My Appa-olly-ologies to anyone who doesn't like cursing, violence, gore, some sexual content, occult references, and more. Instead of reading this, go down to the Korova Milk Bar for some spiked milk.

I own all of my characters besides the obviously copyrighted ones. I also own the elements of 'Nothing', the Anti-Trainers, The Voice, and a few other things that might seem a bit unorthodox.

Brace yourself. You're in for a strange chapter.

OoO

Fiery Sapphire

Chapter 41

Memento Mori

Three Weeks Later.

Pallet Town was exactly the same as it had been in the beginning.

Well…somewhat.

It was still a small neighborhood, resting on the cliffs of the Kanto Sea. The quaint, white houses still rested faithfully in their dry lawns, crowded by browning gardens as December fell upon the regions. No normal soul was outside that moment, as the sky was gray and dark, the air miserably cold and liable to bring about a rare winter rainstorm. Even the Pidgies that usually hopped around in the brush were huddled together on sparse, naked tree branches, and the Shelder clung to the rocky cliffs tightly.

People had moved in and moved out, but the size of the town was generally the same. When word came forth that Cerulean City had been totally destroyed, the citizens had become nervous and requested a leader of the town, or at least another professor, as the other one had died 'quite tragically, although I'm not sure how', as people put it. The Elite Four decided on Professor Oak, a famed and elderly professor who also wished to return to his hometown. As Cerulean City was slowly reconstructed (they did away with the odd, collapsed cave simply lying there), Professor Oak opened the research lab as a registration area for new trainers. Thus, Pallet Town became quite crowded and a major point in Pokémon training.

But in one of the houses, and a smaller one at that, were a group of people who didn't quite care what was happening in terms of Pokémon trainers…in fact, there were concerned with Anti-Trainers.

One of these people was Brendan Birch, clad in his flamboyant attire of a fitted red wool coat with large blue buttons, gray plaid pants, and sandals.

Sitting next to him on a small couch was Dwayne, his new boyfriend. A large seventeen-year old with skin the color of strong coffee, Dwayne and Brendan had met when the writer was staying with his mother in Hoenn, his original birthplace. One could say that it was love at first sight when the two had first discussed if Rousseau's Social Contract did indeed outline the society of the regions. Now that Brendan had returned to Kanto for a small visit (and to brag of his adventure in Hoenn, apparently), Dwayne was by his side.

In another chair was Jack, who had taken the new train from Jhoto to Kanto as soon as Miguel had called him after the collapse of the Anti-Trainer base. From then on, Miguel and Jack were inseparable. Jack seemed to always be worried for his older brother's various injuries at surviving the collapse, and Miguel always looked as if a dozen Grunts would spring from the woodwork and snatch Jack away. After the prospect of losing each other twice, they would take no more chances and made a pact to generally stick together. Due to Jack's long-lasting paranoia and fear of Team Rocket, Gwen was also by his side, looking as chilling and graceful as ever.

Next to Miguel was Russell, who was fiddling with his repaired mechanical arm and looking quite bored. The Semi-Head Anti-Trainer had taken the news of Kaden's death quite hard, let alone Ellen's gruesome retelling of her time in the Team Rocket Headquarters. Never before had he heard Giovanni to be so malicious and utterly desperate. He supposed that the Boss had been so exasperated that he really did not care what happened— and, like Russell now was, Giovanni had been unmotivated. All of the Team Rocket members had either fled or died.

Left with virtually no profession and a severe bout of shock, he considered returning to his residence in Orre and continuing his career as a columnist, but decided to stay in Kanto for a bit to help Fredia revert to…er…normal life, or as normal as life could be.

Then, next to Russell was Fredia, who, like the other Anti-Trainers, was still suffering from the realization of Kaden's death. She sat quietly, waiting for someone to strike up a conversation. There was much less speech in her life, much less sleep and much less productivity. Work suddenly seemed very tiring, and she constantly worried over her daughter— that is, the skeletal, ghost-like thing that once was her daughter. What worried her most, though, was that knife. That bloody, bloody knife. Whenever she saw Ellen, she was with the knife. Rubbing her thumb against the blade, watching TV with the knife laying on the floor below her, whimpering and digging the knife into the mattress as she slept…yet, she told herself to ignore it. Just ignore it. That was that.

Unlike the other Anti-Trainers, Fredia had suffered no wounds from the collapse whatsoever. None, save for perhaps a bruise or two. The other Anti-Trainers were extremely curious of this, but they did not bring it up, as Fredia did not enjoy discussing it. The older and wiser Russell had a feeling it would never be spoken of, but he had a strong feeling at what had happened—but he did not pry, and Fredia was quite glad that no one pried. She did not want to say, especially to Ellen—

'When the base had begun to collapse, Fredia was in one of the corners, having just seen her daughter off. The others were scattered about, some in the middle of the room, the luckier on the sides or in the corner. They were still in danger, though, as huge chunks of rock begun splitting from the walls and tumbling down onto the ground, crushing anyone who dared stand beneath it. Occasionally, Rhydon would see that the rocks were not causing maximum damage and pick out an Anti-Trainer to claw at, violently tossing them into one of the walls or otherwise ripping their torso to shreds.

Giovanni had seen the base collapsing—he, safe, closer to the cover of his Pokémon, and thoroughly enjoying everything. What a wonderful experience, one of the finest he had ever…he stopped. To the right, he could see Fredia cowering and ducking out of the way of jagged pieces of debris, liable to be crushed (or torn apart) no matter how fiercely she evaded. He felt a sadness growing upon him, knowing that his love would be killed. Well, that was life, wasn't it?

Although…he could save her and have a bit of time with her, but that would be one of the worst things he could imagine: falling for an Anti-Trainer. His lust for Fredia had come quickly the first time he had seen her, it was nothing intimate or special to the Boss. Yet, now he had feelings for an Anti-Trainer…and one who had close relationships with Kaden and Fiery Sapphire. But something urged him to step from the protection of the Rhydon—only for a moment, but still, away from shelter. Amid the debris, he seized Fredia's arm and violently yanked her to the safety of his Rhydon's giant form. Without thought, he pushed her against the closest wall, making sure they were in very close proximity. Yes, trying to ignore that he loved Fredia had cost him dearly. He no longer cared that she was an Anti-Trainer…and Troy had left, following Fiery Sapphire, so she wouldn't be hurt, either.

"Giovanni?" Fredia asked shrilly, obviously shocked. Her hair was disordered and her face terrified, but she still was appetizingly beautiful to him. "What— what—why did you…get away from me! Dammit, you!" She tried to push him away, but the Boss's strength overpowered her own strength.

"Fredia, please," he said softly, brushing some of her hair from her face. "I'm not going to hurt you…"

She stopped and stared at him, eyes glaring. "Hard for you to say after you just destroyed Cerulean City and the Anti-Trainer base. Oh, and you tortured my own daughter. Do you think I'll believe you after what you've done?" she spat viciously.

The Boss had a very rare moment in which he was speechless. He could not curse her, he did not want to. "I…understand your thoughts, but those attacks were not on you. I targeted the other Anti-Trainers. The ones who do not deserve to live—" he paused when he saw Fredia's appalled expression, and said sternly, "I cannot fathom why a group of dogs would even challenge Team Rocket. We've already won, why should anyone persist? Why? I'm asking you, Fredia." His hand cupped her chin.

The woman sighed heavily, her face tightening with melancholy. "Giovanni, I can't answer your questions. I was once an Anti-Trainer, and I'm talking to the Head of Team Rocket about 'a group of dogs'; the Anti-Trainers. I can't agree with you."

"Fine," he said sternly, becoming impatient. "Then if we can't behave like humans, we'll behave like animals." Then he held her face in his hands and kissed her passionately and deeply, his hands beginning to roam from her face to her neck to her shoulders and other said places.

This was much better than anything Giovanni could have imagined, save for a few select very macabre and gruesome things (and sex). This was one of the many things he prided himself in— not only was he a powerful leader, but he was an ardent lover. He often wondered why Fredia had chosen Kaden over himself when it came to carnal measures. Hmph. Fiery Sapphire was probably Kaden's fault; he didn't have the strength to truly enjoy Fredia. The name Fiery Sapphire brought him back to reality, and with a bout of sadness, he realized that he had other matters to attend, namely, killing of the girl. Well, at least that would be entertaining.

Breaking away from the kiss and brushing his lips against Fredia's ear, he realized how reactive to the kiss she had been—it was as if she enjoyed it. He muttered, "You haven't been touched in a long time, have you? Surprising, though. You seemed to enjoy it more. Interesting. After...cleaning up, I'm going back to the headquarters. I enjoyed the time we spent together, but even greater things are yet to be finished." With that terse statement, he turned to his Rhydon, who was still pawing around in the rubble. The collapse had ended, leveling the entire cave and leaving a façade of dust and rock. The bodies of the Anti-Trainers and the Birch father and son were completely out of view, Fredia realized, her throat tightening. They had been buried alive. "Rhydon, up, up," he commanded. The behemoth stopped, rigid, and with a snort rose so that it was simply standing, looking about idly.

"Greater things yet to be finished?" Fredia repeated lividly, confused and disgusted. "What are you talking about?" Her mind slowly returned to its normal state, on which she slowly came to realize his comment. "If you even think about hurting her, then I'll…"

"Shhh," the Boss commanded quickly, holding a hand up in motion to silence her. She did so, curious. From his pocket, he produced the revolver and surveyed the destroyed Anti-Trainer base, absorbing each rock and splintered piece of wood. With a cautious step, he entered the destroyed area, careful to have his revolver poised at all times. Fredia walked quietly forward, surveying what Giovanni was doing. He sorted through the debris with his feet, eyes forever on the ground. A feeling of sickness spread through her, and she asked, "What…are you doing?"

He made a motion for her to be quiet again, and she followed his footsteps into the debris until she was practically at his shoulder. About three feet in front of them was a large boulder, and Giovanni paused, finger twitching slightly on the trigger of the revolver. She swallowed as the Boss came upon a large rock, and he quickly pushed it aside. There lay the body of Collin Birch, severely cut and bruised. His body had been torn by Rhydon's claws, as evidence of the bloody, ripped skin and partly visible muscle and bone. His back was to them, face in the ground, and yet when uncovered he managed to groan softly.

Without hesitation, Giovanni cocked the revolver and shot six bullets into the professor's head, his arm jerking with each shot. Fredia, horrified, reflexively raised her knuckle to bite on it. Immediately after the smoke drifted away, the two could see a large, almost gash-like hole in his head surrounded by dark blood matted into his brown hair. His body, tense and curled, had relaxed.

The woman, who had been shakily mumbling several prayers to Mew, quieted for a moment before whispering, "They're all going to die no matter what, Giovanni. Don't do this to me. Don't do this to them. Please."

"Damnit," the Boss said quietly, "that wasn't an Anti-Trainer, was it?" She shook her head, and he asked, "Well, who then? Who was it?"

Seized with rage, she hissed, "Why do you even care? He's already dead, the Anti-Trainers are already dead, practically everyone is dead! You might as well finish off the rest of Kanto, too. I'd suppose it do us some good."

Giovanni stared at her before continuing to hunt through the rocks. She followed. "This must be done, amore mio. I cannot put it any other way. A landslide is not enough to know that they are dead."

She flinched as he upturned another rock, pointing the gun down at it, and yet no one was there. Good. The more time he spent looking for them, the more time the Anti-Trainers…and Ellen were allowed to be safe. A rafter of wood was upturned, and there was half of Samara, her lower body partly covered by a large rock. Face to them, her eyes wide in their sockets, mouth closed. Her arm had been broken at the elbow, and her legs had been crushed fully by the large boulder.

As Giovanni smiled and said, "I know this one; truly an Anti-Trainer," Fredia caught his wrist as he prepared to shoot her.

"No, stop. She's already dead. Look, she's not breathing." Fredia jabbed her index finger at the body to indicate that there was no breathing and no movement whatsoever.

"Hmm. Really? I suppose you're right." The man squinted and leaned down a bit to see. With that, he fired three bullets at her face, one beating her eye to a jelly, one in her cheek and one in her forehead. "One can never be sure. Now, where is my good friend Russell? Russell the Grunt? The Ex-Rocket? Come out, bastard, I've got something for you."

Fredia stood in shock as Giovanni began to walk away, calling out for Russell. No, this could not happen. She would have to stop him before anymore were killed…or humiliated in their death, like Samara. "Wait," she said firmly, looking up from the corpse of the Anti-Trainer. The Boss tensed and turned to her, waiting patiently— a very rare thing for him. But for Fredia, yes. "No. You can't murder them— they're only three left; some poor boy, Russell, and Marylyn. Dead. Giovanni, I'll do anything. I'll sleep with you. I'll…whatever you want me to do. Just— just not that."

He stared at her for a bit, expression softening into…sympathy? Compassion? He could take her offer; the Anti-Trainers could wait. Everything could wait. But no. He was straying to far from his goals. Swallowing, he said, smiling very slightly, "No. Two Anti-Trainers are finished, only…" he calculated the number. "Two to go…two? No, three…three?" His smile died, replaced by an angered snarl. "Godamnit, Fiery Sapphire! Damnit!" He quickly began to walk back to Rhydon, stepping on Birch's corpse as he passed. Once on level ground, returned Rhydon to its Pokéball, calling out Aerodactyl. How could he have forgotten? She was much more important than these half-dead Anti-Trainers were; she had a chance of winning

Fredia shook her head, also beginning to rapidly walk back. There was nothing she could do, absolutely nothing— she carefully avoided stepping on the Professor. "Giovanni!" she called, but it was all in vain, as he was already on Aerodactyl and twelve feet from the ground. Offering her only a soft look of adoration as goodbye, he flew away to his eventual death.'

Yet, when Fredia had seen Ellen, it was almost as if she had already known that Giovanni was attracted to her. Her daughter was very hesitant to speak of Giovanni. In fact, she was quite hesitant to speak of anything to do with Team Rocket. Perhaps she was scared.

Or perhaps she was scarred.

Ellen Adler could remember her time in the Headquarters quite well; the fearful memories were still fresh and bloody in her distorted mind. Even now, Ellen could remember that in a certain room she had run though, there had been huge, red writing on the largest wall: 'It is with blood that we will triumph. It is with terror that we will triumph. All Kanto exists for the glory of Team Rocket'.

The official motto of Team Rocket…Team Rocket…gone, gone, but still lingering like a vengeful ghost. Ellen's serious injuries had left their toll, constant reminders. Her arms and hands were not as dexterous as they once were; she could hardly make a tight fist, her arms no longer held swift reflexes. She still used crutches, but her bones had healed very nicely, save for the large bumps protruding from her shins where her bones had fused together oddly. Thank Mew— er, Thank Articuno that the hospital Chansey were there to assist. Their healing powers were not as strong as the ones Kyoshi had once obtained, but they certainly helped. Why, one Chansey had recently informed her that she would be off her crutches in two weeks— a huge accomplishment.

And what of her mind? The Voice was still her lovely companion; it would always comfort her with words of cruelty in the day and soothe her with terrible dreams in the night. It's musical, male/female voice was always there, even in times of great happiness. It always made sure that she remembered her past adventures, always mentioning something, anything about Team Rocket or her dead comrades.

She continued to have nonsensical nightmares. In one dream, she was suspended in the air by means of a series of intricate ropes, wound around her limbs and neck. Her body had been twisted in an odd, impossible position, and yet she found herself still alive. Around her was a cacophony of voices, screaming and mumbling oaths in a chaotic jumble. Quite suddenly, Giovanni had appeared in the room, and the ropes had snapped so that Ellen's limbs and neck were snapped and she was thrown to the ground, shrieking.

Needless to say, she did not sleep much at all. To hide the fact, concealer had been crudely dabbed under her eyes. When he returned to Kanto, Brendan had kindly offered to help her with the strange 'cosmetics' in an attempt to make her 'more pleasing to the eye'. Ellen had only allowed concealer and a quick slash of pink lip gloss. Nothing more; the mascara brush looked menacing enough. After all, the make-up she was wearing felt unnatural and thick, seeping into her itching cuts and scars.

She felt a bit thankful for it, though. In coming home, she had found solstice in concentrating on what a she thought 'normal' teenage girls did. Spending time in front of the mirror, she had come to believe that Giovanni had been right in calling her horrible names such as 'ugly bitch'. Her pasty face was small, narrow, and bony, lips thin, nose short and pug, but her eyes were larger in comparison, hidden behind a rim of shadows. Her body was tall and thin, breasts sparse and almost non-existent, legs occasionally wobbling and hoping up and down like some newborn Hoothoot. Oh, and there was the reddish, infected FS carved below her collarbone. That was still there.

Sitting in a chair, slightly isolated from the rest of the group who were now talking mindlessly, she relaxed a bit and took to picking tiny threads of chair fabric with her knife. After a long bit of thinking in the hospital room, Ellen had decided that the knife would officially become her own. She had often referred to it as 'Donovan's Knife' before, but she assumed that Donovan would be willing to give it to her if he was alive…er…well, at least she liked to believe that. She had come to realize that Donovan was a much more sympathetic Rocket member than she thought. All she had to do was think back to the Pokémon Tower in which Donovan had uttered, 'No! You don't understand! He'll kill me, he'll kill me!' after Ellen had fled from the scene. Perhaps Donovan would have approved of her newfound ruthlessness and bestowed the weapon upon her. Or, maybe not. But what did that matter? He was dead, like half of the other people she knew.

Like Kaden. Kaden. She continuously told herself that it was childish to mourn over someone who had died so many years ago, but her sadness continued to persist. Perhaps it was the hope that she would indeed find him one day, even after she had defeated Team Rocket. But with Giovanni giving a clear (and gruesome) recount of her father's death, there was no way that she would see him again. Well, except for death. But death came to her as sort of a question—knowing so many creatures who interacted with the dead, and having a conversation with the voice of dead Kaden (although she did not know if she was simply imagining it), she was fearful of what lay beyond life.

If there were any way to simply go back in time and relive her life as a little girl, Ellen would have given anything to do so. She wished to be whisked back to her homeland of Fuchsia, back in her warm, quaint house, protected from the outside world. A smaller Ellen, protected by her two parents who cast away all the nameless fears that plagued the dangerous region of Kanto. But really—that could never happen, and she knew this.

There was no memoriam service for Kaden, no funeral. She wanted to forget, to escape his death. She would have her own 'funeral' in time—she had the FS necklace stowed in her bedside table drawer, collecting dust. Just waiting to be buried away. The destruction of the Headquarters was like the destruction of her being: everyone could burn away, every enemy, every memory and story— could die. She didn't care. Go ahead, burn. It was punishment.

'You're thinking well today,' The Voice crooned. 'In fact, a bit more violent than usual. Perhaps you should be seeing you psychiatrist friend again…'

Ellen mentally rolled her eyes. Psychiatrist Friend. Yeah, right. She could remember sitting down with her and being asked what the girl described as 'stupid questions':

"Why aren't you interacting with other teenagers? Do you feel different?"

"Can you tell me why you carry around the knife sometimes? It's very dangerous."

"Is there anything you'd like to talk about today?"

"Think about it! You'll probably get into one of those big ole' history books someday! Wouldn't that be nice?

"How are you today?"

"Fine," Ellen had said.

"You don't sound fine. Is anything wrong?"

"No."

"Sure?"

"Holy shit, of course somethin' is wrong! My dad was murdered, half of my friends were murdered, my mom was freakin' molested, I was tortured by the bastard Leader of Team Rocket who did all of those other things to all of those other people, and some voice keeps on talkin' to me. You think I'm fine?"

After a few more of those visits, the woman did not come back. Maybe it was because of one session in which she explained in detail how she stabbed and shot the leader, yes, the Leader of Team Rocket. But she was much happier without help, in fact. It was much easier to cope with problems that way.

After a long bout of thinking, Ellen finally rose from the chair, mumbled something about going upstairs, and slowly hobbled out of the living room. No one really noticed, as they had taken to a nicer subject, such as...weather. Which, in fact, was utterly horrible, as it began to rain heavily. Ellen ascended the steep steps carefully, afraid to test her weight on one leg at a time. After a painfully long while, she stopped when she saw that the door to her room was closed— her Pokémon had preferred the company of each other and had decided to stay upstairs, but she had left the door open. Quietly as she could, she stepped up to the door and pressed her ear against the cold wood.

"It's a damn shame it had to happen to her. Nuthin' new to me, though. Always the unlucky one that gets even more unlucky." Feolan, she guessed.

Charles. "But there are always two sides. She's lucky to survive…hell, we all are. Of course, I suppose it would have been better if Kaden had survived. Or just stayed home, at least."

Feolan. "But we would have never met Ellen."

A pause, and finally, wearily…

"It's not our place to gossip. It could hurt people…listening." Kyoshi. Ellen flinched at this, reminding herself of the Persian's acute sense of sound.

"I wonder what Rhydon thought Kaden tasted like. You know, all those bones and stuff." Phil, in his usual unhelpful and oddly random way.

'Gossip, gossip, is no fun…when you speak of dead and done,' whispered The Voice in prose.

Ellen, feeling a bit angry, took this time to open the door and hobble into the room. "That reminds me," she muttered under her ragged breath, not really reminded at all, "got to clean out my backpack." From her closet, she produced a tattered, bloodstained blue backpack, and tossed it on the bed. She had forgotten about the bag for a time, but facing in and cleaning it out felt like a purge from her negative emotions.

"Oh, Ellen," Kyoshi sighed sympathetically, bent on redeeming herself for lack of emotion in past times. "We didn't mean anything bad…you heard us, we were concerned…besides Phil and Feolan, of course."

"Hey!" the Swampert cried, frowning and crossing his fins. "What's the big idea? Feolan started it!"

"What?" the Mightyena gasped, taken aback. "You were the one who started talking about Rhydon! I was actually worried for Ellen!"

"Oh…oh, yeah? Well…well you're dumb!"

"Shut up!"

"No!"

"Shut up!"

"No!"

"Shut up!"

"Make me!"

"Fine!" With that, Feolan tackled Phil and the two began to growl and gurgle at each other, shouting various things such as 'your mom' and 'your face'. Needless to say, their argument was pointless.

"Yeah, I know…" said Ellen, responding to Kyoshi and unaware of the fight. Sitting down on her bed next to Charles, she said, "I guess this'll never go away. You know, everything. I can't go to sleep and wake up and it's gone. Everybody downstairs is all quiet. It's like they're afraid to talk to me."

'If I was normal, I'd be afraid to talk to you. Stabbed and shot the Leader of Team Rocket…pah! I'm in the mind of a little murderer.' The Voice emitted a sickening wretch of disgust.

"Maybe they wanted to talk about something alone," Charles offered. After the Headquarters, Charles's wing had healed up very nicely, and the hours of free time had allowed him to fly to Mt. Ember to reunite with his family (Henry Wadsworth XI and Clarissa Antoinette Windsor IV; he had no siblings) and his clan of fellow dragons. He and Kyoshi continued to be a close bonded-couple, although his parents found it most uncanny. There was no need for the clichéd forbidden love, though, so his parents quickly accepted and welcomed the Persian with a flourish.

"Like what? Talking about what?" the girl asked, unzipping the bag. She pawed around in it with bony hands, frowning. "Like how crazy I can get?"

'Excuse me, but I feel offended. If you care to know, you're probably just paranoid. The adults, though, are probably just depressed,' The Voice said.

"No," Kyoshi said, responding to Ellen's question. "They're just worried, I assume. But enough of this. Unpacking." Even though Fredia had been found to be alive, Kyoshi was accustomed to being a motherly figure, and still held steadfast with the job. Once or twice, she had visited Michigan, Ontario, and Elder Alden in her birthplace, the little forest just outside of Lavender Town. Elder Alden was still alive, the Tauros had reformed himself (he was brainwashed, anyway), and Michigan and Ontario had evolved into handsome Persian. Surprisingly, Michigan did not seem angry that Kyoshi and Charles were pair (even though they technically could not mate). Apparently, the Lake Brothers had always thought of themselves as rugged adventurers and bachelors, and had gone on a quest to 'vanquish' Jefferson's ghost. That was another story, though.

Yet, for a bit, Kyoshi had worked very hard to regain her Psychic powers that had been lost to the Gengar. Hours upon hours of training had come upon her, only with minimal results: the least she could do was heal minor burns and cuts, and levitating a shoe was a great challenge. Once or twice, did she try to enter Nothing— it had always been her goal to fall into a state of absolute concentration so that she may reach the place. It had been said that many ghosts rested there, and the feline was eager to meet her family. She did get to Nothing once, but it was only for a split second…and what she saw scared her. Nothing was completely dark, completely silent. In essence, it was…well, nothing.

"Wait, wait." Feolan held up his paws, also nodding at Kyoshi and Phil. "How can we unpack your backpack if we don't have any…thumbs?" Forever afflicted with a weak back leg, Feolan soon learned to live impaired. Remembering that he did indeed have a girlfriend, Adora, he visited her at the tollbooth between Saffron and Celadon. While there, he did a bit of sight seeing and found that Silph Co. had been cleaned up and was manufacturing properly, Wegmans had been converted to a multi-level record shop, and the Celadon Game Corner had been torn down. Nothing was in its place.

"Awww, man." Phil sunk his head. Phil was still the immature, over-emotional Swampert that he had been before. One week, he had braved Kanto to visit his parents and Crazy Uncle Jeffery. Through his travels, he had found that Kanto had become somewhat disorganized, or at least confused. Eerily enough, it was as if Giovanni had indeed controlled Kanto and organized its economic, social, and political affairs. Perhaps it was the common enemy that united Kanto, or perhaps it was just a thought…but the Elite Four was doing a poor job of controlling the region. Things were becoming expensive, Cerulean City was still in turmoil, and the Elite Four had yet to find a replacement Gym Leaders for the late Misty, broken and dead, and Giovanni, as it seemed the man had simply disappeared…

Ellen had often thought of what had happened to Giovanni. Alive? Hiding, plotting his return? Plotting her death? Or, dead? Lying in the earth, in his element? A ghost, a voice just like Kaden? Wait, what was she thinking? She didn't even know if she had spoken to Kaden. It could have been insanity. But…if she had really spoken with him, than couldn't Giovanni contact her? In unconsciousness? In a dream? She felt a small fear creep upon her, knowing that her audiences with Giovanni may not done.

"Ellen." Charles's voice snapped her out of her thoughts. "Are you going to unpack?"

"Uh…right." Shaking her head a bit, she poured the contents of her backpack onto the bed. Clothes, food, water, repeat— everything seemed to be in it. She started with her clothing, throwing mostly everything away due to the large holes and gashes in the fabric. After all food and water had been disposed of, she paused and stared at the things she was left with. Small items, usually unnoticeable, but now they clawed and choked her memory: a crumpled S.S Anne ticket, a few Game Corner coins and a card key, make-up that Abby had given her to blend in at Silph Co., the Silph Scope from Will, the Hoot-Hoot eye mask she had worn to Viola's costume party, the key to the Cinnabar Gym, and the meteor she forgot to give to the man named Robert…and there were the half-eaten granola bars, of course.

"Hey, cool! Granola!" Phil squealed, snatching up the food to devour it greedily.

Charles raised his non-existent eyebrows while the examining the Game Corner coins. Each little gold coin had been emblazoned with the letter 'G'. It had looked so innocent when they had first seen it… "Well, this is certainly…nostalgic."

'Such loverly, loverly, loverly memories…' The Voice sighed with genuine feeling. 'I remember so fondly the encounter in the Celadon Game Corner—' Ellen shook her head.

Kyoshi mewed, mentally shivering at the thought of the Cinnabar Key, which had been given to them by Giovanni's Persian, rejected and officially 'neutral'. "I wonder what Persian ever did with his life…he couldn't rot away in the mansion for the rest of his time….or, wait. Maybe he could. He certainly seemed capable of doing so."

"And Miror B., too," said Feolan, nudging the card key with his paw. "What ever happened to that weirdo? Died in the fire?"

(In fact, Miror B. had survived the deadly fire. After jumping from one of the windows, landing in the ocean, and using his immense hairstyle as a floatation device, he drifted across the Kanto Sea. Upon reaching the Strait of Blackthorn, he climbed ashore and built a house for himself using the little money he had left. Feeling the deep need to repent, he shaved his afro off and become a Buddhist monk. After a bit of that, he had the feeling it was not his cup of tea. Therefore, he became a Mormon converter. Then a traveling Christian. Then a Taoist. Then a Jewish hazzan. Than a Protestant choral master. Than a Satanist, an Odinist, a Pagan, a Jehovah's Witness, a Wiccian, a Baptist, a Hindu, a Mennonite, a Confucist, and finally gave up and remained Atheist. But that was another story.)

"We should display these to the world!" Phil crowed cheerfully, clapping his fins in joy. "First, we should show them off right there—on the desk, so everyone can be proud!"

Ellen quickly gathered them up before depositing them in her bedside table drawer. "Or we could put them in here." She pushed in the drawer with unusual force, not wanting to see the other item in it.

"You mean, with the FS necklace?" Kyoshi sighed, as if reading her thoughts. "You can't forget about it, you know. What are you going to do with it?"

"I dunno…" the young Anti-Trainer shrugged guiltily, wincing at her sore shoulder. Setting down her crutches and carefully sitting on the bed, she opened the drawer again and from it took the FS necklace, dangling it in the air on its chain. "I'll think of something…"

The Voice mocked, 'Of course you'll think of something. But what? Is that…thing going to rot away in the drawer? Ellen, I don't usually mean to help, but you should do something about it.'

The albino Mightyena asked, "Have you told your mom about it yet?"

The young Anti-Trainer shook her head, coming from her revere. "What, about the bone? About who made it?"

Feolan nodded.

"No," she said bluntly, offering a snort of morbid laughter. "And there's probably not gonna be a 'yet'. Why would she want to hear? She's already…really sad, and I don't want her to get even more sad."

Charles denied his urge to correct Ellen's grammar. "Right, I suppose that some things aren't meant to be said." He flicked his eyes at her skeptically. "Everyone did seem a bit surprised when you mentioned that Mew died."

"Yes…" Kyoshi quietly leapt up next to Charles. "Hearing that a 'God' died would surprise some people. But that still begs the question…if Mew wasn't the God of Kanto…" Kyoshi's thought trailed off, the feline furrowing her brow.

"Well, Phil began slowly, "Crazy Uncle Jeffery says that he's God."

There was a pause.

"Your uncle is nuts. And besides, who would keep Kanto in order?" asked Feolan.

"Uh…the government?" Ellen asked, truly curious. Political discussions were always much too complicated for her, but as a citizen of Kanto, she had to be concerned.

The answer was that Kanto had very little government. As Phil had observed before, the Elite Four took the position of a pseudo-government, but never used their power to inflict anything good onto Kanto, such as the economic or stock market boosts. They never inflicted anything bad, either. The region was caught in a void, poised in confusion.

Yet no one could answer Ellen's question, as there were three quick taps on the door. All heads swiveled to the entryway as three beings entered: Jack, Brendan, Dwayne, and Gwen.

"H-hello!" Jack said brightly, grinning at his friends. The boy had grown much taller and stronger; his growth had been severely stunted when he was in Team Rocket. Gwen offered a slight smile and a nod. For a Haunter, she was incredibly elegant.

Brendan also gave a terse nod, looking around the room. "Very nice, very nice. You four— off the bed!" he instructed, and Charles, Phil, and Kyoshi obeyed slightly unwillingly. Ellen, on the other hand, frowned at him.

"You can't tell me what to do in my own room," the girl said, but still moved from the bed to the ground. Jack sat down beside her, as did the Pokémon. Seeing the open spot, Brendan and Dwayne jumped on the bed to cuddle. "And since when did you like talking to us better than the adults?"

"Ellen, Ellen, Ellen," the writer shook his head sadly, stroking his small goatee. "I've always liked you. You're so awkward and loveable. Even when I first met you, I liked you. Of course, it didn't help when you threatened to castrate me—"

"W-w-what?" Jack gasped, appalled. Most of the other males in the room looked nervous.

'Oh, wonderful!' The Voice cried with exuberance.

"Wait, silly me," the writer said jovially, laughing. "She actually threatened to attack me, not castrate. Must have slipped, sorry."

"I w-was g-g-going to s-say," Jack said in relief.

"You deserved it, anyway," Ellen muttered, the tension in the room instantly relaxing.

The writer shrugged, weighing his options. "Yes, yes…I know I deserved it…but I didn't know that Kaden was actually dead— wait, enough of this. It's depressing. Anyhoo, we came here because they asked us to leave."

"And w-we only s-st-tayed t-to eavesdrop," Jack added.

"My favorite pastime," Dwayne murmured, toying with a lock of his boyfriend's white hair. "Besides, they were starting to get to some incredibly interesting things, like Team Rocket."

His opposite smiled at him. "Who wasn't as evil as Team Magma," he added, matter-of-factly. When earning confused glances all around, he chuckled. "Oh, of course. I never told you all about my…" he paused. "Very epic and prose-worthy adventurein Hoenn, I the selfless hero"

"Prose-worthy adventure?" snorted Charles disbelievingly. "How so? Few adventures are prose-worthy enough unless they're fictional."

Ellen quickly translated the comment to Brendan, who smiled and nodded thoughtfully. "So right you are, my friend. Yet, I hope this adventure is prose-worthy enough to write down. Now, let's see…ah, it began in Littleroot—"

"Before we met," Dwayne added.

"Ah, yes, before we met. I had decided to break from my scholarly duties, feeling a great need to experience the world. Thus, I began another Pokémon journey and set off into the great, complex land of Hoenn. For a bit, I solely concentrated on besting myself in Pokémon gyms, relying only on badges, small metallic things, for victory. But that was no way to live as a trainer, I realized, and I felt the great need for another kind of adventure— something…much deeper and more important." He paused, making sure everyone was still listening to him. "It's seemed my wish had been granted, because as the Petalburg Woods rose up before me, dark and lush, I had the ill luck of meeting a…Team Magma Grunt!"

Dwayne gasped. "No! You don't say!"

Ellen's eyes widened. "There're more teams?"

"Of course," the writer responded, surprised that she did not know. "Did you honestly think there was only Team Rocket?"

"Uh…well…I sort of hoped."

"I d-did…" Jack admitted sheepishly.

Feolan shrugged. "Maybe…"

"There's so much evil in the world, I knew from the start." Kyoshi shook her head sadly.

Charles growled, "I had a feeling."

"I KNOW EVERYTHING!" Phil howled.

"As a ghost, I can see things others can't see." With one of her vaporous, purple claws, Gwen gestured out the window. "I can see things that happen in other places. Right now, I could find a Team Magma Grunt milling about." Or Team Aqua, Team Galaxy, Team Snagum, Team Cipher, or Team Go-Rock, she added silently, knowing that the Anti-Trainer would be greatly disturbed if she knew that more Teams were lurking.

'Even I did not know' The Voice murmured, shocked.

"Oh, Ellen, and…everyone else," Brendan continued, "In regions like these, you can't hope. You either know its true or know it's not. And even if you do hope, something is going to pull you in one direction. Am I right?"

"Yeah…I guess…but some things are real hard to figure out. So you can hope," the girl said.

The writer raised an eyebrow, eager to return to his narrative. "Such as…?"

"What Kanto is going to become," Charles offered.

Ellen nodded. "Right. Or who's God. Or what happens to ghosts— if they stay in the place they died, or if they float away…besides Gwen."

The Haunter smiled, but Kyoshi frowned. "The ghosts I saw were stationary, or at least in the same area they were when they died," the Persian said slowly. "But the Psychic trainer in the Viridian Gym told me differently. He said there were levels…levels of death? I'm not sure…his speech was so vague, it was hard to decipher what he actually meant. Gwen?"

"Interesting," the ghost said thoughtfully. "I suppose it's different for humans and Pokémon, but for the humans I've seen, several things can happen. First and foremost, they go to Nothing. Then, they can stay where they died if they don't possess enough psychic or otherworldly strength and can only go a certain amount of miles away…six, I believe. They can travel around all of Kanto if their mind is strong enough; I suppose that's what most dead trainers would want to do. They can manifest a part or all of themselves into the living if need be, and if strong enough. They can be reborn, though I'm not sure how. The levels of death, though…perhaps it had something to do with having a connection to the living. Ghosts can contact the living, as some of the living can contact ghosts, but it depends on their power in life, as well as in death. I know it sounds unfair, but if you had more power in life…well, you have more power in death. It's only logical; there aren't any special benefits in dieing, I'm sorry to say."

"Figures," mumbled the generally pessimistic Feolan. "I always knew it."

"Well, you should of, considering Dark types have a better knowledge of the afterlife and death," the ghost said gently.

"Oh. Really?" the albino Mightyena blinked, confused. "Uh…not me. Maybe it's something to do with my fur…"

Gwen smirked at him. "Fur? Hmm. Quite possibly. Quite like Shiny Pokémon have a connection with the living, nocturnal Pokémon have a connection with the dead…and I'm not sure about albino Pokémon."

Feolan shook his head. "This stuff is comin' really fast…now I know why everybody wants to stay alive so bad…"

"…unless you're extremely powerful in life," added Charles. "I suppose that's why so many people are temped to commit suicide But they would have to know what death is like, then. Which they don't, unless they've had any acquaintance with the occult or any séances."

Brendan, who had been listening in vain, asked Ellen to translate. She did so, omitting some points due to forgetfulness. The writer nodded while she spoke, and after she finished, he pulled a small box from his pocket. Opening it with his fingernail, he slid the inner box out to carefully take a cigarette. Before lighting it and putting it to his lips, he offered some to everyone. "Anyone? Straight from Hoenn; very good."

"Can't, I'm too beat up," Ellen said. After the Headquarters, she had tried a cigarette once or twice— it was a very nice way to calm her nerves, but smoking in her condition did her no good.

Feolan took one, but realized with sadness that he had no thumbs, and his teeth crushed the paper cylinder, causing him to cough and hack wildly. Besides Dwayne, everyone else declined.

"Well, all right." He inhaled and exhaled the smoke for a while, holding the cigarette between his middle and index finger. Finally, he said, "I could always use an Ouija board."

"F-f-for wuh-what?" Jack asked skeptically, raising an eyebrow.

"To see if I could communicate with Collin." After his father's death, Brendan had developed a habit of referring to him by his first name. No one really knew why. "It's worth something to try. But I need at least one more person to help me."

Dwayne raised his hand excitedly, but everyone looked at Ellen.

"Come on, Ellen," Phil said excitedly. "You can try to talk to your dad!"

"Uh…I don't know how to play…Ouahjuha boards," the girl admitted guiltily.

"Wee-ya," corrected Gwen.

She nodded at Dwayne. "Yeah, Ouija. But I think he knows how to play…wait, do you even have an Ouija bored?"

"No. But I can always buy one. I'm sure the Celadon Department Store sells them." Having no place to clean the ash away from his cigarette, he stood up, opened the window, and sat on the ledge, tapping the cigarette out the window. Cold air rushed into the room. "Although Collin and I wouldn't have much to speak about. 'How are you doing, son'? 'Oh, fine. How is the afterlife?' 'Oh, nothing much. Dark. Smells like rotten fish. Can't talk to anyone living, really.' 'Really?' 'Why, yes.'" The young man signed and rolled his eyes. "Not much fun being a dead scientist, now is it? I suppose when I die, being a writer will be much more fun. Many more stories to tell…oh, speaking of that, I never finished my story of Hoenn! Now, on with it…"

Ellen only half listened, musing over Brendan's pessimistic outlook on life and death. But his story about Hoenn was interesting to say the least. It was less violent than hers; she liked that quite a lot. In a slightly odd turn of events, Brendan had met Team Magma, a rather unorthodox Team bent of sucking Hoenn of all its water in order to make room for land Pokémon and humans, as opposed to their opposites, Team Aqua.

For two weeks the writer traveled, following close behind his 'ultimate enemy'— Maxie, Leader of Team Magma. Brendan recorded every step that he took, every town or city that he visited. An account that even surpassed the great work of Tostoevsky resulted, and was to be published soon after he had finished his account and his adventure by defeating Team Magma in an epic battle that would certainly thrill critics and trainers alike.

Although…things did not all turn out. As Brendan and Team Aqua were thwarting Team Magma's attempt to use a volcano to their own liking, the writer was crowded by a large group of Magma Grunts, intent on roughing him up a bit. Their fun took a sour turn, though, as one pushed Brendan aside, where the young man staggered back…and tumbled into Maxie, knocking him off the edge of the volcano and sending him screaming into the lava below. The citizens of Hoenn had exulted joyfully and Team Aqua, more benevolent than their counterparts, called Brendan a savior. It was exactly what he had wanted, an adventure, some experience, just like Ellen—although he had taken use of his efforts, not become a scared recluse. To be a writer and a hero… 'Other Vocals, Other Area', a collection of short stories he had been working on, was set to be published in two weeks. With his newfound celebrity status, book sales would increase dramatically…it was exactly what he wanted.

Brilliant.

OoO

Once the Anti-Trainers had shooed Jack, Brendan, Gwen, and Dwayne away, they relaxed slightly, knowing that they could speak without having their words repeated.

"No offence to them," said Frieda, casting a look at the stairwell, "but I'm glad they're gone. At least Brendan, of course. Who knows what he'd write up…I don't want him 'documenting' everything we say."

Russell nodded. "Especially because you were going to ask us something…?" he paused, glancing at Miguel.

"Right, something about…oh, you know. Kaden," said Miguel rather reluctantly. He spoke as if the subject was taboo.

"Ah." Fredia nodded and folded her hands across her lap. "Yes. I regret not asking you earlier, but I was a bit hesitant…concerning the very dire circumstances. But now that we're all back together, I wondered and wondered if…well…if any of you had known that Kaden had left for the Team Rocket Headquarters…no one knew at first, of course, but when I called you…"

Russell could remember it clearly; Fredia had sounded concerned, but not in a frenzy. He had instantly suspected of the man trying some attempt to finish off his enemies, but he quickly dismissed of this idea. Kaden would not be that reckless. Or would he? He had cared for his family…but his personality seemed to get in the way. "No…no. I'm not sure about Marylyn, but I…I didn't know. Not me." Yes, but after Kaden had not been found for a while…Anti-Trainers did not just disappear. They died, and not peacefully. Old age was a blessing, one more year was pure luck—it was a surprise that people even joined. But the stories one would tell…it was enough to make even a Rocket join, like himself. Protecting Kanto, vengeance against your oppressors, tales of glory…and what about the greater good? Ha, there was no greater good left in Kanto, it had left when Giovanni showed the citizens that 'greater good' meant 'having your limbs torn off and your jugular vein sliced open'. And many, many other worse things.

"Oh, oh…well, thank you, anyway," she responded quietly, sounding disappointed. "I'm sorry if I seemed suspicious, it's just that…well, now that everything has been turned upside down…"

"…it was a better time to ask questions?" Miguel guessed.

"No, not necessarily. I just want everything to piece together again."

"I'm afraid you'd have to go back in the past to do that," Miguel commented solemnly. "Do you ever wish you could go back?"

There was a pause. "Yes and no. Going back would mean having Kaden, Marylyn, Samara, and a mess of other people back. But that could change the outcome of now. Team Rocket could still be thriving. Kaden could still die—and what would Ellen become? I owe most of her success to you two."

"Us two?" Russell asked dubiously. "I hardly did anything but put her in stupid situations and fail to tell her how dangerous Team Rocket was. She was fighting Giovanni in the Headquarters, I wasn't. If anything, it was Miguel who invited her to join."

"Awww, right." The young man smiled, pleased to have been given credit. "At the exit of Mt. Moon, I remember. Although now that I know her, I'm surprised that she even accepted. I'm guessing that she was just happy to see benevolent life after her audience with Team Rocket in Mt. Moon. Which wasn't a very bad audience at all. They seemed so pathetic compared to Silph Co."

Russell balanced his head in one hand. His other arm was still weak and needed fixing. "Silph Co. Don't remind me."

"Was it…really that bad?" asked Fredia.

Russell's grave expression partly answered the question, but he still said gruffly, "Yes, it was that bad. For one thing, Jack was taken. Another, I lost my arm to Giovanni's godamn Rhydon. After two years of confusion, it was the first big mission without Kaden…we needed him to lead, now that I think about it. That was it. Without him, we declined…and then went out with a bang." He paused and said, "Like Team Rocket. Now that Giovanni has…disappeared somewhere, they're gone. Disbanded."

"Er, the only bad thing is that we have no police force now," Miguel cut in wryly, recalling that Giovanni had placed Rocket operatives across Kanto as the police. "I suppose it was a good idea on Giovanni's part…in the beginning, at least. Of course, when they saw the smoking building," he made a slicing motion across his throat. "Suicide. I suppose they were so obsessed with their cause that they had to die with it."

"I'd believe it. Most Rockets were incredibly strong in their beliefs, usually the executives and commanders," said Russell. "Me, on the other hand, I wasn't exactly what you'd call a 'model Grunt'—"

There the conversation was interrupted, because the front door swung open and a boy of about nine or ten came scurrying into the living room. Stopping and catching his breath, he said cheerfully, "Hi, Miss Adler! Hi, other people!" The boy was dressed in a red and silver sweatshirt, yellow shorts, and carried a large backpack. His black hair was covered by a yellow and black baseball cap turned backwards, and on his wrist was a Pokégear. His other arm was slung in a cast.

"Hello there, Oliver," Fredia said with a small smile, ignoring that he loudly interrupted the conversation. "Ellen is upstairs with her friends; I'm sure it'd be fine to go up." She frowned when she saw his cast. "What happened?"

'Oliver's' grin faded. "Oh, uh—" the boy stopped, as if deciding against telling her. "Just a stupid accident. Nothing much. But…the real reason I came was to see if Brendan was here. His mom said that he was here, and I really want him to sign my book…" He rattled his backpack for emphasis.

"Well, I'm sure he won't mind."

Oliver nodded vigorously, smiled again, and bounced up the stairs, but not before pointing at Russell's metal arm and exclaiming, "Whoa! That's, like, the coolest thing I've ever seen! I want one just like it when I grow up."

"I'm sure you do," the man muttered bitterly after the boy had left.

"Who was that?" Miguel asked.

"Oliver Kin. He and his mother moved here recently, but he went to Jhoto to start his trainer journey. When he's here for visits, though, he sticks to Ellen like glue. I think I made a mistake when I told him she had traveled around Kanto for a bit…I just hope she doesn't fill his head with…Anti-Trainer propaganda, or something."

"Propaganda? Hmph!" Russell crossed his arms and frowned at his friend, although it was not very serious. "No Anti-Trainer has ever used propaganda! Only Team Rocket!"

"Oh, believe me. Kaden particularly enjoyed informing people of the Anti-Trainers and the evils of Team Rocket when we went to parties. Don't think he was as devoted as you." She laughed. "And…don't think we're the opposite of Team Rocket, either. I know you too well. Even though Anti-Trainers were totally against them, we couldn't help but use similar tactics to retaliate."

Miguel raised his eyebrows and then furrowed his brow. "You're right. So…I suppose every group has similar tactics…which means that we could never fully be against Team Rocket, because in reality, we behave similarly to them. Every opposing force behaves similarly to one another. They use written propaganda, we use verbal propaganda. They invade our headquarters, we invade theirs. They had a leader—"

Fredia regretted even saying anything, sighing deeply. "Enough of this, please. It's over, and that's that. We don't need to carry things from the past to the present," the woman said quietly, although loud enough for Miguel to be silence.

Although, all of them knew very well that despite the long battle between the Anti-Trainers and Team Rocket had ended, things would never be the same. Things would continue to be effected, uprisings would occur in the few surviving Team Rocket Grunts, chaos would ensure.

And only did Russell know that something else, something very bad was liable to happen—he was not positive, but things did run in families. Even the most unorthodox things.

OoO

Meanwhile, Oliver had left the 'silly adults' and continued up the stairs, anxious to meet the famous writer. He was not usually in Kanto, and this could possibly be his last visit in a while—recently, he had seen odd people in Jhoto, and he wanted to investigate what was happening. They were so strange, dressed all in black, and the women (he blushed) did not wear much besides a short shirt and a tank top. He had not told the usually grumpy Ellen about the black-clothing people, from fear that she would become even grumpier like the last time he had mentioned people like that, seeing them walking around Saffron city.

He liked Ellen; she was fun to play video games with and always had a story to tell. She was one of his few friends, and they had many things in common—but the oddest similarity was that both of their fathers were not present. Oliver's father had gone on a Pokémon journey and was to return soon (he had sent him a letter), but when asked, Ellen said, 'it was a long story that you'll never hear. For a while'. He had often wondered what the story was, and if it had anything to do with her broken legs or scars. Maybe he could ask after getting Brendan's signature—maybe.

Upon reaching the door, he quietly turned the doorknob and walked in with his usual spirited grin. Ellen, another straw-haired boy, a Haunter, and Ellen's Pokémon were playing cards on the floor. The window was open; by the window were the girl's crutches and empty backpack, and Brendan and Dwayne were…the boy's grin faded and he blushed, looking sheepish.

The couple was kissing feverishly, in a way that was hardly fit for young or inexperienced eyes. The others did not seem to care, though, and carried on with their game. Oliver averted his eyes, cleared his throat and asked nervously, "Er…um…Mr. Birch?"

Everyone looked up from what they were doing, including Brendan and Dwayne. "This is why we lock the door," muttered Charles under his breath.

"Hmm? What? What? What? Oh! Excuse me." After hastily pulling away from the kiss and neatening his shirt and pants, there was another pause as he tossed the cigarette out the window. "Yes, yes," the writer said quickly, coughing. "Now, who are you and why are you here?"

Deciding to ignore the awkward moment, the boy resumed smiling and held out his hand in greeting. The writer stared at it as if it was a dead Magicarp. "My name is Oliver, sir. Oliver Kin. I'm Ellen's friend. I'm her neighbor."

"Really?" Brendan asked, looking away in thought. "I used to be her neighbor. Now I'm just plain old 'writer'. Hmm. Interesting. So! Why you came…?"

"Well, I've always wanted to meet the person who wrote 'In Warm Blood', so when I heard that you were at Ellen's house—"

The young man beckoned him forward. "Ah! A book signing? I would be delighted. A fan of my book, eh? Not too many of these days, with some other old book becoming so popular now…what was it called? Published at least ten years ago… 'Mysteries of the Earth'? Something to that effect. Brilliant but long. Written under a pseudonym, I believe. Now, out with the book, then!" Oliver nodded and produced a thick, ornate-looking book from his backpack. As he handed it to Brendan, the writer asked, raising his eyebrows, "How old are you?"

"Ten, sir."

"Ten? You're quite advanced in your reading. I was only reading Viktor Hugeo at the time."

"I ruh-r-read as muh-much as I c-could," Jack said, scratching the back of his head. "It h-helped me with my s-s-stutter."

"I didn't read," muttered Ellen, not looking up from her card game. "And I still don't."

"Not a very good influence," Brendan muttered to himself as he signed the book with a flourish. "There."

Oliver grinned hugely, taking the book from his hands as though it was some priceless, fragile object. "Thank you!"

Ellen finally looked up from the card game, noticing the boy's arm was in a cast. Puzzled, she frowned and asked, "Fell down or somethin', Oliver?"

The boy shook his head as he stuffed the book away. He set down his backpack, sitting on the ground next to Kyoshi. "Not exactly…"

"Oh?" asked Dwayne, the two boyfriends eagerly listening in.

"Well…see…I didn't tell your mom anything, Ellen, because I was afraid that she'd convince my mom to stop my journey. Moms," he sighed exasperatedly. "They don't know anything."

"Yeah," Ellen agreed dryly. Charles snickered.

"But, I guess I can tell you." He released another sigh. "It started when I was getting my first Pokémon in New Bark Town. Edward, my Totodile. On my way to the lab, I saw this other boy staring in the window. He was probably a few years older than I was, and taller—he had red hair, and it went down to his shoulders! Kind of cool, actually. So I went to say hello, in case he was another trainer and needed some help, but he pushed me back and told me to leave him alone…so I did and I went to get Edward."

"That's how you broke your arm?" Feolan asked, snickering slightly. "Loser."

"Uh…is that how you broke your arm?" asked Ellen, roughly translating. The Pokémon giggled.

"What? No, 'course not! All I got were scratched knees. The real thing happened about a week ago, and Professor Elm had called me, really worried. He said someone had stolen another Pokémon from his lab…and when he described him, he looked exactly like the guy I saw…"

Something flickered in Ellen's mind, and she looked at him alertly. "He was stealing a Pokémon?"

"So Professor Elm said," he explained, not perturbed by the girl's odd look. "Here…I'll explain the rest."

Enter Jhoto, in leaving Cherrygrove City. It was evening, the sky aglow with a pink tint that was slowly being devoured by gray storm clouds. A small, cold wind had picked up, and most of the citizens had retired to their houses. The streets and sidewalks were empty, save for the occasional Rattata that scurried past or the Hoothoot that fluttered by. The only human form that still existed outside was Oliver, clutching his Pokégear tightly in his shaking hand. He was too nervous to find shelter in the welcoming Pokémon Center. The news he heard from Elm had only fueled his anxiety to the point that he decided he must go back to see if Professor Elm and the final Pokémon were not hurt.

Knowing that it would rain soon, Oliver decided upon taking a more forested path back to New Bark—the path was too well hidden for anyone not acquainted with the land to find, and the trees would shield him from most of the rain. After looking around him furtively, he crept onto the path and began at a brisk walk. He was half-tempted to call Edward out for protection, but the Totodile did not fully trust him yet, and the storm would probably scare him away. And without any Pokémon…er…that would not be good.

Rain began to fall, and Oliver mentally thanked himself for choosing the wooded path. Being wet and mugged at the same time would not be a pleasant experience. Neither would being mugged at all, actually.

His mood seemed to descend completely, though, as pounding footsteps—the sound of running—rang out ahead. Oliver stopped dead, frightened and close to crying, when he turned around and prepared to run in the opposite direction. With that, he and the other figure collided, both uttering yelps of surprise. The two hit the ground and instantly began scrambling to escape one another in a flurry of leaves. The other figure's large mass had caused Oliver's breathing to subside, but as he caught his breath and stood up, he saw the redhead standing a bit away.

The Redhead looked more fearful than threatening, but his sharp features muted the fright slightly, and his dark eyes partially hidden beneath scraggily hair only made him look knowing. There was obviously money in his family or possession; thick navy pants coupled with a red and black coat. He clutched a Pokéball in his hand.

"You…you're the one who stole the Pokémon," Oliver said blankly, instantly regretting his stupid and obvious comment. Something came over him, though, seeing the thief— he was only about four, five years older than he was, and he did not look much stronger. After all, Edward was probably stronger than the Pokémon the Redhead had. Probably. "You…you…listen, you just committed a crime. If you give the Pokémon to me, I'll let you go."

Redhead's expression grew surprised that he was allowing him to pass…for a price, of course. Yet, he shook his head and spoke lowly, as if something was about to jump out at him any second. "No. No. Just let me pass. I just…I just need to, all right? You don't understand."

"Don't understand?" Oliver stared at him with a disbelieving expression. Why had he been so scared of the thief before? He was nothing more than…than another boy like himself! "It doesn't matter. You're stealing, and that's a crime. Now, if you just give me the Pokémon…"

"I don't think so." His tone became abruptly colder, harsher. Now he stepped forward, jutting his chin out slightly. The intimidation worked, as Oliver grew less confident and stumbled back. The Redhead became docile again. "I don't want to fight. I don't make anymore of this. Just let me go before I call out my Pokémon."

"Then do it, fine then. Let's have a Pokémon battle." Oliver straightened out his back a bit, feeling particularly suicidal at that moment. Yet he felt that he could win the Pokémon battle. Edward was a competent battler. He proceeded to bring out his Totodile, when Redhead put up a hand for him to stop.

"Wait." Redhead mentally cursed himself for convincing Oliver that he indeed had a…er…conscious Pokémon. In stealing the Chikorita, Professor Elm had released it in hopes that it would protect itself. No such luck, though, as Redhead defeated it with his Sandshrew, who also fainted in the battle. "I'm going to try and explain this in a way that is…peaceful. This was one of the last requests of my late father to me. If I fail to do this, I will feel very guilty."

"But that's not it," Oliver protested, a bit more sympathetic than before. "I'm sorry, but I'm not asking you to turn yourself in. I'm just saying— besides, you look well off in money. You could get a Chikorita from anywhere else legally."

Redhead stared at him before shaking his head in disbelief. "I really don't understand you people." He suddenly released an angry shout and tackled Oliver, pinning him to the ground with his knees trapping his torso. He brought his fist down to punch Oliver on the face, but the boy jerked his head away and pushed Redhead off him. The two boys fought in a childish way, fraught with curled fists and kicks. Oliver was quite stronger for a frail boy like himself, and managed to catch Redhead on the nose with one of his fists, resulting in a gush of blood. In a matter of seconds, Redhead returned the favor by bloodying Oliver's nose.

"Criminal!" howled Oliver.

"Why…don't you people leave me alone?" Redhead gasped between breaths, wiping his nose with the back of his hand. He retreated, stumbling backwards. "I haven't done anything! I'm not a criminal! It wasn't me. It wasn't me."

"What are you talking about?" Oliver screamed, jumping up as well.

It was then, oddly, that Redhead's eyes began to tear. "HE'S DEAD! Don't you understand? HE'S DEAD! It's over! I didn't do anything wrong! You people already got him!"

Oliver, curious, stepped forward. "Over? What's—"

Suddenly, in a paradox of terrible rage, Redhead lunged forward and seized Oliver's arm, twisting it—twisting it grotesquely, twisting it as he was taught. He did not want to use force, but after being provoked…well, he had given the other boy a fair warning. Thinking this over as he jerked the arm in an odd position so that it snapped with a loud crack, he realized that Oliver was now sobbing openly, frozen with pain. Out of surprise and slight disgust, Redhead released his arm to find that Oliver's elbow rested near his back, with the rest of his arm jutting downward.

Redhead stood for a moment, feeling guilty. "All right. If you want your…friends to get me, than fine. I don't care; they won't find me. They can look all over Jhoto if they want." With that, he told him his name and turned around, walking away to Cherrygrove city…

"That's my story. That's how my arm broke," Oliver finished, looking at Brendan to see if the writer approved of his narrative. The young man smiled and gave him a thumbs-up. The boy beamed.

Jack frowned. "That w-w-was violent."

Ellen stared at Oliver. "His name?"

"What?" the boy asked.

"His name. Did….he tell you his name?"

"Oh…right. He did."

"So…what was it?"

"Silvano. It was Silvano."

OoO

Two days later, Brendan and Dwayne had said goodbye to everyone, packing up their luggage and preparing to leave for Littleroot Town with Brendan's mother. It was a tearful leave, mostly for Brendan, who knew that he would not be returning for sometime in order to write another book and correspond with other authors. He offered many hugs and well wishes, even going as far as to loan Ellen some books that he had read, although the girl had looked slightly confused at the selections: she doubted that she could read the behemoth of Anna Carenana, let alone know what it was. Brendan assured her that she would enjoy it very much after she overcame the poetic sentencing and massive vocabulary.

Thus, Brendan Birch left from Ellen's life. Although his impression upon her was somewhat odd and muddled, the girl did feel that she missed his presence after returning to her room with his Pokémon. After briefly reading the back of Anna Carenana, which, to Ellen, was about some woman jumping from one man to another one, she tossed it on the desk and pulled out some sort of hand-held gaming system from her pocket. Charles picked up the book and began reading it with mild interest.

"I envy you," Kyoshi said playfully, reading over the dragon's shoulder. "I wish I could read."

Charles shrugged. "I could teach you if you wanted. I don't think it would be that hard…the human language is a lot of nonsense is you ask me. Squiggles make up what they speak and write. It's odd. Ellen, don't you think speaking Pokémon is easier?"

"Huh?" Ellen asked in the dialect of Cubone and Marowak.

"Exactly," the reptile continued. "And we understand each other, no matter what species we are. Now, human, on the other hand…" with a claw, he pointed to the simplest word, 'the'. "This is the word 'the'; used commonly. Spelled…" he paused for a moment, knowing that there was no way to translate the alphabet into the language of Pokémon. "Er…never mind."

Kyoshi looked disappointed. "Oh…well, I suppose being psychic is enough for one Persian." With one last glance at the book, she turned away to see what Ellen was doing. With that, her ears twitched slightly as she heard something. "Someone is coming."

And indeed, they were. Seconds later, there was a knock on the door. Ellen grumbled some sort of welcome, and Russell poked his head in the half-open doorway. "Uh…the kid who likes my arm wants to come up."

Ellen looked up from her game and frowned at him. "The kid who likes your arm?"

"Er, Oliver, I think." He shook his head. "Anyway, he's leaving later today, and he wanted to say goodbye. So…I'm guessing it's all right if he comes up…"

"Yeah, it's fine. But wait a sec, I gotta ask you something." Ellen set her video game down.

In the middle of turning to go downstairs, Russell flinched mentally. First Fredia demands a suspicious question, now Ellen…damn. He turned back to the room. "Yes…?"

"What's FS mean?" she asked simply.

"What?" the older Anti-Trainer asked, slightly taken aback. It came as such a random comment.

"I said, what does FS mean? When I asked you about it before, you said you didn't know anything…and that was sort of half-lying, 'cuz I think you know what it means. It's such a weird name, Fiery Sapphire, and I know it has something to do with my mom and dad." She paused, hesitant to tell him the rest of the story, but ultimately deciding he should know. "And Giovanni knew about it, too. He made the necklace. Uh, trophy, I guess."

"What?" he asked again, stepping into the room. "Trophy? You didn't tell us this before!"

She shrugged and frowned—for the first time in a while, Russell could see the resemblance between Kaden and Ellen. "I didn't want my mom to get too upset. She was already upset enough. And you looked pretty bad."

"Right, well…"

"Yeah, right, well. Whatever. Just after Giovanni told me that he killed dad, he gave me back the FS necklace." She stopped, chewing on her lower lip. "And…and he said that he made the necklace out of his…uh, skull. And then he wanted to give it to my mom, but Mew took it and put it in a drawer in our house."

'Pity,' The Voice said dully. 'It would have been more interesting if Fredia had received it.'

Russell stared at her, horrified. Giovanni, the bastard. It's too bad he was dead; Ellen had told them with a mixed look of joy and insanity on her face. "Uh…oh, shit. I didn't know, I'm sorry…er…the name Fiery Sapphire wasn't a name for one person. It was Kaden and Fredia, together. I never knew why Morton made up the name— Morton was an early Anti-Trainer, he was great. Except a bunch of Grunts jumped him. Anyway, though, he saw that Kaden and Fredia were acting…friendly towards each other. They were always together. So he was joking around one day, right, and decided to make a name up. Sapphire was Fredia's codename, and Kaden had liked to be called his former college nickname, Pyro…which didn't sound too nice with 'Sapphire', so I guess he changed it into 'Fiery'."

"So…" Ellen frowned, her face twisting slightly in confusion. "You mean that my codename was, like, my mom and dad's...whatever you call it. Joint name?"

"I think it'd be the same as saying 'Ashy' for Ash and Misty," Charles explained, still deep into reading the novel.

Russell nodded thoughtfully, a bit surprised. "I never thought of it that way. Shit. I don't know how Marylyn picked the name out for you. Maybe she knew, maybe she didn't. She always did have a sick sense of humor."

'I hope the joint name only means that they were a couple,' The Voice purred lecherously. 'Not anything…else. Heehee.'

"Well…thanks for telling me, anyway," Ellen said to Russell, ignoring the giggling The Voice. "I guess Oliver can come up now, if he still wants too."

"I'm guessing he does…" Russell disappeared from view, walking downstairs.

"I can't believe you got that name," Feolan said disbelievingly to Ellen.

"I can't believe Anna leaves him!" gasped Charles, still reading. His face fell slightly, remembering Anna the Charmander. "Poor Anna…"

Phil asked, "Who? The book character?"

"No. The Charmander I met."

"Oh…right…" his head sunk, then popped up curiously. "Hey, how'd she die again?"

Before anyone else could shoot a glare or inflict pain upon the Swampert, Oliver, as usual, burst into the room without any warning whatsoever. Fortunately, nothing awkward was occurring, so the boy had no reason to be surprised or embarrassed. He was in his normal outfit again, although he had a large backpack filled almost to the point where it would not zipper. "Hi," he said quietly, placing his backpack down and patting Kyoshi on the head. The Persian tried not to flinch.

Ellen turned the game off once more, now sliding it under her bed. She raised an eyebrow at the backpack. "Uh…are you gonna carry that all around Jhoto? It looks awfully heavy…"

"Um…It'll get lighter," he explained, sitting on the floor. He was oddly timid for his usual cheery self. "Most of it is food. I've calculated how much I'm going to eat by the time I get to Blackthorn City. I can stock up again there for the Pokémon League."

"But…what about detours and stuff? And what if you get stuck? And—"

Oliver quickly interrupted her. "Everything is mapped out in Jhoto. Believe me; you have to try to get lost there."

Ellen blinked at him. She had never thought that Pokémon training had become more…straightforward than a Kantonian's mad dash around the region, all while avoiding Team Rocket and staying on the right paths in caves. But Team Rocket did not exist anymore, and the caves had recently been marked with the correct path. Times did change. "Weird. Wish I had that. So. Didja just come up here to say bye, or…" she gestured for him to answer.

"Oh, right." Oliver nodded, then bit his lower lip and looked away while speaking timidly. "Well…remember that time when we were talking about our dads, and you told me about the long story that I'll never hear?"

"Yeah," she said slowly, casting a curious look upon him. "What about it?"

"Well…er…um…it would be nice…"

"You wanna hear it, right?"

Oliver grinned. "Please. I promise not to be scared or tell on you or anything. And I know all the bad words, so it's okay if people cuss."

'Go ahead, tell him. It won't hurt. At least…it won't hurt him!' The Voice said.

There was silence, which ended with Feolan laughing a bit as he tried to cover his muzzle with his paw. Oliver, his grin seeping into a smile, finally looked at Ellen whose head was shaking. She sighed. "Look, it's not cussing or being scared or anything—it's just…it's not a ten-year-old story."

"And Brendan's book is?" the boy demanded heatedly. "I'm more mature than just some kid!"

She had to admit, Oliver had indeed made a very good point. There was little she could do to contradict him, besides arguing that Brendan's book was a work of fiction—but Ellen, obviously, did not think of this and sighed again, nodding in defeat. "Okay, fine." She beckoned the Pokémon around her, huddling into a small cluster. "Help me remember, guys. Okay…so…I think I got Charles in August, and it was really hot that day…"

She continued, like the other times, although more hesitant than usual. Oliver seemed so…naïve compared to the others she had told it to: Bill, the Anti-Trainers, Abby, her mother, Jack…but this one was only a child. She even tried to omit the more adult parts, but in doing so, she was forced to stop abruptly and weave around it, which Oliver immediately caught and demanded that she tell him the whole thing. She did admit, though, he took the story quite well for a ten-year-old. There were no flinches or cringes, he simply stared at her and listened intently.

In telling the story, Ellen found herself realizing that she could not forget about what she had done—just like hiding the FS necklace away, she was hiding away the painful but obvious past. Feeling deeply guilty, she then realized that she had not yet…sealed Kaden's death, per say. Not a funeral, but a realization stating that he was indeed dead, and would never return no matter how hard she wished. But where, though? Where to conduct it…?

Once she had finished with, 'and then I went home from the hospital,' Oliver had not shown any sort of great surprise or disgust. Instead, he nodded slightly, leaned forward and said quietly and sagely, "Ellen. It's not over. I didn't know who they were before, but I saw Rocket Grunts around Jhoto. Rocket Grunts. But don't worry. Don't worry at all, because I'm going to get them. I'm going to finish them off. You shouldn't have to do that any more after what you and your Pokémon went though."

Ellen stared at him, appalled, and rubbed her blind eye. Rockets in Jhoto? A feeling a dread crept upon her. "Hot damn, Oliver, don't do that. Please, don't do that. You're gonna get hurt!"

"But it's what's right," he said frankly, getting his backpack to leave. He was nervous; Ellen seemed so angry. He thought that she would have been happy.

"No it isn't!" the girl jumped up, but a shot of pain went up one of her legs and she clenched her teeth. She staggered for a bit and finally sat down on the bed. "You don't get it, do you? Yeah, I might have told you some stupid story, but I still can't tell you how I really felt when my legs snapped! How I really felt when I got shot up! How I really felt when Giovanni told me that he frickin' murdered my dad! And…and…you know what I want to say after all of this? After all of that violence and hate and sadness and stuff—I wanna say, Fuck what's right! Fuck what's right! You know why? Because nobody should go though what I went though. Nobody!"

The Pokémon sat, looking at each other worriedly.

"You can't tell me what to do!" Oliver hissed loudly, scowling at her. "Maybe I chose to do that on my own. I was just trying to help you—make you feel better. Besides, Team Rocket won't be as bad as when you dealt with it—it's weaker now!"

Ellen laughed bitterly. "And just look at me. Look at me!" This was a command now, and Oliver did so. "Do you think the journey make me better? Made me…grow up or something? I'm a frickin' skeleton now! I'm wrecked and ugly and scared and CRAZY!" The girl grinned, and Oliver could not help flinching as he realized that some of her teeth were missing. In fact, she was indeed a wreck. Her voice quieted considerably, but it was shaking. "Team Rocket will never get weaker. It might be small and Giovanni might be dead, but it's still gonna be a helluva lot stronger than you. Especially if Silvano decides to take up the godamn leadership—then it'll be bad. As bad as what happened to me." Her tone was wretchedly bitter, and she heaved a shaky sigh.

It was evident that she was going to say no more, and Oliver quickly moved to the doorway. He opened the door to leave, but halfway into closing it, said, "Don't worry, Ellen. I'll finish them." With that, the door shut and Oliver left for Jhoto.

There was a brief silence before Kyoshi finally asked Ellen is she was all right. No response, so she asked again. Finally, Ellen moved to sit on the floor and said shakily, "I just made a kid want to go against Team Rocket. Want to get himself killed. Nobody should go though with that…nobody. I…don't…want…more…people…dead…" Face twisting slightly, head in her hands, she began to cry.

I will be very frank and say that this was the last time that Ellen ever allowed someone to hear the story. Oliver kept the story very close in secrecy, telling no one else—even when he returned to Jhoto and met Silvano numerous times. Even though Silvano, who had become somewhat of a rival, continued to lament the destruction of the Headquarters and the death of his father, continued to ask who, who had committed such a crime upon an innocent being, Oliver simply shook his head and commenced battling. The only thing that he did, though, was quickly scribble the story down in a notebook while on the Saffron city train, bound for Goldenrod City. It was kept safe in his backpack for sometime, and finally transferred to a large chest. And there it was left for a while, deep in isolation.

Very much forgotten.

OoO

At approximately 12:30 A.M, Ellen looked up from her video game and glanced lazily at the clock near her bed. Pulling her crutches from the side of the chair, she stood up and hobbled across the room, accidentally bumping into the peacefully sleeping Charles. The dragon groggily sat up and stifled a huge yawn, displaying his vicious incisors. He looked about, noticing Ellen opening the window. "Already time to leave?" he asked, not quite awake. Kyoshi, who had been sleeping beside him, gave a characteristic feline stretch.

"Pretty much," the girl said, realizing how cold it was outside. She shivered and moved away from the window, going into her closet and closing the door behind her to change into a pair of jeans, warm shirt, and jacket. "Hey, Charles," she called from behind the door, "d'you think you can still fit through the window?"

The Charizard raised one of his non-existent eyebrows at the large open window as Feolan, fully awake, snickered. "Er…I'm guessing. I'm not fat. Or at least I don't think."

"Awww, Charles, you'll never be fat!" Phil cried randomly, appearing in the doorway. Most nights he spent in the bathroom, sleeping in the bathtub filled with water.

"Thank you?" The dragon gently pushed Phil away as he began hugging him.

Ellen came out of the closet, clad in her new outfit. Without a second glance at the interaction between Charles and Phil, she opened her bedside table drawer and after searching in it for a while, gingerly pulled out the FS necklace. Most activity stopped. It was still the same as it had been before; slightly thick, slightly small, dented, with some of the gold partly scratched off. She was half-tempted to wear it as a necklace again, but she soon came to her senses and quickly stuffed it away in her pants pocket. The scene was over in mere seconds.

"I could write a note to Fredia, if you'd like," Kyoshi offered, a pen coated in a light purple aura already hovering over her head. "Charles could dictate for me." Only yesterday had the Persian been able to levitate small objects again, stating with a pen—it seemed that with enough practice, her powers would return.

Ellen shook her head. "I don't think we need one. We probably won't be gone for more than an hour, two hours, and they'll still be out, probably. Mom said that it'd be late." With Miguel and Jack staying in their motel, the only two left in Pallet Town were Fredia and Russell, so they had decided to go out to dinner at some obscure little place in Pewter City. Fredia, finally feeling that Ellen could stay home alone, left her with a bit of money, telling her not to do anything stupid or get herself in any violent situations. Ellen assured her that she would not. Russell had given his usual gruff lopsided smile, although when he left it seemed to be cheerier than usual.

And with that, she was alone with her Pokémon. It was an odd feeling; she had become so accustomed to moving about with fear in mind that she almost could not relax. After sitting around for a bit, though, the girl had realized that it was a perfect time to have the little death rite for Kaden—Fredia and Russell were not there to question her, and it seemed more appropriate that it was at night, although getting to her destination would be much harder.

The Team Rocket Headquarters had stopped billowing smoke after a week. During that time, if one flew up into the air and was positioned in the right direction, a faint plume of smoke could be seen on the horizon. Charles guessed that it was the more reactive qualities of dragon fire compared to normal fire. Despite it being night and the smoke finally stopping, Ellen and Charles knew what direction it was in, though—they guessed that if they flew far enough, they would see it eventually.

So they roughly charted out a map to estimate where the ruins would be—they were going to rely on Kyoshi, but she gently reminded them again that just because she was Psychic did not mean that she had a good sense of direction. Thus, they estimated that it would be on a secluded island, as they had seen while looking through the windows in the building. The forest around the building may or may have not burned down, but the jagged rocks and cliff below would still be intact.

This sort of preparation of was simple—it was the mental preparation that was challenging for the young Anti-Trainer. It would be quite unpleasant to return there, especially when not all of her injuries had healed yet. It would be unpleasant for Charles as well, considering he felt a deep guilt in setting the building aflame, no matter how many unsavory characters existed in its depths. Yet, they had chosen a time and were going to go through with it.

Now everyone was fully awake, and they soon were ready to depart. Kyoshi had abandoned her note and gently placed the pen on the desk, Phil had ceased in hugging Charles, and Feolan had checked to see that the window would stay open the entire time they were gone. The dragon, still thin from the journey, was indeed able to fit through the window even with his friends on his back—and he preferred the window, as taking off from the ground was harder than starting twenty feet above it.

Pallet Town was not as quiet as it had been in the past, although the small town still held a sense of silence. It was brutally cold and windy at that, causing Charles's flight to be slightly uncomfortable. The group then had second thoughts on flying to the Headquarters, but the dragon assured them that he was fine and continued on at an even quicker pace. The same strong wing beats, the same blinding wind—it was all the same.

Ellen clutched the crude map in her scarred hands, squinting at it intently. It was useless; it was too dark to see anything. She sighed, pausing to fish in her pocket for painkillers and almost pricked herself with her knife. She had not taken her crutches along, and although she was strong enough to stand for a short period, it would hurt to do so. "Hey, Feolan. Can you see where we're supposed to be going?" She held the map in front of him, although the paper continuously flapped in the wind.

"Uh…we don't have a compass on her or anything, so I'm not sure which direction…" he frowned, squinting at the map. "You wrote something, but I can't read it. It's just a big dot…a city, I'm guessing."

"Saffron City?" she asked. "I remember writing something about Saffron…wait, or was it Cinnabar?"

"It's Cinnabar," Phil interrupted brightly, tracing his fin along the paper and leaving a slightly damp trail. "I'm positive!"

Feolan looked at him skeptically. "How'd you know that?"

The Swampert smiled proudly. "While the rest of you losers were unconscious in the Kanto Sea when we all fell, I sort of looked around for a little and saw which was Giovanni was flying."

"We're losers because we were unconscious?" Kyoshi asked acerbically.

"Well, I mean…" Phil shrugged as if it was obvious. "You should know how to swim…"

"But—but," the Persian sputtered, and finally sighed, surrendering. "Your logic makes no sense, though…"

Ellen shook her head. "Never mind that stuff. Hey, Charles, d'you think we're over Cinnabar yet?"

Charles snorted. "Doubt it." It was such a different flight from the previous escapade in the area—they were not chasing or being chased, just flying casually. "I think we've got another twenty minutes to go. And then after Cinnabar, there's a long distance…which will take about an hour…I think. And then we need to find the place, which won't be too hard. That'll give you roughly thirty minutes at the HQ. Sound long enough?"

The girl shrugged. "Sure. We can't go any faster, anyway."

"So…what d'you think you're going to do while you're there?" Feolan asked, and after seeing how Kyoshi narrowed her eyes at him, sputtered, "If I, um, can ask, I mean."

"I don't know. Well, maybe I do. But I'm not sure yet…and I have lots of time to think, so I don't have to hurry."

"Speaking of which," Charles continued, "do you have any idea what you're going to do with the Anti-Trainers?"

Ellen blinked. "Huh?"

"Well, unless Kaden says differently in his will, you're the rightful leader to the group of Anti-Trainers. Or, at least what's left of them. Now, I'm not too familiar with human laws, but correct me if I'm wrong in saying that you need to be eighteen in order to take up the responsibility."

"Yeah, I think you might be right…I've only got three more years, though. And my birthday is next month, so that's closer to two more years. And when I get to be eighteen, I might even let Russell still control it."

The Pokémon nodded and agreed, but all of them knew (with the exception of Phil, who was blowing a raspberry and seeing how much saliva flew back at his face) that Russell would die sometime, and Ellen would have to make the decision if either taking up the leadership or disbanding them. On a whim, Kyoshi mused, "Oliver seemed very excited to go after Team Rocket. Just perhaps he could…become an Anti-Trainer…?"

Ellen buried her face in her arms and said in a muffled tone, "I don't wanna talk about it." The Persian withdrew her thoughts for a bit before the girl finally continued, "The first rule I'm making as the new leader is that no one under eighteen can join the Anti-Trainers. Its way to dangerous. Second, we don't have a set base. We move a hell of a lot. Third, we all get weapons. Fourth—"

"You've certainly adapted to the job well," Charles said jokingly, pleased when he got a laugh from Ellen.

"It's not that hard. And I like it. You don't need to be too smart, and you don't need to be good at anything in school." She yawned, frowning when she realized that The Voice had been oddly quiet. Interesting. Perhaps it was weaker when she was tired.

"Hmmm, yes," the dragon answered skeptically, taking a few seconds to look down and calculate where they were. He could hear a roaring below, the ocean, and great, inky figures rose and clashed below. They were above the Kanto Sea, very close to Cinnabar, as realized when Charles saw the faint glow of the Pokémon Center ahead. Then turning his head to look at his comrades, he added, "Well, that isn't fully true. A history of warfare would be particularly useful…er, Ellen?"

"Mmmmemm," mumbled the half-asleep Anti-Trainer.

"Oh." He voiced quieted. "Sorry."

"S'kay…"

"Well, I suppose that ends the discussion," Kyoshi muttered.

"Or concussion!" Phil exclaimed randomly, crying when a speck of saliva flew into his eye.

The Persian frowned. "Please don't rhyme."

"Wait!" Feolan peered down into the abyss, his nocturnal eyes sharp. "We just passed Cinnabar, right? I think we go to the right. Going straight takes us to the Sevii Islands."

"Oh. Really? Well, I suppose you're right…" Charles tilted slightly on the wing and continued right, or east. Meanwhile, the other Pokémon had quieted down and Ellen had fallen asleep.

I am also very sad to say that falling asleep was the worst thing Ellen could have done at the time. As she slept, she began to dream, which quickly spiraled into a nightmare—and not a normal one at that. I pity her very much, because not only was her mind and The Voice at work on her dream, but other forces as well. Forces that she would never expect to meet again…

OoO

The sky rose up in some sort of a dome shape and was overtly dark, overshadowed by mountains of vicious gray clouds from which thin, pale, wraith-like creatures would jump out of, shriek madly, and burrow themselves in the clouds again. Halfway down the sky, large, black walls appeared and caged a small plot of land inside of them. Far below, the ground was coated with a kind of hard, dark mineral that seemed that it almost had veins pulsing through it—green, snake-like veins that tore though the area and up the walls until they erupted from them and formed macabre makeshift trees. There were no buildings or any sort of real life in this odd plain, only the singular figure of Ellen, unbroken and unscarred, standing in the dead center.

And The Voice was there.

'Welcome, welcome, welcome,' The Voice sighed, melancholy creeping in its ethereal tone. 'Welcome to another dream. I'm sorry I have not been around lately. I was burdened by something.'

Ellen wanted to respond to The Voice, but she was too awed by her surroundings to come up with an answer. She stomped on the ground—yes; a slight vibration ran up her foot and shin. She bit her lip, hard—yes, a bit of pain. Everything here was palpable, unlike so many other dreams. Looking up, she saw a wraith poke its head from a cloud. The otherworldly being had a skull for an emaciated head, stretched with taut gray skin. Eye sockets rested where its eyes were, deep and meaningless. The wraith disappeared moments later.

"Shit…" she mumbled. "Are you sure this is a dream? This is…real. Really real; like I'm not dreaming.

The Voice could not help but utter a dark chortle. 'Really real, you say? That's interesting. Quite true, in fact. You're right.'

She stopped, dumbfounded. "What? I'm right?"

'Yes, in fact…well, technically. You are dreaming, but another force controls it. You know—ghosts, insanity…this is what happens when you go 'crazy'. The line between fact, life, fiction, and death becomes blurry. Isn't that what one would expect?'

Ellen frowned, her eyes widening. "So…you made this happen? All of this shit, just so you could torture me in a dream?" She waved her hands in the air, indicating the macabre surroundings. "Why? Why the hell make a special effort right now? Look, I'm just gonna go to the HQ. Are you…mad at me or something?"

The Voice paused in almost sympathy. Or antipathy. 'Ellen,' it said softly, 'I never said that I made this.'

"Nice lie," she snorted.

'I'm not lying,' The Voice's tone sharpened. 'But I did contribute…I was forced to; I'm a part of your subconscious and conscious. In truth, a ghost made this, and I simply added by own little touches—the ground you're standing on, for instance. And the sky. Just simple things. But dreams are one of the few passageways between ghosts and the living, like Nothing, séances, and Ouija…you, my girl, have been granted the most realistic path. A dream allows almost complete connection. You can feel emotion. You can be aware that you're dreaming. You can…wait, that's all…' it trailed off suspiciously.

"Yeah…" she cocked her head. "And…"

'Nothing.'

"I don't believe you."

The Voice laughed bitterly. 'Why should you? I've deceived you enough times. Very well. I pity you, then. Very much so.'

"I hate you. Now I'm curious." She really did hate it. It was such an untrustworthy and unreliable source. "But I still don't believe you."

'I would believe me if I were you,' it sang proudly.

"If you need to tell me somethin', then why don't you just tell me?" she growled.

'Why, that would take all of the fun out of it! And I love a heap of fun, even when times are dire. Might I remind you of our fun little guessing game in the Team Rocket Headquarters?'

She cursed under her breath, and said, "Fine. Go ahead, I believe you. Tell me."

'Oh, I love you too. I forgot to mention that you can…feel…pain…' it finished lamely.

"I already knew that!"

'Really? Oh no. You wasted all of your breath just asking about something you already knew. Why not waste it on something you don't know? And believe me, you know very few things.'

Ellen smirked slightly, crossing her arms. "Okay then. So which ghost made this dream? Do you know?"

'Yes,' it answered bluntly.

"Really?" she was surprised, expecting that she would have to worm the answer from it. "And…?"

'And I'm not happy.' The Voice uttered a small snarl.

"So, is he going to talk to me?" The girl's smile widened into a grin, knowing that an unhappy The Voice was a good sign. Plus, she would then confirm that she had not been delusional when speaking with her father in Nothing.

'No, he does not want to speak at the moment. Perhaps later.' The Voice had grown dour, almost…worried?

Thus, Ellen grew worried as well. Her grin faded rapidly, replaced with a puzzled frown. "What…? Doesn't want to talk right now? But…I thought he'd always like to talk to his daught—"

'Oh, damnit, Ellen,' The Voice interrupted coldly, 'Just because I react badly doesn't mean that its Kaden…how should I say this…? Ellen, we're one. If you die, than I die.'

"Wait…what?" she sputtered.

The Voice sighed. 'Giovanni sends his utmost love.'

Immediately, some invisible, brutal force tore through her chest cavity and tearing the ventricles away, ripped her heart from her body. The still beating organ, which was now floating in mid-air, ceased abruptly and was viciously ripped apart before the piece were scattered all around the area.

"Uh…ow?" Ellen asked as more of a question, staring down at the giant, bloody hole that inhabited her torso. "What the hell? Wait, why didn't I die?"

'Oh, you can't die in a dream. The pain just takes longer to sink in, that's all,' The Voice explained, still sounding a bit worried.

"Uh…okay." She frowned suddenly, looking around the gloomy room. "Wait, you said Giovanni was here! Where is he?"

'Er—'

The Voice was cut off when the high-pitched scream of a wraith penetrated the cold air. The scream was not of the wraith's usual playing, but one of extreme panic. It was high, staccato, and sharp, rebounding off the black walls. Without warning, the screaming wraith swooped down to float in front of Ellen, causing her to stumble back. The being stared at her with a look of pure helplessness as its form, hyperextending until Ellen's head measured at its shoulders. Then, the wraith began clawing at its head, tearing away strips of gray flesh and flinging them upon the ground to reveal normal skin and clumps of black hair congealing on its head.

Horrified, the girl stumbled back even more and clutched her head in her hands, closing her eyes. "What the hell?" she screamed. "What the hell?"

'Calm down!" The Voice roared, but to no avail. 'I honestly don't know what's happening!' At that very moment, the pain of having one's heart ripped out (without dieing…er…) matured, and she fell to the ground, clutching the hole in her chest. '…Ellen…'

Now the wraith's shrill scream transgressed into a low roar and with this, Ellen opened her eyes in confusion, and the roar died. What she saw was hardly as the wraith had been, but still terrifying enough for her to swallow the bile that had quickly risen in her throat. It was, as most would have guessed, Giovanni. The man had completely replaced the wraith, and was viciously tearing off the last pieces of gray from his hand—and he appeared to be much younger than when Ellen had seen him. He was thin and muscular, his suit fitting him more closely, the lines had gone from his face, and his hair looked more natural in its usually elegant style. To others people, he would be very handsome.

'Oh, fuck,' The Voice muttered.

"Giovanni…?" Ellen rasped, the pain slowly subsiding from her chest. "What…?"

The Boss cast her but a side-glance. "Yes, I suppose you've never seen someone possess an empty soul. Well, you only may do that when you are…dead."

She frowned and shakily stood up, feeling slightly comforted that The Voice was there with her. "You look different."

His smile was sickeningly amiable. "Really? Good, someone else noticed besides some dead Grunts and Anti-Trainers. Yes, that's one of the advantages of being dead—one can change their age at will. I thought my late twenties looked very good, wouldn't you say?"

"…so, why're you here? Just to rip organs out of me or something?" She neatly sidestepped his last comment, gesturing to the hole in her torso. "And where're your Grunts and Executives? Where's Donovan? Where's Viola?"

"Yes, mostly rip out your organs. Just torture you and make you pay for killing me and destroying Team Rocket. You know. I'm not going to let you win that easily—dieing does not end everything."

Mentally, Ellen felt a twinge of fear. Could she not escape Giovanni and Team Rocket, even when the man was dead and the gang had been scattered across the regions? If so, than was there any way to escape him? Any way? "You didn't mention the Grunts or Executives," she said plaintively, veering off onto a less caustic topic.

No such luck, though, as shown by the slow-forming scowl on the Boss's face. "Out of my comrades, I am the only one powerful enough to connect with the living. Viola is off somewhere in Fuchsia, and Donovan…avoids me."

"Avoids you?"

"Yes." He narrowed his eyes at her. "In fact, he avoids all of Team Rocket. Apparently, he'd much rather acquaint himself with the living."

She could not help but smile slightly. "Do you finally get that I didn't kill Donovan?"

"I still do not believe it, mainly because I haven't spoken with Donovan at all. In fact, I've only spoken with a handful: some Grunts, Viola, and Kaden. I refuse to speak with the other Anti-Trainers."

"Kaden?" She was instantly curious. "Is he here?"

"Evidently not," he said, deadpan. "Oh, believe me, he did have some very colorful words for me when I first came to Nothing. But I…retaliated quite well afterwards. It's amazing what death can do for one—the more power you had in life, the more power you have in death. Best of all, there's pain. Rich, raw pain. Perhaps Kaden is a bit frightened to come here at the moment. After all, I haven't been able to find him for days. He's hiding, most likely. To bad; I'll have to go and locate him."

Horrified at what death was and how cruel Giovanni was, Ellen sprung forward to attack her enemy, just as The Voice screamed, 'Stop!' Caught with the sudden command, she stopped, stumbled, and blindly punched. The attack did catch him on his face, but he scarcely moved—the punch did nothing. As Ellen stopped, the Boss calmly caught her arm and wrenched her closer to him. He then held her wrist and said very slowly, as he proceeded to snap back and break all of her fingers, "You…snap…can…snap…not...snap…hurt...snap…me…snap."

Without pain to impede her, the girl simply stared at her mismatched and misshapen fingers in horror. Pulling away so that the two enemies were a short but reasonable distance away, she searched her pocket for her knife—where was it, damnit? She had brought it with her on the trip—and then, of course, she realized that she was dreaming. But couldn't one create things in their dream?

'Unfortunately, no. Giovanni is controlling this, I'm sorry to say,' The Voice hissed, and added desperately, 'You need to wake up. Please, try anything.'

How am I supposed to wake up? she asked back mentally. What, pinch myself? And then, aloud, clutching her broken fingers in pain, "Damnit!"

'Perhaps someone in reality will wake you up,' The Voice urged.

Giovanni frowned suddenly. "What's that voice?"

Ellen's eyes widened in shock. How could he…wait, of course. The line between ghosts and insanity was very thin; The Voice had mentioned that before.

"Is that Insanity, Fiery Sapphire? Well, we can't have it helping you. That would be unfair, wouldn't it?"

'What? No!—' Just like that, The Voice disappeared, and the girl felt totally helpless.

"Why so sad?" Giovanni asked mockingly, seeing her dejected and shocked expression. "I just cured you of a mental disorder. You should be happy!"

"Happy?" Ellen twisted her face in a grimace. For some odd reason, she felt…almost lonely without The Voice. "Happy? I'd be a lot happier—" she spat this word, "—if you left me alone!"

"Why would I want to?" he hissed. "You destroyed everything I owned in life. Now…there is nothing in death. One can't own anything." He paused, lips curling into a smile and eyes brightening. "But there are some things that still exist…there is pain…there is power…and there is sex. Yes. Just thinking about it made me want to visit Fredia again. But…just looking at her isn't enough…just lying next to her in bed isn't enough. I need to touch her, to make her palpable, to feel myself inside of her—"

"SHUT UP." Ellen had such a fierce desire to completely tear apart and kill Giovanni that she had to stop herself from leaping forward and pummeling him. He wouldn't have that arrogant smirk on his face after his rib cage had been broken, now would he? Heehee! Even without The Voice, she still felt blissfully insane. "IF YOU DON'T STOP TALKING ABOUT TORTURING MY DAD AND RAPING MY MOM, AFTER I WAKE UP I'M GOING TO GO STRAIGHT TO JHOTO AND STAB TROY AND SILVANO." With that, she realized the force of her speech and her eyes widened. What was happening to her? Was she that cruel, even to Giovanni?

Evidently, as the Boss's face had tightened with worry, his voice almost…pleading, and yet his glare was sharp and vicious. "You know, my son is in great mourning for me. For his late father..." he paused, staring at her unblinkingly. "Heartlessly murdered by an Anti-Trainer—"

"Stop it." Her voice was shivering, choked on the edge of tears. "Stop it. I don't want to kill them—"

"Cruelly murdered. Tell me, if I let you live, do you think Silvano would come and find you, too? Would you admit that you killed me? Would you tell the story of how it came about? And then…would he stab you to death with your own weapon?" His voice darkened, and he snarled, "I didn't die of fire, Ellen. I died from gun wounds."

Ellen simply stared at him, shaking her head. "No…"

"Oh, yes. When I caught aflame, I died almost immediately. It wasn't because of the fire or smoke—it was a bullet lodged in my stomach. A bullet. Silvano is going to become an excellent leader, Fiery Sapphire. He's going to remember what happened to his father—Troy will tell him eventually. He's going to know who the murderer was. What she was like. Why she murdered—all because I destroyed a sinful intruder to the Headquarters."

"You liar!" she shrieked madly. "Liar! He wasn't sinful! He wasn't just some intruder!"

"You're a murderer, Fiery Sapphire," Giovanni said severely, walking forward very slowly. "You killed me because I was a murderer. Now I'm going to do the same with you."

"No! No!" she screamed, sobbing. "Leave me alone, leave me alone! Go away—I want everything GONE!"

He smiled coldly. "Death isn't that bad. You'll be with Kaden and the other Anti-Trainers. Besides, you and I, we will have an infinite amount of things to do and pain to inflict. Won't that be fun?" With that, he shot his arm out and dug a bloody hole through her abdomen, clawing though viscera and organs until his forearm was half-immersed. At this point, the horrified Ellen tried to pull away, but his other arm seized her throat and constricted it lethally, impeding her from moving. Knowing that she was paralyzed, Giovanni took the moment to not yet grasp her spine, but simply disgust (and later hurt) her in digging about and disposing of other organs—namely, her lungs and stomach. Oddly, her body did not collapse as it would in reality, and thus left an empty cavity that made it simple for the Boss to grasp a part of her spine and snap it off at the base.

Giovanni grinned, expression flinching when snapping off her spine. "I told you that I'd get you. Even after my death, I succeed, Fiery Sapphire."

He withdrew both of his hands, still holding part of her spine with his forearm drenched in blood. Upon her throat being released from the grip, she stared at him with insane hate and rasped shrilly, "I'm…not…Fiery…Sapphire."

"What?"

"I'm…not…Fiery…Sapphire. I don't want to be…Fiery Sapphire anymore. I don't want to be in this mess…I wish I never was…I'm just Ellen. Just Ellen Adler, not Fiery Sapphire. I'm not a murderer. I'm not a murderer!"

Giovanni shook his head slowly, staring at her. "You deserve to die. Just like you thought I deserved to die…Fiery Sapphire."

As she was going to respond, a tight feeling occurred in her torso, and suddenly she was inflicted with a white-hot feeling of extreme pain, so much so that she immediately fell to the ground, screaming. The Boss laughed as he watched her thrashing about, blood spilling from the huge holes in her body.

"You deserve to die," he repeated in a hiss.

The air around her suddenly seemed to twist and coil, feeling particularly cold. No! This couldn't be death! No! She was supposed to live! Go on with her life! Grow up and lead the Anti-Trainers! Kaden! KADEN!

And suddenly, Feolan woke her up.

OoO

"ELLEN. It's freaking time to wake up. We're here, damnit, and it smells like smoke!"

Ellen's senses slowly clicked on, and inhaling, it did indeed smell lightly of smoke. Wait. Feolan. Smoke. Cold. She was awake? Her eyes snapped open to see a huge black sky above her, and for a moment she thought it was the giant, dark dome—but wait, she sat up from the ground and looked about, noticing the Pokémon standing to the side and…her eyes widened.

There before her were the remains of the Team Rocket Headquarters, a massive pile of charred, wooden rafters, smashed glass, and crumbling plaster walls, all scorched with their colors ranging from dark gray to black. It looked as if the pile rose up to the sky, from Ellen's perspective, a huge, spiraling tower. A very faint plume of smoke crawled from its depths. "Hell…" she whispered, grinning.

"I know. That's what I said when I saw it," Charles said, observing the destruction with a fine-tuned calmness.

Upon coming fully back to reality, Ellen patted her pockets to reassure herself that the FS necklace and knife were in them—yes, they were. She turned to her Pokémon, feeling slightly dizzy. Perhaps she should stay seated. "Shit, I had this really horrible dream where Giovanni came and ripped my spine out! And my heart and fingers, too!"

Phil wrinkled his snout. "Ew. You have scary dreams."

"I know," she continued, "actually, it wasn't supposed to be a dream. Giovanni was supposed to be controlling it and The Voice was trying to tell me to wake up…" she trailed off, realizing that she had not heard The Voice. In fact, there seemed to be a large emptiness in her mind. "And now The Voice is gone…but I think…I think I'm better."

Feolan blinked at her. "Uh…weird. Cut the painkillers, all right? We can't have you going loopy on us too much."

"Yeah, yeah, right…listen, I'm just gonna…go…you know…" From her pocket, she produced the FS necklace and waved it a little bit. The Pokémon understood.

She slowly stood up, realizing how much her legs hurt. She was tempted to ask the Pokémon help her walk, but it would probably be better for her to build up strength in her legs again. Besides, it was so cold and she felt particularly clammy—she needed to walk around after the terrifying dream. With this thought, she proceeded up the slight hill, wincing occasionally. Don't concentrate on pain…don't concentrate on pain…she realized that she had no planned death rite for Kaden. What was she going to do, simply leave the FS necklace there? Ha.

It was actually quite nice standing on some uncharted island, very much alone and without any sort of threat or violence that usually occurred in her life. In fact, she would have enjoyed living in this sort of…solitude, one could say. Finally, she found herself standing at the brink of the debris, the tips of her shoes touching a shriveled piece of wood. Sighing deeply, she began, "Dad, I…" and stopped, frowning. She couldn't just leave the necklace at the edge. Perhaps farther into the Headquarters…very carefully, she stepped into the debris. Her foot only sunk slightly, and making sure she was balanced, took another step. There, closer to the epicenter of destruction. It suited the death rite better.

OoO

Meanwhile, the Pokémon watched as Ellen carefully moved through the wreckage.

"Do you think we should help her or comfort her or…something?" Feolan asked, concerned.

Charles nodded. "Good idea…although she may get a bit defensive."

Feolan began to walk away. "Isn't she always…"

Kyoshi's brow was furrowed, her eyes slightly fearful. Something was wrong with the young Anti-Trainer…and the dream sounded suspicious. "Yes, we should be with her…"

"Is everything all right?" the dragon asked Kyoshi, turning to look at her.

The Persian shrugged, padding forward. "We'll see…"

"Weird…" Phil said, as Feolan and Charles exchanged worried glances.

OoO

Ellen felt a slight chill as she took one last step forward, almost to the center of the Headquarters. Although it was impossible to be in the direct center, for the amount of debris was much too high, the girl had gotten as close as she could and was balanced on a flat piece of plaster, hoping it would not crumble under her. Feeling that it was the right place to deposit the necklace, she looked at it once more and then flung it into the pile, where it clattered through various objects and finally disappeared.

And she thought back on all the things she had done, accomplished, and failed, and all the people she had met and died, and all of the places she had been to, and all of the hardships people and Pokémon had experienced in her venture, and she smirked icily, not remembering with warmth and love but with bitterness and anger.

There. She was no longer Fiery Sapphire—and she never would be again. It brought about too many horrible thoughts and memories, too many violent outcomes and deaths. Fiery Sapphire no longer existed. Only Ellen Adler was who she was, and who she would forever be.

With that, she quickly composed a short speech in her head and said, "Dad…um…this is just some death rite…thing…" she paused to cough, clearing her throat afterwards and feeling something…odd. Curiously, she looked at the arm she had coughed on and noticed flecks of blood dotting the gray flannel. Flecks of blood? What?

She didn't feel ill…there was a slight, sick feeling in her stomach, but nothing horrib

Suddenly, a shot of vicious pain tore through her torso, causing her to stumble back slightly. Shit! Her breathing became heavier, and she fumbled in her pocket for painkillers, having a fearful knowledge that they would be absolutely nothing. Alas, there were none, and the pain increased even more! Her consciousness whirled sporadically, causing her to cough and hack and spit, generating droplets of blood onto the ground and her face. She wiped it away from her mouth, disjointedly looking about. The Pokémon—she saw them coming towards her! Yes! Just as she stepped forward, another fierce coughing fit overcame her tired lungs, specking blood onto the already dead Team Rocket Headquarters. Ellen gasped, clutching her abdomen. Tears rapidly accumulated and fell from her eyes.

Damn! Damnit! What was happening? What was happening!? No! What's wrong, what's wrong? No! Pain! Hurt! Blood! Head! Dizzy...hurts…she was only a young girl…can't die! No! Why is this happening? Stumble! Vomit! Ground! Coughing—blood flecks! No! Survived everything else! Kaden! Can't die…her heart began beating at an astounding rate…Anti-Trainers! Mom! Fingers! Hurt…snapped! Pain…pain…Pokémon? Pokémon! Hurt. Help…the internal hemorrhaging coupled with the pain caused her to sob with fright…Charles! Pokémon! Feolan! Kyoshi! Phil! Help! Giovanni! Killed! Murdered! Flecks, blood, vomit, pain, hurt, knees buckle, hit…the…ground…and…

nothing

Absolutely nothing.

OoO

Years later, when Oliver had defeated the remains of Team Rocket and introduced the figure of Ellen to the public, most say that Ellen Adler died very differently than normal people would die—it was more Pokémon than human.

As she lay in the charred mass of the Headquarters, a simple corpse, lifeless, cold— her soul detached from her body very oddly so it seemed…that it was not meant for Nothing. The ghosts waited patiently for her to appear, though, Kaden miserable that there was nothing he could do, and Giovanni feeling particularly decadent that he was the cause of her death. In fact, a very large number of ghosts seemed to be anticipating her arrival.

But she never appeared.

It was as if she had disappeared from Everything itself.

There were some theories to this: the most popular and believable one was that Ellen, being infected with Pokémon Speech Disorder, went to another level of Nothing where she was given a new, ethereal form and sent out into Kanto again in the form of a small Hoothoot.

No one really knows what to believe, though.

And perhaps they wanted to keep it that way, to have Ellen as a questionable Anti-Trainer for eternity—even when Silph Co. finally boarded it's doors and closed, even when Cinnabar Island was destroyed by a volcano eruption, even when Fuchsia City's Safari Zone closed down, and even when the last traces of Team Rocket and the Anti-Trainers disappeared forever, lost to the relentless jaws of time.

Most agreed on one thing, though: She may have been without her friends and family, but Ellen Adler—not Fiery Sapphire, was very alone and, possibly, very happy where she was.

End

OoO

October 16, 2007-- Because my 'inner-demons' have provoked me enough to re-write this little section, I'm getting it over with. Lovingly.

Poor Ellen Adler died. I suppose some people expected it...or maybe not, considering the wild humor in the first few sections...hmm...where did she go? You can decide for yourself.

Well, there it is. It's finished. I don't know what else to say. I mean, I suppose I could say that this was written at a sharp rate of growth both mentally and physically in my life...but that wouldn't really mean anything...

I could say thank you to people...

So, thank you, reviewers. Thank you, people who randomly look at my story and don't review. I love you dearly, you know that? I really do. No lie.

Thank you, Rawhide and ParallelRose, for giving me wonderful reviews...you keep up your stories, too!

Thank you, Ri2, for injecting of logic and TRUTHINESS into your reviews, and, ultimately, this story. Now, go submit your writing to the New Yorker, or something!

Thank you, LuigiGirl and Mog Anarchy for reviewing, as well! Really! You two better finish FOG!

Thank you, Fanfiction...

Thank you, parents, for feeding, housing, and-- um, I believe that's about it. The gypsies dropped me on the doorstep, anyway.

And...especially...

Thank you, Iddamsoyt. We've had some great times over the past five years, and you survived my pointless questions about Fiery Sapphire. I'm not sure if you're going to read this, or ever read this, for that matter, but I really don't care. Just, thanks for being a wonderful friend. Oh, and you owe me money. Just kidding.

If I forgot anyone else, please don't brutally kill me. I forget things easily.

I hope that I've made you smile…or gasp…or squirm…or laugh…or anything else. Here, I bestow upon you a virtual hug!

In the similar words of Thornton Wilder, 'Good-bye, good-bye, Fiery Sapphire. Good-bye, Kanto...Ellen and Charles and Feolan and Kyoshi and Phil. Good-bye to Anti-Trainers...and Team Rocket. And knives and revolvers. And high-end department stores and British Meowths...and missing fathers and kidnapped brothers. Oh, writing, you're too time-consuming for anyone to realize you.

Oh, and remember to leave a REVIEW…

And check out my new fanfiction, A Smoke Menagerie.

Exit, stage left!