Ok, finally managed to get enough time to finish this chapter up. I honestly struggled mightily with this chapter, since I was delving into things I'm not overly familiar with. Hopefully it's satisfactory, I'll leave that up to you.
_

Chapter 64

Misty's POV

Gone...he's gone, he just up and left us! I'm gonna kill him when he gets back! That is...if he gets back. I'd probably feel a lot better if my pain in the neck boyfriend actually told us where he was going in that stupid note of his, but since he didn't we have no clue where to even begin looking for him! The only thing that comes to mind is that he mentioned how I told him he needed some extra support, that's the only clue he left us other than that he definitely wasn't looking for Rotom. But for the life of me I can't figure out where he could've gone. I guess this is kinda how Dawn felt when Ash disappeared the first time to come and get me from Kanto...except Dawn's heart stayed where it was when he left...my heart's wherever he is right now. Well I won't quit! I'll figure out where he is if it's the last thing I do! And when I figure it out, I'm gonna find a way to get there so I can kiss him with everything I am...and then beat the tar out of him for making me worry!

Normal POV

"How do you figure it?" Brock scoffed, "One day he's here, the next he's not. Just disappeared without a trace."

"We know Brock." Misty growled.

"But why? I know he was upset about Rotom yesterday, but his note says that the reason he left has nothing to do with Rotom!" Dawn said in worry.

Brock tapped his chin in thought, "Misty," he turned his attention to the redhead, "The note says that you told him that maybe he needed some support..."

Misty quickly cut Brock off, "But I didn't mean for him to just leave us here so he could find it!"

Brock raised a hand, "Lemme finish." he said calmly. "What were you two talking about when you said that?"

Misty thought back to the heart-to-heart she and Ash had shared that night. "Rotom, the song...the kiss...what else...?"

"Wait, a song and a kiss? What'd I miss last night?" Dawn asked curiously.

Misty narrowed her eyes at the coordinator, "Never mind that." Misty continued to replay the event in her head, if only she hadn't been so groggy when she went out there, half of the stuff they talked about last night was a total blur to her. "Gah, I can't remember!"

After a few more tension filled moments, Brock got up from his chair, "Guys, I think we should just do what he said."

"What?!" the two girls shouted.

"If Ash says he's ok, I'm willing to take his word for it." Brock turned his attention to the coordinator, "Dawn, we've already gone through this once before, when Ash went to get Misty from Kanto, at least this time he left a note."

"I guess." Dawn mumbled.

"And how are you gonna convince me?" Misty asked with her arms and legs crossed.

Brock shrugged, "I can't. All I can say is that we should trust him when he says he'll be back soon and that he's safe wherever he's at. He's not the Ash from four years ago anymore, and as hard as it is sometimes for us to remember that, he's proven time and time again over the past few months that he's matured a lot...he's gonna be fifteen years old pretty soon, you'll be sixteen not long after...we're all growing up Misty, maybe we should trust him."

Misty sighed and looked down to the floor, "Ok Brock...I guess you're right." she finally conceded. "But if I happen to come up with a theory, I want your help in following up on it!"

"Deal." Brock nodded.

So the group started back on the road towards Lilypad Town, and on the way they came across a beautiful berry orchard. "Wow, amazing!" Dawn squealed.

As the group investigated the orchard, Piplup found himself falling deeply in love with a Marill that belonged to the daughter of the owners of the orchard. Unfortunately, there was also a wild Elekid who liked that same Marill, and a love triangle was quickly formed. "Déjà vu...wonder how Totodile's doing anyway?" Misty thought to herself, "Well, here we go again...Ash, wherever you are, I hope you're having a better time than we are...and I hope you're ok."

{Iron Island}

"My help? With what?" Riley asked.

"I need you to train me...I need to know how to be an Aura Guardian." Ash said determinedly.

Riley was shocked to say the least, "You want to be an Aura Guardian?" he said almost to himself, "What brought this on?"

Ash pulled out a Pokéball and tossed it, and moments later Riolu appeared, his face somewhat despaired as now the connection between him and Ash had decayed so much that now even he couldn't feel it. "My aura isn't getting through to Riolu anymore, I think our connection is dead!"

Riley scratched his chin in thought, "Here...let me try something...Lucario, come here." Lucario joined his master's side and held out his paw just as Riley did, and together they closed their eyes to scan Ash and Riolu's aura. "Can you feel that?"

"Yeah...it's kinda weird."

Lucario came to a sudden stop and opened his eyes abruptly, as it was revealed to the Aura Pokémon through Riolu's aura...that this particular Riolu was in fact his son. Lucario grunted at Riley, and the Guardian in training confirmed it. "That's right Lucario, you remember don't you? You're the one who chose Ash to be Riolu's trainer a couple of months ago." Lucario looked on in shock, and Riolu also seemed to be stunned by what he had just learned. Ash was not his true father, this Lucario was. Riolu walked up to Lucario and looked up at him, and the Aura Pokémon held up his paw and touched Riolu's head with it, connecting with the small Pokémon via his aura. "Well this is certainly a touching scene."

"Wait...what just happened?" Ash asked in confusion.

"Lucario just remembered that your Riolu is his son, and apparently Riolu just realized that too."

"Oh..." Ash suddenly felt slightly disappointed, "So...does that mean that Riolu won't see me as his dad anymore?"

"He considered you his dad?" Riley asked in surprise, "Amazing, I've never seen such devotion and dedication between a trainer and his Pokémon before." Riley looked down at Lucario and Riolu who were now playfully interacting with each other. "Well to answer your question, if what you're saying is true, then I doubt that Lucario will take your place in his heart. Riolu may realize that you're not his blood father, but you'll probably always be his father in his eyes, that's just the way Riolu and Lucario are...but I've never heard of even a Riolu taking such a liking to any trainer that their relationship could run that deep. Lucario always called me by my name or "master". You have something special."

Ash shook his head in confusion, "So if my relationship with Riolu is so special, why is my aura not able to connect to his anymore?" Riolu looked up at Ash and frowned sadly as he was reminded of the problem at hand.

"Hmm..." Riley scratched his chin in thought, "Well, when I sensed your aura just now, it seemed stronger than it was when we met for the first time."

"Wow, really?!" Ash asked in excitement.

"That may not be a good thing." Ash's excitement quickly died out at that, "According to Lucario, Riolu's aura hasn't been developed very well, he only knows certain basics that he knew from birth."

Ash gasped in realization, "That must be why Riolu wasn't able to sense Misty's aura, but he was able to sense mine!"

"Exactly. He was able to sense yours because of your connection with him, but now your aura has grown too powerful for him to sense...his power is underdeveloped, and yours is very raw and unrefined...it could be that your connection isn't enough to bridge those gaps anymore."

Ash grunted and bent down to pick Riolu up into his arms, and the little Pokémon looked at him in sadness. "Don't worry Riolu, we'll find a way to make this right." he hugged the Emanation Pokémon tightly, and Riolu hugged him right back. Ash then looked up at Riley intensely, "Tell me what I have to do."

Riley scratched the back of his neck and sighed, "Ash, I'm not sure you know what you're asking...being an Aura Guardian is a lot of work and it takes a lot of dedication and time."

Ash growled in frustration, "Look, I don't care how hard it is! I'll do whatever it takes to get my connection with Riolu back!"

Riley didn't respond, instead he closed his eyes and began a conversation with Lucario, "What do you think Lucario?"

"He seems very determined and willing, and I feel my son would greatly benefit from taking part in our training Master Riley."

"Alright then...any chance you'll be calling me dad anytime soon?"

Lucario smirked inwardly, "I wouldn't bet money on that."

"Fine." Riley opened his eyes and smiled at the young Pokémon trainer. "Alright Ash, we'll train you and Riolu."

"Alright!" Ash cheered.

"But know this," Ash stopped cheering to listen to what Riley had to say, "Whatever I tell you to do, you have to do it without question. You'll have to trust that when I tell you to do something, it's for a reason."

Ash nodded solemnly, "I understand."

"Good...let the first lesson begin."

Day 1

Riley had led Ash back to where he was staying on the island, and there he had the trainer change into a more comfortable attire of just a black t-shirt and shorts. Riley then led Ash to the back of his house, and they proceeded to begin the first training session. "One of the most important things to know when using aura is how to really concentrate...the way Lucario and I improve on that is to meditate." Riley sat down on the ground Indian-style and closed his eyes, his Lucario joining him seconds later. "You just relax and breathe, reach out with your aura and sense the world around you."

"Well, ok..." Ash, Riolu, and Pikachu copied Riley and Lucario's positions as best as they could, but for Ash, it was particularly difficult. "So...we just sit here then?"

"Mental discipline is extremely important when using aura." Riley sounded like he was almost in a trance, "Clear your mind of all other thoughts, use your aura to feel what's going on around you."

Ash grimaced and closed his eyes, making a valiant attempt at using his aura. Unfortunately for the black-haired trainer, after a few minutes of that all he managed to do was feel absolutely ridiculous. The trainer growled and opened his eyes in frustration, "This is dumb! I can't feel a thing!"

Riley internally sighed, he was able to sense the welling up of aura inside Riolu, apparently using the power was like a second nature for him now that he actually had some idea of what to do with it. Pikachu had just plain fallen asleep; Riley couldn't blame the little mouse, his aura was weak simply because his body was fatigued from the overnight trip. Ash however was perplexing. Riley could sense a dormant power inside of Ash that if properly honed would easily surpass even his own abilities, but even with that knowledge it was clear to the Aura Guardian-in-training that Ash's aura was not a peaceful one. "This could take a while."

They sat there for about another hour, with Ash squirming and grumbling to himself the whole time. "So that accomplished absolutely nothing." he said after they got up to work on something else.

"I wouldn't say that," Riley replied, "Riolu seemed to catch on pretty quickly, and he's already learning more about his power." Riolu grunted with a happy nod, earning a proud smile from Lucario. "Maybe you'll do better with the next exercise." They stopped in a large clearing, much more open than the back of Riley's house, "While mental discipline is the most important aspect when it comes to using aura, physical discipline is important too, and in some cases it can actually assist the mental side of things...for this we'll be working on a few katas...think of it as a slow demonstration of several different mixed martial arts techniques."

"So we're gonna learn how to fight?! Cool!"

"No!" Riley was offended by that notion, "The katas are not meant to teach you how to beat people's faces in, for that you sign up for a karate class." he glared intensely at the stunned trainer, "The nature of these katas is to discipline your body and learn how to control it so that you do the techniques smoothly and properly. Aura flows like a stream, if your body moves like it's trapped in a rapids, then your aura will not be able to manifest itself inside of you."

"You sound like that little old green guy from a movie I once saw." Ash scoffed.

Riley snickered at that, "That little green guy knew what he was talking about." Riley stepped four feet directly in front of Ash, "I'll be doing the movements with you, just mirror everything I do, and focus on doing it properly." Riley then closed his eyes and raised his fists up in front of his chest, then he lowered his right hand and raised his left hand behind his ear. After that, he pulled his right fist back into the right side of his waist with the palm side up, while simultaneously lowering his left fist so that it now looked like his right fist had at the beginning of the move. "Alright, now you try."

Ash looked at his fists in bewilderment, but he made the attempt nevertheless. It was a rather clumsy movement as Ash was used to doing things quickly and with a lot of power, Riolu didn't fare much better, having only trained with Ash for battling which required more speed and power than grace and smoothness. "How was that?"

Riley sweat-dropped, "Well, rookie mistakes are made by rookies."

Ash frowned, "Aww man."

"Don't worry about it Ash, it just takes practice." Riley said encouragingly, "Let's try it again."

Unfortunately for the two students, they soon found themselves failing miserably as each move Riley did they were unable to properly mimic. After another hour or so, both Ash and Riolu were ready to rip their hair out. "Why is this so hard?!"

Riley cut off his movement and sighed inwardly, "This isn't something you can master right away Ash, just like training Pokémon, using aura requires lots of practice and patience." Riley removed his hat and ran his fingers through his hair. "Let's take a break...maybe what you need is a little time to collect yourself. You hungry?"

"Starving."

Riley relinquished a small smile, "Alright, we'll head back to my place and I'll see what I can find in my pantry." On the way back to the house, Riley reconnected with Lucario. "This is not going well is it?"

"Master...I can sense that my son has an incredibly powerful aura that could potentially put mine to shame, but I fear that after being raised by such an impetuous youth for so long, he will have to overcome great personal shortcomings to unleash it."

"I sensed the same thing in Ash, his power is almost frighteningly strong, but his inexperience and lack of mental discipline is keeping him from being able to utilize it. I also sense some sort of inner turmoil inside of his heart, which likely is factoring into Ash's failure to tap into his aura."

"Riolu senses it too, I can tell. What is your plan Master?"

"We're going to split up Lucario, you will take Riolu and mentor him until I can get to the bottom of Ash's issues. Then once I've gotten Ash focused on his training, we'll reunite and have them train together."

"Understood."

Once they reached the house, Lucario led Riolu into another room while Ash, Pikachu and Riley remained in the kitchen. "It always pays to have a generator out back." Riley commented.

"Oh yeah, I was wondering how you had electricity in the middle of an island." Ash sat down at the table as Riley began going through his fridge and pantry to start on lunch. "So what's on the menu?"

"Well I normally just enjoy a large salad for lunch," Riley chuckled at Ash's disgusted expression, "But considering I have guests for a few days, I thought I'd whip up something special..." Riley went and pulled out some fresh ground beef from his fridge, and Ash's eyes lit up, "How about some of your favorite?"

"Alright!" Ash shouted at the top of his lungs. But then the trainer realized something, "Wait a second, I never told you what my favorite food was."

"You didn't have to!" Riley said as he took a large pot and began breaking down the meat with his bare hands, "I used my aura to sense what you were craving, and since I just happen to have a recipe that my mom passed down to me, I figured I'd go ahead and make some hamburgers that I'm sure will make your mouth water."

"Wow, I didn't know you could do that!"

"There's a lot of things you still don't know about the power of aura Ash. An experienced user can read minds, sense feelings, you saw me create a forcefield with aura, and of course you can use aura to speak using only your mind, provided that the connection with the person or Pokémon you're doing it with is strong enough...and that's just the tip of the iceberg."

"Whoa..." Ash breathed in awe, "So...how did I connect with Lucario's aura back during our fight against Team Galactic?"

Riley cracked a couple of eggs and began mixing them in with the meat. "It probably had something to do with Lucario's aura. When two users of aura try to connect, it's normally easier than trying to connect with someone not gifted with the power."

"So...since Lucario was so strong..."

"You were able to connect." Riley confirmed.

"Oh..." Ash slumped, which was not unnoticed by Riley.

"He seems disappointed," Riley thought to himself, "Maybe that's the key..." Riley motioned for Ash to come over and assist him, and the Pokémon Trainer got up and went to wash his hands. "Ash, tell me about Rotom." Ash froze, which was not unnoticed my Riley, "Something happened right?"

Ash turned around and gaped in shock, "How did you..." then he remembered what Riley just told him, "Oh yeah...aura." he mumbled. "You're not gonna start reading my mind all the time are you?" Ash asked suspiciously.

"Of course not," the Aura Guardian replied, "Truth be told, I don't really like invading people's privacy, I have an honor system where I won't read a mind unless I'm given permission or it's absolutely necessary."

"Well since I didn't give you permission, I guess I fit into that second category huh?"

"I didn't think you'd tell me otherwise..." Riley's theory was confirmed when Ash looked away. "You don't have to tell me if you don't want to Ash, but I feel that your struggles with your aura today have something to do with the burden you're carrying in your heart...it might help to get things off your chest."

Ash sighed and absent-mindedly began playing with the meat in the pot, rolling it up into balls and then dropping it again. "I already talked about this with Misty...I thought I was over it...but I guess I was wrong." Ash tossed the meat back into the pot and sat back down at the table. Riley made no mention of the mess he was making with his still grimy hands. "Am I really as strong as you say I am?"

"The potential is there...with the proper disciplines and training, your power could easily eclipse my own." Riley said as he shook in some herbs. "And Lucario says the same goes for your Riolu. That little guy's power is something unlike anything we've ever seen before."

Ash shook his head, "Power...why does it always come down to power?" he asked himself aloud, "I was convinced that Rotom was really my friend, but then some random Team Galactic professor showed up and all of a sudden Rotom switched sides!" he clenched his fists, "Charon said he was an old friend of Rotom's...that much I believe...but I'm having a hard time believing that Rotom left just to go on some weird mission, despite what Haunter said."

"So you think that Rotom left because Charon's stronger than you?"

Ash sighed in exasperation, "I dunno Riley...I honestly don't know what to believe. I haven't had Rotom on my team for very long, so I don't know what his personality's like besides the fact that he's a total prankster like Haunter, that's why they were best friends! I wanna believe that Rotom was telling the truth, but I just don't know."

"Now we're getting somewhere, now that I've found the root of his problem, I can start fixing it." Riley thought to himself, "Hey Ash, do me a favor and wash your hands again man, raw meat and tabletops don't mix."

"Hmm? Oh, sure." Ash got up and washed his hands again.

"Back to the issue at hand...so you can't decide what the truth is huh?"

"That's pretty much it...honestly, I'd probably feel better just knowing for sure either way...at least then I wouldn't be so confused."

"So it's more the uncertainty of what the truth is than it is the truth itself." Riley deduced.

"Yeah, I guess so."

"Ash, let me tell you something about Pokémon that'll hopefully put your worries to rest...and I want you to listen carefully because this is very important."

Ash nodded, "Ok."

Riley turned back to his meat and began rolling it into balls before flattening them out into burger patties. "I'm sure you know how the world of Pokémon is an unpredictable one, full of twists and turns and fascinating occurrences that we as human beings couldn't even begin to describe...but one thing I know for sure having been friends with Lucario and training in the ways of the Aura Guardian for so long...is that Pokémon are amazing creatures, full of as much love and compassion as you or I. There's no such thing as an evil Pokémon, only evil trainers who mislead their Pokémon into doing evil things."

"That sounds familiar..." Ash said, "Prof. Oak used to tell me that all the time."

"He's a very wise man." Riley replied, "I can guarantee you that if Rotom left with Charon, it's because he did indeed have something he needed to take care of. He's still your Pokémon, and when he's ready to return, he will. That's just the way Pokémon are. If you treated Rotom the same way you treat Pikachu or Riolu, then have faith in Rotom and know that one day, he will come back to you." Riley turned his attention to the electric mouse sitting on the table, "Isn't that right Pikachu?"

"Pika chu." (That's right.) he nodded an affirmative.

"So don't let the uncertainty of the situation get to you, just continue living life with the knowledge that one day he'll come back to you." Riley said.

Ash let Riley's words sink in, and he eventually relinquished a small smile. "Thanks Riley, I'll do my best."

Riley smiled back, "That's all I can ask." Riley finally placed the raw patties into the oven and got them cooking, "Now...since we've got about half an hour until those burgers are done, how about we have a quick battle?"

"A battle?" Ash asked, "What about our training?"

"Who said we weren't training? I wanna see if anything we've done so far today has sunk in, for Riolu if nothing else."

"Now you're talking!" Ash leaped up in excitement and pumped a fist, "You're on Riley!"

"Great! I'll go get Lucario and Riolu, you meet us outside." Riley watched Ash hurry off with Pikachu on his shoulder, and then he peeked into the other room to see Lucario and Riolu meditating. "Let's see what's going on here." Channeling his aura, Riley began to eavesdrop on the two Aura Pokémon's conversation.

"Can you feel the aura my son? Feel it building, growing in strength?"

"Yeah! But why is that happening?"

Lucario mentally chuckled, "It's because for the first time ever you're receiving true training specifically focused on harnessing your aura. Aura needs to be exercised the same way your physical body does."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, you train with Ash to get stronger at battling, correct?" Lucario felt Riolu's telepathic nod, "That requires much exercise and practice, and the more time and energy you devote to practicing, the stronger you become. The same applies to aura. If you devote time to meditating on your aura and harnessing its power, it will grow in strength just as you do during battle training."

"So if I practice a whole bunch, I'll be as strong as you?"

Lucario smiled warmly, "My son, if you use your time wisely and concentrate on refining your aura, there is no doubt in my mind that one day you will grow to become an extremely powerful Pokémon, I sense in you an amazing amount of power that you have yet to tap into...one day, when the time is right, you'll tap into that power, and become one of Ash's greatest allies."

"Cool!" Riolu squealed excitedly.

"But you must remember this." Riolu gave his full attention back to Lucario as he addressed him, "You must never let the sensation of strength get to your head...no matter how much power you gain, no matter how strong you become, you must always remember to be humble, or else you will be humbled. There's an old saying that has stood the test of time...pride comes before a fall, so in order to avoid that fall, you must always remember to be humble and gracious, and never arrogant or overly-confident. We live in a very large world, and there is always a stronger Pokémon...promise me that you won't forget that, even when you eventually evolve into a Lucario like myself."

Riolu nodded earnestly, "I promise. You'll see, I'll make you proud! I'll be the biggest, strongest, bestest Lucario ever!"

"Very good." Lucario was aware of Riley's presence in his mind and relayed the message to his son, "My master wishes to have a battle with you and your master."

"I know."

Lucario was stunned, "You do?"

"I could feel what he wanted! Come on, let's battle!" Riolu opened his eyes and ran past Riley to join Ash outside, leaving the two guardians alone.

"Shocked Lucario?" Riley asked.

Lucario nodded with eyes wide and mouth slightly open, "He's growing faster than I initially thought he would...Master Riley, he could very well accomplish it."

"Then we might as well do our part to help them both. Come on Lucario, time for a sparring session."

{Pokémon Center - Evening}

"So...what a day, right guys?" Brock was sitting between two rather depressed human females and two depressed Pokémon. One human was missing her absent boyfriend, the other was moping over the fact that her mother had been chosen to head up a festival in her hometown just a few days from now. One of the Pokémon had a broken heart, and the other Pokémon had an aching one. "Come on guys! Are we just gonna mope around until they're back?!"

Misty narrowed her eyes dangerously at the Breeder, "It isn't the fact that they're gone Brock!" she snarled at him, "It's the fact that I don't know where they are that's getting to me!" Misty rested her head back into her palms and sighed, her fire now gone. "I wish I could remember what it was we were talking about."

"And how would you feel if you found out your own mother was going to be in charge of only the biggest event in Twinleaf Town?! Do you have any idea of the potential embarrassment?!" Dawn covered her face with her hands and shook her head, "Mom why? Why are you doing this to me?"

Brock huffed and crossed his arms, sitting back in his chair, "And lemme guess," he said to the saddened rabbit. "You miss Pikachu and wanna know where he is."

"Bun bun." (Uh huh.) the rabbit nodded sadly.

"And I already know what Piplup's going through...don't worry pal, you'll get over it eventually." Piplup just chirped in sorrow. Brock was quickly growing weary of the gloomy atmosphere surrounding his friends, given the circumstances, it actually wasn't that bad of a day. Not that that made any difference with both Misty and Dawn having dark clouds hanging over their heads. "Look, I understand that you guys are down in the dumps, but you can't let yourselves become inactive! It just isn't healthy!"

"I'm open to suggestions Brock." Misty said absentmindedly, not even looking in the breeder's direction.

"Why don't you call your sisters? See what's going on back home?" Brock replied.

Misty seemed to respond slightly to that, "I guess...maybe I can get some things cleared up with Daisy, she said she wants to visit Sinnoh again."

Brock suddenly lost all traces of maturity, "Then what are you waiting for?!" he exclaimed excitedly, "Go make the arrangements!"

Misty quickly jumped out of her chair and tugged on Brock's ear. Hard. "Cool your jets Casa-no-duh! She's bringing Tracey with her!"

"Owww! Leggo!" Brock managed to pull away and rubbed his ear which was now throbbing with pain, "Geez Misty, that really hurt that time!"

"That's mild compared to what I'll do to you if you go all gaga over Daisy while Tracey's here!" she snarled, "Now if you'll excuse me, I have a phone call to make." With that, Misty stomped away with her fists clenched tightly in rage, leaving everyone else in stunned silence.

After a few moments of just staring in the direction Misty had gone in, Dawn spoke up, "You know...you can never truly appreciate something until you don't have it anymore."

"That's a profound statement...what brought it on?" Brock asked, still rubbing his ear.

"Well, without Ash, we don't have a buffer for Misty's temper anymore, who knows when she'll explode now?"

Brock couldn't help but agree, as he placed his head in his palms and sighed, "You're right...great...now I'm depressed."

Meanwhile, Misty had just made her way over to the videophones. As angry as she was with Brock at the moment, she could admit to herself that she needed some sort of distraction to keep her mind off of Ash. Considering the recent relationship that had been cultivated between her and Daisy since she'd been back on the road, she figured a talk with her oldest sister would definitely hit the spot. "Unless she starts going off about her and Tracey's 'special nights' again...brrr." Shaking away that uncomfortable image, Misty dialed the number for the Gym, and seconds later...Violet appeared.

"Oh, it's you."

Misty was rather stunned by the indifferent greeting, but she shook it off as Violet just being Violet. "Hey Violet, is Daisy there? I gotta talk to her about something regarding the Gym." That wasn't a total lie, the topic on her mind did involve the Gym, just not in the way most would expect.

"Yeah, sure." Violet got up and Misty could hear Violet calling for Daisy, "Hey Daisy, like, your mentor's calling."

"Mentor, what?" Misty was shocked by the bitter tones in Violet's voice, but what she heard next was even more shocking.

"Would you lay off already? I'm happy that I'm learning how to do other things, what difference does it make if I'm learning from Misty?" That was Daisy's voice.

"Like, you're not you anymore, that's what, you're just like...an older, taller, and blonde version of Misty now." That voice was Lily's.

"I'm not gonna argue about this now." Misty couldn't see, but Daisy pushed aside her two younger sisters and headed over to the videophone to take the call, "Hey baby sis, what's up?"

"What in the world was that all about?" the redhead asked in bewilderment, "Your mentor? An older version of me?"

Daisy waved a hand dismissively, "Don't worry about them, they're just a little bitter over the fact that my valley girl way of talking disappeared."

"They finally caught on?"

"I was...hanging with Tracey here yesterday, I forgot to say 'like' every other word and they were in the room. As airheaded as we can be sometimes, when something I've used all my life suddenly disappears from my vocabulary, even they can spot it."

"You're not an airhead Daisy," Misty rethought that statement though, "Ok, maybe you were an airhead, but that's in the past! And they're not airheads either! They're just...not open to other lifestyles."

"Thanks for trying." Daisy laughed a little at Misty's attempt to be nice, "Don't worry about Lily and Violet, I'm sure they'll come around eventually...they were starting to miss you as much as I did until they realized I'd changed...now they're kind of torn between bitterness and missing you."

"So they miss me, but they don't miss my influence, is that it?"

"That's the general gist of it." Daisy shrugged, "Don't worry, they don't hate you or anything, they just have to get used to the idea of a brighter sister." she laughed a little at her own statement.

Misty chuckled a little too, "If you say so Dais..." Misty then remembered why she called in the first place, "Oh yeah! Hey, I was calling to see if we could make the arrangements for our meeting!"

"Really?" Daisy said thoughtfully, "Huh, I guess that'd be a good thing, especially since I wasn't sure where we were gonna meet up with you guys."

"Well I've got just the thing! You said you wanted a vacation right? Well Dawn's mom is apparently in charge of some festival back in her hometown, maybe you and Tracey could meet us there!"

Daisy grinned, "Sounds like a plan to me! I'll call Tracey and tell him to get packed! A week or two of travelling should be a refreshing change of pace from that stuffy old lab or the gym."

"The festival's in only a few days, so you guys gotta hurry!"

"I'm on it! Where's the festival at?"

"The festival's at Twinleaf Town," Misty pulled out a map and took a good look at it, then pointed it towards the screen. "Your best bet to get there on time would be to take a plane to Canalave City, then find a Fearow to rent to fly you here to Twinleaf Town."

Daisy was writing everything her little sister said down so she wouldn't forget. "Alright, I got it! Thanks Misty, I can't wait to see you guys again!"

"Same here sis! See you then!" With that, Misty hung up on the blonde, feeling much better than she had when she called. "Family." she giggled to herself.

{Iron Island}

Day 2

"Well Ash, I gotta say I'm impressed." Riley said to his new apprentice, "After we took care of your Rotom troubles, you really stepped it up."

"Yeah, it's a lot easier to focus now. Thanks for your help again by the way." Ash replied gratefully.

"Not a problem. You ready for the morning meditation?"

"Sure am, let's get started!" Just like the previous morning, Ash, Riley, Riolu, and Lucario all sat down and began to meditate, only this time Ash was able to focus on summoning his aura, and in doing so he felt a feeling peace wash over him. "Wow...this is awesome." he said softly to himself.

"Yes it is." Riley replied, "Can you feel our presence? Sense the auras of all the other Pokémon on Iron Island?"

"Yeah...kinda, I mostly feel Riolu, but I can tell what's going on with you and Lucario too."

Riley smiled to himself, "As your abilities with aura increase, you'll not only be able to sense others' presence, but you'll able to read their aura to tell if their intentions are good or evil."

"Is there a difference between good auras and evil auras?" Ash asked.

Riley responded to that with another question, "Do you remember when Lucario was overtaken by Team Galactic's sound waves?"

Ash thought about it a moment, and then gasped in realization, "That's right...Lucario's aura turned dark purple, almost black."

"Correct." Riley replied, "Good and pure auras are usually light blue, but an evil aura can be spotted by either red or black."

"Why red?"

"That's sort of complicated." Riley replied, "See, in order for an aura to become black, some other power has to become involved.

"I don't follow you." By now Ash had opened his eyes, his focus had gone out because he was too busy listening to Riley.

Riley noticed Ash's lack of focus, "Try to keep your focus Ash, it's important you remained focus on your power, the better you become at that, the easier you'll be able to summon it when you need it." Riley sensed Ash's nod and felt his aura begin to well up again, so he continued his story, "Under normal circumstances, people or creatures with evil intentions are simply red, but if something else has taken control of a good creature, like Lucario, the aura is dark purple or black."

"Wow." Ash replied, "That could sure come in handy."

"It certainly could, and it has more than once for me and Lucario. Hopefully you'll be able to stay long enough that you'll be able to learn how to start."

"I think I'm ready now! How do I do it?" Ash asked.

Riley smirked at Ash's enthusiasm, "Alright, but don't get discouraged if you don't get it right away, it took me a long time to be able to do this." Riley took a deep breath and let it out again, "Ok, focus on your aura, channel your thoughts towards trying to figure out what our intentions are, if your aura is strong enough, it'll do the rest."

Ash nodded and did just that, he began to shift from merely just focusing on his aura alone, but also adding thoughts of learning intentions. "Here goes." he thought to himself.

"Anything?" Riley asked.

"Well...it's nice to know you and Lucario really do wanna help us."

Riley's eyes opened fast, as did Lucario's, "Wait...you mean you can already see the difference between the regular aura vision and vision of intent?!" he asked in shock.

Ash opened his eyes too, "Yeah...well, I mean...I think so, your aura and Lucario's both turned a lot brighter blue at once, so did Riolu's come to think of it."

Riley looked at Lucario in awe, "On his first try too..." he said to himself.

"So...what's next?" Ash asked with a shrug.

"We'll save new stuff for tomorrow Ash, right now I wanna have you practice what you already know. As for Riolu, Lucario's gonna take him and work on some new techniques for battle." Riley nodded at Lucario, who nodded back and took Riolu away for some battle training, "Let's do those katas again, I wanna see if they've gotten any easier for you yet."

Meanwhile, Lucario and Riolu were heading over to a separate clearing to do their training. "So what are we gonna learn now?!" the excited young Pokémon asked.

"We're going to do some sparring, it's quite clear that your aura has grown much stronger since you've arrived here, so we're going to spend a little time working on your battle training so you can better utilize your newfound power." Lucario replied.

"You bet my aura's grown! I think I'm growing too!"

Lucario smirked, "I'm sure." They reached the clearing and Lucario headed over to one side of field while Riolu stayed on the other end, hopping in place while punching the air in excitement. "Now here's what we're going to do, I want you to attack me, and I'll be trying to either dodge or counter your moves. As I do so, I'll be pointing out flaws in your technique and explaining them to you as the fight goes on. Do you understand?"

Riolu nodded vigorously, "Oh yeah! Let's go!"

"Very well." Lucario took a fighting stance, "Come at me!"

"You got it!" Riolu immediately started off with a 'Quick Attack', but Lucario was able to easily sidestep it, "Huh?"

"You didn't take into account your opponent's skills, attacking blindly like that won't get you very far in battle."

Riolu growled to himself and attacked again, this time using 'Force Palm', "Take this!" Riolu leaped up to strike, but Lucario was able to dodge once again by leaping up higher, then the Aura Pokémon used his tail to swipe at Riolu, who by getting hit lost his balance and slid against the dirt before coming to a stop. "Ouch." he groaned into the dirt.

"You must take into account your opponent's skills, his ability to jump, dodge, attack, or you will always find yourself two steps behind! Use your aura to do so!" Lucario activated 'Bone Rush' and spun it around in his hands before ending in a fighting pose, "Now it is my turn!" Lucario charged, and Riolu looked up just in time to see Lucario coming at him with an attack. With a squeal of desperation, Riolu jumped out of the way of the attack just before Lucario brought it down onto the ground.

"I'll show you!" Riolu went into 'Quick Attack' once more in anger, but Lucario easily used his 'Bone Rush' to trip Riolu and send him sliding away once again. "Cut that out!" Riolu attacked again and again, but each time Lucario was able to turn the attack around and strike with one of his own.

Finally after several minutes of this, Riolu was left panting and scratched up, as his biological father simply shook his head in disappointment. "You haven't used your aura at all this whole battle, you're so determined to use your attacks to hit me that you simply refuse to utilize your power to try and predict my next move." Riolu was now growling with rage, and Lucario felt a sudden rise in aura power coming from the Emanation Pokémon. "So you've finally decided to start using your aura have you?"

But even Lucario wasn't able to predict what happened next. Riolu jumped back up, grabbed Lucario's chest and pulled him down to his eye level with one hand and reared back with the other, "Here's some aura for you!" Riolu unleashed 'Force Palm', and with a flash of blinding light, he sent Lucario flying into a rock that was over twenty yards away.

Lucario slowly got up, shaking his now throbbing head in an attempt to dull the pain, had Riolu really just done that? "That shouldn't have happened...that can't happen! I felt aura in the attack itself!" Lucario focused his aura and scanned his panting son, what he saw shocked him. "The power's flowing throughout his entire body..." Even when he stopped focusing his aura, he was able to see Riolu's aura. "His paws...they're radiating aura, it's making him stronger." Finally the power subsided to an extent, to the point where Lucario could no longer see it coming out of the Emanation Pokémon's paws, but he could still sense a great deal of power doing something to the young child's body.

"Are you ok?" Riolu walked up to his blood father and looked up in worry, he certainly hadn't meant to actually hurt him. "Sorry about that, I dunno what happened."

Lucario looked down and patted his son's head, "It's quite alright, that was very impressive, your aura is strong, as are you."

Riolu grinned and put his paws on his hips, "I told you I was growing!" he said proudly.

"Yes," Lucario nodded, "Let's continue with our sparring match now, try to focus more on your aura like you did before."

"Got it!" Riolu rushed back to his side of the field, and as he began to summon his power, Lucario noted that he could see his paws beginning to radiate aura again.

"If his strength continues to increase at this rate, we'll be training him not to use his power instead." the Aura Pokémon thought in amusement.

"Oh don't worry! I'll make sure to be careful when I'm using aura, just like I promised you!"

Lucario reeled back, Riolu had heard his thoughts? "This is gonna be a very interesting match."

"Sure is!"

Lucario just groaned.

After several more hours of training for both Ash and Riolu, the group headed back to Riley's house for a well-deserved rest. "Well Ash, I gotta say, both you and Riolu are showing signs of massive improvement, I've never seen anything like it. It's almost as if using aura is like a second nature for you two."

Ash rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly, "Heh, thanks Riley." the trainer replied with a chuckle, "But if it weren't for you training us, we'd still be wondering what to do."

"Hey Daddy," Riolu thought to Ash through his aura, "Are we gonna go see Mommy soon?"

Ash chuckled, "Soon Riolu, at least I think so."

"What's that now Ash?" Riley asked.

"Riolu was just wondering if we could go see Misty soon. I think he's starting to miss her."

Riley smiled, "If all goes well, you should be able to go home to your friends after tomorrow. At the rate you're learning all the techniques, you won't need me to tell you what to do anymore, you'll be able to practice and train with your aura on your own." Riley then scratched his chin in thought. "Actually...hey Ash, I take what I said earlier back, there's one last new technique I'd like you to try tonight."

"Aww man, I'm beat Riley." Ash whined.

Riley shrugged with a smirk on his face, "Alright fine, if you don't wanna talk to Misty, I won't push it." As the Aura Guardian expected, Ash rushed in front of him in shock.

"Whaddya mean I don't wanna talk to Misty?! Of course I wanna talk to Misty!" Riolu agreed whole-heartedly with his master, as portrayed by his excited jumping up and down.

Riley chuckled, "Well alright then..." Riley looked at the clock, "About what time does Misty go to bed?"

"Uh...maybe in half an hour, if they're on the road they should be camped out already."

"Alright then. In about an hour, we'll begin." As Riley said, an hour later, which made the time 10:30 at night, Riley sat the group down in a circle. "So if you're right Ash, Misty should be asleep by now, right?"

"She should be, Misty's usually pretty punctual."

Riley nodded, "Alright then. Let's join hands." Riley grabbed Ash and Lucario's hands, and the rest of them followed his lead, making the circle. "Now Ash, Riolu, begin summoning your aura, I'll let you know once you've gotten enough built up for the next step."

"Alright Riley..." Ash glanced at his Pokémon, "You ready Riolu?" Riolu nodded at him. "Ok...here goes." Ash and Riolu closed their eyes and began to concentrate on their aura, and surely enough they could feel their power begin to increase in intensity inside them, "How's that Riley?"

"Not yet Ash, you're getting close though." the Aura Guardian replied, "Keep concentrating, put some more effort into it." As the two acknowledged Riley's words and pushed harder, Riley noted Riolu's paws beginning to glow with power. "That's different." he thought. "Ok Ash, you've accumulated the necessary amount of aura, now I need you to focus on Misty, Lucario and I will be helping your aura find her with our own, but you've gotta stay focused on Misty, and you can't let your power drop, got it?"

"Alright Riley." Ash said, his voice strained. For the first time since before Riley helped him with his insecurities about Rotom, Ash was having difficulties maintaining the necessary discipline and strength required to accomplish his goal. "Man, I haven't had this much trouble since I tried to help you and Lucario with that forcefield!" Riolu grunted in agreement next to the trainer, his hands glowing brightly with the power he was exerting.

"This is one of the most difficult techniques an Aura Guardian can use, the amount of power you and Riolu have is definitely helping you, but it's gonna take a lot of practice before you can do this on your own." Riley turned to Lucario, "Alright Lucario, let's take that image of Misty in Ash's mind and guide his and Riolu's aura to her." Lucario nodded, and now with all four aura users working together, Ash could feel in his aura a sensation that felt somewhat familiar.

"Whoa...it's like I'm flying on Charizard...only...without Charizard."

"Less experienced users have that sensation. When you finally master this technique, that feeling will go away. If you're connecting with someone you're especially close to, then the connection should happen almost instantaneously. Entering someone's mind and entering someone's dream is a slightly different thing, but they're similar in the techniques they require, you got it?" Riley explained.

"Uh...ok."

Riley chuckled, "Don't worry Ash, somehow I doubt you understand half of the things I've told you over the past couple of days, but that's ok, your instincts with your aura are amazing, and you'll be able to develop them in your own way in your own time." Riley then sensed their combined auras almost reaching their destination, "Ok Ash, we'll be entering Misty's dream in just a few moments. Be ready, she probably won't realize you're real, so you'll have to explain it to her carefully, the subconscious mind can be tricky to deal with."

"Got it Riley." Ash quickly realized what Riley meant. Even with his eyes closed, Ash was nearly blinded by a blue light, and the next thing he could see...he was wearing a tuxedo. "Huh? What happened to my clothes?" Looking around, he saw Brock standing nearby, also wearing a tuxedo and...crying? "Brock?" then Ash saw Tracey, and Gary, and a whole bunch of his other friends that he'd met over the course of his journey, every one of them dressed to the nines and looking rather emotional. "What's going on here?" Ash nearly jumped out of his socks when an organ started playing music...music that even he could easily recognize. "No way." he whispered. "Riley, you here?"

"I'm here Ash, you just won't be able to see me, I'm only helping you keep your aura where it needs to be, I'm not part of this. Whatever you're seeing in there, be careful."

"Oh no worries there...where's Riolu?"

"He should be there somewhere, look around."

Ash did just that, and he spotted Riolu, also wearing a tuxedo and sitting next to an Azumarill who had a flower on its head. "Whoa, is that Misty's Azurill?"

"What's going on Daddy?" Riolu asked in confusion as he tugged on his bowtie, "What am I wearing?"

"Uh...long story Riolu, I'll explain later." Ash thought back. Suddenly Ash heard the opening of doors, and when he looked to where the sound came from, he saw the most beautiful young woman he had ever seen in his life. "Misty..." In walked the stunning redhead in a gorgeous white dress and a veil covering her face, she was positively beaming as she walked down the aisle, and that beam was aimed directly at him. "I'm getting married? Whoa, we're too young to get married!"

"Easy Ash!" the voice of Riley exclaimed, "Don't lose your focus, remember it's just a dream, none of this is real! You've gotta keep your aura going while you're here or we'll lose the connection!"

Ash nodded and took a deep breath, "Right, gotta stay focused." Misty finally got up in front of him, tears of joy simply begging to pour from her eyes, "Ohhhh man...easier said than done."

"Can you believe it Ash?" Misty whispered to him, "It's a dream come true!"

"Uh yeah...heh heh..." Ash scratched the back of his neck, "Funny you should mention the word 'dream'."

"Ash...you're not having second thoughts are you?!" Misty gasped.

"Whoa! Hold on there!" Ash put up his hands, "Misty I would love to marry you someday! But...this isn't real, you're literally dreaming right now. You, Dawn, and Brock are supposed to be on your way to Lilypad Town for Dawn's next contest remember? And I went to go get some help, I left you that note! Come on Misty, snap out of it, I gotta talk to you for real!" Suddenly the wedding scene disappeared, and Ash and Riolu were now standing next to each other in the dark in their regular clothes, with Misty standing in front of them, also in her regular attire, "Well the wedding is gone, I guess I'm starting to get you to notice you're asleep."

"Ash, what's going on here?" Misty asked.

"Well Mist...truth is, I'm actually on Iron Island right now, Riley's training me to use my aura better, and our combined auras is what's making this happen."

"So...that note...when you said you were getting support, you were going to Iron Island to get it from Riley?"

"Yeah...I honestly didn't think anyone else could help with my aura."

"Huh...I guess that makes sense." Misty suddenly narrowed her eyes at the boy, and the scenery became red and gloomy, "What doesn't make sense is why you didn't just tell me!"

"Whoa! Misty, calm down! I didn't want you guys to follow me because I didn't want any distractions!"

"So I'm a distraction now?! You've got some nerve Ash Ketchum!" lightning flashed and almost fried Ash and Riolu, Misty's subconscious mind was obviously thinking rather violent thoughts towards Ash. "How could you just leave like that?! Do you have any idea how worried I've been?!"

"Misty stop!" Ash dodged another lightning bolt from the sky, "Riley, I need help!"

"I can't help you Ash! I'm only here to try and keep you from leaving, you need to keep things from going haywire in there!"

"But I can't! Misty's really mad!" One last lightning bolt came bursting from the sky, and in mere seconds Ash would be struck. "I hope auras can't feel pain!"

"Mommy STOP IT!"

Ash never felt the bolt, and suddenly the whole area was a purple color instead of the angry red it was just seconds ago, "Whoa...what happened?" Ash took a glance in Misty's direction, and noticed she was looking at Riolu in what was apparently shock.

"What...did you say?" Misty gaped.

"I said stop!"

Now Ash was shocked too, Riolu was talking! Only he wasn't talking. "No way...telepathy? But how?"

"Please stop it Mommy, you're scaring me!"

The landscape began to change once more, and now it was a light blue as Misty slowly walked up to the little Pokémon and knelt down in front of him, "No, no..." she whispered as he took Riolu into her arms, "I don't wanna scare you Riolu, I'm sorry."

"It's ok Mommy."

"I'm sorry too Mist," Ash knelt down in front of Misty and Riolu, who were still hugging each other, "I didn't mean that you were a distraction, it's just that I had a lot to think about and I had a lot of work to do; I just felt I'd be able to focus a little better if I went alone...I really miss you."

"I miss you too Ash." Misty hugged the trainer and kissed his cheek, before turning back to Riolu, "So, I'm dreaming huh? I guess that's why you're talking?" Misty then noted Riolu's paws, "What's wrong with your paws?"

"Nothing! That's my aura Mommy! See, I'm growing a whole lot!" he proudly gave Misty a better view of his glowing paws, holding them out to her palm side up.

"Yes you are! You're gonna be a really strong Lucario some day!" the redhead giggled and squeezed Riolu tight, causing the little Pokémon to laugh in her arms. Then she looked back to Ash, "So...when are you coming back?"

"Soon Misty, maybe even the day after tomorrow if I'm lucky." Ash suddenly grabbed his head and groaned, and he seemed to flicker for a moment before rematerializing.

"Ash, what's the matter?!" Misty exclaimed in worry.

"Keeping up the aura is getting too tough, we gotta go Mist." Ash strained.

"Ash wait! There's something you need to know!"

"What is it?" Ash suddenly paled, "You're not pregnant are you?" The wedding scene was still fresh in his mind.

Despite the ridiculousness of the idea, Misty couldn't help but blush profusely, "Ash, how on earth could I possibly be pregnant?"

"Sorry. That whole wedding scene is kinda still in my head." Ash chuckled before wincing again as he and Riolu flickered.

"Excuse me for having dreams then." Misty rolled her eyes and got back to the matter at hand, "We're not going to Lilypad Town! When you leave, head to Twinleaf Town, there's a festival going on and we're gonna be there!"

"Got it Mist!" Ash and Riolu both began to flicker in and out rather violently, "Can't hold it anymore Mist...we'll see you soon, I love you!" With that, Ash and Riolu vanished.

{At the Camp}

Misty woke up with a loud gasp and quickly sat up in her sleeping bag, breathing heavily as everything that had just happened came rushing back to the forefront of her mind. Once she finally got her breathing under control, she looked up into the starlit sky and whispered, "I love you too."

"Misty, are you ok?" Brock asked groggily, having been woken up by Misty's gasp.

Misty nodded with a smile, "I'm more than alright Brock. I know where Ash is, and he'll be back soon." Brock gave her a weird look, but she didn't care, she'd explain everything in the morning. She laid back down in her sleeping bag with a content smile plastered on her face, "Now where was I? Oh yeah...I was getting married."

{Iron Island}

Ash and Riolu's power crashed, and the two were left absolutely exhausted after the ordeal. "Man...that was something else." the black-haired trainer said breathlessly, sweat pouring down his face from the effort he had exerted.

"But you did it Ash, I'm proud of you...both of you." Ash and Riolu smiled at each other, "By the way," Riley said, "I heard another voice in there, who was that?"

"I think it was Riolu, must've had something to do with Misty's dream or something." Ash shrugged.

"Maybe."

"Yeah, I'll bet that's it." Ash seemed content with that answer, but then he blinked as he realized he had heard the voice again, and both Riley and Lucario were gaping in shock at Riolu. "WAAAH! It wasn't part of Misty's dream!" Ash leaped back in shock.

"Why is everyone looking at me funny?" Riolu asked, looking around at the two humans and his evolved form.

"Telepathy...I can't believe it." Riley said in awe, "There hasn't been any records of that since the Lucario owned by Sir Aaron himself!" Riley shook his head in bewilderment, "Ash...your Riolu is something else, he has so much power inside him, just waiting to be unleashed, telepathy may be just the beginning to what he can do."

"Just the beginning?" Ash looked down at Riolu, who now seemed to be very proud of himself, "Wow Riolu, looks like you're gonna have a big surprise for everyone once we get back." Ash chuckled.

"Sure am! I'm gonna get really big and really strong! Just like I promised!" Riolu then yawned a little, "But right now I'm tired, can I go to sleep now?"

Ash laughed, "Sure thing Riolu, let's get some rest." Ash picked up Riolu into his arms and smiled at Riley who was still sitting on the ground with Lucario. "Thanks Riley, Lucario, you've really helped us out these past couple of days."

"No problem Ash, it was our pleasure." Riley smiled right back at him.

"C'mon Riolu," Ash turned to leave, "Let's go find Pikachu and get some rest...he took a few more steps and then commented almost to himself, "Hey, you're getting kinda heavy." he then shrugged and dismissed it as nothing, as he walked out of the room to find his Pokémon partner.

"How do ya like that Lucario? Telepathy, who woulda figured?" Riley chuckled.

"Master Riley...I'm a bit concerned."

"About what?"

"You've noticed how my son keeps referring to how much he's growing, correct?"

Riley shrugged, "Yeah, his power's really getting strong, isn't that the point?"

"I'm not necessarily referring to his aura power...but that may have something to do with it."

Now Riley was thoroughly confused, "You lost me Lucario, what are you talking about?"

"Did you not hear young Ash just comment on my son's increasing weight?"

Yeah, but what's that got to do with..." then Riley realized what Lucario was implying, "Lucario...are you trying to tell me that Riolu's super-charged aura is actually causing his body to grow?"

"That's my theory. His aura may be doing its part in granting his wish to grow, it's not out of the realm of possibility."

"He wished to be bigger? That's a little out there." Riley said thoughtfully.

"Well...he did promise he would be the strongest and biggest Lucario ever...his young aura - with all of its strength - may be taking his statement literally."

Riley scratched his chin, "Do you think Riolu's in any danger?"

"There doesn't seem to be any immediate danger, however I feel that Ash should be made aware so that he can monitor the situation closely."

"Sounds like a good idea, let's go tell him now." Riley and Lucario walked into the room where Ash was staying, and luckily for them, Riolu was already asleep. "Ash, before you go to sleep, there's something we need to tell you."

"Alright Riley." With Pikachu now perched on his shoulder, Ash followed the Aura Guardian and his Pokémon outside where Riolu was out of earshot. "So what's up?"

"We just wanted you to be aware of this...Riolu's growing."

Ash tilted his head at the man, "Yeah...wasn't that the point?"

"I don't mean his aura Ash," Riley replied, "I mean literally...as in getting bigger."

Ash raised an eyebrow at that, "Is that a problem? He's a baby Pokémon, isn't he supposed to be getting bigger?"

"Normally yes, but Lucario says that Riolu's aura is causing him to go through sudden growth spurts, ones that aren't exactly normal."

Now Ash was a little concerned, as was Pikachu, the little mouse thought his eyes had been playing tricks on him, but Riolu seemed larger than normal. "Is Riolu in danger? Is he gonna become a monster or something?!" A vision of a fifty-foot tall Riolu suddenly invaded Ash's mind.

Riley sweat-dropped at Ash's panicking, "Uh no, I sincerely doubt that." he said reassuringly, "But we just thought you should know so you can keep an eye on the situation."

Lucario then brushed his aura against Ash's, "I will use my aura to monitor Riolu's aura tonight, I should have more information for you in the morning. In the meantime, get some rest."

"Yeah Ash," Riley had been listening in on the aura conversation, "Tomorrow we're gonna be working on some really tough techniques...like making aura shields." Riley smirked when he saw Ash's eyes light up at the idea of making shields like he could.

"Aura shields?! Awesome! I can't wait until tomorrow!" Ash turned and hurried back to the bedroom, "Night guys!" with that, he closed the door and almost jumped into bed, hoping sleep would come easy so morning would come sooner.

Unfortunately for Ash, sleep was scarce due to his excitement, but he definitely wasn't tired, he was actually very hyped up, as was Riolu who was punching in the air like a shadow-boxer next to him. "We're gonna learn some really cool stuff today, huh Daddy?"

"We sure are Riolu, maybe after today you'll know how to use 'Aura Sphere' like another Riolu I once met!" Ash grinned at Riolu's ecstatic expression, "Like him, you're really special, he was able to use 'Aura Sphere' like a Lucario, so maybe you can too!"

"I can do it! You'll see!" Riolu looked away from Ash and began jumping in place, his adrenaline flowing and his aura building, as evidenced by his glowing paws.

Just then, Riley and Lucario emerged from the house. "Ash, let's talk real quick." Riley said, waving the trainer over.

"Stay here Riolu, I'll be right back." Ash turned his attention to his Pokémon partner, "Keep Riolu company buddy."

"Pika chu." (Got it.) Pikachu nodded and hopped off Ash's shoulder while Ash walked over to their mentors.

"What's up Riley?" Ash asked.

"Lucario monitored Riolu's aura last night, and he's concluded that those slight growth spurts Riolu's going through are in fact being caused by his increasingly powerful aura." Riley replied.

"So is he in any danger?" Ash asked.

Lucario shook his head, "It's extremely unlikely. But he will be significantly larger than any other Riolu we've ever known of, and it's probable that the extra size will carry over into his evolution into Lucario."

"So...he is gonna be a giant." Ash chuckled somewhat nervously.

"By the standards of his evolution line, yes." Riley replied, "But you won't have to worry about him becoming ten feet tall or anything, the spurts aren't so powerful that he'll grow a foot a day or anything. But in a few days you'll probably begin to notice that he's bigger than most other Riolu, and he'll probably end up being at least a whole foot taller than other Riolu before he evolves into Lucario...once he evolves, the growth should stop."

Ash shook his head, "This is just too weird. I came here to get my connection with Riolu back, and instead I'm getting a giant Riolu and learning how to become a Jedi or something."

"More movie references Ash?" Riley chuckled, "I told you, you didn't really know what you were asking for when you said you wanted to train to be an Aura Guardian. Believe me, I've had more than my fair share of surprises from my aura training. I guess these are just the cards you've been dealt, now you have to figure out how to play them."

Ash sighed and nodded, "Ok Riley."

"Good...now, how about we work on making a forcefield?"

{On the Road Again}

"You're trying to tell me that Ash visited you in your dream?! How is that even possible?!" Dawn exclaimed.

"I'm not convinced it is." Brock scoffed, "It could be you just dreamed what you wanted to dream. You've been freaking out over Ash ever since he left."

"I'm telling you guys, he talked to me! He and Riolu invaded my dream and told me they were on Iron Island with Riley training to use their aura! That's how they got into my dream in the first place! With aura!"

"That's amazing...and kinda romantic when you think about it." Dawn giggled.

"Ok...say I believe you." Brock rubbed his temples, "Why would Ash only contact you and not me and Dawn?"

"He didn't tell me that." Misty spat, her eyes narrowed at the breeder, "All he said was that he was on Iron Island training to use his aura with Riolu before they disappeared."

"Ok...here's a new question...why the sudden interest in aura?" Brock asked.

"Um...I get the feeling it has something to do with what we talked about a few nights ago..." Misty said thoughtfully. "Aura...that's it! Now I remember!" Misty exclaimed, "Ash and Riolu's aura connection was breaking down, so Ash needed help to get it fixed!"

"So that's why Riolu wasn't doing what Ash wanted, his aura was messed up!" Dawn realized.

"Exactly! But apparently things are a lot better now, and Ash said he hopes to be back by tomorrow!"

Brock shook his head in disbelief, "I wanna believe you, and I probably should believe you considering all the weird things we've seen over the years...but this is Ash we're talking about here! He's not a mentally powerful guy Misty, and it sounds like doing what you say he did would need a lot of mental discipline."

Misty opened her mouth to offer a rebuttal, but quickly closed it as she realized that Brock had a valid point. If anyone knew how easily distracted Ash could be, it was her. She crossed her arms and puffed out her cheeks in frustration, "You just watch, he'll be back."

"I hope you're right." Brock shrugged.

"Hey, what's going on over there?" Dawn directed the group's attention to a young woman who was apparently calling for her missing Pokémon, "I wonder if she needs help."

"Why don't we go find out?!" Brock sprinted towards the beautiful woman, and as soon as he got in range of her, Croagunk appeared and jabbed him, "Maybe...I'll just let...you two handle it." Croagunk dragged Brock away, leaving the startled woman to try and figure out what had just happened.

"Well...I know what we're doing today." Dawn sighed.

"Yep." Misty also sighed, and looked into the sky, "C'mon Ash, speed it up a little huh?"

{Iron Island}

"Ash, slow down!" Riley exclaimed as he watched Ash struggle to form an aura shield again.

Ash grunted and looked at his hands in dismay, "I was doing so well earlier, now what's wrong with me?"

"You're trying too hard." Riley replied with a shake of his head, "I get the feeling that conversation with Misty last night is getting you to try to rush things, you can't do that."

Ash dipped his head and exhaled, "I miss her Riley, I didn't think only a few days would do this to me, but after talking to her last night, it really brought how I feel about her back into my head. It's like I'm addicted to her."

Riley chuckled, "Well, if you gotta be addicted to something, it's not such a bad thing to be addicted to love."

"I guess." Ash shook his head and put on a neutral expression as he tried to get his emotions in check, "Ok...trying again." But before he could get started, Riley put a hand on his shoulder, "Wha?"

"No more Ash." Riley said with a soft smile, "You can practice anywhere, you don't need me anymore." Riley was amused by seeing Ash's eyes light up, "Go back to her, I've taught you everything you need to know, the rest is up to you."

"Thanks Riley! Thanks for everything!" Ash ran to find Riolu and Pikachu, and saw them training with Lucario. "Come on guys! We're finally going back!" hearing that caused the two Pokémon to cheer in excitement, finally they were going back to see their friends! As Ash packed up his things and eventually summoned Charizard for the trip back, Ash noticed Riley and Lucario coming up to them.

"Finally ready to see Misty again?" the Aura Guardian chuckled.

"Yeah, it'll be great to see her in person, Brock and Dawn too." Ash replied, "Thanks again Riley, I dunno what we would've done without you."

"Knowing you, you probably would've figured it out eventually." Riley said with a smile, "Just one last piece of advice before you go Ash."

"What's that?"

"Even with all the training and all the techniques and mental disciplines you've learned over the past few days, they mean nothing unless you remember one simple thing...and that's to listen to your heart."

Ash smirked and nodded, "I think I get what you mean by that."

"Oh good, I'm glad you managed to understand something I've said to you this whole time."

That got Ash and his Pokémon to laugh, with the exception of Charizard of course. "I'll have Misty translate some of what you said when I see her." With that, Ash motioned for Charizard to liftoff, and the dragon began flapping his wings and started gaining altitude, "Bye guys! And thanks again for everything!"

"See you!" Riolu also shouted out with a wave.

As Riley and Lucario watched them leave, the Aura Guardians regarded each other with knowing looks, "How long do you suppose it'll be before his aura winds up being used to save himself and his friends?"

"Knowing them? I give it a week tops." Lucario chuckled back.

Meanwhile, Ash, Pikachu, and Riolu were all eagerly awaiting their arrival in Twinleaf Town, where Misty's dream-self had informed him they were going the night before. "It sure will be great to see Misty again." the boy said dreamily.

"Pika Pika-chu pi Pikaka." (And Brock and Dawn.) Pikachu absent-mindedly added with a roll of his eyes.

"Aww gimme a break pal, of course I'll be happy to see them too, but...lemme put it this way, you can't tell me that you weren't missing Buneary this whole time." When Pikachu blushed slightly and looked away, Ash knew he had won, "That's what I thought."

"I can't wait to show Mommy my new tricks!"

Ash chuckled and shook his head in amusement, "It's gonna take a while for me to get used to you actually talking like that."

"It's cool isn't it?!"

"It's very cool." Ash laughed, "Wait until the gang hears this!"

"Pika chu, Pikachupi pika pi." (I repeat, Misty's gonna flip.)

"Yeah, maybe." Ash shrugged, "I dunno what's gonna shock her more, the fact that Riolu uses telepathy, the way we can use our aura now..." Ash picked up Riolu and held him, "Or the fact that pretty soon Riolu's gonna be a big Riolu."

"I promised Daddy Lucario I would be the biggest, strongest, bestest Lucario ever! I won't let him down!" Riolu replied determinedly.

"Guess Riley wasn't kidding." Ash chuckled, "Well, what are we waiting for? Come on Charizard, full speed ahead!" With a mighty roar, Charizard poured on the speed, and very soon they would most certainly meet up with their friends in Twinleaf Town, with new abilities and new knowledge at their disposal.
_

...yeah, so...I'm sure a lot of you have a ton of questions. I'll try to address what I feel needs to be addressed. I remember saying once that Ash's Riolu would be a regular ol' Riolu...well I changed my mind after teaching myself to play as Lucario in Super Smash Bros. Brawl. At that point, I decided to change my plan and turn Riolu into a close representation of the Brawl Lucario. The glowing paws are pictured as Brawl Lucario's paws emanating aura and the aura-charged attacks are also a representation of Brawl Lucario's attacks. Brawl Lucario looks taller than Lucario in canon looks so that explains the "aura growth spurts", and of course Brawl Lucario uses telepathy...which honestly I was wanting to do anyway. Don't take "they're so powerful" into too much regard, I won't be making Riolu/Lucario invincible by any stretch of the imagination, but he will have a few tricks up his sleeve that will put him above and beyond regular Lucario. So...any other questions? I'll try my very best to answer them with my limited free time, if I don't reply please don't take it personally. I'm a very busy man these days and I can't spend hours on hours in front of a computer screen just writing anymore. So yeah, review, and if I can answer questions, I will. Stay tuned for the next chapter.