Ash's Just Reward Chapter 49

"Entire sentence." = Normal talking.

"Entire sentence." = Psychic talking.

"Entire sentence." = Powerful being talking.

'Entire sentence.' = Person's thoughts.

In the midst of a teeming swarm of Ultra Beasts, perched on a lone rock in a contemplative stance, was a Buzzwole. The muscular Ultra Beast had been sullen and detached from its brethren for hours now, doing nothing save for nursing its wounded eye periodically. Whenever another Ultra Beast tried to approach it, it shunned them, having no interest in interacting with any of them.

Which was what had caught the attention of the Buzzwole in charge of their force, the unusual silence being alien to this particular Buzzwole. Normally they were a well known loud-mouth, one that was difficult to keep quiet during war councils and was usually responsible for riling up the other Ultra Beasts. While the abrasive attitude rubbed Buzzwole the wrong way, he appreciated its role in the upkeeping of morale for his force. Such confidence and bravado was needed to ensure that the troops were always ready for combat, something that was essential to winning a conflict such as this.

But apparently, the conflict had changed this Buzzwole, and he wanted to know why. He hadn't participated in the large-scale battle due to the wounds they had sustained in the early raid, but that raid had been a learning experience. It had showed them that small scale attacks wouldn't work, even with the element of surprise. But beyond that, he was unsure of what had happened, especially regarding this Buzzwole.

Time to change that.

As he headed over to the Buzzwole, it broke its silence, acknowledging his presence with a small grunt. Taking a seat next to him, he stared out toward the amassing forces, who were preparing for another battle, the inevitable counterattack from the dreaded arch enemy Arceus.

"Preparations are going well Commander, just as you ordered. The wounded are being prepped for transport as we speak. We'll be ready to move out on your command."

"Very good, as I expected from you," The commander replied, before he shot a brief look toward his companion. "Though I trust you know that this isn't why I came to speak to you, right?"

The Buzzwole said nothing, turning away and touching his eye again hesitantly. Which caused the commander to sigh.

"Still mulling over your loss? The Great Defender is a formidable foe, something we've all learnt the hard way. You should not take it to heart, you'll get a chance to redeem yourself."

The Buzzwole drooped his head, hand hovering in front of his face before he shook his head.

"That isn't what's bothering me."

The commander snapped his head to the side at this, frowning heavily at the comment.

"Oh? Then what is? You're not one to be so swayed by a battle's outcome, so what is the cause for concern?"

Nothing was said for a moment, the Buzzwole tensing and untensing its hand into a fist before sighing.

"They spared me."

"… I don't follow."

"The Great Defender. I attacked them as planned, using speed and power to strike unexpectedly. Though I found myself facing a formidable foe, a Dragon type. As the battle raged, I nearly won several times, overwhelming the Dragon and demonstrating my wrath. But soon the battle turned against me, and I found myself entirely at the mercy of the Dragon, who looked ready to end me, most likely because I attacked the one they were sworn to. They were going to end me, and I was ready to accept my fate as a casualty in this war."

He then paused, touching his eye again, before going quiet, nearly whispering to himself by this point.

"But the Great Defender intervened. I was entirely at their mercy, but I was spared. I had made an attempt on his life but he still spared me. I would not be here to lament on it were it not for their kindness."

"And this troubles you?" The commander asked, confused. "Why?"

"Because it was a gesture that I would not have returned." This left the commander stunned for a moment, left with no comment to add as they continued. "I was prepared to act without question, to wound one who had no malicious intention towards me despite my intentions. And now I find myself wondering why exactly we are facing him. I grew up on legends about the Great Defender, Arceus' supposed Champion who would put his life on the line for both her and the entire filthy pantheon of Legendaries. But now I can't help but wonder if that is just how they would act toward any living being…"

The commander made a silent 'ah' of understanding, turning his gaze away from the Buzzwole. Truthfully, he had shared similar thoughts since his own encounter with the Great Defender. Their ignorance toward their conflict with Arceus, along with their ensemble of powerful Pokémon who seemed to be drawn to his presence. He had once assumed that such Pokémon were enlisted by Arceus to serve the Great Defender dutifully, no more than conscripted forces to fight for their Champion. But now he couldn't help but wonder if that was the case, and if they were drawn to his noble attitude rather than his lofty position.

Apparently, he wasn't the only one questioning the boy. Curious.

Before he could comment further, the Buzzwole abruptly stood up. Not giving a moment's notice to the commander, they strolled off, walking with a determined stride as they went. Taking only a brief moment to grab some supplies, the Buzzwole began charging up energy, aiming it at a wall before ripping open a portal with the energy, tearing open a gateway to the Pokémon world.

"And where do you think you're going?!" The commander yelled, darting toward the Buzzwole.

"To find answers," They replied calmly, before they stepped through the portal, which slammed shut after them, leaving the commander stuck on this side of the portal.

Torterra frowned as he watched the gathered Champions commune with one another, updating each other on recent going ons in their careers, such as latest developments, notable battles, and interesting Pokémon that they had met or caught. But despite the peaceful conversations going on, Torterra couldn't help but feel a strong sense of unease.

This 'ICOP' group rubbed him the wrong way. He wasn't sure if it was the uniform suits they wore that gave him uncomfortable comparison points to Team Galactic or the giant island base that just screamed 'EVIL TEAM', but whatever the reason, he knew that there was something wrong about this entire situation.

It didn't help that Lucario and Servine had disappeared, something that no one else seemed to be commenting on. Whether it was the unease eating away at them or just uncertainty making them hesitant to act was irrelevant. Something needed to be done, and he was going to be the one to do it.

Pushing himself up, Torterra began making his way to the same corridor that Lucario and Servine had slipped down to investigate. Something had clearly gone wrong, and while he lacked the stealthy attributes to sneak through like they had, he was going to find them. Afterall, he wasn't planning on being polite, and he highly doubted that their doors could keep him out.

As he got to the door however, he found his path blocked by two ICOP agents.

"Apologies, but this section is for member of the Agency only. Revered Pokémon of the Chosen One should remain in the main chamber until we have a plan of action on how to find him."

Torterra grunted at them, shoving past them and proceeding down the hallway. Their exclamations caught the attention of Cynthia, who began walking over to the agents as they called out their Pokémon, a Machamp and a Golurk respectively.

"Hold on, what's going on here?" She asked while the two Pokémon stormed in front of Torterra, trying to block him with their bulk alone.

"Nothing, respected Champion. We're just trying to get this Torterra to return to the main chamber. We're not sure why it's trying to roam," The first agent replied, though the smile they plastered on their face was so ingenuine that Cynthia couldn't help but frown.

"Why are you so insistent on not letting it roam? What's the harm in that?" She asked sceptically, causing the agent to pale.

"Standard procedure," They replied quickly, which caused Cynthia to hum in annoyance.

Before she could press further, the floor shook beneath their feet, knocking them off balance as the reverberation of an explosion rocked the building.

In the centre of the giant chamber, the floor collapsed in, huge chunks of marble falling down below. From the gaping chasm that was formed, several orbs of energy began flying out, crashing into the ceiling above and rocking the building with a chain of explosions. As the structure began to cave in, a blue blur darted out of the hole, twin orbs held in their paws before they were fired downward, crashing into two Pokémon head on.

It didn't seem to deter them though, as a Golurk and Scizor flew from the hole, blitzing through the attack and making swipes at Lucario, who narrowly avoided it with a quick duck, sweeping out the legs of the Scizor before striking the Golurk in the gut with a Force Palm.

The offending Golurk was shot flying back, crashing into the rows of chairs surrounding the arena, collapsing into an unconscious heap in the rubble. But Lucario didn't stop there, as he charged up an Aura Sphere and fired it off without hesitation, which collided with a Dusknoir that had been raising from the hole and knocked it back with a resounding explosion.

Though the Dusknoir was only one of many Pokémon who had been rising out of the pit in pursuit of Lucario, as they clamoured after him with reckless abandon. Each of them was wild-eyed, pushing themselves to a frightening extent as they closed in on Lucario, who was already priming his Metal Claws to defend himself from his next assailant.

But he quickly found himself being reinforced, as Noivern came swooping in to clash with a Pidgeot who had tried to circle around the Aura Guardian and Donphan rolled in to collide with a Primeape. The pair quickly smashed their targets aside with their attacks, before quickly making their way to Lucario, making a protective circle as more of the deranged Pokémon charged in.

Torterra saw this and immediately began waddling toward the ancient Aura user, but quickly felt a massive palm grab his shell. Shooting a sideway glance, he saw the previous Golurk that had been blocking his path to the corridor prior to Lucario's explosive entrance tightly gripping one of the spikes on his shell.

With little more than an eyeroll, Torterra stomped heavily on the ground, summoning giant stone pillars which jutted from the ground and smacked directly into the Golurk's chest, pinning it to a nearby wall and swiftly knocking it out.

The Machamp, reacting quickly to its partner's quick elimination, pulled back two of its fists for an attack of some kind, yellowish energy swirling around its limbs as it wound up to strike. But before it could land a hit, a green construct of energy smacked into it, knocking it down several meters away.

Turning to see his saviour, Torterra was both surprised and relieved to see Servine, looking worse for wear but defiantly remaining on their feet with an intense fire burning away in her eyes.

"Glad to see you're alright," Torterra greeted casually, but was waved off as Servine staggered forward, almost collapsing on the spot before Torterra leaned in the way, using his bulk to support her as she regained her footing.

"They're insane," She gasped, short of breath and with one eye sealed shut from a slash across her eye. "They want to replaced Ash. Something about his role as Chosen One being a catalyst for destruction. If they had their way, they'd become the world's dominant power, and with the Champion's help, they'll be able to do it."

Torterra found himself gritting his teeth, eyes darting toward the mass of Champions who were watching the ongoing battle, each of them looking confused and concerned as powerful attacks clashed unrestrained, shaking the foundation of the building and causing the very air to cackle ominously with leftover energy. He knew something was off about them!

But as he contemplated this, a thought occurred, which interrupted his brief moment of rage and frustration.

"Wait, but that would never work. The Champions are all friends of Ash's, they wouldn't help an organisation like this in kidnapping him."

"Not willingly, I'll admit," A new voice interrupted, causing the pair to wheel around to the same corridor Servine had stumbled from, where the same robed man who had addressed the Champions earlier now stood, his back hunched and his eyes weary. "The Champions are honour bound to assist the Chosen Ones when they can, its part of the job. While modern Champions are figureheads for Pokémon trainers to take inspiration from and who help manage the day to day running of the new-fangled organisations known as Leagues, loud and obnoxious things, that was never what they were made for. Champions were actually appointed to assist the Chosen Ones of their age in times of crisis, hence why they're called 'Champions'. To have a Champion from your region assist a Chosen One used to be a great honour, and even served as a political boon to the more aware. How times have changed."

Torterra grumbled at the man, the tree on his back beginning to glow a faint luminous green as solar energy was absorbed through photosynthesis. But as he charged himself for battle, Servine simply frowned, tilting her head at the man's words.

"You… you understood us," She muttered, catching both his and Torterra's attention. "How can you understand us?" The old man smiled warmly at her, which made her skin crawl at the false pretence of friendliness.

"There are many ways to understand Pokémon my dear, as I'm sure you're aware. Some do it through emphatic abilities, others via years of training and attuning themselves to the world around them. Others are simply blessed." Torterra and Servine shared a brief glance at this. "Me? I've been doing this for so long now, I guess I just picked it up through exposure. But enough about that, as its currently unimportant. What I do want to focus on was your peer's comment about willingness, because while he may have had a point, he's overlooked the fact that ICOP have many means of achieving their goal, some more underhanded than others."

As soon as he finished talking, the easily recognisable pop of a Pokéball sounded out, causing the pair to stare over to the left. Standing there, with an ominous shadow behind them, was Cynthia, accompanied by her Garchomp. But something was… off, about them. Neither of them was standing up right, swaying ever so slightly as if they were dizzy. And their eyes, their eyes had changed entirely! Instead of colourful orbs filled with life and emotion, were dark orbs of the darkest shade, an endless abyss that left their gaze feeling cold and aggressive.

"I hate to resort to such methods," The man began again, "I really do. But the Champions must stand ready to back the true saviours of this world. And if it is unwillingly, then so be it." He then snapped his fingers, causing Cynthia to point forward, her mouth opening as if shouting a command but with no noise coming out, just soundless movements of her lips.

It seemed to be enough however, as Garchomp responded as if given a command, darting forward with a speed that was frightening, the giant Dragon almost turning into a blur as it dashed forward toward Torterra and Servine.

Well aware of the iconic speed of the Champion's main Pokémon, Torterra reacted on impulse alone, shoving Servine out of the way and clear of the charging Pseudo-Legendary, taking the brunt of the attack head on himself.

Torterra knew he had gotten much tougher through evolution, even if it had cost him some of the speed he had once used so effectively, but even as the hammer of Garchomp's clawed fist came slashing into him, he knew it would never be enough. Not against Garchomp.

The attack hit like a runaway freight train, Torterra's entire body lifting off of the ground and flying back, crashing through wall after wall. It felt like he had been thrown through an entire street by the time he came to a halt, finally stopping after hitting a giant glass structure, of what was once a humanoid figure. None of it survived Torterra's form smashing into it however, leaving only massive shards of glass to clatter around him in a heap.

Before he could even regain his bearings, Torterra opened his eyes to find that Garchomp had instantly closed the distance between them, now towering above him with a malicious glint to its stare, one claw raised high.

Torterra was spared being struck again by the relentless dragon by a green shape crashing into it, slamming it aside and causing it to narrowly miss its attack. Torterra thanked whatever Legendary had deigned him lucky enough to have a stubborn yet resourceful Pokémon like Servine as an ally.

But Servine's attack only served as a brief respite, as Garchomp recovered quickly, slamming her into the ground with both claws, burying her in the rubble. It then grabbed her tail, whipping her around in the air and throwing her into a pillar, causing it to crumble into dust.

With a flick of its wrist, it charged up a Brick Break, and began charging after Servine, leaping into the air to come crashing down with no restraint.

At the last second, just before it could land the attack, a twin pair of steel claws intercepted the attack, halting it just inches away from Servine's neck.

Looking up at the new interloper to their battle, Garchomp was mildly surprised to find her gaze greeted by the fiery, unrelenting eyes of Lucario, his blood red orbs ablaze with intense energy.

With a grunt, Lucario raised his arms upward, before he kicked out, pushing Garchomp back slightly. It wasn't by much, but the few steps she took was more than enough. The towering dual type stared daggers at him, her lifeless eyes locked onto him and him alone. Lucario had seen that shame intensity before and knew full well what it meant.

This was a battle to the death.

Clicking his neck and readjusting his footing, Lucario braced himself. He may have had Sir Aaron's training as an Aura Guardian to assist him, but he recognised a powerful combatant when he saw one. This was going to be a difficult battle. There was no doubt in his mind about that.

In the distance, watching the two size each other up, was the ICOP leader, who was watching with a sick smile as his agents closed in on the Chosen One's Pokémon and his companions. The two girls were being seized by two of his guards at that very moment, and the battling Pokémon of ICOP were closing the noose around the small band of upstart Pokémon.

And while all of this was occurring, he knew things were progressing just as planned, the Darkrai who belonged to Tobias moving swiftly through the main targets. Cynthia was the first to fall victim to their Darkrai's unique form of mind control, quickly becoming a thrall to their movement. Now it was doing the same to the other Champions of the Pokémon world, using the chaos that Lucario had generated to their advantage, claiming their minds one after another. And watching this from the distance, with a scowl on his face and a shadow cast over his face, was Tobias, who was squeezing the Pokéball which held Darkrai tightly as he watched the Dark type work.

But as Darkrai's shadow passed through the crowd, he failed to notice a shadow of a different kind, a shape which moved unseen beneath his very feet, in the shards of glass that lay scattered on the ground.

It wasn't until he felt a breeze blow through his robe that he realised that something was amiss.

With a swirling tycoon, a massive wind current erupted from the glass, sending the old man flying back, and shaking the room as it gave way to a truly massive creature, which only grew as it unfurled a truly titanic wingspan, which shunned the room into darkness.

The shape changed from incorporeal to solid as the winds subsided, the titanic creature showing its true form. With a large grey body with a strip of red and black going through the middle of its body. Around the body coming from the back were three half holden rings, the shame golden material forming a crown atop its head. And from this crowned head was a pair of blood red eyes, malicious intent and unbridled purpose laced within.

Staring in awe, the leader of ICOP could only watch as the monumental Legendary shook the room with an eye-splitting screech, as the realisation of what had arrived dawned on him.

Giratina had graced their hall with his presence.

The voice of Tobias pierced through the dying out echoes of his screech, a command to attack if he weren't mistaken. From the shadows, shooting up into the air, Darkrai rose, firing off a barrage of attacks at the Renegade Pokémon with impunity.

They proved ineffective however, harmlessly exploding on Giratina's wing in a cascade of light and sound. Giratina shot the smaller Legendary a glare, before he fired off an Aura Sphere with frightening speed, the fighting type move crashing into it and sending it crashing into the ground. With the brief opening, Giratina acted.

With another screech that shook the hall, the glass that were scattered across the ground began erupting, torrents of wind shooting out of them, homing in on each of Ash's Pokémon and companions. Forming a protective shield around them, it protected them from the interferences of the various ICOP agents and Pokémon. Once it had engulfed them, it pulled them up, dragging them away and through the opened portals through the shards of glass, out of their dimension and to safety.

The last one to be taken was Lucario, who was in the midst of exchanging blows with Cynthia's Garchomp at a frightening speed, powerful strikes being thrown in a constant back and forth.

Lucario threw a quick Force Palm to create an opening for his Metal Claws, which Garchomp blocked with her fins before throwing her head forward, smacking her skull against his. Lucario barked in pain, before returning with a headbutt of his own, causing the Dragon type to falter backwards. Just as Garchomp recovered, the miniature tornado suddenly descended onto Lucario, causing Garchomp's retaliatory attack to go wide, before Lucario was yanked away from the fight.

With the last of Ash's comrades saved, Giratina let out one last screech, before opening his mouth and firing out a blue fireball into the ceiling, the attack exploding into a cascade of eldritch fire which descended onto the hall.

Satisfied with that, Giratina descended into his own portal, leaving nothing but the spreading fire to remind them of his wrath, and the leader of ICOP standing in shock at what happened.

Guzma frowned as he took a seat in the temporary office that Lusamine had provided him, the pristine chrome office being an alien space to the gruff twenty-year-old, leaving him to puff his cheeks in exasperation as he span around in the office chair. Hanging his head back, Guzma felt a bit lost as he sat there, unsure of what to do.

Lusamine had placed him in there shortly after he had updated Lusamine to Plumeria's report about her ambush on the Legendaries on Melemele Island. The fact that her and her group of Team Skull grunts had managed to capture not only another two of the Genesect, Pokémon that Lusamine had taken a great interest in after seeing the first ones arrive, but had managed to procure another two of the Tapus, leaving only one left to capture. The progress had left her with a manic grin on her face, but she had wiped it off quickly after, which was when she had shoved him in the room.

Now left with nothing to do, Guzma could only lament on his decisions that led to him being hidden away in this office while she went off to have a meeting with the big bosses of Team Rainbow Rocket… whatever that was.

Guzma wasn't stupid, not like people thought he was at least. He knew when he was being treated like a goon, like a tool. Lusamine liked to think of herself as well-above him, of a higher class. And it showed in how she spoke to him. Guzma could hear the disrespect in her tone whenever she commanded him to do something for her benefit. And when an opportunity came for her to help Guzma, after all the grafting he had done for her benefit, she shot it down. She was working for some big organisation, one that had the power to change their very world if they so wished, and yet she refused to let him be a member. Despite his hard work being the reason why she had anything to offer in that meeting, she had refused to allow Team Skull to be accepted into its ranks.

Which was outrageous! Why did the Aether Foundation get a seat at the table? They were a bunch of nerds and posh gits! Not proper criminals like his bois and gals in Team Skull.

Guzma sighed again, his train of thought grinding to a halt at that last statement. His lot weren't proper criminals, just a bunch of kids who were angry and confused, who wanted to act out against the world. Who were inspired by his own stupidity to do whatever they wanted, even if they were capable of so much more.

Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a Buginium Z from his story, flipping over the gem in his fingers as he reflected. Guzma knew that he had made a lot of questionable decisions, especially with his goals to become a Trial Captain. While he was angry at the Tapus for refusing him as one of their anointed Captains, he secretly knew why they had made their decision. He wasn't exactly known for his patience, especially when it comes to weakling children.

At the time though, he had been outraged. So much so that he had kicked off, desecrating more than a few Trial sites in defiance. After that, no one had ever acknowledged his strength, only his temper and failure to be a Captain. At least, not until Lusamine.

When she had acknowledged his strength, the first person to do that since before his failed attempt at becoming a Captain, Guzma had felt vindicated. Finally, someone in a position of power who recognised his talent! He had been so gassed to finally find someone who appreciated him, that he didn't recognise that he was being manipulated into being someone else's grunt.

Walking over to the edge of the office, he looked out the small window that allowed him to see the main lab, where the various Tapus were now being strapped into a gargantuan machine. It had four cages which were loaded onto massive cranes, each crane arm locked onto a rotating chamber in the centre of the mechanism. Guzma didn't know what it was for, but he could only assume that it would only work when they had all four of the Tapus caged.

Which gave him an idea.

Pulling out his Pokégear, Guzma dialled a number and tapped his foot impatiently while it rang, the speed increasing with every ring until they answered.

"Yo boss, what's up?" Plumeria said casually down the phone, causing Guzma to smile.

"Yo P, I need you to do your boi Guzma a favour. You know that final Tapu we're looking for? When ya find it, don't mention it to Lusamine, you tell ya boi first."

Lusamine straightened out her hair before she sat down at her desk, taking a few deep breaths as she did. She only had a few minutes before the meeting started, and she had to make herself as presentable as possible before it began.

Soon enough, the video-call was beginning, the device in her desk vibrating ominously and causing her breath to hitch. It was about to begin, and she was dreading it.

Knowing of Giovanni's distaste for tardiness, she quickly shook off her displeasure of the situation and answered the call, praying to Arceus that she looked presentable. The call quickly turned into a three-dimensional image around her, blue lines tracing across her office as her windows darkened, allowing her to clearly see the image being presented to her.

Her office table began to extend in the presented image, creating a long table with multiple seats at it. And on those seats the images of people began to form, each one causing a spike of anxiety in Lusamine.

On her left appeared three male figures, all of whom had once been sources of inspiration for Lusamine's own research. Each of them had made huge strides in their own fields of research, only to turn around and use it for their own malicious purposes rather than the pursuit of furthering science.

But in a way, she was doing the exact same thing once she thought about it. So she bit her tongue and kept her opinions on the matter to herself.

The first of the three men, a tall and lean man, with short red hair and a pair of square rimmed glasses, which he wore paired with a trailing red trench coat was Maxie, the renowned pedologist and biogeologist who turned to a life of crime in order to achieve his goal. Now he was known only as the Leader of Team Magma.

Next was Archie, who was… eccentric to put it bluntly. A skilled oceanographer, marine scientist, and naval captain, he certainly had the necessary qualifications to be considered a great mind. However, his personality could only be described as abrasive. He spoke with a rough demeanour and favoured brute force over using his impressive intellect. Given that he stood taller than nearly everyone else at the table, with his blue do-rag and blue trench coat which he wore without a shirt underneath, he certainly had a gruff exterior that made him stand out in this particular crowd.

Finally, there was Lysandre, an absolutely insane man with an immense IQ to match his insanity. His company had made technological developments that were nearly unrivalled. Even the Aether Foundation made use of some of the technology that they had designed. But the man had quickly gone off the deep end, nearly destroying the entire Kalos region with his insane plan. Lusamine had met the man a few times before in the past, and he certainly looked different now. His suit, which normally would be in pristine condition to go with his regal attitude, was now ruffled and dishevelled. His fiery red hair, which once had looked like a sporting mane of fire, was uneven and crusty with mud. He looked like a shadow of the man he once was, though his pride still seemed to burn brightly as he stared at the assembled men and women with derision.

On the other side of the table sat another two individuals, both of whom caused Lusamine to raise a sceptical eyebrow. In one seat sat a man in a massive robe, with a collar which resembled a castle's battlements. Lusamine recalled hearing about this man in the news, but the finer details of what had occurred escaped her. All she could recall was that the man's name was Ghetsis.

Finally, sitting next to him with a glare that, even when not directed at her, made Lusamine's skin crawl. Something about the sheer hatred that was laced into it just made her uneasy, and making her subconsciously want to avoid interacting, much less aggravate, the woman. Her appearance contributed massively to this, her angry gaze seemingly the only emotion she could display through her visor which covered both of her eyes, the rest of her demeanour could be described as cold and distant. As she sat with her dark trench coat on, emblazoned with a large 'G' on one shoulder and a blood red 'R' on the other, Lusamine could tell that whoever this woman was, she wasn't the sort of person who you wanted to cross.

And at the head of the table, the last to be materialised by the projection, was Giovanni himself, his suit as immaculate as ever and his haircut pristinely straight. He looked like the prime example of sophistication and professionalism. A shame then that this was only a front for the cruel and malicious man he really was.

With the projection now finished, Giovanni smirked at the assembled criminals, before he began to address them.

"Greetings ladies and gentlemen, I'm glad you all could make it. I understand that this meeting is rather abrupt, especially given the time frame I gave you all when I approached you, but I felt like this was an appropriate step to take," he said, gesturing to each of the assembled members. "As you all are aware, this enterprise you've all agreed to participate in is known as Team Rainbow Rocket, a joint effort by some of the most brilliant and capable criminal minds of our time to secure some of the most powerful Legendaries of our world."

The assembled criminals nodded, a few with annoyed grimaces at the dumbed down explanation, but with otherwise silent compliance as Giovanni pressed on.

"Now, I am not expecting any results from any of you as of yet. I am not an unreasonable man, nor an irrational one. For the majority of you, I have given you a timeframe of two weeks to rebuild your respective teams, restoring them to their former glory so that we may begin enacting our plan. In that respect, we haven't changed anything. This meeting is more about updating us on the progress of your team's attempt to rebuild, as well as to keep your peers in the loop. Would anyone care to start?"

The assembled team leaders were silent for a moment, not one of them daring to speak first. Seeing that none of them were willing to talk first, the woman in the trench coat decided to speak first.

"As you wish," she ground out. "Team Galactic's restoration is going forward as projected. The resources you've provided were more than satisfactory, especially since you've also provided the commanders and grunts that made up the group's numbers before its collapse. While I wouldn't trust a single one of them with a penny, they will be suitable for our goals. I am also in the process of attempting to acquire the parts and manpower to rebuild my airship, as such a means of transport would make acquiring the Legendaries you request substantially easier."

Giovanni nodded at this; the sound of pen scratching paper being heard through the projection's microphone but unseen to those present.

"Very good J, I'm pleased with your results. I trust you'll update me when you're ready to mobilise?" He asked, earning himself a nod from the woman before he turned back to the rest of the group. "Who's next?"

Running a hand through his dishevelled hair, Lysandre spoke next.

"Well, Team Flare is currently in the process of being stitched back together, albeit with mixed results. We have the resources and materials necessarily to rebuild our strength, a combination of Team Rocket's contribution and our own stockpiles which, thankfully, had remained undiscovered by the Kalos League and the police. However, the majority of our members are still being detained and as such we're lacking the necessary manpower to make full use of these resources. I am currently in the process of trying to find suitable replacements."

Giovanni pursed his lips at this, before he nodded as well.

"I see, that is a frustrating development. I will see if I cannot spare some of Team Rocket's grunts to help assist you, but it will be difficult. Your group is currently seen by the masses as extremists, making acquiring support that additional bit tougher. I'm sure we can work something out though."

Lysandre let out a sigh at this, his body sagging as he leant back to the chair, relief seeping into his facial expression. Rolling his eyes at this, Ghetsis stood up, throwing his hands out as he spoke with a booming voice.

"Team Plasma, the righteous group that it is, has had no such issues. Our old base of operations was never discovered, the Unovan officials not having nearly enough resources or competence to discover our hidden castle. Thanks to that, Team Plasma is quickly returning to its former glory, and will soon be able to go on the offensive," He proclaimed boldly, causing a few grunts of amusement to sound out at his speech-like tone. Giovanni himself refrained from joining in, but even he didn't seem above giving an eyeroll at the man's dramatics.

"Very good Ghetsis, I'm satisfied to hear that. But what is the situation with your sages? I was able to find some who were willing to return to the fold, but not all of them. Were you able to discover their fates?"

At this, Ghetsis' mood soured, his teeth gritting together as his fist clenched tightly.

"Indeed I have. The two sages who refused to return to the fold have succeeded from my rule, claiming that it is N, my embarrassment of a son, who is the true ruler of Team Plasma. Do not fret, I will deal with those traitors myself."

Lusamine was a fairly creative woman, as well as one who was very well versed in dealing with problematic elements when it came to business. But where she would usually resort to firing or replacing staff who proved detrimental to her foundation, she had a growing suspicion that this wasn't the methods that Ghetsis was referring to.

Following on from this, Archie spoke up next.

"Well, Team Aqua is almost shipshape and ready to sail. We've still got some work to get done, but that ain't nothing some good ol' fashioned elbow grease won't fix. Me and my crew will get it done, so don't worry yourself none about us," he said confidently, crossing his arms across his broad chest as he spoke. Resisting the urge to try and undermine his rival, Maxie quickly followed up after him.

"Team Magma is meeting similar success. It won't be long until we can start pursuing the Legendary Groudon, and its accompanying Red Orb. I estimate that Team Magma is currently at 54% efficiency, a substantial amount of progress for such a short amount of time. We have also begun constructing the schematics for the Orb chamber that you presented. I must say, as much as the designs intrigue me, I fail to see their scientific purpose. Even with both orbs attached into the harness, it wouldn't do anything except create a feedback loop of the internal energies that both Groudon and Kyogre have embedded into their respective Orbs. How does that serve any benefit?"

Giovanni allowed a proud smirk to slip loose, before he dismissed the red-haired man with a wave of the hand.

"That device is something I've developed using research I procured from some friends in Kalos, to test a certain theory. If it proves correct, then not only might it assist in managing both of their immense power's but could also make them noticeably stronger. Something that I believe is well worth looking into, wouldn't you agree?"

Maxie frowned at this, his mind racking over the implications of Giovanni's statement, before he nodded, more curious than cautious as was his main flaw.

Lusamine took a deep breath as she realised that with Maxie now finished, it was her turn to report. Internally, she knew that she didn't have anything to worry about, as her progress was leaps and bounds ahead of her colleagues in this enterprise, but she couldn't shake the doubt and insecurity the pressure that they presented had on her. Standing up, she began addressing the group as their attention shifted to her.

"The Aether Foundation has made significant progress in the wake of the Ultra Beast incursion. As we do not have the burden of having to build up our facility like the rest of you," she said, earning some scowls from the others, "we have already managed to secure a sizeable number of Legendaries. As it currently stands, Aether Paradise is currently housing no less than seven Legendaries; four of the Pokémon known as Genesect, who serve primarily as an enigma to me as I am unaware of their history, and three of Alola's resident Tapus. I currently have my contacts looking into the location of the fourth Tapu and the fifth Genesect as we speak."

Giovanni gave an approving hum as she wrapped up her report, hands coming together as he leant forward.

"Excellent progress Miss Lusamine. While the procurement of the Tapus were part of our agreed upon plan, the Genesect are an unexpected boon. I recall hearing about the incident involving them in Unova some time ago. I too look forward to learning more about them."

"That won't be necessary," Ghetsis interrupted, causing Giovanni to scowl as he turned to face him. "Genesect are the product of Team Plasma science, fossils that we revived and improved upon to create what you have come across. They escaped due to negligence of the scientists involved, a transgression that led to severe punishment. If you could hand those over to us, we can finish our experimentation on them and use them for their intended purpose."

Lusamine seethed at this, a slight hiss escaping her lips as she glared at the man.

"Absolutely not. I will not share such a valuable resource with one who has clearly shown that they are incapable of storing it properly. If they escaped you once, they'll escape you again, and I will not have my hard work be undone by your incompetence!"

"You dare speak to me in that tone?!" He bellowed, slamming his fist on the table before Giovanni raised his hand, halting his further rebuttal with a glare.

"While I endeavour not to take sides in petty squabbles between my employees, I'm afraid I do have to agree with Miss Lusamine on this," He said passively, gesturing to Lusamine as he spoke. "While I don't doubt the abilities of Team Plasma, when it comes to the topic of the Genesect, you have, by your own admission, failed to detain them properly before. I trust you have learnt from your mistakes, but you are also in the midst of restoring your team's facilities. Instead of trying to secure more Legendaries, why don't you instead focus on your current task of restoring Team Plasma. And whilst you do that, Miss Lusamine can continue the research on the Genesect. Perhaps you can transfer your research notes on the Pokémon after this meeting. I'm sure it'll be of great benefit to our collaborative efforts." While Giovanni spoke with a measured tone, everyone could tell that there was no room for argument in his words, a fact which made Ghetsis silently seethe as he sat back down.

"Of course, I'd be glad to," Ghetsis said through gritted teeth, something which Giovanni pointedly ignored.

"With that settled, I'd like to make a final statement before we depart for today. This meeting wasn't done for the sole purpose of communicating each other's progress, though that certainly is beneficial to my operations. No, I wanted to make it clear who is involved in this project and who is not. There are many out there with their own agendas and plans who would oppose our plans. Some are in the same line of work as us, those who desire the immense power that Pokémon such as the Legendaries possess. Others will endeavour to stop us, but it is all irrelevant. Save for those who sit at this table, I want you to eliminate anyone who'd dare stand in our way. No exceptions. Do I make myself clear?"

Everyone shared a look with each other, memorising the assembled faces well. None of them were particularly well known for their teamwork, but they were all in the same predicament when it came to Team Rainbow Rocket: They had no choice but to comply. So, with a level of hesitation that was almost physically palpable, they nodded their consent.

Team Rainbow Rocket would not be opposed. It made more sense to side with them than against.

Ash took a small step backward, giving himself a small amount of space between his face and Tapu Koko's and allowing him to take in the Alolan Legendary's appearance. He certainly looked worse for wear, his shell arms covered in scratches and burns, leaving the bright colouration marred and blemished. His feathers were patchy, small sections of bruised skin being visible in those small gaps.

Looking over all of the Pokémon who came through the portal, they were all in a similar state, marks of all kinds marring their bodies as they drifted in and out of consciousness. Glalie, Swellow, Emboar, Seismitoad, Hawlucha, and Lugia were all completely out of it, their bodies collectively sprawled out from where they exited the portal. Torracat, Garchomp, and a large bat-like Pokémon were all hunched over, drawing slow breaths as they tried to push through the pain of their injuries. Squirtle, the only Pokémon who didn't seem to be massively affected by their injuries, was still tightly clasping Ash's leg, not letting up in the slightest as tears leaked out.

They weren't the only ones present however, as more familiar faces were present as well. A red Genesect, one that Ash recognised from his meeting with them in Alola, was currently standing idle, carapace heavily damaged and dented from battle as it stoically floated, unsure of what to do. There were also a handful of humans, faces that Ash was both relieved yet surprised to see. Dawn was there, no longer imprisoned within Nihilego but not by long if the way her legs were trembling was any indication. Kiawe was there as well, the obvious look shock tightly woven onto his features as he sat motionless, staring off into the distance. And finally, the most surprising face amongst those present, was Max, the young trainer rubbing his head as he groaned, a lump forming on his forehead.

Frowning at the state everyone was in, Ash found himself at a genuine loss for words, with little to say as he tried to process the sight. He didn't have the slightest clue what had happened to everyone here, but it was clear that it wasn't pleasant. As he bent down to gently stroke Squirtle's head, the small blue turtle began babbling into his leg.

"ASH! I thought you were dead. One minute I was fine but then I started getting memories of us on an island and we all got cloned and then we were all fighting those clones and then you died but you came back and I have no idea what's going on anymore, just tell me you're alright!" He babbled, the words tumbling out of his mouth so fast that Ash could just about understand them. But he managed to catch them, and he began gently soothing the Pokémon with a gentle hand.

"Hey, hey, its ok. I'm fine, you can see that, right? And you helped, all of you back then. So don't worry about it. We're gonna be fine," Ash said softly, as the small turtle sniffled into his leg. After a moment, he managed to compose himself, clearing the tears from his eyes before he put on a small smirk.

"Of course we are," Squirtle muttered, "We always manage to pull through with these things. I just got caught off guard with those memories, sorry to worry you Ash." Ash just smiled, picking up the Kanto starter as he began walking towards the massed group standing not too far away from where the group had landed. Tapu Koko, who was still staring at Ash with a manic look, floated forward, trailing slightly behind Ash as they walked.

"You're gonna have to do me a favour though Squirtle. You're going to have to fill me in on what happened to you guys, because you look like you've been through one hell of a battle. And why is Tapu Koko so freaked out?"

At this, Squirtle frowned, his claws tightening slightly as his eyes darkened.

"The Aether Foundation," He ground out, causing Ash to stare in shock. "They attacked us… repeatedly. Tried to take us captive, took Hoopa captive, and then launched an ambush on us at Melemele. We managed to slip away, but not all of us were so lucky. The other Genesect, and Tapus Lele and Fini, were captured, most likely being taken to the same place they were holding Hoopa. We managed to break him and a few of the others here out of there, but we had to run the second time. They're determined, I'll give them that."

Ash could feel his blood begin to boil the longer Squirtle talked, and those who could overhear him were feeling similar waves of anger beginning to set in. But once he finished, Ash bit his tongue and shook his head.

"Right, then that's one more thing we'll have to deal with. First, let's get all of you to a Pokécentre, you all need it bad. Once everyone's patched up, then we can figure out what to do next."

Highly classified ICOP file accessed:

Chosen: Ash Ketchum

Incident classification: Shamouti Prophecy

Legendary involved: Lugia, Articuno, Zapdos, and Moltress

Guilty parties (if applicable): Lawrence III

Prophecy involved: "Disturb not the harmony of fire, ice, or lightning. Lest these titans wreak destruction upon the world in which they clash. Though the water's great guardian shall rise to quell the fighting, alone its song will fail, thus the earth shall turn to Ash."

Incident report by: Tobias

"The Shamouti Prophecy was the first incident in a long time within ICOP's history where we have been caught off guard by the incident's occurrence. Normally, we are aware of the key elements moving into place before the incident itself occurred, allowing us to prepare the necessary resources to enact clean up as soon as the incident wraps up. Media coverage, environmental restoration, arresting of the guilty parties, and identity protection are all things we normally would be ready to do as soon as we are able to.

However, this was, to put it bluntly, an embarrassment. The inciting cause of the near apocalyptic event, a collector by the name of Lawrence III, had managed to slip under our radar entirely, allowing him to capture the Legendary Pokémon Moltress before we were even aware. By the time ICOP had been able to garner the resources necessary to respond to the situation, it had resolved itself, and it took nearly triple the estimated resources for an event like this to do clean up.

We're currently looking into which of the recorded prophecies cover this event, our archivists diving deep into the vaults. I'm curious to see which one it is. Something else that I'm curious about is the Chosen involved, a young boy by the name of Ash Ketchum. I find him strange because, in my experience with Chosen Ones and the various reports I've had to study about the Chosen of the past, their inciting event usually occurs late into their career as a Pokémon trainer, or whatever it is they partake in. Ash, in comparison, has barely begun his.

An intermediate trainer (with ample potential mind you), with a mixed record so far. Top sixteen in the Indigo Plateau Conference and in the middle of participating in the Orange League, he's had a decent start to his career. I could definitely see him performing well in later conferences once he got some more experience under his belt and ironed out his flaws some more. But he was definitely an unexpected Chosen One, yet another screw up on our end.

The boy was clearly the right one for the job though, as he managed to save the world, no problem. Credit where it's due, he came through in a tight spot. The paperwork needed to cover this up is going to be a pain, and we're currently engaging in a legal battle with Professor Oak to try and prevent him from releasing a paper involving the names of those involved. Which is going to be an uphill struggle, these kinds of things always are.

But that should be the end of Ash Ketchum's tale as a Chosen One at least. A bit turbulent on our end but fairly standard on his. Everything has gone by the books for him, and now he can carry on with his journey unimpeded. Its rather strange that such an event has happened so early in his life, but its not that rare of an occurrence. This'll be a fun story for him to tell when he gets a bit older. Nothing to worry about here.

Report end, Tobias."

Hey everyone, TWoS here. It's been a while

Sorry for the extended hiatus, this story is proving to be quite difficult to write. A combination of lack of motivation and indecisiveness when it comes to how to proceed with this story made it a slow grind to get this chapter out. I'm happy with what I've written, just not the time frame I took to write it.

Nonetheless, here's the newest instalment of the story. We're well on the way to the third act beginning, with chapter 50 looking like the last chapter I'll need to wrap up loose ends. Then things will (hopefully) really kick into gear, with gifts and payoffs galore.

I'd like to take the chance to say thank you for the incredible patience on waiting for me. I understand that its probably frustrating to have to wait for me to get myself into gear, so I'm so grateful for all you waiting patiently for this. I hope this is satisfactory as a chapter after such a long wait, but I honestly don't know anymore. If you could share your thoughts with me through reviews, which I always love to read (I'm a review fiend), I'd greatly appreciate hearing what you all have to say on the chapter or me in general.

Anyway, that's all from me this time. I don't know how long it'll be until the next upload, but rest assure that I'm always working on this story in the background. Until next time, much love and peace – TWoS.