Episode 82: And Your Enemies Closer

With their Pokémon having sustained massive injuries after fighting with strange Pokémon made out of shadows, the unusual team of Ash and Cosmo have been forced to seek refuge for the night to rest and heal. This is going to be an interesting night, to say the least.

Cosmo is sitting in a corner, tending to Ferntress' wound. Ash and Raichu walk into the scene, carrying a handful of wood. He says, "I found some roots sticking out from the roof nearby, these should work as firewood." Cosmo doesn't answer. Ash shakes his head with annoyance and drops his firewood to the ground. He bends over and picks up a few pieces, and then places them in a pit dug earlier. "Alright Raichu, can you use your electricity to light the fire?"

Raichu nods. "Rai." With small sparks from its cheeks, Raichu lights the wood, creating a campfire.

Ash sits next to it alongside Raichu. His stomach grumbles, causing him to groan, "Now if only we had something to eat…"

Cosmo looks towards him for a moment with annoyance, and then returns his attention to Ferntress. He strokes the area where Ferntress was hurt, causing Ferntress to wince in pain.

Cosmo sighs. "I'm sorry, my friend. If only I had your Pokéball, then at least you wouldn't have worry about your injury, and I could take you straight to a Pokémon Center once we get out of here." He strokes the back of its head. "I'm sorry."

Ash looks over to see this display of affection. He then looks to Pikachu, who's lying in his lap. He thinks, That's exactly how I feel about Pikachu right now. I would do anything I could to help alleviate its pain, but I just can't. I feel so helpless. He pauses. Is that how Cosmo feels…? He shakes his head. No, there's no way. He's a thief. He stole Ferntress from Professor Pine back when it was just a Sporout. There's no way the two of them share any kind of bond. None at all. He looks back at Cosmo, and sees him continuing to soothe Ferntress. Suddenly, Ash doesn't appear so convinced of what he was just thought.

Then an idea comes to Ash's mind. He seems to cringe for a moment at the idea, but then, against his better judgment, gets up and walks over to Cosmo. Sounding completely uncomfortable, Ash says, "So…I never was able to thank you for before…when you saved me… You didn't have to do that, but you did…"

Without looking to Ash, Cosmo states matter-of-factly, "It was the logical choice to make. As I told you before, our chance of getting out of here increases if we work together. The appearance of those shadow monsters only makes that more true."

Ash clenches his fists in anger for a moment, but takes a deep breath to calm himself. After once again taking a moment mentally prepare himself, Ash takes a seat facing Cosmo and Ferntress. "Still, you saved me. I keep on asking myself this, but I just don't think I could have done the same if our roles were reversed."

Cosmo still bears him and heed. "That's because you think with emotion instead of logic."

In an attempt to take a jab at Cosmo, Ash points out, "What you were just saying to Ferntress sounded pretty emotional."

Finally, Cosmo looks up to Ash. With mocking sarcasm, he says, "I'm so sorry that you're seeing a side of me you pretended didn't exist. Am I shattering all of your fragile illusions?"

Ash suddenly stands up. "Hey! That's not fair!"

Cosmo's voice begins to raise slightly, and he sounds a little on edge. "What's not fair? I'm saying exactly what's happening. I say nothing but the truth."

Ash accuses, "Obviously not, since you seem so keen on pretending that you actually care about the Pokémon you stole from its rightful home!"

Now Cosmo actually sounds angry. He shouts, "You don't know the first thing about the bond I share with Ferntress!"

"But I do! I know that you stole it when it was just an innocent Sporout! How could you possibly feel anything toward a Pokémon you stole!?"

"I only took Sporout because the ignorant Professor Pine left me no other choice! If he had only just made the sensible choice and gave me Sporout, then I wouldn't have had to resort to such methods, then you wouldn't find it so hard to believe I actually care for it!"

"No, I think I would! You showed your true colors that day, and there's no way someone with such compromised morals could ever care for a Pokémon, let alone receive the friendship of the Pokémon in return!"

"Everything I do it for the greater good of Tenno! Why can't you understand that!?"

"I can't understand because you've done nothing but bad!"

"It's all a means to an end! Your simple mind can't possibly understand the greater workings of what I do, of what Team Planetary does!"

"But the ends don't justify the means! Evil does not produce good, only more evil! And that is why Ferntress will never care for you, and why you could never truly care for it! Pokémon are creatures of good! They would never truly accept someone like you! You mean nothing to Ferntress, and it is nothing but a tool to you!"

With unbridled rage, Cosmo slaps Ash across the face and shouts with a voice full of emotion, "You take that back! Ferntress means everything to me! Ferntress is my best and only friend! Before Ferntress, the only meaning in my life was Team Planetary, but Ferntress completes me! I would do anything for it, and it would do anything for me!" He suddenly collapses on to Ferntress and breaks down in tears.

Ash rubs his face where he was slapped. He is stunned by this outburst.

Cosmo looks back up to Ash with hatred in his eyes. "You think yourself to be so high and mighty with your lofty morals and expectations, so much so that you think you are entitled to judging others without knowing anything about them. If you actually knew something about Ferntress and me, maybe you wouldn't be so quick to judge. The things Ferntress and I have been through together, the things you would never have known of, are what make our bond strong." He suddenly gets caught up in memories and pauses. Then one particular memory comes to mind, and he is compelled to share.

He says, "Back the day after Sporout and I first met, we were put on our first official field mission for Team Planetary as partners. We were to investigate reports of Meteoric Shards being found near the Sol Forest. At first, the mission went off without a hitch. We recovered the shards and were ready to bring them back to headquarters, but in the process of retrieving the shards, I disturbed an Apprentichick nest. They were furious, and chased us relentlessly. They badly injured Sporout and me. Sporout was too weak to fight, and I was too tired to run. So, I took a stand. I used my body to protect Sporout from any further harm. And just as I was reaching the limits of what I could endure, Sporout leaped in, somehow found the strength to unleash a single attack that fended off the entire flock. At that moment, Sporout and I made a promise to each other that we would always be there for each other, and that together we would stop at nothing to save our home."

Ash is stunned. He looks over to Pikachu, lying by the campfire. He has a flashback to his and Pikachu's encounter with the flock of Spearow at the beginning of their journey. He looks back to Cosmo, and tries to speak, but the words don't come out.

Cosmo looks up to him and states, "So maybe next time you won't be so quick to judge." He turns away and sits down, resting up against Ferntress. "Just get out of my sight."

After several speechless moments of staring at Cosmo, Ash walks back over to the campfire and sits down next to Pikachu, with his back to Cosmo. He takes a long and hard look at Pikachu as he contemplates everything he just heard.

All this time, Raichu has been watching and listening. Once no one is looking, it sneaks over to Cosmo and slips something into his pocket. It then walks to Ferntress and slips something else behind one of its ferns. Neither notice it.

Who's the Pokémon!?

They employ an electrically charged web to trap their prey. While it is immobilized by shock, they leisurely consume it.

Some time has passed, enough for both Ash and Cosmo to calm down. Ash stares at the fire as he continues to contemplate what happened. Raichu walks up to him. Ash takes a few moments to notice it. "Oh, hey Raichu. What's up?"

Raichu sits down next to Ash.

Ash takes a moment to look the Pokémon over, especially its ornate belt. "What's your story, anyways? You follow me around the Crater Gate, and then jump in after me when I fell. And you seem to know this place."

Raichu just looks up to him and smiles, as if it's not going to give an answer.

"And then there's that belt." He reaches out and feels it. "Obviously, to have a belt like that, you must have a trainer." Ash sighs. "Still, if it weren't for you, we never would have made it past those nasty Pokémon or those shadow monsters. I owe you a lot." Ash stops to think. "And then that leads to question of what those shadow things were. There are just so many mysteries going on here. I'm just glad you're here so I don't have to face it alone." He sighs. "If only Pikachu could be here…

As if on cue, Pikachu meekly says, "Pika-pi…"

Ash looks up in surprise. "Pikachu?" Pikachu, still looking badly injured, struggles to sit up. Ash moves over to it. "No Pikachu, stay lying down. You're still too weak. Keep on resting. You'll be better. I know it."

Pikachu nods feebly, and then falls asleep as soon as it relaxes its body.

Ash breathes a sigh of relief. "A least Pikachu will be alright…"

Raichu smiles. It then walks up to Ash and gets his attention. "Rai, rai." It then tugs on Ash's sleeve and points back behind him, towards Cosmo.

Ash takes a quick glance behind to look at Cosmo, who is back to tending to Ferntress' injury and stroking its back. Despite all that has happened, Cosmo seems oddly at peace while nursing his Pokémon. Ash asks, "What? Do you think I should talk to Cosmo again?"

Raichu affirms, "Rai."

Ash is dubious. "I don't know…" He takes another glance at Cosmo caring for Ferntress and then looks back to Pikachu, and thinks about how relieved he was to see that it was okay. He then takes a deep breath and stands up. "Fine. Here I go." He walks over to Cosmo and awkwardly asks, "Is there anything I can do to help treat Ferntress?"

Cosmo looks up to Ash cynically and asks, "What do you care? You made it pretty clear before that you don't care about how Ferntress or I feel."

Ash sighs. "Look, about before, I was out of line. You were right, I was judging you without actually knowing you."

Cosmo looks up towards Ash again, this time quizzically. "Say that again."

"I was wrong, you were right."

Cosmo nods slowly.

Ash continues, "There's no way I could ever excuse the action you and Team Planetary have taken, but I was wrong to insult your bond with Ferntress."

Cosmo asks, "Why the change of heart?"

Ash beckons to the spot next to Cosmo, asking if he can sit there. Cosmo nods.

Ash explains, "Your story, the one about the flock of Apprentichick. It reminded me of my first day as a Pokémon trainer, my first day with Pikachu. Because of my ignorance, I got a flock of Spearow chasing after us, and I got both Pikachu and I seriously hurt. If it weren't for Pikachu's last minute rescue of me, I don't know what would have happened. We've gone through so much since then, but that day was the defining moment in our relationship." He pauses. "I don't know where I'd be today if it weren't for Pikachu. I can't imagine my life without it."

Cosmo nods in understanding. "That's how I feel about Ferntress." After a moment, he suggests, "You and I…we're actually quite a bit alike. We've ended up on opposite sides of this conflict, but I think we have more in common than either of would care to admit."

At first, Ash doesn't seem to like this suggestion, but he soon admits to himself that he can't deny it.

The two sit in silence for a few moments, contemplating the implications of what Cosmo suggested.

Then Cosmo points out, "Don't think this changes our relationship though. Once we're out of here, I'm going right back to Team Planetary, and we will succeed in our mission."

Ash nods. "Yes, and so long as you continue to commit acts of evil, I will do everything I can to stop you."

Cosmo sighs. "You still see things in black and white."

Ash counters, "Just like how you still think the ends justify the means."

Looking for a way to end the awkward conversation, Ash gets up and says, "Well…it's getting late. We should leave as soon as Ferntress is ready to move, so we'd better get to sleep."

Cosmo nods. "For once, I agree with you."

Ash walks back to the fire and lies down next to Pikachu.

A little while later, Cosmo is still up, but he sees that Ash is sleeping soundly. He gets up and walks towards Ash, checking to make sure he's asleep. He then looks over towards Ash's backpack, which is lying open on the ground. Part of the Grand Meteoric Shard is poking out from the bag. Cosmo stares at it, contemplating what he should do. He shakes his head, and lies back down next to Ferntress. He closes his eyes to go to sleep.

Moments later, he peeks an eye open and stares intently at the Grand Meteoric Shard.

It's Galvantula!

Brock, Brenda, and Braydon have made it through the night, and are back to searching for Ash. Brenda points out, "These tunnels must go on forever."

Brock explains, "According to what I've read, after the rockslides that blocked off the Crater Town entrance to the Crater Gate were cleared, a new system of tunnels was discovered. The system twists and weaves all across Tenno Minor's underground. We're probably in those tunnels now. The new system is called the Crater Cave."

Braydon nods. "Yeah, I heard that the main exit of the Crater Cave is on the opposite side of Tenno Minor from the Crater Gate. Searching the entire cave could be very challenging."

Brenda sighs. "I guess we have our work cut out for us, then." She looks to the tunnel ahead them. "Don't worry, Ash. We'll find you, and then we'll all get out of this wretched cave." She seems to say this to soothe herself more than anything else. They all walk on.

Lurking nearby behind some rocks is Team Rocket. Jessie says, "So, it would seem that the Twerp is lost."

James adds, "Not only that, but his Pikachu as well."

Meowth grins mischievously. "This is the perfect opportunity. The Twerp is without the rest of the twerp squad, and probably lost and confused. If we can find him first, his Pikachu is as good as ours."

Jessie and James grin too. James declares, "We'll find the Twerp while he's astray!"

Jessie adds, "Let's hunt him down as our prey!"

Meowth concludes, "We'll come out victorious, on this day!"

Wobbuffet appears to conclude, "Wobbuffet!"

Ash and Cosmo are both up for the morning and are about to set out from their camp. Ferntress looks to have healed enough to move by itself once more. Pikachu, on the other hand, still isn't looking well. It's awake, but still can't move well on its own, so it's resting in Ash's backpack again. There still seems to be some tension between them, but much less than there was the previous day.

After an awkward moment of the two of them standing in silence, Ash posits, "So…I guess we should continue in the direction we were going in yesterday…"

Cosmo responds, "It's either forward or backwards, and heading backwards is not where we need to go."

Ash nods. "Right…" He pauses. "Well…let's get moving then…I guess." They resume their journey through the strange tunnel.

After walking some ways, Ash suddenly comes to a halt. Cosmo demands, "What, what is it?"

Ash points forward. Cosmo looks ahead, and suddenly realizes what Ash is seeing. Much of the walls and floors are covered in some sort of dark purple ooze.

Cosmo realizes, "It's the same substance that those shadow creatures were made of. It's everywhere."

Ash asks, "What is that stuff?"

Raichu appears extremely unsettled. It stares intensely at the sight ahead of it. "Raichu…"

Ash looks down to it. "Raichu, does this mean anything to you? Do you have any clue what's going on here?"

Raichu responds with uncertainty, "Rai rai rai…"

A bit of the goo drips off the ceiling and drops to the floor in front of Ash. Ash begins to reach out to touch it.

Cosmo cautions, "I wouldn't touch that stuff if I were you. We have no clue what it is." He thinks for moment, then gets an idea. "How about this?" From his pocket, he pulls out a glass vial and uses it to scoop up the substance. He then corks it off. Then he holds it up so he can get a good look at it. The substance seems to twist and move around on itself.

Ash looks at it too. "It's…it's almost like it's alive."

Cosmo concurs, "Yeah, how strange."

"Could it be some sort of new Pokémon?"

"It would be one incredibly bizarre Pokémon." The goo suddenly leaps at the side of the vial, causing both Ash and Cosmo to recoil back in surprise.

Raichu points to the ceiling. "Rai rai!"

Ash and Cosmo look there. A vortex of shadows, just like the one that caused the shadow creatures to appear, opens. Both Ash and Cosmo ready themselves for a fight. More goo spews out. However, just like the stuff already there, this just falls to ground and sits there harmlessly. While Ash isn't looking, Cosmo pockets the vial of goo.

Ash suggests, "Those portals must be transporting that goop here from somewhere else. The question is, where from?"

Raichu tugs at Ash's pant leg, and points forward. "Rai, rai."

Ash looks in that direction. There's a relatively clear path that leads through the goo. Ash exclaims, "A way forward!" He looks down to Raichu and considers something for a moment. "Do you think it's safe, Raichu?"

Raichu is reluctant to answer. "Rai…"

"Not really, huh? But you think it's important for us move on in this direction, don't you?"

Raichu nods. "Rai."

"You know what's going on here. If only you could tell us." He looks over to Cosmo. "What do you think? I trust Raichu. I don't think it would put us in danger if it didn't have a good reason."

Cosmo responds, "I don't think it matters. We don't have any other choice. This tunnel just keeps on moving in a straight line. There have been no branches of any kind whatsoever. Our only way out is forward. Unless we want to stay in this tunnel forever, we're going to have get past this goo, regardless of what lies ahead."

Ash nods in agreement and looks forward, and then down to Raichu, who is looking ahead with worry. "What is going on here?" With a deep breath, they carry onwards.

Brock, Brenda, and Braydon have come to a stop in a chamber. Brock is looking at his Pokéssistant. "According to the Pokéssistant's GPS app, we're exactly below the chamber where Ash fell from. Either Ash fell into here, or he bypassed this area entirely and fell even lower."

Braydon looks around. "I don't see any sign that Ash was here."

Brenda points out, "There's only one tunnel out of here besides the one we took to get here. Since we didn't see him on the way in here, if he did end up here, he would have had to have left though that other tunnel."

Brock nods. "That's a sound deduction, Brenda."

Braydon asks, "In that case, should we look for Ash in that direction now?"

Brock responds, "I don't see any other choices."

But before they can resume, another group steps out from the tunnel. It's Cygnus and a group of Planetary Grunts. Cygnus gives an exasperated sigh and asks, "Status report?"

A grunt with some equipment answers, "According to our geo-locaters, we are directly beneath the chamber from which Cosmo fell. He must-"

Cygnus interrupts him by groaning when she notices Brock, Brenda, and Braydon. She rolls her eyes. "Absolutely wonderful. Would someone please tell me what those three are doing here?"

Brenda asserts, "We're trying to help our friend, just like you're helping yours."

Cygnus suddenly gives a restrained laugh. "Me, friends with the child? Yeah, right. I'm here only because the Boss would be upset with me if I left his precious protégé behind, and that's the last thing I want to put up with right now." She groans. "I just wish you three hadn't shown up."

Brenda asks, "What, why?"

"Because, if the Boss hears that I missed an opportunity to stop the whelps who have been a thorn in his side, he'd be an even bigger thorn in my side." She rolls her eyes and pulls out a Pokéball. "What a pain." The grunts all follow suit and also pull out Pokéballs.

Braydon has been raring to battle, and immeadiatly pulls out his Pokéball in response. He declares, "Your mistake, Planetary scum!" He throws the Pokéball, releasing Kappaquarius.

Cygnus sends out her Beheeyem, while the grunts send out a horde of Lunatone, Solrock, Elgyem, and Protostar.

Brock and Brenda also pulls out Pokéballs, sending out Meteorfight and Glitterfly. The battle begins right away.

Ash and Cosmo suddenly come to a stop. They have made their journey through the goo-infested corridor, and in front of them is a massive chamber with a vaulted ceiling. The chamber doesn't look like a part of a cave, but instead looks like the interior of some ancient structure. Even stranger, there isn't a single hint of the shadow goo in the chamber.

Cosmo observes, "This chamber looks like the end of this tunnel. If there's a way out of here, it's going to be in there."

Ash nods in agreement. "And the lack of that gunk must mean something too, right?"

Cosmo concurs, "It must."

Ash begins to take a step forward, from the cave into the paved floor of the chamber. Only a moment before Ash's foot lands, Raichu grabs ahold of Ash and pulls him back. Ash looks behind him, towards Raichu. "What is it? Is something wrong?"

Raichu looks to the room ahead of them with a sense of foreboding. It warns, "Rai rai raichu…"

Ash nods. "So there's a reason we shouldn't go in there?"

Raichu nods. "Rai."

Cosmo groans. "Well, that's just too bad. That's the only way we could possibly get out of here, and I'm sure not staying here forever." He takes a step into the next room.

Ash shouts, "No!"

And Raichu shouts, "Rai!"

The moment his foot touches the paved floor, the entire room begins to rumble. He looks around frantically. "What's happening!?"

Raichu looks up toward the ceiling with fear. Ash and Cosmo look up too. There, a vortex, like the ones before, opens, except this one is a least ten times larger than the previous ones.

Cosmo declares, "I have a bad feeling about this."

Then a massive amount of the shadow goo begins to pour from the vortex. Large globs of it plummet down to the floor. Once there, it begins to creep toward the center of the chamber, where the goo amasses into one puddle. Within moments, that puddle begins to take form, just like the phantom Mega Evolutions from before did.

Ash and Cosmo both take a step back in fear. Ash says with a mix of awe and horror, "It's huge…"

After only mere moments of taking shape, a monstrosity is formed. First and foremost, it's colossal, nearly reaching the several story tall roof. It has a vaguely humanoid form, but only just barely, as, while it has two arms and something that resembles a head, the bottom of its body is a just a pile of the goo. The head has no face to speak of. The goo is continuously dripping off of various parts of its body, down to the floor, where it returns to the body at its base. The monster roars a hideous and low-pitched noise.

Cosmo demands, "What is that abomination!?"

Ash suggests, "It must be the source of the goo."

Raichu steps in front of Ash and assumes a fighting stance. Sparks fly from its cheeks.

Ash asks, "What's that, Raichu? Do we need to fight it?"

Raichu nods. "Rai rai!"

Ash looks to Cosmo. "What do you say? Will you fight with us?"

Cosmo responds, "There really seems to be no other choice. Ferntress and I will fight alongside you." He orders, "Ferntress, Leaf Storm!"

Ash commands, "Thunder, let's do it!"

Both powerful attacks are aimed at the abomination, but the attacks are effortlessly absorbed by a purple barrier that appears around it, dealing no damage at all.

Ash asks, "What just happened!?"

Cosmo responds, "The monstrosity seems to have some sort of shield protecting it. We can't put a finger on it."

Ash declares, "Then we'll just have to break that shield! Raichu, use Thunder Punch!" Raichu leaps at the abomination and punches it with all its might, but the barrier protects it once again. Ash adds, "Thunder, again!" As Raichu is leaping back from the recoil, it attacks with another blast of electricity. Once again, it has no effect.

Cosmo shouts at Ash, "Can't you see? It's helpless!"

Then the abomination roars it again. It swipes its arms forward, causing a cascade of goo to fly from its arm and land on the ground between it and Ash and Cosmo. The goo that hits the floor then begins to take its own shape. Each puddle becomes its own form. Within moments, a horde of phantom Mega Pokémon has been created. All sorts of Mega Pokémon are there, including Mega Aerodactyl, Steelix, Pinsir, Scizor, Houndoom, Alakazam, Porygon-Z, Tyranitar, Gyarados, Spiritomb, and more. The phantom Pokémon quickly surround Ash and Cosmo.

Ash shouts, "They're everywhere! What can we do!?"

Cosmo shouts back, "The only thing we can do! We fight! Ferntress, use Bulldoze!" Ferntress rams its way through multiple phantoms, causing their goo to splash in all directions. Despite the force of the attack, the phantoms quickly re-form.

Ash joins him and orders, "Raichu, wide-spread Thunder!" Raichu leaps into the air and spins as it attacks with Thunder, causing many of them to dissipate, only to re-form moments later.

Cosmo attempts to study his opponents, taking a good look at them. However, while he's doing this, he fails to realize that a Mega Garchomp is sneaking up behind him. It prepares to attack.

Ash turns just in time to notice this. "Raichu, help Cosmo!" Raichu leaps toward Cosmo and prepares to Thunder Punch the shadow Garchomp, but a shadow Metagross leaps in and intercepts it. Realizing there's nothing else he can do, Ash shouts, "Cosmo, look out!"

Cosmo turns to see the Garchomp taking its swing at him. Cosmo's eyes open wide in shock. It's too late for him to dodge. Everything slows down as the attack comes in. Cosmo tries in vain to avoid it. Then, just as the attack is about to hit, Ferntress charges in and uses its body as a shield to protect Cosmo. Garchomp's scythe-like arms slash at it, injuring the Pokémon. It cries out in pain.

With this time bought, Raichu manages to leap in and knock the Garchomp away with Thunder Punch.

Cosmo runs up to Ferntress, "Ferntress! Are you alright!?"

Ferntress looks up to Cosmo weakly. "Fern…" It winces in pain.

Cosmo looks down to it with sadness, "You saved me Ferntress…" He collapses and hugs the Pokémon, nearly breaking down in tears. "I promised I wouldn't let you get hurt again, and here we are…"

Ash, while busy fighting off the phantoms with Raichu, looks back to see this display of affection. It seems like he can deny their bond no longer.

Cosmo stands back up and declares with all his willpower, "I swear to you Ferntress, your sacrifice will not be in vain! We will defeat these monsters, you and I together!"

Suddenly, a bright light emerges from Cosmo's pocket. Then a nearly identical light begins to shine beneath Ferntress' ferns. Cosmo reaches into his pocket to find the source, and pulls out a small, round gem that shines brilliantly. It's a Keystone. Cosmo's eyes widen as he realizes what's happening. He then holds the stone up into the air and declares, "Go, Mega Evolution!"

Then tendrils off light appear from both the Keystone and the source of Ferntress' light. The two sets of tendrils connect in between them, and Ferntress becomes enveloped in an even more brilliant light. Then its entire body begins to change. In a massive flash, the light ceases, revealing Ferntress' new form. Most notably, it has taken a bipedal stance, and therefore has longer arms and legs. Its arms in particular are quite long and lanky. On either forearm a large circular disk woven from ferns is attached. They seem to be shields. It is still entirely wrapped in ferns, and the fern plant on its back has grown larger. It roars, "Ferntreeeeeess!"

Ash looks to it and Cosmo in surprise. "Did Ferntress just Mega Evolve!?"

Cosmo commands, "Ferntress, take them out with Leaf Storm!" Ferntress spins around rapidly, attacking in all directions with Leaf Storm. The attack destroys every single phantom, at least momentarily. Cosmo then shouts, "Great job, now attack the behemoth!" Ferntress turns to the abomination and attacks with its strongest Leaf Storm. The attack passes right through the monster's barrier, hitting its body.

Both Ash and Cosmo are shocked by this. Neither expected such a result.

The attack makes a hole in the monster's center, revealing something inside. It's an old man. The man shouts, "Mega Evolution is key!" before being engulfed once more back into the shadows.

Ash asks, "Did you see that!?"

Cosmo nods. "I think he was trying to tell us that Mega Evolution is the only way to defeat this monstrosity."

Ash clenches his fist. "If only I could Mega Evolve!"

Raichu calls out for his attention, "Rai!"

Ash looks over to Raichu, which throws a stone to him. Ash catches it, and realizes that Raichu has thrown him a Keystone. Ash looks from it, to the Mega Stone around Raichu's waist. His eyes widen. "Raichu, can you Mega Evolve?"

Raichu nods and prepares to fight. "Rai!"

Ash grins. "Great, then let's do this." He holds the stone up into the air and taps it. "Alright Raichu, Mega Evolve!" The same Mega Evolution process begins again, this time with Ash and Raichu. When it's over, Raichu has transformed into Mega Raichu. With that complete, Ash orders, "Raichu, use Thunder!" Raichu attacks with an extremely powerful Thunder, which also passes through the barrier, damaging the abomination.

Realizing that it can be injured, the monster roars furiously. It then recalls all of the shadow goo it used to create the phantoms, absorbing it back into its body. It roars once more, and then swats at its opponents.

Cosmo orders, "Foliage Fortress!" Mega Ferntress leaps in front Raichu, digs its feet into the ground, and crosses its arms. The two shields weave into each other, creating one large shield, which only continues to grow larger. The monster's arm knocks into Ferntress' shield, pushing it backwards, but Ferntress resists with all its might, as its feet leave a trail in the ground as its forced backwards.

Taking this opportunity, Ash orders, "Now Raichu, Iron Tail!" Raichu leaps up and over Ferntress, and whips its two tails at the monster's arm, cutting it clean off. Ash looks to Cosmo and declares, "This is it, this is our chance!"

Cosmo nods. "Time for one final attack! Together!"

Ash declares, "Raichu…!"

Cosmo declares, "Ferntress…!"

They shout at the same time, "Thunder!" and "Leaf Storm!" Both Pokémon launch their most powerful attacks, the power of which have been increased incredibly by the Mega Evolution. Both attacks impact the abomination at once.

The monster roars in pain and anger.

Cosmo shouts, "It's not enough! We need more power!"

Ash looks down to the Keystone in his hand and clenches it. He looks back to Raichu, who is doing everything it can to defeat the monster. Then, from his back, Pikachu declares, "Pika!"

Ash looks up to it and realizes, "Yes, Pikachu, add your power to Raichu's! Thunderbolt, now!"

Pikachu leaps off of Ash's shoulders, apparently feeling better now. "Pikaaaaaa chuuuuuuuu!" It attacks Raichu, and Raichu absorbs the electricity through its tails, increasing its power even more.

Ash shouts, "Come on Raichu, you can do it! I believe in you!" Then the Keystone in his hand begins to glow again, and so does Raichu. Raichu's Thunder becomes even stronger. Without warning, the Keystone shatters, and Raichu's power becomes even greater. This increase is enough to tip the balance. The abomination roars in intense pain. Moments later, it explodes. Raichu immeadiatly reverts to its original form.

Several tense moments pass, then the shadow goo all around them begins to evaporate away.

Cosmo is the first to realize. "We did it…" Slightly louder he adds, "We actually did it."

Ash then jumps up and cheers, "We did it, we did it!"

Pikachu cheers, "Pika pikachu!"

And Raichu, "Rai rai chu!"

Cosmo grins widely and joins the cheering. "We did it!"

Getting so caught up in their cheering, Ash and Cosmo hug each other. Only a second later, they awkwardly stop.

Then a voice declares, "You two certainly did. You saved the day."

Ash and Cosmo look to see the old man that was trapped in the abomination. He looks to be some sort of monk, dressed in robes with a shaved head. A talisman hangs from his neck, with a Keystone embedded within it.

Raichu excitedly runs over to it. "Rai!" It rubs up against him affectionately.

Ash asks, "Are you Raichu's trainer?"

The monk nods. "Indeed I am. I am also the keeper of this sanctuary. The Den of Mega Evolution."

Cosmo questions, "The Den of Mega Evolution? I've never heard of it."

The man nods. "Yes, it is a secret place. Here, monks such as myself train in the sacred art of Mega Evolution. Only a select chosen few ever come down here." He looks to Ash. "I told my Raichu to seek out such a worthy one to come here to my aid. He found you as the worthy one."

"So it wasn't an accident that I ended up here?"


Cosmo asks, "But why did you need help? What was going on here?"

The monk sighs. "I wish I could answer. All I can say is that something truly evil is afoot. There is misbalance in the world, and its corruption of the Infinity Energy that fuels Mega Evolution created the monstrosity you fought. I wish I knew more."

Cosmo then asks, "Alright, well do you know the way out from here?"

The man nods. "Yes, follow Raichu. It will show you back to Crater Cave. Thank you once more for all you have done for us. The Den of Mega Evolution will always be in your debt."

The battle between Brock, Brenda, and Braydon and Team Planetary rages on, but then, from the tunnel behind the heroes, Ash and Cosmo emerge, led by Raichu. Brenda sees him first. "Ash!"

Cygnus groans. "Great, the kid's back."

Cosmo runs over to the Planetary side and orders, "Get us out of here immediately."

Brock shouts, "Quickly, stop them!"

Ash shakes his head. "No, let them go."

Braydon looks to Ash with shock. "What are you saying, Ash!?"

"I said let them go."

At this point, the grunts have already ordered their Pokémon to use Teleport. Cosmo looks to Ash and nods respectfully. Ash nods back. He disappears.

Ash looks down to Raichu and thanks it, "Thank you for everything, Raichu. You really helped me out. Now go, make sure your trainer is alright."

Raichu smiles. "Raichu." It runs back down the tunnel.

Brenda asks, "What gives, Ash? Why'd you let them get away?"

Ash grins. "Let's just say that Cosmo and I have come to a new understanding. Besides, I still have the grand Meteoric Shard." He pulls off his backpack and rummages around in it. Suddenly, a look of horror and panic crosses his face.

Brock asks, "What is it, Ash?"

"The Grand Meteoric Shard…it's gone…"

Cosmo and the others have returned to Team Planetary HQ. Cosmo hands the Grand Meteoric Shard over to Cygnus. "Mission accomplished." Cygnus takes the rock. "But that's not even the best part."

Cygnus eyes him skeptically. "What do you mean?"

From his pocket, Cosmo pulls out the vial of shadow goo. "I want this stuff brought to the lab immeadiatly. It has properties which could be of great value to Team Planetary."

Cygnus is disgusted by the goo, but she takes it and leaves, leaving Cosmo alone. From his pocket, he also pulls out the Keystone Raichu gave to him. He stares at it intensely.

Team Rocket trudges through the cave, looking completely exhausted. Meowth shouts tiredly, "Twerp…! Where are…" He gives up. Then he suggests, "We've been searching for hours, maybe it's time to call it quits.

Jessie and James concur, "Agreed." Meowth turns to the left.

Jessie asks, "And where are you going?"

"This way will lead us back out."

James scoffs, "No way, that's not the way."

Jessie agrees, "Yeah."

At the same time, Jessie says, "We have to go forward," and James says, "We have to go right."

All three look at each other, and suddenly groan as they realize how lost they are. They all begrudgingly declare, "Looks like Team Rocket's wandered off again…"

Ash, Brock, Brenda, and Braydon have left the caves. Braydon asks them, "So, where are you off to next?"

Brock responds, "We haven't really decided yet. We were going to figure it out before you brought us to the Crater Gate."

Braydon thinks. "I'd suggest you travel with me to Horizoport, but you've already battled at that gym, right?"

Ash nods. "Yeah, that's where I went first."

Braydon nods. "Alright, then I think you might want to head to Opti City. You can take a boat from Crater Town to get there. They have a gym there."

Ash nods. "Sounds great, we'll do that."

Brenda says, "So I guess that means we're parting ways here, then."

Braydon nods. "It does. I must thank you guys for standing by me in the fight with Team Planetary. It was nice having someone who believes me."

Ash responds, "We're always ready to take the fight to Team Planetary. If you ever need our help again, don't hesitate to ask."

Braydon smiles. "I think I'll have to take you up on that offer." With that, he turns to leave. "Catch you guys later." He leaves sight.

Brock says, "Well, the best way back to Crater Town would be back through the cave."

Brenda chuckles. "If you don't mind, I think I've had enough with caves for a while."

Ash agrees, "Yeah, me too."

Brock nods. "We can cut off most of the travel time in the cave, if we walk around to the min Crater Gate entrance. It will be a bit of a walk, but it will keep us out of the cave for a while."

Brenda nods. "Let's do that."

She and Brock set off, but Ash doesn't. He stands there, staring back at the cave.

Brock asks, "Is something wrong, Ash?"

"It's everything that happened to me in there. I can't help but feel that there's something bigger than we could comprehend going on in there. Something out-of-this-world."

Brock suggests, "You've been through a lot over the past 24 hours. Take a break. Don't worry about it."

Ash nods. "Yeah, you're right. I need a break." And he walks off with them.

Just as everyone turns away, another one of the vortexes opens. A large and menacing silhouette can be seen on the other side. The only distinct feature that can be seen are its malevolent glowing red eyes.

This adventure may be over for Ash, but the mystery is not. There is mystery afoot, one of epic proportions. A mystery that will force our heroes into a grand new adventure. A force of great evil is about to be unleashed. Stay tuned…

To Be Continued…

Make sure to check out Pokémon Cosmic Quest the Movie 2: Nemex Unleashed, which takes place chronologically after this episode.