Disclaimer: I do not own Pokémon or any of the rights associated with it.

Pokémon legend holds that the Spear Pillar, atop Mt. Coronet in the Sinnoh region, was the entrance point for Palkia and Dialga, masters of space and time, into the human world. As a result, researchers have explored the Spear Pillar, hoping to upturn evidence that this was true, but have had no luck in finding anything to prove this story. Over time, they gave up, believing Pokémon such as Dialga and Palkia to be legends, fairytales to tell children as bedtime stories.

However, there is a certain ring of truth to these rumors.

While there is no obvious portal transcending the space-time continuum, the Spear Pillar contains the weakest point in the space between worlds (not that the humans knew that). However, only the most powerful Pokémon would be able to recognize the weak point, let alone break through to the other side. This is where the story begins…

A shadow, seemingly from nowhere, flitted over the Spear Pillar, settling around one of the spiked rock formations that littered the site. It moved around the legendary site in an agitated manner, before shooting upwards and disappearing amidst a brief spark of purple lightning.

The world on the other side of the Spear Pillar was somewhat formless. The entire dimension – for that was the only way to describe this other world – was a mixture of purple-black that bulged and sparked purple lightning intermittently. The shadow – sensing no light – reformed into its true form, becoming a dark wraith upon the boundless dimension, its blue eyes glinting strangely in the darkness. The figure paused briefly, as if listening to something, before taking off to its right with great haste.

After several minutes, the dark figure slowed to a halt and bowed respectfully as a large, imposing figure seemed to materialize out of the darkness. Though none of its features could be seen, the new figure emanated a strength that surpassed all others; it nodded its head, and the dark wraith straightened up. It is time spoke the powerful figure telepathically. You shall go now, while the Chosen One sleeps, and deliver our challenge to him. You will stay here to report back to me when you're done

The shadowy figure closed its blue eyes and inclined its head slightly in confirmation of this command. Then, eyes still closed, it relaxed its whole body and evened out its breathing, slipping into a sort of meditative position. The other figure melded back into the shadows from whence it came, with but a thought. Now all we have to do is wait, it thought.

-l-l-l-

If asked, Ash Ketchum would say that he currently led a good life.

At the age of 17, he had competed in the Sinnoh League Conference, and made Top 4, his Buizel losing to a feisty Gallade in the semi-finals match. He had bid goodbye to Dawn, promising to keep in touch, and headed home to Pallet Town, while Brock went back to his home in Pewter City. After two weeks home, Ash had concluded that, despite his goal to be a Pokémon Master, he was still rather naïve and – dare he say it – stupid about the ways of his non-human friends; so he resolved to fix that. The next day, he had gone to Professor Oak and asked to assist around the lab; the older man had been thrilled (it never felt like there were enough hands-on-deck with just himself and Tracey), and had accepted the offer immediately.

The next two years had been rather insightful for Ash. He didn't spend much time actually studying the Pokémon, but instead connected with them on a level that he had never attained when only traveling and battling with them throughout his previous years on the road. He got closer to his older Pokémon friends (Bayleef had been particularly happy to see him), and had learned how to understand his team, as well as how to interact with and care for wild Pokémon. And of course, he had also trained his team, practicing with them and honing their skills, as well as his own, with his newfound knowledge.

At the end of this two-year period, 19-year-old Ash had re-set off on his journey, heading to Pewter City with a team consisting of Pikachu (naturally), Grotle, Bayleef, Totodile, Swellow, and Corphish. He had gone straight to the Pewter Gym and faced and defeated Brock – acting as temporary Gym Leader – using Grotle and Bayleef. They had then chatted, catching up on the times, before Ash elaborated on his second reason for coming (the first being the Boulder Badge): to ask Brock to accompany him on a new journey, just like old times. The breeder had immediately agreed, and they had departed to Cerulean City the next day, leaving Brock's father Flint in charge of the gym.

He went through much the same situation with Misty at the Cerulean City Gym as he had with Brock: a bit of banter to catch up, the challenge for the Cascade Badge (which had been interesting. Ash had wanted to test his water Pokémon against Misty's, and so used Corphish and Totodile against Misty's Staryu and Corsola, ultimately winning when he had to bring out Pikachu to battle Gyarados), and then the proposition to come with them. She too had eagerly agreed, leaving her eldest sibling Daisy in charge of the gym with the warning to not just give away badges like she had in the past.

And so, with his two friends by his side, Ash re-travelled throughout the Kanto region, meeting up with old friends, camping in the outdoors, and bickering playfully with Misty. Brock and Misty followed Ash to the remaining gyms, cheering him on from the sidelines as he handily won the Thunder, Rainbow, Marsh, Soul, Volcano, and Earth Badges, using tactics and knowledge that he hadn't possessed nearly a decade ago.

At the age of 20, Ash fought (again) in the Pokémon League Competition, making it to the finals and winning a challenging fight against his opponent (of course, it helped that this time around, Charizard actually listened to him). With Misty and Brock on the sidelines (and his mother, Professor Oak, Tracey, and Gary in the stands) cheering him on, Ash went on to fight the prestigious members of the Elite Four.

Prima and Bruno, the Ice and Fighting Masters, respectively, had been relatively easy (as easy as fighting the elite can be). Prima had been knocked out with the use of Charizard, Pikachu, and Torkoal, while Sceptile, Swellow, and Donphan had defeated Bruno. Agatha, the Ghost Mistress, had been a bit trickier, but Ash had managed to win with the strategic use of his Noctowl's Foresight attack. Lance had been the most difficult; it had taken a good deal of luck and strategy to beat the Dragon Master, and in the end, it came down to Pikachu wearing down Dragonite after the latter had already been injured by Ash's Glalie.

The moment Dragonite collapsed to the floor, utterly spent, Ash almost broke down and cried.

His dream, ten years in the making, had finally been realized: he was a Pokémon Master. His friends and family had run up to him and congratulated him, and he had looked to Misty, his oldest and best friend, for her reaction; she smiled broadly at him, and for a moment, he thought he had seen something else, something deeper, shining in her eyes, but then he blinked and it was gone.

His childhood goal finally achieved, Ash declined the position of League Champ (much to the surprise of everyone present), instead saying, "I would much rather continue on to new and different things rather than continue to fight as the Champion and remain stagnant in my position." The Elite Four had taken this news with a series of smiles, saying that it was his decision to make, and that they understood completely; he would, however, receive a monthly stipend for achieving such a prestigious position and title, regardless of the fact that he declined to stay.

Later that evening, before going to bed, Ash had spoken to Brock in private (Misty was sharing a room with Ash's mother) in their room in the Pokémon Center. Without preamble, Ash had told his older friend, "I'm sure you're wondering why I didn't accept the League Champion position."

Brock had nodded. "I'll admit the thought did cross my mind. It seemed a bit unlike you."

Ash had returned Brock's nod with one of his own. He took a deep breath before explaining his reasoning. "I…want to become a Pokémon Researcher, like Professor Oak and Gary. Battling is great and all, but…I want to keep my options open for my future. I don't know if I'll be able to do that while being the Champion simultaneously. It's too heavy a responsibility, and I don't know if I can handle it."

He took another deep breath before continuing. "I'm going to accept Scott's offer to become a Frontier Brain. That'll allow me to still battle, but I won't be confined by it, and I'll be able to do research on the side. I know that you still want to be a Pokémon Breeder, so I was wondering if…if you'd like to work with me." The last part had been said in a rush, and Brock hadn't yet wrapped his head around the offer before Ash had rambled, "I mean, I completely understand if you don't want to, but I figured that with all the Pokémon in the area, and since we've been traveling companions and friends for years, that maybe we could have a sort of bachelor pad, at least until one or both of us settle down, you know?"

Brock had asked Ash if he was serious, and Ash had replied with a small grin and a sheepish, "Dead serious." The former had laughed, before agreeing and thanking Ash profusely for the opportunity (the younger man had waved it off and just said that it was payback for all Brock had done for him in the past).

The next several months had been rather busy for the two friends. They had moved to a small, deserted island off the coast of Pallet Town (it was deserted of people, but not Pokémon), on the way to Cinnabar Island. Ash had taken all of his Pokémon from Professor Oak, and Brock had retrieved all of his from Pewter, and both released them upon the island, letting them roam around and find their niches.

The island itself was a gift from nature, in the two trainers' opinions. A large clearing was located about a mile from the north shore of the island, surrounded on opposite sides by a forest. The third side – the one closest to the shore – possessed a small stream that drained into the ocean and ended in a rather large freshwater lake about half a mile behind the clearing. The fourth side – behind the clearing – was a vast stretch of land that could best be described as a savannah – short grass and sparse trees. Eventually, the terrain became rougher, large areas of dirt and rocks replacing the grassy savannah; this served as a habitat for several of Brock's Rock-types. Beyond that, jagged spires of rock jutted up from the ground (several of them hundreds of feet high), where the high altitude allowed for some Ice- and Flying-types to make their home; caverns (closer to the base) and caves speckled these mountains, providing a dwelling for some Dark-, Ghost-, and Ground-type Pokémon. Opposite the mountains, on the island's southeast shore, lay a dormant volcano and several natural hot springs, where the heat and humidity allowed for Fire Pokémon to roam. Overall, the island was roughly circular, with a radius about 20 miles across, leaving plenty of room for the two humans, their Pokémon, and all the wild ones already on the island.

This had given Ash his idea for a field of research to study: the effects of the habitat and terrain on the growth and battling talents of Pokémon, as well as how they were affected by human companionship. Also, thanks to some of his more exciting adventures, he decided to dabble slightly in the field of researching the proclaimed Legendary Pokémon of each region. As for being a Frontier Brain, Ash had modeled his battle format on that of the preliminary rounds of the Kanto Conference. He titled his realm the Battle Island, and utilized the different habitats present on the island in order to battle; if they won, his opponents received the Strategy Symbol.

It had taken a bit of time to make the island habitable to people. The process had been long and arduous, but with the help of their Pokémon (including some very welcome assistance from Ash's Charizard and Brock's Steelix), a couple of buildings had been constructed in the clearing, from which Ash and Brock made their base of operations. The lab was the main building, and acted as both a research facility and living quarters. The two men each had their own bedroom and bathroom, and the lab also held a kitchen, living room, and guest room with an adjoining bathroom. A staircase led down to the basement, where much of Ash's and Brock's data and information (as well as Pokéballs) were kept, and there was another staircase that went up to an attic, which served as a loft for many different varieties of bird Pokémon. A smaller building was attached to the main building for Brock's use in his breeding.

Perhaps the biggest surprise for the duo had occurred six months after their arrival on the island. Ash and Brock had been eating breakfast when a knock on the front door echoed around the house. The two had looked at each other before getting up to see who was there. Their surprise had been paramount when the visitors had been revealed to be Jessie, James, and Meowth, the Team Rocket members who had continuously followed Ash throughout his childhood journeys. Both boys had immediately tensed, expecting a battle, and were surprised when none came.

Apparently, after 10 years of stalking "the twerps", and failing to complete their objective, the Team Rocket members had given up and quit. Since there had been moments when they had worked with Ash instead of against him, they had decided to try that again, and had come asking to work under Ash as his assistants. Ash and Brock had excused themselves to discuss the matter, and had ultimately relented to give the ex-Rockets a chance, which they had eagerly taken.

Of course, the two men were wary of the ex-Rockets at first, but over time – and with no attempts to nab Pikachu or any of the other Pokémon – they had relaxed, and eventually become friends with Jessie, James, and Meowth. Four years later saw Ash Ketchum thoroughly enjoying his new life, surrounded by people and Pokémon he could proudly call friends. He battled casually with Brock every once in a while, and even with Jessie and James (the former of which had focused on Poison-type Pokémon, and the latter [despite prior misgivings] with an attraction to the Grass-type) to help raise their Pokémon up.

And now, 25-year-old Ash Ketchum…was sleeping.

It had been early in the morning when, while researching the Legendary Beasts – Suicune, Entei, and Raikou – he had fallen asleep from exhaustion. The Frontier Brain still possessed unruly black hair, cut somewhat shorter than when he had traveled in his childhood. He wore a white lab coat (which fell to his knees) over a pair of tan khakis and a forest green shirt. Ash twitched slightly in his sleep, a frown of confusion marring his young face as his dream of a certain red-headed Gym Leader disappeared to be replaced by another woman.

Ash looked around his dream, noting that despite the pitch-black space he was floating in, he could still see perfectly fine. The woman in front of him had shoulder-length white hair, which provided a stark contrast to her dark skin. Sky blue eyes were set in her face, and she wore a blood red robe that covered her entire body, save her feet, which were bare. He eyed her warily before asking, in a confused voice reminiscent of his childhood, "What's going on here?"

The woman in front of him merely inclined her head slightly in acknowledgment of his question. "Chosen One," she began, and Ash had an immediate inclination to run, knowing that the use of 'Chosen One' was never a good omen. "As you may or may not have hypothesized per your research, the Legendary Pokémon of the world tend to discuss current affairs every so often, in order to try and maintain balance in the world."

"So, the world is out of balance again, and you need me to help restore that balance," Ash interrupted. "What do I have to do this time? And while we're at it, who are you?"

The woman gave a brief chuckle in response. "Relax, Chosen One, nothing so extreme. To answer your other question however, you may call me Rai. Back to business though; I have called upon you in order to issue you a challenge, presented by the legendaries themselves."

Ash felt his blood heat up as the familiar thrill of a challenge arose. "What's the challenge?" he asked excitedly, regressing back to his 10-year-old self.

"You are being allowed the opportunity to capture the Legendary Pokémon of each region," Rai recited, as it reading it off of a scroll.

The Chosen One was, for lack of a better word, thunderstruck. He was being offered the chance to capture the legendaries of Kanto, Johto, Hoenn, and Sinnoh. The research he could accomplish by being able to study such Pokémon up close would be amazing! The possibilities raced through Ash's mind before questions began to arise, slowly his euphoria. "Wait…why me? Why am I so special that I get this challenge? Also, you said the legendaries are needed to keep balance. Isn't there only one of each type of Legendary Pokémon? Wouldn't I be taking them away from their positions?"

This time, Rai really did laugh, her mystical voice echoing strangely in the strange void. "Tell me Ash, how many Articuno have you seen throughout your adventures?" She paused as he thought about it. "You have seen several, correct? Only certain legendaries, like Mewtwo, are the only one of their species, and they will be able to oversee the world regardless of ownership or location.

"As for why you were chosen…well, that's a rather basic explanation. You are a good individual at heart. You treat your Pokémon as friends, with the utmost care, and have yet to do anything innately wrong or evil on purpose. Do not misunderstand me…you are not perfect; nobody is. However, you try your best and attempt to fight injustice. You gave Jessie and James, Team Rocket members who did nothing but hound you for nearly a decade, a second chance, and now look at where they are! That is why you are granted this opportunity. The legendaries do not fear you misusing their power, but instead anticipate that you will treat them with the same kindness and attention that you show the rest of your Pokémon friends."

Ash was silent as he took this information in. Provided that he wasn't taking the legendaries from their rightful place (and after the confirmation that he wasn't, he felt better), the challenge seemed very well set. But…"I have a question. Can I bring Brock and Misty with me on my journey? I prefer to travel with them by my side."

Rai smiled lightly. "There is no reason that you cannot bring them with you. However, there are rules that you must follow for this challenge. Are you listening carefully?" Upon Ash's nod, she continued, "First of all, your friends will not be allowed to help you capture the Legendary Pokémon; it is all on your shoulders. Secondly, you will only be allowed to use six of your own Pokémon per battle. The legendaries are well aware that as a researcher you may carry more than six, and this is allowed; however, only six may be used per battle," she reiterated. "Third, you will abide by any rules whatever Legendary you face sets forth. It may vary for each one you face, though will most likely be a standard battle for the majority of them. And lastly, the Legendaries do not care to fight one another; do not use a captured Legendary against one you are attempting to catch in battle.

"That is all the rules that you must abide by. Do you have any other questions?"

"Actually, I do," Ash admitted. "How do I know the location of all of the Legendary Pokémon? And what if some of them require some specification to reach them?"

The woman gave him a skeptical look. "You have researched this field for years. There are legends which speak of the locations of the legendaries, not to mention requirements to find them, assuming there are any. Base your assumptions off of these. If you are stumped, I will serve as your guide, but only in times of need, or if I deem such intervention necessary for the continuation of your quest. Does this sound fair?" Upon Ash's nod, she continued, "Very well. Then your journey shall begin. Start in Kanto with the Elemental Birds, and continue from there, going through regions in the order of your original journey. Good luck."

"Wait!" called Ash. "How do you know all of this?"

Rai smirked slightly. "All in good time," was the vague reply. With that, Rai disappeared.

In the real world, Ash Ketchum awoke with a start and scratched his head as he processed everything he'd just been told. "I guess I've got to gather the gang," he commented with a grin.

-l-l-l-

Back in the alternate dimension, the shadowy figure opened its eyes, sky blue color staring straight ahead into the darkness. Almost as if summoned, the powerful figure from before stepped forward from the spot where the smaller figure had been staring. Has the challenge been accepted? boomed the bigger figure telepathically.

Yes the other figure responded wearily.

Very well; then we shall wait until our time comes. You have done well, and I thank you for your services. Rest here for now; I am sure your abilities will come in handy later, Darkrai

The shadowy figure, Darkrai, nodded wearily. Thank you, Arceus he mumbled feebly, and then promptly fell asleep. Arceus merely nodded in return, before melding back into the darkness of the void.

-l-l-l-

Author's Notes: Welcome to the beginning of this lengthy Pokémon tale! I hope you all enjoyed the prologue.

A couple things to note: This will contain Pokeshipping…I fully support the couple and was really disappointed that it was just left hanging in the show. It'll be a little slow to develop, but it'll be there throughout the story.

Also, about the Elite Four and Master status…I decided to make each battle a 3 v 3, spaced out over several days. That way, Ash gets time to recover and choose his team wisely. Even if it puts him at a potential type-advantage, he's fighting the Elite Four. They can handle it.

I'll try to address any other concerns as they pop up, or in the next chapter. Thanks for the support guys!