Lunick was filled with rage as he ran to the Fall City Pokémon Center. He couldn't believe that his Leader had actually suspended Solana. Couldn't he see that Solana wasn't responsible for her actions? Couldn't he see that her emotions got the better of her that night? Granted, Solana was wrong for the way she handled the situation, but Aria was equally wrong. It's not like he thought Solana didn't deserve to be punished. By all means she should. But he certainly didn't think she would be suspended, even though he told Solana that could be a possibility. Wasn't this her first offense? The punishment should suit the crime, not exceed it. And that's what Lunick thought was happening.

"Mai Mai?!" Minun screamed as he tried to keep up with his human.

Lunick knew his partner was concerned but he couldn't slow down. He had to hurry up and get to the Pokémon Center. Solana needed a friend right now. And he would make sure he was the friend she needed.

…And after he told Solana it would all be all right…

Lunick bolted through the Pokémon Center doors, staring all those who were present on the lower floor.

Breathing heavily, he approached the recipient's desk.

His eyes got wide when he caught view of the beautiful girl standing in front of the desk. She was wearing a fitting phthalo green V-neck long sleeved shirt and red leggings. Her gorgeous blue hair was done-up in a high ponytail that flowed down to the nape of her neck and a glorious pink sapphire diamond ring elegantly rested on her finger. A silver crystal charm swan necklace with a pink sapphire diamond hung from her neck and rested on her chest.

"Pla Plah!" Plusle cried as she hoped off the recipient's table.

"Lunick?" The young girl said as she and her pokémon approached him. "Lunick, are you all right?"

Lunick swallowed hard as he continued to try and catch his breath.

"Yeah…yeah, I'm fine, 'Lana. You know, as fit as I am I could stand to take better care of myself, you know?" Lunick said nervously as he weakly got to his feet with Solana's help. He knew his anger could also be causing him to struggle to breathe as well.

Nurse Joy also made herself to his side. "Oh goodness. Here have some water," she said as she offered him a bottle of water.

"Thank you," Lunick said, unscrewing the cap and taking several large gulps.

Solana was still visibly confused.

"Lunick, w-what…what are you doing here? Shouldn't you be at the base?"

Lunick lowered the bottle and screw the cap back on while Nurse Joy made her way back to her desk behind the counter.

"I couldn't stay there, Solana. Spenser wanted me to work with Lindsey. I couldn't do that. I took some days off."

Solana was shocked.

"Lunick, how could you do that?!"

Lunick took another sip of water, then closed the cap. "You're my partner, Solana. If I'm not going in the field with you, I'm not going in at all. If you're on suspension, then so am I."

Solana shook her head. "Lunick, why are you punishing yourself? I'm the one who did something wrong, not you."

Lunick shook his head as well. "I'm not punishing myself, Solana. We've been partners for four years. If I'm not with you, I can't function properly. Lindsey may have been my first partner, but she wasn't my best. You are the best comrade I've ever had and I'm damn sure not gonna make a compromise. Why should I settle for anything less? You bring out the best in me, Solana. I bring out the best in you. We're the perfect combo. The perfect duo. So, no, I'm not gonna settle for Lindsey."

Solana was speechless. She had no way that Lunick felt that way about her.

A faint blush appeared on her cheeks.

"Lunick, Lindsey is a great ranger."

"She's not you," he replied easily, "Yeah, she's great. But why settle for greatness, when you can have excellence?"

That made Solana blush even more.

Lunick smiled faintly. "Besides, after the way I spoke to Spenser, I'm not sure if I'd be working today anyway."

Solana gasped. "Lunick, you didn't say anything you shouldn't have, did you?"

"I told him what I had to say."

Again she gasped. "Lunick…"

"Solana, I don't wanna talk about this. What's done is done," he took one of her hands in his, "I've already made my decision. I'm gonna be there for my best friend, even if I have to take a few days off to do it."

Solana exhaled softly and smile.

"You're an amazing person, Lunick."

"And you're an amazing friend." He replied back with a smile of his own.

A moment of silence passed between the two before Lunick broke it.

"Well, I've had about twelve glasses of root beer this morning and the tank is about to explode if you know what I'm saying."

Solana nodded. "Okay."

Lunick made his over to the counter. Taking the keys from Nurse Joy, Lunick started for the stairs that led to the upper level.

"I'll be back in a jiffy, 'Lana."

Solana stood there quietly as she watched Minun hurriedly follow Lunick up the stairs, a finger placed on her lower lip. A warm feeling filled her center as she continued to watch the spot where he once stood. Lunick really was changing. And she was loving the person he was turning into. He wasn't the rambunctious eccentric childish boy she met four years ago. He was a charming opinionated attractive young man.

"Pla Plah." Plusle said as she hopped on her shoulder.

Solana petted Plusle gently on the head with her left hand, her finger still on her lip.

Yes, Lunick was turning into a very attractive individual indeed…In more ways than one.


As Solana and Lunick exited the Pokémon Center, there was a cry for help.

"Oh, oh, please. You must help me!" The old woman cried.

"What's the matter Mrs. Johansson?" Solana asked.

The old woman led them to a tree near the city's park. "Sassy. My dear Sassy won't come out of that tree."

The two teens and their pokémon looked up to see to a Persian perched on one of the tree's large, thick branches. It was snarling.

Lunick smiled.

"I got this one, Solana. No need for you to mess up your badical outfit. I'm on it. Come on, Minun," and with that, Lunick started climbing tree.

Solana smiled weakly. "Are you sure you wanna go up there, Lunick? Persian are fierce pokémon, especially when aggravated."

Lunick continued climbing the tree, "No problem, 'Lana. Everybody knows if you yank a Persian by its whiskers it becomes temporarily docile. Should give me enough time to make a capture."

"But why do you have to climb up the tree?"

"It'll be easier to coax it to get down if we're on the same level. Don't worry 'bout it, 'Lana."

Lunick climbed up to a branch directly opposite to where the Persian was resting. Steadying himself, he placed one hand on the tree's trunk, and carefully squatted. Minun hopped on the tree branch right next to him.

"Hey there, Sassy. Good Persian. Don't you worry 'bout a thing, Sassy. I'm here to help you."

The Persian hissed at Lunick.

"Whoa, hey. It' okay, Sassy. I'm just trying to help you get down from here so you can get back to your owner."

Again, the Persian hissed. She straightened out her tail, a clear indication that she was about to pounce or bite.

Lunick crinkled his brow. "Just relax. I just wanna talk to you. Nice, Sassy."

Roaring, the Persian leaped from the branch she was on. Lunick gasped as he jumped from his branch and held on to the one below him.

"Mai Mai!"

He struggled to pull himself up.

"Hey! I said nice!"

Snarling the Persian extended her claws. They glowed white as they continued to grow longer.

Snarling, the Persian jumped and slashed the branch Lunick was gripping. Lunick cried out as he fell below and broke one branch.

"Mai! Mai Mai!"

With his legs, Lunick grabbed onto the trunk of the tree. His uniform ripped from the friction of him sliding down the tree. Once he was close enough, Lunick grabbed onto a nearby branch and used the force to swing himself upward. He landed on one of the upper branches, nearly falling over from the power of the jump.

"Okay…Let's try a different approach," he said as he locked eyes with the Persian.

"Quick Attack, Minun!"

"Mai Mai!"Minun cried as he shot off towards the Persian from one of the branches.

Growling, the Classy Cat pokémon leaped above, effectively dodging Minun's attack. It then let loose a Water Pulse at Minun.

"Thunderbolt, Minun!"

Yellow sparks appeared on Minun's cheeks just before a powerful bolt of electricity was released from his body. It struck the ball of pulsing water and instantly it dispelled into a light mist.

"Go, Minun!"

"Mai!" Minun jumped from the branch he was on.

The Persian cooed as she tried to seek out Minun in the mist but the water cloud of vapors made it difficult to see anything.

"Now Minun! Thunderwave!"

Minun suddenly appeared behind the Persian. He let loose several blue bolts of electricity, effectively hitting the Persian. She cried out in pain as the electric currents surged through her body.

"Sassy!" The old woman yelped.

"Okay! Here I go!" Lunick said as he skillfully leaped from branch to branch near the Persian.

As he closed in, he extended his hands out to grab one of her whiskers.

The Persian got glimpse of him and so she struck Lunick with her Slash three times.

Lunick screamed in pain and the two of them fell towards the ground. Lunick landed three yards away from the Persian.

"Sassy!" The old woman cried as she rushed over to her dear pet.

"Lunick are you okay?" Solana asked as she hurried to Lunick's side.

"Oh, yeah…" he said slightly dazed, "I'm just super, 'Lana. Ima ab…Ima goob…Gonna catch it…Don'se you worry 'bout it. I got it…"

Solana stared worriedly at him.

Minun skillfully hopped from branch to branch before hopping to the ground and running over to check on his human.

"Mai Mai?"

"I'm fine, Minun. Really…" Lunick said as he held his head, his speech less slurred.

Solana put his arm around her and helped him up to his feet.

"Look what you've done to my, Sassy!" Mrs. Johansson cried.

The large cat pokémon had blue electrical sparks all over her body. She gnarred in pain.

Solana looked down to her pokémon. "Plusle, release Minun's Poké Assist, please."

Nodding, Plusle hopped on Lunick's shoulder. Crawling down to his waist, she hit a button on his styler before jumping back down on the ground.

A light white energy outlined the Persian's body before dissipating into tiny sparkles vanishing in the air.

The Persian sighed as she felt the stinging and burning of the electric current go away. But her contentment didn't last very long as she focused on the two humans before her.

She growled as she took two steps forward.

Plusle and Minun took a defensive position in front of their rangers.

"Stop teasing my, Sassy!" Mrs. Johansson said fiercely as she put a leash on her pet and kissed her on the head. The Persian smiled with delight as she and her owner turned away.

"Mrs. Johansson," Solana began, "We still have to check your Persian for wounds."

She stopped walking. "My Sassy and I will be going to the Pokémon Center for that," she replied curtly, "I hope you are not expecting any kind of compensation. I will not be paying you for what you put my dear Sassy through. I should report your recklessness to your supervisor."

"You're welcome," Lunick replied, his voice slightly cracked.

"Humph." And with that, the old woman and her Persian strutted back to the Fall City Pokémon Center.

Lunick winced as he hunched over. He grabbed his belly.

"Lunick?" Solana asked with concern.

"Don't worry, 'Lana. I'm fine." He said as he straightened up. He removed his hand from his abdomen. Red liquid was seen spread across his torso and stained his hand.

Solana gasped. "You're bleeding!"

"Nah, it's just a flesh wound," Lunick said as he cracked his neck. "I'm fine, Solana. Really."

"I don't believe you," she said as she eyed his body, "Why do you always have to act so reckless? You know how Mrs. Johansson's Persian is."

"Wanted to try something different. Something unexpected."

"Lunick…"

"Solana, I'm fine, okay? Look at me, I'm fine."

Solana gave him a weird look.

"Okay, bad example. Forget how I look. Listen to my words. I'm fine."

Solana frowned.

Lunick shook his head and stretched. "Well, we still have a full day ahead of us. I'm gonna change my clothes now. No reason for me to be in this bright torn up red uniform any longer, especially if I'm not working."

"You have clothes here?"

"I left a shirt and pants in the Pokémon Center by accident when we had our pool party on my birthday. I was supposed to wear it when we went out to eat but I sorta lost it after Spenser mentioned there being an Italian restaurant next door."

"Oh," Solana said with a smile, remembering Lunick sitting in the classy restaurant dripping with water and practically naked while gorging on the rather large Italian meatballs, thoroughly embarrassing his friends and colleagues.

"I'll just go back and pick them up."

"You want me to come with?"

"Nah, you stay and enjoy yourself. I'll meet up with you when I come back."

"K," she said as Lunick and Minun made their way back to the Pokémon Center.

"Pah Pla?" Plusle called from the ground.

Solana looked down at Plusle, looked back up to the spot where Lunick was, before sighing and making her way back to the city.

"Let's go, Plusle."

Unknown to Solana, two floating pokémon were trailing her from behind.


"How about an excursion, 'Lana?"

"Excursion?"

Lunick nodded. "Yeah."

"And how 'bout some food?"

Lunick took Solana deeper into the Lyra Forest.

The scenery was thrilling beautiful. The grassy hill was so leveled and the ocean view was awe-inspiring.

"When I went back to pick up my clothes at the Pokémon Center, I picked up some stuff from the store as well." Luck said as he opened his backpack . "Just threw some stuff together and made us a quick lunch, you know?"

He took out a large quilt that was patterned with all the legendary pokémon on it. He spread it across on the grass. He then started taking out some Tupperware.

"You did all this?"

"Of course. We gotta eat, 'Lana. No one can run on empty. I know you didn't eat breakfast this morning. Don't even try to say that you did."

Solana didn't say anything. He was right. She didn't eat. She was too upset, mulling over what her punishment would be.

Lunick glanced up at Solana as he continued to set up the picnic.

"You can sit down, you know?"

Shaking her head to clear her thoughts, Solana sat down right next to him. She eyed the various items laid out on the quilt – there were several watercress and cold cut sandwiches with many different kinds of bread and condiments, potato and colorful pasta salad, a fruit salad, a couple of brownies, a carton of ice cream, and a few bottles of water, one set having regular water, the other containing what looked like punch.

"Ever since the fundraiser for the Prom, I've been inspired to explore the culinary side of me," he said as took out the last item that was in his backpack – some lemon homemade cookies.

"And you called me Betty Crocker," she said as she eyed him dumbfoundedly.

Lunick chuckled. "Well, I worked really hard on this so I hope you enjoy it."

"Wow, Lunick. I'm impressed," Solana said as she continued to marvel at the elaborate picnic display.

"Yeah well, we're off duty. 'Bout time we treated ourselves to a nice ordinary outing."

Lunick picked up one of the sandwiches and handed it to Solana.

"Light honey-smoked turkey with chive cream cheese, spinach, thin apple slices, cherry tomatoes, and sweet peppers on Pumpernickel bread with the crust cut off. I know it's you favorite."

Solana took the sandwich, completely floored.

"There's no way you had time to make all this?"

"I sure did. Just not today. This stuff has been in my fridge for two days. I was gonna throw a party the night of the Prom, you know, like an after party sort of thing? But the way things went and all…No need for all this good food to spoil and waste, so dig in, Milady."

"Well all right then," Solana said as she took a big bite.


"What's your favorite kind of music, Lunick?" Solana asked as she ate another spoonful of ice cream.

Lunick chuckled. "You wouldn't believe me. You'll laugh at me." Lunick said as he took a bite out of his sandwich.

"What? No I won't!" She said with a smile.

Lunick chuckled again.

"Please, Lunick?"

Chuckling once more Lunick began, "Well…I guess you could say…I'm kind of a fan of old soul and classic jazz."

Solana struggled to stifle her laugh.

"See, I knew you would laugh," Luck said with a wide smile of his own.

Solana covered her mouth with her hand and shook her head.

"No, I just wasn't expecting you to say that."

Lunick nodded. "Yeah, I know…But there's just something about jazz and that old soul that gets me. It's like everything nowadays is about infidelity or revenge. Mainstream pop has taken over and R&B has lost its soul. I mean, nothing is wrong with today's music. I love a lot of the songs. But when you get carried away with the beats and the rhythms and how many tricks you can do with your voice the core message of the song dissipates. I appreciate the artistry in traditional soul and jazz music. Back when it was stripped down to just simple instruments, simple melodies, and the artist's voice, you know? Where it was more important to express how you feel and not say how you feel. There's something to be respected about that genre."

When Lunick turned back to face Solana, she had such a look of fascination of her face he couldn't help but chuckle at her.

"What?"

Solana shook her head. "Nothing. It's just…to hear you speak so passionately about music…It's refreshing…It's invigorating…It's nice…"

Lunick's smile widened at that. He looked back down towards the ground.

"Yeah…I'm kind of like an old man in some ways…I have an old soul when it comes to music…"

Solana's eyes fluttered. "Sing something."

Lunick raised an eyebrow at her. "Excuse me?"

"Sing something. I wanna feel what you're talking about. I wanna hear what you hear. Sing something, please."

Lunick shook his head. "No. Solana…"

"Please, Lunick," her eyes were as wide as saucers and her lower lip extended into a pout.

Lunick laughed lightly.

"Please?"

Lunick sighed with a smile. "You gotta promise me you won't laugh."

"I promise. I just wanna feel it, Lunick. I wanna feel what you're talking about."

Lunick nodded slowly. He closed his eyes and exhaled softly. He slowened his breathing to relax himself before opening his mouth to sing.

"…Wise, men, say…only fools, rush, in….But I, can't, help, falling in love…with…you…"

Solana's heart fluttered as she listened to her best friend's voice. Completely a capella and stripped down, Lunick's voice glided over the lyrics. His voice sounded so smooth, so velvety. He took his time with the song and he sang every word like he truly meant it. It was breathtaking.

"…Shall, I, stay…would it be, a, sin…If I, can't, help, falling in love…with…you…Like a river flows…surely to the sea…Darling, so it goes…some things…are meant to be…."

Lunick opened his eyes and turned to face Solana as he continued singing.

"Take, my, hand…Take my whole, life, too….For I, can't, help, falling in love…with…you…Like a river flows…surely to the sea…Darling so it goes…some things…are meant to be… Take, my, hand…Take my whole, life, too….For I, can't, help, falling in love…with…you…For I, can't, help, falling in love…with…you…"

There was complete silence as the two friends stared deep into each other's eyes, both their hearts pounding rapidly.

Feeling embarrassed, Lunick turned away quickly, and gave a nervous chuckle.

Solana blinked several times before shaking head. She put her hand to her chest as if she were holding her heart.

"Wow…Lunick…That was…That was just…I got it…I got exactly what you were saying…I felt all of it…Thank you…"

"No problem," he replied with a smile and closed eyes. He still felt thoroughly embarrassed. He had just chosen to sing that song off the top of his head. He didn't realize that this song, like many others, told the story of how he truly felt about his best friend. He just hoped it didn't register across to her.

Solana exhaled. She continued to hold her heart. "The way you sang it…I felt those words encompass and caress me. I know it doesn't make sense but I felt the song embrace me. It held me. It made me feel safe."

"Yeah, exactly."

"I never realized before how powerful of a song it was. Thank you, Lunick. Really. I think I've gained a deeper appreciation for the old classic songs that paved and pathed the way for today's generation of music."

Lunick nodded. "They just make you feel good. At least once a week I put on some of my granndpop's old jazz records or put the computer on and play some soothing traditional soul. It creates such a calming, soothing ambience. It helps me to relax, you know? Or it stirs the heart. That's what music is supposed to do. You're supposed to identify with it, not just hear the music. You're supposed to feel the lyrics, not just like the words. You're supposed to listen…really listen and understand the message the artist was trying to convey. That's why music is an art."

Solana shook her head. "I get it. I got shivers all throughout my body. Something so simple, so modest and pure, when put together creates something so powerful…so magical."

Lunick smiled. She had such a look of infatuation on her face. She so enraptured…enchanted even…as if the song put a magical spell on her.

Lunick frowned slightly. His desire to tell her his feelings intensified. Was now the right time? Was it appropriate? There was no one there. It was just the two of them there. Plusle and Minun had gone off somewhere as they usually do. He could see them playing in the distance. They didn't have to worry on being called out on any missions since Solana was on suspension and he was on leave. There was no bad weather to offset the mood. It was quiet. The weather was nice. And Solana was in such a contended mood…The setting seemed ideal. When would they ever get to be like this again?…Maybe…Perhaps…Now was the right time.

Lunick cleared his throat. He felt an unpleasant awareness of his own heartbeat.

"Solana, I have to tell you something."

Solana looked back up to face him. She lowered her hands into her lap.

"What is it?"

He exhaled loudly. He felt his heart pound hard as he readied himself to open up to his friend.

"I…er…For a long time now, I…"

Lunick was cut off as young man with torn clothes came running up to them.

"Help! HELP!" he cried as he approached the two rangers. Plusle and Minun followed behind him.

"Pla Plah!"

"Mai! Mai Mai!"

Lunick instantly became erect. "What is it?"

The young man was out of breath. "Please! You must help! Golem! It's gone wild!"

"Wild?" Solana questioned.

"Rampaging!…All through the road…Closed down the tunnel and the park had to be shut down! Please! You must help! My kids are at the park!"

Lunick quickly started packing up the food. "We'll be right there, sir!"

Solana looked down sadly at Lunick. "I'm sorry, Lunick. I know you wanted to just chill and relax a bit."

Lunick shrugged it off. "Duty calls. Helping civilians is what we do. Let's pack up and go!"

This was just confirmation that now wasn't the right time for him to fully open up to Solana about how he felt.

Sigh…Will this ever happen?


Professor Hastings adjusted his glasses as he made his way through the East Road Forest.

"Oh, dear. My eyes seem to be getting worse and worse. This astigmatism optical defect appears to be increasing. I suppose it's about time I get myself some new glasses."

He rested the brown briefcase he was carrying on the ground. Taking off his red horn-rimmed glasses, he reached into his coat pocket and took out a solution before spraying it on his glasses and putting the solution back in his pocket. He then wiped his lenses before placing them back properly on his face.

"Ah, that's better."

He picked up his briefcase and patted it. "Wouldn't want to lose you now, would I? Why, you're the future of the Pokémon Ranger profession! A cherished advancement in the Union's technology! You must be protected at all costs."

Professor Hastings' phone started to ring. Still grasping his briefcase, he took his cellular phone out of his coat pocket and put it to his ear.

"Hastings…Ah, yes, Crysta. The trial went fine. The Union's already given an approval to move on with the next phase. Our young rangers are doing a wonderful job working with the suits. But there is still much work to be done…We still have to work out some kinks with regard to the connection link…Yes, well, I'm on my way back to the lab now. Yes…Okay lass. See you tomorrow…Cheerio…"

He put his phone away and pulled on his beard as he surveyed his surroundings.

"Blast this confounded forest. So many twists and turns. Imagine…an old man like me getting lost once again. Oh, if Spenser knew this he'd have a fit for sure."

Suddenly, a sledgehammerlike, skull-crushing pain slammed in the back of Professor Hastings' head. A loud grunt whooshed from his mouth as he collapsed heavily on the ground.

A body walked to the side of Professor Hastings body and took up his briefcase. He then put his gun to the Professor's right temple.

He held it there for long while before removing it.

"Nah…I'm not gonna kill yah…My lord would want you alive."

Instead, the attacker kicked the Professor several times in his torso. Blood pooled from Professor Hasting's head and flowed down his neck. He groaned in agonizing pain.

Smirking, the attacker held up the Professor's briefcase.

"I'll just be taking this then…" He started walking away.

Professor Hastings eyes were blurred as he drifted in and out of consciousness. He struggled to see his attacker as blood trickled down his face and into his eyes.

"S…Stop…" he breathed out.

The man stopped…But only for a moment.

Without even turning around he answered the Professor.

"Tell your subordinates to prepare for the final battleground. From the ashes, the Go-Rock Squad will rise again. Team Iniquitous will ascend to glory."

And with that, he continued his depart.

The old man struggled to breathe as he watched his attacker get further and further away. After a few seconds he could no longer continue his fight and everything finally went black.


Torak ran as fast as he could with his wife and daughter by his side. The horde of darkly-colored Rhyhorn was gaining on them. All he wanted was to have a nice family outing with his wife and daughter. He never would've thought that hiking in the Sekrian mountains would put his family in such great danger. They did this quite often as a family outing. And with their Pokémon by their side he was sure they were safe for sure.

But these Rhyhorn. They were completely maniacal! He didn't know what possessed them so but he sure didn't want to stick around to find out. He had to get his family to safety right away!

The little girl stumbled and fell.

Torak grunted as he quickly ran to his daughter and pulled her to her feet.

"Come on, Emali!"

He ran ahead with her.

The lead Rhyhorn roared and evolved into Rhydon before their very eyes. It charged up for a Hyper Beam.

The family continued to flee.

Torak took out his pokéball and through it. A Hydreigon materialized in the air from the pokéball.

"Usamé! Get on Mukima now!"

His wife complied. The dragon/dark type pokémon lowered herself to let her master's mate on.

The Rhydon released its Hyper Beam.

It hit the edge of the path where Torak and Emali were running. Emali screamed as she and her pokémon started to fall from the cliff.

"Emali!" Torak cried as he grabbed a hold of his daughter.

"Orina!" Emali cried as her beloved Nidorina fell down to the possessed rock-type pokémon.

"Emali, Let's go!"

"No, papa! Orina!" She cried as she tried to break loose of her father's steel grasp.

"Mukima!"

The Brutal Pokemon flew down to her owner and Torak jumped on, holding Emali tightly.

"Home, Mukima! Now! Fast!"

"Arrgraw!" The Hydreigon replied as it quickly flew away from the scene. Emali tearfully looked back as she could no longer see her best friend in the crowd of confused pokémon.


Sceptile paced back and forth in his cave. He stopped at the hallowed opening near his Pecha tree and looked outside. There wasn't much time. The darkness was getting stronger and spreading faster. He had to converse with the other elders for a solution while they waited for the heroes from the prophecy to come to their rescue.

A crackling at the cave's entrance told Sceptile that one of Fiore's dignitaries had arrived.

With an exhausted sigh, the visitor's claws were seen first before the rest of the body was shown.

It was a bipedal, chicken-like Pokémon. The majority of its body was red with accents of beige, yellow, and gray. Behind its head, there were beige, hair-like feathers that continue downward and surrounded its chest and abdomen. It had a small red face with a V-shaped crest on its head. Its eyes were semicircular with yellow sclera and blue irises, and its mouth was similar to hooked beak. It had featherless, gray hands with three fingers each, and three clawed toes that are not normally visible due to the shaggy, yellow feathers on the bottom of its legs. Its wrists had gray wristband-like markings capable of producing a tuft of fire above them. A pentagon-shaped Charcoal hung from its neck.

Sceptile smiled widely as he approached his guest.

"Ah, Brother, Blaziken. So good to see you." He said as he approached him.

Blaziken was on his knees. Sceptile grabbed a hold of one of his claws and helped him to his feet.

"As it is a pleasure to see you, Brother as well," he sighed as he tried to regain control of his breathing.

"Whoa… my legs used to be strong and muscular and gave me great lower body strength, which helped with my kicking and jumping abilities. But it seems those days are no more. Age is starting to show its hand and I don't like it."

Sceptile chuckled. "I understand, Brother, as it is the same with me. My arms aren't able to give the devastating blows they once did. And my swiftness…Why, I declare I'm about slower than a Slopoke basking in the sun."

The two elders chortled together with the light conversation.

"How is Grovyle?" Blaziken asked with a large smile, "He was a very fierce fighter the last I saw him. Even beat my daughter in battle when we would train."

Sceptile frowned and nodded. "Yes, my son is quite the fighter. I sent him off on an assignment to investigate the grounds near the Temple. I haven't heard back from him yet but I am not worried. My son is very capable as we just discussed. What of Combusken? How is she coming along with her training?"

Blaziken closed his eyes and bowed his head. "She's coming along just fine. But she is still too merciful in battle. I know she has what it takes to be a great leader. She has such vast potential. Limitless. She is strong and tenacious. But her kind heart is a bit of a detriment to her. She will not be an adequate leader without possessing the skills and mindset of a great leader, which is to sometimes forego your kind nature to protect your subjects. I fear she has not yet reached that point."

Sceptile nodded. "My son also possesses flaws that hinder him from being a great leader, such as his rashness and being quick to judgment. But I believe our young ones will rise to the occasion. This generation just needs time to absorb the information as we did in our time."

Blaziken nodded. "Perhaps. But time is not on our side. I try to be there for my daughter but my feathers are changing color and dropping out, and my age makes it difficult for me to train with her. Alas, I'm afraid Father Time will make his decision to send me into the next realm before my daughter is ready to take leadership of the mountains."

"Perhaps you are being too hard on, Combusken. Yes, she has a kindness that makes your heart melt, but that doesn't mean she won't take into account the seriousness that being a leader entails."

"Weren't you not in agreement with me earlier about our offspring's abilities and drawbacks?"

Sceptile nodded. "Yes but I believe parents can sometimes be too hard on their young ones for their great potential, myself included. I believe I've been too hard on my son. I know being an heir to the throne is certainly not easy and that he already puts so much pressure on himself already. I just hope he can forgive me for my stubbornness, a trait he has inherited from me."

"Now who's being hard on themselves," Blaziken smiled with crossed arms, "Our young ones are bright, strong, and are the future of this land. We've got to keep our faith in them, even when they show their shortcomings and flaws, so that they gain the confidence to pursue themselves."

Again Sceptile nodded, "As usual you are correct, Brother."

"I may be old, but I still got my reason."

Both pokémon laughed lightly at each other.

A crackle at the cave's entrance let them know the third elder had arrived.

He placed one of his hands on the edge. "A little help here, please?" he said in his haughty voice.

Blaziken made his way over to the struggling pokémon and pulled him up. The other pokémon struggled to crawl into the cave.

He was a bipedal Pokémon. He had a large cobalt blue body and large three-fingered hands. He had two orange gills that protruded from round patches on his cheeks. His head had two large semicircular black fins that extended from the top of his orange eyes to the back of his head. His tailfin was big, broad, and black. He had a white underside and orange ridged portions above his hands and three-toed feet. An octangular-shaped Mystic Water hung from its neck.

"Brother Blaziken, I thought you said your strength was depleting?" Sceptile said with a smile.

"I ain't dead yet, Old One." he said with a chuckle.

"Thank you, Brother Blaziken. I owe you much." The pokémon know as Swampert said. "I used to be very strong with enough power to easily drag a boulder weighing more than a ton, batter down opponents, and swim faster than a jet ski. Now my once powerful vision is blurred, and I'm not able to see through murky water as I used to be. It's also difficult for me to sense subtle differences in the sounds of waves and tidal winds with my fins. And it took me so very long to pile up boulders to protect my nest from that last storm. My son must be so ashamed of his old parent."

"Not at all, Brother" Blaziken said, shaking his head.

"I think our weakening bones are keeping us from seeing our true worth to our young ones." Sceptile stated.

"Agreed." Blaziken nodded. "How is young Marshtomp these days?"

Sitting down, Swampert felt his breathing returning to normal.

"He's…He's alright…A formidable one…Hehe, my son posseses great strength. Why…I believe he's even stronger than me, hehe."

Swampert slowly got on all fours, but then felt tired and sat back down.

"Would you like a Berry, Brother?"

"No, Brother Sceptile. I'll be okay. Just need to gain my bearings is all," he opened his eyes, "Now…Let us get to the center of this seminal palaver."

Sceptile nodded. "Well, my Brothers, I sent Pidgeot out to find you as I felt this meeting was in order. I'm sure you are both aware of the darkness that is plaguing our land?"

Both Blaziken and Swapert nodded.

"Of course."

"I've seen it, yes."

Sceptile continued. "Well, we must call for action a way to protect the inhabitants of this land and shelter them from the darkness until the great legend can be fulfilled."

Blaziken nodded. "I urged Combusken to get those in the mountains to a safe shelter where the darkness cannot enter. I fear there is not much I can do myself in that regard."

"I too have spoken to my son about this and he's agreed to do his part." Swampert declared.

"And I have asked Grovyle and Ninetales to do the same. It seems we are all in agreement. Until the prophecy is fulfilled we must do all we can to protect our subjects from this unrelenting darkness!"

Again, both nodded.

"To the prophecied ones who will soon come to our aid against this ominous threat to pokémon alike!" Blaziken shouted with a fist in the air.

"To the prophecied ones!" The other two elders declared as with the same action.

"It will soon come to pass" Sceptile stated, "All we must do now is wait."

A few pebbles could be heard falling from the caves entrance, signaling that yet another pokémon was coming.

Grovyle hopped up from below. "Father!"

He ran over to him and embraced him fiercely.

"Thank heavens you're well." He said tearfully.

"Grovyle?…My son, what are you doing here? You are supposed to be getting our subjects to a safe place…" Sceptile asked, very confused.

"We have done that, sire," Ninetales said as she and Absol entered. "Something else has arisen."

"Father, you must get out of here! You, Master Blaziken, Noble Swampert. All of you! Everyone in Sekra!"

Sceptile shook his head. "But, my son. I don't understand."

"It's the darkness, Sceptile," Absol answered, "It is nearing the Sekrian region. It will hit very soon."

"That's why we must leave, Father. We must go now!" Grovyle said, pulling his parent.

"Now…But wait…We were in the middle of a seminal palaver meeting of elders and…"

"It is alright, Brother Sceptile," Blaziken stated. "We will return to our lands and inform the inhabitants of the land."

"Yes, do not worry about us, Brother. We've still got fight in us. Besides, if we had the strength to make it all the way here to your cave, then certainly we have the strength to make it back to our lands before the darkness hits," said Swampert.

"Blaziken, Brother, if you could help me once more," Swampert asked as he tried to scale down the cave. Once more Blaziken help his fellow elder down before turning back to face Grovyle.

"Young Grovyle and the others are right. It is important that you leave while you can. 'Till we meet again, Brother…" And with that, he began his descent as he leaped down to a nearby rock.

Grovyle quickly began picking Pecha berries from the tree that pierced the cave. "We also have Oran, Sitrus, and Cheri berries. These will prove useful," Grovyle said as he stored them away.

"Now come on, Father . Let's go! We must move quickly."

"All right, all right. Settle down now, Grovyle. I'm coming."

Ninetales and Absol nodded in unison. They exited the cave together and Grovyle carefully helped him down.

Before stepping down, Sceptile took one more look at the place he called home, knowing he most likely would not be able to see it again.

Oh Great Ho-Oh…