I Am Lucario

Disclaimer: I do not own Pokémon

Last update was 18th July 2011.

Current update is 26th May 2012.

Ouch, almost a full year has gone by without an update. Plus, this is only a double-length chapter, so it's not exactly a very long one either. Once again, I am so sorry…

In response to…

Mei Fire; hello there! The previous chapter wasn't as long as some others, I think, and this one is even shorter. I'm sorry it took nearly a year!

Maom stripes; hope the PMD project is going well! Now that we know more about Eevee though, writing her will be so much different from now on. I'll try my best to keep her as entertaining as in the past!

Arrassia; ah, the Unova Pokémon will actually be appearing in the next one – Chapter 17. ^^ I've revealed the identity of one of them in deviantART, so I'll post it here too: One's a Zoroark. It might be a clichéd choice, but he fits really well into the overall plot. The other will be a secret for now, but there'll probably be more Unovan Pokémon in the story eventually. As for age, I think Lucario and Eevee are roughly the same age, while Absol is slightly older. That's not set in stone though – I'll leave this to the reader's imagination. :D Your review wasn't confusing at all; thanks for reading and commenting!

Solyeuse; thanks very much! And true to my prediction, I've taken a long time with this chapter as well. Sorry about that!

Shadowkitty; ahaha, I've certainly taken a lot of time with this one. XD But thank you very much for your kind words! I'll do my best to maintain and improve the story's quality!

A Man-at-Legs; thank you very much! I'll definitely keep working on the story, although it might take a while before the story ends. The story is three years old already!

skarmory5; thanks very much! Indeed, I'm not confident in those genres at all, but unfortunately, there'll come a time when I'll have to incorporate them into this story. Eevee seems to be getting a lot of fans lately!

TheLegendOfWolf; ah, thanks very much for the correction! I've fixed it up. And I'm sorry it took this long! I really need to improve on my time management. Nonetheless, I hope this chapter will be worth the wait!

anon; well, the previews can sometimes be misleading. XD But read on to find out!

Decretum; the downside to long chapters would be the time it takes for me to get them done. XD But I like keeping a whole 'episode' into one chapter to ensure that everything flows smoothly before I submit them. Thank you very much! There'll be lots more of Eevee to come (and hopefully Absol too – I've been neglecting him lately).

I hope I didn't miss anybody.

I would say this chapter is a little… strange. Nonetheless, I hope you enjoy.

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

The hospital corridor was quite deserted save for a few nurses walking calmly by, going about with their work like any other day. In fact, what with the setting sun casting its orange glow through the windows, one could be forgiven for taking the sereneness as a sign that all was well with the world.

A clear contrast to the tranquillity was the group of Pokémon tearing down the corridor, with Eevee taking the lead. Lucario may be panicked and confused, but nothing could compare to the state of turmoil in the Evolution Pokémon's mind. Every now and then, a scene from the accident would flash by: the roar of the engine… the screech of the tires as the vehicle swerved… a bright flash of white…

These scenes would repeat themselves in random order, such that Lucario had no idea which happened first. Right now, however, he was more worried about Greg's condition. What a cruel trick of fate it would be if he were to die just like that…

At long last, they've reached the room where Greg had apparently been brought to – according to the nurse at the emergency ward, anyway. Through the nurse, they learnt that a surgery had just been performed on Greg, though she was unsure of his current condition. Despite the urgency of the situation, Lucario had to admire the staff's efficiency.

Eevee dashed forward, about to barge in through the door before skidding to a halt when an orange figure suddenly ran from the side to block her way. Lucario hadn't even noticed the figure until now – it was a rather small Growlithe, sporting an overlarge police cap. Despite her fidgeting frame, she had a stern expression as she lightly pushed Eevee backwards.

"Sorry. No one is allowed in. My master is questioning the patient right now."

"Greg!" Eevee managed to gasp out between pants. "Is he all right? Is he alive?"

The Growlithe rolled her eyes. "I said my master is questioning him right now, didn't I? It'd be hard to question a dead human, I expect."

Relief flooded the Aura Pokémon. Greg was fine – conscious, even. If he was well enough to be questioned by the police, it would seem that there was no lasting harm done. "Excuse me, Officer, can you tell us more about the boy's condition? I understand that he was involved in an accident… We're all very worried about him."

At the mention of the word 'officer', she blushed, a surge of pride welling from within the little canine. Tail wagging furiously, she glanced around at Lucario and Spike appraisingly. Absol had, once again, refused to enter the hospital. "No need for formalities – call me 'Gardie'! You're all part of the boy's team, then?"

"No, but we're acquaintances."

"Acquaintances?" she echoed, tail falling limply to the ground as she contemplated something. "Come to think of it… as far as I'm aware, we haven't even contacted the boy's family. Couldn't get through the line. Pray tell, how did you know he was involved in an accident?"

Lucario scratched his head. "Well, you see…"

"I saw it," Eevee interrupted, staring unblinkingly at the Growlithe. "I'm a witness."

At that, the fire-type gave a jolt, ears perking up. "A witness! You're one? But you must give me your statement!" Her sudden eagerness seemed to have startled the Evolution Pokémon, who took a step back warily. Gardie was positively tremblingwith excitement. She gave a joyful bark. "Go on, begin right from the beginning!"

"Tell me about Greg's condition first," Eevee demanded fiercely.

"I don't know much," she replied, somewhat impatiently. "But don't worry; his injuries aren't severe. He had a fractured leg, and they had to remove some shards of glass from his body… but otherwise he's perfectly fine. On with the testimony then, go on!"

Eevee stared at her doubtfully before turning to Lucario. The Aura Pokémon gave her an encouraging nod – he was keen to hear her account of the incident as well. "My memory's a little fuzzy… I remember walking with Greg just after conversing with him at the beach…"

The Growlithe nodded. "Conversing, eh? You can speak English, hmm? Or perhaps the boy can speak Pokémon?"

"No, no, he was doing all the talking! I just… sat and listened."

Gardie nodded again. "A one-sided conversation then. Go on."

Eevee threw an exasperated look at Lucario before continuing. "It happened then. A huge van came from nowhere and knocked him down. There was a flash, and…" She paused, looking puzzled. "No, wait. The screams came first. Then there was a bright flash – I'm not sure what that was – and the next thing I knew, Greg was sprawled on the road."

"Hmm… not very sure of yourself, are you?" the fire-type said, scrutinising Eevee. "Tell me: are you sure you've told me every little detail?"

"Yeah, I think – wait!" Eevee exclaimed abruptly. "There was another man! He – he…" Eevee pranced around, suddenly extremely agitated. "He tried to pull Greg out of the way…"

Lucario blinked in surprise – this was news to him. In all her panic over Greg's condition, it seemed that the Evolution Pokémon herself had forgotten that there was another party involved. The Growlithe, however, nodded. "I'm glad you said that; at least now I know you're telling the truth," she said. "The man in question quite possibly saved the life of this 'Greg' you're speaking of. Unfortunately, he paid a heavy price for it – he's in critical condition right now."

Eevee's jaw fell open as she stared at the canine in shock. Seemingly at a loss for words, Lucario decided to step in. "This man… who is he?" He directed the question to Gardie, but he turned to Eevee as well to see if she had an answer for that. She was there when it happened after all.

"I can't remember his name," the Growlithe said sheepishly. "But we believe he's just a passer-by who happened on the scene."

"How horrible," Lucario muttered, placing a paw on his mouth. "He was run over in an attempt to save Greg?"

"Yup!" the fire-type replied, perhaps a little too brightly considering the situation. "A brave act, that's for sure, but…" She dragged out the last word, apparently wondering if she should continue. The Growlithe raised a paw to push her cap upwards. "Well, there's something troubling about the whole thing all right."

Lucario considered her statement for a moment. It was clear from her expression that he was expected to prod. "If I may ask, what is it?"

"Well…" She hesitated yet again, but it was apparent to Lucario that she was bursting to tell them. "They said that there was a suicide note. They found it in his pocket." There was a rue smile on her face. "In other words, even if he were to die now, he would only be getting his wish."

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

"I knock on the locked door."

Chapter Sixteen: Spinlock

"On the other side, someone knocks back."

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

Even from a distance, Lucario could sense the tremendous despair and shock coming from the room which contained the stranger who had saved Greg's life. It must have been a double blow for his family, what with the accident and the suicide note to boot. To his surprise though, there was only one individual in the room with the patient, despite the intense waves of sadness.

It was a Charizard, resting her head on the patient's chest. Though it was barely noticeable from where Lucario was standing, there was a thin stream of tears leaking from her eyes. Feeling uncertain, the Aura Pokémon made to knock on the door, but stopped when he felt Spike tugging on his arm.

He turned to the Riolu questioningly. Spike looked apprehensive, glancing at the Charizard within the room tensely. "Lucario… I don't think we should bother her…"

"I don't know…" Lucario stared at the man on the bed, covered in bandages. His aura was feeble, but pulsated every once in a while as though it was desperately clinging on to existence. He was in bad shape, but the situation was not as detrimental as Emily's had been. "I wonder if there's anything I can do…"

"Well, how's his aura?" Spike asked, in the same manner he adopted when enquiring about Emily's aura back then.

"Weak, but I think it's still salvageable. After all, the accident just happened a while ago. It seems the damage isn't irreversible yet."

The Riolu laughed dryly. "I suppose it's possible to rejuvenate his life force then. But you know what happens if you overdo it, don't you?"

Lucario folded his arms and thought hard. Xatu had warned before about the dangers of transferring one's entire aura away. Absol, if he were here, would never have permitted the fighting-type to even think about it. Eevee, if she had followed them instead of remaining outside Greg's ward, might have stopped Lucario as well.

"It's risky," Spike said, "but not so much if you can control yourself." He glanced at the Aura Pokémon. "Can you, Lucario?"

"I've never tried, but I think I can." He gently rubbed the Riolu's head. "Besides, you're here. You can help stop me if I'm having trouble, can't you?"

The Riolu nodded reassuringly, and Lucario smiled before looking in to the room once more. Despite his calm demeanour, his heartbeat was accelerating. It was this which made him realise that he was actually afraid. "Will… will there be any side effects?"

Spike paused, rubbing his chin as he thought hard. "Nah, I don't think so. The guy's just gonna receive some of your aura to help replenish his. I doubt it'll cause any harm to his body."

"No – I mean… to me…" Lucario voiced out meekly, feeling a little embarrassed at the childish question.

The Riolu's smile was one of warmth and understanding, however. "You might feel fatigued for some time, but I don't think there'll be any permanent damage. If you don't overdo it, of course."

The Emanation Pokémon paused before continuing. "I'm not sure why you're thinking of saving him, but you shouldn't feel as though you're compelled to. There's a reason why Lucario everywhere aren't being used to rejuvenate patients in the healthcare industry. It's not good for us."

"It's just… I don't know… If there's a chance to save him…"

Spike laughed lightly. "If every Lucario has the same mindset as you, we would have been extinct by now. Don't get me wrong: I know what I'm saying sounds completely horrible – but it's the truth. That's just how the world works. You might feel obliged to help others, but first and foremost, you really should look after yourself."

When Lucario remained silent, the Emanation Pokémon spoke again. "Besides, this man wanted to die, remember? Who's to say he won't go killing himself after you've saved him?"

Lucario contemplated his words for a moment. "You have a point there. I wonder if he was only willing to jump in and save Greg because he had a death wish… Would he have done the same if not for this?"

"The accident probably happened too fast for him to be able to think about it," Spike reasoned. "He must've acted out of instinct."

"Yeah… You're probably right." The Aura Pokémon sighed. "You never know – he might have been contemplating suicide, but it's possible he's not going to do it in the end. Taking one's own life… is it really that simple?"

"Taking a life is never simple," Spike replied quietly. "Be it your own, or someone else's."

"I wonder why he –" Lucario began, but stopped abruptly when he noticed the Charizard in the room lifting her head up to stare at the two. "Oh dear. We've been spotted."

Spike turned to Lucario, apparently uncomfortable with the way the fire-type was surveying him. "You're the one who wanted to enter in the first place. Now's your chance."

"Okay. Just be mentally prepared – she might not take too kindly to us when she finds out we're related to Greg." The blue-furred Pokémon walked over to the door. "I know this isn't Greg's fault, but the man wouldn't be in this state if he hadn't tried to save him."

Spike looked alarmed at this. "Whoa, if that's the case, then I think we'd better –"

Lucario rapped his paws on the door before opening it.

"– leave," the Riolu concluded weakly.

The Aura Pokémon smiled reassuringly to Spike before walking into the room. The Charizard stood up from her chair, hastily wiping her eyes before looking round at them both. "Can I help you?" she asked, her voice hoarse.

"Good evening. I am Lucario, and this here is Spike," he introduced, indicating the Riolu. Spike had made sure to keep a sizable distance between himself and the Flame Pokémon. He offered a paw. She looked slightly taken aback, but she shook it all the same.

"My name is Cassie…"

"It is nice to meet you, Cassie." He nodded towards the man on the bed. "We are very sorry to hear about the accident… How is his condition?"

Cassie grabbed onto the man's hand and gave it a gentle squeeze. "It's not looking too good… The doctor said it could go either way at this point." She stared at the duo again. "I've never seen you two before. Are you acquaintances of Owen?"

"No, we're not." Lucario felt Spike inch a little closer to him. "To tell you the truth, I am an acquaintance of the boy whom Owen had saved earlier."

At this, her eyes widened, and Lucario could sense a surge of emotion from the Charizard. Though she remained composed, there was that brief instance of anger which flashed in her mind… "Once again, I really am sorry to hear about the accident. I understand this must be a really difficult time for you and the family."

She shook her head. "The family doesn't know yet… The wife and kids are at his in-laws' in Kanto. The police will be contacting them anytime now… How will they feel when they find out what's happened? And… and… what will they think when they hear that he's been contemplating suicide?" Without warning, she broke into a sob. "There hasn't even been any indication he would want to do that!"

"Cassie, please calm down…" he said hurriedly, looking to Spike to see if he could help console her somehow, but the Riolu seemed equally stunned at the sudden breakdown. "We don't know for sure if he was really going to take his own life, right? Owen is only injured now because of the accident – once he has come to, you and his family can try talking him out of it…"

"If he comes to!" Cassie corrected, wiping her eyes once more. "I've been with him all my life… what will I do if he doesn't pull through?"

"Cassie, about that… you see, I believe there may be a way to help him, though I cannot guarantee its success."

She looked up, eyes alit with hope as she grabbed onto Lucario's paw. "What is it? If you have something in mind, please tell me!"

"Well, I have never tried it before, nor do I know of anyone else who has – and I really can't promise there won't be any side effects, although I'm pretty sure it would be safe, since –"

Her eyes narrowed as she relinquished her grip on Lucario's paws. "You're quacks trying to peddle illegal medicine, aren't you?" The Charizard turned to Spike, as though expecting the Riolu to be the carrier of the goods.

"No, no!" Lucario quickly said as he held both paws up. "What I'm suggesting is that I impart some of my aura to Owen."

The fire-type tilted her head, looking extremely doubtful. "Aura?"

"Yes. It is essentially the life force of all living things. Being a Lucario, I can sense and manipulate aura to an extent. By transferring some of my aura over to him, his life force will be able to repair itself, so to speak. This will no longer be possible if we delay too long though."

Cassie brought her claws together, still uncertain. She eyed Lucario once more, as though trying to appraise him. "And you're pretty sure it's safe?"

"Yes," he said with a sideways glance at Spike, who nodded. "In theory, there shouldn't be any problems. However, I would need your permission first – I would never dream of trying it without getting your consent."

"'In theory'…" she repeated, looking torn. "Well, I don't know… I would do anything to make him well again, but… if you've never done it before…" Cassie began to tap her claws as she stared downwards. "In any case, I'm not sure it's my consent you should seek… why not try asking his wife?"

"I could, but if she's in Kanto… I am afraid I'm not proficient enough to articulate in English… I could communicate via telepathy, I suppose, but it would not work over a telephone line."

"Oh…" There were a few more 'click's as she tapped her claws again. "All right then. I suppose it's better to try. Just be careful, please?"

"I will," Lucario replied calmly, despite his heartbeat racing once more. He turned to the Riolu, who seemed much more at ease now that he was sure Cassie would not attack out of the blue. "Spike, you know what to do."

Spike stepped out of Lucario's shadow, nodding. The Aura Pokémon gave a gentle pat on the Riolu's shoulder before walking over to the bedside. He closed his eyes as he concentrated on the being right in front of him. It was almost as if a dark curtain had befallen upon the room, blocking out the presence of the two Pokémon besides him as well as the aura emanating from every other person in the hospital.

Right now, it was as though Lucario and this Owen fellow were the only two beings left in the world.

A faint light of pale blue seeped through the darkness, and Lucario focused harder on the source of this glow. The core, in the shape of a small sphere, gave an occasional pulse like an irregular heartbeat.

Suppressing his nerves, the Aura Pokémon summoned forth the aura from within himself, allowing a stream of dark blue light to accumulate in his paws. In comparison, his aura was far more radiant, its glow piercing far into the expanse of blackness. It was a sign of how weak Owen had become, and an indication of what little time they had left.

He had only done it once before, and that was when he transferred a small portion of his aura into his box. The situation now was different in many ways, however. He was dealing with a human this time – a living, breathing creature who had an aura of his own. Furthermore, he would have to transmit a substantial amount of his own life force to ensure that Owen could recover.

The problem is, Lucario thought to himself as the aura from his paws began to spring forth to its new home, just how much is enough?

Even in the midst of the process, Lucario was fascinated by the interaction between his aura and Owen's. The dark blue light of his aura was forming what appeared to be a spherical shell around the small core, encasing it securely within. Despite this, the pale blue light was still visible through the armour.

Before long, the fighting-type felt his concentration waver as his aura vision became blurry – the lights were blending together, seemingly dancing right in front of him –

"Stop!" he heard a familiar voice yell, and yet he could not register who it was. The vast expanse of darkness, the dancing lights of blue – they all vanished instantly as he felt himself tumbling downwards. His eyelids fluttered open, and through his blurry vision, he could make out an orangey face staring right at him.

"Are you all right?" Cassie asked as she extended a claw.

"Yeah… thank you." He grabbed onto her as she hoisted him back to his feet. The room was spinning slightly, though Lucario managed to turn around just in time to see Spike lying behind him. It would seem that the Aura Pokémon had unwittingly flattened the Riolu. "Oh no… Spike, I'm sorry!"

"Don't worry…" Spike jumped to his feet and dusted himself. "I'm just glad you don't have any spikes on your back."

Lucario glanced at Owen once more. The man looked the same as before, though his aura felt different now. The blue-furred fighter could feel his own aura from the man, which was not surprising. Still, it was an unusual sensation nonetheless, being able to detect his own life force emanating from an external entity.

"So…" the Charizard began nervously, but did not continue.

"I think… I think it went well." Lucario told her before turning to Spike, seeking his opinion.

"Yep," the Riolu cheerfully said. "Everything should be fine now. And Lucario, you really need to practise on your self-control. You went a little overboard there."

"Noted." He massaged his temples, trying to refocus his vision. "Thanks for stopping me, by the way. I'm glad you're here."

Spike scratched his head sheepishly as he beamed. "No problem!"

"So, er…" Cassie said again. "What happens now?"

It was Spike who answered. "Now we just wait. There's a good chance of him recovering now. You still need to deal with the whole suicide thing once he wakes up though. If you're not careful, he's going to get himself hurt."

"I understand. I'll keep a close eye on him – I won't let him out of my sight for even a second. Thank you." She turned to Lucario. "And thank you." There was a nervous clicking of paws again, though Cassie seemed much more cheerful now. It was apparent to Lucario that she was desperately clinging on to Spike's words of assurance.

If Owen still failed to pull through… he didn't want to imagine it. "You're really close to Owen, aren't you?"

She smiled weakly. "The bond between trainers and their Pokémon – especially their first one – is always unsurpassable."

Lucario stared at the man in surprise. "He's a trainer?"

"Used to be." Cassie sank onto a small armchair by the bed, her tail curling over the armrest as its flaming tip lay on the floor. She rested her chin on her paw as she gazed wistfully at Owen. "We spent a good few years battling and exploring… but then we decided it just wasn't the life for us. We've settled down here in Ferrous, and he's started a family, but… I guess something must have been eating at him if he's turning to suicide…"

There was a moment of silence. Lucario stared at Owen, wondering what could be the compelling reason which would make him choose to end his life. There was nothing he could do right now though, what with the man being unconscious. "Don't give up hope, Cassie… I'm sure everything will end up fine. I'll drop by again later – I'll just head on out to check on Greg for now. We actually haven't got to see him yet."

She stood up. "Thank you…"

He nodded and made for the door. As he grasped the doorknob, the Charizard called out to Lucario. "And… I wish your friend a speedy recovery as well."

The Aura Pokémon smiled and nodded his thanks. At that instant, he felt the doorknob rattle in his paws, and he relinquished his grip in surprise. The door opened, and he found himself staring face-to-face with an elderly man in a police uniform.

The man's brows shot upwards as he stared at Lucario. He seemed surprised to see the fighting-type there, and even more so when he spotted Spike standing behind. The policeman gave a small smile. "Excuse me."

Lucario hastened to make way for the cop as he strode into the room. The man's eyes flickered towards Owen before he addressed Cassie. The Aura Pokémon shifted his attention over to Gardie, who had trotted in merrily after her human companion.

"Ah… is the questioning over now?" Lucario asked the Growlithe.

"Yup!" Her face contorted into an expression of indignation. "The kid's father has arrived, and we were shown rather unceremoniously to the door. The nerve of some people, really."

"He's probably just distraught over the accident; please don't take it to heart."

"Maybe, but still…" She gave a wag of her tail. "Anyway, you can visit the patient now. The Eevee has already gone right in. Be careful though, or you might get tossed out by that angry man too!"

"We will. Thank you."

Just as how he had been able to sense Cassie's sorrow from a distance, Lucario detected Mr. Cooper's anxiety well before he even reached Greg's room. When the Aura Pokémon knocked and opened the door, the man – sitting on the corner of Greg's bed – positively jumped. Both father and son turned to face the visitors, with Mr. Cooper looking at the fighting-types in alarm. "Who are you?"

At that moment, Eevee came scurrying out of the corner she had been hiding at, trying to indicate without words that Lucario and Spike were friends by standing next to them. Judging by the way Mr. Cooper relaxed his stance, it seemed as though he got the message, though he was clearly still wary.

Lucario gave a short bow to the humans. Though he had known them for quite some time now, this was the first time they had ever met face-to-face. The blue-furred Pokémon walked over to Greg, and he could feel Mr. Cooper tensing up again. Nonetheless, the fighting-type kept his eyes on the boy, trying to ascertain his condition.

Unlike Owen, Greg had been lucky. There were a few visible cuts around his limbs, and his right leg had been put into a cast. He seemed shaken by the event, but not as much as his father. Lucario patted the boy on his wrist, and Greg raised a tentative hand before petting the Aura Pokémon.

Smiling, Lucario then walked back to rejoin his two Pokémon companions. Perhaps finally deciding that they truly were harmless, Mr. Cooper motioned towards a couch by the window. "Please, have a seat."

Lucario nodded and motioned for the others to join him. It was at that moment he was hit with a dizzy spell, but it passed as soon as it came. "So, Eevee," he said to the Evolution Pokémon, who was adjusting her position on the sofa. "Did I miss anything?"

"Well, you missed his entrance." She jerked her head towards Mr. Cooper. "You should've seen him – he was furious. He asked the police officer to leave the moment he entered, and then he talked with the doctor for a while. He's been having a chat with Greg since then."

Lucario looked towards the bed once more. Greg was talking with his father again, but Mr. Cooper seemed oddly distracted. The broken Poké Ball fragment had been placed atop the bedside table, and it would seem that Mr. Cooper had hung his jacket over the chair as well.

Eevee sighed, her ears flat against the back of her head. "I… don't think he's very happy with me."

"Come on, Ee… what makes you say that?"

She shook her head, sporting a small smile. "I was a gift for his son. I 'escaped', and I disappeared from their lives. And now I'm here again, right after his son has been involved in an accident. I suppose I can empathise." There was a small pause as Lucario stared at Eevee. Even Spike was eyeing her quietly through the corners of his eyes. "I still hate the geezer though."

Lucario laughed. "Don't take it to heart," he said, repeating the message he had told Gardie. "He didn't kick you out, did he? That shows he doesn't mind you being here."

"Maybe he's just too preoccupied to vent his anger on me." She pawed the leathery surface of the sofa mindlessly for a moment before her ears pricked up. "I forgot – how's the man who saved Greg?"

"Not so good compared to Greg, but I think he should be fine."

"Lucario gave up some of his aura for him," Spike piped up.

"Spike!"

"I thought Eevee should know. Relax – it's Absol who mustn't be told, isn't it?"

"Wait a minute." Eevee turned to Spike. "'Gave up some of his aura'?" She looked at Lucario. "What does that mean?"

"Nothing, really – I just tried my paws at aura rejuvenation," Lucario assured. "I transferred a little of my aura over to him, so that his own life force could use mine to replenish itself. I'm not too sure on the science behind it, but Spike seems to know quite a lot about the matter."

The Emanation Pokémon held both his paws up. "Whoa, I don't claim to be an expert. I'm still just a Riolu."

"Wouldn't it be bad for your health though?" Eevee asked.

"As long as I don't transfer my entire aura away, I should be fine." Lucario paused. "Ee, please keep this from Absol. He wouldn't let me hear the end of it if he finds out about this."

She considered his words for a moment, looking uncomfortable. "Fine… but Lucario, don't go doing something like this again. I don't like the sound of it." As though fearing she might have had come across as callous, she quickly added, "I mean… I'm not saying it isn't a good thing – helping others – but I just… it sounds like you're –"

"Don't worry," Lucario interjected. "I understand what you're saying. Spike has already briefed me on this. I promise I won't go giving my aura away just to anyone."

"That would be best." She lay down, staring straight ahead at the two humans. Compared to how she was earlier, Eevee seemed a lot more relaxed now. "Giving your aura away… I don't know… does that mean you've permanently lost a part of yourself? Wouldn't your lifespan be shortened?"

Lucario paused, not knowing how to answer. He glanced at Spike, who took the cue right away.

"Since he still has a great chunk of his own aura, Lucario will be able to rejuvenate his life force. It's a slow and long process, but he'll get there eventually."

Eevee stared at Spike, contemplating his words. "So… if aura can be rejuvenated… couldn't any sick person just wait and recover? I mean… that girl from back then – Emily, wasn't it? How was her situation different?"

"Oh, the situation is very different when sickness and injury comes into play. Think of it this way," Spike continued, "an injury or illness will cause aura depletion, and the rate increases with the severity of said ailment. Lucario could have helped Emily, sure, but the depletion rate will still surpass the rejuvenation rate by far because of the illness. At most, he would only be able to buy her some time. He wouldn't have been able to cure her illness."

"So… the man whom Lucario has given a part of his aura…"

"He's in this state because of a sudden injury. Like Emily, his aura is too weak, and cannot rejuvenate. However," Spike said wisely, folding his arms and looking important, "since he has already received treatment, the depletion rate will slow down and eventually stop. With the aid of Lucario's aura, he'll be able to recover his own life force at a quicker rate until it reaches a safe level. There'll be a 'net profit' of aura, so to speak. Therefore, if the injury is too severe, it wouldn't work either.

"If Lucario hadn't intervened," Spike continued, "he still might have survived as long as his aura reserve doesn't get completely drained before the depletion stops. But that would be leaving things to the hands of fate, so…"

Eevee nodded slowly. "I see… Well… I've got one more question, and it's about Lucario's box. The one which only he can open… I'm not sure if you've seen it?"

Lucario stared at her in surprise just as Spike said, "I have."

Eevee continued, "Since a part of Lucario's aura now resides in that man, would he be able to open the box?"

"Well, I cannot say for sure…" Spike answered slowly. "I've actually never seen anything like that box before, so I'm not sure how it works. Theoretically, he should be able to open it, since the box would be able to detect Lucario's aura… But this is only for a limited time, because once the man has replenished his own life force, he won't need Lucario's aura anymore. The excess aura would just… fade away."

Lucario blinked. "Really? Where will my aura go?"

Spike stretched his arms wide. "To the atmosphere, I think. It's nice to imagine your aura whooshing about, visiting all sorts of places you've never been to. Who knows, it might even bump into you and be absorbed back into your body. You probably wouldn't even notice anyway."

"Spike, are you sure you aren't making this up?" Lucario asked after a while.

The Riolu looked aghast at the accusation. "No way! I used to ask my parents all sorts of questions about aura. It's actually quite an interesting topic, and it should be taught in schools."

Eevee nodded. "Well… I think I get the gist of it, although honestly, the whole thing is very confusing."

"Yeah, same here," Lucario said, chuckling. "You can be a teacher, Spike."

Spike beamed, his tail wagging lightly. "I would like that! I'd love to boss little kids around! I need to learn how to speak human first though."

The Evolution Pokémon laughed as she looked at Lucario in interest. "And how come you need Spike to explain all that to you? Shouldn't you already know this, being a Lucario?"

"Hey, you've always said I've got a small brain," Lucario replied defensively. "There's only so much I can fit in at once. Besides, I don't know how Spike is able to know so much."

"I've been programmed to excel – physically and mentally!" the Riolu answered brightly.

"I guess I'm a much more laid-back program, then," Lucario said. He gave Eevee a nudge. "Too bad my memory capacity is so small, huh, Ee?"

Eevee shoved him back. "Yeah, yeah. At least you got a smart mouth to compensate for that."

Lucario laughed in response, closing his eyes as he reclined on the sofa. It was an eventful day, but it seemed like everything was fine now, and he was thankful for that. Perhaps the best thing that happened was the fact that he had repaired his relationship with Eevee… In fact, she appeared to be opening up to Spike as well, judging by the conversation they just had.

Having her chat with Greg was the best thing for her after all, though it was unfortunate the accident had to happen. The biggest worry now was whether or not Owen would pull through…

The sound of thunder jolted Lucario out of his thoughts. Poor Absol was left all alone outside the hospital. If they lingered any longer, he might get caught in the rain…

"Well," he said to the other two, "I think it's better if we make a move. Better to reach home before it rains…"

Spike hopped off the sofa right away, but Eevee's gaze turned to Greg. This reminded the Aura Pokémon of something. "Oh yeah… he's supposed to be leaving soon… I'm not sure if his father will stick to their plan now that Greg's injured though." He placed a paw on her back. "But go ahead and stay if you want to, Eevee. I'm sure Greg will appreciate it."

Eevee flicked her tail. "It's fine. Greg needs his father now more than he needs me. Besides, we've already had out chat. We can always meet up again when he comes back."

"But, Ee, don't you think –"

"It's fine, Lucario." The brown-furred Pokémon leapt to the floor to join Spike. "Come on; let's go."

Lucario got up and adjusted his scarf. "If you're sure then…"

Eevee strode over to the bedside and looked up at Greg. The boy, who had been in mid-conversation with his father, paused as he stared at her. Seeing that the Pokémon had got out of the couch, Mr. Cooper stood up and looked round at the group. "Oh… are you leaving already?"

Lucario nodded. Greg reached a hand over the bed to scratch Eevee between the ears. "Thanks for today, Eevee. It's been fun."

The Evolution Pokémon smiled, ears splaying as she gave his hand a quick nuzzle. Feeling that Eevee would not want Lucario to catch this tender moment, the fighting-type turned his gaze away only to find that Mr. Cooper was staring at the group of Pokémon with an odd expression. It was almost as though the man was… sizing them up.

He titled his head slightly, looking back politely. Seeing this, Mr. Cooper opened his mouth, hesitated for a moment, and then spoke to Lucario. "I hope you don't mind me asking, but can I ask you a favour?"

Lucario smiled and nodded.

"Can the three of you stay here tonight? To keep Greg company, I mean," he added hastily. "And… you know, for security as well. You'd be surprised to hear how common thefts are in hospital wards."

Considering that there were no items of particular monetary value in the room, Lucario suspected Mr. Cooper was not being entirely truthful. He was suddenly reminded of the flashback he had seen in Greg's mind – the man had expressed his regret that they had no Pokémon. Still, it was not his business to pry. He had no problem with spending the night away from his cave.

Lucario nodded once more.

"Thank you. You're a big help."

Greg withdrew his hand from Eevee as he turned to stare at his father. "Are you leaving, Dad?"

"Even if I'm here, I'll feel much more at ease with some Pokémon around us." Seeing that his answer had not satisfied Greg, the man gave a heavy sigh. "Yes, I'm leaving. This accident shouldn't have happened, Greg – I'm going to get to the bottom of this, and I'm going to make the one responsible pay."

"Dad, it's all right, I don't need you to do that. Let the police handle it."

"The police? Please, the police in this city can barely handle their paperwork – why else would the crime rate be so high? You shouldn't place your faith in them."

"Are you saying you're going to nab the culprit yourself?" Greg tried to get up. "Dad, please, just let the police do their job, okay? See, the accident just happened, but I've already been questioned by a policeman. They can be efficient sometimes."

"Well…" Mr. Cooper hesitated. "Fine, but I should still drop by the police station to put pressure on them or something."

"Good." Greg leaned back again, looking relieved. "I can rest easy then."

"Get some sleep," Mr. Cooper said. "I'll head out to the station in the meantime. These three will be around if you need anything. Thanks again," he added to the trio of Pokémon.

Lucario bowed his head to indicate that it was no trouble at all. The man got up and walked to the door. "See you later then," he said before leaving.

The Aura Pokémon turned to the other two. "Um… sorry for agreeing to his request without asking you first. If you don't want to stay here, then please, just head back to the forest. I'm sure Mr. Cooper will understand – as long as there is someone here with Greg, he probably wouldn't mind."

"I don't mind!" Spike said. "It's nice to sleep in a room with an air-conditioner once in a while."

Smiling, Lucario turned to Eevee. "How about you?"

"I don't mind either."

"Oh, but you'll have to tell your parents, won't you?"

Eevee thought about it for a moment. "Yeah… I suppose I'd better…"

"Then I'll come with you." He was about to tell Spike to remain there with Greg when Eevee interrupted him.

"You don't have to – I can go by myself. You and Spike can stay here. Strength in numbers, after all."

"Strength in numbers, you say, but you're going to the forest alone. I have an idea: let Absol accompany you."

"That won't be ne—"

Lucario shook his head. "There're four of us, so we can split into two even groups. Come on, let's head out first. Absol must be tired of waiting."

Leaving the Riolu alone with Greg (Lucario had tried explaining to the boy without words that they would be back later), they found Absol in the parking lot. The Disaster Pokémon trotted up to them, trying to read their expressions.

"So, how's the boy?" he asked, looking from Lucario to Eevee.

"He's fine," Lucario answered. "But his father asked us to stay the night, and I've agreed to it. Eevee's going to the forest for a while to notify her parents. Will you accompany her, Absol?"

Absol blinked, his head tilted slightly. "You're staying the night here?"

"Yeah, and so are Eevee and Spike. And Absol, I want you to join us as well."

"Are you kidding me?" the Disaster Pokémon immediately said, clearly startled. "Every single person in the hospital would chase me out with a broom if they realise there's an Absol in their midst!"

Lucario chuckled, waving off the prediction dismissively. "If that happens, at least you'll make the headlines tomorrow. Come on – you'll only be staying in Greg's room. Greg won't mind, and his father would only be happier if more Pokémon were to stay with Greg. It wasn't an offer to stay the night, Absol; it was a request. "

Absol didn't protest, but he still looked extremely doubtful. "Okay, so that's two people who won't mind, but I'm not sure if I can even make it to the room without causing a ruckus."

"Just ignore everyone else, and you'll be fine."

"Not if they're carrying brooms."

Lucario folded his arms. "Fine, Sir Stubborn. I'll just hide you somehow, if need be. I'll figure it out later, but since it's getting late, I can assure you there won't be a lot of people up and about. For now, however, can I trouble you to accompany Eevee back to the forest?"

"Fine; there's no winning against you… Major Mulish," Absol said in an air of mock haughtiness, his head held high. "We shall do battle again some other time." He then turned to Eevee rather sheepishly. "Er… well, shall we go then?"

Eevee, who had been watching their exchange in mild amusement, nodded. "Okay."

Lucario smiled as he waved. "See you later then, you two!"

When the two had left, the Aura Pokémon decided to drop by Owen's room again. Gardie and the officer were no longer there, but Cassie was still sitting faithfully by the bed. She looked up immediately when Lucario turned the doorknob, and the fighting-type was pulled into a tight hug the moment he stepped into the room.

"Cassie?" Lucario managed to gasp out, taken completely by surprise.

"Thank you!" Jubilation had apparently overwhelmed the Charizard such that she did not even mind being poked lightly by Lucario's chest spike. "The doctor just dropped by, and he said that Owen's condition has improved! He said that if all went well, he wouldn't be surprised if Owen were to wake up any moment now – isn't that great?"

Lucario tried to pry himself free. "That's… that's fantastic, Cassie… I'm so happy for you…"

She squeezed him a little harder. "And you made it possible! Words cannot express my gratitude!"

"Oh, I think you've expressed it pretty well already…" He gave her an awkward pat on her arm, and was glad when she finally let go. "You shouldn't thank me though; for all we know, his condition might have improved anyway without my help. Really, the doctors have done a good job on him. You should thank them."

"I have!" she declared, and Lucario immediately pictured the poor doctor being crushed in a hug – except the man would have gotten it worse, without a chest spike for self-defence. "I'm just so relieved… you have no idea…"

He patted her again, smiling. "I do. Losing a loved one is painful, so it's only natural to be happy now that he's out of danger." Lucario looked at Owen. "I'm glad the accident hasn't done any lasting harm. Perhaps… perhaps you could even say it's a camouflaged blessing…"

Cassie stared at Lucario for a moment as she tried to decipher his statement. "You mean a blessing in disguise? How so?"

"If the accident didn't occur, the suicide note wouldn't have been discovered. Owen might have tried to take his life in another way, and would perhaps have succeeded."

"Oh. I suppose so."

"Has his family been contacted yet?"

She nodded. "The policeman from earlier said that they're coming back immediately."

"I see," Lucario replied, not really hearing what she had said. There was something curious about Owen… The man was still unconscious, without a doubt, but something was different this time: his thoughts were active, albeit only mildly.

Having been through a number of human-watching sessions, Lucario was no stranger to weaving in and out of people's thoughts, but all those people had been awake and healthy. What could an unconscious man like Owen be thinking about?

"Is something wrong?" Cassie asked, perhaps noticing the stunned expression on Lucario's face.

"No, but…" The Aura Pokémon rubbed his chin as he pondered if he should dive into Owen's mind. "Well, I can read people's thoughts, you see… and… Owen's thoughts were empty earlier, but there's something there now…"

The fire-type's face lit up. "That's good news, isn't it?"

Lucario considered it for a moment. "Hmm… yes, I'd say so, but I'm not sure to what extent. I cannot make any promises."

"I understand," she said quickly. "So… what's he thinking about?"

"Um…" He turned to the Charizard. "Would you like me to find out?"

"It might be a good idea to do so, don't you think? I mean, if it's no trouble, of course…"

"Oh, it's no trouble at all," he replied, choosing not to reveal that he was actually curious himself. "I suppose I can take a short peek." Lucario walked over to a chair and sat down. "Well, here I go then. I'm not sure how long it'll take, so please just make yourself comfortable for the time being."

"All right," she said as she sank onto the other chair in the room.

Trying to ignore the fact that Cassie was staring intently at him, Lucario closed his eyes as he dived into Owen's mind. He wasn't quite sure what to expect – while he would normally have been able to see his target's thoughts immediately, the Aura Pokémon found himself staring at nothing but a vast expanse of white for the first few seconds.

It was as though the man's mind was shrouded in a thick veil of mist. Yet, before he could ponder this strange fact, the fighting-type was hit with a sudden gust of chilly wind. Lucario blinked a few times when he saw a blurred shadow in the distance. He squinted as he tried to make out what it was – it seemed to be a building of sorts.

Slowly, the mist seemed to dissipate all around him. Within moments, Lucario could see that he was in a big field of snow, of all places. The area was filled with many dead trees, spaced far apart from one another. There was no sign of Owen, or anyone else.

This was by far the oddest mind-diving experience he ever had.

Figuring it was pointless to just remain idle, Lucario tried to walk a few steps, his feet leaving paw prints on the thick layer of snow. The individual whose mind he was reading would usually show him their thoughts right away – he merely had to watch. Now, though, it was as if the Pokémon was given Owen's mind to explore for himself. He would not be spoon-fed this time. The captain of this ship, so to speak, seemed to be absent.

As Lucario made his way through the snow, hugging himself to protect from the cold, he suddenly heard some heavy footfalls from behind him. Thinking that it was Owen showing up at last, he spun around to find… nothing.

Yet, the sound of footsteps continued slowly, as though someone was gradually creeping up on him. Lucario looked around wildly, trying to find the source of the noise, but to no avail. Panicking a little, he tried to sweep the area with his aura senses, but it did not work. Of course – he was not really there, after all.

The footsteps grew louder, and Lucario let out an involuntary gasp when he finally saw a second set of footprints in the snow.

But there was no one there.

Lucario stared at the footprints silently for a moment. They looked like shoeprints… Then, without warning, a new print appeared in front of it – and another, and another, slowly approaching the dumbstruck fighting-type… each new print was accompanied with the same sound which he had heard earlier…

The footprints were barely a few feet away from Lucario before the fighting-type decided to run. He had no idea what was making the tracks, and he had no intention of finding out.

Lucario sprinted with all his might towards the building. To his horror, he was still being pursued by the invisible stranger, who had also broken into a run. He tried forcing himself to speed up, but the fighting-type almost tripped when he saw what was ahead.

A new set of footprints – one of a Pokémon whom he had no time to identify – was coming right at him from the front.

The Aura Pokémon swerved towards the left and looked behind to find that both sets of footprints had changed their direction as well. Gritting his teeth, he turned back to face the front. If he could just reach the building… would his pursuers follow him there as well?

A sudden explosion in front sent a shower of snow upwards before they rained down on the blue-furred Pokémon. Momentarily stunned, Lucario recovered quickly as he turned towards the right, not wanting to chance the same direction lest another explosion sends him flying.

Just when he was about to get confident, several new sets of tracks appeared all around Lucario, effectively pitting him in the centre of a circle that was slowly closing in. Scanning his surroundings, he could see no other way except to go through.

He broke into a run and then leapt up just before he would have collided with the pursuer in front. Lucario landed back on his feet past the invisible chaser, but he continued his sprint without a moment's pause. There was a huge scuffling of snow as several of the pursuers had to turn around, but he paid them no heed.

The building was just a short distance away.

Up close, Lucario saw that the building resembled a school compound. Apart from the main building, there was a field and even a playground. It was, as he had expected, empty – though the seesaw was moving up and down rhythmically, seemingly on its own. He tore his eyes away from it and focused on the main building instead.

The doors were closed, and right in front of it were two pairs of very large footprints. Though they were stationery, their presence indicated to Lucario that the front entrance was not an option. Rushing to the side, the Pokémon found several windows – not caring anymore, he threw a fist and shattered the glass before hastily hopping in.

Oddly, he felt no pain in his paw at all, but he had no time to consider that. Lucario turned around to stare outside the window and check on his pursuers, but the footfalls had stopped. An eerie silence had befallen the vicinity, and there were no footprints on the snow outside, not even his own.

Lucario sank down on the floor and scratched his head. Just what had happened back there? This was the most bizarre mindscape he had ever been to as of yet…

It occurred to him that he really wasn't in any danger at all, since his physical self was sitting safely in the hospital room. No matter how badly beaten he was over here, Lucario would probably suffer no injury, just like how breaking the window was a painless move. Yet… he had to admit the ordeal was still frightening nonetheless.

If there were more surprises to come, Lucario felt he should just call it quits and head back out.

Perking his ears, the Aura Pokémon got back to his feet and looked around the interior of the school. He was about to sweep the place with his aura vision again when he mentally smacked himself for forgetting that his abilities would not work here. Still, he was pretty sure the place was empty… for now.

Aside from the deafening silence, the school appeared quite normal. In fact, it was actually rather well-decorated. The hallway was filled with vases and baskets containing vibrant flowers, all located near the windows for better exposure to sunlight. Notice boards were placed outside each classroom, and several notes and posters were tacked onto the board neatly.

The row of classrooms continued to the end of the hallway, where a set of stairs lead to the second floor. Lucario looked around again, even sniffing the air, but there was no sign of anything that shouldn't be here.

He took a few steps forward, heading to a small door near the entrance. He tried to twist the knob, but the door was locked. Giving up, he walked instead towards the first classroom in the hall. Each time he passed a window, Lucario would turn towards it, but the only sight that greeted him was the picturesque field of snow outside. It seemed that the persistent footprints were history now; not that he was complaining.

Lucario pushed open the door to the classroom and peeked in. Although there was no one inside, there were several bags left around the tables. Some of the chairs were not pushed in properly as well. The teacher's desk at the front was very neat though, complete with a small vase containing a single sunflower. Even the blackboard was clean, with the exception of the word 'Monday' written in chalk at the top corner.

All in all, there wasn't anything unusual about the place.

The Aura Pokémon walked in hesitantly. "Owen?" he called out, hoping to locate the owner of this mindscape. There was no reply, though he wasn't expecting one. Sighing, Lucario went to the nearest seat and pushed the chair properly under the table. If Owen wouldn't talk to him, then there really wasn't any point in lingering around.

Seeing that there was an English textbook on the table, Lucario picked it up and flipped it open. The insides were completely empty – just white sheets of paper rather than proper content. He turned page after page, but there was nothing to be found. Feeling uncomfortable, he placed the book back on the table.

When Lucario looked up again, he gasped as he stumbled backwards, falling onto his behind. A message had been scrawled on the blackboard: "Who are you?"

Lucario glanced around wildly, expecting something to spring out at him at any moment, but all was quite still. He glanced at the message again, his breathing heavy. "I… am Lucario. Are you Owen?"

He waited for a moment, expecting a reply, but none came. Uneasiness growing by the second, Lucario got back up and headed for the door quickly. Before he could leave the classroom though, he was met with another unpleasant surprise which made his blood run cold.

While the sun was beaming into the hallway earlier through the many windows, there was absolutely nothing outside now. No sun, no field of snow – just a huge, black void. This effectively plunged the entire school into darkness, with the only sources of illumination being the dim lights placed on the ceiling. As though to add emphasis to this drastic change, the flowers along the corridor had all wilted.

The worst of all, however, was the rattling sound that echoed throughout the hall. Turning to the source of the noise, he found that the knob of the door by the entrance – the one he tried to turn earlier – was shaking. Evidently, someone from within the room was trying to get out… and his instinct told him that he would not want to meet whoever it was.

He could only take so much in one day.

Lucario tore down the hall, heading right for the stairs. Despite putting greater distance between himself and the door, the rattling only became louder, but at least it meant that the stranger was still trapped in the room.

Climbing to the second floor at record speed, the Aura Pokémon was greeted with another hallway much like the one he came from – except that there was an intense light coming from the cracks of the door at the end.

Even more surprising, there was someone curled up by the door: a small boy in a school uniform, hugging his knees. The moment he saw Lucario, he tried to back away. "No – don't come near me!"

Relieved that the boy wasn't some hostile monster in disguise, Lucario quickly made his way forward. "You don't understand – there's something downstairs – we need to get out of here right away!" the fighting-type said in Pokémon language; he figured language would not be a barrier within a mindscape. After all, he was successful in 'communicating' with Kip back then.

"Don't try to fool me!" The boy stood up, staring at Lucario with wide, frightened eyes. "You are one of them! Stop! Stop coming closer!"

Lucario halted – he was but a short distance away from the kid. He held up his paws. "I'm not going to hurt you. I'm only here to look for Owen. Do you know where he is?"

"Stop lying – you already know that I'm Owen!" he said, pressing his back against the door.

The Aura Pokémon narrowed his eyes. "You're Owen? Well, I suppose it's possible to take on any physical appearance inside your own mind…"

Owen did not seem to have heard what Lucario said. "I know who you are. You're Jack's Pokémon, aren't you? He always told me he had a Lucario, but I never believed him. Look – I'm sorry, all right? I'll make it up somehow – just leave me alone… please…"

"Owen, please calm down – I don't know who Jack is, and I most certainly am not his Pokémon, but –"

"Then whose Pokémon are you?" Owen yelled, his voice almost drowned out by the thunderous rattling from downstairs. "What do you want from me?"

"I'm not anyone's Pokémon; I'm wild! Listen – look around you – this place is a manifestation of your thoughts, and clearly, it's not an ideal spot for a conversation. Can you… er… change the setting for a moment? I really need to have a small chat with you."

Even before the Aura Pokémon had finished talking, Owen was already covering his ears and shaking his head. "Liar, liar, liar, liar, liar! You're trying to trick me! I know your lot has gathered all around the place, looking for me!"

"There are a lot of strange creatures around all right, but I assure you I'm not one of them. Who are they anyway?"

The boy brushed his auburn hair aside, staring at Lucario with wide, frightened eyes. "They've been after me for days now. I know it's only a matter of time before… before they get me… I know I should face up to the music, but… I'm scared… I'm sorry…"

"Okay, look, I need you to calm down." Lucario looked behind him; the rattling had ceased, but it was quickly replaced by furious poundings. "This place isn't real, Owen! You're an adult, and you're currently in a coma – Cassie's waiting for you!"

Owen stood still, stunned. The name seemed to have an effect on him, though he still seemed confused. "No…" he said at last, clutching his head. "You're insane… I've no idea what you're saying…"

"I know it sounds crazy, but –"

"I accept my fate. If you're here to kill me, then just do it!" he yelled, and upon his outburst, a huge crash came from downstairs.

Lucario looked behind again in alarm. Heavy footsteps were echoing around the building – the creature was moving slowly, but surely. He dashed forward and grabbed Owen by the arm before attempting to open the door. As he had expected, it refused to budge.

Owen shook his head. "It won't work… this door will never open… I've already tried…"

"It must!" Lucario shouted, attempting to break the door down through punches and kicks. "Come on!"

"Give up… I'm just going to die here…"

Lucario turned to the boy. "Owen – I need you to think that this door isn't locked – can you do that?"

Owen tried to pry Lucario's arm away. "The door is locked. It's meant to keep me here. If you're truly not one of them, then you're just at the wrong place at the wrong time. I suggest you hide, unless you want to die together…"

"I refuse to die in someone else's mind! Come on, I'm not asking the impossible…" He pointed at the door exasperatedly. "Just believe, even if for a moment, all right? It's just a flimsy door! The only one keeping you here is yourself!"

"It's just not logical to think that a locked door isn't locked."

Lucario actually growled in frustration – the creature seemed to be making its way up the stairs now. "I'm begging you, Owen, just do it!"

"But why?"

Deciding to change tacks, the Aura Pokémon channelled his inner Eevee and shot Owen a glare, baring his fangs as well for good measure. "Now!"

The boy's eyes went wide as he gaped, clearly not expecting this sudden flare-up from Lucario. Just as the fighting-type was beginning to feel guilty, there was a click from the door. The two of them turned to stare at it at the same time, and Lucario hurriedly tried the knob again.

This time, the door opened, causing a sudden burst of light to fill the corridor. It was too bright to see what lay beyond, but with the footsteps sounding hurried now, Lucario wasted no time in pulling Owen through with him.

No sooner had he stepped through the door than Lucario began to fall. The school faded away, swallowed up by the blinding light as the two were left to plummet down a complete void of white. Barely a few seconds passed before even the light dissipated, and soon they were shrouded in total darkness.

"Owen, can you think of a nice place where we can have a chat – perhaps a forest, a beach, or a lakeside? Please?" When the boy did not reply, Lucario turned around. There was no one with him; Owen had disappeared along with everything else. "Owen? Are you there?"

After a while, Lucario grew tired of the perpetual descent. Given the empty mindscape, he figured that Owen's thoughts had gone blank again. There was no point in sticking around for the time being, and so the Aura Pokémon decided to head back out.

Cassie was the first thing he saw the moment he opened his eyes – he jolted upright in his seat before he realised it was only her.

The Charizard stared at him in concern. "Are you all right? You were breathing quite heavily…"

Lucario straightened himself up on the chair. "I had a couple of scares, but I'm fine. Thanks."

"That's good." She paused for a moment. "So… did you get to see what he's thinking?"

"Yeah – and I even managed to talk to him for a bit, though he doesn't seem to be aware of his current state."

"What do you mean?" Cassie asked anxiously. "He doesn't remember the accident?"

"I guess you could say that he was dreaming… He was assuming the form of his past self."

"I don't understand."

Lucario scratched his head as he thought about how best to explain. "In his mind, he was still a child. I wouldn't worry too much about it – you know how realistic dreams can get. That dream is gone now, but I'll come back later and try checking his mind again. Maybe I'll get to meet the adult Owen."

Despite his assurance, the Charizard didn't seem too comforted. "And how was Owen?"

"Well… he seemed really frightened." The Aura Pokémon hesitated. Though the whole ordeal inside Owen's mind had been confusing, he was starting to make some sense of it. There really was only one explanation he could think of… "Actually, Cassie, can I ask you a rather personal question? I understand if you don't wish to answer it."

She nodded. "If it'll help Owen, I'll answer as best as I can."

"When Owen was still schooling… was he… well, was he a victim of bullying?"

Cassie was taken aback at the question. Her mouth fell open as she stared at the fighting-type in silence, waves of uneasiness radiating from her being.

"I understand if you don't want to answer," he repeated quickly, but the Charizard shook her head.

"I'll answer," she said softly. "No, he wasn't bullied." She turned to the man on the bed silently.

"Oh…" Lucario studied her expression, wondering if she was telling the truth. Before he could say anything else, she spoke up again.

"He was the bully," Cassie said in a whisper, as though she was afraid someone else would hear. She spun quickly to the Aura Pokémon. "But I assure you he's changed! He's not like that anymore! And I cannot stress just how much he regrets it – you have no idea…"

"He was a bully?" Lucario asked, stunned by the revelation.

"Was," she reiterated. "And it's been eating him, Lucario, please believe me!"

"Don't worry; I believe you." Surprising as the news was, it made sense. Perhaps Owen's remorse was too huge to the point where it would haunt him even in his coma. But was it the reason behind the suicide note? Lucario highly doubted so.

"I hope you don't think too badly of him," Cassie continued miserably. "He keeps on telling me how he wished he could turn back time and change how he was."

"Turning back time, huh…" Lucario scratched his muzzle. Was that why he had reverted to a child in that dream? "Well, I don't think time travel is a feasible option, but it's never too late to change."

"That's what I keep telling him – except he never listens, because he's a human who can't understand Pokémon talk."

"I can convey the message if you want. Since my mind will be linked to his, he'll be able to understand me."

She blinked in surprise. "Really? Can you also tell him to hurry and wake up?"

Lucario smiled and gave a small nod. "I could, but I'm not sure how much control he has over his condition. In any case, he didn't believe me earlier when I told him he was in a coma. There's nothing left to be done except to wait."

He stood up from the chair. "I suggest you get some sleep, Cassie. You look exhausted."

"No, I'm not. I just want to be here when he wakes up." She took hold of Lucario's paw. "Thanks for coming again; I really appreciate it. And… I forgot to ask. How's your friend?"

"Greg? He's doing very well – thank you for asking. My biggest concern right now is this guy here," he said, nodding towards Owen. "All the same, I should head back to check on him. See you soon, Cassie."

Once they bade farewell, Lucario headed back to where Spike and Greg were waiting. The boy was reading a magazine he had gotten from somewhere, while the Riolu was busy fiddling with the sofa.

Lucario walked up to the Emanation Pokémon, watching as he shifted the sofa away from the wall slightly. "Spike, what are you doing?"

Spike wagged his tail as he pulled away the cushions and shoved them into the Aura Pokémon's paws. "Magic!"

Without another word, he twiddled with the seat before unfolding it, effectively transforming the couch into a bed. The Riolu spread out his arms, looking proud of himself. "Ta-dah!"

Lucario stared at the sofa in surprise. "Wow! It does that?"

"Yeah, it's a sofa-bed! Since we're going to be sleeping here, I figured we should make ourselves comfortable." Spike took back the cushions from Lucario and placed them neatly back. "The nurse dropped by earlier, and I successfully persuaded her to get some blankets here."

He pointed to the bedside table, where a stack of folded blankets had been placed. "Only two, but they're quite large, so we could share. Besides, we have fur."

Lucario ran his paws through the white blankets, an idea slowly forming in his head. "Say… you don't mind if I borrow one of these, do you?"

Spike cocked his head. "No, but what are you planning to do with it?"

"Well…"

Roughly half-an-hour later, Lucario detected the presence of Eevee and Absol just outside the hospital. He rushed out to greet them, bringing along one of the blankets with him. Eevee was first to greet the Aura Pokémon when he walked out of the entrance, while Absol trailed behind, looking up at the hospital doubtfully.

Absol shifted his gaze to the fighting-type. "So… how are you going to sneak me in?"

Lucario held out the blanket. "Using this! You can wrap yourself around it, and then walk to the room."

The Disaster Pokémon did not seem to like the idea. "And bounce into walls along the way?"

"I suppose you could let me carry you, if you want."

Absol pondered for a moment. "Yeah… I think I'll take my chances with the wall, thank you very much."

"You should still be able to see my feet if you follow right behind me. Just try to keep up."

And so Absol was escorted into the hospital, looking very much like a cloud. "He looks more like an oversized mop, if you ask me," Eevee commented when Lucario voiced his opinion.

"I feel like a Mareep who really should be sheared any day now," came Absol's muffled voice from under the blanket.

Lucario laughed lightly. "Don't worry – I'll shear you when we reach Greg's room."

True to Lucario's guess, they didn't bump into too many people, although the group received many odd stares all around. Absol managed to avoid bumping into walls, although an accident almost happened in the elevator when the door very nearly snagged onto the end of the blanket.

Still, they made it to the room in one piece. Absol shook the blanket off him with a sigh of relief while Greg sat still, stunned at the arrival of a new Pokémon. He didn't seem to mind though – once the shock was over, he even beckoned the Disaster Pokémon over to rub his head.

"The presence of Pokémon can have a therapeutic effect on patients," Lucario said wisely. "See, Absol, you're only making things better by being present."

"I just hope the nurses and doctors share your view," Absol answered. "If one of them walks in and sees me here…"

"They wouldn't dare chase you out. They'll probably think you're part of Greg's team."

"They might not be happy about how crowded this room is though."

Lucario glanced around. Eevee was comfortably perched atop one of the cushions on the sofa while Spike had gotten himself tangled up inside one of the overly-large blankets, playfully struggling around as he tried to break free. The Aura Pokémon himself was sitting on the edge of the unfolded sofa-bed, and Absol was by Greg's side. If Mr. Cooper were to return at this moment, it would be quite packed indeed.

The fighting-type chuckled. "The more the merrier, right?"

"Maybe, but you'd think we were throwing a party here or something."

"Speaking of parties, it's around dinnertime." Lucario glanced out the window – it was already dark out. "I've not brought any money from the cave…"

Spike perked his ears. "Money? I nearly forgot!" He burst free from the grasps of the evil blanket and dashed to the bedside table. When he turned around again to face Lucario, he was holding a crisp paper note. "Ta-dah!"

Lucario stared at the cash in surprise. "Whoa, Spike, more magic?"

"Greg gave it to me earlier, telling me to go buy something to eat. Since no one else was around though, I remained here like a good sentinel. Now that everyone's arrived, let's go to the cafeteria!"

"Oh, but I really shouldn't be using his money… I suppose we've no choice today, but I'll pay him back tomorrow." Lucario turned to the boy, and was just about to mime that he would return the money the next day when Eevee called out to him.

"Drop it, Lucario." She raised her head from the cushion to look at him. "He's got plenty of cash to spare."

"But –"

"It's all right to let others treat you once in a while."

"Hmm… all right then…" He accepted the money from Spike. "Should I get something for Greg as well?"

"He'll have hospital food," Absol chimed in. "But I cannot guarantee he'll like it. TV shows often depict it as something horrible."

"Probably exaggerated, but I'll just buy something extra so he can eat it later if he wants. So… I don't have a menu with me, but what would you all like to eat?"

"Something light," Absol said.

Eevee was next. "Something edible."

"I'm following you," Spike declared, sticking close to the Aura Pokémon.

Lucario nodded. "Light, edible, following. I think I got it. I'll see you in a while. Come on then, Spike."

The hospital in the late evening was a picture of calmness and quietude, a clear contrast to the hustle and bustle in the day. There were still patients waiting for the late-shift doctors, but the numbers had dwindled.

On the way to the cafeteria, Lucario thought back to his mind-diving session earlier. It was a very different experience compared to every other time he read someone's mind, and who better to ask about it than the Riolu who had been programmed to excel?

"Spike, how much do you know about mind-reading?"

The Riolu turned to him curiously. "I dunno. I've never done it before… My abilities are rather limited for the time being."

"I understand, but there's something troubling me about Owen, and perhaps you could shed some light on that…"

"What is it?"

Lucario hesitated, trying to find the right way to phrase his question. "Usually, when I enter someone's mind, I get to see or hear that person's thoughts. If they're thinking about a past event, I get to see that event play out. However, it was different with Owen."

Spike tilted his head. "How so?"

"Well…" He paused again. "It was as though his mind was a place, and I was actually in it. I could walk around and explore… and interact with the objects around. Why is this so?"

"Hmm… it might have to do with the fact that he's in a coma," Spike pointed out.

Lucario thought about it for a moment. The Emanation Pokémon had a point – he had, after all, mused about it earlier as well. He had never dived into the mind of someone unconscious before. It might not even have been possible initially, seeing as Owen's mind had been devoid of thoughts prior to Lucario's attempt at aura rejuvenation. Perhaps the mindscape of an unconscious person worked in different ways?

"Or maybe it's because you've given him a part of your aura," Spike continued. "There's a special bond between the two of you now, after all. In a way, you have a certain amount of control over his mind. That might explain why you could manipulate the things inside it."

The Aura Pokémon stared at Spike in wonder. "Really? That can happen?"

"Oh, I can't say for sure." Spike grinned sheepishly. "I'm just throwing out wild theories here. I'm not even sure if there's anyone who can answer your question."

"I understand. Your theories sound plausible though. You're probably right," Lucario said, and Spike beamed in response. "There's actually something else that worried me though. There seems to be some… creatures… inside the mindscape that are out to get me. I can't get injured by them though, right?"

Spike waved a dismissive paw. "No danger, probably. Perhaps Owen could sense someone else intruding upon his mind, so those creatures are some sort of defence mechanism or something. Even if you're killed in there, you'll most likely just be ejected from his mind. Of course, forceful ejection might lead to a small headache, but still…"

They lapsed into silence as Lucario pondered the Riolu's words.

The cafeteria was quite empty, save for a few patrons who were having their dinner there – most of them seemed to be nurses and doctors, judging by their attire. The fighting-type duo headed over to check out the selection of food available, which was surprisingly quite impressive.

Seeing as Absol and Eevee were only seeking something light and edible, Lucario decided to purchase a few packets of pre-packed berry buns, figuring that Greg could have one too for supper.

While Lucario looked at the other pastries available, Spike was busy picking out refrigerated desserts. In the end, the Riolu padded back to the Aura Pokémon with several packets of chocolate-flavoured yoghurt. "These are good – you should try them."

He placed the buns on the counter for the cashier before adding the yoghurts to the lot. "I'll take your word for it then."

Once they had made their purchase, the two headed back to the room. There was a tray of food besides Greg – it seemed that the nurse had dropped in while Lucario was gone. "So, what was the nurse's reaction when she saw you?" the Aura Pokémon asked Absol, placing the bag of food on the table.

Absol tore his eyes away from the bag and shook his head. "I was hiding, actually." He jerked his head towards the blanket on the sofa-bed. "I was a cloud again."

"Well, you can't be a cloud forever. You certainly can't use the blanket again when we're leaving the hospital."

The Disaster Pokémon looked at Lucario in horror. "I haven't thought of that! How are you going to get me out now?"

He chuckled lightly. "Let the others see you. Since we'll be leaving anyway, it won't matter if they come after you with brooms, right?"

"Fine – but it'll mean we're all going to be put into the hospital blacklist," Absol said with a mock sigh. "You'll never be able to enter this building again."

Lucario tossed a bun each to Spike and Eevee. "I'll see if I can get another disguise. Maybe I can find one of those glasses with a giant plastic nose attached." He handed a bun over to the white-furred Pokémon.

Absol ripped apart the packaging with a claw. "Yeah. I bet that'll work."

"Sure it would." The fighting-type handed a bun and yoghurt to Greg, but the boy declined. He left them on top of Greg's tray anyway. "It'd look really good on you."

Feeling that it was best to consume the yoghurt while it was still cold, Lucario took one and removed the cover. Much to his surprise, there was a miniature plastic spoon attached to the underside of the lid. With his large paws, the blue-furred Pokémon had difficulty in removing it, but he managed to do so after a few attempts.

Lucario was reminded instantly of ice-creams when he took his first spoonful – it explained Spike's fascination with this dessert, if anything. The chocolate used by this particular manufacturer was rich and creamy, and the little chunks of berries were thankfully sweet and oozing with flavour. The coolness of the yoghurt as it slid down his throat was perhaps the best part of all, and he quite believed this was one of the best desserts available in the market.

"This really is good," Lucario said to Spike.

The Riolu nodded brightly. "They are, aren't they? I eat them whenever I can!"

He laughed, giving Spike a nudge. "Do you go around the shops everyday, acting cute so they would give you free dessert or something?"

"Er… well…" Spike coughed and scratched his head, looking awkward. "When I say 'whenever I can', I don't exactly mean –"

"Relax, I was just pulling your feet. Thanks for introducing this dessert; I might have just found my new favourite food."

Spike grinned. "I'm glad you liked it! They're my favourite too! To tell you the truth, I've always dreamed of visiting the factory where they produce this stuff. Maybe they'd give me a crateful as a souvenir."

Lucario paused as he mulled over what the Riolu had mentioned. "Well, do invite me when you plan on going. Maybe I could get one too."

"The cave isn't refrigerated, Luc," Absol piped up, crumbs of bread sticking around his mouth. "You'd need to finish the whole crate quickly… assuming they would give you one in the first place."

The Aura Pokémon scratched his chin. "Hmm… I wish my cave had electricity. I mean – life is pretty comfortable now, but imagine what it could be like… we could have a refrigerator, a television set, and everything."

Absol grinned as he shook his head. "You really are turning into a human." He paused for a while. "Actually, if you really want to, I'm sure Celia would be happy to have you stay over at her home every once in a while. It's the closest you can get to staying at a human's house without being captured by one."

Lucario nodded in agreement, finding himself excited at the very idea. "I would like that. I'm sure Umbreon would appreciate the company as well… er… your company, I mean."

"If you want to stay at a house, you should come over to Canalave!" Spike interrupted brightly. "Trust me; the sound of running water is extremely pleasing to the ears. Some houses even have a stream running through them."

"That sounds nice… but I don't know anyone there. I doubt we'd find a human who would allow stray Pokémon like us into his or her home."

Spike tapped himself on the chest. "I'm a Riolu. You're a Lucario. Then we have Absol and Eevee too. We aren't exactly common species… I bet you'd find a trainer who would love to have us. Don't forget there's a Pokémon gym in Canalave – there are a number of trainers residing there as well."

Absol replied without hesitation, "Yeah, and we'd wake up in Poké Balls."

Almost at the same time, Eevee gave a small huff. "No thanks. The risk's too big. If it's the sound of water you like, just stay at my cave."

The Riolu tossed Eevee an enquiring look. "Your cave? What's it like?"

As Eevee launched into a quick description about her home, Lucario turned to Greg. The boy had begun eating his food, quietly observing the Pokémon as they chatted among themselves. The Aura Pokémon started to feel guilty for leaving the boy out of their conversations, but he couldn't see how he could let Greg join in.

For Greg's sake, Lucario hoped that Mr. Cooper would return soon.

:::::::::::::::::::

Lucario awoke the next day shivering slightly despite the thick blanket covering him. It was the first time he had ever slept in an air-conditioned room, and he was not used to it. He had to admit the pillows and blankets were comfortable though. Plus, he was grateful that he did not have any nightmares, especially after what he had been through.

Gently pushing the dozing Spike – who had cuddled up to him – away, the Aura Pokémon gazed drowsily around the room.

Everyone else was still sleeping soundly, including Greg. It would seem, unfortunately, that Mr. Cooper had yet to return. Just what was he doing? Was he still at the police station? Or… had he come back late at night only to find that there was no room to accommodate him?

The Aura Pokémon walked over to the bed and stared at the boy for a while. His breathing seemed normal, and his aura was fine. All was well.

Relieved, Lucario's thoughts turned to Owen. Had his condition changed overnight? Perhaps he should go and take a look, but he wasn't sure if he should head out now or wait until someone in the room had awaken first.

His dilemma was solved right away when Absol stirred, the dark-type's eyelids only half-opened as he threw Lucario an unfocused stare.

"Morning," the Aura Pokémon greeted just as Absol sat up to stretch.

"For a moment, I was wondering where we were." Absol yawned, hopping off the sofa. "Feels strange not to wake up in the cave."

Lucario walked back towards the couch and sat on it. "It does, doesn't it? But a change of scenery once in a while isn't all that bad," he said in a whisper so as to not disturb the others. "Did you get enough sleep?"

"Luc, if you're awake before me, I've had plenty of sleep. Though…" The white-furred Pokémon turned to the window. The sun was just starting to rise. "Why did you wake up so early anyway?"

"I don't know – I just did."

"You did sleep, didn't you?"

Lucario nodded. "Yeah."

"Well, it probably isn't enough. Go on; sleep again – I'll guard the room whilst you do so. Unless a nurse comes in, in which case I'll hide."

"Actually, I'm thinking of visiting Owen – that's the guy who got knocked down along with Greg," he added at the confused look on Absol's face. He had only briefly explained about Owen the night before, for fear that the Disaster Pokémon would find out about Lucario's attempt at aura rejuvenation. "I just want to make sure he's all right."

"Ah. Okay then. I'll just wait here."

Lucario nodded. "Thanks, Absol. Keep an eye on everyone for me."

Walking down the brightly-lit corridors, Lucario noticed that the hospital was tranquil in the morning as well. Some of the nurses he had seen the night before were still around, though they looked as though they were just about to end their shift. A few of them even recognised him, greeting the Aura Pokémon as he passed by.

From the little window outside Owen's room, Lucario saw that Cassie was already up and about. The Charizard was looking rather cheerful despite the somnolence emanating from her. Owen, unfortunately, was still unconscious, although his aura was quite stable.

When the fire-type spotted Lucario, she beamed and opened the door to greet him. "Good morning!"

"Good morning," Lucario replied as he studied the Charizard. "Cassie, you didn't sleep at all, did you?"

She grinned. "I did doze off for a while; that counts, doesn't it?"

"No, it doesn't," the Aura Pokémon replied as he pushed her towards a chair. "I'm here now, so go ahead and get some shut-eye. I think I'll try looking into his mind again."

"Oh, but I won't be able to sleep then! I'll be too anxious to hear the results."

Lucario folded his arms and smiled. "Well, maybe I won't then."

Cassie huffed as she sank into the chair. "Fine – I'll get some rest, but only after you're done reading his mind."

"Okay, fair enough." Lucario took a seat by the bed and scanned Owen's aura again. His thoughts were active once more, and thus it would be possible for the fighting-type to dive into the man's mind. The only problem was what he would find inside… After his experience yesterday, the blue-furred Pokémon had to admit he was a little apprehensive about reading Owen's thoughts again.

"Um…"

Lucario turned to Cassie, who was twiddling her claws.

"Is something wrong?" she asked, staring at him intently.

"Oh, no – nothing at all." Steeling his nerves, the Aura Pokémon closed his eyes and leaned back on his chair. Taking a deep breath, he took his plunge.

Like before, a thick veil of mist shrouded his vision, preventing the blue-furred Pokémon from ascertaining his current environment. Lucario braced himself for the rush of cold wind, believing that he would emerge in the snowy landscape once again. However, he was greeted instead by warm, dusty air as the mist evaporated.

Blinking, the Aura Pokémon glanced around warily. He appeared to be inside some sort of building, though it was quite dark, and the silence was deafening. As he examined his surroundings further, he realised that he was in the lobby of a mall.

The shops around were unlit, but the doors were left wide open. Oddly, none of the shops' signs had any words on them. As though the situation was not bizarre enough, the entire mall seemed to consist of only a few stores, constantly repeating in the same sequence. And of course, there was not a soul in sight.

Sighing to himself, Lucario took a tentative step forward, wincing as the sound of his footstep reverberated around the building. Pausing to see if his movement had caused any change in the environment, the Aura Pokémon suddenly noticed something high above him.

On what appeared to be the highest floor of the building, a signboard from a shop was flickering, emitting a faint green light. Lucario squinted, trying to see if there was anyone there, but he was just too far away. Although nervous, he figured that he should probably head up there and find out for himself if Owen was lurking in that vicinity.

Turning around, Lucario saw that none of the escalators were moving. Strangely, however, the elevators nearby seemed to be functioning – there was a red "G" on the displays above them. The Aura Pokémon carefully padded over and pressed the 'up' button, causing the doors to open with a ding.

The lights in the elevator were not working either, with the exception of the LCD monitor within. Not giving it much thought, Lucario walked in and immediately pressed the button for the highest floor. It was only when the doors began to close did he get a sense of foreboding – he immediately reached out a paw to prevent the doors from shutting, but it was too late.

With a thud, Lucario was trapped in the elevator. His eyes turned to the only source of light, although the red "G" on the monitor did very little to illuminate the chamber. Frustrated with himself, the Aura Pokémon clenched his fists as he watched the monitor while the elevator moved upwards. If something were to attack now, he wouldn't have anywhere to run to…

Lucario waited with bated breath as the number on the screen incremented slowly. Just when the agonising journey had reached the halfway mark, there was a loud crash, and the elevator jerked to a halt. The fighting-type almost lost his footing, but quickly stood upright in a fighting stance. He knew something was bound to happen sooner or later.

And to think he had always loved riding elevators. He was probably going to have nightmares about them now.

The red number on the display flickered and dimmed before disappearing altogether, and now Lucario was left in total darkness. Tensed and fearful, the Aura Pokémon perked his ears and felt around with his paws, but he was completely alone. After a moment, a new fear took over: what if he was trapped in this dark, narrow chamber for all of eternity?

Just when the fighting-type reminded himself that he could easily leave Owen's mind anytime he desired, the LCD monitor sprang back to life, although it was displaying a bunch of random numbers which changed by the second. Apart from that, there was a strange crackling sound which appeared to be coming from outside the elevator. Lucario listened closely – it seemed to be getting louder, as though its source was swiftly approaching him.

Ding.

The elevator door opened, and the Aura Pokémon barely ducked in time as a great ball of fire shot over his head. Lucario leapt out just as the fireball smashed into the wall, erupting into tiny embers which then proceeded to raze the tiny compartment. In an instant, the elevator had transformed into an oven. Lucario laughed mirthlessly – perhaps that's what the 'ding' was for.

Lucario tore his eyes away from the flames and turned towards the front. The fireball seemed to have come from nowhere – he was completely alone in the corridor. Nonetheless, he felt safer now that he was out of the lift. His eyes strayed upwards, doing a quick calculation of how many floors he would have to climb in order to reach the top.

Upon realising that he was merely four floors away, Lucario fled towards the nearest escalator, climbing it at top speed. The fireball was a clear indication that he was – once again – unwelcome in Owen's mindscape, and who knew what else would happen if he were to dawdle.

The next escalator was located conveniently besides the previous one. After hiking up another two levels, Lucario paused in his tracks. Something was wrong, and he immediately found out why the moment he looked up again: he was back where he started. The top level remained four floors up.

Was this the defence mechanism which Spike had talked about? Stunned, Lucario turned his gaze towards the elevators. There was no fire anymore, but he was certain this was the same lift he rode earlier. Perhaps he was supposed to ride the elevator to the top after all? It wasn't something he was looking forward to though, and he had a feeling it would not work either.

Now in a complete stalemate, the Aura Pokémon decided to try the escalators one last time. Since he had been somehow transported back to the same floor when he was not paying attention, he figured he could try keeping his eyes on the top floor as he made his way up this time.

Lucario was just about to carry out his plan when a sudden blow knocked him to the ground. The next thing he knew, a fireball was zooming towards him – he rolled out of the way and leapt to his feet. Unlike before, the assailant had chosen to reveal herself this time…

"I am not your enemy… Cassie…"

Though the Charizard snarling in front of him was identical in appearance to the friendly Cassie waiting for him in the hospital room, Lucario knew this particular dragon was just a figment of Owen's imagination. The fire-type glowered at the Aura Pokémon, not uttering a word. The magnificent blaze on her tail was bright enough to illuminate the surrounding area, though it also made Cassie look a lot more intimidating – not to mention menacing.

When she continued to remain silent, Lucario spoke up, "I just want to have a chat with Owen. Do you think you can take me to him?"

The Charizard did not respond; instead, she seemed to have frozen in place, as though she was a robot which had just been shut down. Thinking that it would be a better idea to just leave her be, Lucario quickly darted towards the escalator. Unfortunately, his movement did not go unnoticed – he leapt aside as another fireball whizzed past him.

Changing tacks, the dragon's wings stretched and gave a mighty flap as Cassie slowly hovered above the ground. With a roar, she then sped towards the Aura Pokémon, who quickly spun around and ran the other direction. The dragon was faster than him though, almost nabbing him by the tail with her claws.

Aware that he would not be able to outrun her, Lucario made a sharp turn towards the shop closest to him. Though he had no time to examine the store in full detail, it seemed to be a boutique which mainly catered to women – although it was hard to tell since every piece of clothing in the store was the exact same dress.

Wanting to buy some time, Lucario shoved a mannequin down as he ran, hoping that it would impede the Charizard's way. However, nothing would stop the fake Cassie, who merely crashed through everything in her path.

Just as the dragon was gaining on him once more, Lucario noticed a door at the end of the boutique. Dashing through it, he was momentarily stunned to find that he had been warped back to the entrance of the store.

Cassie's roar jolted him back to his senses, and he ran again only to find himself by the escalators. Gritting his teeth, he realised that there was no way he could shake the dragon off.

He spun around – the fire-type was gliding at full speed towards him. Lucario bended his legs and sprang upwards before landing directly on Cassie's back just as she swooped past.

The dragon flew around clumsily as she tried to reach back and pull Lucario off, but the Aura Pokémon held on tightly while dodging her grasps. Cassie was hovering past the guardrails now, and if he were to fall, he would drop all the way to the ground floor. Apparently having the same thought, the Charizard began to thrash in midair.

When that didn't work, Cassie stooped forward before nose-diving straight towards the ground floor. The wind whipped Lucario's fur wildly and he squeezed his eyes shut as he braced for the impact – but the Charizard seemed to have a change of plan yet again. Right before crashing onto the ground, she swerved upwards instead, going right for the ceiling.

If she were to hit the roof, the impact might be strong enough to shake him off, and he would then plummet to his figurative doom… Not wanting that, Lucario readied himself – when they were near the top, he leapt off her back, barely managing to grab onto the guardrails on the top floor. As he hoisted himself over, he heard a loud crash as Cassie collided with the ceiling.

That was immediately forgotten when he saw who was in front of him: Owen, completely adult this time, trembling as he slowly backed away from the Aura Pokémon.

"Owen! I'm so glad I found you!" Lucario called out. "You remember me, right? I was just here yesterday!"

The man evidently did not remember. "Cassie! Cassie! Come back, quick!"

"No – please, I'm not going to attack you! I just want to have a talk!"

A roar resounded from behind him, and the Aura Pokémon gulped as he turned around. Cassie was back, looking incredibly angry. For some reason though, her glare was directed straight at Owen instead – the man stood rooted to the spot, staring at her with his mouth agape.

"Cassie?" he asked meekly, his voice barely audible.

Lucario stared between the two. This development confused him greatly – why was the imaginary Cassie targeting Owen now? This was his mindscape; he would have to be the one controlling the Charizard…

Cassie dove towards Owen and swiped her claws at him. She narrowly missed, though in his haste to get away, the man tripped and fell backwards. The fire-type landed and tilted her head upwards as flames gathered in her mouth. Figuring that he had better step in, Lucario made his way towards her only to be knocked down by her tail.

The dragon spun around and snarled at Lucario before making a dash towards the Aura Pokémon. He quickly got back to his feet and launched a Force Palm – although it connected with her torso, it did not seem to faze her at all. The blue-furred Pokémon drew his fist back before delivering a heavy punch, but Cassie managed to dodge the attack by flying upwards.

Lucario tried grabbing her leg to pull her back down, but Cassie soared past his head and over the guardrails, far out of his reach. Just as he turned around to face her, he found a fireball zooming straight towards him. Out of instinct, the Aura Pokémon thrust his arm forward to shield himself.

There was a flash of blue as a massive orb of aura burst out from his palm. The sphere crashed into Cassie's right wing, and she roared as she attempted to stay afloat with her left. Her efforts were futile though, and she began to plummet out of sight. Lucario rushed forward to the guardrails and peered down, but the Charizard had vanished completely.

Utterly confused, Lucario stared at his paws. Where did that Aura Sphere come from? He had never made one so big before, not to mention the fact that he hadn't practised much with them… Moreover, he had felt nothing in his arm at all, unlike the previous times he had done an Aura Sphere. The fighting-type turned to the man standing behind him – Owen had to be responsible for this somehow.

Seeing that the fighting-type was now gazing at him, Owen trembled, looking as though he might faint. He leaned against the wall for support, occasionally staring at Lucario before quickly turning away. "You… whose Pokémon are you?" he asked, gazing blankly at the floor.

"I told you before – I'm wild."

The man finally summoned enough courage to stare at the Aura Pokémon for more than three seconds. "Wild? Not… Jack's?"

Lucario shook his head. "Not Jack's. I don't even know who that is."

"Not Phillip's? Nancy's?"

"Just how many people have been telling you that they had a Lucario?" the fighting-type asked, trying to hide his exasperation. "I'm wild! No one owns me."

He paused, looking as though he did not believe a word Lucario had said. "What do you want with me then?"

The Aura Pokémon hesitated, wondering how to broach the subject. "Okay, I know this is going to sound bizarre, but bear with me here. You had an accident, and you are currently unconscious in the hospital. This," he waved his arms around, indicating the whole mall, "is not real. I need you to accept that before I can continue."

Owen gazed at Lucario suspiciously. "What are you talking about? I was merely taking my family out for a day at the mall when you stormed in here!"

"Your family? Well then, where are they?"

"They're…" He glanced around for a moment before turning to Lucario again quickly. "Why do you ask? What do you want to do with them?"

Lucario sighed. "Listen, don't you find it strange that there's nobody else in the mall at all? And look! It's so dark in here! How does the management expect anyone to do any shopping? And see this," he pointed at the shops. "Where on Earth could you find a mall in which you get the same few stores repeating in the same order, on each floor?"

Owen looked around the place with his mouth agape, apparently only realising the true environment he was at for the first time. "But… I was… earlier… just what is this place?" His knees shook, and he slid down to the ground. The man seemed utterly frightened, his eyes wide with terror. "Where am I?"

Relieved that he had finally gotten through to Owen, Lucario ploughed on. "You are in your own mindscape. Think of it as a dream. Your physical self is currently in a ward; Cassie's been waiting for you to wake up since yesterday."

"Cassie…" Owen grasped his hair with both his hands. "But she hates me… You saw what happened…"

"That's not true, Owen!" Lucario quickly said. "That wasn't the real Cassie at all. I don't know why she attacked – perhaps you've always had a fear of her turning against you or something – but Cassie loves you! You have no idea how depressed she was when she saw you in this state!"

Owen released his grip, though he still looked miserable. "Cassie is a great Pokémon…"

"Yeah, she is…"

"She deserves much better than me…"

"What? Why would you say that?"

He did not reply; instead, he seemed to be deep in thought. "You said that I had an accident?"

Lucario nodded, studying the man's expression. "Yes… you were knocked down by a vehicle while you were trying to save a boy. Do you remember anything about it?"

"I was trying to save a boy?" Owen screwed his eyes, apparently trying to remember. "Really?"

"I'll take that as a 'no' then…" As Owen continued his attempts at recalling the accident, Lucario pondered if he should bring up the suicide note. "By the way, do you… er… remember anything else?"

Owen stared at Lucario, looking dazed. "Like what?"

"Like what you were doing on the day of the accident, or – well, anything at all, really. What's your most recent memory?"

"Recent memory…? Recent… I don't know… I can't really tell what is recent anymore…" He paused, apparently contemplating his own words before turning to Lucario with an expression of wonder. "I'm actually finding it difficult to think. Does this mean I'm really in the hospital right now?"

"Yes, Owen."

He gestured around the mall. "All this isn't real?"

"Yeah; it's all a part of your imagination."

"So you're a figment of my imagination too?"

Lucario hastily shook his head. "No, I'm very much real. As a Lucario, I am able to enter the mind of someone else, so I thought I'd come and pay you a visit. Everyone out there is worried about you – Cassie, your family… Your family was in Kanto, apparently, but they're rushing back now."

"Kanto?" he repeated, a look of sudden realisation flashing across his features. "I – I remember now…"

Surprised, Lucario asked, "What is it?"

"I… Well, they… My wife took the kids to visit her parents in Kanto."

He turned away, looking troubled. Lucario had the impression that Owen was concealing something from him, but would it be right for the Aura Pokémon to pry? "I see… do you remember anything else besides that?"

"No… nothing at all." Though Lucario did not believe him one bit, the man changed the topic before the Aura Pokémon could response. "Can I just ask though… how's my condition? Am I going to die?"

"No, I think you'll pull through." At this, Owen looked torn. His lack of happiness upon hearing the news was reason enough to make Lucario suspect that the man had indeed remembered anything, including his desire to kill himself. "By the way… do you recall the accident at all? The police are investigating the matter at the moment, so it'd be really helpful if you can tell me anything about it."

"The accident? It's a bit of a blur, to tell you the truth. I can only remember seeing a great big van swerving down the street… And… I don't know…" He scratched his head. "I didn't get a good look at the van… I couldn't really see it clearly. Can't tell you the licence plate or anything."

"Why couldn't you see it clearly? Did you at least see who the driver was?" Lucario asked, deciding not to mention that Owen had contradicted his statement about not remembering anything else.

"No, I didn't see the driver. It's a bit hard to explain… I think something obstructed my view somehow." He paused, looking confused. "Anyway, I saw that it was about to crash into the boy, so… yeah, you know what happened next. To be honest, it was as though my body moved on its own…"

So Spike was right after all, Lucario mused to himself. He acted out of instinct. However, Owen's previous statement struck the Aura Pokémon as odd. What exactly could have obstructed his view? "Well… The boy was with an Eevee at that time. Do you recall seeing her?"

"An Eevee?" Owen pondered for a moment. "No, I don't remember any Eevee. Was she… no… don't tell me… she got struck?"

"Oh, no – no, no, she's fine," Lucario hastily said. "You and the boy were the only victims in this incident."

Owen smacked his head. "The boy! I forgot to ask: how's he?"

"He's fine too," the Aura Pokémon assured. "Actually, you're the only one who is severely injured."

"But I'm going to survive?"

He nodded in affirmation. "You are going to survive."

Lucario had barely finished his sentence when Owen spoke again. "Can you do me a favour then? Get me out of the hospital pronto."

The fighting-type stared at the man in surprise. "Why? You need to be treated!"

"Look – I'm not exactly a wealthy man. I don't want my family to be burdened with my hospitalisation. Do you know how expensive the bills can get?"

"Your wellbeing is more important than money. I'm sure your family agrees."

Owen shook his head, looking extremely exasperated. "You don't understand…"

Lucario wanted to assure Owen that everything would be all right, and that there would be a way to solve this problem. Yet, if the family wasn't exactly stable financially… Could that be the reason why the man wished to kill himself?

"I'm sorry…" Owen added in a whisper. "I need some time to think alone…"

"I understand. I'll leave you alone now, but I might check on you later." He placed a paw on the man's shoulders. "Don't worry, all right? Just focus on recovering. Anything else, we can mull over later. That's what Cassie wanted me to tell you as well."

Owen nodded. "Yeah, thanks. And, uh… tell everyone out there not to worry either."

"Okay. See you later then. And please," Lucario added, "imagine a small, nice garden or something the next time I come, all right?"

With a small wave of goodbye, Lucario closed his eyes as he slowly returned his thoughts to his physical self. Like before, Cassie was the first thing he saw when he opened his eyes – her face was only a couple of inches away from his.

"Whoa!" he yelled, startled.

The Charizard stepped back hastily. "Sorry – I was just concerned."

Lucario clutched his chest, panting slightly as he tried to force himself to calm down. This was the friendly Cassie after all, and not the violent one in Owen's mindscape. "It's all right… I just wasn't expecting you, that's all…"

"Are you sure it's okay for you to be doing this though? Your breathing was heavy again – I'm worried it might your affect your health. I appreciate what you're doing, but please don't do it at the expense of your wellbeing."

"I'm fine, thanks." He stood up for a stretch. "And he finally realises that he's in a coma, although I'm not sure if he'll still remember that the next time I visit him."

Her eyes lit up as she walked closer to Lucario, looking anxious. "Really? Did he mention anything about the suicide note then?"

"I'm sorry, but he did not – and neither did I ask." The Aura Pokémon folded his arms as he briefly wondered if he should have pursued the topic earlier with Owen. "He remembers the accident, so I believe he recalls the note as well. But he seemed reluctant to talk about it… and I wasn't sure if I'm in a position to enquire further…"

"I understand… but you needn't feel embarrassed about asking or anything," Cassie assured. "We're only doing this to help him, after all."

"I suppose so… But still, there are a few things which I think you should know. Firstly, he mentioned that he wanted to discharge himself from the hospital right away."

Cassie's response was immediate. "Absolutely not. Out of the question."

"Yeah, that's what I told him too. But he said something about hospital bills being expensive, and that he was not exactly wealthy…" Lucario facilitated for a second. "I might be out of line here, but Cassie… is your family having some financial difficulties right now?"

"Financial difficulties?" The dragon thought for a moment. "Yes, we're quite financially tight, but the situation's not that bad, I think… I do know that his wife has gone to Kanto partly to borrow money from her parents, but I wasn't under the impression that it's an emergency…"

The news surprised Lucario. "The trip to Kanto was for money?"

"Yes, but…" The Charizard covered her mouth with her paws, as though she just realised something. "Do you mean… Owen wanted to kill himself because of money problems?"

"I don't know for sure, but I have a feeling the situation is direr than what you expect."

"Then…" She gasped. "Is he trying to kill himself so that the family can claim his life insurance?"

"I don't know… Does he even have insurance? And do they pay out cash if it was a suicide?"

"I'm not sure – but Owen hasn't tried to kill himself yet – he's in this state because of the accident!" she cried out, panic filling her mind as her tail thumped against the floor. "Did he save the boy just so he could die without committing suicide? All for the insurance?"

"Whoa, relax, Cassie," Lucario said quickly. "I doubt that's the case. Even if he did pass away as a result of the accident, the insurance company might use the suicide note as an excuse not to give a payout. I'm sure he realises that. Besides," he added with a tone of finality, "he told me himself that he pretty much acted out of instinct when he saved Greg."

"Good. Because that's a stupid plan. I don't want money – I just want him to be safe!"

"I know… Anyway, although the accident was just… an accident… we cannot rule out money problems as the cause for his desire to kill himself. Another thing which troubled me was…" He hesitated when the fire-type stared at him. "You."

It took a while before Cassie registered what Lucario said. She pointed a claw at herself in surprise. "Me?"

"You appeared in Owen's mind earlier. Initially, you attacked me – no, don't worry," he added upon seeing her look of concern, "it was all Owen's imagination, of course. He was only trying to drive me, an intruder, away. Later though, you began assaulting Owen instead."

Her mouth fell open – she looked absolutely appalled. "But why? Why would I do that?"

"I don't know either. Owen later mentioned that you were a great Pokémon, and that you deserved someone better."

"Oh no…" She sank into the armchair and sighed. "Not that again…"

"'Again'?" Lucario repeated.

"I mentioned that he was once a trainer, remember? We went on a journey around the region back then, and… not to boast or anything, but we made good progress," she said sheepishly. "We collected badges like there was no tomorrow – everything was pretty smooth-sailing, until… Well, there was a particular gym which we could never beat.

"We trained again and again, lost again and again… It seemed like there was nothing we could do to win." She rubbed her chin as she gazed blankly ahead. "I don't know… after a certain point, I guess he just lost confidence. He began blaming himself for the losing streak, attributing it to nonsense like his 'poor training regimen' or 'lousy in-battle commands'."

Cassie turned to Lucario with a small smile. "After a few more losses, he gave up altogether, and that's how we ended up here. I was more than willing to conclude our journey, because I could tell he wasn't happy anymore. But that's the problem. He thinks that by quitting, he was letting me – and the rest of the team – down."

Lucario thought back to the massive Aura Sphere he had produced in the mindscape. If Owen was indeed bothered by his losing streak, Lucario's guess was probably right – Owen might have caused the attack to manifest as he imagined Cassie losing the battle.

"I love travelling, and I love battles; I'll admit that. But I love Owen more, and I don't mind settling down at all. But he doesn't understand." The dragon clenched her fist and pounded on the side of the chair. "He thinks I'm unhappy with the quiet life. The rest of the team has already gone – does he think I'll be happier if I were like them: out there in the wild, or travelling with someone else?"

She gave a huff. "I've been telling him for ages that I'm happy as things are, but…" Cassie gave a heavy shrug. "Maybe I should just learn how to speak English."

"I see…" Lucario said. "I guess the communication barrier is a problem."

She laughed mirthlessly. "Although he might not believe me anyway, even if I could communicate with him." After a brief moment of silence, she spoke up again. "This can't be the reason for his suicide, right?"

"Oh, I doubt it," the Aura Pokémon replied as he shook his head. "But he's being weighed down by all these regrets – his past self as a bully, and his decision to quit as a trainer… Perhaps it's eating him from the inside. Add in financial woes too, and I guess it makes for a lot of accumulated stress…"

"He sure hides it well…" she said miserably. "I'm his Pokémon partner, and yet he never discusses his problems with me."

"I guess he just didn't want to worry you, although of course," he added when he saw that the Charizard was about to interrupt, "I guess it only led to more problems in the end. But these problems can be solved; we just need to take it slow. I'll drop by Owen's mind again and have another chat later."

Cassie smiled. "Thanks, Lucario. It's been hard on you."

"Not at all. Though I hope you'll keep your promise and get some rest now that I've entered his mind."

She laughed. "Fine, I will. You know, you can be as stubborn as Owen sometimes."

"Well, my friend has described me as mulish before – just yesterday, in fact," Lucario replied with a chuckle. "I suppose I'll take my leave then. Bye!"

"See you!"

After leaving Eevee alone with Greg at the beach, I headed back to the cave. I should not have done that. Greg was involved in an accident shortly after, though he was mostly fine thanks to a passer-by who instead took most of the blow.

A police Growlithe later revealed that the passer-by, Owen, had a suicide note in his pocket. The news was a surprise to Cassie, Owen's Charizard partner. She seemed awfully distraught, and it was clear that she shared a strong bond with her human. Hearing that the man might not make it, I decided to try my paws at aura rejuvenation.

Lucario returned to Greg's room to find that everyone was already wide awake. It was a bit of a surprise, seeing that it was still quite early in the morning. He beamed as he waved to Greg, who returned it with one of his own.

Spike tossed one of the leftover buns from the day before. "How's the guy?" he asked, his voice coming out muffled due to the fact that he was eating one at the same time.

"Still in a coma, but fine. Thanks for this," Lucario said as he ripped the packaging open. "Greg's father still not here yet?"

It was Absol who replied. "Nope. Eevee's been saying that he probably forgot about his son."

"Oh, come on…" Lucario said as he nudged the Evolution Pokémon. "Thank goodness Greg can't understand Pokémon."

Eevee was defiant, her tail standing erect. "Well, it's true. His son's in the hospital, but he did a disappearing act. Surely he doesn't need to stay in the police station all the time?"

"I'm sure he has his reasons," Lucario said simply. "All the same, it is a bit odd, I guess. In any case, we should probably wait here until he comes back."

Aura rejuvenation is a risky move, since I could very well lose my life if I fail to control myself. Thankfully, Spike was there to help keep me in check. He is a Riolu after all, and he seems to be very knowledgeable in this matter.

Later on, after what turned out to be some of the scariest mind-diving experiences I ever had, I managed to talk with Owen. Although I have gained a better understanding of the man, I have yet to identify the reason why he wanted to commit suicide. I will continue to talk with him until he wakes up – his story is most definitely not over yet.

In the meantime, however, there is another important matter which demands my attention; something which I believe no one anticipated.

As the day progressed, Lucario could sense the growing worry emanating from Greg. Every once in a while, his eyes would stray to the door, as though hoping he'd finally catch sight of his father about to walk in.

When evening fell, the Aura Pokémon began to wonder if he would have to spend another night at the hospital. Eevee was looking bored, idly staring as Spike played around in the fortress of pillows which he had built. Absol, on the other hand, was curled up in the corner with his eyes closed, although Lucario knew he was not asleep.

At the sound of the doorknob turning, everyone looked up. At long last, Greg's father walked into the room, looking extremely fatigued. Still, he managed a smile as he spotted the boy, who sat up on his bed right away.

"Dad, where have you been?" Greg asked, his voice a mixture of relief and indignation.

He sat down on the edge of the bed. "Sorry, Greg… something cropped up. But never mind that; how are you?"

"I'm okay," Greg said quickly before changing the subject back. "Were you at the police station the whole time?"

"I was there for a while, but no… I had something else to attend to." Mr. Cooper appeared uneasy. "I know I should be here with you, and I'm sorry, but that matter couldn't wait."

Though he did not exactly appear to be satisfied by the explanation, Greg seemed to accept it. "I suppose it couldn't be helped. But everything's been settled now, right?"

Mr. Cooper nodded. "Everything's settled. And seeing that you haven't been badly injured, we'll be able to get you out of here as soon as possible. I'm just so relieved that there's no lasting harm done."

"Yeah, and it's largely thanks to the stranger who saved me. I still haven't gone to see him."

"I dropped by his room earlier – he's still in a coma, although the doctor did mention that his condition is looking good. Maybe we can drop by when he's up."

After chatting with his son a little more, Mr. Cooper turned to the group of Pokémon and thanked them for staying the night, as well as apologising for keeping them into the evening. As the unofficial spokesperson for the team, Lucario tried his best to indicate without words that it was not a problem at all.

The group decided to stick around for a bit longer before heading back into the forest. As the sky grew dark, however, thunder began to sound just like the day before. Lucario took it as a cue to hurry back before the impending rain, but fate had other plans.

I had thought that the troubles were over, but clearly, they were just beginning.

The door opened, and a familiar face in a police suit walked into the room. It took a few seconds for the Aura Pokémon to recognise the visitor – it was the superintendent who helped nabbed the culprit behind Ellie's murder back then. His large Arcanine companion sauntered in behind him – the fire-type paused and gaped when he spotted Lucario. It was clear that the canine recognised the fighting-type and Absol.

"It be you again!"

Before Lucario could reply, the superintendent spoke up, his eyes focused on Mr. Cooper. "My name is John Fedrow, and I am from the Ferrous City Police Department. I am not going to beat around the bush – I have a couple of news which you might find interesting."

Mr. Cooper regarded the policeman warily. "And that would be…?"

"We have identified the man who knocked down your son."

"Excellent!" barked Mr. Cooper, just as another thunder roared outside. "I trust you've got him in custody then?"

"He is with us, yes," John said, his expression stoical. "Except that he is dead."

A heavy silence fell upon the room, with all eyes either on Mr. Cooper or the superintendent. Greg sat upright on the bed, disbelief and horror etched all over his face. It was apparent that he already knew what the superintendent was going to say.

"I will not beat around the bush," the policeman repeated. "The man has been murdered, and we have reason to believe that you are the perpetrator."

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

AUTHOR'S NOTES

Next time, on I Am Lucario

"We have come all the way from Unova to do battle with you!"

Hopefully this time it won't take so long. (I know I keep saying this)