Rejoice as this chapter shall mark the end of the first set of fillers. With the way I write the battles in this story, you may understand why I needed a break from writing them.

This specific verse of the story is a follow-up to the events of Chapter IX. You may have noticed that Ash's presence hasn't been all that prominent since Chapter VII but worry not. In addition to him playing a role in the story's main plot, he'll have his own fair share of appearances in the next set of fillers.

Hope you guys are satisfied with this one.

P.S. Just in case you guys haven't noticed, I've started a poll in my profile. I would appreciate it if you guys can allocate some time off your respective schedules and vote for one of the choices in the poll. Thanks in advance.

Disclaimer: I don't own Pokemon. If I did, I would've introduced some Natural Harmonia Gropius and Team Plasma to the Best Wishes series. It's seriously boring. Hopefully, the inclusion of Dawn and Cynthia in the second season would spice things up.

Leon was seriously considering having his brain checked. He did not know what possessed him to carry out a mission when he was running a high fever. "'Cept that I'm totally afraid of being court-martialled," he groaned. He knew that his paranoia was totally baseless given the fact that he could have simply contacted his commanding officer to mention that he was sick but he was not going to take that chance. In fact, he was actually hoping for Commander Flynn to find out about his condition after he had completed his assignment. That way, the commander would praise him for being such a hardy and dedicated Ranger. Heck, the commander might even put his name up for promotion.

"Fat chance of that happenin'," Leon rasped, grasping and massaging his sore throat. He then groaned, "I think him chiding me over my lack of common sense would be a much more realistic reaction. Arceus, I could even get demoted for my recklessness." Not only was Leon extremely paranoid at least when it concerned his duties as a Pokemon Ranger but he had a slight tendency of seeing the glass as half empty. Given all that he had went through ever since he was a kid, it was no surprise that he found it difficult to look on the bright side of things.

A whimper was elicited from his vocal cords as he hugged his legs tightly against his chest. He was resting under a shady oak tree but the shade did little to aid him in his current state. He was feeling hot, and not in the figurative sense. His fever had unexpectedly skyrocketed when he had covered about ninety per cent of the forest; his vision started to become hazy at that point. Regardless, he bore with his discomfort and pressed on, his spirits buoyed by the fact that he was almost done.

He heard the drones come back and hover above him. This meant that they had finished scanning the remaining part of the forest about five per cent that he had not covered yet. On any other day, Leon would have been whooping with joy for completing such a difficult and exhausting mission. At that moment though, the black-haired teen was not up for celebrating. He just wanted to go back to his hotel room, swallow some aspirin and pass out on the bed. He did not care that he would be going to bed all sweaty and sticky. No one was going to intrude on him anyway.

The triangle-shaped drones inserted themselves back into the empty triangular slots which decorated the device strapped around Leon's right arm. The sick stripling lifted his head a little to look at the screen installed on the device through his blurry vision.




Despite his lethargy, the corners of his lips quirked upwards to form a small yet tired smile. He could have allowed the device's feminine voice to inform him that the transfer was a success but he muted it the second his headache transcended into a throbbing sensation. That and he had the distinct feeling that the device was mocking him. Mentally, he chuckled, "Paranoid much?"

The Pokemon Ranger unfolded his legs and pressed his back against the tree trunk. Bracing himself, he dug his heels into the soft ground and slowly pushed himself up to get back on his feet. He staggered a bit as his legs were cramping due to having the blood flow to those areas cut off. Leon kept his legs folded a tad longer than he thought but the cramps gradually faded away, allowing Leon to stand up without having to rely on the tree for support.

"This is nothing compared to what the Rangers going through rehabilitation had to endure on a daily basis," Leon said dismissively. "Now that that's over and done with, I better head back to the hotel. I'm not exactly-" He suddenly let out a couple of throaty coughs. "-in ideal condition to spend a night here." In spite of the fact that he was slightly muddled in the head, Leon foresaw his current predicament. Therefore, he kept close to the main pathways of the forest and marked some of the trees he had passed along the way with white chalk; this way, he could easily retrace his steps without having to rely on his memory which would be a very bad move on his part. It was simply common sense to not be too reliant on one's memory if one had to contend with a throbbing headache.

Leon lifted his arms up while taking a deep breath and brought them down as he exhaled loudly. "Right, here I go," he suspired in a resigned tone. He barely took a step forwards before his world tilted sideways and he collapsed on the ground. The boy let loose a couple of choked gasps before his eyes got heavy and his form turned motionless.

"Another satisfied client," Seishirou remarked as he trod along the dirt path leading to one of his grandmother's peculiarly-located abodes which he currently occupied with his brother and Pokemon. His guardian had a penchant for picking out weird places to erect houses and add to her ever-growing list of unoccupied residences but Seishirou saw no reason to complain; he would always have a roof over his head whenever he decided to wander the regions of the world. "After living on a snowy mountain for the majority of my life, staying in a forest is kind of a step-down."

He suddenly shortened his strides and eventually came to a stop. "Come to think of it," he wondered, "how can obaa-chan afford to keep on building more and more houses? I know that she is beyond sucking my bank account dry so where does she get the money from?" He paused as he tilted his head from side to side. He thought, "It really does make one's mind wander, doesn't it?" Deigning it to be better left unanswered, the black-haired teen reached into the right pocket of his hakama and pulled out the tape recorder he had used back at Starlite Articuno.

Starlite Articuno was a chain of high-end restaurants under the ownership of two people: Carlos Damian, and Eclipse Silverline, the latter of whom had an amicable acquaintanceship with Seishirou. The acquaintanceship became rather stagnant when Seishirou left the Pokemon battling circuit half a decade ago. Other than the rare phone call, both of them generally kept out of each other's businesses. However, Eclipse secretly harboured a desire to rekindle the mutual understanding between them. As introverted as he was, he still required human contact... despite already having that provided to him by his butler. Thus, he extended an invitation to Seishirou to dine with him in his restaurant when he learnt that the latter was participating in the Zenith League as well. It was a normal enough reunion; they conversed about the past and each other's welfare. Still, there was a shadowy air about the meeting as they carried out some business. Eclipse ended up giving Seishirou some detailed information regarding certain matters in exchange for the item that Seishirou had brought with him to the restaurant.

"Truthfully, I never saw Eclipse as the type of person to part with information that easily," the bespectacled teen admitted to himself as he repeatedly tossed the tape recorder up and down. Snatching the tape recorder before it reached maximum height, he pocketed it with a sigh. "I guess that's what makes humans that much more interesting." He promptly resumed his brief trek towards his desired destination, all the while thinking of serving either curry or tofu for dinner shortly.

Seishirou wanted his peaceful musings to remain uninterrupted until he reached his temporary residence. Going through the day's events in his head, he concluded that he could have handled them a lot better. In particular, he wished that he could change the way he acted towards Caedes. The sapphire-eyed adolescent came to realize that he had underestimated the Pikachu's emotional capacity and made a mental note to apologize to the Mouse Pokemon later, his pride be damned. He subconsciously quickened his pace. His mind was so focused on offering his apology to his Pokemon that he nearly passed the boy sprawled on the ground, the key word being nearly.

"That is certainly an odd sleeping position," Seishirou mused as he knelt down near the object of his interest. He reached out and grasped the boy's arm, rolling the latter towards him so that he was lying on his back. Seishirou then conducted a head-to-toe assessment. "Skin is rather pale and clammy. He doesn't seem that dehydrated so he must have drank some fluids." Noticing the nearby rucksack, Seishirou promptly unzipped it and held it upside down. Five empty plastic bottles dropped out of the rucksack and onto the ground. "I take it back, a lot of fluids." Adjusting his spectacles, Seishirou decided to check the boy's temperature and placed a hand on the unconscious teen's forehead. He frowned as he retracted his arm back. "He has an unnaturally high fever. What in the world possessed this kid to go exploring in a forest when he should have been resting?" It was then that Seishirou caught sight of the device strapped around the boy's right arm. As of that moment, he knew that he was dealing with a Pokemon Ranger. "I guess this must be one of the reckless ones then," he uttered in an irritated tone. Seishirou did not view the Pokemon Ranger Corps in a favourable light. He felt that most of the members were too eager to throw away their lives for the greater good that they forgot the impact that their actions may have on the loved ones that they will be leaving behind. Due to this latest discovery, Seishirou was seriously contemplating on leaving the Ranger as he did not want to have anything to do with a so-called 'enforcer of peace'. A quick glimpse at the Ranger's face, however, threw all those dark thoughts right out the window.

"He looks no older than fourteen," Seishirou deduced, unaware that his deduction was off the mark by four years. He grunted in displeasure. "Damn me and my soft spot for minors." Shaking off his intense detestation towards the younger teen, Seishirou made his decision: he would not leave him to die. He raised the boy's upper body so that he assume a sitting position and turned his back towards the latter. He then positioned the Ranger's arms around his neck and placed his hands below the Ranger's thighs. Making sure that he had a firm hold on the Pokemon Ranger, Seishirou stood up with more ease than he expected. "Aren't you light?" he remarked as he carried his new guest to his base of operations where he can properly treat him.

A few moments later, Seishirou was standing just outside the courtyard of his temple-like house. The two sakura trees were a welcomed sight to him. To his surprise, the boy he was carrying suddenly whimpered and subconsciously pressed his body closer to Seishirou's. This move warmed his heart slightly, convincing him to evoke an amused chuckle.

"I don't think you should be putting your trust in me so easily. I'm far from being a good person... but when I think about it, getting more familiar with you... I'm actually looking forward to it."

It took a lot of effort to catch Seito off guard. Being around his adoptive brother so much cultivated his nonchalance towards most things. The things he thought to be impossible suddenly became very hard to not believe. His elder brother made him think. His elder brother taught him to always expect the unexpected. Still, when the unexpected involved his brother carrying a human into the vicinity of their residence, Seito found it extremely hard to comprehend his brother's motive for doing so because Seishirou always informed him that they were going to have guests in advance. Besides that, his elder brother's piggyback rides had always been a treat reserved for him and him alone.

"Onii-san, what is that?" Seito demanded as he hopped down from the house's porch and skipped towards Seishirou. Without awaiting a proper response from Seishirou, the curious child began to circle around his elder brother repeatedly, his inquisitive eyes never leaving the human whom Seito guessed was able to pique his brother's interest.

The older of the two non-biological siblings sighed. Though he loved Seito dearly, he felt that the clueless act was starting to get repetitive. "Oh well, that's what I get for asking him to act more like his age instead of letting him be the mature kid he is," he mumbled silently. Looking at Seito, Seishirou noted that the boy was blinking innocently at him. Translation: Seito wanted an answer. The sapphire-eyed teen rolled his eyes and decided to humour the seven-year-old. "Believe it or not, what I'm carrying here is actually a human. This one here is proof that though we are of the same species, we each have our own distinct appearances."

Seito wrinkled his nose. "I know that Seishirou-nii," Seito said softly, "but I always hear you muse on and on about how much you dislike humans so I never thought in a million years that you would bring one here." Subtly, he whimpered, "Do you hate me, Seishirou-nii? Are y-you looking to replace me?"

Seishirou's expression softened. His brother was simply too cute and innocent sometimes. "Of course not," he said soothingly. "If I really did hate you, I wouldn't have bothered to keep you around for so long... much less adopt you. Have I ever told you that you're very cute when you become a little worrywart?"

Discerning the fact that Seishirou was teasing him, Seito put on his best angry look though it was somewhat negated by the rosy blush that tinted his cheeks. He stammered indignantly, "D-Don't try to change the subject. If you don't hate me, then w-why are you giving him a piggyback ride, huh? I thought only I have that pri-pri-va... um... what's the word?"

"Privilege," Seishirou offered.

Seito nodded vigorously. "Yeah, that's the word."

"You really wanna know?"

"Yes, I do," Seito retorted.

His patience wearing thin, Seishirou flatly told Seito, "I found him sprawled on the forest floor. As luck would have it, not only was he unconscious but he also had and still has a very high temperature. To answer your question, I'm giving him a piggyback ride so that I can bring him into the house and properly treat him, something that I would have done three times already if you weren't busy obstructing my path." He did not mean to sound so harsh but his guest's condition was deteriorating rapidly; therefore, he cannot afford to waste any more time bantering with Seito. "Satisfied?"

The spiky-haired youth indeed was as he hung his head down in shame. "S-Sorry, Seishirou-nii," he apologized meekly. "I was... afraid that you... might not need me anymore, that's all."

"Your fear is very unfounded, Seito," Seishirou responded. "You should have more faith in me."

"Seishirou-nii, I..."

Seishirou added, "You're forgiven by the way."

Seito looked up at his brother in confusion. "Huh?" he muttered. "Just like that?"

The formally-garbed nineteen-year-old nodded whilst giving his brother a small smile. "I'm in a good mood today," he said nonchalantly. "Besides, there is no possible way for me to resent you, Seito. After all, you do know that I will always love and cherish you, right?"

"Hehehe... uh-huh," the silver-eyed boy giggled in agreement, his brother's words having a profound and positive effect on him. "Just for curiosity's sake, are you gonna 'screw' him, onii-san?"

That innocent question made Seishirou's heart stop. Did Seito just say what Seishirou thought he said? He flatly inquired, "What?"

It did not seem that Seito saw the look of horror plastered on his elder brother's features as the young kid simply shrugged. "Aqua told me that if people don't feel well, then you should 'screw' them," Seito explained. "She said that the act of 'screwing' is a form of mutualism in a sense that both the 'screwer' and the 'screwee' will benefit." He scratched his head in confusion. "Honestly, I really don't understand it. How do we go about 'screwing' each other? Do we make holes in each other's bodies and fill them up with screws? Aqua even simplified her explanation by showing me this gesture-" The silver-eyed youth promptly curled the fingers of his right hand to form an 'O' before he shoved his left index finger into the orifice, adding a screwing motion to it. He concluded, "-but I still don't get it."

Seishirou lowered his head, barely able to contain the negative and malicious feelings that were accumulating in his body. "That Buizel just signed her own death warrant," he mentally growled. Given his current situation, he decided to put off torturing Aqua for the time being. Putting a smile on his face, he raised his head and reminded his younger brother, "Seito, our guest isn't getting any better with all this procrastination going on."

"Oh!" Seito gasped. "I totally forgot. I promise I'll have everything ready when you reach the main guest room."

"You go do that," Seishirou agreed as he watched Seito run up the steps and disappear into the house. He chanced a glance over his shoulder; the bespectacled teen gave out an amused snort when he saw the Ranger nuzzle his left shoulder with one of his flushed cheeks. Seishirou whispered, "Just bear with it a little longer. We're almost there." Readjusting his hold on the sick stripling, he carefully went up the steps and entered his humble abode.

"This is not good," Seishirou uttered worriedly as he narrowed his eyes at the reading of the thermometer which he had used to measure the Ranger's temperature. "Not good at all."

When Seishirou entered the main guest room with his guest in tow, he discovered that Seito did indeed made good on his promise. A futon had been laid out in the centre of the room and there was a bowl of water with a small white cloth hanging off its brim next to it. Seishirou immediately set to work. Gently laying the Ranger down on the futon, Seishirou took a pair of scissors and cut the sick teen's shirt starting from the bottom hem up to the collar. After removing the T-shirt, he dipped the cloth into the water. He then rubbed the Ranger's upper body with the damp cloth to cool down his body a little. Once he was done with that, the nineteen-year-old put a thermometer in his patient's mouth to determine the severity of the latter's fever.

"What is it, onii-san?" Seito asked as he squeezed all the excess water from another cloth and placed it on the Ranger's forehead.

"He's reached forty-one degrees," Seishirou divulged. "His fever is too far along to be treated via conventional means."

Seito bit his lower lip and cast a worried glance over to their guest. "There must be something we can do, Seishirou-nii. Even if we don't know him at all, we can't just let him die."

"I'm perfectly aware of that," Seishirou said flatly. He retreated into his mind and brainstormed for a way to cure the Ranger of his life-threatening fever. Eventually, he came up with one but the treatment method carried an element of risk. Seishirou was starting to have second thoughts. "I... could do 'that' but..." He shook his head. "Screw it, there's no other way." The sapphire-eyed human then lifted his eyelids and made eye contact with Seito. "Bring me my calligraphy set."


"Don't make me repeat myself. Go. Now."

The three-foot-tall boy knew better than to doubt his brother whenever the older boy used that particular tone of voice with him. Seito complied with Seishirou's order and left the room. Moments later, he returned with the items which made up Seishirou's calligraphy set: a calligraphy brush, a bottle of ink, a small notebook, and oddly enough, a razor.

Seishirou merely sent a thankful gaze Seito's way before he snatched the items from his adopted brother's hands and laid them down on the floor. He flipped open the notebook until he came across a blank page. Rolling up the sleeve of his jacket, he grabbed the razor and held it dangerously close to the palm of his left hand. Exhaling a shaky breath, he pressed the razor below the index finger and made a diagonal cut across the palm.

"Onii-san!" Seito yelled out in shock. "What are you doing?"

Even if Seishirou heard Seito's cry of worry, he made no indication that he did as he settled for watching the blood pool in his cupped hand. Once he thought the pool of blood to be sufficient, he dipped the end of the calligraphy brush into the fluid which consisted mostly of erythrocytes. He then moved the tip of the brush closer to the blank piece of paper in front of him to begin creating a healing seal. Just as the brush was about to make contact with the paper, his hand began to tremble slightly. As such, he lifted the brush up before a blot of blood could make its presence known on the paper.

Seito was beginning to worry for his brother. "I've never seen Seishirou-nii this nervous before," he thought. He wanted nothing more than to hug Seishirou at that moment to placate some of his doubts but wisely held himself back. The seven-year-old could somewhat tell that what Seishirou was planning to do was extremely delicate; thus, he could not afford to make his elder brother lose his concentration.

"Calm down, Seishirou," he assuaged himself. "Just remember what obaa-chan taught you." His nerves soothed to a certain extent, he softly pressed the tip of the calligraphy brush on the paper and made the first stroke. He added some swirls and a bit of kanji as well. Overall, he spent five minutes carefully crafting the healing seal. Seishirou heaved a relieved sigh once he was done and surveyed his handiwork. "Looks okay," he observed. "If obaa-chan was here, then she can evaluate this seal for me but there's no point in worrying about that now."

Ignoring the fact that he was bleeding, Seishirou tore out the page and put it on his guest's forehead in place of the damp cloth. "I've only got one shot at this." He closed his eyes and and uncharacteristically pleaded, "Arceus, please make this work." Reaching deep within himself, he encountered a large, bright star of light which was the manifestation of his aura. He stretched out his hand and willed for it to grant him a small fragment of its power. In response, the star shined brighter and ejected Seishirou out of his own inner world. Opening his eyes, Seishirou noted that his non-bleeding hand was emitting a bluish glow. In prompt fashion, he hovered the hand over the seal on the Ranger's forehead.

"Heal," Seishirou whispered firmly. On cue, the red markings on the seal became outlined in blue as they absorbed the aura from Seishirou's hand. The blue light then spread throughout the seal before it encompassed the Ranger's head. Eventually, the bright radiance travelled downwards until it fully covered the sick teen from head to toe. The light maintained a constant brightness for a while before it died down. At the same time, Seishirou's body suddenly gave out from pure exhaustion as he sagged forwards. He would have collapsed onto his patient had Seito not caught him in time.

A mere two inches separated Seishirou and his guest's faces from one another. Seishirou merely stared at the Ranger's peaceful expression as the latter's breathing pattern became steady. Based on the ease at which the younger boy was breathing, the healing seal worked.

"No more," the sapphire-eyed individual breathed into his guest's face. "I don't wish to be put in this position again. You better buck up because this will be the last time I would be risking my life to save yours."

The first thing that registered in Leon's mind when he woke up was that his back was not aching as it should be. He found this discovery to be strange because the last thing he remembered before he blacked out was that he collapsed onto the forest floor with his body sprawled in an odd angle. Curling his fingers, the Ranger was pleasantly surprised to find them grasping at something soft and fluffy. A bed sheet entered his line of sight when he tilted his neck forwards.

"Someone must've found me and brought me to their house," he deduced. Leon grasped his throat in surprise. "My voice isn't all raspy anymore and-" His hand then went to his forehead. "-my fever's gone. Man, I must've been quite the inconvenience. I should apologize to them when they come around to check on me." He strained himself up to a sitting position. His Ranger instincts told him to inspect his surroundings and he did just that. Looking around, he determined that he was in an old-fashioned room. Three of the four walls that surrounded him were painted in warm green tones while the western wall was predominantly occupied by a couple of shōji doors. He saw a miniature indoor waterfall in one corner of the room and thought that it suited the peaceful ambiance that pervaded the room. Leon then cast his gaze on the floor. It was covered by a type of mat which name escaped him at that moment. He lightly traced circles on the flooring material with his finger, idly wondering about the fate of the Lapras he had released not too long ago.

"Is this a bad time to interfere with your moment of nostalgia?" a voice curiously inquired.

If Leon had been a rookie, he would have jerked out of the futon in shock. Luckily for him, he was a fairly experienced Ranger with an intense paranoid streak. It was times like this that he was proud of it so it would take a lot more that an intruding voice to take him by surprise. He had to admit though, he almost lost his composure there. He logically attributed that to the fact that he was not fully recovered yet; thus, his senses were not as sharp as they normally were.

Leon switched his attention from the floor to the progenitor of the voice who slid open one of the shōji doors. "Could he be the guy who found and treated me?" he pondered as he looked the guy over. He had neat black hair and was wearing a pair of semi-rimless eyeglasses. In terms of his clothing, he donned a purple robe with multiple sapphire rose prints on it. It was rather loose-fitting but it merely exposed a bit of his chest. Besides leaning against the side of the shōji door, he was balancing a tray it was occupied by a small teapot, a bowl and a ceramic cup on one hand.

"They are called tatami mats," the bespectacled individual informed him suddenly.

The eighteen-year-old Pokemon Ranger tilted his head in bewilderment. "Huh?"

The traditionally-garbed teen sat down cross-legged beside Leon and set the tray down on the floor next to him. "You look like you were captivated by them before you lost yourself in your reminiscence," he said. "I figured that you would like to know what they are called."

"Well, I wouldn't say I was 'captivated' but that's good to know," Leon replied in a wary manner. He still did not know who the person was so he decided to put forth a cautious front. Brushing his hand along the surface of a mat, he asked, "What are they made of?"

"The core is traditionally made from rice straw though nowadays rice straw can be substituted with compressed wood chip boards or polystyrene foam," the sapphire-eyed adolescent answered. He added, "They are also included with coverings of woven soft rush straw while some of them have edgings of brocade or plain cloth." He suddenly gave Leon a penetrating gaze. "Why don't you tell me what's really on your mind instead of trying to bore me with small talk?"

"It seems that he's not one for idle chatter," Leon mentally observed. "That just makes me even more nervous than I already am." Tensing himself for any sort of backlash, he hesitantly inquired, "Were you the one who... brought me here and treated me?"

The person of whom Leon was seeking an answer from propped an elbow on a thigh and rested his head on the palm of his hand. "And if I was?"

Scratching the back of his head, Leon stuttered, "Erm, I just wanna, you know, thank you for taking care of me and... apologize if I was an... inconvenience to you."

A noncommittal humming sound was the sapphire-eyed individual's response. 'Don't mention it' is what I would say," he began, "but I am far more interested in another matter than your gratitude. What exactly were you hoping to accomplish by wandering in a forest with a fever? Surely you must've realized that you weren't in perfect condition for such an excursion."

Leon was getting nervous. Though he owed the bespectacled individual for saving his life, he did not want to reveal any sensitive information to a civilian. If any of his superiors found out, he would be in monumentally gigantic trouble and that was something he wanted to avoid at all costs. His self-preservation instincts kicked in.

"I'm sorry but-"

"-that information is confidential," Leon's host guessed. Seeing the shocked look plastered on his guest's face made him roll his eyes. "Honestly, that attitude is so typical of you Pokemon Rangers."

A frown adorned Leon's features. He was getting highly suspicious of his host. "How did you-"

Said host raised a hand, interrupting Leon yet again. "Your questions can wait," he uttered with an air of finality. "For now, just concentrate on finishing this soup I made." With that said, he hoisted the bowl of soup by its handles and handed it over to Leon.

Leon was a bit put off by the guy's indifference. Did he not realize that he could get taken in under the suspicion of withholding information that was related to the Pokemon Ranger Corps? Before Leon could pursue the matter, he caught a whiff of the soup. Looking down, he noted that the broth was very clear, allowing him to see the finely-chopped vegetables that enhanced the presentation of the simple dish. His stomach began to grumble as he remembered that he only ate a protein bar before setting off to complete his mission. He realized that that probably wasn't a good move on his part.

The Ranger raised the bowl to his lips and took a tentative sip. The pleasant flavours exploded on his taste buds almost instantly. He resisted the urge to moan as if he was experiencing an orgasm. That would be beyond embarrassing. Instead, he said, "It's good."

The person sitting beside him shrugged. "Would there be any point in feeding a recovering individual bad-tasting soup?"

"...No, I suppose not," Leon admitted. Idly rolling a stick of carrot in his mouth, he asked, "How long have I been... unconscious?"

"Three-quarters of day," the sapphire-eyed teen answered laconically. "Your fever broke about six hours ago."

Gazing down at his reflection in the broth, Leon merely responded, "Oh." He contemplated about whether or not Commander Flynn would get suspicious of him for not contacting HQ straight away after completing his mission. Inwardly sighing, he set aside the thought of getting in touch with his commanding officer for later. It wasn't as if he would be dealt a severe punishment. At most, he would be given an earful but that would probably be it. Erasing all those negative thoughts from his head, he concentrated on finishing his soup.

A comfortable silence descended upon the two teens. Save for the occasional sounds that Leon would make from sipping his soup, they did not bother striking a conversation with one another. At one point, the taller teen scooted closer to the door and lit a cigarette. Leon made no comment. At least the former had enough decency to smoke away from him. Taking a few subtle sniffs, Leon detected a cinnamonny smell permeating the air around him. From that, he deduced that the cigarette was home-made. He was the guest after all so his word would not matter much.

Practically gulping the last bit of his soup, he set the bowl back on the tray and looked up at the bespectacled individual who was still smoking away without a care in the world. Opening his mouth, he started, "Can-"

"Drink the tea."

It wasn't a request, that much Leon could tell. It was more of a command, albeit a polite one. Exhaling in exasperation, he grabbed the teapot and poured himself a cup of tea. Leon instantly knew what it was: green tea. A small smile crossed his face. Green tea happened to be one of his favourite drinks, not only because of the health benefits but the pleasant aroma as well. He couldn't remember the last time he had some since he was always preoccupied with his Ranger duties. That made the first sip all the more sweeter.

Leon ended up finishing the whole pot of tea. He felt a little bad for not offering his host some but he figured that the tea was meant only for him anyway. The reason? The traditionally-garbed adolescent was still assuming the same position when Leon glanced up at him. Sometimes, Leon wondered what it would be like to be a kid again. To be free of responsibility and simply enjoy life without any worries shackling you down. At that moment, the person in front of him symbolized the supposed result of his fantasies, except for the fact that he was not a young lad by any stretch.

"I'm done," Leon told him. "Thanks for the soup and tea."

The relaxed teen drew on his cigarette and exhaled some sweet-smelling smoke. "Never expected to find one with manners," he remarked as he gazed at Leon from the corner of his eye.

Leon furrowed his brows. Was that a compliment? "...Thanks, I think."

"You're very welcome," the nineteen-year-old replied tonelessly. He unfolded his legs and stood up. "I assume that you'd want your questions to be answered." Receiving a nod in reply to his question, he went over to the linen closet in the room and pulled the door open. He then grabbed a towel and casually tossed it to Leon. "Freshen up first. My brother will stop by later to lead you to the place where we shall have our discussion. Sound good?"

"Okay," Leon agreed as he wiped his face with the towel. He was feeling rather sticky and flushed anyway. A warm bath would probably do him some good. Removing the fluffy material from his face, he was surprised to find the bespectacled teen kneeling down in front of him.

"Anything?" Leon asked earnestly.

"I almost forgot" was what his host whispered before he brushed up Leon's bangs with his right hand and planted a kiss on the Ranger's forehead.

The Hoenn native froze. He wasn't particularly bothered by the kiss or the fact that he was just given one by a guy. Ever since he joined the Pokemon Ranger Corps, he had experienced the different cultures of the regions he had been assigned to with the exception of Unova and Orre. Thus, the eighteen-year-old attributed the sudden affection as being a part of his host's culture. However, he was baffled by the way he was kissed. The feeling of smooth fingers pushing his bangs away and the utter gentleness at which those soft lips pecked his forehead, it induced a feeling of familiarity within him. It reminded him of the tender moments he used to share with his brother who was a Pokemon Ranger like him, albeit a more successful one. Familiarity made way for regret and sadness when he thought of the strained bond between them.

Seeing the sadness in his guest's eyes made the sapphire-eyed teen quirk up an eyebrow. "I wasn't expecting this reaction," he admitted. "You okay?"

Leon gazed up at him with a gloomy expression. He choked out, "W-Why?"

"It's a Unovan custom," the older boy said as he patted Leon's head in apology. "If you have someone sick in your home, then you should kiss them where it hurts to make them feel better. I guess that's mainly the reason why people in Unova, as advanced as they are, are mentioned to be very impressionable and friendly." He further observed, "Unfortunately, I seemed to have accomplished the exact opposite. My apologies."

The Ranger shook his head and managed a small smile at his host. "No, it's fine," he said. "You didn't know."

That seemed to be all the assurance the taller teen required as he went on to another topic. "When your done, put these on," he requested as he placed a small pile of clothing in the Ranger's arms.

Just by looking at them, Leon felt extremely uncomfortable. He could tell that they were going to be anything but simple-looking. Strangely, it was only then that he realized that he was wearing a plain white robe and not his old clothes.

"Erm," he began hesitantly, "thanks but I can't accept them. I think I've already imposed on you too much. My old clothes would do just fine." Leon thought what he said was innocent enough but he never expected the older boy to lose his composure.

"Oh for the love of Arceus," the bespectacled teen huffed before he slammed a fist down onto the floor and leaned in closer to the younger lad so that his breath was mingling with Leon's. He shouted, "Just shut up and accept my good deed!"

Leon staggered backwards until he fell on his back. "Y-Yes sir!" he replied instinctively.

"Honestly, this is why I can't stand Rangers," the irritated host grumbled as he got up to leave. "They always have to complicate things." Stopping by the door, he spared one last glance at his guest. "One more thing."

"Y-Yeah?" Leon stuttered nervously.

The edges of the traditionally-attired individual's lips lifted up ever so slightly. "Seishirou Syuusuke. That's my name. Pleasure to meet you," he introduced himself before he stepped outside and slid the door close.

As Leon watched Seishirou's shadow that was cast on the shōji doors move away, Leon did little to suppress the smile that crossed his features. He remarked, "Seishirou Syuusuke, huh? Not a bad name."

A brush here. A tug there. Leon frowned as he continued to adjust his new clothes. It wasn't that they were not comfortable to wear, it was just that he wasn't comfortable wearing them. These clothes which were given to him by Seishirou were a far cry from what he usually wore. He was not sure whether to consider that a good or a bad thing. Casting his gaze upon his reflection, he felt as though he was looking at an entirely different person. He was wearing a grey shirt under a dark red zip-up vest which had a white collar and a stripe of the same colour going around the bottom part of the garment. Speaking of the collar, Leon had a hard time deciding whether to leave the collar raised or fold it down. He eventually decided to keep it raised, remembering that turn-down collars were more his brother's style. As his eyes travelled downwards, he saw white wristbands, a blue belt with six Poke Balls attached to it, baggy blue denim jeans and a pair of white socks. Turning around and glancing over his shoulder, he caught sight of the white Poke Ball emblem on the back of the vest.

"This outfit will surely make me stand out in a crowd," the Ranger bemoaned. "Oh well, at least it reminds me a little of my Ranger uniform."

"Excuse me," a youthful voice called out. "I'm here to bring you to my onii-san."

The Ranger had just enough time to assume a nonchalant stance before the door slid open. There was no sense in worrying about something as irrelevant as clothing. Through his stereoscopic vision, he saw a bespectacled boy glancing up at him with an infectious grin on his face. Leon flashed a smile in reciprocation.

"You must be Seishirou's brother," Leon said, noting the striking resemblance the young boy had with the aforementioned person.

The spiky-haired youth nodded. "Yup, name's Seito," he said, "though I'm not Seishirou-nii's brother by blood. He adopted me two years ago."

"Huh?" Leon tilted his head in curiosity before he ventured forward and knelt down in front of Seito to get a closer look at him. Save for the hair and eyes, his face was near identical to Seishirou's if the baby fat wasn't taken into account. "For an adopted brother, you sure look... eerily similar to him," the Hoenn native remarked. "If I didn't know any better, I'd say that you were fibbing... but I can't think of any reason why you would do so."

"You're not the first one," Seito breathed out heavily. "Sometimes I wonder why I even bother tryin' to convince people that I'm adopted. No matter how much I want to be related to him, I realize that it's impossible. The fact that people keep sayin' that I look just like Seishirou-nii makes me even more sad. I could just not say anything... but I don't want to lie to them, even if I'm doing it indirectly."

If Leon suddenly gained the ability to control time, he would erase the last minute without hesitation. He did not know that his simple observation would have such a negative effect on the silver-eyed kid. "I forgot that children are way more sensitive compared to adults," he thought reproachfully. "If I want to start a family in the near future, then I can't be making this stupid mistake again." He set his heart on correcting his blunder by comforting Seito. Leon encouraged, "Hey, don't feel so down in the dumps. It doesn't matter that you're not related to him, what matters is that he chose to adopt you."

Seito wrinkled his nose. He earnestly asked, "Why exactly does that matter?"

"Well, I really doubt that anyone forced him to take you in," Leon said. "He must have held some sort of affection towards you so I think that's what spurred him to do what he did. Though you may see yourself as only an adopted brother, I'm sure that Seishirou regards your status with irrelevance. I think that he sees the bond between you two as something far deeper than one conceived through the simple act of adoption. When I mentioned your brother's name, your face immediately shined with joy. From that, I can tell that Seishirou is sparing no effort to express his adoration and love towards you." He added, "Even you can see that, right?"

The bespectacled youth stared at Leon, trying to absorb the latter's explanation. "You're right," Seito breathed in realization. "Seishirou-nii has always been so kind and considerate towards me. He would always allow me to bathe with him if I ever ask." He giggled. "I especially like it when he lathers my hair with shampoo and blows the foam in my face. That's my favourite part when it comes to bathing with Seishirou-nii. Besides that, he taught me how to read and write, entertains me when he's not too busy and lets me snuggle against him every night when we go to bed." A sigh of contentment escaped through his lips. "I just love Seishirou-nii so much. He makes me... feel so warm inside."

Leon felt a wave of nostalgia wash over him upon witnessing Seito's innocent admiration of his adoptive brother. It made him remember the memories he had buried deep within the recesses of his mind. They were pleasant enough at first... but they got progressively worse as he continued to look them over.

"Big bro, I wanna be a Pokemon Ranger just like you when I'm older."

"Looking to follow my lead is... admirable and all, but you should consider charting your own path in life."

"Why did you join the Pokemon Ranger Corps, Leon? Do you not realize the position you've put me in?"

"How would I know about your damn position? I joined of my accord, not because I wanted to emulate your success! This was my dream from the start!"

"Is it? Or are you just sick of that woman ignoring you and enthusing me constantly?"

"It... it has nothing to do with that!"

"Whatever. Do what you want. I don't care anymore."


He shook his head as he was jarred from his reminiscence and thrust back into reality. Leon blinked repeatedly as he tried to get rid of the blurriness in his vision. With his vision back to normal, he was able to make out the small fingers in his line of sight. "W-Wha...?"

"You spaced out there for a moment," Seito told Leon. "You okay?"

"Ah, I just... remembered something. M'kay though," Leon assured the young boy in front of him. He really hoped that Seito would just accept that and not prod him for any details. After all, he did not revisit those particular memories for a reason.

The silver-eyed youth eyed him sceptically but ultimately chose not to pursue the matter any further, much to Leon's relief. "If you say so," Seito said. "Let's go. I don't want to keep onii-san waiting."

Leon merely nodded. "Lead the way then."

"Oh, and thanks for comforting me. I appreciate it." Seito expressed his appreciation by giving the Ranger a cute smile before the former twirled around and began to distance himself from Leon, motioning for the guest to follow him.

A plain yet honest "you're welcome" was Leon's reply as he complied with Seito's request, making sure to keep within five steps of the small boy in front of him.

One of the most important principles that Leon learnt back when he was still accumulating the knowledge necessary to become an adequate Pokemon Ranger at the Ranger School in Almia was that if one was assigned to an unfamiliar territory, then he or she should make it a high priority to familiarize oneself with the surroundings. It could make the difference between life and death if difficulties were encountered. Though the principle did not apply to the interior of a civilian's home, the eighteen-year-old carried out the precautionary fundamental anyway, mostly out of habit. He straightaway discovered that the inside of the house was like a labyrinth. There were so many interconnected hallways that Leon thought that he would lose his mind and die right then and there. Leon chanced a look at his guide who was maintaining a brisk pace towards wherever Seishirou was waiting for them. The small kid was practically skipping while merrily humming a soft tune with his hands clasped behind his back.

"Such a casual attitude," Leon observed silently. "Doesn't the thought of getting lost within this maze concern him one bit? I highly doubt that he's memorized the entire layout of this place. No matter where we turn, everything looks exactly the same." The Ranger kept these thoughts to himself. He figured that whatever vague answer Seito would respond with, it would only make him even more confused that he already was, hence his decision to stay silent and pin his hopes on a seven-year-old kid who could just be leading him around in circles until he went mad.

Relief coursed through Leon's veins when they finally came to a stop. Gazing at the shōji doors in front of him, a small part of him had the sneaking suspicion that Seito had led him back to point A but he buried that misplaced sense of wariness right away. Leon could think of absolutely no reason that Seito would that do to him, especially not after the latter expressed his gratitude towards Leon for comforting him. The Ranger's faith in Seito was rewarded as the young boy called out, "Onii-san, I've brought him just like you asked. Sorry if we're a bit late."

"It's fine. Send him in," a familiar voice requested from the other side.

"Okey dokey," Seito chirped. The spiky-haired boy gave Leon a subtle wink and said, "Brace yourself."

"Wait, whaddya mean by th-" Before Leon could query Seito about the abrupt warning, the seven-year-old slid the doors open and Leon was immediately blasted by an abnormal mist. The Ranger let loose a couple of coughs as he frantically fanned his forearms across his face in an effort to make the fog dissipate faster. The fog soon cleared up, revealing the owner of the voice who was assuming a lax sitting position behind a round, low coffee table.

Seishirou drawled, "You sure took your sweet time."

"I wouldn't have had it not been for this labyrinth of a house of yours," Leon bickered exasperatedly, his words lacking any real venom. "If your brother wasn't-" The eighteen-year-old paused as he realized something upon keener observation: Seito was nowhere in sight. "Hey, where did he disappear to? He was in front of me a second ago."

"He's here when he needs to be... but he won't be here when he wants to be," Seishirou cryptically replied as an alarming smile made its presence known across his visage.

Leon's facial expression was the complete opposite of Seishirou's; the corners of his lips were curved downwards into a confused frown. "So," he began hesitantly, "you're saying that our conversation... does not require him to be present... in a sense that all the info that gonna be discussed... would not benefit him in any way?"

The bespectacled teen's bone-chilling smile grew wider. His guest could tell that he did not usually put on such an expression because it just looked so unnatural. "You catch on pretty quick," Seishirou said mirthfully. "You've chalked up a couple of more points in my book."

In response, Leon gave Seishirou a mere nod of his head. Though he was all for people viewing him in a favourable light, he wasn't so sure if he felt the same way when it concerned a person like Seishirou. There was just something about the sapphire-eyed teen that made him feel highly disconcerted. He knew that it was unfair of him to judge Seishirou too quickly but the latter's mannerisms gave Leon the impression that he was hiding something from him. That made Seishirou all the more suspicious in his eyes.

Speaking of Seishirou, he extended an arm forward and motioned for Leon to sit down facing him on the other side of the table; the Ranger promptly did so. Once he ascertained that his guest was comfortable, Seishirou then told Leon, "As promised, you are now free to ask me anything you like. I can't promise you that I'll reciprocate each and every one of your queries with an answer so I suggest you ensure that whatever you ask me is relevant enough."

"Alright," Leon accepted Seishirou's stipulation. He figured that he should repeat the question which he directed at his host earlier. Leon looked at Seishirou straight in the eye and asked, "How do you know that I'm a Pokemon Ranger?"

Seishirou simply snorted upon hearing the question as he reached behind his back and produced a familiar gadget; it was Leon's bracer-like communication device.

Leon's eyes widened in recognition. "Ah, that's my-" It was only thanks to his quick reflexes attained through years of hard work in the Pokemon Ranger Corps that he was able to catch the device when Seishirou suddenly flung it at him.

"I found it still wrapped around your right forearm," Seishirou mentioned. "Try to exercise a little subtlety next time if you don't want common folk such myself finding out about your Ranger identity."

Leon avoided eye contact with Seishirou as he bit his lower lip in frustration. He could not believe that he had made such a rookie mistake. If his superiors came to know of this blunder, they would have his head for sure. Granted, he was sick but Leon was convinced that they will not accept that plant moss of an excuse. Hands trailing along the exterior of his device, he suddenly hatched an idea which could save his sorry butt from being suspended.

He proceeded with his second question. "Did you hack into my communication device by any chance?" Leon queried, trying to keep the accusatory tone down to a minimum. If things went his way, then he would be able to apprehend Seishirou for committing said offence. It was a rather poor way to express his gratitude towards the bespectacled teen for saving his life but Leon loved his profession as a Pokemon Ranger too much to have it suddenly ripped away from him. His host raised an eyebrow, prompting Leon to add, "Before I passed out, I transferred some data to the main database. Who's to say that you didn't trace the information and download some sensitive files? The security of the Pokemon Ranger Corps is at risk here."

"Reel in that urgency for a moment and give me a second." Seishirou reached under the coffee table and pulled out two items: a bulbous, narrow-necked flask; and a small, cylindrical cup. He held the cup near the opening of the flask and tilted the latter object; a clear liquid streamed out of the flask and into the cup. Setting the ceramic flask down onto the table, he pressed the brim of the cup to his lips and tilted his neck back slightly, finishing the drink in one gulp. "Ah, that hit the spot," he sighed in contentment. "I can always count on my trusty seishu sake."

"Um, if you're done, can we go back to my ques-"

Seishirou held up a hand. "I'm getting to it," he said. He pressed his hands on the tatami and leaned back, maintaining eye contact with the Ranger all the while. Stifling a hiccup, he told the Ranger, "The answer is no."

Leon grew perplexed. "Surely you know that an answer that simple won't stave off my suspicions of you," he pointed out.

"Of course I know," Seishirou replied calmly. "Allow me to give you a gist of what I think might transpire from this point onward." Pouring himself another cup of sake, he resumed, "You'd continue to believe that I'm lying just to save my own skin while I'd still maintain my innocence. Unconvinced, you'd give me a mechanical device and ask me to dismantle or hack into it. We would then be caught in an unending spiral where I would deny having any talents with regard to technology while you would remain adamant that I do and threaten to take me into custody which, of course, would only mean trouble for you since your superiors will indirectly discover that you've committed the stupid mistake of letting your identity as a Pokemon Ranger be compromised." Seishirou took a small sip of his sake. "If you apprehend me, then there's a chance that I would be proven innocent which won't be doing you any favours." He eyed Leon critically and pondered aloud, "Are you suspicious of everyone you meet? That's such a... sad way to live your life."

"Well, excuse me if the way I do my job doesn't appeal to you," Leon retorted. "The safety and security of the Pokemon Rangers Corps matters a whole lot to me. Earlier, you said that you couldn't stand us Rangers so my suspicions aren't entirely unfounded."

The older of the two teens resisted the urge to groan in exasperation. "Do you automatically assume the worst of every statement?" Seishirou ventured forcefully. "That's very paranoid... even for a Pokemon Ranger."

"What right do-"

"Shut up and let me finish," Seishirou cut him off abruptly. "The phrase 'can't stand' could mean a variety of things. In my case, it borders between complete indifference and minor dislike. If I really held you Rangers in utter contempt, I would've simply left you there on the cold, hard ground to become food for prowling predators. I would have one less thing to worry about." Another small stream of sake travelled down his throat. "I even surprised myself when I instead chose to put aside my slight antipathy towards you Rangers and save you. I appreciate the gratitude you showed me earlier but that has been rendered irrelevant with all these accusatory remarks you keep throwing at me. You sure do have a way with people."

Leon gritted his teeth and looked down at the communication device which was tightly gripped within the palms of his hands. His plan had backfired and now his heart was aching with guilt. Though he still maintained that there was nothing wrong with his approach to dealing with Seishirou, he could feel his resolve slowly crumbling.

Sensing Leon's growing discomposure, Seishirou decided to enlighten the Ranger of the... finer details of his recovery. "I'm not really sure if this would mean anything to you," he said, "but when I brought you here, your temperature was bordering between forty-one and forty-two degrees."

Seishirou's guest jerked his head upwards and stared intently into his host's eyes, searching for any mirth or amusement in them; Leon found none. His whole body quivered when he realized that Seishirou was serious. "I-I was... that c-close?" he stammered weakly.

"Yes," Seishirou reiterated. "Since waiting for the fever to break was out of the question, I had to depend on an unorthodox and risky treatment method to bring down your temperature back down to the normal range." Reaching into his robe, he pulled out a piece of paper and smacked it down onto the table. He lifted his hand up, allowing Leon to see the markings on the paper. "I had to resort to using a healing seal."

"Healing seal?" Leon echoed, rather unfamiliar with the treatment method.

The nineteen-year-old nodded. "Sealing... is a rather complex art," he began. "The margins of error are so small that even a single wrong stroke of the brush could result in failure. To delve into an art this extensive, one must have an eye for detail and lots of patience. The most basic of seals are often used to store items of importance. Also, crafting wards involve a bit of sealing as well. It helps if you are proficient in calligraphy as you shall increase the value of the written incantations. Seal a bit of your aura into those beautiful words and you'll have yourself a strong ward that can repel uninvited... 'visitors'."

"Judging from that detailed explanation, would I be right in saying that you are good in the sealing arts?" Leon asked, rather interested in the new topic.

"No, you would be wrong," Seishirou denied. "I don't even come close to being considered... 'good'. It took me a long time to successfully craft a usable seal and that's only when my grandmother convinced me to give it another shot after I quit due to frustration. I'm a patient person... but even I have my limits." Those unpleasant memories threatened to resurface in his head so Seishirou quickly downed two cups of sake. Hiccuping slightly, he went on, "Of all the kinds of seals that are available, I would say that healing seals are the most troublesome to craft. It requires extensive knowledge on the human body carries a huge element of risk to both parties. I just hate making them so much but given the circumstances, I had no choice."

Leon nervously spoke, "But, what matters is that it worked, right? Shouldn't you be elated that your healing seal came out fine?"

Seishirou gave Leon a flat stare. "Up until that point, every single one of my attempts to craft a healing seal ended up in failure," he informed Leon. "One time, I got bedridden for three whole days as I put too much of my aura into the seal and ended up being blasted by the backlash. If that wasn't enough, I used my blood as the ink for the healing seal." He paused and showed Leon the scar on the palm of his left hand. "This significantly increased the curing properties of the seal. However, with every upside, there's always a downside. If the seal were to fail, you would have to bear the brunt of the backlash. With a seal that powerful, your body would've probably imploded since it was so weak at that time."

A raspy gasp was released as the Ranger's mouth hung open in shock. Leon often envisioned the way he would die in the line of duty but the thought that he was going to leave the realm of the living via implosion never crossed his mind even once. He presumed that that was only possible if he was sent into space without a helmet. He looked down at his hands again only to discover that they were shaking.

"You have no idea the amount of pressure that was bearing down on my shoulders at that time," Seishirou spoke evenly. "Should I feel elated that everything turned out fine? Perhaps. But there's a part of me that wonders what would've happened if the treatment had not been successful. I would have to bear the heavy burden of failing to save you for the rest of my life and my brother would have been mentally scarred upon seeing death for the first time. All of these 'what ifs', they override any feelings of relief that I should be experiencing upon finding out that the healing seal was a success." His gaze found his reflection in the sake. "I was afraid... and I don't want to be put in that position again. I... can't afford to do that to Seito any more. Tears... are not meant to flow down his sunny expression."

The Hoenn native sighed sadly. After hearing all that, he could not bear to entertain the notion of taking Seishirou into custody just to save his own skin. Even if he did, he would not have any solid evidence to support his accusations. He had let his paranoia get the better of him. Licking his lips, he decided that he would hold on to the hope that his superiors do not come to know of his... misstep. Should things not go his way, then he would face whatever repercussion they had in store for him like a true Pokemon Ranger instead of looking for a scapegoat.

"I'm sorry," Leon apologized sincerely. "I shouldn't have... acted the way I did."

Seishirou responded with a question. "The information that you've gained within the past five minutes, is it enough to warrant a dismissal of your accusations towards me?"

"Yes," the brown-eyed teen replied firmly.

Though Seishirou's expression softened by just a mere fraction, it was enough to make Leon cast aside his nervousness. "I forgive you then," he uttered.

Those words served as the spark for Leon to release all the air he stored up in his lungs as a sign of relief. He gratefully said, "Thanks."

Instead of reciprocating with the usual 'you're welcome' phrase, the traditionally-garbed adolescent presented Leon with a subtle nod of his head. "Now that that's over and done with," he drawled, "let us talk about my fee."

"Huh?" Leon didn't like the direction in which the conversation was heading.

"Surely you can't begrudge me a little compensation," Seishirou went on. "I did save your life so you are technically in my debt. Given the fact that I risked my life in the process of saving yours, I'm afraid that the price is rather steep but I'm sure that an honourable Pokemon Ranger such as yourself won't have any trouble paying it off."

The adjective with which Seishirou used to describe him was spot on. Leon absolutely hated being in someone else's debt and would put emphasis on paying it off above everything else. Still, there were creaks in his honourable attitude as he weakly protested, "B-But I-"

"Of course, you could just walk away," Seishirou offered. Seeing Leon's hopeful expression, the bespectacled ruthlessly banished it away as he warned, "If you do that, I won't be held responsible should any... unfortunate accidents befell you."

Leon's face immediately fell. At that point, he was positive that there was no way that he could weasel himself out of his current situation. "Okay," he sighed in defeat. "How can I settle my debt to you?"

The sapphire-eyed teen downed another cup of sake and looked at Leon through curious eyes. He inquired, "Before we get to that, may I have your name?"

"Leon," the Ranger answered without hesitance. A raised eyebrow was what he received from Seishirou.


Leon bit the inside of his cheek and glanced away from his host for a brief moment. He debated whether or not to divulge that piece of information to the person in front of him. Against his better judgement, he meekly revealed, "Strife. My full name is... Leon Strife." He closed his eyes and waited for the comparisons to begin.

The surname was indeed familiar to Seishirou though he knew better than to pursue the matter further than necessary. From Leon's expression, he could tell that the particular subject was a source of great strife (no pun intended) to him. Respectfully, he said, "You have a good name, Strife-kun. You should be proud of it."

Gasping slightly, Leon opened his eyes and stared at Seishirou in bewilderment. He certainly did not expect that reaction. Registering what Seishirou had just said, a slight blush crept across his cheeks. "...Thanks. Um, right back at you."

Once again, Seishirou sent a nod the Ranger's way as he absentmindedly tapped his chin. Adjusting his glasses, he suddenly said, "You are very good at cooking and housekeeping." It sounded more like a statement than a question.

That statement startled Leon as he smacked his hands on the table and leaned his body forward. "H-How did y-you know that?" he stammeringly asked.

"You just told me," Seishirou chimed with a smile. "You fell for oldest psychological trick in the book, Strife-kun."

Upon realizing that, his arms gave way as Leon allowed his forehead to slam onto the table. Mentally, he berated himself, "I can't believe that I was that naive."

"You must work it off," Seishirou enunciated.

Leon looked up at the taller teen in confusion. "What?"

"Work here at this place as a part-timer," Seishirou told the Hoenn native. Tracing his jawline with his fingers, he resumed, "When your hard work is equivalent to your debt, we call it even."

"Isn't there any other way that I can settle my debt without having to become your slave?" Leon mumbled.

Seishirou narrowed his eyes at his guest. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"Nothing, nothing!" Leon shot back rapidly as he frantically waved his arms up and down. "So, er, when do I start?"

"Today," Seishirou answered. "We have to have a small welcoming party just between you and me."

"But, after doing so much for me already..."

Ignoring him, Seishirou continued to uncharacteristically gush, "And we can't have a party without good sake and good fish." He then snapped his fingers; a brilliant thought came to him. "That's it. Why don't you go shop for the ingredients? I don't think it's that tedious of a task. I'll pay you back later." With that said, Seishirou slipped his fingers into his robe and pulled out a folded piece of paper, holding it out towards his new part-timer in the process.

"...Wait a minute," Leon breathed evenly as he accepted the paper. "Asking me to go shopping? This doesn't feel like my welcoming party at all!"

All of the Ranger's protests were quickly snuffed out by his new employer. Once it was clear to him that the argument wasn't going to swing in his favour, Leon relented and numbly excused himself to complete his given task. He was so caught up in his thoughts that he had forgotten about the place's labyrinth-like interior. Luckily for him, Seito chose at that exact moment to make his presence known and became Leon's guide once again.

Both of their shadows shrunk until they disappeared from the surface of the shōji doors, leaving Seishirou as the only occupant of the room. Without having anything better to do, he indulged in his sake, drinking cup after cup up until the very last drip. Remarkably, he did not give in to intoxicating effects of the alcoholic beverage despite consuming a rather large amount of it. Just when he thought of taking a wee nap, he spotted a small shadow through the large translucent paper which was the main component of these kinds of doors.

"Come in, Caedes," Seishirou replied to the Pikachu's unspoken question. "I know it's you."

On cue, on the doors slid aside, revealing the Pikachu who had a distinctively diagonal scar in between his eyes. There was an unusually sombre expression plastered on his face as he refused to meet Seishirou's gaze. Fighting the urge to even take a small glimpse at the human, Caedes tenderly asked, "Seishirou..., can we talk... about yesterday?"

When the impulse to smile came to Seishirou, he did little to suppress it. Coincidentally, the sapphire-eyed human was thinking of having this conversation with Caedes when he came back from Eclipse's restaurant but he had to put that on hold as he was extremely exhausted from treating Leon. He responded in an affection-laced tone, "Of course, Caedus-kun."

The Pikachu slowly looked up at his Trainer, his facial expression now neutral. Going through his memories, he failed to recall the last time Seishirou had referred to him by that affectionate term. Gradually, his features shifted to the positive end of the emotion spectrum as the corners of his mouth arched upward.

"Thank you, Seishirou."

The corporal-ranked Ranger flipped his cellphone closed with a sigh. As he had expected, he was given quite an earful from Commander Flynn when he decided to inform the latter of the recent events that had prevented him from contacting the main HQ immediately after the completion of his mission. Despite his reservations on not being completely honest with his superior, he ultimately chose to omit the parts involving his new employer. Leon stood rigidly in the supermarket's produce aisle as Commander Flynn lambasted him through his phone. He did not know how long his superior's tirade was going to last but he bore it all silently. Perhaps that was the reason why he escaped with just a warning.

"Look on the bright side," he respired tiredly as he dug his right ear with the tip of his right index finger in a screwing motion. "At least I got that off my chest. If I'd delayed in contacting Commander Flynn for just another day, he might have stripped me of my ranking without a second thought." Immediately after that, Leon shook his head from side to side. "Now then, time to focus on my given task." He browsed through the different kinds of vegetables before him, searching for the one specified in the shopping list. "Ah, there you are." He reached his hand out and grabbed a red-coloured pepper. Looking at the price tag, a frown crossed his features. Leon complained, "Ugh, this thing is so expensive. That slave driver is lucky that I brought some extra cash. He better make good on his promise to pay me back." Dropping the fruit into his shopping basket, he took out the shopping list to cross it out. "Let's see, the only things that are left are Tynamo and Remoraid meat. The meat aisle then."

Said aisle was located on the other side of the rather large supermarket so Leon had to put up with the strain exerted on the muscles of his right arm by the heavy shopping basket as he trod towards his penultimate stop with heavy steps. It did not help his cause when there were many people in the establishment at that current moment but Leon had grown used to them ever since his mother started bringing him along during her trips to the supermarket back home. Finally arriving at the meat aisle, he placed the shopping basket down with a huff.

Softly massaging his right shoulder, Leon began looking for the types of white meat Seishirou had wanted him to buy. The Tynamo meat proved easy enough to find since the EleFish Pokemon were native to the waters surrounding Caelum City. The Remoraid meat, however, was a different story altogether. That particular species of Pokemon seldom migrate far from Johto and given the immense distance between that region and Caelum City, the probability of catching them at the latter location was almost zero per cent. Therefore, Remoraid meat was seen as somewhat of a rare delicacy among the residents of Caelum City. The stock of Remoraid meat often disappeared from the shelves just a day after they were put there. Talks of importing the meat from Johto emerged but the members of the city council rejected those notions almost immediately under the basis that they wanted the city's people to be self-reliant.

Leon knew this and would have called it a day had Seishirou not requested for just a single packet of the aforementioned meat. He thought that giving up just because he could not find a single item would be a massive blow to his Ranger pride; therefore, Leon soldiered on with his search for the specific kind of white meat. Fifteen minutes had passed and the Hoenn native still had not found what he was looking for. His patience was a mere hair's breath away from snapping until he saw it: the elusive Remoraid meat. There was just a single, moderate-sized packet of the meat lying on the shelf in front of him. His fingers - trembling as they reached for it - grasped one of the packet's edges. Breathing out a huge sigh of relief, Leon began to pull it towards him. The fact that it was suddenly jerked away from him did not escape his notice.

The Ranger turned his neck sharply towards the perpetrator who had his own fingers on one edge of the packet. The guy had shaggy, light brown hair with a reddish tint to it, blue eyes and rather pale skin. The bags under his eyes gave Leon the impression that the brown-haired guy did not sleep all that well. Tall and thin, he wore a green T-shirt under a navy blue hoodie which was about halfway zipped up. As Leon's eyes settled on the lower half of his body, he inwardly cringed. The pale-skinned boy was attiring a pair of frayed jeans with the left side of the pants completely ripped out from the knee down. Freedom of expression was one thing but Leon opined that it should not overstep the boundaries to the point of it being seen as indecent.

"Yo," the brown-haired boy drawled. "Name's Will Flowers."

"...Leon Strife," returned Leon with equal indifference.

Further exchange of words was halted as the two boys stared at each other, awaiting for the topic of conversation to be introduced. Both were curious as to who would take the initiative in the rather awkward meeting between strangers. Seconds ticked by and before they knew it, a full minute had passed with the core ingredient of the colloquy still remaining elusive. It unexpectedly became a game of patience between the civilian and the peacekeeper. The game corresponded with everyone's expectations, if there were any spectators to begin with: David failed to engineer an upset over Goliath.

"Do you mind letting go?" Will asked with a hopeful tone.

Giving the blue-eyed teen a glazed, half-lidded glare, Leon deadpanned, "Shouldn't it be the other way around?"

"I've gone through five supermarkets in order to get some Remoraid meat so you should relinquish your hold on the 'sacred delicacy' in an act of kindness and understanding." The volume of Will's voice had risen considerably.

A vein popped in Leon's head. "Oh yeah, I passed out in a forest with a high fever that nearly killed me and woke up to find myself under forced servitude to a guy who seems intent on making me work for him until I'm buried six feet under!" He added, "If anyone's in serious need of a break here, it's me!"

"Really? I'm sorry," Will apologized sincerely. Immediately after that, he sang a different tune. "Wait a minute. Actually, I'm not sorry because I'm not so naive as to believe everything a stranger tells me, especially a tale that ludicrous in nature." A light bulb suddenly lit up in his head. "I know how to solve this problem. The solution is both fair and easy to understand." Will then pointed his finger at Leon and asked, "How old are you?"

Leon knew where Will was going by asking him that specific question but he humoured the latter all the same. "Eighteen."

"That settles it then," Will stated. "Since I'm younger than you by one year, you just have to play the role as the kind-hearted elder and allow me to walk away with the prize in hand." He slowly tugged the packet of Remoraid meat closer to him. "You understand, don't you?"

"If you're really gonna play the age card," Leon said as he tightened his hold on the thing they were both vying for, "then it should be you who lets go, seeing as you are younger than me and need to respect your elders."

Will shot back, "Respect is earned, not given so that means your point isn't valid!" The seventeen-year-old Unova native took a deep, calming breath before he calmly suggested, "Look, why don't you give me the Remoraid meat and I'll pay for all that stuff you have in your shopping basket? It's a pretty good deal if ya ask me."

"No thanks," Leon refused. "This is my first day on the job. Despite what I feel about my new employer, I don't what to disappoint him by not coming back with the vital component to tonight's dinner. Now, if you be so kind-" The Pokemon Ranger grasped the packet of meat tightly. "-let go!"

"No, you let go! I promised my sister that I'll be cooking fish tonight and she's getting it!"

"Like I care! My name is much cooler than yours! What kind of surname is 'Flowers' anyway?"

"Insulting my family name, huh? How the high standards set by the elders of the past have fallen," Will bemoaned in dramatic fashion. "I now can't even entertain the thought of letting you walk away with this valuable source of protein after being utterly disrespected. I demand retribution!"

Leon snipped, "Denied. If it involves handing the Remoraid meat over to you in any way, then you can forget it. Just stop it with your stalling and get your little fingers off of this item this instant!"

"As if! There's no way I'm letting you have it. Gimme!"

"No, you gimme!"



"Stop copying me!"

"Like I'd do something that embarrassing!"

"Oh yeah!"


The pair continued to trade insults, failing to achieve a compromise that would leave both parties satisfied. Some shoppers came across the argument; most of them turned a blind eye to it and went about their business while others lingered for a while before too becoming bored of the debacle and distancing themselves from the rather humorous scene. Eventually, both Will and Leon ran out of ammunition and settled on simply glaring at one another. Each hoped that intimidation could force the other to back down but both failed to accomplish this. They sighed in unison.

Leon suggested, "Why don't we go outside? I think that we both need a dose of fresh air to help us resolve this dilemma."

"Fine," Will concurred with Leon's suggestion. "In regards to who's paying for the Remoraid meat, let's just split it equally."

Nodding at the brown-haired teen, Leon relinquished his hold on the item and followed the former as he led Leon over to a checkout lane. There, they each paid for their own groceries and half the value of the meat as per Leon's suggestion. Will then passed the packet of meat to Leon and exited the supermarket with the latter following closely behind.

"Are you sure that there's no other alternative?" Leon asked as he hesitantly grabbed a Poke Ball from his belt and enlarged it.

"If there was, then I would've thought 'bout it by now," Will responded, balancing an expanded Poke Ball on the tip of his index finger. "Unless you've been living under a rock for your whole live, you should know that a Pokemon battle is the go-to method when a problem remains unresolved after people have exhausted all the options available to them. It's unbiased, unprejudiced and above all else, fair. The winner gets the spoils while the loser is left to lick the wounds. There are also almost no loopholes on which you can exploit to alter the tide in your favour. Need I say more?"

Leon shook his head and replied, "Nah, I get you."

Though he knew that there will be times that he would have to use his Pokemon to resolve conflicts, he just wished that those clashes of opinion did not arise because of stupid matters like food. He did not like to use his Pokemon unnecessarily, a belief coalesced from his multiple meetings with Professor Hastings. According to the professor, Pokemon should be treated as partners and not expendable tools, hence Leon's preference for Capture Stylers over Poke Balls. He would much rather tame a Pokemon and release it immediately instead of containing it inside a spherical device but some situations - especially when he was off-duty - left him little choice but to pick the second option; he was therefore thankful that his Pokemon were very understanding of his position. It was rather unethical to have six Pokemon follow you in the open anyway. In spite of all his Pokemon having received some degree of formal training in the Pokemon Ranger Corps, their natural instinct to show off their strength like any other Pokemon remained intact. The only way to quench their thirst for battle was to involve them in Pokemon battles, something that Leon was extremely hesitant on doing at first after having left the circuit to become a Pokemon Ranger. Gradually, he found himself regaining a bit of the passion he had when he was an active Trainer. As a result, the issues he had with Pokemon battles started to become non-existent; heck, he began viewing them as practice sessions to improve on his leaderships skills in preparation for the day when he would officially lead a squadron of Pokemon Rangers on a mission.

Musings aside, the two boys had resumed their discussion outside the supermarket in a more civilized manner and ultimately settled on having a Pokemon battle. Next, they figured out the location to have the battle: Caelum City Park. It was pretty spacious so they could have their battle without attracting the attention of people of the overzealous sort. After a tough day for both of them - Will still refused to believe Leon's recounting of the events that plagued him - they did not want strangers nosing in about their business.

"To tell ya the truth, battling's really not my thing," Will revealed nonchalantly.

Leon's brows furrowed in bewilderment. "Then why you'd suggest this in the first place?"

"Doesn't mean I'm bad at it," Will responded with a small grin. "Just means that you have the advantage here, given you're participatin' in the Zenith League and all." The blue-eyed boy curled his index finger and allowed the Poke Ball to settled in the palm of his hand. "Too late to back down now. Huh, bummer. Oh well." He cleared his throat. "Go, Flareon!"

The Fire-type evolution of Eevee emerged from her Poke Ball in a bright sparkle and landed on the ground, letting loose a determined snarl.

Upon seeing his opponent's Pokemon, Leon was tempted to switch the Poke Ball he held in his hand with the one attached furthest to the left side of his belt as it contained a Pokemon which would serve to put Will's Flareon at a severe disadvantage. He dismissed that thought instantly. It was simply not in his character to be satisfied with easy victories.

"I just hope that my sense of honour doesn't come to bite me in the butt," Leon said to himself. "Umbreon, show them what you got!"

Unlike her Fire-type counterpart, Umbreon cut a more relaxed figure as she landed gracefully on all fours and sat down on her haunches, eyeing her opponent silently.

Will grumbled, "You pityin' me or something? I know from your body language that you were contemplatin' on switchin' Poke Balls just now. If I would have to guess, it probably contains either a Rock-type or Ground-type, maybe even a Pokemon that has both of those typings."

"This guy has the makings of a good interrogator," Leon mused, mildly impressed by Will's observational skills. "No, I am not," he denied. "I want this battle to be fought with each side having his own fair chance at victory. Having a handicap over my opponent doesn't sit well with me at all. My Ranger pride doesn't permit me to settle for anything less than a hard-fought win."

"Geez, all are Pokemon Rangers this uptight?" Will huffed. "A 'no' would've suffice. All that talk about honour and pride, I don't dig it."

Leon barely managed to stifle a gasp. "How can you not comprehend the nature and significance of those two fairly simple concepts?"

Will rolled his eyes. "Look, it's not that I don't understand them," he began, "it's just that I don't want to complicate my life by wrapping my mind around unnecessary crap. It's better to simply believe the things in life rather than waste your time trying to comprehend them. Scientists are the most troublesome lot. They always seek to convince people to accept their theories and are so unbelievably arrogant that they do not even consider the possibility that their opinions may be flawed. On another note, the debates that are televised live are sometimes completely ridiculous. I don't understand why people would want to claim that Mew is the true Creator when Arceus has held that title since the beginning of time. And so what if that claim was somehow proven to be true? The only thing that would change is that all forms of worship will be centered around Mew instead of Arceus. As for the guy who came with this wacky theory, he'll just get braggin' rights. Life'd be much simpler if people didn't seek to question everything around them all the time. Call me ignorant if you must but I'd much rather stay the ignorant fool I am instead of wasting my time thinking about stupid stuff. Setting out to prove what is right and what is wrong - it's just not worth it. I'm content with the way I live my life... and I'm not looking to change it anytime soon."

"You... have a good point there," Leon murmured. It was exactly how he behaved towards Seishirou earlier. Had he simply given Seishirou the benefit of a doubt, then he would not have discovered that he had almost died. As a result, he was now forced to live with that memory for the rest of his life. Granted, it wasn't as bad as the memory of his first kill - he still could not get the image of the Rocket operative's head exploding from impact with the bullet he had shot - but it still weighed heavily on his mind.

"Whatevs," Will dismissed Leon's attempt to flatter him with a wave of his hand. "I think I've rambled enough. Let's get this show on the road."

A competitive grin stretched across Leon's face. "Then I hope you won't mind that we'll start things off!" he exclaimed without warning. "Umbreon, Shadow Ball!"

Said Dark-type Pokemon immediately abandoned her relaxed stance and shifted into one more appropriate for combat in a show of constant alertness. She promptly focused a fraction of her energy in front of her maw; a small, purple orb of energy came into existence almost immediately. It gradually got bigger and bigger until it was roughly the size of a soccer ball. Narrowing her eyes at Will's Pokemon, she jumped up, arched her back inwards and fired the spherical projectile at Flareon.

"Hey, no fair!" Will yelled out indignantly. "I wasn't ready yet!"

"Too bad, so sad," Leon cheekily replied.

"Grr, I'll show 'em," Will growled as he regarded the Ghost-based attack that was zooming towards his Pokemon. "The best defence is a good offence. Flareon, use Flame Charge!"

Flareon duly obeyed as she stood up on her hind legs and slammed her front legs into the ground. She repeated this motion several times until a large cloud of dirt and dust enshrouded her entire body. A second ticked by before the Flame Pokemon jumped out of the dust cloud enveloped in flames and dashed forward. She met the Shadow Ball head-on and this resulted in an small explosion. The Ghost-based move did little to deter the Fire-type Pokemon as she continued on her sprint towards her opponent.

"Dodge it, Umbreon!" Leon commanded.

The Moonlight Pokemon hastily dodged and rolled to her left, barely avoiding the charging Flareon. She still suffered superficial damage though as the flames surrounding her opponent licked and singed small patches of her fur on the right side of her body.

"Again. Flame Charge," Will repeated his order.

Maintaining the cloak of flames, Flareon angled her body to the side and planted her legs on the ground, creating a small wave of pebbles in the process. Akin to a professional racer, she took advantage of the leftover momentum stored in her body to swerve around so that her opponent re-entered her sights. The Flame Pokemon proceeded to dash at her target once again.

"That Flareon's got some pretty good understanding of how its body works," Leon assessed with a trained eye. "I guess there's no point in having Umbreon feel her opponent out. We're in for a tough battle." Swinging his right arm outward, Leon instructed, "Halt that Flareon's charge with Dark Pulse."

The Dark-type evolved form of Eevee threw her head from side to side and raised her upper body so that she was standing on her hind legs. Umbreon then slammed her front legs onto the ground and lowered her jaws, releasing a beam of black and purple circles at the incoming, fire-cloaked Flareon.

"The superior power of Dark Pulse should cancel out that cloak of flames and hopefully inflict some damage on Flareon," Leon thought hopefully.

Will snorted. "Convert Flame Charge to Fire Spin," directed he.

Flareon smirked as she dug her heels into ground, effectively changing her method of movement from sprinting to sliding. While continuing to slide forward, the Flame Pokemon began to repeatedly execute 360-degree spins. Then, she abruptly shed her cloak of fire and manipulated the flames so that they swirled around her in a rather lengthy diameter. She just went from being encompassed in a cocoon of flames to being enclosed in a mini-tornado of fire.

The collision of attacks of contrasting energies resulted in a surge of light from the point of contact, forcing Leon and Will to shut their eyes to avoid being blinded by the extreme radiance. Once the light died down, both teens opened their eyes: they saw that the mini-tornado was still actively swirling around Flareon, thereby coming to the conclusion that Flareon's Fire Spin had cancelled out Umbreon's Dark Pulse.

"Good work, Flareon," Will complimented his Pokemon as he watched her dispel the bright red flames.

In response to her Trainer's praise, Flareon executed a back-flip and yipped happily.

Leon was stunned, not to the point that his mind would shut down but stunned nonetheless. "How did that happen?" Leon pondered aloud. "On paper, Dark Pulse is more powerful than Flame Charge. The result should have been the other way around."

Will decided to entertain his opponent's curiosity. "You're correct," he began. "Your Umbreon's Dark Pulse should have overpowered my Flareon's Fire Spin. As you can see, it didn't go according to your plan. The reason behind this phenomenon is that I had my Flareon utilize a simple tai chi technique."

"Tai chi?" Leon echoed.

"Yup," Will confirmed. "Had the attacks collided in a linear manner, then the expected outcome would have occurred. Flareon prevented that from happening by releasing her attack in a circular pattern. This is where tai chi comes into play. The essential point of t'ai chi ch'uan or tai chi as it known in several parts of the world is to repel an opponent's attacks with a circular movement. It works especially well against attacks that are linear in nature. The whole concept is pretty easy to understand, right?"

"...Ingenious," Leon whispered breathlessly. He was beginning to think that Will was hiding his true potential so that it would throw him off his game. Leon's suspicions did hold merit this time because Will's Flareon had proven to be quite versatile in battle. In his opinion, a Pokemon simply could not attain that level of prowess without the guidance of a good Trainer. The Pokemon Ranger's internal debate did not go unnoticed by his opponent who sought to take full advantage of his momentary lapse of concentration.

Will shouted, "Quick Attack, Flareon!"

His combatant swiftly charged at Umbreon with a white streak trailing behind her. The Eeveelutions - save for Jolteon and Espeon - were average in the speed department so it wasn't all that difficult for a well-trained Pokemon to avoid their dash-type techniques. In Will's Flareon's case, however, multiple usages of Flame Charge had upped her speed to a point where she could rival her Electric and Psychic-type counterparts in that area. This fact slipped Umbreon's mind so she was stunned when Flareon rammed into her with greater speed than she had expected, sending her flying backwards and crashing into the ground.

Umbreon's cry of pain knocked Leon out of his thoughts as he uncharacteristically growled at Will. "No fair!" Leon squalled. "My head wasn't in the game at that time!"

"Too bad, so sad," Will mocked Leon in a sing-song voice. He then focused his attention back to the battle.

Stifling a growl of annoyance, Leon assessed the terrain around him. His eyes darted left and right as he searched for anything that could aid him in regaining some momentum from Will. "Let's see," he said as he began his analysis of the battlefield. "The ground seems to be mostly even so Dig would work wonders here. Even better, Flareon is weak against an attack of that typing. Unfortunately, Umbreon doesn't have that move in her arsenal. Of all the times where I wished that I had bought that damn TM. Ugh, no point cryin' over spilled milk." He gazed about the battlefield again and spotted something that could turn the tide in his favour: a mid-sized boulder that was slanted at a 45-degree angle. "That could work."

Just as Leon concluded his examination of the combat zone, Will gave out his next command. "Give that Umbreon another Quick Attack."

Like she did before, Flareon charged at her opponent, keeping her body low to the ground to reduce air resistance and increase the magnitude of impact.

"Use that boulder behind you, Umbreon!" Leon instructed steadfastly.

Though her Trainer's instruction was a bit on the vague side, Umbreon knew exactly what he wanted her to do. Picking herself up, she back-flipped upwards and planted her hind feet on the surface of the boulder. She then accumulated some energy into her hind legs by bending them slightly and launched herself over her assailant.

Will caught on to Leon's plan immediately. "So he's hoping that Flareon crashes into the boulder, huh?" he deduced. "Hmph, not if I have anything to say about it." He quickly shouted, "Agility, Flareon - on the double!"

With only a inch left to spare, Flareon gained a nice burst of speed as she rocketed up to the top of boulder. To onlookers, it looked as though she had teleported there in a flash. Pivoting herself around, the Flame Pokemon leapt off the peak of the boulder so that she was now hovering over Umbreon. Without awaiting a cue from her Trainer, she raised a paw to strike her adversary.

"Look out, Umbreon!" Leon alerted the Moonlight Pokemon.

The Dark-type Pokemon sensed the urgency in her Trainer's tone and swung her body around so that she facing Flareon in mid-air. The former tried to shield herself from harm but Flareon managed to find an opening in her defence and promptly slammed her right paw into her Dark-type counterpart's stomach. This knocked the wind out of Umbreon as she hurtled downward and collided with the hard ground on her left side; she elicited a whimper of pain.

A golden opportunity presented itself to Will as an upset was on the cards. "Flareon, end it with Fire Blast."

Still up the air, Flareon took a deep breath as red-yellow fire started to seep out of her mouth. She then released a powerful stream of flames at her opponent. As it got closer and closer to Umbreon, the front of the stream of fire formed into a star-shaped blast.

Despite staring at an imminent defeat, Leon remained cool and collected as he calmly ordered, "Use Counter, Umbreon."

This admirable trait of Leon's was reflected in Umbreon as well as she slowly got back onto her feet. Eyeing the approaching torrent of flames from the corner of her eye, she took in a big intake of air before she started humming. On cue, her body became outlined in orange and just in time too as Flareon's attack came into contact with her. Instead of engulfing her in an inferno, the attack was sent flying back to the Flame Pokemon.

Will's eyes widened at the unexpected turn of events. "Brace yourself, Flareon!" he yelled.

Flareon only had time to curl up into a ball before the Fire Blast scored a hit on her, resulting in a big blast. A giant sphere of black smoke hung in the air as the three living entities on the ground stared up at it with bated breath, pondering on the fate of the Pokemon trapped within it. Suddenly, a wheel of fire shot down from under the cloud of smoke and struck the battlefield. It spun on the spot for a brief moment before the flames dissipated to reveal a fairly undamaged Flareon. On a side note, her body was emitting a reddish glow for brief a moment before it subsided completely.

"Eh, Will's Flareon doesn't seem to have suffered any damage at all," Leon whispered in slight confusion. "How's that possible? Even though it's resistant to Fire-based attacks, that Fire Blast should've at least inflicted some superficial damage." After quickly listing all the facts about the Fire-type Eeveelution in his head, understanding finally dawned upon him. Glancing towards Will, Leon mouthed, "Flash Fire."

A smile descended upon Will's features. "Spot-on, my man," he confirmed. "Flash Fire makes the user immune to Fire-based attacks and the first it's activated, it enhances the power of the user's Fire-based moves by a factor of two." Scratching his head lightly, he absentmindedly murmured, "I know that I'm weaker at Pokemon battling but are you sure you want to be giving me handicaps? It doesn't make me feel good at all."

Leon half-heartedly glared at his opponent and softly grumbled, "He's still adamant about that? Doesn't he realize that his performance so far has done nothing but proven the exact opposite?" The Hoenn native sighed tiredly and ruffled his hair. "In any case, I'm in real trouble here. Flareon has the greatest offence of all the Eeveelutions... and I'm seriously not doing myself any favours by powering it up even more. Wait a minute, that's it." At that moment, he recalled watching the Twinleaf Festival on the LCD TV back home about two years ago. It was a pretty decent tournament but the final match left a big impression on him. In that match, Tower Tycoon Palmer's opponent whom Leon believed to be known as Ash 'Satoshi' Ketchum had his Grotle swallow an Energy Ball. Though it was accidental, it gave the Grotle a boost in power so massive that it pushed Palmer's Rhyperior all the way to the brink before falling to the Drill Pokemon. A grin crossed his face. "Two can play at that game. Umbreon, ready a Shadow Ball!"

Umbreon nodded and opened her maw to begin prepping the Ghost-based move.

"Oh, no you don't!" Will interjected. "Flame Charge, Flareon!"

Just like she did, she stomped her front legs onto the earth and encompassed herself in flames before surging towards Umbreon. Speaking of Umbreon, she had already finished preparing her Shadow Ball the moment Flareon launched her attack.

"Swallow it, Umbreon!" Leon shouted passionately. "Then counter with Shadow Claw."

Despite feeling a bit apprehensive, Umbreon had faith in her Trainer's plan so she duly complied with it. She swiftly snapped her jaws closed around the ball of malicious energy and gulped it down. She felt it burst into many particles which infused into her aura coils and gave her a much needed spike in both power and energy. The impact of this unorthodox tactic also showed externally as her body took on an ethereal, purplish glow. Umbreon had no time to revel in the powerful feeling she was feeling though as Flareon was closing in fast. She swiftly held out her left paw to the side and coated it with dark energy; three claws then erupted from her energy-coated paw, signifying the completion of the attack. Umbreon pulled it back before she swung it at the fire-cloaked Flareon.


What came from the concussion of the attacks was a fairly big shockwave which shook the surrounding area. The multiple Pidove flying off the trees and into the sky accentuated this fact. Flareon and Umbreon exerted everything they had to gain control of the battle. Just when it looked like Umbreon was winning the clash, Flareon brought them back to a stalemate and vice versa. The Fire-type Eeveelution decided that she had had enough and began to push Umbreon back with all her might. Umbreon gritted her teeth and dug her feet deep into the ground but she still found herself getting inched backwards bit by bit.

"Come on, Umbreon!" Leon urged her. "You are Ranger-trained Pokemon. Show 'em your Ranger pride!"

Umbreon found the time to huff and roll her eyes despite being pressured by her opponent. She loved her Trainer dearly but she simply could not stand his mutterings of 'the Ranger pride'. The Moonlight Pokemon almost always ended up with a headache every time Leon droned on and on about it. However, she agreed with him on one matter: she was a Ranger-trained Pokemon, and she would show their opponents her resolve. With her heart set on that, she siphoned a large portion of the energy she received from consuming the Shadow Ball into the Shadow Claw; the purple flames that erupted from the claw symbolized the amount of power the Shadow Ball had gifted her. With a passionate growl, she pushed against Flareon with all her might, the purple flames resonating with her determination. Persevering greatly, she finally managed to swing the Shadow Claw in a full arc and cancel out Flareon's fire cloak in an instant.

Will's eyes widened in disbelief. "N-No way."

"Yes!" Leon exuberantly exclaimed. "This is your chance, Umbreon. Don't waste it."

She did not need to be told twice as she swung the blunt side of the Shadow Claw - the flames had been cancelled out together with Flareon's Flame Charge - into the gut of the staggered Flareon, causing the latter to hunch forwards. Umbreon wordlessly removed the Shadow Claw from Flareon's gut and slammed it onto her Fire-type counterpart's chin, launching her slightly into the air and exposing her abdomen. The Dark-type Pokemon then deftly dispelled the Shadow Claw, jumped backwards and shot a Shadow Ball at the Flame Pokemon. The Ghost-based move exploded upon contact with Flareon and sent her tumbling backwards until she ended up about five feet from where her Trainer was standing.

"Flareon..." Will did not went to his Pokemon but instead crouched down. Despite his concern for her, he would not interfere until he was sure that she could not continue on with the fight. "You okay, girl?"

His soothing voice stirred Flareon awake. Slowly, she adjusted her body's position and strained herself to stand up. She stumbled a few times but she refused to throw in the towel. Her tenacity finally yielded success as she accomplished the strenuous feat of standing up. Satisfied, she fell down on her rump, panting heavily.

The Flame Pokemon had given Will her answer as the human shuffled closer to her. The Unova native scratched behind her left ear, eliciting a tired purr from Flareon. Glancing over at Leon, he announced, "You win."

Leon nodded in understanding and petted his Umbreon before returning her back into her Poke Ball. He then ambled over to Will who was now cradling Flareon in his arms. "That was a nice battle," Leon said. "If I had not reacted the way I did, you would've won."

Will shook his head. "Unlikely," he disagreed with Leon's view. "Though it may seem that I could've clinched victory there, it was truly never within my grasp. We never had a chance."

"But your Flareon performed admirably there," Leon interjected. "Shouldn't you have more faith in its ability?"

"It's not about having faith in her, it's about being realistic," Will replied. "I don't train my Pokemon that often. When I do, it's usually to help out with my sister's training. Now, I'm sure that you're thinking that Flareon's performance would serve as a good counter-argument to my own claim so I'll just explain why that point is irrelevant." He swallowed before he continued, "Flareon always had a talent for battling ever since she was a young Eevee. That's why she showcased some brilliant battle sense back there. However, I never took the time to back up her talent with hard work because I just don't possess the drive to do so. Thankfully, Flareon accepted me for who I am." He added, "She's too kind for battles anyway."

"I see," Leon murmured. "Anyway, about what we've agreed upon..."

The pale-skinned teen smirked lightly at Leon. "I put the Remoraid meat in one of your shopping bags before the battle commenced," he informed Leon. "I've also included something else in there. Consider it as an apology for troubling you."

Leon pulled his lips inward. He was rather hesitant in accepting Will's gift. "Is it really okay?"

"Don't worry," Will assured him. "I have five of 'em to spare. It's no trouble, really."

"...Okay," the brown-eyed Pokemon Ranger sighed. "Thanks, I guess."

Will responded with a nod and turned his back to Leon. "Hope you enjoy the Remoraid meat and my little gift." With that said, he went over to the bench where he had left his shopping bags and left the area with them.

The Pokemon Ranger stared at Will's departing form for a while before he traipsed over to his own shopping bags. Feeling curious, he dug into one of them and pulled out a very unusual item. He did not remember putting the thing in his shopping basket so he guessed that Will must've put it there.

"...What is this?" Leon wondered. "It's not anything that I've seen before."

"So that's why?" Seishirou queried.

When Leon got back to Seishirou's place, Seito had led him back to the room where he and Seishirou had their discussion. There, Seishirou mentioned that three hours had passed since Leon left the house and inquired as to why he took so long to accomplish his task. Already weary after the day's events, Leon tiredly recalled them to Seishirou.

"...Yeah," Leon confirmed. "That's why. I'm sorry."

Seishirou absentmindedly took a drag off his cigarette and set it down on the ash tray. "Apologies aren't necessary in this case," he told Leon. "I wouldn't have minded if you did not bring back any Remoraid meat, you know. I know of their rarity around these parts so that's why I did not bold them like the other items on the list."

Leon found the ground more interesting to look at. "It's just... this is my first day on the job as your assistant. I... didn't want to make a bad impression on you."

"You're really that worried about what others think of you?" Seishirou asked, receiving a nod from the Hoenn native. He sighed. "Listen, Strife-kun. The world is harsh, there's no point in denying that. However, humans are capable of being forgiving when it is required of them so don't be afraid about leaving behind bad impressions. If you're really sincere, then you should seek to better yourself... because that's all you can do, okay?"

A hint of a smile appeared on Leon's face. "Okay," he replied softly. "I appreciate the advice."

Sensing that the negativity surrounding his part-timer had dissipated, Seishirou moved on to other topic. He randomly uttered, "To be honest, I didn't expect you to come back with the Remoraid meat but you've proven me wrong. Therefore, you deserve a prize."

The Pokemon Ranger groaned and gazed pleadingly at his employer. "Do I really have to accept it?"

"It's considered rude to not accept compensation from someone who's sincere," Seishirou responded evenly.

Leon's shoulders sagged forward. "Alright, alright," he conceded. "What do I get?"

Seishirou held up a hand. "I didn't say that I would be giving it to you now," he said. "Take your mind off it by making dinner, 'kay?"

"What?" Leon shouted without warning. It was as if all the aching in his bones had left him. "Why do I have to cook dinner? Isn't it supposed to be my welcoming party?"

"Even though that's true, I didn't say who was going to be doing the cooking so I decided to let you do it," Seishirou countered mirthfully. "I want some Tynamo sashimi for the first course and grilled Remoraid with roasted corn and red pepper salsa for the second course."

The younger of the two teens gaped like a Magikarp. He raised a finger and pointed it at Seishirou. "Don't you go making orders as if I'm your waiter," Leon growled. "Do you have an idea how hard it is to make sashimi and how long it takes to prepare the second dish? You are being extremely unfair, you... you slave driver!"

Seishirou took all of Leon's complaints in stride with a smirk on his face. "In order," he began, "you are my assistant so you should have no trouble accepting my orders, I do realize how hard it is to make sashimi because I've done it before, I don't care how long it takes, life is generally unfair and yes, I'm proud to be your slave driver." The sapphire-eyed teen then raised a hand and made a 'shooing' motion. "Get to it, then."

Coming to the realization that he could not win the argument, Leon simply gritted his teeth and turned away from Seishirou. He literally stomped to the shōji doors and slid them open but he did not step out of room. He stood like a statue for a whole minute before he turned around, put on his best mean look and faced his employer. Unbeknownst to Leon, Seishirou merely saw a cute pout.

The enigmatic teen tilted his head in innocent fashion. "Yes?"

Leon clicked his tongue and looked away from Seishirou. He grounded out, "I don't know where the kitchen is."

Snorting slightly, Seishirou idly took another puff of his cigarette. All of a sudden, the smoke that he blew out morphed into the shape of a Butterfree which fluttered on the spot.

"H-How did you do that?" Leon questioned as he gazed at the Butterfree in awe.

"I didn't," Seishirou said. "I just blew out the essence, the house did all the rest. Many of my grandmother's houses, including this one, are fairly sentient and are initially wary of strangers, hence the labyrinth-like interior. You've been here for some time so the house has grown accustomed to your presence. It sensed that you bore no ill will towards me or Seito, thus eliminating the need for it to activate its self-defence mechanism. From this point onward, or at least until you leave the kitchen, the hallways shall become easier to navigate through."

A sigh of relief was expelled from Leon's lungs. His employer did not realize how glad Leon felt about not having to traverse that web-like network of hallways again. Just like that, he had forgotten all about his anger towards Seishirou. The Butterfree chose that exact moment to flutter out of the room. That small detail did not escape Leon's notice as he moved to follow it.

"Dinner will be ready soon, boss," Leon articulated happily as he jogged after the Butterfree-shaped smoke.

"Funny how a sense of normality could evoke happiness in some beings," Seishirou soliloquized as he poured himself a cup of sake. Just before he could take a sip of the soothing beverage, the moment of serenity was shattered.

"So, that's yer new helper, huh?" a familiar, loud and abrasive voice commented.

The right corner of Seishirou's lips twitched upwards to form a fake half-smile as he set his stereoscopic vision straight ahead. "Aqua," he greeted the Buizel in a very warm tone. "Nice to see you."

"Hey, ya doin' alright there?" she worriedly asked. She sensed something strange about the way Seishirou greeted her. It left her feeling slightly apprehensive for him and herself.

"I'm fine, I'm fine," he dismissed her worries almost too quickly for her liking. He decided to involve himself in a bit of small talk with the Buizel before moving on to the main event. "What do you think of him? Strife-kun, I mean."

Aqua turned her head to the direction where Leon had followed the scout. "The kid?" she mused. "Well, he's alright, I guess. Though, I sense that he's sufferin' some sorta emotional turmoil or somethin' like that. He tries to forget 'bout it but it always comes back to haunt him, just like when he was conversin' with yer little bro. For his sake, I hope he confronts his demons soon. He can't keep going on like this."

"As observant as ever," Seishirou commended her in a sweet tone.

The Sea Weasel Pokemon inwardly shuddered. A little voice in her head told her that she should run but she quickly snuffed it out. "Alright, what da hell is wrong with ya?" Aqua questioned him again. "This small talk and all these compliments ya keep giving me, it's scaring the crap outta me."

"It's just the sake," Seishirou replied instantly. "You know that I get a little giddy if I drink too much."

Seishirou's Pokemon was not entirely convinced but she decided to give him a benefit of doubt. "If ya say so," she responded warily as she stepped inside the room. "So whatcha wanna talk 'bout? Caedes told me that-"



Those sounds froze Aqua solid. Mentally, she was berating herself for not following her voice of reason. Slowly rotating her head to glance over her shoulder, she was shocked to discover that the shōji doors were barricaded with electrified chains.

"Aqua," Seishirou called out to her.

She didn't want to, but she knew that she had to. Aqua turned her head back to its original position, and immediately wished that she had not done so. Her Trainer was coated in a very sinister aura and his spectacles were flashed white. Plus, she was convinced that she saw a purple, spectral demon floating behind him.

"Y-Yes?" the Buizel stammered weakly.

"Let us discuss," he whispered as a baleful smile made its presence known to Aqua, "about that 'talk' you had with Seito earlier."


Miles away in Eterna Forest, an Umbreon yawned as he awakened from his short nap. He had the appearance of an average, everyday Umbreon save for the tuft of snow-white above his left eye. It did not mean he was special in any way; it merely reflected his seniority age-wise. Sauntering over to a nearby lake, he lowered his head into the lake until his muzzle touched the surface of the water and began taking a few gulps of the fresh water. His thrist sated, he pulled back from the water's edge and sat down on his haunches. From the corner of his eye, he saw a couple of Floatzel teaching a young-looking Buizel how to swim. A gentle breeze blew by, gently caressing the fur on his body. He then shut his eyes and took a long, deep breath before receding into his mind.

Five seconds later, Noctis opened his eyes and stifled a chuckle. "You reap what you sow, Aqua. You reap what you sow."

Seishirou slipped the last sliver of his grilled Remoraid into his mouth, relishing the taste as he scooped up the last bit of his red pepper salsa to join it. He chewed and mixed the food with his tongue as he idly examined the pieces of silverware in his hands. Swallowing the mass of food, he washed down any leftover residue sticking along his oesophagus with a cup of koshu sake.

"Was my food... up to your expectations?" Leon, whose new additions to his clothing included an apron and a bandana, asked nervously. He was sitting opposite his employer with his legs folded, tightly gripping a wooden tray. Up until that point, the only person who had experience tasting his food was his mother. She always said that it delicious but Leon always thought that she was saying that just to keep his spirits up. Looking at Seishirou, he doubted that the bespectacled teen would sugarcoat any comment regarding his cooking skills so he was prepared for any criticism Seishirou had for him.

Resting his chin on the back of his palms, Seishirou fixed Leon with a penetrating gaze. "No, it was not up to my expectations, not even close," he harshly criticized his part-timer.

Leon pressed the tray tightly against his chest and cast his eyes downward. Though he somewhat anticipated it, he felt as though his heart had been stabbed with a knife. He loved to cook ever since his mother introduced him to the world of cooking when he was a little boy. He found it relaxing and a great way to relieve stress accumulated from hours of carrying out his Ranger duties. A few tears threatened to fall from his eyes as his body started to quiver with overwhelming sadness.

"Hey, it's too soon to start crying," Seishirou stated, making Leon look up at him with watery eyes. "You didn't let me finish." The Ranger sucked in a sharp breath when Seishirou smiled at him. "It actually exceeded my expectations. You're a good cook, Strife-kun. Granted, you're not up to my level of skill yet but you shouldn't let that bring you down. You'll have lots of opportunities to improve yourself while you're here."

A subtle blush tinted Leon's cheeks. He sheepishly scratched his head and shyly murmured, "Thanks. I'm... glad you enjoyed your meal."

"You're welcome," Seishirou hummed in a relaxed manner. The room was devoid of any sound save for the one evoked from the transfer of sake from its flask to a cup. "The night is still young so-" He intentionally delayed from continuing to take a sip of the alcoholic beverage. "-I'm up from a little chat. When did you discover the wonderful world of cooking, Strife-kun?"

The corporal-ranked Pokemon Ranger was all too eager to share that part of his past with Seishirou. He always felt out of place amongst his comrades since he was worried that they wouldn't find cooking all that interesting of a topic to talk about but with Seishirou who shared a common interest with him, Leon felt a little more outgoing. "Well," he began timidly, "when I was kid, I didn't have a lot of friends. It's not that I was shy or anything like that, I was just... not as lively as the other kids in the neighbourhood. They avoided me because I was different so I ended up staying indoors most of the time. I would just laze about and read books all day long. I would've ended up wearing glasses had Mum not intervened and replaced the books with cooking utensils. That's when I became interested in cooking... and I've forever grateful to her."

Seishirou chuckled, "Remind me to send your mother a congratulatory note for contributing to the decay of the stereotype that males can't cook."

Leon sweatdropped. That sounded weird, even for his employer. He did not know Seishirou managed to say all that with a straight face. "Erm, alright then." His eyes then widened as he remembered something. "Oh, I almost forgot. I have somethin' for desert." The brown-eyed promptly reached behind him and pulled out the item he received from Will.

The bespectacled adolescent raised an eyebrow. He saw a big, yellow star-shaped fruit; big, in a sense that it was as wide as the entire width of Leon's body - discounting his arms - and it shielded his entire chest. The topmost edge had two leaves growing out of it. "Where did you get that?"

His employee cast his gaze down at the fruit. "Spoils of battle, I guess," Leon answered. Tilting the fruit from side to side, Leon said, "I don't know how to serve this actually. I contemplated on cutting it into smaller pieces but I was worried that I wouldn't be able to get the proportions right." When the older teen asked for the fruit, Leon gave it to him without question.

Adjusting his glasses, Seishirou scrutinized the fruit from top to bottom. "The name escapes me," he mumbled in frustration, "but I recall my grandmother telling me about the legend behind this fruit."

"Legend?" Leon got a nod from Seishirou.

"If memory serves me correct, she told me that if two people were to share the fruit, then fate would intertwine their ribbons of destiny together." Seishirou then shrugged. "I could be wrong at some parts but that's how I recalled that particular memory."

"Do you think it's true?"

"Only one way to find," Seishirou replied tersely, gently biting into the fruit. As he pulled away, some of the fruit's flesh tore away from the piece and slid down his chin, trailing juices along his throat. He chewed thoughtfully, an unreadable expression on his face.

Leon, curious, asked, "Is it any good?"

Seishirou merely took another bite of the fruit before handing it over to Leon. Just as the Hoenn native was about to indulge in it, Seishirou informed him, "I think it only works if you bite where I've bitten it."

The eighteen-year-old Pokemon Ranger mutely followed his employer's instructions as he brought the fruit - specifically the part of the fruit that had Seishirou's bite marks - closer to his mouth and sank his teeth into its flesh. Juice spilled out, most of it making its way down the apron he was wearing as he pulled away from the fruit. Swallowing it, he placed the fruit on the table and stared at Seishirou.

Speaking of Seishirou, he narrowed his eyes at his part-timer; the latter was looking a bit misty-eyed. "How do you feel?" he ventured cautiously.

Without warning, Leon started to giggle creepily. "I feel great~," he sighed happily, drawing out the last word. "I feel great, I fleel g-g-g-g-great."

"Damn you," Seishirou hissed, eyeing the fruit on the table with utter contempt.

It was to be a long night for the enigmatic teen as he was unintentionally provided a front row seat to Leon's performance which saw the Ranger display a wide variety of emotions from rage-

"Damn that Commander Flynn!" Leon cursed, banging his fist on the table. "The nerve of that bastard, assigning a mission to me when he knows that I'm on leave from Ranger duty! Thanks to him, I almost died. Well, it's actually my fault as well but most of the blame goes to that piece of crap!" He then directed a heated glare at Seishirou. "And damn you as well! Giving me a task despite knowing that I haven't fully-recovered yet! You and him are the same! You guys deserve each other! I hate him! I hate you! I hate both of you!"

-to giddiness-

"Hey, didya hear, didya hear, didya hear?" Leon asked, positively skittish. "The latest expansion pack to the military science-fiction real-time strategy game 'StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty' is ninety-nine per cent complete. I can't wait to play that game. Sarah Kerrigan is my favourite character in the series, next to Jim Raynor of course. I wanna expand my zerg army, kill Arcturus Mengsk, defeat the protoss/zerg hybrids, kill Arcturus Mengsk and get all the achievements on hard mode. Oh, did I mention that I want to kill Arcturus Mengsk? I hate that bastard."

-to sadness-

"Why does my brother hate me so much?" Leon pondered aloud, bawling his eyes out. "I've done nothing wrong. I told him that I wanna be a Pokemon Ranger just like him so I worked my butt off at the Ranger School. I expected him to be proud of me, but instead he rebukes me for joining the Pokemon Ranger Corps. Why did he say that? What did I do wrong? I wanna bury the hatchet but he just ignores me. Why does he hate me? Why? Why? Why?"

-to extreme longing.

"You know, I never realized how attractive you are," Leon whispered dreamily as he crawled over to Seishirou. "The girl... or guy who manages to court you would be extremely lucky." Oblivious to the intense glare that was directed to him, Leon bashfully continued, "I wish that you can give me a chance. People always mistake me for a thirteen or fourteen-year-old, probably because of my youthful appearance. I don't think that's a bad thing. You like young boys, don't you? I'm pretty cute as well, don't you think?" Seeing Seishirou's stern expression, Leon high level of self-esteem went into freefall. "Nah, I'm too much of a whiner and crybaby for your taste." As if to emphasize the latter adjective, he started crying again. "I'm even unlucky when it comes to my love life."

Seishirou silently prayed for the horror to stop. He did not know how long he could hold out. Luckily for him, Arceus answered his prayers as Leon passed out, leaning against his right arm. Noticing the juice leaking from the fruit, Seishirou ran his left index finger along a puddle of the juice and licked the tip of the finger. The nineteen-year-old then glanced at Leon's flushed face.

"I guess you don't handle alcohol very well, do you?"

The sapphire-eyed young adult carefully laid Leon onto the futon and slowly lowered his head onto the pillow. "Remind me to never allow you to accept strange-looking fruit from strangers again," he quipped lightly as he good-naturedly ruffled Leon's hair. "Oh, almost forgot about your gift."

Seishirou reached behind him and produced a Pokemon Egg. It was predominantly grey and black in colour with red jagged stripes going around the latitudes of the egg. He promptly uncurled the fisted fingers of his right hand, revealing a small yin yang ball which was not only glowing blue but hovering over his palm as well. Bringing it closer to the egg, the ball slowly sunk into the egg without breaking its shell, causing it to glow brightly. Once the light died down, the egg had a different appearance. While the grey and black colours remained present, the jagged stripes were now electric blue and there were strange red markings between the stripes. Feeling satisfied, he placed the Pokemon Egg beside Leon and draped a thick blanket over them.

"You've been quite a handful today, Strife-kun," Seishirou remarked as he made his way to the door. He chanced a look over his shoulder and smiled slightly when he saw that Leon had subconsciously pulled the Pokemon Egg closer to his body. Shaking his head, Seishirou finally step out of the guest room and left his employee to his rest.

The smile lingered on his face as he walked along the corridor. If he went back to the moment he found Leon, he would not change anything. He had his own fair share of regrets but saving Leon's life was definitely not one of them.

Alright, I'm finally done. After this, the attention shall switch back to the tournament. Hope the mock battle in this chapter was a good appetizer for you guys.

You may have noticed that Seishirou is a bit special in a sense that he has some unique talents. Well, those talents are simply what they are, talents. He won't use them to gain an unfair advantage in the tournament nor does he use them all that often. He's not some almighty guy who has the power to kill the legendaries or change the world. While we are on the subject, Seishirou is only capable of manifesting and manipulating Aura to a small extent. He can't form an Aura Sphere. These talents won't have a major impact on the story. In this sense, Seishirou is merely an 'observer', not a 'saviour'.

Regarding the scene with Aqua, the house simply trapped her in an illusion. It's fairly sentient after all.

Leon Strife belongs to Soldier of the Future.

Will Flowers belongs to Will Rune Yagami.

It would make my day if you guys can find the time to press that little blue button down there and provide some reviews.

Arigatou and sayonara.