Hello everybody! Wow, it's been a while since my last update. But it is great to be back. First chapter for the new 2014 year!... Man, I need to work faster.

A quick recap: Alex, Bianca, and Cheren won their first gym badge. Bianca and Cheren are heading off to school (Crazy right?) and Alex (with his new friend Mark) went off to see Dr. Fennel.

This will be a short arc but probably a very important one if all goes well.

Thanks SinCityAssassin for beating.

Enjoy!

Chapter 14:

"Come on, come on!" Bianca squealed as she pulled Cheren toward the doors. "We're going to be late at this rate! And on our first day!"

"Calm down, this isn't preschool," Cheren muttered as he allowed himself to be dragged into the building though he quietly whispered, "And anyways, you were the one who was lagging around to buy shoes." It had taken a while, with many unsubtle hints, but Bianca finally realized that they were going to be late.

"Oh… wow," Bianca gushed as she took in her surroundings.

'Wow' was not quite the reaction Cheren had as he eyed the place. The Striaton Training School, although quite large, looked like any other school he had ever come across.

In the front was a large front desk with a female receptionist behind it. The long hallways in the back were decorated with unused lockers and thick doors that lead into classrooms. There was even a rather plain-looking cafeteria at the end of the hallway that was open, despite the time. Though to Bianca, any new place, regardless of its normality, was going to be exciting and an adventurous experience to her.

"Good evening, are you here for the evening classes?" the receptionist asked politely, not at all surprise to see trainers walking in this late. There seemed to be rather lax dress codes at this school; she was wearing neon pink t-shirt and a comfy pair of faded blue jeans.

"Yep, that's us! This is our first time here! I'm Bianca. Nice to meet you."

"Charmed," the lady smiled sweetly but Cheren could detect a slight hint of sarcasm in her voice. Guess enthusiasm wasn't part of the job description. "Well, as you've probably heard, classes here are free as long as you sign in here." The lady pointed to the clipboard and the pen next to it. "Is there a particular course you would like to attend?"

"Particular… course?"

"We have three levels of difficulty – beginner, intermediate, and master courses. We also subdivide the topics you could learn like 'battling', 'breeding', and such. Not all is based on Pokémon categories of course. There are even things like math, history, reading and writing…"

"Ewww," Bianca grimaced. "That sounds a lot like school back at home."

"Bianca? This is a school, remember?"

"Oh yeahhhh…"

"It's all in the brochure," the lady continued, sounding slightly offended at the response she was getting. "We're the only school that provides a wide variety of subjects to students for free. Anybody can come and learn something."

"Oh okay… Umm, so what do we do…?" Bianca turned to Cheren, hoping he could take over this conversation now.

"Do you have basic trainer courses in battling available?" Although Cheren wanted to take an intermediate or even the master course, Bianca's lack of overall experience made the beginner's course the perfect place to start.

"Oh yes, that's one of our more popular classes," the lady said as she started to type on her computer. "There is one tonight in about fifteen minutes; lead by Dr. Fischer. He's an excellent teacher, a bit eccentric though. Anyways, this will be in… Room 113. Just straight down this hallway and take a left. I already have you in the class pending, but please wear these nametags," she passed them two tags and two slips of paper, "and hold on to these. These are your temporary passes for tonight; you'll need to return them here when you're finished."

"Thanks." Bianca took the cheap laminated cards that read 'VISITOR' in bright red. Cheren was busy sticking his nametag on his blue blazer without wrinkling it.

"If you are interested in taking more classes after today, please come to me for the application form, which after you turn in may take up to two to three work days to be recognized for a permanent student card. Bathrooms are just down this hall if you need to use it and please note that while you're just visiting, you are to abide by the rules of within this school."

"Rules?" Bianca quipped.

"That includes no running in the hallway or disrupting the class. Any food or drink must be consumed in the cafeteria. If you need to use your cellphone, please do it out here and not in the hallway. Any questions?"

"Uhhhhhh…"

"No, we're fine. Thank you very much," Cheren quickly interrupted; he realized the amount of information thrown at Bianca was overwhelming her. Following the woman's instructions, the two trainers walked down the dimly lit hallway. On the wall, there was a large board that showed students from previous years. A glass cabinet next to it displayed trophies and pictures of famous celebrities that came to visit.

"Room 113… Room 113… Here we are." Cheren stopped in front of the open door where light was pouring out onto the dark carpet. The noise coming from the inside of the room suggested that it was pretty packed. Cheren began feeling a bit excited at the prospect of learning from such a well-liked professo-

Cheren caught the sight of a man lazily leaning next to the door. He looked in his thirties, and he wore the strangest attire. He had on a rather long, rusty red overcoat with more patches than pockets. His short and curly red hair was hidden underneath a black top hat and a long ugly gray scarf was wrapped around his neck. He must have forgotten to look at a mirror this morning, given the fact that only half his face was shaved at all and the other half was covered with prickly hairs. In fact, if it weren't for the smell of lilac soap on his clothes and the two clean rows of straight white teeth that formed into a bright smile, he would've easily passed for a homeless person.

"Hello," the man said in a calm voice. "New students?" Cheren could only gape at how the man looked. Bianca, however, only replied by bobbing her head up and down. She held the ticket up delicately, as if it were made of gold; she didn't seem to take note of or mind the man's outfit at all.

"Are you… Dr. Fischer?" Cheren asked tentatively as he wondered who would hire someone dressed as bizarre as this man.

"That I am." The teacher held up his hand to shake and Cheren accepted it with slight trepidation. "And may I ask, what are your names?"

"I'm Bianca and this here is my friend Cheren." Bianca shook Dr. Fischer's hand rather energetically. "It is so nice to meet you too. We heard you are an excellent teacher."

Don't forget eccentric, Cheren thought, still trying to take in the man's outfit.

"That's so nice of you to say. I'll be sure to remember your names. You're not the only new students here today; so don't feel too uneasy. Class is starting now, so find a seat and wait for a minute."

"Okay, come on Cheren, let's go, go, go!" Bianca said, this time pushing Cheren into the room. He could not help but roll his eyes and Dr. Fischer merely chuckled at the sight.

The classroom was almost filled to the max capacity and the sound of chatter echoed in the room. Unlike regular public schools, the age range of the students was extensive. From as old as forty to as young as ten, here they all were, ready to learn the same thing. Cheren and Bianca managed to find two desks side by side and quickly slid into them. A couple of students glanced at them curiously, but they quickly went back to their conversations with their friends, ignoring them. The general response seemed to imply that new students commonly pop up just as suddenly as they leave in this class.

"Good evening everybody," Dr. Fischer's voice boomed through the classroom, his knuckles rapping on part of the board and making a thundering sound. The chatter immediately died and all eyes were on him. He picked up a fresh piece of white chalk and twirled it around his fingers like a baton. "For those who don't know me, I am... Doctor… Fischer." He wrote his name in cursive and in a flourishing manner against the blackboard. "Not Dr. Buchner. Dr. Buchner is the teacher with brown curly hair."

"So, I guess there are two half-shaved homeless men wandering around wearing tattered clothes and black top hats," a red-haired guy, sitting in front of Cheren, mumbled sardonically. The sarcasm resulted in a ripple of giggles, but Dr. Fischer was oblivious to the heckling.

"For newcomers, I would like to welcome all of you. Striaton Training School is for everybody, regardless of past experience and age. You don't just stop learning. I do teach intermediate and master classes, so come by after class today if you are interested," Dr. Fischer continued in a calm voice. "And I know this is sudden for the new students, but I did promise in my last class that we're having an actual practice battle today."

There was now a voice of delight through the group. Cheren and Bianca looked at each other with excitement. How lucky they were to have the rare opportunity to battle in a renowned setting.

"We will have mock battles out at the courtyard;" Dr. Fischer continued to explain, "There will be Pokémon provided by the school for those who do not have one with them. We'll be putting everything we learned to good use, so keep your thinking caps on." He said as he tapped his own head, "Remember the strength and weakness of each type of Pokémon and the varieties attacks that can use. If all of you do well in the mock battles, we might even go out to Route 2 and battle with wild Pokémon. Those of you who have empty Poke balls; I can also teach the basics of catching."

Now there was not a single student silent in the class. Everybody was ripping out their Poke balls in their bags and bouncing up and down in their seats with excitement. Cheren noticed that Bianca looked ready to explode as she stared at Dr. Fischer with impatience.

"BUT," Dr. Fischer grinned in a mischievous way, "Before we begin, let's have a quick pop quiz. Does anybody know exactly what Pokémon stats are?" The question was met with silence from the entire room. "Oh come now, I have discussed this in my previous class and I know I did mention it was a master course subject but still, can anybody give me the definition?"

"Something about the Pokémon's… Ability? Like unique and all?" A female voice piped up from the back of the class.

"Not exactly Sandra, Abilities are something entirely different. More like a unique attribute that can assist a Pokémon in battle. But good effort, I do like participation. Anybody else?"

The class in general was silent though now some were trying to find their notes in their backpacks, hoping to answer the question quickly.

"But, this is our first day of class, so obviously we don't know it," Bianca muttered, feeling relieved. Cheren didn't reply back to her however; instead he raised his hand high into the air.

"Oh you, Cheren, right?" Everybody glanced at new kid.

"Pokémon stats, or statistics, are a numerical approach to a Pokémon's skill classifications that are determined in eight separate fields– HP, Attack, Defense, Special Attack, Special Defense, and Speed."

"Very good," Dr. Fischer said, sounding really impressed. "What can affect the value of the stats of a Pokémon?"

"The level and nature of the Pokémon," Cheren responded immediately. "A Pokémon that grows stronger through battle experiences helps increase their stats while the nature determines which stats can be developed further or inhibited."

"Excellent!" Dr. Fischer said, sounding very pleased. "And a very formal answer I must add." The class looked surprised how quickly the question was answered. Bianca gave thumbs up to Cheren and mouthed out a 'Well done'. Cheren could feel a warm feeling of pride inside at the praise he was getting.

"Yo, Four-Eyes seems pretty smart," a sarcastic voice interrupted. Cheren saw that the comment came from the same red-haired guy who made the mocking remark earlier. He looked slightly older than Cheren and was dressed in outdoor attire. He was also a newcomer and had a nametag that read 'Max'.

"His name is Cheren!" Bianca said, angry at the lack of respect her friend was getting. Max glanced at Bianca for a moment before looking back at Cheren. "Cute girlfriend. So you can do something besides recite words from a textbook?" Max continued with a smirk. Bianca blushed and found herself looking at the table.

"Understanding Pokémon's statistical traits are important for a trainer," Cheren said calmly, not rising to the bait. "Each Pokémon is different, even if they are the same species. Knowing their strength and weakness can help you strategize the best way to battle." Max merely snorted with disbelief.

"You sound skeptical Mr. Max," Dr. Fisher interrupted and stating the obvious. "Would you like to share your opinions on the subject?"

"Well, who cares about that stuff? Shouldn't it be more like, getting to know the Pokémon and bonding with it? You can the strongest Pokémon in the world, but if you and the Pokémon don't get along, then all that stuff is pointless." There was a murmur of agreement among the classmates.

"I didn't say bonding with the Pokémon isn't important," Cheren defended. "But if you want your Pokémon to reach its full potential, you need to understand the technical stuff as well."

"Why should it matter?" Max said, still unconvinced. "Stats are stats. Don't tell me you only choose Pokémon with the best stats and discard the ones who don't fit your 'strategy'."

"That's not what I'm saying," Cheren said, sounding irritated for the first time. "But stats are not something a competitive trainer should just ignore. It is easier to show you than explain."

"Is that a challenge?" There was a hint of disbelief in Max's voice.

"Yeah, maybe I am," Cheren bit back.

"Wonderful!" Dr. Fischer exclaimed. The whole class turned to stare at him.

It's a bit odd when a situation where two students that looked like they were about to deck each other out excited a teacher so much.

"This will be an excellent learning opportunity to show how stats apply to Pokémon battling. Why don't we head to the courtyard and get started?"

On the outskirts of Striaton City…

"Here we are." Mark announced finally as Alex and him approach their destination. They were both carrying rather large duffle bags and the straps were digging into their shoulder blades. Alex paused for a moment to glance at the area before him.

Dr. Fennel was right about one thing – this place was definitely creepy. The cracking columns, the worn down walls, and the crumbling ceilings made the abandoned facility look more like an ancient ruin. The passing gray clouds, leaving everything in almost complete darkness, constantly blocked the silver of the moonlight. Tall grass overran the place, the breeze made them rustle like the sound of footsteps.

"Well, let's put this st-stuff somewhere s-safe and get the rest of the stuff from Dr. F-fennel's place. Shame we can't c-c-carry all of this at once." With both of their flashlights out, Mark shined his around the area, hoping nothing would suddenly pop out. Hanging out with him for a while now, Alex started to realize that the trainer's voice cracked once in a while, though it was not from fear. Mark did not seem to notice and Alex did not feel the need to point it out and ask about it.

After searching around for a bit, they spotted a large, gloomy-looking tree and decided that this was a perfect place to place their stuff. The dead leaves from the branches crackled from above, refusing to let go of their branch with each large gust of wind.

"This place is c-c-creepy. We should hurry and-."

"Do you hear something?" Alex glanced around, suddenly alert. The wind was now howling, but it also carried sounds – a mixture of footsteps, growling, and whispers of people talking.

"Yeah," Mark replied, definitely hearing the noise now. He frowned and had a puzzled look on his face. "What's going on? I thought this place was supposed to be abandoned." The two glanced at each, neither wanted to admit that the possibility of this place could be haunted as well.

"Maybe it's just some Pokémon," Mark finally said though he sounded unsure and laughed nervously. As though to prove him wrong, the noise continued and increased slightly in volume, with the talking more coherent. Alex frowned.

Something was definitely wrong.

"Hey, watch the stuff for a minute. I'll check it out." Alex dropped the duffle bag to the ground and, with only his flashlight, entered the ruins. Unfortunately, the small flashlight did little to uncover the darkness, and instead gave the long dark shadows a more detailed frightening appearance.

"Alex! Wait!" Mark hissed, fumbling with his own flashlight. Another beam of light flashed onto the path before the ruins. There was a crooked sign near the entrance and in peeling words, read 'DANGER'. Without feeling any sense of fear, Alex plunged into the darkness, moving his flashlight around as he hoped to find the source of the noise.

The strange noise finally quieted down into a whisper, but that did not deter Alex from continuing through the area. The jacket he had on did little to block the wind and he could feel goose bumps along his arm. The long grass tangled around his ankles as he tried to press forward.

"Oh, gosh it's way too dark here. Ah, here," Mark took out a Poké ball and threw it into the air. "Come on out!" Out revealed a purple chandelier Pokémon with its black arms tipped with dark purple fire.

"Kihihihihi!" The Pokémon giggled, noticing Alex and giving a rather sinister look.

"A Chandelure," Alex said calmly, immediately recognizing the Pokémon. Though where he got this information from, he could not say. He was starting to feel like a walking dictionary with all the information that kept popping out of his head like this. Chandelure looked slightly disappointed that its flashy and frightening entrance did not send Alex running off, screaming.

"Her name is Hal-Halloween," Mark introduced. "I usually have her out whe-when traveling in the dark. But for some reason, people f-freak out when they ss-see us." After a moment of pause, Mark added, "You know, you can check out in the Pokedex if you want to know about her." Alex looked puzzled for a moment until he noticed the look of anticipation in Mark's eyes and realized that his friend was actually curious and wanted to see the Pokedex in action.

"Later. After we check the noise out," Alex said finally.

"Oh ye-yes, of course." Mark coughed in embarrassment and motioned his Chandelure to follow Alex who was taking the lead. The Pokémon's purple flames helped expand the range of vision but it did not get rid of the creepiness of the area.

No one said anything. Mark was battling with his own thoughts, wondering if plunging into such a dangerous place was a good idea. Alex fell silent for a different reason. There was another reason why he did not want to take the Pokedex out. The last time he did, things did not go so well and he almost ended up dead.

No, I can't let every detail in my life scare me, Alex thought. But he could still remember vividly of that man's eyes. The hatred… the rage…

Now that they were in the heart of the ruins, the place seemed to quiet down a bit. Alex was starting to doubt whether or not it was the wind playing tricks when his ears picked up what was definitely the sound of voices. Two of them.

Moving forward, Alex realized the further he went, the more the piles of rocks, pillars, and crumbling walls disappeared as he followed the sound and spotted a large empty courtyard up ahead. That's where the voices were coming from. From behind, Alex could hear a snap and a tumbling sound.

"Ouch. Stupid twig…"

Alex ignored the comment and immediately turned off his flashlight. He crept closer to the open area but still hid in the shadows. He pressed his back against the nearest crumbling wall and listened intently.

"Hey, what-?"

"Shh!" Alex hissed, feeling his body tensed. Realizing this, Mark immediately hushed and copied Alex's position. Together they listened intently though the voice was now screaming.

"This little bugger doesn't know when to give up." This voice sounded female, high and a bit shrill. "Rick, you need to use more force. And hurry up. I can't see that well in the dark."

"Give us that Dream Mist!" It was a deep voice, definitely male.

There was a 'pah' sound followed by a high-pitched squeal. Before Alex could react, Mark immediately jumped out of their hiding place.

"What's going on here?" Mark demanded as he flashed his flashlight on the two human shadows. Alex, realizing there was no point in hiding now, came out as well in case Mark needed backup. Halloween appeared from behind; making the same creepy giggling sound it did earlier.

"GAHHH! I knew this place was haunted." The man flinched and was balancing on one foot while in some amateur karate stance. His big dark olive eyes gave him an appearance of a Magikarp with a rather busy brown mustache.

The second person, definitely woman, looked shock to see bystanders before them and shielded her green eyes from the bright light. "Who are you two?! Where did you come from?"

Alex could only stare mutely at the scene before him. The lady and man, both around their early thirties, were wearing the strangest set of outfits – a tight hood, fitting cloak and tights that looked like it came straight from a renaissance fair. There was some sort of coat of arms on the front on their white tunics, but the lack of light made it difficult to see. However, that was not what grabbed his full attention, it was on the ground under those two. There was a round pink Pokémon, and although the blood looked black in the light, there were fresh wounds across the Pokémon's back.

Is… Is that a Munna? The darkness made it difficult to determine to confirm. Instinctively, Alex grabbed his Pokedex, which chimed in.

[Munna, the Dream Eater Pokémon. This Pokémon appears in front of people and eat their dreams, expelling a pink-colored mist to project those dreams.]

So it is a Munna… but what-?

"Who are you two?!" Mark demanded. The sight of the injured Pokémon changed the trainer's demeanor; his voice was now laced with anger.

"I could ask you brats the same thing!" The blonde woman retorted back, though somewhat shakily. "This place is off limits!"

"We're Team Plasma!" The man said in a rather loud voice, his visible beer belly rumbled as he spoke. "We liberate Pokémon from foolish humans like you!"

Team Plasma? That name sent a shiver down Alex's spine and his entire body tensed.

"Rick! Let me do the talking!" The woman slapped the man for his stupidity.

"Liberate? What does that have to do with injuring that Munna?!"Mark continued to demand.

"Fools! Munna can emit Dream Mist substance that we need!"

"Rick! Shut up!"

"Dream Mist? Isn't that the stuff Dr. Fennel wants us to find?" Mark mumbled to Alex, though he already knew the answer. Dr. Fennel did not explain in great detail, but she did say that the Dream Mist would help with her research.

Still, why were these people looking for the exact same thing, and why did they show up on the same night? A coincidence? It was a question can wait later, however, as what was important now was to get that Munna out of harm's way.

Meanwhile, Alex noticed that Mark was trying to edge his way toward the injured wild Pokémon without the two grunts noticing. Alex realized that he needed to distract the two perpetrators. They do not notice at the moment, but their initial shock of the situation would wear out sooner or later. If they found out what Mark was doing…

"What does Dream Mist have to do with liberating Pokémon?" Alex asked out loud, though he could feel voice trembling slightly.

"We're not telling you," the woman hissed like a cat. Luckily for them, her partner still didn't get the message of the whole 'shutting up' thing.

"Ha! You kids don't know anything! This Dream Mist is perfect for controlling the people's hearts and make them realize what they're doing to their Pokémon is wrong!" The whole area was dead silent as Mark and Alex tried to grasp the lunatic reasoning.

"Did they just tell us their plan?" Mark gaped, not believing what he just heard. "And may I add, an incredibly stupid one?"

"Maybe they are idiots," Alex said plainly. Rather than looking threatening, they gave off a comical duo presence. Yet, the word 'Team Plasma' made Alex fearful for some reason.

"Rick! Didn't I tell you to SHUT UP?!" The woman punched the man on the top of his head this time. "This was a top secret mission from the boss!"

"Ouch! Oh you're right! We just need to hurry with this! You stupid Munna! Spit out that Dream Mist. Now!" The man gave another kick, causing the pink Pokémon to squeal in pain again.

"STOP THAT!" Again, another silent moment but this time, there was tension in the air.

"What did you say to me kid?!" The man obviously did not like being talked down by someone younger.

But Alex didn't care about that; he could feel the seething emotion raging through the course of his body. Before his fury could get the best of him, Mark stepped forward. He had his sight on the grunts; Alex could tell his friend's body was shaking with rage.

"Are you deaf, you stupid old man? My friend said to STEP AWAY FROM THAT MUNNA!" Mark suddenly threw out a Poke ball to reveal a large Gallade. Its green tonfa-like arms rose to a combat stance.

"Edge, use Leaf Blade!" The Pokémon held up its arm blades and they gave off a bright light-green hue. Gallade charged at the two thugs without the slightest hesitation. Although it did not seem Edge came at the Team Plasma grunts with killing intent, they were still forced to jump out of the way regardless, landing ungracefully into the pile of dirt and rubble.

"O-old?! Did that twerp call me 'OLD'?!" The man spat out bits of grass as he struggled to get up. "You brat!" He took out a Poke ball, ready for battle.

"Rick! Forget that! The Munna is going to get away!" However, Rick ignored his partner's cries and threw out a Poke ball.

"You're up Patrat!"

The brown chipmunk Pokémon had big cheek pouches and a long tail with a white tip. Its blood shot eyes stared up at Gallade who was five times its height.

"Super Fang!" The rodent Pokémon's sharp front teeth glowed and bit down on one of Edge's arms on a vital pressure point. The psychic Pokémon flinched in pain as he tried to shake the Patrat off.

"Close Combat! Let's go!" Edge raised its arm and slammed the Pokémon against the ground repeatedly. The chipmunk Pokémon was still holding on tightly but was also being pummeled by Edge's attack. It was only a matter of time before Patrat was unable to keep its grip.

"No! Patrat!"

Meanwhile, the Team Plasma lady was not going to just stand by and watch and threw out her own Poke ball.

"Purrloin!"

Alex took a sudden step back when he saw the purple feline Pokémon. It was not the same Purrloin (this one was walking on four legs) but the last time he encountered one from this species, it almost killed him.

"NOOO! Not a cat!" If Alex looked unsettled, Mark's reaction was ten times worse. He had dropped his flashlight and started running backwards, getting as far away as possible. In the process, he tripped onto the ground. Unfortunately, the lady noticed the trainer's reaction. Though she looked surprised for a moment, she then smirked at the opportunity.

"Purrloin, Fury Swipes!" The feline cat advanced with intensity and eagerness.

"Oh nononononononono," Mark muttered, sweating now.

"Mark! Get up!" Alex yelled, trying to pull his friend out of harm's way. The cat's sharp claws extended out and aimed toward Alex and Mark.

"AUGH! GET IT AWAY!" Mark looked like he was about to hyperventilate as he shielded his body with his arms.

A sudden burst of purple fire shot at the Purrloin, causing the cat to squeal in fear and scamper back to its trainer. The fire came from Halloween who floated right next to her trainer. The chandelier Pokémon's face had turned particularly haunting at the sight of her trainer in danger.

"Lureeeee!" Another more powerful stream of purple flames shot towards the woman and her Purrloin. The two screamed and managed to avoid the attack, resulting in furthering the distance between the woman and Mark. Mark's Gallade had also witnessed what happened, and the anger he felt, watching his trainer being attacked seeped into its fighting.

The psychic Pokémon lost control and started to do a full-on assault of Close Combat on its nearest target – Patrat. The Pokémon was unable to hold on to Edge's arm anymore and was flung high into the air before crashing into a large crumbling wall.

"NO! PATRAT!" The man roared, freaking out. There was a stunned silence as Edge slowly turned towards the Purrloin. The male Pokémon was not finished yet.

Purrloin, now completely frightened out of its mind, screeched and scampered off into the darkness with the psychic Pokémon hot on its tail. Chandelure joined the chase as well, giggling in a menacing way, its cackling echoed throughout the ruins.

"No! Come back!" The woman screeched, realizing her only Pokémon was gone, leaving her defenseless.

"Oh Arceus, Edge gone berserk again," Mark gasped as he snapped out of his petrified fear.

The Plasma grunt lady realized that neither she nor her partner could win against these trainers. At this rate, they'd have failed their objective; and failing was not something the boss tolerated. They were going to have to switch to Plan B.

"Oh, forget this!" The woman squealed. "Rick! Just catch that Pokémon. We can get all the Dream Mist later!"

"Good idea," the man said and reached for an empty Poke ball in his bag. Alex flinched. He had totally forgotten to get to the Munna during the whole battle.

"NO!" Mark got up and dashed towards the grunts, making a grab for the man's hand. They struggled for a moment before Mark managed to knock the Poke ball out of Rick's hand. At the same time, Alex unceremoniously knocked the woman aside, who had tried to reach the injured Pokémon, and grabbed the wounded Munna.

"RUN ALEX!"

Alex didn't need to be told twice and immediately sprinted toward the darkness of the ruins. He dropped his flashlight during the struggle earlier and was now running around completely blind.

"Grab that kid!" The lady screeched in panic. "We can't lose it again. And you! Get off of me!" Mark landed on the lady after Rick managed to throw the trainer off of him to go after Alex.

Left, right, left, left again. The place was starting to feel like a maze now that Alex was running blindly. He tripped over a rock once but he still got up and continued on. He was gasping for air and his legs were burning with exhaustion. Several minutes in, Alex suddenly realized that running in the dark like this was obviously not a good plan. He needed to hide first and then try to backtrack to where he came from. If he could find Mark, they can run back into town and notify the authorities.

Alex held his position as he hid behind a crumbling foundation. He tried not to breathe too loudly as he tried to catch his breath, his heart still pounded violently from his run. They were still looking for him, but it seemed that they were having more trouble in the darkness than he had. Alex heard their boots stomping through the thick grass and their curses as they tripped over rocks and smashed against the crumbling ruins.

"It's okay," Alex muttered to the wounded Pokémon and realized that the small pink bundle was cold and shivering in pain. He took off his jacket and wrapped it gently around the Munna. The cool evening air gave him shivers down his arms, but he ignored it. "We're going to get you to a Pokémon Center. Just hang in there until I find a way out."

Finally, Munna looked up at Alex. Its red eyes were gentle and calm, despite the ordeal it went through.

"Munnaaaaa," it sighed and nudged closer to Alex. The purple flower patterns along its back were riddled with long scars and Alex felt a stabbing pain inside.

"Why… would they do this to you…?" Alex slowly looked around from his hiding place, making sure those two were not near the vicinity.

Team Plasma… why did that name sound so familiar? Alex had the feeling these people were going to be much more threatening than he realized… but what did they want? Why were they harming Pokémon?

All of a sudden, pink smoke clouded around the Munna. Alex almost gasped out loud in shock and confusion before he realized that Munna was the one releasing the smoke.

"Whoa, whoa, whoa, are you okay?" Alex panicked, accidentally inhaling some of the fume in the process. The smoke gave a calming and relaxing aroma, nothing like he expected. His eyes suddenly felt heavy; in a daze, he watched as the smoke continued to surround him. But the smoke was slowly morphing, turning into a more defined form.

Suddenly, Alex saw something he could not comprehend and wondered if he was hallucinating. He watched the scene before him and then –

He remembered.

Author's Notes

Well, that was a good cliffhanger. I think I'll end the story like that. :D

And it looks like Cheren is going to be battling with this new Max person. I was actually tempted to name Max 'Ash' when I was writing out this character.

Stats vs. Friendship power! Which is stronger? Lol. I always find it amusing how playing the Pokémon games are different from the Pokémon anime. Level and strength mean nothing in the show as clearly proven over the years yet it is such an important factor in the games.

So moving on, as you can probably tell, I'm on a very busy and tight schedule. I actually have part of the next chapter written out but I still need to clean up some parts so it'll be a while before it comes out. Rest assure. This story is still continuing.

And in other news, the upcoming Super Smash Bros revealed sixth generation Pokémon and mega evolution for Charizard!

What is your favorite Super Smash Bros character?

Thanks for reading and I'll see you in the next chapter.

-JapanDreamer