Hey, guys! I'm so sorry for the super duper late update. I couldn't find any ideas on what to do with this particular battle. D: But I never gave up! This story is now 470 pages long as of last chapter and has a total of 176 reviews! Thank you, everyone!

It seems everybody is excited for the celebratory party after all of these battles. Thank you all for over 8,000 hits! I'm so grateful! Some people have already made team switches and clothes swaps for their OCs. And I just realized that by the time all of these battles are over, I'll be at forty chapters. With all the extras and the party, this story might be around 43 or 44 chapters long.

Ketchum Kid, I like your idea a whole lot. It would serve to remind Mark that, just like during his first match against Mist, he isn't invincible. I can already imagine the whole fight playing out. As for yours and Portuguese of Pride's questions, I do plan on having the early Shadow Pokemon reappear and a plan for the whole purification process. I admit that in my rush to get to all the big battles, I haven't put in much about the Shadow Pokemon's recovery. I'm trying to fix that but I'm known to be lazy on those kinds of things. I'll try my best, though. If need be, I'll write a spin-off concerning their recovery. I also plan to post a list of the current Shadow Pokemon that have been seen and caught that I've been making, so all of you new readers will know who's been met and who hasn't. This'll also help in the creation of future Cipher agents…I hope.

If anyone remembers the chapter I promised to write called "Reasons" explaining all of the Cipher Gym Leaders and other high rank agents' reasons for joining Cipher, I'm going to make that a spin-off once I have time to write it. Just making sure that I make good to my promise of explaining all that stuff to you guys. Holy, this story sure has a lot to go through in the future. -_-' I hope I can get to it all.

And I've made the final decisions on who goes where. If I missed anyone, please tell me. If not, these are the plans.

Off to Johto are Mark, Alex, KC, and Mist. A bit later, Luffy, Brad, Otullisa, Michael Andrews, and TK will join them, along with one of my special characters that you've already been introduced to. They'll be taking a boat there.

Off to the Orange Islands are Ryan, Ookami, Will, Freeze, and Blacky. Joining them later will be Bandit and Silver. Blacky's Dragonite will be flying them there.

Off to the Sevii Islands are Leena, Jake, Zack, and Roen. Ryo Sentria and Terra White will be joining them later. Zack's Gyarados will be carrying them there.

I still need an Orange Island Gym Leader for Navel Island. Fernanda is stationed at Mikan Island, Wensley is stationed at Trovita Island, and Mimi is stationed at Kumquat Island. You can also begin submitting Johto Gym Leaders now. TK (Battonage), Sarquiss, and Buck are the only ones to date currently, if I remember correctly. That means Olivine, Cianwood, and Violet City Gyms are taken. Calor may also be joining the Snaggers somewhere in Johto but I'm still figuring out where. Hina Mori will be met when the group heads to Orre, Mossnose.

Anyway, I think that's all I have to announce. Man, this was one long announcement. This is probably the biggest Author's Note I've ever written and all it took was one whole page on Word Document! Hooray for me!

I hope you're all satisfied with where your OC is going. As I said before, everyone will end up in Johto halfway through anyway, so don't panic. KCSonic113, Luffy and Brad's location at first will be revealed during the party a.k.a. chapter 41. And yes, Krystal shall be at the party. I hope you all enjoyed the previous chapter. Onto the story!

Chapter 39: Flames and Endurance

The orange blasts shot around the arena and through the smoke cloud that hid the three trainers. Lance was shouting orders while Will was just struggling to stay on Salamence's back. The Dragon-type was continually moving to dodge Hyper Beams, firing his own to retaliate. Will couldn't see where Lance or Chase was, but he could hear them pretty good.

What's the matter with me? I've got to be in on this fight, too! Will thought. But I can hardly stay on this guy! I don't even know what attacks he has aside from Hyper Beam! Wait…the PokeDex! That should tell me what attacks he's got!

Just as Will reached into his pocket to retrieve his PokeDex, a Shadow Hyper Beam struck Salamence from the left and knocked him out of the sky. Will plunged from the cloud and fell toward the ground. The brunette screamed the loudest he'd ever screamed in his life and closed his eyes, waiting to hit the ground.

Suddenly, he landed on something that was definitely not the ground. Whimpering, he rubbed his aching back and sat up. Then he realized what he was on.

"Salamence!" he cried.

The Dragon-type turned his head to look at the teen and nodded. "Sal," he rumbled.

The smoke cloud dispersed, allowing Chase and Lance to see each other as well as notice Will. "Will, what are you doing down there? Hang on! Were you the one that fell?" Lance asked.

"Um…yeah!" Will nodded. "But Salamence saved me, so I'm okay!"

"He just got lucky. It won't happen again." Chase said.

Will sighed and looked down at the Dragon-type he was riding on. I guess Mark meant what he said back on the stairway, he thought, remembering their trade.

"Deal!" Mark tossed his rival Salamence's Poke Ball and caught Elekid's. "Take care of him."

"Don't worry! I will!" Will nodded.

"That's not what I meant. I told Salamence to take care of you." Mark laughed.

"Grrrr!" Will ignored Mark, angry about the comment.

Will sighed. "I'll prove him wrong. I can take good care of myself, but everyone needs help now and then. Even Mark…"

A stray Hyper Beam suddenly crashed into front of them, alarming Salamence and causing him to pump his wings faster to escape. Once they were a safe distance away, Lance and his Dragonite flew toward them. He was glaring at Chase's Flygon, the remnants of a Shadow Hyper Beam faded from its jaws.

"Are you all right?" Lance asked.

"Yeah. He just caught me by surprise." Will said. "But I'll get him back. I'll show this guy who's the boss here!"

"We can't risk being reckless. This trainer didn't become a Cipher Elite 4 member for no reason." Lance explained. "He's very powerful, possibly even stronger than me. That's why you're here, Will. I need help against him, but recklessness is not an option here. We have to think of a plan."

"That'll take too long! He'll kill us before we can think of one!" Will argued.

A Shadow Blast shot between them, forcing Lance and Will to scatter. Lance glared at Chase. "Will, what attacks does Salamence have?" he called.

"I don't know! I'll check my Poke—oh no!" Will cried.

"What is it?" Lance demanded.

"My PokeDex! I must've dropped it when I fell!" Will replied. "Oh, man! Where is it?"

"Looking for this?" Chase asked, pointing straight down.

Will's eyes followed where the Cipher Elite 4 member was pointing and gasped. Lying in the Shadow Flygon's shadow, almost completely hidden, was Will's PokeDex. It didn't look damaged but Will wasn't afraid of that. Chase hid his PokeDex on purpose. But why?

"Grrr! What bad luck!" Lance growled. "We have to get it back!"

"No," Chase disagreed. "What good luck…for me."

"Huh?" Will didn't get it.

"Guessing from why you need a PokeDex, I'm assuming that Pokemon isn't yours." Chase continued, slowly smiling. "From previous records we have of all the Snaggers' fights, that Salamence no doubt belongs to your leader, Mark Hunter. Also, since you have not given it any orders, you must not know any of its attacks aside from Hyper Beam. One attack won't get you very far in this battle."

"So he knew from the start." Lance muttered. "He's not just strong, he's clever. Will, we have to be careful around him!"

"You'll need to be more than careful, Lance. You'll be the first to fall." Chase said. He pointed at Lance. "Attack, Flygon. Shadow Hyper Beam!"

"Hyper Beam!" Lance shouted.

Both blasts collided, exploding. Before Lance could issue another command, Chase and Flygon rammed into Dragonite from the side and sent them hurtling toward the ground. Dragonite twisted around at the last second, sending a Wing Attack crashing into Shadow Flygon's chest.

"Lance, what do I do?" Will cried.

"Get your PokeDex!" Lance shouted, dodging another Shadow Hyper Beam. "Once you know Salamence's moves, come up with a strategy and attack!"

"O-okay!" Will replied. "Salamence, let's go!"

"Sala!" the Dragon-type grunted.

The blue dragon dove and flew along the ground, aiming for Will's PokeDex. Only two feet away, Will reached out a hand to grab it…only to have something hit them from below and send Will sprawling away from his PokeDex. Salamence crashed somewhere nearby, coughing up a bit of blood.

"Ugh…what hit me?" Will coughed.

"Gab!" a voice growled.

"You really think I didn't plan ahead, Lance?" Chase asked. "I knew that attacking you would allow Will to retrieve his PokeDex. So I had a trap readied beforehand."

Will looked up and growled in frustration. Standing between him and his PokeDex…was a Shadow Gabite. A large hole in the ground next to it showed what it had done. It had tunneled under the arena and rammed them from below. The Dragon/Ground-type gave a toothy grin, clearly acknowledging its victory.

"Will, be careful!" Lance cried.

"You're the one who better be careful, Lance." Chase warned. "Flygon, use Shadow Blast and follow up with Shadow Rush."

"Dragonite, counter with Outrage!" Lance ordered.

Dragonite easily dodged the blast of dark energy, charging as it fell into a rampage. It lashed out with fists, claws, feet, and teeth, trying to inflict as much damage as possible. Shadow Flygon defended itself, tossing out a few Shadow Dragon Claws in the process. Both Dragon-types were intent on bringing the other down quickly.

Will turned his attention back to the Shadow Gabite. I've got to beat this guy and get my PokeDex back, he thought. And my best chance is to use an Ice-type, but I don't have one. Maybe…?

The Shadow Gabite blinked curiously as Will grabbed a Poke Ball, tossing it. "Go, Lombre!" he cried.

"Lombre bre!" the Grass/Water-type cried.

"Use Waterfall!" Will ordered.

Lombre lifted its arms, summoning a huge waterfall that crashed down on Gabite. The Shadow Pokemon cried out, lashing out with its arms to protect itself. When the water finally stopped hitting it, the Gabite realized that Will was gone. Looking around wildly, it didn't notice the shadow appearing above it until it was too late.

"Ice Beam, Lombre!" Will shouted.

"Lom…BREEEEE!!" Lombre cried.

Gabite roared in pain as the ice hit it, trapping it in a solid block of ice. Unable to move, the Shadow Gabite could do nothing to prevent Will from retrieving his PokeDex. The brunette quickly snatched up the PokeDex, dashing back to Salamence to heal his wounds with a Hyper Potion.

"Now to see what attacks you have," Will muttered, pointing the PokeDex at Salamence. "Hyper Beam, Fire Blast, Dragon Rage, and Giga Impact! Cool!"

"AAAAH!!"

"Lance!" Will cried, looking up just in time to jump on Salamence's back and escape as Dragonite crashed to the ground. "Lance! Are you okay?!"

Lance groaned, sitting up. "I think so, but Dragonite definitely isn't."

The Dragon-type had a deep gash in his side, blood running from it. The Elite 4 member grabbed a Poke Ball, unleashing one of his two Dragonair. Upon seeing it, Will got an idea.

"Hey, can't Dragonair do a whole lot of cool stuff? Maybe we can beat him by using Dragonair's abilities!" Will suggested.

"Maybe," Lance muttered, returning Dragonite. "I'll have the other on standby in case things take a turn for the worst. Did you get your PokeDex?"

"Yeah," Will nodded. "I'm ready this time!"

"Good, because we need a plan right now!" Lance said.

"Dragon-types are weak to Ice-type moves. My Lombre just froze Chase's Gabite. Maybe we can take his Pokemon down that way." Will pointed out.

"Sounds like a plan. Let's do it." Lance said.

Climbing aboard their Dragon-types, Lance and Will took to the air to confront Chase again. Chase frowned. Will nodded to his Lombre, coming up with a plan.

"Still fighting?" Chase asked.

"Of course! And we'll be winning soon, too!" Will declared. "Lombre, use Ice Beam!"

"Dragonair!" Lance called.

Dragonair's eyes began to glow at the same moment Lombre launched a blast of ice at Flygon. The swift Ground/Dragon-type easily dodged the attack, grinning. Suddenly, it cried out as the attack suddenly hit it in the back. Wheeling around, the Flygon searched for the source of the attack.

"Use Ice Beam again, Lombre!" Will ordered.

Shadow Flygon dodged the attack again while Chase watched the blast, waiting to see what happened…only to stare in shock as the beam suddenly turned around and shot back toward him! Flygon dodged again and again as the Ice Beam continued to try and hit it, never slowing down. Growing exhausted, Flygon stopped flapping its wings for a moment to rest. Big mistake…

"Now!" Lance shouted.

The Ice Beam crashed into Flygon's wings, encasing them in ice. Unable to fly, the Shadow Pokemon plunged toward the ground. Salamence and Will were waiting below, striking them with Giga Impact and sending Flygon sailing toward the ceiling. Twisting around, Flygon managed to hit a wall and land on the ground.

"Don't give him even a second to recover, Will!" Lance cried.

"I know!" Will barked. "Lombre, use Hydro Pump!"

Flygon cried out in pain as the water hit it, struggling to free its wings. Managing to shatter the ice, it tried to let off one last Shadow Hyper Beam. Lance retaliated with a Hyper Beam of his own, defeating the Flygon. The Shadow Pokemon fainted, crashing to the ground.

"Alright! We did it!" Will cheered.

"I admit that you're a pretty good opponent. Why are you with the Snaggers?" Chase asked. He hopped off of his defeated Flygon, throwing out a normal Dragonair.

"I have to keep up with my rival. If he gets better than me, then what was the point of being rivals with him?" Will stated, reaching down to pat Salamence's back. "This gives me a chance to train and get stronger. And I'm making plenty of new friends along the way. I like that."

"Your talent could've been better used elsewhere." Chase said. "Then again, all of you Snaggers are fools. All you care about are the Pokemon. Pathetic,"

"So what if we're pathetic in your eyes? You guys are just as pathetic!" Will smirked. "Especially since you're not watching the battle anymore!"

"Huh?"

"Lance, now!" Will cried.

"Go!" Lance ordered.

Chase's Dragonair cried out in pain as Lance's two Dragonair struck from beneath with twin Hyper Beams. Lance reappeared by Will's side, his Dragonair in tow. Chase glared, but focused his gaze on Will.

Will seemed to know what Chase wanted. "It's like Lance said before. I rush into things without thinking about the risks. I act before thinking. Now I'm doing it on purpose, Chase. I do the acting, Lance does the thinking."

"While you were too busy trying to convince Will into turning on me, I called out my other Dragonair." Lance added. "Dragonair have many special powers, one being to increase their attack power by combining their attack modes. That's what I just did. Impressed?"

"A little," Chase muttered. "But I'll still win. Dragonair, use Iron Tail."

"Salamence, hit it with Fire Blast!" Will cried.

Salamence dodged around the Iron Tail, breathing a column of flame at the Dragonair. It easily escaped, only to be struck with Thunder Wave by one of Lance's Dragonair. The Fire Blast hit the ground, freeing Chase's second Shadow Pokemon from its icy prison.

"Dragonair, use Aqua Tail." Chase ordered.

When his Dragonair didn't move, Chase realized the problem. Thunder Wave had paralyzed it. Lance took his chance, unleashing Outrage from both of his Dragonair upon the paralyzed Dragon-type. Will moved in to help, only to spot movement below.

"Oh, no!" the brunette growled. "That Gabite must've gotten out! I've got to get rid of it…fast!"

Salamence dove toward the ground, leaving Lance to fight Chase alone once again. Will growled as the Shadow Gabite fled underground, leaving him in the dark as to where it would pop up. Lombre was preparing an Ice Beam to defend them with, since Ice-type moves were super effective against Gabite.

"Come out, you…" Will muttered. "You can't stay there forever."

"Gabite gab!" the Gabite screeched, bursting out from their left.

"Lombre!" Will shouted.

Before Lombre could properly aim its attack, Gabite smacked it away with Shadow Dragon Claw. Focusing its attention on Salamence, it suddenly unleashed a huge sandstorm. Coughing, Will crossed his arms over his face to keep the sand out of his eyes. He couldn't see!

Salamence suddenly roared, crashing to the ground and throwing Will off. Struggling to his feet, he could see the silhouettes of the two Dragon-types fighting. Will looked up, trying to spot Lance. He couldn't see either Lance or Chase!

"Lance! Where are you?!" Will cried.

A huge silhouette suddenly appeared before him, claw raised to strike. Grabbing a Poke Ball, Will tossed it and prayed it was something good. The claw was instantly caught in a hand while the other hand began punching at the Gabite's stomach at rapid speed. Shadow Gabite ripped itself free, backing away.

"Ape ape!"

"Infernape! Thanks, buddy!" Will cried.

His Infernape nodded, eyes narrowing as it searched the sandstorm for the Shadow Pokemon. The sandstorm suddenly vanished, being replaced by rain. Yelping in pain, Infernape was quickly returned to his Poke Ball. Will located Lombre and dashed to its side, helping the Grass/Water-type up.

"Where did this rain come from?" Will wondered.

"You can thank my Dragonair for that, Will!" Lance called. "One of their powers is to change the weather. I turned it to rain for a reason."

"Why?" Will asked.

"You figure it out!" Lance chuckled, turning his attention back to Chase. "Now to finish your Dragonair,"

"Go ahead. I still have two more Pokemon for you to defeat, not including Gabite." Chase replied. "My last is my strongest Shadow Pokemon. You'll never defeat it."

"I guarantee you that we will." Lance said. "Dragonair, use Double Hyper Beam!"

Twin blasts of orange energy knocked Chase's Dragonair out, causing him to jump into the air. He tossed a Poke Ball, releasing a jet black Aerodactyl. Landing on its back, he sighed and shook his head.

"You two are really getting on my nerves." Chase said.

"Good! That's what we want to do." Lance replied. "Dragonair, use Double Hyper Beam!"

"Aerodactyl, use Shadow Ancient Power." Chase ordered.

With a single swipe of its giant bat-like wings, Shadow Aerodactyl summoned huge rocks from the ground and flung them at the two Dragonair. Their long, serpentine bodies easily weaved around the rocks, firing twin orange blasts at the Shadow Pokemon. Aerodactyl countered with its own Shadow Hyper Beam, causing an explosion that shrouded them in smoke.

"Damn it!" Chase hissed, searching the smoke for any sign of the Elite 4 member.

"You don't know anything about how to properly care for Pokemon, especially the majestic Dragon-type." Lance said from somewhere behind him.

"What?!" Chase whipped around but couldn't find Lance. "Where are you? Come out."

"Pokemon are just tools to you people, weapons for pure destruction." Lance continued, this time from somewhere to Chase's left. "Pokemon are more than just fighting machines. They have hearts and emotions for a reason. Yet you people dare to close their hearts and erase their emotions!"

"Silence!" Chase growled. "Aerodactyl, Shadow Impact!"

The Shadow Pokemon rocketed through the smoke, trying to hit Lance. The Dragonair escaped, hiding within the smoke once again. Chase was slowly losing his grip on his cool attitude. Lance was really getting him mad.

"The Dragon-type are practically mythical creatures. Hard to catch and raise, their power is far superior to that of other Pokemon." Lance said from somewhere to Chase's right. "They're virtually indestructible! They demand respect from their trainers and in return, they respect and honor their trainers. But if you take away their heart and emotions, that respect and honor disappears!"

"Why are you telling me this, Lance? They're only Pokemon. There are more of them in the world." Chase said coldly. "Why do you fight so hard for them?"

Chase shivered as he felt as presence behind him. Lance smirked as he stood atop of Aerodactyl, directly behind Chase. "Because…Pokemon are my friends. And friends help each other."

"How can Pokemon and humans ever be friends?!" Chase shouted, turning around and attempting to punch Lance.

Lance smirked, jumping back onto one of his Dragonair. "Friendship can exist between any species, Chase. You just have to believe."

"And if I don't?" Chase demanded.

"Then you're not worthy of living alongside Pokemon." Lance replied.

Before Chase could respond, Aerodactyl screamed as a pair of jaws snatched it from below. Chase struggled to stay on the Shadow Pokemon, looking down and gasping in shock. Lance's Gyarados had struck them from below with Bite, attempting to take Aerodactyl down while Chase was distracted.

"Aerodactyl, use—?!" Chase never got to finish.

"Gyarados, toss Aerodactyl into the air and use Twister!" Lance cried.

The Water-type threw its head back, tossing the wounded Aerodactyl as high as it could. Gyarados then began to spin, forming a huge twister directly below it. The Shadow Pokemon screeched as it fell into the twister, flapping its wings desperately to get free. Realizing its predicament, it threw Chase off in a last ditch effort to save its trainer.

Chase fell toward the ground. Flygon, Dragonair, Gabite, Aerodactyl…you've all failed me. I guess only my best can defeat these Snaggers. Damn, he thought.

The twister vanished and Aerodactyl flapped its wings, trying to remain upright. Dragonair's eyes began to glow and a blast of water hit the Rock/Flying-type in the chest, knocking it out. Lance tossed a Snag Ball, capturing the Shadow Pokemon.

"Hey!" Will shouted, glaring up at Lance.

"Sorry, but I had to!" Lance replied, smirking. "Now then, where did he…?"

Lance finally spotted Chase just as the Cipher Elite 4 member threw his last Poke Ball toward the ground, landing on the cottony back of his final Pokemon. It was an Altaria with black skin and a gray cotton-like body and wings. The Shadow Pokemon dropped Chase off on the ground, turning its glowing red gaze toward Lance.

"So, that is your strongest Pokemon?" Lance asked.

"My last and strongest, to be exact," Chase corrected. "Disappointed?"

"Oh, no," Lance chuckled. "I've been waiting for this. Now we can go all-out!"

Chase smirked. "You'll find that Altaria is nothing like my other four Pokemon."

"I should hope not! Your other Pokemon weren't as strong as I expected them to be, Chase." Lance said. "I'm hoping that your strongest will actually be a challenge."

"Oh, she'll be more than a challenge. She'll win this battle for me." Chase declared.

"Let's just test that theory!" Lance cried. "Dragonair, use Hyper Beam and Thunder Wave!"

Chase smirked. "Shadow Dragon Dance," he ordered.

Altaria put on a beautiful dance, flapping her gray cotton wings majestically. When her dance was finished, the Dragon/Flying-type suddenly charged with the speed of a rocket. She easily dodged the two attacks, aiming for one of the Dragonair.

"Shadow Ice Peck!" Chase cried.

"Ice Peck?!" Lance repeated. Just what kind of attack in an Ice Peck? I've never heard of it! "Dragonair, dodge it!"

"Too late!" Chase laughed.

Altaria rammed into one of the Dragonair's underbellies, her beak glowing a bright white and drawing blood. Ice formed along Dragonair's blue and white scales, almost entirely freezing a section of its long body. Altaria pulled away, returning to Chase's side. The ice that had coated its beak melted away.

"Dragonair!" Lance cried.

"Nair nair! Nair…" The Dragonair crashed to the ground, wounded.

"What did you do?! What was that attack, Chase?" Lance demanded.

"A combination of Shadow Chill and Shadow Peck," Chase replied. "I warned you, Lance. Altaria is nothing like my other Pokemon. She's my ultimate fighter!"

Lance growled, returning his Dragonair. This isn't good, he thought. This guy…am I even sure we can beat him?!

At the bridge that spans across Tohjo Falls…

Mist, Freeze, and Brad arrived at Tohjo Falls at long last. Freeze pocket his teleporting device and sat on a bench. Brad helped Mist to another bench, feeling a bit sick from flying through space to reach the massive waterfall. Mist took a deep breath and tilted his head back, watching the sky.

"Well, we made it. Now what?' Brad asked.

"We wait," Mist replied.

"Why should we wait?!" Freeze demanded. "We already betrayed Cipher! Who cares if we waltz into the Indigo Plateau?"

"Would you like Mark's allies to attack us, Freeze?" Mist asked. "I'd prefer to wait until Mark is through battling the Cipher Champion so that we can speak with him directly. We'll have a greater chance of gaining their trust that way."

"Hey, who is the Cipher Champion, anyway?" Brad asked. "Can Mark beat him?"

"I'm almost positive he can," Mist said. "Even if they gave him that Pokemon, Mark will come up with a plan to defeat it. He and Red will win. At least, they better win or all we've worked for will have been in vain."

"You still never answered my question," Brad commented.

"I honestly don't know who the Cipher Champion is." Mist admitted. "We Cipher Gym Leaders have never seen them before. We assisted in picking the Cipher Elite 4 but the Champion…only the boss knows who the Champion is."

"Why are you so worried? What Pokemon could they have given the Cipher Champion that would make Mark and red lose?" Freeze asked.

"The strongest Shadow Pokemon that Cipher has obtained so far," Mist replied, lifting a hand to shield his eyes from the sun. "…Mew…"

Indigo Plateau, Chase's arena…

Will tore his eyes off of Lance and Chase's battle, focusing on the weakened Shadow Gabite in front of him. I've got to beat this guy and help Lance! But how…? An idea suddenly hit him and the brunette grabbed a Poke Ball from his belt, pressing it to the ground.

Gabite growled, stepping forward. Even with the rain hitting him from Lance's Dragonair's weather-changing power, the Dragon/Ground-type wasn't about to give up. Raising a claw, it prepared to finish Lombre off with a Shadow Dragon Claw. Just as it was bringing its claw down, the ground began to shake. Gabite snarled in rage, backing up a step and looking around wildly in search of the source.

Chase stumbled around, confused by the shaking. Shadow Altaria quickly landed, allowing her trainer to hop on her back and escape the mysterious earthquake. Will smirked.

"Game over, Gabite!" he cried. "Now, hit that Shadow Pokemon with Ice Fang!"

Before Gabite could react, a huge purple arm with two sharp claws burst from the ground and snatched him up. The Shadow Pokemon roared in agony as ice crept across its blue and red skin. The arm's owner erupted from the ground, icy mist escaping from its jaws as it sank its teeth into the Gabite's leg.

"No way! How did that get here?!" Chase cried.

"While you guys were fighting, I used his Poke Ball to release him underground. Gabite never noticed anything until it was too late!" Will replied. "Say hello to my most defiant but strongest Pokemon!"

"Draaaaapion!" Drapion screeched.

Gabite let out a gurgled cry of pain as Drapion dropped him to the ground. Will tossed a Snag Ball, capturing the Shadow Pokemon easily. Patting Drapion, he smirked up at Chase. The Cipher Elite 4 member just stared at him in shock.

"Impressive, Will!" Lance commented.

"Thanks! I have more tricks up my sleeve if you care to see them." Will said. "Now then, let's take down that Altaria and end this!"

"Gladly!" Lance nodded.

"I can guarantee that doing that won't be as easy as you think." Chase growled. "Altaria, fly up high and get ready to attack."

The cottony bird-like Pokemon nodded, flapping her large wings and flying toward the ceiling. Lance's Dragonair followed her, readying for anything the Cipher Elite 4 member might pull. Will returned Drapion and hoped onto Salamence's back, carrying Lombre with him. The Water/Grass-type, though injured, wasn't going to miss out on this battle.

"Altaria, use Shadow Safeguard and charge up your energy for Shadow Sky Attack." Chase ordered.

"Now what?!" Will asked. "We can't attack if Safeguard is up!"

"That doesn't mean we can't plan ahead," Lance pointed out. "I have a plan, Will. Listen closely, okay?"

"Okay!" Will nodded.

Meanwhile, Chase smirked triumphantly as Shadow Altaria gathered all the strength she needed for Shadow Sky Attack. "Now, hit them with all you have. Knock them out of the sky!" he cried, jumping off her back and to the ground below.

"RIAAAAAA!!" Altaria screeched, shooting forward as her body lit aflame with red fire.

"Now, Will!" Lance shouted.

Salamence and Will shot overhead, leaving Lance as the only target. Altaria picked up speed, intent on at least taking one of her opponents down with her attack. Chase started laughing, getting ready to call the Elite 4 member a fool…when Altaria smashed face-first into Dragonair's own Safeguard. The Dragon-type was stunned, giving Will a chance to attack.

"Lombre, use Ice Beam!" Will cried.

Altaria shrieked in pain as the ice crashed into her back, tossing her to the floor far below. Dragging herself out of the crater her impact had created, she shot a Shadow Dragonbreath at them in revenge. Salamence countered with Hyper Beam, causing yet another explosion. Altaria took to the air, furious.

"Altaria, use Shadow Blast!" Chase ordered.

"Thunder Wave, Dragonair!" Lance cried.

"Use Fire Blast, Salamence!" Will yelled.

Altaria unleashed a blast of dark energy, narrowly missing Salamence by inches. Electricity suddenly zapped her, paralyzing her muscles and preventing her from fighting back. Then a huge column of flame shot at her, burning the cotton that coated her body and nearly knocking her out. Altaria suddenly opened her beak and began to sing.

The effects were instantaneous. Salamence and Dragonair's eyes fell shut and both Dragon-types plunged to the ground, fast asleep. Will and Lance had no choice but to return them. Lance brought out his Gyarados and Will called out Infernape. Altaria landed beside Chase, her muscles still refusing to unlock from their paralysis.

"You two are pretty clever," Chase complimented. "It's too bad we're enemies."

"Indeed," Lance nodded. "You would've made a great Dragon-type trainer. It's too bad you chose to side with darkness. I don't know how you'll ever gain a Pokemon's respect after doing this to them."

"I could care less for a Pokemon's respect." Chase said coldly. "Pokemon are just tools to be used at our leisure. Emotions get in the way of their ultimate purpose—to serve us. We're the gods of this world, not them! We command everything, not them! Without us, Pokemon would be nothing but wild beasts!"

"Pokemon survived perfectly fine before we ever came up with the idea to tame them." Lance commented. "Pokemon and humans work together to keep this world in balance. Without one, the other cannot hope to survive for very long. You people are breaking that balance!"

"We're not breaking it. We're just…remaking it." Chase corrected.

"By putting the world in danger?! That's messed up!" Will cried.

"With reward comes risk. This is the risk for remaking the world." Chase replied.

"Maybe you want o take that risk but we don't!" Will snapped.

"If a few innocent people must perish in order for our goals to come to fruition, so be it. It'll be a few less fools in our new world." Chase said. "You best give up now. You children are in way over your heads."

"No way!" Will growled. "I'm not giving up here! You people don't understand anything about what you're doing! Closing their hearts, taking their emotions away…you're practically taking away their individuality!"

"And I care…why?" Chase asked.

Will just glared at him, unable to come up with an answer.

"Regardless, I'll give you one more chance to flee." Chase said.

"Never," Will said.

"To flee now would be to abandon the very people we've vowed to protect." Lance added. "I, too, shall stay. We will either win or die trying."

"Then I guess you'll die," Chase said. "Altaria, let's end this."

Chase pulled out a Paralyze Heal from his pocket, using it to cure his last Pokemon. Altaria stretched his wings before turning her hateful gaze upon Lance and Will. Chase nodded and the Dragon-type took to the air, flying toward the ceiling. Opening her beak, she summoned up as much red-hot energy as she could in her beak. In no time, a huge fireball hovered in front of her and within it…a glowing meteor appeared.

"No way!" Will yelped.

"Yes way! This attack will end it all!" Chase declared. "Altaria, use this Shadow Draco Meteor to eliminate these pests once and for all! Long live Cipher!"

"Lance, what do we do?!" Will cried. "We can't dodge that!"

"I know," Lance muttered. "…But maybe we don't have to. Will, I'll need your help with this!"

"Anything!" Will agreed.

Chase smirked. "Whatever plan you have will never succeed! Say goodbye!" he yelled. "Altaria, finish them now!"

Will grabbed three Poke Balls from his belt, staring in horror as the huge meteor hurtled toward them. The pair braced themselves as the attack hit them, knocking both Gyarados and Infernape out immediately. When the flames finally dispersed, Chase laughed upon seeing both of his opponents sprawled on the arena floor. Altaria gasped for breath, exhausted from using such a powerful attack.

"That's what you get for attacking Cipher, fools!" Chase shouted, laughing. "You wanted death, so I gave it to you! Now I just have to eliminate the rest of your friends and nobody will stand in our way!"

Will twitched, a small smirk on his face. Pressing the button on the first Poke Ball, he shoved it against the dirt and breathed raggedly. "Dig," he whispered.

The ground began to shake. Chase yelped, stumbled around desperately. "What the?! But how?! You're dead!" he cried.

Will pressed the button on the second Poke Ball, unleashing his Staraptor. The Flying-type picked up the third Poke Ball and took off, using the shadows as cover. Will coughed before issuing an order.

"Ice Fang!" the brunette cried.

"No you don't! Altaria, get as far off the ground as possible!" Chase ordered.

The Dragon-type flew toward the ceiling, escaping the shaking ground below. She was unaware that she was flying straight toward Staraptor, who pressed the button of the third Poke Ball. Drapion erupted from it, catching Altaria in its claws before landing heavily on the ground.

"It came from the sky?!" Chase gasped. "But how?! Altaria, break loose!"

Shadow Altaria screamed as Drapion sank his freezing fangs into her wing, preventing her from escaping. Dropping her on the ground, he raised his claws and used X-Scissor. Altaria coughed blood before falling still on the ground. She had fainted.

"Damn it! Altaria, ret—" Chase started.

"Now, Staraptor!" Will shouted.

Staraptor dropped the Snag ball it had been holding, capturing Shadow Altaria. Before Chase could try and grab the Snag Ball, Staraptor dove and snatched it up in it talons before dropping it. Will, finally managing to sit up, caught it in one hand. Drapion hissed at Chase while Will's Gabite burst from the ground, smirking triumphantly.

"No way," the Cipher Elite 4 member whispered. "But how? You…you're supposed to…"

"Be dead? Nope!" Will chuckled.

"My Dragonair used Safeguard just before I returned it," Lance explained, sitting up as well. "We faked being dead in order to initiate our plan. You took the bait and fell right into our hands the moment Gabite used Earthquake while underground. You never expected Drapion to attack from the sky or for Staraptor to be the one to capture your Altaria."

"Then that means…" Chase whimpered.

"You lose!" Will cried.

"N-no! That impossible! I-I can't l-lose!" Chase stammered.

"You have lost, Chase." Lance said firmly, standing up. "And since we won, you must leave here and never return."

Chase just glared at them before pulling out his teleportation device. "I'll get my revenge on you. Both of you will pay for this, mark my words!" he vowed.

"Tell it to someone who cares." Will commented. "We won, so scat!"

"You'll regret this," Chase growled.

"No," Lance disagreed. "It will be Cipher that regrets its actions. I have one bit of advice for you, Chase. Leave Cipher while you can. When Cipher is defeated, all of its agents will be arrested. Leave now and you might escape imprisonment."

"Don't count on it." Chase muttered. "Until next time, when I will be sure to win," Pressing the button, he teleported back to Cipher's main base.

Will sighed in relief. "We did it! Finally!"

"Agreed," Lance said. "That was probably one of my hardest battles. I'm glad I had you beside me in this one. Despite your recklessness, you're pretty clever."

"Thanks!" Will chuckled. "Hey, can we get out of here already? I'd rather see how the others did, though I doubt any of them lost."

"Confident, aren't you?" Lance commented.

"All of them are really strong," Will explained. "There's no way they'd lose to these Cipher goons. I'll never forgive them if they did, especially Mark."

Lance smiled. "Let's go, Will. I'm sure everyone did fine."

"Yeah," Will nodded.

After returning his three Pokemon, Will followed Lance out of the arena and to the stairway leading back to the ground floor. While Lance headed downstairs, Will stopped and looked upstairs. He clutched Salamence's Poke Ball to his chest.

Mark, he thought. You better win! And when you do, you better be ready to face me next.

The brunette headed downstairs and was greeted with cheers from his companions. Luffy clapped him on the back while Ookami checked him over for any injuries. Heading outside, he noticed KC and Alex sitting together. Curious, he walked over.

"Hey, guys! I'm back from my fight!" he cried, sitting down on KC's other side. "How'd you do, KC?"

"I won," KC replied, smiling.

"He won more than a battle." Alex added.

"Huh? What's that mean?" Will asked, confused. Then he noticed the Master Ball held in KC's hands. "What's in there?"

"Darkrai," KC said. "I didn't have a choice."

"Whoa! Hold up!" Will yelped. "You caught Darkrai, even though you and Luffy got mad at Mark for even suggesting it?!"

"Yes!" KC snapped. "I did! If I hadn't, Cipher would've caught him instead! I did it to save him, Will!"

"Okay! I get it!" Will said, raising his hands. "No need to shout. I was just wondering."

KC sighed. "Sorry," he apologized. "I haven't even told the others yet."

"You gotta tell them sooner or later," Will pointed out. 'Luffy will start wondering where Darkrai is."

"I know," KC muttered.

"So, what else did you win?" Will asked.

Alex smiled before kissing KC on the cheek, causing the raven-haired boy to blush. Will blinked in shock before laughed, falling right off his seat. Alex sighed, allowing Weavile to hit him over the head. Will quickly scrambled to his feet, staring in shock at Weavile.

"Where the heck did that come from?!" the brunette cried.

"Sneasel chose to evolve," Alex replied.

"Whoa! That's Sneasel?!" Will yelped.

"Yep," KC nodded. "I don't think he appreciated you laughing at us. What's so funny, anyway?"

"How long it took you to finally realize you loved each other!" Will answered. "Took you long enough, you know."

"Shut up," Alex growled.

"Hey, do you think Mark's okay?" KC asked.

"Of course he's okay! He's my rival!" Will cried. "If I can beat these guys, so can he! I bet he's wiping the floor with that guy right now!"

"Really?!" KC cried.

"Yep!" Will nodded.

"I hope you're right," Alex said. "The Cipher Champion is probably in a different league than those Cipher Elite 4 members."

"Who cares? He's fine!" Will declared stubbornly. Mark, you better be winning!

At the bridge that spans across Tohjo Falls…

"Mew?! You're kidding!" Freeze cried.

"Nope," Mist replied. "And that's just the beginning. The Cipher Champion is in a whole other league from the Cipher Elite 4. He was hand-picked by the boss for his strength and strategizing abilities. He's one of the toughest Cipher agents currently."

"How the hell is Mark gonna beat Mew?!" Freeze demanded.

"Isn't Mew impossible to beat?" Brad asked.

"Nothing's impossible to beat," Mist said. "Either Mark will win by pure skill or just get really lucky. Either way, I doubt the Cipher Champion will gain victory easily, if at all. Mark is one of the strongest trainers I have ever battled before."

"Really?" Brad asked.

"During our first fight, I wiped him out easily." Mist reminisced. "I hardly called him a challenge. He kept going on about promises. It was thanks to him that I first remembered Anna."

"Then what?" Freeze asked.

"During our second battle, he hit me with everything he had." Mist continued. "That girl who is always with him, one of the two sons of a runaway Cipher professor, and Misty were with him. I nearly killed both Mark and the girl but they escaped. At one point, Lapras turned against me and refused to fight for me anymore. I almost lost control of my psychic powers, too. That battle pushed me to my very limits and yet I still lost."

"That Lapras belonged to Anna, right?" Freeze commented. "Maybe she turned on you because she knew what you were doing was wrong."

"I have to agree, Freeze." Mist nodded. "After that, I searched for how Anna truly died. In the process, I decided to escape from Cipher altogether. The rest is history."

"So, you really think Mark can beat Mew?" Freeze asked.

"I bet he could beat Arceus if he tried hard enough." Mist chuckled. "It will be a long and harsh battle but Mark will win. That much I can assure you. We just have to wait until he and his friends get here. Then you'll see what I mean."

"You better be right," Freeze said, crossing his arms. Maybe if I battle him, I'll get stronger. Maybe even strong enough to defeat Electra one day. Perfect…

Mist sighed, closing his eyes. Good luck…Mark Hunter.

Next Chapter: Strength That Can't Be Seen

"Shadow Mega Punch!" Axl yelled.

"AAAAH!!" Mark screamed as the punch connected with his side, throwing him halfway across the arena.

"Mark!" Red cried. "Saur, use Solar Beam!"

"Idiot," Axl chuckled. "How do you expect to beat me with weak moves like that?! Mew, use Shadow Aura Sphere!"

The black Mew summoned a ball of crackling red energy in his paws, throwing it at the Venusaur. Saur bellowed in agony before crashing to the ground, his attack missing Mew entirely. Red quickly dashed to the Grass-type's side, glaring at Axl.

"I thought this would be more fun. I guess Shadow Mew is just too powerful for the leader of the Snaggers and the former Pokemon Champion to defeat." Axl said. "Boring! I expected more of a fight. I guess I was wrong."

Mark! Shadow Espeon cried, nudging her trainer. Wake up! Please, Mark!

"And you guys are hoping he can open your hearts? You may as well give up now." Axl said, glaring at the Shadow Pokemon. "Your hearts are destined to remain closed forever. One kid can't save you. Nobody can!"


Once again, I'm so sorry for the delay! Writer's block, school, and stress stole my creativity but now I'm back in business…hopefully. I won't be too surprised if I don't get many reviews. To those of you who do review, thank you for your loyalty and support! I'll do everything I can to finish this story and get on to the next one! I promise! Thank you again! :)