed to be willing to serve, were still under that regime, and his disappearance had likely made life difficult for them. That, more than anything else, was what convinced the trainer to come along. If they'd been mistreated, there was a good chance some of them would defect as well. Alex had tasked his rival with securing aid from the north of the massive region, and while he was doing so, he could find his family as well, for that was where they'd lived. Once he had them, he'd send word to Alex and Jess, and they would help free them.

Alex hadn't really wanted a third wheel, but he supposed it would keep himself and his woman from lusting after each other all day on the golden coast's famous beaches. They'd still be doing that, of course. They were 'honeymooning' after all, and he had no doubt the Arceans watched everybody they let in.

Brad had promised to build up his team, in preparation for the journey west. With only three months, he'd actually managed to pull a decent one together. There were several species most Fornians had, like Lycanroc, Ursaring, Gogoat, and the regional variant of Marowak that was both fire, and ghost. Alola and Fornia were culturally similar, but Alolans always said their neighbors were a bit…weird. They too could see through the devout façade. This hadn't stopped the Fornians from acquiring, and then breeding, the rare variants of known species found on the islands, though.

For her part in gaining four new members, Jess had found a Swablu, who she'd called Aria after they sang together, near the University's campus while Alex had been hunting for an Aron. The randomness of the universe had guided him to the little Amaura, who he'd nicknamed Gelauros. Eric had immediately shortened it further to 'lil G', and it had been Alex's turn to sigh as every other lab student had agreed it was better. This was the future of the scientific world.

Brad was surprised when they showed up with belts carrying over six Pokémon. Then, he saw them unstrap their bags, and begin to pack their balls away.

Alex put his main six balls in his bag, as Jess did the same, leaving them with their newer partners. The others hadn't particularly liked being shoved in darkness, as they wanted to see what was going on themselves, but until the plan came to fruition, they could wait. For now, their function was helping their newer, younger teammates, and Alex was glad that his team was mature enough to be okay with waiting a few weeks. Of course, if he needed them, they could pop free and help, but they had all agreed that should be a last resort.

Once the balls were away, they donned their disguises. Brad's had gained pale skin, and blue hair, for some reason. He'd stick out in Fornia, but nobody would recognize him. No Arcean would associate with such a person, or so the former Champion had said. As long as nobody official took a harder look at him, he could blend in perfectly.

He entered the region at the northern port where the Kanadia, Fornia, and Dakota regions all intersected. Being one of the larger ports of entry, Brad could slip in amongst the hordes of people unnoticed, and once in Arcean territory, he could once more act like a loyal Arcean. He was more worried about the 'newlyweds' blending in.

The other pair had gone in the southern route, and had been forced to blend in to the mind-numbing obliviousness of the local population of the Sippi region, which was heavily influenced by the Arceans, and would likely join them soon. Some of the hardcore ideologies, and pure hate, towards Unova in particular, had given the pair pause as they started to subtly listen for rumors of rebellion.

Evidently, the residents of the Sippi region believed that the Unovans had, somehow, caused the massive Swamp that now covered their ancestral homelands to grow out of control. Apparently, many of the people here had once lived in those southern areas near Floria, or what was left of it.

Since they couldn't actually blame nature for stealing their homes, this 'theory' of why the Swamp had grown so large had gained massive popularity once the Prophet claimed, through 'Divine Insight' apparently, to know beyond the shadow of doubt that Unova and the Swamp were connected. From there, the people of Sippi had run with the theories, and hadn't stopped.

As the two realized the extent of this kind of zealot-like thinking, they both agreed that, even though they had to gain allies, they were better off working ideological change from the inside out. The people here were angry over a 'crime' that had likely been 'committed' millennia past, and were speaking of war with Unova based on what essentially amounted to a rumor from a foreign government. If Fornia changed, it was likely that these support states would change as well. Eventually.

Thus, they did not actually look for trouble on their way through the lush Arciana region's plains once they crossed the border. Despite this purposeful obliviousness, cracks in the Arcean façade were literally everywhere, as were posters of their faces, untanned, and unchanged, listing them as 'threats to the Prophet'. Those, more than anything, had forced them to silently, angrily, ignore the perversions they came across, even here.

They could've gone through Utado, which had once owned the Arciana region, but anyone who entered Nevouri from Utado was closely watched by the Arceans. Being as yet 'unconverted', the further they went into Nevouri, the more looks they received.

They would've gladly pretended to convert to blend in, the only problem was that doing so took months, and thousands of units of currency. They had an alternate plan.

After a last look through his granduncle's room, Alex discovered a note, with a name, location, and Holociever number. The words 'Do not call until in Fornia' were underlined below it. As were the words 'trusted contact'.

This, more than anything, was the riskiest part of their plan. They had no idea what this contact could do for them, and planning alternate routes of hiding in Fornia's wild, Stoney Mountains had taken time.

Fading into the background of Nevouri had been simple, and as Cenomons dug them a tunnel towards the iron-rich mountains, he was all but drooling. Usually, he was hard to motivate, but the promise of these ore rich mountains had always gotten him going again, as he learned to battle. His patience was finally being rewarded.

Once the voracious Lairon had found his way into an ore-rich cave within the massive mountain chain, the two humans had made camp. Cenomons continued munching away, until he discovered something that was rock, but unlike anything he'd seen before.

He grunted for his human, as he'd learned to show things like this to him, and the human stared back at the Pokémon. "Holy…Ceno just found a fossil. A Pokémon fossil." He held up his Pokédex, and the device scanned it, then came up blank. It beeped loudly then, echoing through the cave, and the words: New Species appeared on the screen.

Then, came a blank space, for a name. The two humans just stared, and shared a look. "Let's find out what it is before we start naming species…"

"Redwoodsaurus." Alex said, smirking. He grunted, as an Iron Tail sent him flying towards the tunnel they'd entered through. He'd just laughed, as it had been kind of fun, smashing through various rock formations and feeling almost none of it. He hadn't realized how much tougher his body had become since Norstad, but evidently, the Storm Crown was doing its work.

Once he returned, he found Jess scouring the Pokéweb, and then as he sat down, she showed him what she'd found. "I thought it looked familiar. See? The ancients have data on this. The horns are identical."

Alex glanced at the name, and then at the creature. Three horns, located on the western part of the very same continent, herbivore, quadrupedal, and not actually unlike an Aggron, save that it apparently couldn't stand on two legs.

While the two humans stared at the glowing noise maker, Ceno returned to eating, as he was ravenous. His trainer's regimen was exhausting, but the results showed, and he'd rather enjoyed winning what few road battles they'd come across.

Even Fornians challenged each other, it seemed. None offered to share a bowl, however. The Leaf was strictly outlawed, but Alexander Redwood had long ago perfected hiding his stash. It was nice to see his spots held up to even government-level scrutiny.

It was as Ceno returned to the fossil's spot, that he noticed something. Another one. Another horn shape, all but identical to the first. He was both curious, and ravenous, though mostly ravenous. With about a second of hesitation, he began loudly crunching the rock and bones, and as he did, he ingested the crystallized lifeforce of the Pokémon that had once been. Since the Pokémon had been a direct descendant of one of the first Mew, as were most fossil Pokémon, the latent gene-altering power had a peculiar reaction with the Lairon's own genetic make-up.

He didn't notice any immediate changes, except that now some ores looked more appealing than others. Pure instinct guided him to a specific blend, but his trainer barely noticed as he and his counterpart smoked a bowl, and then fell into their usual grunting session. Ceno had also learned to not bug them during those. Humans could be gross.

The next day was mostly spent waiting for Ceno, who hadn't slept, to stop eating, so he could tunnel them out again. Alex had asked for patience from his lover, as he'd seen the look in his young partner's eye, and his responses, and emotions, labeled the meticulous munching of specific ores as incredibly important. Something was up, but Alex didn't bug him.

Jess was eager, because she'd found a Shield fossil. She'd never resurrected one before, but Alex had a feeling it wouldn't be so easy in Fornia. He didn't let that dampen her excitement though. A Bastiodon would fill out her team nicely.

She'd also found a lone Nidoran, and while she hadn't been entirely newborn, she'd still been a bit young to be on her own. Jess had decided to copy Alex at that moment, and tried asking if she wanted to come along. While she was off winning a partner through trust, Alex had decided to ignore his methods for once, as he spotted something unique within the many cave tunnels.

Typically, Drapion on the eastern side of the continent were more popular, as they were strong, versatile, and purple. Many good teams had Drapion, many villains also seemed to enjoy using them. Alex had spied a red Skorupi however, and realized that was simply the color they took here in Fornia, as he spotted a whole nest's worth.

Now the trick would be isolating one that wasn't too young, or too weak. Seeing his trainer hesitate, Gelauros, or Gel, as he'd started being called, simply walked into the nest, all smiles. All of the Skorupi immediately began hissing at it, but backed down when they felt the young one's frost breath.

Gel went from one to the other, his trainer in tow, until eventually he pointed at one Skorupi in particular. It had been near the back of the nest, silently working on perfecting its strikes. Alex noticed it was a male, though he guessed he couldn't have been too much older than Gel.

The two had locked eyes, and it had taken Alex a moment to realize that his little long neck wanted to battle as badly as the Skorupi. The others watched, the hissing muted as they took in the strange white Pokémon, and the human it dragged with it.

The Skorupi accepted the challenge, and the battle was fierce, but short. Thankfully, the pair had practiced turning the little dinosaur's Rock Throw into a Rock Slide, and thus, the advantage was his. The Skorupi was utterly blindsided by the rocks, buried even, and the little long neck essentially pounded him with Rock Throw, for fun, until he agreed to give up, and let the hatchling win.

He crowed, triumphant, and before he could blink, there was a maroon-colored Net Ball freeing the Skorupi from the rocks by taking it inside. Surprisingly, the ball dinged shut with only a few shakes, and Alex quietly retrieved it as he suddenly noticed the thousands of eyes staring at him. Gel nudged him, and they left quickly, but unharmed. The battle had been fair, after all, and their brother had accepted the challenge against a Trainer. Trainers caught Pokémon. If he hadn't wanted a trainer, he could've refused easily.

Despite all of that, Alex called him out anyways as they began the trek back to their camp, and explained exactly what he needed from the Skorupi, and if that was too much, he could easily return home. Much like Ceno, he'd asked to see his teammates, but was less impressed by the Lairon and Amaura. Gel's hatchling eyes had eventually convinced the scorpion, at which point, it returned to the ball. With only one member left, and since he really only needed a ghost type now, he decided to let the universe guide him to his last partner.

Jess had been somewhat disappointed when she returned with Nidoran of both genders, only to find Alex already had a Skorupi. She'd named her Nidoran Maria, and had called her partner Tony, because it was adorable and nostalgic. Alex agreed to let the Nidoran male stay regardless. Neither of the humans wanted to split them up. There was more room in Jess' bag, so he typically stayed there as they moved through the mountains, but Alex trained him as well. He was a good sparring partner for his team of younger Pokémon, and he knew he would never mind having a Nidoking around, in the future. Tony didn't seem to mind, as his partner was clearly the better battler. He was just happy to stay with her, grow stronger, and be a part of a larger family.

Once they'd packed up camp, Ceno had agreed to tunnel, and eat as they went. He was still picky about what he ate, so the going was slow, but Alex had a feeling it would be worth it. Eventually, he'd had to let the Lairon roam solo, just so progress could be made through the caves.

Being what he was, he had no trouble finding the group for an occasional nap, but for most of those long days under millions of tons of rock, Cenomons was absent, eating away at the endless supply of ore. The other Lairon he encountered were more relaxed, and less willing to battle, given the abundance of food. Ceno ignored those too weak willed to fight for good ore, and thrashed those who tried to take it from him. In this way, he beat those Lairon worth beating, and earned his experience. His trainer had taught him useful moves, but he did notice that without him, battling was a lot harder. Despite that, he relished the challenge.

Finally, after almost a week within the mountainous tunnels, which were largely quite far away from any kind of dig site, the two humans emerged from the darkness, and several minutes later, Ceno joined them. He was finally content, his voracious appetite sated…for now. It was good timing.

Ceno used his mastery of the rock to make a platform for the humans to stand on, as they'd been clinging to a relatively steep cliff side, and as they took in their first look at Fornia, Alex burst out laughing. His hand, halfway to his Holociever, paused.

Before him was a valley filled with trees, and not just any trees, of course. The tallest, the oldest, the biggest. The species from which his family was named. A stand of Sequoia sempervirens trailed through the valley below them, in a very obvious line, only visible from such a high perch, or from the air. As oblivious as he was, Alex knew a sign from the universe when he saw one. He pocketed the Holociever number, and then the pair began to follow the very obvious line of massive but also rather young trees.

Several Hours Later…

"There's no sign of them. Report back to HQ. The Rebels have them."

The captain of the Arcean Task Force, or A.T.F. as it was sometimes called, spoke into his Holociever. He'd been perched up here for hours, alongside his Mega Lucario, keeping tabs on the strange 'married couple' that had gotten quite deep in Arcean lands, without joining the Church, before vanishing for almost a week.

When they'd reappeared, he'd almost missed them, but their classic Fornian looks made them stick out against the gray stone of the mountain they'd perched on. Once they disappeared into the Redwoods, he knew it was only a matter of time. The only people who went to such places were those who wished to rebel against the Church.

Once the new face of Fornia's so called 'enemy' had actually forced their Prophet out of Norstad, a strange thing had occurred in the Fornia region. Those who were tired of the blatant lies and mistreatment gathered in groves of ancient Redwood trees, where they met a people who shared their views on the rulers of their lands.

Though it had been centuries since any of the Tribes had been recognized as a people, they still remained in what areas of the massive Fornia region the Arceans had not yet plundered in the name of resources. Together, those Fornians who wished to rebel made an alliance, a rebellion, of sorts, and small bases and outposts full of these so-called Rebels had been popping up all over the region, causing havoc to the Church.

Tourists were especially dangerous, for the A.F.O was in charge of keeping them oblivious to the goings on of the government. Once the Arcean Fossil Organization had lost track of the couple, they'd called in the Task Force. They dealt with threats to security.

A response came over his Holociever, "Stay where you are. This hunt is being given to the Hand of Death." The captain stared at his communication device, mouth agape. A Hand of the Prophet? For two random tourists who probably got lost in the caves? At most, they'd meet the native tribes and find a way to go home, he didn't understand why such a response was warranted, but then, this was a Hand who was coming, the Hand of Death, who was supposed to be a rumor. A bad nightmare.

Despite the grisly nature his missions no doubt entailed, if he was being sent in, it meant the Prophet himself wanted these tourists. He nodded at his Lucario, and the loyal hound leapt down from their own perch to follow the tourist's scent. They needed to be useful to the Hand, or he would likely dispatch them as well, for incompetence. Given the strength of the couple's aura, something the Lucario found strange, but was unable to comment on, tracking them was easy. When the Hand appeared, he would have a strong trail to follow, and hopefully, his trainer would continue to live.

Fornia Mk1
Since Swtor is going to eat up my life with that sweet, sweet XP bonus, I decided to do a thing. The next chapter will probably come soon. It's getting there. For now, enjoy.

Eight and a half state's worth of land makes up this region, which I cannot emphasize enough, is depicted on a large scale. I did the best I could with names and locations of cities, but the important things to note about this region are the fossils literally everywhere, which are the main draw of 'tourism', and the constant, overbearing presence of the Church, which relentlessly urges you to join it for every moment you're in one of their cities. Naturally, people already within the cult are oblivious to the many not-so-subtle efforts focused on converting as many people as possible. It's a general rule that if you're not an Arcean, you're not worth associating with.

This kind of attitude is mainly prevalent in the southern part of the region, while the northern and mountainous parts are home to those who are fed up with the Church's method of governing. Among this so-called Rebellion are Fornians, and members of the Tribes of the West, whose existence has all but been reduced to legend, for most Arceans, despite the fact that they often trade with the Takoma region to the north, which is run by the Tribes.

The League in this region is a bit strange. Technically, Caleb Pravus is the reigning Champion, but given that he's also a ruler of a country, he doesn't really have time, so he claims, to battle every aspiring challenger that comes along. This, is where the League structure comes in. While not an official part of the Pokemon League, the Fornia League's rules mirror the genuine League's, in hopes of one day being recognized by them. It's common knowledge to non-Fornians that the League refused to establish itself in Fornia until the ruling government's practices changed into something more humane. Despite this obvious denouncement, Pravus, and his entire region, continued to pretend they were genuinely a part of the League. More over, it is also known that the Fornian League is the hardest in the world. While it is genuinely challenging, in reality, it comes in around number eight in difficulty.

Winning the 'League Challenge' gives you a chance to become a 'Hand of the Prophet'. This position essentially elevates a Trainer in Arcean society to a level of fame and fortune. Those who become Hands are allowed to live in the Oasis of Glory, a supposed paradise in the far south of Fornia. Trainers who go there are rarely heard from again, but this is entirely normal, to most Arceans. The Church comes before everything else, including family. Being a Hand of Arceus' own Prophet is surely more important than taking a vacation, or enjoying Festivus.


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J-K-123 Featured By Owner Sep 17, 2018  New Deviant Hobbyist
Hey, wanna join lake valor with me?
Put me on "referred person" when joining, could you?
MrMadManiac Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2018  Hobbyist
Thanks very much for the watch and llama!
PokeFan1337 Featured By Owner Sep 13, 2018  Hobbyist Writer
Any time
J-K-123 Featured By Owner Aug 17, 2018  New Deviant Hobbyist
Mind if I ask for writing advice?
PokeFan1337 Featured By Owner Aug 18, 2018  Hobbyist Writer
Sure. Send a note.
J-K-123 Featured By Owner Aug 18, 2018  New Deviant Hobbyist
alic1a02 Featured By Owner Aug 14, 2018  Student General Artist
Have one Llama back Llama jump by Droneguard

Llama Stamp by Mel-Rosey
J-K-123 Featured By Owner Aug 5, 2018  New Deviant Hobbyist
Thanks for the fave! I'm fixing my stories up, and I've taken a lot of inspiration from your writing style.
PokeFan1337 Featured By Owner Aug 5, 2018  Hobbyist Writer
Glad to be helpful lol in my experience, editing can only be a good thing.
J-K-123 Featured By Owner Aug 5, 2018  New Deviant Hobbyist
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