(A/N: Unlike the other six parts of the finale, this one was heavily procrastinated, so I apologize for the delay. Despite my exhaustion, I tried my hardest not to rush this chapter, seeing as how it's the last. Hopefully it came out well.)
Blessed Defiance - Chapter 52: Fated Roads
"We are born with choices. We are born as unique entities. Both Humans and Pokemon have a path set before them in this world where all beings thrive to uncover life's true meaning. But why can we not see it? Because the everlasting darkness has blinded our hopes, our dreams, and our destinies. You might even say we are being tested based on our personal justifications, instincts, and ability to decide. Yes, the power to decide the path set before us. Either way, the future is inevitable. We cannot foresee it because of the challenging darkness. . . yet we can instigate our goals with fearless ambition. That is what defines a hero. But if one wishes to walk the path of good, they must overcome their deceitful fears and avoid succumbing to evil. Some believe evil is a way of coping with life, as a way of understanding the whole concept of it. This misconception will only continue to emanate the world unless a true hero proves otherwise without failing to resist the tempting hatred. No . . . without failing to combat this looming evil."
-Clint Ketchum, Final Journal Entry
The Pallet Town junkyard was vast, abandoned, and completely fenced in. Aside from the piles of groaning metal, there was little relief from the sun, much to the fondness and liking of Giovanni and his mischievous gang; this was their hideout, their sanctuary, and their shared affluence. Inside the depot, they lounged within the usual spot. It was deserted, save for some discarded beer cans and decaying furniture.
And while Proton, Petrel, and Ariana burbled on about their miserable months without a leader, Gio simply lay plopped on the broken couch, fixedly reading his father's journal instead of paying any mind to the friends he hadn't seen in nearly a year; the final entry, it held so many meanings, most of which Gio had yet to fully apprehend. Yet, in a way, it felt like his father was somehow directly alluding to him, trialing his sense of wisdom through long-forgotten echoes of the past. This passage played a cord with his Aggressive Conscience and he couldn't help but feel like his father withheld the key to helping him control his darkness. True, he was exulted to discover that Clint Ketchum, the Affinity Soul, was still alive after all these years . . . but at the same time, he'd been living in fear of Metsuma's horrifying visions. Which of them were true . . . and which of them were not?
Feeling totally ignored, Proton, the youngest of the group, slapped the book away from Gio's grasp and spoke over him with grouchy urgency! "Read on your own time, okay? We need to review the agenda!"
Picking up the fallen journal from his side and tucking it away inside his jacket, Gio just yawned and rolled onto his back, looking up the sky with little interest in Proton's words. He had only returned to Pallet two days ago and didn't care to be caught up on every singe detail of his absence, despite him being the typical precursor of the gang and its operations. Honestly, he just waned more time to recover and relax.
Sitting on an old car tire across from Gio, Ariana laughed at Gio's obvious apathy and couldn't help but vouch for him. "Leave him alone, Proto.", She sighed in her heavy and distinct New Yorker accent. "You can't blame the man for being exhausted, can ya? He just singlehandedly wiped out half of Metsuma's empire. Show some leniency for god's sakes."
Gio chuckled at the word 'singlehandedly', mainly because it was Kyden who had finished the fatal job. Glancing up to his three friends, he chuckled again, remembering the immense efforts he and his courageous clone had employed together. "Actually . . . I did have some help . . ."
Lighting his cigarette, Petrel jeered at the comment. "Who?"
"Err . . . no one.", Gio quickly replied. He knew that a figure of such emotional tragedy would serve little interest to his band of brutish misfits. "Forget I mentioned it."
Petrel merely shrugged and approached the battered furniture that Gio lay upon, plopping himself at the foot of it and friendly lifting his hand up to put out the bud of his cigarette against the heel of Gio's shoe. "Worry not, Gio.", He playfully chuckled, shooing Meowth away from the range of his final smoke puffs. "We're just content you returned in one piece, even though I had my wages placed in the other direction . . . "
Gio lifted his head to the comment, eyebrows creasing at Petrel. "You morons were placing bets on my chances of survival?" Rolling his eyes, he fell back into place, trying to brush of their cruelness. "Hmph . . . some friends you are . . . "
Ariana promptly jumped to her feet. "Hey, give us a a little credit Gio!", She exclaimed! "It wasn't easy for us hearing about you risking your own life in all that hero crap! We had to keep ourselves . . . entertained." There was always some sort of excuse. The least they could have done was root for him.
Staying faithful to Gio's position in the gang, Proton again intervened. He stood over Gio with a crooked frown and his arms folded over his chest, gleaming at him with eyes of emerald green! "And in my defense, while you were off playing hero, I was the one handling all of the gang's affairs." He could tell Gio was about to question his meaning. Before his elder could actually voice his inquiry, however, Proton shuffled over to his jacket suspended from a grapnel and pulled out an open notepad. He approached Gio and dropped it as his lap. "Just see for yourself, man! No joke!"
Sighing, Gio sat up and reached for the booklet. The page it was open to was filled with what appeared to be a list of eighteen names, though none of which he was familiar with. "What is this?"
"The newest additions to our gang!", He goaded, folding his arms again and puffing out his chest.
So it was true. His gang really had been kept in good hands after all this time, judging by this extensive list of new recruits. Admittedly, he was impressed, but that was about all he could express on the matter. "Well done, Proto. ", He complimented monotonously. "You truly do know how to keep things running smoothly in my absence. Better yet, you really went the extra mile in expanding our gang."
"Hey! I resent that!", Protested Petrel, gesturing to himself and Ariana. "We helped . . . kinda . . ."
Ignoring the goon's outburst, Gio set his focus on the list again, his questions still being directed at the one responsible. "How'd you get these people to join in?"
"Most of them are outcasts, like us, from both Viridian and here in Pallet; misunderstood, looking for a leader to guide them in the world." He smiled as his gaze homed in on the Ketchum. "That would be you, believe it or not."
The idea entirely killed the mood and Gio merely shook his head. He was humbled by the appraisal . . . but not to be exalted as the commander of a bunch of ruffians who would only cause trouble simply for the hell of it. Total anarchy, that's what is was. And it reminded him way too much of Metsuma. "I'm no leader. In fact . . . I think I need to retire from that role for a while."
Swiping the notepad back into his hands, Proton began to trace his finger down the list of names again. "Heh, well these fellas seem to think otherwise! And after what you did to those Rockets, you probably only boosted their confidence in you! They want a strong and authoritative icon, like you! You can promise them purpose! You've already done it for yourself, haven't you?"
Petrel nodded, smiling fiendishly. "The reign of chaos ends dramatically as the children of the revolution rise from the ashes!"
"And that leaves us in what position? Creating vandalism?" Tossing his legs up off the couch, Gio stood to his feet and took an intimidating stance to his companions, eying them down with a vicious glimmer in his eye. "What's the purpose in that, guys? Tell me!"
"Whoa, you were the one who had vandalism in mind when you started this gang in the first place!", Ariana snapped back at him!
Gio fell silent, the feel of the warm sun on his shoulders draining some of the tension from the muscles. "I was pathetic and looking for attention.", He grumbled. "A lot has changed in a year. Too much, in fact."
Stunned upon having taken that implication the wrong way, Ariana fixed him with a baleful glare. "So, what, you're done with us? You don't need us anymore?"
Drawing in a sharp breath, Gio shook his head. The moment where he'd finally address what he now wanted of his gang's services . . . was now. "What I NEED is followers bent on serving a cause, not perpetrating pointless vandalism."
Proton raised a nervous brow to him. "What are you getting at, Gio?"
Gio stood resolute, his gaze steady. "Ever since returning a few days ago, I've been thinking a lot about what's to become of me . . . and Delia . . . and even the people of Pallet Town, for that matter." For a moment, he turned his back to them and let his hands fold together against his spine, a posture Metsuma often held. "The Rockets aren't gone, guys. Yes, they're weaker without Metsuma . . . but they'll be back, this time with my own mother at its command."
"Your . . . mom?" The shock pressed through Ariana all at once. "But . . . you said she left you for dead! If she finds out that you're still alive, then-"
Gio spun around to them and cut statement short. "I'm the only one who knows her secret; her identity as the Rocket Gang Leader. Who's to say she won't try and do harm to me . . . or you guys . . . or even Delia?"
Honestly, they hadn't considered this . . . and they felt foolish for not recognizing the danger sooner. They knew Gio's mother wasn't one to play nice, much less fair, under any circumstances. And even if she didn't yet know of her son's survival, she wouldn't hesitate to terrorize Pallet Town in her mad search for Pokemon to profit from.
Watching their heads fall silently and shamefully, Gio continued, his tone much more severe this time around. "We need to be able to protect ourselves from that danger and keep the Rockets away from our community, no matter what the cost!"
They didn't look particularly alarmed, only mildly curious. Their eyes were wide and questioning. "That would make us a collective of vigilantes.", Petrel spoke for all of them as he thoroughly considered Gio's suggestion. "I suppose the local authorities wouldn't have a problem with that, would they?"
"That depends on what measures we take in order to keep the Rockets away.", He answered back, chilling all of them to the bone.
Everyone froze for a second, eyes swiveling to their leader. "Gio-", Proton managed to utter through his abashment. "Are you suggesting that we-"
"I'm not suggesting anything.", He replied in an even tone. "I don't know what the future holds . . . but I know what it MIGHT hold. And . . . well . . . we have to be prepared for WHEN or IF that time comes." He dared not even question his own ideology. It had been on his mind ever since arriving in Pallet Town, after carefully analyzing the threats that still posed against the lives of himself and the one's closest to him. And no matter what it took . . . he'd not give the Rockets the chance to disrupt the peace he had finally found. "Are you guys with me?"
After a powerful silence, their combined reluctance subsided and they nodded their heads in agreement to the suggested but unspecified proposal.
Levering his finger to them as if he were a chiding parent, Gio's tone fell to a most grim impression. "Tell no one of this.", He scolded them before turning to his younger. "Proton, I'm entrusting you to keep an eye out for more recruits. And in the meantime, keep your sights alert for a new hideout."
He nodded . . . but felt the compulsion to bring up one other issue. "Gio, if this collective of ours really does grow to be as big as you hope, won't you need an alibi to conceal your identity as its leader?" He knew the plans that they had in store for the gang's future would not sit well with the local police.
"I already have an alibi.", Gio replied rather quickly. And as soon as he had done so, he admitted to yet another appalling revelation. "Tomorrow, I leave for Viridian City and begin my duties as its Gym Leader. That should keep my profile baited from suspicions."
"And . . . does Delia know about your bailing on her?", Ariana asked, squinting at her leader suspiciously.
For a second, Gio maintained his ferocious scowl, then, just as quickly, it was gone and . . . his expression cleared entirely to blankness. "I . . . haven't told her yet.", He confessed solemnly. His gaze was cast to his feet, hurting at the thought of having to confer this upon her. "In fact, she still thinks I'm going to be sticking around here . . ." Looking back on their conversation aboard the freight ship, he never should have made a promise he had not real intention of keeping. She's be even more heartbroken at this rate. "For the record, though, I don't want her knowing that I'm still in charge of our gang. If anything, she'll prefer thinking of me as a Gym Leader than a criminal."
Again, they nodded their heads unison. They said nothing more on the matter, allowing him the time to ponder further and take his leave.
Gio just stood frigid for a moment, his chin held hide. After a slight hesitation, he swung towards the breach of their hideout and marched his way out of the junkyard, gesturing for his feline to follow. "Meowth, let's go!" As the pair walked towards the dirt road leading into town, Gio kept his mind concentrated on how he'd tell Delia of his moving to Viridian City. He was hopeful, not confident, that she would wholeheartedly understand why he had to go. And though he hadn't confessed this to his gang, his reason for leaving was more than just to procure an alibi. It was mainly for the same reason he had accepted his mother's offer in the first place; to move forward with his life and recreate his identity. "Which reminds me . . ."
Stepping out from the laboratory, Professor Oak inhaled the sweet and invigorating scent of his father's acreage; the fields of the Oak Corral seemed boundless, with the tress lushing in the wind and the variety of Pokemon that inhabited the domain lounging and feeding to their hearts' content. It felt good to be home again, to immerse in this sensational peace without a worry in the world. No Torino. No Briskomy. No conspiracy. No Rocket Empire. No Metsuma. All of it . . . a thing of the past, memories best left forgotten.
"Spencer, what other Pokemon did you see in your adventure?", Tucker's voice sprung out from off to the side.
Samuel turned his head just slightly and spotted both Tucker and Spencer at the edge of the patio, kneeling down to the grass to feed a pack of the corral's Rattata. The two seemed to be engaged in riveting conversation, with Spencer telling of he and his friends' extraordinary experiences during their Johto Region exploration. Approaching the duo from behind, Samuel lifted a smile to them, catching them by surprise. "Hello there, boys? Fine morning, isn't it?"
"Oh, hi daddy! You're back!" Setting down the Pokemon feed, the nine-year-old blonde boy bounded to his feet and excitedly wrapped his arms around his father's waist. "Spencer was telling me about all the cool bad guys he fought and all the Pokemon he saw! Daddy, they saw a Lugia! They really saw one!"
Patting his son's head, Samuel chuckled. "Yes, I'm sure they did!" Kneeling down, the professor managed to procure a good look at his son as he began to carefully trifle the boys messy locks, trying to part them into place so he'd appear less sloppy and more presentable. He then pulled a handkerchief from his lab coat and began to wipe away an oatmeal smudge from the boy's glowing cheek. "My word, Tucker! You need to start using a napkin at the table!"
Spencer watched on, snickering as the child grunted and writhed under his father's attempts to swab him clean. He, too, could finally familiarize himself with this atmosphere of the ordinary. It was just the way he liked it. No more danger, just the daily routines and pleasures of a customary lifestyle.
"Ah, much better!" At last, Samuel released the child, sending him off into the house as he tucked away his handkerchief. "Now, go on and play inside, okay?"
As Tucker blissfully rushed off into the lab with his energy intact, Samuel slowly approached Spencer, whom was still tending to the local Rattata.
They soon scampered off and Spencer rose to his feet to meet the young professor's gaze. He rubbed his hands clean and sighed. "So, how did your inspection of Professor Wade's cottage play out?" Glancing around to ensure that no one was listening in, he leaned forward and whispered: "Did you recover anything valuable?"
"Most of the building was burnt to rubble.", Samuel explained the brief but thorough excursion he had ventured shortly after the Rockets' defeat. "While I did collect some potentially important research from what was left of his hidden storage room, I found that the two volumes belonging to the Oci Chronicles set were missing. I suppose it's possible they perished in the forest fire . . ."
Spencer was thinking with all seriousness about this mystery, his delicate brows pulled together as he pondered an answer, specifically relating to the tragedy of Clint Ketchum. "As I recall, Gio mentioned that the Book of Serpents was given to Metsuma by his father a little over ten years ago."
Samuel rubbed his chin and sighed. "But that still doesn't explain where the other book could have disappeared to.", He noted curiously. "I'm quiet certain it was the same book that contained all of the information on Giratina and the Distortion World."
With a nervous expression, Spencer glanced up at him. "You think . . . someone may have stolen it?"
"I suppose it's possible.", Samuel sighed with a shrug . . . before pondering on an even bigger question aligned with his hypothesis. "But who would take an interest in such a book without even realizing its potential importance?"
At that moment, the answer immediately dawned on Spencer. His eyes turned fierce. "Newton.", He grunted contemptibly. Naturally, he was referring to the cyberspace-wiz who had recently served as one of Wade's assistants. "When I last saw him, he was bragging about how he had stumbled across the professor's secret storage room behind the bookcase! He must have taken the book not long before you arrived to inspect the place!"
Rubbing his chin again, Samuel struggled to pull the pieces together, assuming Spencer's words were true. "Why would he steal the book?"
An exasperated but unconcerned sigh fell from his lips. "What can I say? He's a genius . . . but a harmless one, thankfully. He has a fascination with unseen dimensions, which is probably why he stole the book for his own personal vendetta." And if he knew Newton, the cyberpunk was likely collecting every inch of the book's information at that very moment, hopelessly trying to elicit alternative methods of enter the voided dimension.
At that moment, a sprightly Gio raced onto the patio, carrying both Meowth and Tucker on his shoulders as he zoomed about the premises to give the nine-year-old his fill of thrill for the day! After sharing some chuckles, he set the boy onto the pavement and bent forward to catch his breath.
Laughing, Tucker spun to his father, grabbing Gio's wrist and pulling him along with him. "Daddy, check it out! Gio's here!"
"For a few minutes, anyway!", The trainer panted once he straightened out his posture. He smiled warmly at the glowing boy, reaching out a hand to ruffle his hair out of place, much to Samuel's annoyance, as the younger stared back at him expectantly. It was no wonder he was so out of breath; Tucker had certainly sprouted in just a year. "Man, you've grown so much since I last saw you!"
"What took you so long to come and visit us?", Tucker asked, leaning forward in his eagerness to know.
Gio merely shrugged with a guilty smile. "Sorry, buddy.", He said gently. "Ever since I got back, I've just been so exhausted. You understand, right?"
He leapt into the air! "Of course I do!" Sheer exhilaration filled him, a fierce joy that he could evoke such terror in a living creature! "I was the one who told my daddy that you would be the one to save the day in the end and beat the Rocket people! You're a Pokemon Master! And you're like the bestest one there is!"
Naturally, Gio started to laugh, the chuckle starting deep in his chest and rising like the sun until it broke from his mouth in a loud burst of sound/ "Well, I'm no Pokemon Master! But . . . I'll let you in on a little secret." Shifting his eyes from left to right, he leaned down to the boy's face and whispered: "I just became a Gym Leader."
Tucker seemed to have had an epiphany, his eyes widening as if the world had suddenly stopped shaking! "Gym Leader!", He shrieked to the top of his lungs, an even wider grin emerging from his lips. Again, he spun towards his father and Spencer. "Daddy, did you hear that? Gio's a Gym Leader!"
Samuel's arms folded across his chest and a hard look appeared in his sloe eyes. "Oh I heard, all right.", He sighed with a hint of astonishment, his eyes briefly flickering to Gio. "It's quite a responsibility." When Gio said nothing, instead just choosing to stand there without an explanation for his change of plans, Sammy dismissed his son back into the house. "Tucker, why not go in the Kitchen and give Meowth a snack?"
At the word 'snack', Meowth sprung to his paws and blitzed into the lab! "Meeeoowww! Mreeow!"
Tucker quickly tottered after the Pokemon with a joyous foray of laughter, giving the grownups their crucial privacy.
Keeping his body calm and relaxed, Gio didn't resist or make any attempt to escape. "Sorry, I didn't mean to spring that on you guys.", He swallowed his shame. "I . . . I didn't think it would be a problem-"
"Oh, it's no problem.", Samuel expressed. A slight grin curved from the corners of his lips. He finally rested his arms at his sides. "I've always known you've had a passion for becoming the best Trainer that you can be." He took a step forward and let a hand rest on Gio's shoulder, a gesture of kindly fellowship. "I suppose congratulations are in order."
It was almost a relief that he had garnered their consent. It made him feel less miserable about having to tell Delia the same thing. If all else failed, at least SOMEONE would still be supportive of him. In fact, looking back, he had been in a most similar situation; his decision to journey through Johto initially didn't settle well with Delia, despite the support of his other friends.
"So you're really going through with this?", Spencer asked.
Gio nodded his head as he tried to manage an eagerness to his tone. "First thing tomorrow!"
He didn't look particularly alarmed, only mildly curious, and his eyes wide and questioning. "Does . . . Delia know?"
Again, the fear returned to him. He threw his gaze to the ground and heaved. "Not yet." He had answered back with little emotion. "In fact, I was on my way to see her before I decided to stop by and talk with you guys a little bit." Gio lifted a curious glance to the two in front of him. "Have either of you spoken to her since we got back?"
Together, they shook their heads, with Samuel voicing an explanation. "We felt it was best to give her some space, especially after what happened to her brother. It's . . . well . . . it's only right that you be the first the approach her."
With an additional nod, he sighed and lowered his shoulders as he turned for the lab entrance. "Thanks.", He said to them with a quick glance. "I'm going to go see her now!"
Samuel nodded and yelled out to him: "Stop by later on so we can wish you luck for tomorrow!"
"Duh!", He chuckled before vanishing inside the homey abode.
Having fed all the Pokemon per instructions, Spencer knew to finish sorting the professor's bookshelves inside. He had started earlier but, due to the distraction of Tucker, had never gotten the chance to finish up. "Well, I'd better get back to work inside.", He told the older man in a heavy sigh. "Let me know if there's anything you need, professor!"
"Very good, Spencer. Thank you!" Once Spencer made his leave, Samuel took a moment to consider his friend's dilemma, wishing there was some way he could help smoothen the inevitable tensions that were bound to spark between Gio and Delia.
However, as he turned to take a stroll through the corral, Agatha appeared before him from a withering patch of fog. "Sure seems like everyone is getting on with their lives." A slow smile curled her lips at the corners, the smile echoed by Samuel immediately thereafter. "It's a good thing, I suppose."
Her words opened up the door for his famous poetry to make itself known. "A hard-fought ending, so bitter sweet!", He spoke in all gentleness, bringing himself towards Agatha. "A new beginning, life's greatest treat!"
Smiling critically, Agatha rolled her eyes and huffed. "I thought you only specialized in Pokemon Poetry?"
"Well, it's a special occasion.", He chuckled, taking her into his arms. "The Rockets have been defeated, Gio begins his duties as Gym Leader, and you and I can finally begin anew!" With her heart fluttering in her chest, Agatha tilted her chin once more and Samuel ducked his head, their lips meeting and holding. Afterward, they slowly parted from each other, and Samuel was blushed with a glowing grin. "I understand today is a big day for you, as well?"
"Oh, so you've been keeping up with the news, have you? Well, to answer your question, today certainly is going to be a special day." Indeed, it was. With the Rocket Empire scattered and mostly disbanded, there was finally room for the government to reassemble itself. And she planned to contribute all of her efforts in helping rebuild the fallen society. There was a press meeting she had to attend in a few hours, an event in which the Pokemon League Committee would reveal its plans for the new government and the signing of a long-overdue constitution would succeed in redefining how their political system would operate in the future. "It'll be broadcasting live later . . . so keep an eye out for me."
"I plan to." He smiled and drew her into his arms again, snickering to himself as he recited another haiku. "Charizards are red . . . Lapras are blue . . . if you were a Pokemon . . . I'd choose you!"
"Corny . . . but sweet . . .", Agatha sighed contently. Her arms looped loosely about his waist. It was very pleasant to just stand together and b so close, the early morning sun almost gone from the glade, glinting its last ounce of magic upon their caress. However, as they embraced, the Ghost Master couldn't help but relieve a trinket of truth from her conscience. "Samuel, I can't help but feel . . . somewhat guilty for having dragged you in to all of this in the first place." Sure, the worst was over . . . but there was still reason for an apology, one that was long overdue. "If it weren't for me, your father's conspiracy research would still be intact-"
"Don't be preposterous!" While he appreciated her honesty and sincerity, there was no room in their relationship for blame, guilt, or remorse. That was all in the past. "None of that matters anymore!", He assured her with a chuckled "The world is already saved!"
Resting her head below his chin, she shut her eyes, still somewhat disillusioned. "But it's not just that.", She whispered. More guilt-ridden memories were surfacing in her mind. "It's the fact that . . . I lied to you. I promised that I'd be able to investigate your father's murder in exchange for your help. But . . . I've been useless to you."
"Not at all.", He ensured with a soothing whisper. Her startled eyes met his heavy lidded gaze. "Agatha, you taught me how to love again. I never thought I'd be able to recover from Hayley's death . . . but you proved otherwise! And that's reward enough, the way I see it."
At that, her eyes glistened like twin flames and she couldn't resist from blushing bright pink! To her surprise, Samuel leant forward to press a quick kiss to her lips, the quick peck on her mouth repeated a second later with another, then another, this one not a peck but a searching exploration that temporarily banished her fears under a torrent of fluttering sensations.
Their lips soon parted . . . and Samuel found himself matching her shade of blush. However, as she began to make an silent exit, he found himself clutching at her wrist. "Now . . . may I ask YOU something? "There was one last piece of importance that he felt the need to bring to her attention, for Gio's sake. "Agatha . . . pardon me for bringing this up so abruptly . . . but while infiltrating the Rocket Fortress, I learned some . . . unsettling information from Metsuma . . . and I can only pray it isn't true."
Agatha paled. However, she wasn't necessarily astonished. She just stood there, eyes closed again, taking a languishing breath. "Go ahead.", She prompted him to proceed.
He took her hands into his and pressed close to her, gleaming into her eyes with the utmost seriousness. "It . . . it was about you."
Agatha frowned back at him, careful to keep her arms outstretched as she suddenly turned away to face the mountains in the far off distance. She immediately knew what he was alluding to. "The Indigo Plateau Conference.", She sighed her thoughts in admission, her head hung in shame. "I just knew that would come back to haunt me . . . which is ironic . . ."
"So . . . so it's true?"
She spun to him . . . but did not immediately reply. Instead, she lowered her head, her eyes hidden from his, her mouth thinning into a grim line. "I would never intentionally bring harm to my nephew, Samuel. You should know that." It was all she could say. It was all she had to say. He'd simply have to just accept that much.
Samuel, however, folded his arms over his chest and stepped back with lingering suspicion. "Would you care to further explain?"
She merely shook her head. "No, actually. I have nothing to say for myself. I made a mistake . . . and that's all there is to it."
If that was the truth to it . . . he could not condone it, despite her cooperation to at least confess. He held her gaze for a second longer and then lowered his eyes, breaking the contact abruptly and sadly. "Agatha . . ."
Having nothing more to say on the matter, Agatha shifted her posture and flickered her gaze to the ghostly portal spurring to life behind her. "Let's not think about the past, alright?", Her tone carried its own severity. "It's time we start focusing on the future." And with that, she quietly vanished into the fog, leaving Samuel baffled . . . and somewhat betrayed . . .
The final preparations were already in order. Having both rendezvoused with his gang and shipped his belongings to his Viridian City manor, there were only a few tasks left to carry out, one of which being his errand to confide these new developments with Delia. He'd been dreading it. He'd been loathing it. But alas, it had to be done. And he as slowly ambled up the pavement steps of the Rezumi's front porch, he could feel his heart aching in tremendous beats, building to the most nervous tremor he'd ever felt. He took a steady breath to quell away the tension and pressed the doorbell with a slightly trembling finger.
The front door swung open and Delia appeared, her mother peering over her shoulder. A look of angst and fear crossed Delia's features as she stood at the door in a motionless silence, almost as if she was too frightened to say anything. Her eyes, once two beautiful pools of innocence, were rigged with the aftermath of a storm of tears.
Ignoring the glare of Mrs. Rezumi, Gio simply stared back into Delia's visage, seeing the floods gathering in her eyes, her lips trembling . . . and yet her face was so unreadable. Why had she been crying? What was she feeling? Where was this sadness stirring from? "Delia . . ." He moved in through the door to collect her in his arms, to comfort her.
Gently, however, she jerked away before he could reach his arms around her. "Gio-", She sniffled, trying to wipe away the remaining tears from her face. "Gio . . . now's not the best time, okay?"
His gaze turned fearful, like that of hunted prey. His own lips were now quavering as he began to surface a reply. "But . . .why?" When she couldn't bring herself to answer, he moved towards her again, entering the residence against the fiery glare of Mrs. Rezumi and extending a tendering hand for his love's shoulder.
However, as a drew towards her, Mrs. Rezumi cut between them and viciously smacked Gio's hand away from her daughter, sending him the most intense and disdainful grimace she could conjure. "Don't you touch her!", She snapped at the young man while blockading his course.
Delia began to whimper in protest. "Mother . . . please! Stop this!"
Ignoring her daughter, Judith took another threatening step towards the baffled Gio and brought her pointer finger between his eyes, waving it at him in warning! "You're not allowed in this house anymore! Understood?"
"Wha . . . what are you talking about!" Something in the pit of his aching stomach was trying to convince him to not question her authority; to cooperate and back down. However, glancing beyond the woman's shoulder, right into the defeated soul of his lover, he simply couldn't bring himself to leave her like this. He needed to know what was going on and why he was being treated this way! In an offended grunt, he swallowed and spoke: "What did I do wrong?"
"You put my daughter in danger, that's what you did!", The woman shouted with her hands now resting on her hips. "You should be ashamed, young man!"
Again, Delia attempted to defend Gio's honor, this time with more sufficient effort. She slipped past her mother's gaze and stanced herself in front of Gio, turning to her mother with a defiant frown! "Mother, I'm fine! Stop acting this way, please!"
Judith growled through her teeth and raised her finger to her as well. Her tone turned more violent! "Stop defending him! He's a bad influence on you!"
"No he's not!", Delia cried!
At that outburst, Judith's face swelled burning red! "Don't talk back to me, young lady!"
Delia merely shook her head in another punishable gesture of disrespect. She was now taking a much more firmer stand against her mother this time around, solely identifying right from wrong! "I'm almost an adult, mother! Stop treating me like a child!" She was quite taken aback by her own audacity, the words coming out of her mouth springing inside her mind seconds before she uttered them.
Judith's fierce eyes quickly found Gio again! "You see what you've done to her? You've turned her into a rebel!"
Again, Gio was at a loss of speech, frozen in place as he tried to manage a mere sentence. "I . . . I didn't-"
Delia brought herself against Gio's side, squeezing his hand passionately into hers to bring about a sensation of comfort. "Gio, don't listen to her. She's just trying to-"
"No, my decision is final!", Judith hollered, stamping her foot to the floorboard! Unbelievably, her face twisted into an even deeper scowl! "I'm sorry, Delia . . . but your father and I both agree that Gio isn't the man nor protector we thought he could be for you! For gods sakes, because of him, you were kidnapped by the world's most dangerous criminal!"
"I don't need a protector!", Delia raised her voice in objection! "I can take care of myself!"
Judith folded her arms over her chest, almost laughing at the ridiculous notion. "No, you can't! You are completely unfit to take care of yourself and, apparently, so is he! From this point on, you are no longer allowed to see him!"
Delia's heart suddenly pattered like a Pidgey caught in a cage! "No!", She shouted back in a fury of tears streaming down her cheeks! "You can't do that! He's my boyfriend!"
"No anymore!", The older woman barked! "Break it off with him! NOW!"
"I will not!", Delia snapped right back, barely restrained anger making her words terse! "You can't make me do it!"
"Fine, then, I'll do it for you myself!" Again, the mother's gaze flickered back to Gio! It was then did her voice heighten to a shouted command! "Giovanni Ketchum, I want you to stay as far away from this house as possible! Do you understand me?"
Gio deflated as the mother's words sank into him. His head bowed, his eyes squeezed tightly shut, and pain etched on his youthful features. And with a sideways glance at Delia, he began to silently slunk out through the door with a blighted and vanquished expression.
But Delia quickly grabbed his arm to keep him from fleeing. "No, Gio! You don't have to go-"
Again, Judith advanced on them! "Do not undermine me, young lady, or you'll be grounded for the rest of your days!"
"I don't care!" Bitterly leaving her mother's gaze, Delia spun to the open door and pulled Gio out of house, quickly guiding him along the dirt path outside without turning back to circumvent her parent's wrath.
Delia's mother was now fuming like a steam train, unyielding to condone this behavior! She had never known her Delia to act in such a truculent manner and it upset her to know that it was all to protect the long gone innocence of good-for-nothing troublemaker! "Delia Hanako Rezumi, you get back here this minute!", She bellowed from the porch, shaking her angry fist in the air! "When your father gets home, he is not going to like this!"
Glancing over his shoulder, Gio shuddered at the cold voice and flickered his eyes to his girl. "Delia, maybe you should-"
"Don't look back. Just keep walking.", Delia merely grumbled back in an early response, her eyes still tediously shifted ahead as she trudged Gio away from the dreadful environment she was growing to loath with such a passion. She was now beginning to remember why she had left home in the first place.
It was just like the old times, where they'd lay together, side by side on the grassy bank of Lake Pallet, watching the day go by in its eloquent grace. Gio loved the smell of the lake shore; its luscious scents of blooming flowers, as well as the relaxing tides of the wind's spatting flow which skimmed across the surface of the lake in leisure surfs.
Delia felt at peace. She was finally able to enjoy the florescent and lively scenery of her town, rather than being swept away in her family's chaos. Pallet Town was all sunshine and greenery, the colors soft on the eyes and a balm to the spirit. Indeed, even the water seemed to soothe her, the limpid green filled with the waving fronds of weed in which schools of Goldeen, passing Psyducks, and amphibian Pokemon would swim blissfully abroad.
At her side, Gio lay with his eyes closed, feigning rest, but the nerve flexing along his jaw belied his relaxed exterior. Disappointment warred with a nagging remorse, both feelings that he had little experience with, an ache settling in his stomach as he considered the possibility that he would have to simply leave town without even telling Delia why.
"I can't believe she did that to me!", Delia muttered at random, staring up into the doming blue sky, her thoughts still ravaged by her mother's demands.
Gio cleared his throat and shifted beside her. "Maybe she just needs time."
Delia shook her head in refusal. "No, I know when she's serious! I should have seen this coming before we got back."
"Sure . . . but you had too much on your mind!"
"Well it's worse now." She sighed gustily. "Kyden's dead. Jareth's dead. And to top it off, my parents are trying to separate you and I . . ." Feeling her eyes prickling, Delia buried her face in her hands to smother away the garnering droplets of sorrow, not even wanting to bother with tears anymore. "I thought the worst would be over after dealing with Metsuma . . . but I was wrong."
Gio shrugged, frowning at her worried expression. "Repercussions."
"Exactly." She hadn't prepared for repercussions. It seemed to be the least of her concerns at the time, borderline forgotten. All that time being away from home . . . she had forgotten just how cruel and unreasonable her home-life could be amount to. It was no wonder Jareth had vanished to Sinnoh when he was her age. "Gio, what my mom said back there wasn't true. I don't want you to think any of this is your fault because it's not."
Gio raised his eyes to her and peered at her uncertainly. "Your parents seem to think otherwise."
"They're just overprotective." Sniffing, she tried to sort out her confused emotions, the release of tension had given her some clarity. "But we won't let that split us apart, right? We'll find a way." She didn't see the faint frown her artless comment drew between Gio's brows, the light in his eyes dying a little.
Gio's voice roughened with his own emotion as he stuttered a weak and fault-worthy reply. "Well . . . maybe they do have the right intentions . . . for parents, anyway."
Dragging her upper body up from the grassy bed beneath her, Delia turned her head and stared offendedly, blinking over at Gio who had pulled back, his eyes glittering strangely. "Are you . . . are siding with THEM, now?"
Surprised at the anger in her voice, Gio frowned and, in a panic, rolled to his side to face her, setting forth an effort to mend his brainless remark! "No! No, I just . . . I-"
Her gaze became more intent, more concentrated! "Gio . . . what is it?"
His emotions seemed to thicken, becoming too weighty to deliver coherently. And at a time like this, when Delia was already upset enough from the penalties of her parents, he just knew he couldn't bring himself to be a burden until the last minute. "I wanted to tell you something . . . but now's probably not the best time." His heart still hammering, Gio raised his head and gazed down at Delia, her heavy lidded eyes roving over his face once a smile lifted his lips in a sweet simper full of love and promise, a chuckle escaping his lips. "You, eh . . . you should head home before your mother calls the police on me. I need to head over to the lab and collect Meowth. Hopefully Tucker's worn him out by now."
So caught up in her own ordeal, she had trouble in coming to recognizing the hurt and guilt he was withholding from her. Dealing with her folks seemed to be all she could contemplate on. Nevertheless, Gio's very presence seemed to elate her, almost like a warm blanket.
They rose to their feet together and she held her arms around him in a brief moment before parting, matching his warm grin against her whispering lips. "Will I see you later?"
He nodded and brought a wider smile upon his masked complexion. "Count on it." He stepped forward and swooped on her mouth, sealing it with his own and making her weak kneed with a needing kiss. Then, he drew apart from her, watching her take her leave. However, even once she had gone, he maintained his frozen posture. His gaze, reflecting that of his guilty conscience, beamed out to the horizon beyond the lake. "Delia . . . you'll have to understand . . . I'm doing this to protect you . . ."
The Dual Region Maximum Security Prison was the desolate asylum of Kanto's and Johto's most notorious criminal minds! And inside the main cell-block corridor, the lights flickered on as the facility's Officer Jenny and her Growlithe escorted their guest through the extensively bleak narrow passage, which was neighbored by several iron-fenced prison cells all the way throughout.
Walking alongside Jenny onto the next floor's cell-block was the face of a schemer. He was a short, thin man with a perpetual smirk. He held sharp, almost bishonen features; a small pair of trivex eyeglasses was framed at the tip of his nose. His chin sported a long and pointed goatee, matching the shade of his floppish hair, which had but a single white streak in his black bangs shimmering under the harsh fluorescent bulbs of the hallway.
Block A of the facility contained the relatively minor offenders that had the sheer misfortune to be sent to the prison. In there was mainly the white collar criminals and first time offenders of nonviolent crimes. Among these outcast souls were Trainers that had consciously abandoned or abused their Pokemon, acts that were not tolerated by the former society. However, even when Metsuma had risen to power, they were never given the chance adjoin in the reign.
Block B housed the average run of the murderers and thieves, many of which had blissfully partaken in Metsuma's anarchic game, whether they be citizens or Rocket soldiers that had failed to retreat in time before the authorities could once again assert their dominance. Here, were a few famous faces in the crowd; Gildas Alvar, the bumbling former executive of Briskomy, and his Slowking servent, Agadore, were just two of these notorious individuals. Being kept in another cell further down the block were former PokeMasters Sintas and Baltan, the two treacherous Indigo League Council members who had contributed to Briskomy's goal by destroying Samuel Oak's conspiracy evidence. Finally, the last section of the floor block sheltered Corporal Viper in one cell, whom had been immediately apprehended shorty after escaping Newmoon Island, and in the other cell, the Torino trio of goons: Tank, Hank, and Frank. Indeed, the three stooges had voluntarily turned themselves in upon coming to fully perceive their incompetence.
Finally, the basement floor, Block C, was the one to avoid. The men that lived there were the really bad ones. These guys were the 'without possibility of parole' intellectuals. The minimum sentence for someone in this block was 25 years. Most were lifers, though a few on death row. The basement was the only area of the prison not accessible by normal means. To get there, one needed a security pass that would allow them to take an elevator down to the very bottom. There were only six cells that could only be opened by an electronic key card and a four-digit password changed weekly.
After pervading the many security checkpoints, Jenny brought her guest to the most secluded portion of the basement, a quiet and deathly cell that dwelled in the thickening shadows. Together, they froze at the giant steel door of the particular dungeon. Jenny shifted her eyes to her guest for a moment and smiled. "Again, thank you for taking the time out of your schedule to relocate him. After all of the cruel and evil things he's done to his Pokemon, as well as to the citizens of Cianwood, it's only fair justice that he be given a taste of his own medicine!"
"Well, it's no trouble at all, I assure you.", Professor Winston Sebastian politely replied, guised in a clever smirk! "However, I'm but a mere scientist who only wishes to study the minds of these fascinating individuals. I can ensure, though, that the experiments I perform are by no means . . . pleasurable."
"That's a good enough penalty for me." Jenny deactivated the lock on the cell door, allowing Sebastian to enter through and engage the isolated prison inside. "Take all the time you need. Just let me know when you're ready to move him and I'll call for backup." Once he nodded his understanding, she strode back into the main hall, oblivious as to what Sebastian had concocted up his sleeve.
The Rocket criminal pushed through the metallic door and stepped into the dark and murky den, his eyes tracing to the corner of the alcove . . . where the Ninja Master himself sat upon the rigid floor, his back turned to the intruder. Sebastian raised a smug smile in the prisoner's direction. "Master Lou Fai, I presume. Leader of the Stratumist Caste?"
Master Lou, fully adorned in torn and shredded prison rags, remained in a meditative seated position, eyes closed . . . but mind attentive.
Leaning idly against the hard frame of the cell entrance, the patient professor gusted a deep sigh, which filled Lou's awareness to the brim. "Fear not, I'm not here to assert responsibility for you.", The Rocket crook assured the other Ninja crook "As far as this facility's staff is concerned, I'm simply taking you in to conduct experiments on your criminal mind, seeing as how it's the necessary dispense for punishment."
"That is not the truth.", Lou grumbled dryly beneath his breath. His reply was cold and heavy through that profound Japanese accent he instated.
"Correct.", Sebastian snapped right back. The clever coyness returned his lips, forging yet another one of his signature grins, both alluring and scheming. "I'm here to strike a deal. I've heard all about you and your infamous legacy. And I was quite impressed, that was until word got around that your Caste had been disbanded. It came as disappointment to me, as you can well imagine. I was really rooting for you at the time!"
At last, the bearded Ninja's serenity was broken! His vicious, blazing eyes shot open as soon as the scientist's words struck through his pointed ears! "You shall not patronize nor condescend my greatness!", He scowled to the professor, leaping to his feet in less than a second and spinning to attention as he held an accusing finger straight towards the younger villain! "I am STILL great! I shall never be defeated! One day, I shall return and regain full control of my loyal followers!"
Sebastian's grin widened, his teeth positively blinding. "Well, today is that day, lucky for you!"
"Who are you, pilferer!", Lou demanded in a fit a rage! "State your name!"
"My name is Professor Sebastian and I serve under the Rocket Gang.", Sebastian began to introduce himself. "I've come to recruit you . . . because we share a common interest. We both wish to uncover the secrets of enforcing a Pokemon's evolution. Fortunately, I've already begun work on a secret project to do so. However . . . I require your assistance. So, will you join me, Master Lou? Will you lend me your own services to support Project Revolution?"
Lou frowned slightly as he reviewed the other man's request. "Project . . . Revolution?"
Sebastian nodded. "Project R, for short. I'll explain more in the helicopter, naturally." Deciding to try and deflate the elder man's pretensions, the Rocket scientist extended the offer. "I'd also fancy to know more about your ancestor's ancient stimulant recipe, the one that can be employed to fill a Pokemon with extraordinary power and incite it to evolve."
Rather than burst into another tantrum, Lou nodded and cooperatively stated the name of what Sebastian was referring to: "The Ardent Impetus is what you speak of."
Sebastian tried for nonchalance but his voice ended on a squeak, which rather spoiled the desired effect. "So, it seems we truly can combine our knowledge to induce the greatest weapon of our time!" He could see Lou's features curling inward, considering this offer more carefully and prudently. The man was having second thoughts about this proposed collaboration, Sebastian could see that much. "I can't do it without you, Master Lou."
If it meant selling his soul to the Rocket Gang, Lou knew he'd have to accept the arrangement, given that it was his only means of regaining his former glory, not to mention an impeccable opportunity to revive his thwarted plans of evolving Pokemon. "Yes, I shall join you.", He snarled without fully realizing he had voiced his decision. Finally, he stood erect to his feet, looking his new colleague straight in the eye. "And I shall share with you the secrets of my brother's ancient medicine."
They exchanged a conspiratorial glance before Sebastian reapplied his malevolent grin. "Very good, then. Now . . . proceed." Behind him, the door swung entirely open . . . and Sebastian calmly gestured his hand to the exit, implying Lou's ticket to freedom to be seized. "With his help, soon every Pokemon in existence . . . will submit to the ultimate metamorphosis!"
The ignorant underlings of the original Torino conspiracy had been long ago left baffled by the fruition of Project Rocket, betrayed by the mastermind who had promised them global domination. Originally, they were the inferior class of agents that had no knowledge of Torino's alliance with Briskomy. And while the larger portion if these Torino peons remained loyal to their superior in the aftermath of Dual City's ultimate destruction, a handful of them had spitefully split apart from the newly formed Rocket Empire, thus the Torino Remnant was born . . . and scattered into hiatus . . . until now.
And though their numbers were minimal, their thirst for vengeance was at its ultimate peak, thereby inciting a vicious contest for leadership of the remnant forces. These warlords were brutal by nature, having maintained the nasty ambitions of the original Torino collective, the one they once thought they knew too well before having disgraced its reputation by fusing with Briskomy and creating a mess of new and feckless purposes. Nevertheless, the remnant stood by their original goals; to act against suppression and voice their dominance upon anything and everything! As far as they were concerned, the Rockets were senseless anarchists, at least before Metsuma had fallen. Torino, however, wanted nothing more than their demands of criminality to be met with open arms by the fears of mankind.
On Azark Island, the last of Torino was assembled within a makeshift bunker, hidden deep beneath the wreckage of Warpath Tower. This small and diminutive underground headquarters consisted of only a briefing room and a docking station for Transport Drills. The remnant's financial ruin severely limited the efforts of their construction projects; the best they could manage was this poor and scanty dugout below the harsh and snowy conditions of the island.
General Crissela, now one of the few sole survivors of the Rocket Fortress explosion, helmed her signature Drill Machine into the subterranean hangar and, with her Jynx following behind, she promptly strode out from the hatchet as she made her way through the abandoned station's foyer entrance; layering the grief pinned at her heart was a mask of calmness and grand authority. She had to assert it . . . but do so in a professional manner. She knew that the slightest misstep in negotiation with the Remnant's warlords could result in her disfavor. She shook her head in resignation, her face tight and drawn . . . then realized that if such was to be the fate of the Torino Remnant, better that it be ended here, rather than through a dishonorable attrition.
A pair of armed Torino soldiers waited at the door to the briefing room. When they noticed her approach, they immediately recognized her face and familiarized themselves with her ranking. Not thinking twice, they stepped aside, permitting she and her Pokemon to enter through and seat with the arguing warlords inside.
Already, the sight of the pandemonium enraged her! And as the doors closed behind her, she stamped her foot to the metallic floor, garnering the several pairs of eyes of the hostile gentlemen. "This is a negotiation regarding the fate of the Torino Remnant! There is no need for demonstrations of bluster or bravado! Please, all of you, away with your weapons and Pokeballs! We are here to settle this dispute peacefully, not with threats and feckless challenges of superiority!"
The adverse muttering and gestures finally went hush as these many surly faces began to recognize that they were in the presence of the once great General Crissela. Ironically, however, they were harboring no fear of her. They could only glare on to her for the traitor she was. They knew that, like Metsuma, she had also conformed to the new Rocket order, an attribute of which they loathed to the highest degree; she had no right to make a vote of confidence, much less be there in the first place!
Inside this spacy supply room, Crissela waited at the head of the long table; it was irregularly shaped, with rounded corners and a looping perimeter intended to dismiss any subtle hierarchy in seating order. Clearly, though, these men were still competing, in spite of their attempts at unbiased regulations. The gathered Torino leaders were all equal as far as Crissela was concerned; equally pompous fools. But she needed to foster an impression of fairness and impartiality if they were ever to begin negotiations.
Sitting down in her uncomfortable chair, she took several deep breaths, collecting her thoughts and gathering her stamina.
Across the table, Zane Blagard, a Torino administrator of Metsuma's former glory, sat still and frigid among the council of glaring faces; his face was fat and sweaty, which seemed to disgust the cringing General. His beady eyes were filled with seething hatred as he flicked a venomous and untrusting glance beyond Crissela's shoulder to where her Jynx stood idly by.
"I want to thank you all for allowing me to be here to speak.", Crissela spoke at last to her testy listeners. She held no desire to strike fear with her approach, the custom she had abandoned upon shedding her aggressive ways. "I understand this is a difficult compromise even agreeing to meet, but you must hear me out – for the future of Torino depends on it."
"What Torino?", Blagard growled, offended! "You mean MY Torino?" He waved his pudgy hand to encompass the other warlords and scowled.
Crissela threw her words out like a fistful of ice! "Admiral Blagard, if Metsuma were here, he wouldn't let that remark go unpunished!"
"Well, Metsuma I'SNT here!", He snapped back! "He betrayed us and then got himself killed!"
"And so we must function without him. Isn't that what you've been trying to achieve since you first withdrew from Project Rocket?" Crissela glared at the High Admiral for a heartbeat . . . and then swept her gaze across the other warlords who seemed alternately amused or bored by the meaningless altercation. "I see what remains of Torino.", She spoke again. "I know the story; the majority of Torino had fused themselves with Briskomy to forge the Rocket Empire . . . while the rest of you, those who had no knowledge of the conspiracy's outcome, felt betrayed and forced yourselves into hiding, refusing to play into Metsuma's game." She paused for a moment, exempting an expression of grief. "Looking back . . . I wish I had done the same . . ."
"But you didn't.", Blagard mocked with disgracing gestures! "You turned your back on us too! You're no better than Metsuma, you manipulative witch!"
"I've changed . . ." Crissela swallowed on a dry throat and ventured to speak again, elevating the depth and severity of her tone. "I know now that Metsuma was just toying with me, stringing me along to fulfill his commands. And it took the loss of a dear friend to make me realize it." Kyden... she couldn't think of him, it only brought great pain; pain in knowing that she could never compensate for his absence until she forwarded her mission. "Metsuma's legacy, however, still exists, this time in the form of the Rocket Gang!" Crissela pounded her gloved fist on the table! "I suggest we focus our attention on destroying every last Rocket from the face of the earth."
Commander Stang, whom was once Marcus Difo's second in command, finally spoke out against the General and voiced his mockery of her plans. He was beginning to figure out her ulterior motives. "Oh, now let me see if I understand this: the only reason you wish to exterminate the Rocket Gang is so that you may gain a sense of fulfilled vengeance for the death your pupil?" He choked out in laughter, which didn't seem to sit too well with the sensitive General.
Astonishingly, she merely dismissed his comment, instead choosing to focus on the topic at hand. "The Torino Remnant mustn't be deployed to assume its original intentions. That road is fruitless.", She said with a display of urgency! "With our numbers, we will never attain that amount of success. But if we spend the next few years building up our numbers, we'll have the opportunity to at least rid of the Rocket Gang and-"
Admiral Blagard stood from the table to leave, brushing himself off. "I've heard enough. This is a poorly disguised power grab!" His forehead wrinkled as he surveyed the disgusted expressions, and his bright white eyebrows crawled together! "I've spent more funds than any of you on military buildup! I'm not sharing my glory! I'm not sharing anything!"
"Fine, then neither am I!", Another Warlord cried out angrily, also rising from his seat in that abrupt moment!
"I won't either!" Stang mimicked their movements, inciting the other warlords to do the same! "Torino belongs to me, if anyone! All of you should be bowing to ME!" At that, everyone lurched from their seats and another crossfire of aggressive shouting and brutal threats ensued!
But Crissela stood firm, weathering their tantrums, looking decidedly uneasy for a short second. "This in not a power grab!", She finally said when the uproar had died down! "I know that other Torino officers have left your numbers, throwing their lot in with petty Rocket Gang Grunts and the common criminal lowlifes! It gives them a chance for pathetic personal gain, something that Rita Ketchum now stands to represent! And while I resent all of you too . . . I at least hold a shadow of allegiance to the once great Torino Organization! What we need to do is choose a nominal leader . . . so decide quickly . . . " She sat down and clasped her hands, squeezing the black leather between her twiddling fingers with a soft strangling sound.
Finally, Blagard lost all control of himself in his shouting match with the other warlords and turned his nasty grimace to the general waiting on their verdict. "The hell with you, Crissela!", He bellowed, sweeping his eyes across the others gathered! "And the hell with ALL THE REST OF YOU!"
Enraged by such treason, Commander Stang leaped across the table, scrambling on his knees, and launched himself at the obese High Admiral, trying to wrap his fingers around Blagard's fat, bloated throat! The chair tipped over, and both crashed to the floor, cursing and shouting as they viciously brawled like a Zangoose and Seviper in a forest clearing.
The other warlords stood up, some of them cheering and others protesting!
"ENOUGH!", Shouted Crissela in her exceeded impatience! Waving for Jynx to safely step aside, she stood from her seat and lifted the chair into the air! With one ferocious grunt, she smashed it into the table, startling nearly everyone in the room!
Her action, both unexpected and violent, brought the dissenting leaders to a surprised standstill.
Sweeping her arms across the table in one swift and aggressive motion, she brushed the remains of the chair onto the floor, where it clanged and clattered!
All eyes were dead frozen on her, unable to process her unwarranted interference.
In utter disgust . . . she spoke, her voice low and heavy like a blunt instrument. "I didn't WANT to rule. I had not intention of becoming a leader! I wanted to crush the Rockets instead . . . but you leave me no choice! I cannot leave the Torino Remnant in the hands of childish fools like you!" Crissela spun on her heel and swung her attention to the Pokemon behind her. "Jynx, seal the doors!"
Jynx splayed her hands in the air like a magician and, using her psychic influence, immediately bridled the doors to a tight hindrance, restricting them from opening under any circumstances. And despite the frantic banging of fists of the security guards on the other side of the exit, the humanoid Pokemon did not relent.
Blagard's eyes widened. "Wha . . . what are you doing!"
In unison, the warlords howled at the treachery; Crissela noted with an indulged irony that at least they had found a way to do something together. And as they rushed for the door to pound at the lock in an attempt to trigger its release, Crissela could only grimace at their laughable obliviousness. Turning to Jynx again, she pressed her torture. "Restrain them!"
Jerking its palms inward, Jynx expended an additional surge of Psychic energy to telepathically haul the warlords away from the sealed exit, abruptly pulling them back into their individual chairs in one swift motion! The dancing Pokemon rocked its hips back and forth, swaying in motion with the rhythm of its increasing power; the warlords were now forcibly immobilized in their seats with their hands restrained beneath their chairs, unable to struggle against Jynx's telekinetic supremacy!
"Now,", Crissela seethed through gritted teeth, cautiously pressing her hands to her ears in preparation for what she had in store. "Use Perish Song!"
This was the finish! However, before anything else, Jynx summoned a green barrier around Crissela to protect her from the deathly sound waves that were about to be emitted! Afterward, the Pokemon spun back to attention, eying down the frightened and disenabled Torino Warlords with reprobate intentness! Finally, the Pokemon parted its lips . . . and a terrifying song roused from deep within its throat, surrounded each and every Warlord with a wicked black Aura as they were forced to suffer the excruciating sound at such a blaring and immeasurable intensity!
From behind her transparent barrier, Crissela spotted the bellowing Warlords breaking free from their telekinetic binds . . . but she was not concerned. She knew the song required only seconds to complete its fatal action. After all, this was no ordinary impunity of the damage-dealing musical attack. THIS Perish Song had been strictly reserved to unshackle cruel and merciless demise!
The Torino leaders crumpled from their seats and onto the floor, writhing and screaming against the awful melody that seemed to tear through their ears and prostrate their brain cells, compelling them to clutch at their scalps as if their heads were bent on imploding like a regiment of neutron stars!
Among the waning souls was High Admiral Blagard; his face was splotchy with rose-colored eruptions of tiny blood vessels in his cheeks and eyes! Streaks of blood streamed down from his nostrils and, grossly enough, his eyelids! His vision, it blurred drastically under his suppressed nerves, preventing his quivering arms from reaching for the Pokeball dangling from the back of his belt. He gasped as his brain failed all at once, no longer able to resist the murderous torment of the song.
The other Warlords were falling left and right now, slumping atop one and other. Their own eyes were deep red, filling with blood from the inside as they constrained against the deathly sound propagation. Some choked, clutching at either their throats or ears, before instantly following Blagard's same, gruesome dissolution. And soon enough, every last one of them had toppled over to their deaths.
Ceasing the horrendous melody, Jynx swung to Crissela and dismissed the energy barrier. The Pokemon then drew back to her stagnant post just as soon as the general had renounced a nod of indebted approval. The two stood like statues, surveying the massacre of the Torino barbarians.
And at that moment, the security soldiers burst through the entrance, which had now been released by Jynx's psychic impediment, and rallied in front of the dead bodies that were sprawled across the floor.
The officer in charge, a tall and bony young man, held a shocked but resigned expression as he looked upon the aftermath of the unexpected carnage. He blinked . . . and then carefully leveled his trembling gaze to the woman responsible, the other security soldiers soon mirroring his appalled reaction.
Crissela saw their arrival as no immediate threat. They were hesitating, which encouraged her to voice her authority."Your precious collective is no more. This . . . is what had to be." She stepped forth as if presenting herself. "Only I remain intact."
Surprisingly, the the young man nodded, assuming a most obedient demeanor. "It is done then, General." He was just pleased that the Torino Remnant could finally be directed without the squabbling contest of the warlords. "We are at your humble disposal!" He saluted to her firmly, the other seven soldiers quickly mimicking his submissive posture.
Crissela slowly walked around the table, stepping over the bodies as she drew nearer to the loyal knave. "What is your name, officer?"
"Hensley, mame. Robert Hensley.", He replied promptly, never shaking his stance. "They . . . they never found the time to pass down a codename."
"Figures.", She sighed, blessing her advocate with a slight grin. Her eyes suddenly became intent. "From this point on, you will be known as Vortak, my second in command! You are the new General of the Torino Remnant forces. And I shall assume leadership as its Grand Admiral." At last, Torino was at her command, or at least the remains of it. And she'd nurture it into her own idealism, one of both fear AND vigilantism. "And together . . . we will travel the globe in secrecy and expand our forces . . . and when the time is right . . . we will wage war against Team Rocket and strike it down!"
Vortak nodded eagerly, bowing before her grace. "Very good, Admiral Crissela."
And at that moment, Crissela's eyes shone with wonder, her breath becoming shallow but decisive. "Kyden . . . ", Her secreted thoughts began to blossom into sacred parcels of hope. "Kyden, our suffering will soon be over . . . and I will rebuild this shattered federation in your deserving honor . Yes . . . I will purge this world of the very evil that dared to blind and destroy us . . . I promise you . . ."
Samuel pushed through the doors in front of him and led Giovanni into the typically restricted quarters of his laboratory; a large but familiar den of white, the shelves filled with hundreds of gleaming red and white capsules that lined the walls of the Pokeball Storage Room. Leaving Gio at the entrance, Samuel rushed over to a nearby bin and collected the tiny capsules inside, all of which belonged to the Pokemon from Gio's Kanto travels; he surmised that they would come in handy during his stay at the Viridian Gym. "Here are the rest of your Pokeballs, Gio!" He held the bundle of balls towards the young man, each one spotless and gleaming in the overhead lighting. "Don't lose sight of them!"
Gio quirked a small, knowing grin. "You know me better than that."
Chuckling, the Pokemon professor nodded his head. "Well, whenever you're ready, you can may go and fetch Meowth in the Corral. I suspect that Krabby, Nidoqueen, Cloyster, and Kangaskhan should already be there waiting for you, too. I asked Spencer to rally them."
Again, Gio smiled to his Pokemon Training mentor. "Thanks, Sammy." It would be nice to reunite with all of his elder Pokemon. However, due to his long absence, they'd have to train with him regularly to regain their former experience; he refused to lead a Gym without presentably capable Pokemon at his side, lest he make a fool of himself.
Gio raised his head as his frugal thoughts cleared for a moment. His eyes, sparkling with a sense of remembrance, began to roam about the expanse of the room. Realization suddenly caught him off guard; it was the first time he had stepped foot in this room since-
"Everything alright?", Samuel asked, noticing Gio's observant pause.
"This . . . was where it all began.", He replied in an ascetic but artful whisper. His gaze continued to wander, early memories resurfacing; this was the same room he had received his very first Pokemon. "And now . . . this is where it ends." Indeed, for his childhood was no more. His Pokemon travels were no more. The struggles of a more complex world were waiting for him just around the corner.
"In a certain perspective, perhaps.", Samuel responded with a shrug. Turning his head, he held the younger in his sights with much question swimming in his display. "You seem to consider your role as the Viridian Gym Leader to be a chore, not an adventure of its own."
Gio merely shook his head. "It's not just the Gym, though."
Curious to his meaning, the professor folded his arms over his chest in waiting. "Do explain."
Again, Gio shook his head, grinning sadly to his friend. "I . . . I wish I could, Sammy."
It was difficult for Samuel to educe what dire hardship his companion was withholding. He had always known Gio to act enclosed with his feelings . . . but never to this worrying degree. He wondered if Delia was still troubling the boy's mind; it seemed to be the only rational explanation he could think of. Deciding to give him the space he required, Samuel offered a sympathetic smile. "Take all the time you need." He patted the Ketchum's unsupple shoulder and exited the Pokeball repository to attend to his work.
Again, Gio glanced around the room, ever so entranced by these arousing memories; the domain seemed so symbolic . . . yet so empty to him, like he no longer belonged there. Time sure had passed since he was fifteen. He had learned so much since then. And while notable pieces of his arrogance still remained intact, he dared to journey into the deeper depths of his violent feelings. His Aggressive Conscience; he had learned of its existence . . . nesting inside him, sprouting and thickening, even now.
"But for Delia, I'll keep it at bay." He lifted his right hand from his side and his wondrous eyes fell upon the ring on his pointer finger, the one Metsuma had given him to remind him of his true self. The genuine. The inevitable. The unavoidable. "Even in death . . . you won't let me go, will you? I . . . can't throw away this piece of you. I'd be denying my darkness. And I deny nothing, not anymore. But I will not welcome it either. I am in control."
Suddenly, a small and chipper voice whistled from his side. "What'chya got there, Gio?"
Gio glanced at Tucker, smiled, and then answered in whisper, his eyes once again gawking the significant treasure. "A gift."
Scratching his shoulder, little Tucker lifted his head and blinked at Gio curiously. "From a friend?"
There was pause for a moment, Gio upholding it as he pondered on the inquiry. Finally, he gazed back at the boy steadily. "I'm not so sure, actually."
Again, another questioning glance shot from the Oak boy, his tone so sweet and innocent. "Do you not like it?"
"I don't.", Gio grimy replied.
Tucker giggled at the irony, so oblivious to the deeper meaning behind Gio's delicate situation. "Then . . . why do you keep it around with you?"
"Because it holds truth . . . to what I can't accept.", Answered Gio, his voice roughened with incalculable emotion. "I went from reckless to recondite, all in just three years. I'm not blind to THOSE AROUND ME nearly as much as those around me are blind to ME. It's so mesmerizing just how far I've come, how much I've come to know myself . . . and how much I've come to repress that verity."
At that, Tucker exploded into a gust of youthful laughter. "You're so weird, Gio!"
Letting a passive smile write itself upon his lips, Gio ruffled the boy's blonde head and contributed to the laughter. "Well, at least YOU'VE figured it out." This time, they both chuckled. And it hit Gio just how divine this child was, with a heart and conscience completely void of negatively; it almost made him jealous, given that he was nearly Tucker's opposite.
The laughter broke off when Samuel's voice echoed down the halls outside the repository. "Gio, someone on the the phone wishes to speak with you! Were you expecting his call?"
Gio shot up at the announcement and turned towards the door. "Yes, I was. Be right there!" Though facing the exit, he froze in place and looked down towards the boy again. "Tucker?"
Tucker stood there, listening happily. "Yeah?"
Gio bent forward slightly and rested his hands gently on the boy's slender shoulders, watching him with an edge of plea glimmering in his eyes. "If I were ever to . . . stumble down an unfamiliar path in life, would you . . . still look up to me as your friend?" He had to know this; Delia wasn't the only one who relied in him, after all.
"But you're not a bad guy, Gio!", Tucker cheered, his smile broadening with much enthusiasm. "You're a hero! You fight evil!"
"Evil is a viewpoint, not an orientation." Those words belonged to Metsuma, having been sustained within Gio ever since their first meeting aboard the S.S. Briskomy. And now, he was passing this philosophy onto Tucker, whom was now standing before him with an almost dumbfounded expression.
Tucker started guilty. "I . . . I don't really get what you mean. I'm sorry, Gio . . ."
Gio released his grip on the boy and shook his head forgivingly "Don't be.", He whispered, matching the impeccant smirk. "When the time is right, you will understand." His meaning was obscured, to Tucker's knowledge. And he left it at that before hastily making his exit into the laboratory hallway.
Gio hurriedly entered Samuel's study, reaching for the rotary dial telephone left for him on the professor's desk, which was sitting poised beside the wired receiver. He snatched the phone up faster than necessary and held it to his ear, assuming a calm and steady tone. "Giovanni speaking."
"You'll need a pen for this.", The mysterious young voice instructed with haste above the growing static interference. "I don't have much time."
Quickly grabbing a pen and paper from one of the professor's drawers, he prompted his informant to proceed. "Go ahead." Within seconds, his fingers were scrabbling across the lines, writing down the peculiar pattern of numbers and phrases that traveled from the phone and through his ear canal. Once he finished, he set down the utensil and smiled, sighing into the speaker. "You're a lifesaver, Archer."
"My oath to you can never be shattered, Giovanni.", Pledged the devoted voice of his childhood friend. "Keep this under wraps, if you could."
Gio nodded. "Gladly."
Archer then hung up the phone. His voice and the static interference alike had both faded off, transitioning to a loud and continuous drone that sounded through the speaker on Gio's end of the line.
Cautiously glancing from left to right, ensuring that no one was around, Gio carefully dialed the digits he had written down, letting the phone rest against his ear again as he waited for the call to go through.
Abruptly, the low and hostile voice of a Rocket Agent came up. "What are your needs?"
Taking a deep breath, Gio spoke the words he thought he'd never have to abide by: "Patch me through to the Boss."
"Clearance code?", The Grunt asked icily.
Gio spontaneously passed on the written code under his tapping fingers, voicing so with a distinct hint of swindle: "Raid On the City, Knock Out, Evil Tusks."
Accepting the given password, the Rocket Grunt answered back and addressed Gio in friendlier and less threatening tone. "Please wait a moment." With that, he transferred the call to Rita's office and disengaged.
Madame Boss' devilry voice sprung up from the speaker shortly thereafter. "How may I help you?"
Gio paused, then reciprocated with a startling quip. "A better question would be how may we help EACH OTHER."
"Gi . . . Gio . . . Giovanni?" Her voice became deathly silent, almost as if a phantom had passed her by. Beyond his detection, the words had flashed over and over again; a sickening feeling bubbled up her throat but she swallowed it.
Finally, Gio confirmed his identity to her in a short, monotonous reply. "Yes.", He breathed into the phone, automatically knowing the response to come would be one of utter shock. He tried to picture her at that moment; plotting and cavorting with her scheming agents to hunt him down and eliminate his existence once and for all.
However, she stayed on the line, expressing her astonishment to him directly through the telephone. "You . . . you're alive!" Her voice came out strangled and a little harsh. Soon enough, she lost all control and entered an outrage! "How dare you contact me, you irritating child! I have half a mind to hang up this phone and-"
This time, he chuckled a little. It was a surprisingly warm and inviting sound. "The cops aren't tapping this call, rest assured. You know I despise cops."
"Even so, how in the world did you get this number?"
"Let's just say we have a friend in common.", He blurted an unconcerned sigh. He was totally deflecting her question. "But I'd rather tackle the purpose of this exchange, as long as you're willing to listen . . . for once in your life . . ."
"Smart-mouth brat! Don't act so superior!", His mother cawed annoyingly at him, though somewhat muffled by the roughcast connection. Nevertheless, her words struck him swiftly and precisely! "Once my Rocket Agents catch sight of you, you're done for!"
This conversation had been shot to hell. However, Gio found her threats largely amusing. "I know the organization's gone underground, mom, so don't think you can fool me."
"Hmph . . . okay, so we're not as intimidating as the Rocket Empire, at least not at the moment.", She admitted before returning to her rowdy fit! "However, in the near future, you'd be smart to watch your back! The last thing I need is you causing trouble for my operations!"
Gio had to move the phone away from his ear, wanting to keep his hearing intact. It took him maybe three whole seconds to process what his mother was telling him. "These operations; I expect you'll be keeping them a good distance away from Pallet Town and Viridian City?"
"Don't be silly!", She snorted back. "Pallet Town is where all the starter trainers flock to begin their pathetic Pokemon journeys! What in the world would make you think that my precious Team Rocket would skip out on such a goldmine?"
"My friends, my community; they don't need your kind lurking around here.", Gio said quickly and brought the phone back to his ear. "They've had more than enough of the Rockets, ever since Metsuma first released Torino to wreck havoc on their peaceful way of life."
The Rocket Boss merely dismissed the comment in all her obnoxiousness. "Why should I care? You know me better than to value the lives of those inferior to me!"
"You're right, I DO know you better than that.", He said thoughtfully into the speaker. "And it has me convinced that Pallet and Viridian belong in the hands of a . . . quieter and more capable syndicate." He obviously hadn't detected how completely put off she was by this ambiguous proposal. Even HE stiffened, astonished by the artful sound of his own voice.
When she answered, she hit a suspecting crescendo. "What exactly are you getting at?"
Gio parted his lips, not giving himself another moment to deliberate. "I want to make a deal, one that would benefit the both of us." His attempt to negotiate was off to a pretty unsuccessful start, given his hurry. But he had other chores to attend to in such little time.
Her laughter exploded into his listening ear! "You're joking, surely!"
Clenching the phone in his inflexible palm, Gio smiled wickedly. "Have I failed you YET?", He reminded her. "You seem to forget my generous accomplishment; I put an end to Metsuma. AND I gave you command of the Rocket Empire. So, what have you got to lose in trusting in me THIS time?" He anticipated hopelessly for her response, quivering slightly with his own mark of impatience.
After a moment of rushed thought, she squeaked back her response, sounding like a complete ignoramus, though holding on to the discussion with a peaking intrigue. "Then put your petty babbling to good use already! I haven't got all day! Go ahead! I'm listening . . . and I'm listening with an open mind, luckily for you . . . "
Opening his journal to a blank and unsundered page, the lead scientist of New Island recorded his final thoughts on his time as Metsuma's laborer of malevolent experiments:
'August 16th: Metsuma is reportedly gone and Team Rocket is relieving me of my position here on New Island, though I've been sworn to secrecy. Finally, I can return home to my wife and take a long break from my work. It's been a most torturous experience; stepping into the shoes of a hostage. And despite my failed efforts in the past, I am still alive and unharmed. I suppose I should be thankful to whomever put Metsuma in his place. It's given me the opportunity to focus on what's most important in life. My family.
One day, however, I hope to recede from this temporary retirement and return to my field of work. I'll dedicate any spare time I have into learning the secrets of recreating life. Zapdostwo and Giovannitwo proved to be results of rushed labor. They both degenerated from existence, having been relinquished from the cloning process too early in their treatments. And with all three cloning catalysts expended, I'll have to rely on other means of utilizing the cloning process. It may take some time but I'll be ready for any useful knowledge I might stumble upon in the near future. After all, my colleagues still have faith that we may one day be able to replicate the world's strongest Pokemon, a dream I've secretly longed to achieve since the early beginnings of my career. But no Pokemon has ever survived the replication sequence without the relief of the electroporational supplement. Resolving that dire setback will be on the top of my list.'
After signaturing his entry, Fuji tucked his journal away inside his lab coat and lifted his deeply exhausted eyes to the cloning chamber of his laboratory; the room was deserted of his technicians and vacant of all equipment, like a haunted estate of madman's evil genius. The New Rocket Boss saw no necessary use in his talents and had decided to relinquish he and his team of scientists, though, unknowing to Fuji, this was mainly because she was too greedy to fund his projects.
One of Fuji's assistants poked his head through the entrance behind the doctor. "The chopper is waiting outside.", He reported quietly, wanting nothing more than to seize the moment and flee the island with rest of Fuji's practitioners. However, he noticed his companion's failure to reply and couldn't help but express his concern. "Feeling alright, Doctor?"
"Just taking one last glimpse of this dungeon, though lord knows if I'll ever see this godforsaken place again.", Fuji sighed with his back still turned to the other man, his eyes wandered to the empty column of cloning tanks on the far side of the chamber. "I can't imagine what force or power would ever compel to me return here. I'd much prefer to conduct my research in the comfort of my own home."
The other man smiled and nodded. "That's completely understandable, Doctor. We're all just as excited as you are to embrace our liberation . . . and finally get back our lives. And I only wish you and your wife the best of futures. It was pleasure working with you, Doctor."
Fuji slowly rotated his head and brought a gentle smile to his lips. "And the same to you.", He blessed in a hushed whisper. Shaking off his daze, he loosened his seemingly paralyzed posture and began to follow his colleague out into the corridor outside. "Well, enough dribble. Let's get off this rock, shall we?"
The younger man nodded his approval and eagerly dispersed from the room to rejoin with the others waiting for them outside the building.
Fuji, however, stopped cold in his tracks once he reached the doors in front of him. Slowly, he threw one last glance over his shoulder to the dark and untenanted prison he had been confined in for nearly three years. "Goodbye, painful memories.", He marveled in his mind as he strode out through the exit, letting the doors swing shut behind him."Goodbye New Island. May we never meet again." But his urgent wish would not be imparted, for he'd one day find himself pressed under the reign of a more drastic madman, one with an assignment that could not be denied.
That nightfall, Charles Goodshow and his committee members, along with a throng of military leaders, entered the grassy domain of Indigo Plateau Stadium where hundreds of applauding trainers, Pokemon, and general spectators filled the perimeter of grandstand bleachers, while the Press had rallied in front of the podium to film and broadcast Goodshow's presidential address to the nation.
In spite of his dislike for public formalities, Goodshow was outfitting his best tuxedo suit for the occasion and held a firm grin of renewed hope on his lips. The grin was not fake. It was a rarity, in fact. Peace had been re-erected. And he was just glad he had strived to see this stupendous miracle, along with all the positive response spurred from the world's countless inhabitants.
As the audience in the stands quieted down, the column of Pokemon League Committee Members and Military pacesetters neatly aligned behind Goodshow as he approached the podium in the center of the battlefield, though just barely able to reach the microphone because of his squatty height.
The evening broadcast finally began once he had shifted himself on his toes to speak directly into the microphone appended above his lips. "Speaking out for the first time since that tragic day that befell Dual City, I can only continue to express sorrow and grief for the innocent lives that were taken in the Rocket's brutal attempt to crush our society." A moment of respectful silence occurred before he proceeded to carry on with the speech he had prepared. "But as far as I can see, we're still here . . . and we're still striving for another chance."
People began to cheer again, some with more enthusiasm than others. Agatha, among the assembly of Committee Members, cheered right along with them, clapping her hands together in relaxed repetition. She and the other survivors of the Indigo League Council were standing only two rows behind Goodshow, the first being filled by former Supreme Councilman Shivu and other important nobles and military members.
"Metsuma Rocket came horrifyingly close to pulling us into an era of anarchy.", Goodshow continued. "And while I am saddened to admit it, we came just as close to surrendering . . . because we had nothing else to turn to. No hope. No future. Only chaos. However, the Rockets failed to achieve their goal upon the fate of Metsuma Rocket and half of his empire. It was THEN did we realize, as a union, that we didn't have to live in fear. We were given a second chance by fate to rebuild ourselves, this time without presenting an opportunity for political corruption."
Another applause followed his powerful words.
And Goodshow took a moment to closely meet his eyes with those of the crowd, which were dancing with a brightness he had rarely ever seen during his term. He gave them a short smile and a half-nod before putting his hand up to stop the noise.
People quieted reluctantly, with one final person yelling, "Go Goodshow!" before sitting down sheepishly in their seat.
"As the only remaining undamaged branch of our nation's government, the Pokemon League Committee has been drafting plans to help repair our political system.", He proudly announced. "In the last few weeks, my associates and I have been secretly meeting with the military leaders; discussing ideas in hopes of promoting a collaboration, one essential to the reconstruction of our government. And today, General Foster and I, the Pokemon League President, have gathered to sign the official Reconstruction Constitution that will put a new government into immediate effect!" Before the audience could gleefully erupt once more, Goodshow held his hands out for silence and gave one last, startling expoundment. "However, before we may continue, I'd like to take this opportunity to formally announce my resignation as the Pokemon League President."
For a brief moment, everyone in the stadium stands began to exchange whispers, mutters, and baffled glances with one and other.
Goodshow expected as much. He hated to be so abrupt with such news . . . but this was as good a time as ever to expose his intentions and concerns. "As I advance swiftly to my ripe age, I fear that I cannot serve you to the extent that I have in the past.", He solemnly explained. "The Pokemon League Committee needs a new face . . . and new ideas. I, for one, need a chance to recuperate and adapt to lifestyle outside politics, especially after all I've been through." Twirling his head, Goodshow politely extended a hand to the former government administrator standing behind him. "That is why I am handing down my position to Leonard Shivu, the former Supreme Councilman of the latter senate. We spoke briefly after the fall of the Dual City, and his perseverance and accommodating willingness to do good had left me speechless."
Almost shyly, Shivu skulked his way behind Goodshow and offered a tender smile to the unpredictable citizens of the nations. Admittedly, he was somewhat worried of what kind of response they'd show, given that he had lost control of the senate to Briskomy in the past. It would be difficult to ensure their approval of his promotion, simply with the seemingly reckless promise of a second chance at success.
"Ladies and gentleman, I present to you, your new Pokemon League President!" Goodshow fully gestured to the assemblage behind him and Shivu emerged into the moonlight, dressed in traditional robed wear with a heavy beaded necklace settled on his chest.
Surprisingly, everyone started cheering and hollering again and it took a full minute for the noise to die down! Goodshow's persuasion had paid off; the miracle of renewed hope seemed to apply in more situations than one.
Shivu stood there stoically as the noise gradually declined, his eyes flashing everywhere before finally lingering on Goodshow, whom was slowly receding from the podium to make room for the new speaker. Shivu nodded and stepped forth, raising his arms out to the denizens of Kanto. "Thank you, all of you! With me back in power, I can only promise enormous fortune for our future as one grand society!"
At that moment, one of the militant nobles appeared beside Pokemon League President Shivu. He was a tall, middle-age, bearded man and was attired in his regimental apparel.
Shivu smiled to his paused comrade and then brought his attention back to the numerous spectators. "In the Pokemon League Committee's partnership with the nation's Military, a new government has been decided! This time, however, our role as a democracy can only be simplified to a number of barrings. The senate, along with the nation's houses and ministries, are no longer our means of establishing executive authority. We shall prosper as a national diet, with legislative function only available to do good!" Briefly, he pointed a finger to the committee members behind him. "For the Pokemon League's share of the government, we plan to concentrate on emphasizing the community of Pokemon and their Trainers, while still benefiting the government with expedition programs to find and study new species of Pokemon!" Then, he levered his finger towards the armed demonstrator standing beside him. "As for the Military, they shall continue to serve and protect our country's borders." He paused, letting the heaviness of his words sink into the crowd. Then, he continued, his voice lifting again. "As a result, General Foster and I hereby propose the creation of the first ever Military Government!"
The booming of the applause returned, this time at its most rowdy excitement! The new Pokemon League President stood, struggling to look composed. But off to the side, Goodshow could see the fierce pride gleaming in his eyes.
Of course, as soon as the official ceremony had concluded, most people had wanted to congratulate Shivu. Goodshow, however, had nobly taken the opportunity to vanish from the stadium. He quietly made his way into the the dark, narrow corridor that traveled underneath the bleachers . . . but was halted by a sweet and caring voice echoing down the foyer, calling out to him from the rear. He turned on his heel and was met by Agatha's presence.
"President Goodshow, why must you leave?", She breathed in heavy concern. She was obviously the only one whom was truly taken aback by his resignation.
Goodshow smiled slightly. "Well, I am sorry that I surprised you.", He apologized, bowing formally. "I can only do so much to please the people, Agatha. However, I need to find my own peace in this world, so that I may one day be ready to serve as a leader again."
Her eyes shifted to him curiously as she leaned against the corridor wall, her arms folded with much inquisitiveness. "Where will you go?"
Her questions brought a chuckle from his lips. "Here and there, out and about.", He riddled. "I'll be looking at the world from a fresh perspective, among a culture seeking to immerse in the natural meaning of life." He touched his hand to her shoulder and she immediately regained her appropriate posture, tucking a stray strand of hair behind her ear. He spoke more gently than he ever had. "When you see me again . . . I'll be a new man."
She arched a brow to him. "I don't understand."
"You will, one day soon.", He lightly laughed. "At one point or another, we all pursue unique objectives to evolve us into wiser and more perceptive icons for the generation beyond our knowing. Agatha, uphold your moral grace until the day you die. Respect all life, human and Pokemon alike. Make that your most precious priority . . . and see to it that the Pokemon League does the same." And then he pulled her into a tight embrace; a farewell to one of his most loyal advocates.
And she was grinning with a hint of sadness, hugging him back. "Thank you, Mr. Goodshow, for everything."
After another moment, he moved his arms away and gave her one last smile. Then, without another word, he swiveled towards his original direction and disappeared into the darkness of the corridor, leaving Agatha standing in re-debated thoughts.
Several minutes following his address, the new Pokemon League President retired to his headquarters underneath the stadium floor, leaving the other committee members to answer to the collection of reporters that were buzzing for every aching detail of the story.
The subterranean hallways were all but empty and Shivu gracefully entered his office with an exhausted but satisfied look glinting in his eyes. He shut the door behind him and moved towards his desk. But he froze, however, upon seeing the seat behind the desk rotating to face him in all directness.
Kade Sorhagen was settled within it, his feet now plopped upon the desktop and his arms resting relaxedly behind his head. Judging by his dazzled expression, it was only plausible that he been present for the inauguration. "That was just beautiful!", He congratulated the new president with a brief applause. "You had such a way with words back there, Mr. President!"
Shivu stood at the door in absolute shock. "Sorhagen?" His astonishment then turned to a look of coldness. He folded his arms over his chest and shook his head disapprovingly. "So, you're alive after all. You have some nerve showing your face around these parts."
"Oh, but how could I not?", Kade giggled, wiggling in his seat. "That was such an eloquent speech you gave! I wouldn't have missed it for the world!" A silence followed and Kade could tell that it was on purpose. Leaning forward in Shivu's chair, he presented a scheming grin. "I only dropped by to lend my support."
Shivu rolled his eyes to the scoundrel, muttering: "Spying, more like it." When Kade only shrugged his shoulders in response, Shivu took a step towards the desk, letting his fists drop onto its surface as he leaned forward to bring his grimacing face closer to Sorhagen. "So tell me. Who's running what's left of your filthy organization? The Ketchum child, right?"
Kade merely shook his head. "The Ketchums no longer exist."
Shivu couldn't help but throw him a confused glare. "He's . . . he's dead?"
"I didn't say that, now did I?" Kade raised his impossibly feminine lashes for such a masculine face, and stared back at Shivu, crinkles forming at the corners of his eyes as he noted his rather fixed attention on his lips. "The identities don't exist. There is no Giovanni Ketchum. There is no Rita Ketchum. The Ketchums are no more."
Shivu sighed in disappointment but decided to settle for the answer, no matter how obscure it was. "Fair enough."
Quickly, Kade knew to jump to another subject. He was there for a reason, after all. "The new Rocket Boss sends her regards, as well as a promise that she intends to wage no harm against your little reconstruction plan." The way he sarcastically delivered his words, it was almost mocking.
But Shivu wasn't the least bit intimidated. "I should hope not. You know as well I do that we don't have the patience to hunt the last of you down . . . nor do I have the desire to enforce any more violence. That agenda is over."
"The Rocket Gang is assembling its own operations to stay in the loop of things.", Sorhagen informed. "We're taking the Briskomy route, as you may have already guessed."
"Selling Pokemon to make a quick buck." Again, Shivu rolled his eyes. He was sickened by the very notion. "Scum, that's what you are."
Kade folded his hands over the desk and settled in the chair with a more stern and serious posture. It then became clear that he was only there to strike business. "Well, perhaps we may be so lenient enough to expend portions of our profit into helping you and your cohorts bring the Military Government to power. What would you say to that?"
Shamefully, Shivu shut his eyes, mentally condoning the felonious bargain he had knew to arise from the beginning of the career revival. "Let me put this to you simply: Assuming you keep your distance from politics, we won't have time to bother with the likes of your criminal kind. Let the cops fulfill that role. The uncorrupted ones, anyhow. I suggest you tell that to your Boss." He opened his eyes and breathed, turning his back to the criminal. "By the way, we never had this conversation."
"My lips are sealed, Mr. President!" Kade smirked as he rose from his seat and took his leave. "The best of luck throughout your term."
In faraway land, inside the furtive tunnels of the Ancient Sinnoh Catacombs, a young brunette girl was being brutally hauled through a haunting maze by a group of hooded figures, until finally being hutched into an unknown domain where she was immediately restrained by unperceived mechanics.
She was certain she passed out for a short while, for the blackness that had overtaken her had startled her so much. When she opened her eyes, she found herself in dark – but not black – surroundings, illuminated by an eerie green glow. The air was damp, and there were several puddles of water on the floor, as well as the soft sound of dripping from somewhere behind her. She blinked several times, groaning softly as she took her bearings. And realized she was bound. Her arms were spread out, almost like wings, with her hands covered in stone so she could not move at all. Her feet were unbound, and were planted comfortably on the ground. The slab of earth she was bound to was tilted back just slightly.
In front of her at a distance were several more hooded men, their hands behind their backs, their eyes hidden underneath their black hoods.
There was only one place she could be. She dared not say it out loud, but she could think it. It made enough sense; the dampness, the eerie green glow, the coalition agents… What was she doing here? Had the others been kidnapped as well? She demanded to know what was happening, her eyes glinting fiercely as she twisted against her binds!
But the hooded figures refused to answer. They stood like statues, unmoving, seemingly unthinking, as if they really were nothing more than automatons.
As if in response to her mental questions, the wall slid open to reveal the hated countenance of Lord Brutis, one of the coalition's high-chaired yet youngest viscounts, as he slid into the cavernous room.
She arched off the slab, renewing her struggles as he approached.
Pulling down his red hood, he had an eerie appearance due to the darkness of the chamber and the sparse green lighting, and looked almost like a wraith that had emerged from the shadowy depths of the earth. The quaint and nearly obscured Lord entered the chilly room with a small smirk eager to have fun with his prisoner. As he came within better view of the girl, his smirk grew to a smile full of confidence and slickness. "Well, Melona, it is indeed a wonderful thing that you could find time to join me here.", He said in his very young but raspy voice, walking around the slab she was bound too. His eyes roved along her form, hidden as it was by the blue apparel that marked her as the Under Region's Water-Type Gym Leader. "Lord Morbis, however, was most upset when I informed him of your treacherous ways. He sees no reason that YOU should not be punished for your actions, unlike your Pokemon, whom were at least faithful enough to stay in line,
"I've done nothing wrong!", Melona protested, wiggling against her bonds, trying to lift off the slab as she stared at him murderously. "What charges have you to bring against me?
"Crimes against the Coalition, of course.", The figure of the dark snarled. "We have no room for conspirators in our society."
She became even more panicked, and he noted her minute reactions – the sharp intakes of breath, the intent gaze. He . . . he was truly going to kill her! Again, she struggled! "You told me I was free to express my beliefs! Was that just a ruse to draw out my intentions? Was I just your . . . your pawn?"
He shook his head as he started towards the exit behind him. "We are all pawns, pawns to what we desire the most." And with that, he left the room, leaving his faceless disciples with one ghastly order: "Eliminate her. Make her repent for her sins. Perhaps she'll find forgiveness in the next life." At that, Lord Bruits repositioned his hood and hastily exited the dungeon, listening to her cries of death suddenly echo throughout the catacombs.
Next, after a few facile twists and turns into the identical caverns corridors that contained various statues of Dialga and Palkia, he made his way into the Grand Alter, which was also lighted by the same dim illumination of green. "Now, on to more crucial affairs." It was a circular room containing marble throne-like chairs, arranged in a circle and ranging in height, where the lords of the Coalition would gather and discuss developments. There were several throne-like chairs that were rather tall in height, each typically occupied by a grand member of the Coalition.
However, on this occasion, the stone shrine was all but empty, with the exception of Grand Lord Morbis himself, whom was seated motionlessly atop the high throne. In appearance, he was a towering figure, cloaked completely in red robes and a large hood of the same color. His face was concealed, just like Lord Brutis', and his voice was camouflaged with a vocoder effect, giving him a heavy and grimly tonation. "Come forth, Lord Brutis."
Lord Brutis knelt before his superior at the axis of the sanctuary and began to report on what he had heard. "The press conference in the Kanto Region has just ended. The rumors have proven true, my lord. Metsuma Rocket has been dispatched. I can only assume Brother Memphis successfully completed his assignment, in spite of his apparent sacrifice."
Morbis nodded his head ever so slightly.
"Metsuma no longer poses a threat to Giratina.", Brutis continued with a hint of spirit.
After a moment's pause, Morbis nodded his hooded head again, this time voicing his prospect. He levered his gloved finger forward. "Then now is the time to accelerate our plans."
Brutis bowed on cue and calmly stood to his feet. "As you wish, my lord."
"The Aura, it is with us . . . and to a most promising degree . . .", Morbis whispered down to his loyal apostle. "Soon, we will regain our long-forgotten glory. Spread the word, my brother."
"I shall do so, Lord Morbis.", The younger obliged.
Having been grounded by her parents and locked in her room, Delia sat at the edge of her bed, listening to the clock radio broadcast of the Pokemon League President's announcement. Once the newscast had ended, however, she switched off the radio and released a heavy sigh. "This is ridiculous."
"You're not happy about the reconstruction plan?" Gio was crouched at the balcony of her open window, his sudden appearance having startled her silly. Both he and Meowth were present beneath the moonlight and stars, smiling to her from behind the parted blinds and curtains.
Delia glanced to him, returning the smile. In that particular angle, she thought Gio had never looked so handsome, his once youthful features showing the planes and angles of maturity to come, his cheeks darkened with the shadow of stubble, his eyes, rimmed with dark lashes, devouring her like a starving man.
As she giggled to herself, he slowly and quietly climbed through the window adjacent to her bedside, leaving Meowth to wait on the balcony outside.
She reached for Gio's hand and pulled her down to sit on the bed next to her. "What's bugging me is that no one will ever know that you're responsible for all of it.", She further explained herself. "If the world only knew that you were the hero behind Metsuma's fall, you wouldn't-"
"I don't need that attention.", He spoke in a sudden shallowness. "Besides, after everything that's happened, I don't want it either. I fell for Metsuma's tricks . . . and helped him drive our society to shambles. It's a disgrace to everything my father stood for. The press . . . the public eye . . . they've all seen enough of me as it is. Let them believe I died alongside Metsuma. It's for the best." He looked up into her puzzled orbs, delivering a revelation that was bound to upset her. "Giovanni Ketchum . . . will fade into the shadows, unnoticed."
Rather than outright refute him, she calmly lowered her head and took his hands into her own. "Changing your identity won't change the past.", She whispered in all gentleness.
"But it can spare me the future of a humiliated reputation.", He told her. "I've shamed the Ketchum name. Better it be forgotten than slandered . . ."
"Then . . . who are you to become?"
He smiled that clever smile. "Don't worry about me."
"You know that's impossible." There was no denying that. Her love for Gio was stronger than any other emotion she could project. That was why she could so easily grasp his internal conflict, at least most of it. "A year ago, all you wanted was notoriety and recognition. And now . . . it's like you just want to be wiped from existence." Delia pursed her lips and carefully narrowed her eyes, making him feel somewhat vulnerable. "What else are you not telling me, Gio?"
There was a new sadness in his eyes. It was a sadness she had never seen before, and it hurt her to imagine all the things that could bring this hopeless look to eyes that had once held so much merriment and determination. Finally, his lips moved. "I've found my way in the world, at last." His next delivery left her breathless. "Delia . . . I can't stay here. I'm leaving for Viridian City, on this night."
At that moment, Delia's expression went totally blank, her lips quivering as she just barely managed to form a reply. "I . . . I thought you had decided to stay here with me!"
His head fell in shame. "I know I did.", He grunted. His mouth was pinched and his face was pale.
She cringed at that, hurting tears beginning to make themselves known. "But . . . you didn't mean what you said?"
Gio squeezed her arm, a gesture that was intended as reassuring but it only made her breathing harder. "I know you're having trouble adjusting to change, Delia.", He whispered, not knowing what else to say. "I could see it in your face when you told me you weren't ready to marry me." This was hurting him much more than it was hurting her.
His words held truth. But she was blind to it. "Take me with you!", She gasped, launching into his arms and pulling him against her body, spilling her tears into him. "For you, I'll change! I'll do anything! Just . . . don't leave me here, not with them!" She was referring to her coddling parents and their badgering prison.
He held her close but denied her claims. "You don't mean that. You can only change for yourself, not for someone else. This is where you belong. This is where it's safe! This is where your family loves you, where your friends are, where your job is. And . . . never forget that your parents love you, Delia. It's me they hate, not you. I don't blame them either. I shouldn't have taken you away from here to begin with-"
"Don't ever say that!", She snapped at him, slightly parting from his embrace. "Don't you ever say that to me!"
Gio lifted his hand and brushed a tear from her cheek "I put you in danger too many times now. That's why I want you to stay here, where you can go about your days without ever having to worry about a thing. Don't ever take it for granted."
Delia looked at her boyfriend tenderly and squeezed his hand, still not fully understanding why this had to be. "Then . . . why are YOU leaving?"
He chewed on his bottom lip, unsure of how to answer the question. "I'm eighteen, with no other goal than to be the very best that I can.", He said to her. "There's nothing left for me here. I just need to move forward with my life and make something of myself. I can't stay a kid forever, chasing after adventures that will lead me nowhere. I don't need child's play. What I need is . . . certainty . . ."
Silence shrouded the room then, it bounced off both of them as they contemplated what had been said. Delia was finally starting to realize that Giovanni was not the arrogant boy she had met outside the Oak Lab all those years prior. He was changing, evolving into a type of man that she still was troubling in fully comprehending. "Why are we growing up so fast?", She sniffled, once again burying her head into his chest.
Gio rested his chin on her head and inhaled. "It's just the way it has to be." And maybe, just maybe, it was another one of life's mysteries that human and Pokemon have been trying to solve since the begging of time. Aging. Death. Life. Youth. Destiny.
Pulling away from him, she collected his hands again and let them envelop her smaller palms. She glanced up at him, noticing that knowing glimmer in his eyes. "Our journeys have taught us so much already, that's for sure."
He nodded and looked her dead in the eyes. "Then lets implement those teachings into our future . . . and create new experiences."
She arched a brow. "You mean . . . together?"
"When the time is right, definitely . . . " Holding her gaze, he lifted his hand and cupped her cheek, his thumb caressing the peach softness as he brought his face close to her, their lips touching with the lightest of pressure, as soft as a Butterfree's wing.
Delia watched him with half closed eyes as he pulled away to gauge her reaction. Seeing nothing in her expression except bemused acceptance, Gio leant forward again, Delia's eyes sliding shut as he pressed his lips to her's, sealing her mouth one last time before he had to go his own way.
"Meoow! Meeow!", Meowth called out from the balcony, poking his tilted head through the window.
Breaking the kiss, Delia turned her head from Gio and reached her hand out to stroke the back of the feline's ear, letting the Pokemon off with a sweet grin. "Take good care of him, Meowth."
"Meeoow!", The Pokemon chanted!
She switched her gaze back to Gio and held the grin in place before leaning inward and wrapping her arms around him one last time, whispering into his ear: "Go. Go be the best that you can be . . . " She could feel his smile against her neck . . . and single tear rolled down her cheek. "Your future is calling to you, isn't it?"
"Y . . . yeah." He opened his eyes and drew away from her, almost frightened to leave her eyes. But he did so anyway. He had to. Following another short pause, he climbed out through the window and released Skarmory onto the terrace. But before he could mount his flight, he slowly turned and met Delia's eyes through the aperture. His gleam held so much promise, so much attainment. He truly was evolving. "I'll be back to visit real soon.", He whispered to her through the evening air.
"And I'll be waiting.", Her quiet and loving voice soothed him.
Pushing down the last of his sorrow, he looked away from her and sattled atop his Skarmory. And in that instant, he ascended towards the stars and took off into the night, leaving a gentle breeze to pass through Delia's window.
Delia continued to peer out into the starlit sky, watching Gio vanish from sight. Her heart went at ease. She exhaled . . . but did not stir. She closed her eyes and allowed the outer winds to brush against her flowing hair. Her thoughts overtook her in that moment. "This is fate. This . . . is the future." And now, without a doubt, she recognized that moving forward was an adventure on its very own. The same trials were destined to assume new masquerades, but the roads divided by right and wrong would not reform. They would flow with the untouchable melody of time and space . . . light and dark . . . good and evil . . . volition and destiny. That was the certainty. The fated road.
TO BE CONTINUED IN ANOTHER STORY . . .
(A/N: Well, after two years in the making, the journey is over, which means my job is done . . . for now. I really hope you all enjoyed the story. Hopefully it was better or just as good as the first. I'm both relieved and a bit sad to say farewell to it . . . but life goes on, right?
DISCLAIMER: The scene involving Crissela's usurping of the Torino warlords was heavily inspired by my favorite Star Wars Novel "Darksaber", in which Admiral Daala underwent similar means in order to seize command of the Imperial Fleet. It's undoubtedly the most unexpected but satisfying scene in the novel; Kevin J Anderson is such a brilliant writer and I can only dream of collaborating with him.
Unanswered plot points leftover from the first story: Who stole Meowth's Pokeball? Who was the man from Meowth's repressed memory back in the Viridian Gym? Who was the abnormal young woman that Rita found in her mansion basement? What made Gio pass out during his Preliminary Battle with Lola? Will Gio's haunting illusions become reality? Who REALLY killed Nelson Oak? What ever happened to Gio's friend Archer?
Unanswered plot points leftover from this story: How has Metsuma been able to influence nightmares? What did Kyden mean when he said "Keep me close in the future."? Will Gio ever see his father again? Who are these strange hooded men with ties to Hunter Memphis? When will Meowth evolve into Persian? Whatever happened to the Aura Guardians? Will Gio pass on what he has learned to Tucker? What mysterious deal did Gio and his mother agree to on the phone? What will Crissela do with the Torino Remnant and how will she avenge Kyden's death? Will Gio ask Delia to marry him? Who will be the one to further corrupt Gio? What could Master Lou and Professor Sebastian be planning? What will become of Selena? What ever happened to Delia's friends from the Torino Training Academy? Who is Anna, as the Professor mentioned in his dying words? What will Spencer do with the information he's gathered on the Unown? What is Agatha hiding from Gio? Will Gio choose to develop his Aura abilities? Why was Wade so bent on keeping Metsuma and Clint's Aura training a secret? Is Faith somehow connected to Ash's Pikachu? What could Newton be planning with the forbidden research he stole from Professor Wade's laboratory? Will Metsuma's visions prove true?
And now on to information regarding the threequel. Yes, a third story has been mapped out but not written. In terms of plot, it will be MUCH darker and more diverse, though equally suspenseful. It will take place two years after the death of Metsuma . . . and, for the first time, I'll actually be entering the realm of given, though limited, information about the time period, thanks to the 'Mewtwo Strikes Back CD Drama.' However, I'm going to be taking a long break before I start working on it, possibly to begin writing other stories that I've been brainstorming lately. However, if you're interested, I posted some details about the next Giovanni story on my profile page, as well as a new poll.
Acknowledgments: I want to take the opportunity to thank most of everyone who's been following my series:
*TrixieCherry: You've been here since the very start of the first story and I thank you for sticking around so long. To any Diamondshipping fans, I recommend her Destiny Duology: "Finding Your True Destiny, Your Other Half " and "Ash Ketchum: I've Found My Destiny, My Other Half"
*FlittingGemeni: You're constant support and lengthy reviews has been a major drive for me to proceed with this story in times of exhaustion. You truly are a motivator, my friend. I also want thank you for allowing me to borrow your character from "Fighter", which is a story I also recommend to my other readers!
*MikariStar: Your "Don't Give Me Diamonds" story has been an effective inspiration to my passion for writing, not to mention an overall thrill to read. It's been fun to coincide with. Also, thank you for the consistent reviews per update :D
*NafaTali: Thank you for the reviews, the deviantArt tributes, and, also, your incredibly amazing "Inheritance" series! Now that I'm taking a break from writing, I'll have time to catch up on reading your story! I'm very excited!
*PokemonFreak90: I'm glad that you enjoy my story so much. Thank you for all the neat ideas you gave me for the future of the series. You've been most helpful, not to mention encouraging. I always value your input and suggestions!
*Goodintentions317: Your reviews are SO long and it's been extremely encouraging, especially knowing that you've taken quite an interest in this series! I truly hope you continued to follow the upcoming installments because I'd much appreciate more feedback :)
*Miss Sugar Cane: Thanks so much for all your support! By the way, I love your story and am really looking forward to catching up on it!
*To all my other readers and occasional reviewers, thanks for reading and I hope you consider following my future stories! )