Odds of me owning Pokemon in the near future are as slim as catching Arceus with a pokeball on turn one.

Summary: After losing in the Sinnoh league, Ash and his friends head back home, but make a stop in Altomare to visit some old friends. But it's a start of a new adventure as unexpected changes befall upon our young hero. Altoshipping!

Rating T – Strong language, Suggestive but Non-Explicit Adult Themes, and Cartoon Violence

" " = talking

' ' = telepathy




Last Time:

"Ash! What's wrong?" Latias asked as she looked into his eyes, seeing something akin to terror flash in his eyes, "Ash? Ash!"

He could see it, an explosion of light from two sides colliding with his body, burning him and destroying him. His memory faded to black and went cold. His body felt rigid, like stone, and tears pooled in his eyes.

"I...I died..." Ash whispered, his voice shaken, "I was killed here..." He shook in Latias' arms, his memory suddenly returning. Everything was there. Falling into the sea and clinging to Misty's pokemon for his life. Nurse Joy's brainwashing. The clones. Those dark pokeballs...And..." I first met Mewtwo here...He thought he didn't belong in the world, and I tried to stop him from taking over with his clones...I jumped in between a psychic blast from him and Mew and turned into stone...I died..." That was why he had felt so horrible ever since coming to the island. Despite the fact that Mewtwo had tried to erase their memories, death is a hard thing to forget.

"Shh, Ash... shh," Latias comforted, holding him tight in her arms, feeling his fear and his trembling, "It's okay. I'm here. You're here and alive. I'll protect you." Ash listened, letting her words wash over him. He didn't know why his memory had suddenly returned, but he knew it was safe in Latias' arms.

"Thanks Latias..." he muttered, shaken, but he was grateful for her presence.

"Always," she said simply, ruffling Ash's hair affectionately. After a few moments, Ash's breathing returned to normal, and he wiped away his tears, standing up again.

"We found out a lot more than we thought we would..." Ash muttered, pulling himself together, "Team Rocket created this place. Then it was taken over by Mewtwo after he decided he had had enough of their crap...but then there was that part about Aura..." It bothered him. If Team Rocket had knowledge of Aura all those years ago, was it possible that they were tied into the current Aura crisis now?

Ash didn't know. He hadn't heard anything about Team Rocket as of late. They had mostly disappeared as a crime organization overall, or they had covered their tracks really well recently. Regardless, he would have to ask three certain idiots the next time they tried to ambush him.

"Let's get a move on Latias," Ash said, tired, "The others are counting on us, and we have a lot to figure out and do. For some reason...I feel like this is just the beginning..."

Ch29: Into the Light

Riolu growled in annoyance as he hauled himself over a fallen piece of debris, shifting his weight carefully to make sure his best friend, Kirlia, was as comfortable as possible. Her condition was getting worse, her breathing becoming more and more erratic with each passing moment they were stuck in the darkened halls of the Arceus-forsaken mountain. When they had finally examined her, they realized, to their horror, that Kirlia's injuries had been worse than they had thought. In addition to the ankle injury, she had sustained a very deep cut somehow, most likely from the fallen metal beams. Even now, Riolu could feel the steady drip of his best friend's blood fall on the back of his legs as they walked through the tunnel.

He didn't want to think about what could happen if they didn't make it out in time, the very thought gripping his heart like a vice and forcing him forward through the darkness, Pikachu hot on his tail. She had been slipping in and out of consciousness for a while now, and now, she was completely out of it.

"She's getting worse," Riolu said anxiously, cursing underneath his breath, "She must have somehow come into contact with the water..." He flinched as he remembered the debris sending a shower of the festering pool of filth into the air. A single drop would have been enough...

"Poisoned," Pikachu summed up grimly, as he placed a concerned paw on Kirlia's forehead, feeling the burning sensation snaking through his arm like a Flamethrower attack, "We have to keep moving. There's only one way to help her now..." Riolu growled deeper in anger, frustration and fear, gripping his best friend tighter, quickening his pace.

He felt so lost. Kirlia was always the calm one. If she were able, she would have come up with a plan and assured them of its successs, but now...Riolu just didn't know what to do.

"If only...If only I was stronger!" the emanation pokemon muttered grimly, gritting his teeth together angrily, "I could have..."

"Done nothing," Pikachu finished sternly, placing an understanding paw on his friend's shoulders, "We were trapped, and Kirlia did what she could to save us. Our job now is to make sure she gets out of here. She's counting on us right now." Riolu opened his mouth to argue, but shut it quickly when the weak voice of Kirlia filtered through his sensitive ears.

"It's...going...to be...fine...Riolu..." she breathed out deliriously, hacking violently after that. The pathetic sound of her voice tore at Riolu's heart. He couldn't' stand it, just watching his best friend suffer like this.

"Let's move," the electric mouse pokemon said firmly, sparking his cheeks lightly to illuminate the passageway briefly, taking point, "We need to find Ash."

Not another word was spoken as the two able-bodied pokemon wandered through the halls, hoping to find some sign of an exit. The crunching sounds of pebbles and dirt being squashed underneath their halls echoed ominously in the dusty silence, seemingly endless. Riolu shivered; the endless blanket of blackness was suffocating in presence and oppressive in nature.

"Look," Pikachu said suddenly, noticing that the next archway was very different from the last twenty or so they had passed. Bounding forward, he marveled at the sudden space he found himself in. It was a massive area, littered by rocks and what seemed to be twisted metal and wires, rusted by the time and the natural conditions of the mountain. Sparking his cheeks again with more power than before, his eyes widened as he realized that that the word "massive" was clearly an understatement. The entire place was colossal just by scale alone. However, the strangest thing about the entire place was the widespread destruction littering the entire place. Craters dotted the entire floor, each one at least as big as him. One thing was clear, however. This place had been a place of intense battle.

"What...what is this place?" Riolu asked, amazed but the sheer size of the battlefield. Pikachu didn't respond and instead ran over to an indent he had noticed in the wall earlier. The section had cracked and fallen away, revealing a network of crisscrossed, multicolored wires underneath of varying sizes. The electric mouse didn't have a clue as to what they did, but he did what he did best.

Unceremoniously, he ripped out a bunch of wires with his teeth and connected them to his cheeks, sending a powerful current into the wires. Suddenly, a flash of white light blinded Pikachu and Riolu briefly, and they blinked their eyes rapidly to rid themselves of the sudden daze, looking up to find giant, stadium lights standing overhead.

"What in the world..." Riolu breathed out in awe. It was clearly a battling arena; that they could confirm. However, the sheer size of the place was stunning, large enough to hold at least a hundred giant onixes comfortably. It would have cost a fortune to create and an even bigger amount to run. But who would have made such a place and then abandon it?

However, a cold chill snaked down Riolu's spine as he picked up on the lingering emotions clinging to the scarred ground. This was a place of violent battle, tinged with fear, anger and pure hatred, riddled with tragedy and sadness...

"I know this place..." Pikachu said with a monotonous voice and glazed look, his eyes seemingly empty as a small tear pooled in his eye, his gaze focused on one particular spot in the center of the arena where a ring of scorch marks lay on the ground.

"What do you mean? How could you know what this place is? This entire place looks like it's been underneath the mountain for years!" Riolu exclaimed, wondering if the darkness and lack of fresh air had caused his friend to go barmy.

"It has been underneath here for years...this is it for sure," the electric-type said with a grimace, shaking his head to clear the headache that was coming from finally remembering, "This was the birthplace of Mewtwo, turned into a massive battle arena in the hopes of taking over the world by using cloned pokemon...Many years ago, we were lured here by him."

"What! Mewtwo? As in the same legendary pokemon that has been helping us the entire time? That Mewtwo?" the emanation pokemon asked, extremely confused. He didn't understand. Why would Mewtwo try to take over the world?

"He is different now. But...when we first met him, he was bitter, angry at the fact that he was a clone created from Mew by humans. He wanted to prove himself superior...So he tried to lure pokemon trainers here to clone their pokemon and prove that clones were genetically superior."

"But let me guess. Ash came around and showed him that he didn't need to prove anything..." Riolu said, earning a nod from Pikachu, "Typical Ash...always trying to save the day..."

"It came at a great price..." Pikachu said somberly as he stared at the black ring in the center, "Mew and Mewtwo battled, each trying to prove their power. Every clone and every original fought, seemingly to the death...Ash...tried to get them to stop and stepped in between two psychic blasts, one from Mew and one from Mewtwo."

"What the heck! How in the world is he still alive then!" Riolu exclaimed, knowing that a normal human would never survive a direct attack from two pokemon that powerful, "Two attacks that powerful should have obliterated him!"

"I know..." Pikachu said with a sigh, closing his eyes painfully, the memory now fresh in his mind, "Ash wasn't obliterated...but...he was turned into stone, true stone. My electric attacks did nothing. He had died that day. Literally, he was a piece of rock shaped into the image of by best friend..." Riolu stilled, his mind spinning as he tried to understand, not really able to fathom a dead Ash. He always just seemed to be so...bulletproof or something.

"But...Ash is alive right now. How...No one can come back from the dead..." Riolu stated, his eyes widening in confusion.

"Through some strange...magic. He was revived by the tears of the pokemon in the arena," Pikachu said uncomfortably, not quite sure how to explain that moment to Riolu. Said pokemon stared at him like he was crazy. However, they were both brought out of their thoughts by another violent coughing fit from Kirlia.

"Pikachu, you said you remember this place. Do you know the way out?" Riolu asked in the most urgent voice possible. Pikachu deflated, shaking his head in the negative.

"Mewtwo teleported us all out...and then wiped our memories it seems...I don't know the way," he answered, frustrated himself, wishing he could have helped his friend. Riolu cursed, looking around, scanning for another path to take.

However, he stopped suddenly as he zeroed in on one of the large lights overhead, noticing a small red, horn poking just over the edge of the light. Spreading out his senses, he gasped in realization.

"Pikachu! I think Ralts is up there!" Riolu exclaimed.

Misty was not a happy camper at the moment. In fact, it would be very safe to assume that she was the exact opposite of a happy camper, not that she liked camping much anyway, because there were always those thrice-cursed bugs hanging about, ready to latch onto her and suck out her soul...However, right now, she would have gladly taken facing a bug as opposed to this suffocating darkness...probably a very small, slow and impossibly cute bug nonetheless...

"I'm going to kill that idiot...I swear...when I get out of here, I'm going to kill him," she muttered darkly to herself, caressing her mallet as if it were a newborn baby, suddenly yelping as she stubbed her toe on accident.

"Um Misty?" May asked, her voice shaking badly as she struggled to her feet, still able to hear the roaring and groaning sounds of grinding metal and falling rock just outside of where they had entered, "We...we need to find a way out of here. I know you're scared...I'm scared too.."

"I'm not scared!" Misty snapped, backing up into a particularly cold piece of metal and letting out an unearthly shriek, causing May to scream also and trip. Suddenly, the rustling of rock overhead caused them both to go deathly quiet, hoping that that the very worn, rock roof above them wouldn't come crashing down on their heads. "I'll say it again! I'm not scared!" the redhead whispered fiercely.

"Well...I am...and not just for myself..." May whispered, her voice quivering as she thought about her brother whose fate she did not know. Misty shuffled uncomfortably, feeling guilty now. "I mean...what if...what f he's..."

"Max will be fine," Misty said resolutely, trying her best to sound strong and confident. She had to be strong, despite the fact that she didn't know the fate of the others. It was in that moment that she truly comprehended the situation they were in, trapped underground and cutoff from the others. She was scared. There was no older, level-headed Brock to lead her along nor an impossibly optimistic Ash to lead the charge.

"What do we do?" May asked, her voice a bit choked up, just moments away from breaking down into a sob, her heart aching with worry and fear.

"We stay calm," the redhead answered, attempting to keep her voice as level as possible, surprised that it wavered only slightly. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, wondering what her friends would do in her position. Ash would smile with that cocky and confident grin of his, running into the darkness without fear. Brock would calmly evaluate the situation and figure a way to get out.

She had to take charge. May was counting on her to be the older and wiser one.

"We need to come up with a way to see in here first. If we can't see, we can't move around safely and find the others. Without some sort of light, we could hurt ourselves," Misty finally said, but slightly deflated. She didn't have any pokemon that could produce a viable source of light that was constant and non-dangerous.

"I...still have Blaziken with me," May said hopefully, but Misty stopped her there.

"We can't. There's not enough space and if he accidentally hits something, it might cause the entire tunnel to collapse," Misty said worriedly, her eyes able to just barely make out the crumbling supports, exposed by the weathered rock. May frowned, but then suddenly got an idea, throwing one of her pokeballs. With a brief flash of light, Misty saw a small pink cat-like pokemon sitting on the ground.

"Why'd you bring out Skitty?" Misty asked, confused believing that the small kitten pokemon didn't possess any moves that could actively create sustainable light.

"Well...it's kind of risky...but I was going to try to use Assist. She could possibly get Ember or Flame Wheel which we could use for light," she explained a bit nervously, already knowing how dangerous it was to gamble on a move like Assist in a situation like this. No one, not even Skitty would know what sort of attack would come out of her paw when she used that move.

Misty stared at May incredulously, horrified at the idea. Blaziken knew freaking Overheat for Arceus' sake! She didn't feel like getting flash fried...but what other choice did they really have? Misty gulped but hesitantly gave the go ahead to May.

"Okay Skitty. I need you to listen very carefully to me alright?" May said, bending down to where she could barely make out the pink kitten pokemon who meowed happily in response, "Misty and I are in some trouble. We need light so we can see. I want you to keep using assist until you get either Ember or Flame Wheel. Tone down the power to as low as possible so you don't accidentally blow us up with something like Overheat. Okay?"

"Skit skitty!" the small pink pokemon dutifully replied, drawing out the power from her fellow comrades. Misty really hoped this would work.

On the first attempt, a powerful breeze whipped out from Skitty's paw, and immediately, the kitten pokemon canceled her attack and tried again. This time an icy, blue beam shot out of her paw and froze a section of the collapsed rock. Understandably, every attack was causing Misty to get antsier and antsier.

"C'mon Skitty! I know you can do it!" May cheered, praying to whatever gods controlled the randomness of moves like Assist to help her out. Skitty cast the attack again, getting Petal Dance next. The redhead really hoped that Skitty could pull it off, trying to not think about the many horrible ways that it could go wrong. Finding an inferno or giant wave of water flooding the tunnel was the last thing she wanted.

A few more minutes passed, and Skitty had cast her attack already four more times, luckily getting nothing devastatingly destructive, but Misty was starting to really worry. However, suddenly, a brilliant light surged through the darkness, casting a warm amber light against the cold tunnel walls, flickering with the dancing shadows.

"You're the best Skitty!" May exclaimed, both ecstatic and relieved that her plan had worked, letting out a tense breath she had been holding, "Thank Arceus...Okay! So hold that for as long as you can alright Skitty?" The kitten pokemon nodded eagerly, spinning the ball of fire with her tail playfully, not quite aware of the true danger her trainer was in.

Misty and May finally got a good look around, the orange light revealing their path ahead, a small opening in the tunnel which had been partially caved in. They looked back at the way they came, frowning at the amalgamation of crushed metal glinting in the light, buried by rock, completely unassailable.

"Well...Onward I suppose," Misty said with a grimace, squinting at the small hole. Admittedly, she wasn't too enthusiastic about squeezing through such a small entry way...but at least there were no bugs...

Brock came to with a painful groan, rubbing his head, his vision spinning and hazy, wondering who ran him over with that train. Coughing the dust out of his lungs, he struggled to his feet, his wavering sight noticing the flickering shadows dancing across the cobbled ceiling.

"Oh my god! Brock! Are you alright?" Dawn exclaimed, shaking the older trainer to awareness. Groggily, he tried to shake off the veil of confusion clouding his thoughts, wondering what had just happened, unable to remember the last few moments before blacking out.

"You hit your head there pretty hard," Max added, steadying his friend, "Banged your head right into that metal beam right there." Brock looked up and frowned when he saw the large, steel metal beam sticking out of the wall, "It's a good thing that you're so stubbornly robust. We tested you for a concussion, but you seem to be generally fine...other than that huge bump on your head."

Brock chuckled, shaking his head again to further clear the cobwebs in his mind, noting ruefully that his high tolerance for pain came mainly at the cost of his flirtations lifestyle. At least he could say one good thing came out of getting whacked around by Misty's mallet now. Looking back, he noticed that blocked entrance and frowned at the implications.

"We're cut off from the others," Max said gravely, "We're pretty lucky Dawn still had Quilava on her though."

"We need to move then. These tunnels might lead us to the others," Brock finished, nodding as he straightened himself, "We have two things to do now. Find the others and find Ralts. Let's get a move on."

"Ash? Do you remember anything else about this place?" Latias asked as they passed by another nameless door for the third time, "I mean...other than...well you know..." She really hoped that they weren't going to get hopelessly lost. The tunnels just seemed to go on and on and on though.

"Yeah..." Ash said uncomfortably, racking his recently returned memories, grimacing every few seconds, "There was this...room that scanned pokemon and cloned them...and there was this giant arena...which is where I..." He quieted after that, and Latias didn't need to ask why. She simply grabbed his hand tightly, wanting her trainer to know she was there for him. Taking a shuddering breath, he continued, "I think...I think if we keep going all of the tunnels will eventually meet up at the arena..."

"We should head down that way then," Latias said, knowing she had to be strong for Ash. He was scared, which was a very strange thing for the usually brash and brave trainer. However, it wasn't every day that you visited your own grave site...

"You're right," he replied, steeling his resolve, knowing that his friends could be in danger. It was his responsibility to make sure everyone got out safely. He wouldn't rest until he knew they were all okay.

They continued walking in a companionable silence. Latias felt a bit guilty for it, but she couldn't help but enjoy her time with her trainer. As of late, they had been rather close, and it really made her happy.

"Thanks by the way, Latias..." Ash murmured suddenly, gripping her hand tighter as if wanting to make sure she was really there in the darkness.

"For what?" Latias asked, confused, but warmed by the sentiment nonetheless.

"I mean...you just always seem to be saving me nowadays. Sometimes I wonder how you always do it...why you always do it..." he muttered sadly, idly kicking a pebble out of the way.

"What do you mean?" she asked, very confused by Ash's sudden sadness, coming to a stop as Ash collected his thoughts.

"I mean...You saved me earlier from falling off that staircase after I was being dumb," he answered somberly, "And...well I don't know how to explain it really...it's just...Thank you for being there for me...through this and everything else. It means a lot to me." Ash struggled with his words, having an immensely difficult time putting his feelings into an appropriate sentence that would convey just how happy he was to have Latias by his side. "I just don't...I don't know what I'd do without you really." He couldn't help but feel confused as he thought about Latias, a pokemon and, in his eyes, a girl as well. As a pokemon, she was amazing, strong, powerful, calm and reliable, but as a girl, she was...just Latias, beautiful, kind, funny, happy...

The red eon dragon blushed in the darkness, feeling her heart flutter happily at Ash's admission. Tenderly, she hugged her trainer close, feeling his heart beat strongly in his chest and his scent envelop her, making her feel safe.

"I'll always be there Ash," she promised, placing her forehead against Ash's, their breathing intermingling. He could feel his face heat up at the rather intimate gesture, and his heart hammered powerfully against his ribs. His mind went back to the few kisses she had given him, those memories making his breath come in short spasms. He didn't know why he felt so nervous!

"But...but...I just feel like...I owe you or something," he tried to reason, his speech a bit jumbled due to Latias' close proximity, her eyes glowing in the darkness as they stared into his own. Latis opened her mouth, wanting to say he didn't owe her anything, but she giggled at a sudden idea that popped into her mind.

"I don't really feel like you owe me anything Ash," Latias said, bringing up her finger to silence the protests from her trainer, "But! If you really want to do something for me..." She blushed harder at her thoughts, hoping it wasn't too forward. "Take...me out..on a date..."

"B...huh?" Ash asked, completely thrown by the sudden request. Not quite sure he had heard it right. Why would Latias...

"Take me out on a date," Latias repeated a bit stronger this time, her entire face red, hidden by the darkness, "When we get out of here...When we get to the mainland..." Ash was flabbergasted, trying to warp his mind around the idea and blushed hard. He couldn't back out now though.

"Okay..." he replied shakily, trying his best to remain calm, "When...when we get back to the mainland, I'll take you out for a date, Latias." Even through he couldn't see it fully, Ash could tell Latias was beaming happily, and now that he had a little more time to think about, he couldn't help but feel slightly excited about it as well. He was pretty sure his face was completely red though.

"Then let's go!" Latias said with a giggle. The sooner they got out, the better after all.

"So...any idea how we get up there?" Pikachu said with a frown as he estimated Ralts was at least fifty feet up. Neither of them could fly, obviously, and neither of them could jump that high either. However, everything relied on getting Ralts to teleport them out so Kirlia could be saved.

"I can do it," Riolu said with a steel resolve as he looked at the walls, mentally noting where he could use the rocky outcroppings as ledges to climb up. Once he was high enough, he would have to kick off from the walls to get to the nearest light. From there, he would have to make his way to Ralts.

"Riolu...it's too dangerous," Pikachu said seriously, following the emanation pokemon's gaze with a frown, "One wrong step could kill you. One wrong move could bring the entire roof down too!"

"What choice do we have!?" Riolu shouted, as he pointed at Kirlia who was barely breathing as is, "I promised to protect Kirlia! I promised her! I promised her parents! I promised myself! And I'm not going to just stand here and do nothing." Pikachu sighed, knowing he couldn't do anything to stop him now.

"Fine. Go. I'll look over Kirlia and keep the lights on. I pray to Arceus that you make it..." he conceded, hoping the ledges of the cave walls were sturdy enough. One wrong move could create a chain reaction and doom them all, but he had to let Riolu try.

Nodding, Riolu rushed off to the wall, hopping onto the first ledge, approving how it held under his weight. With another hop he jumped up to the next one, slowing making his way up the walls. This went on for a few more moments, each jump more tense than the next. Pikachu watched on in worry as Riolu was nearing the top.

Calmly, Riolu calculated his next jump, looking at a small, jagged rock that jutted out near the top, and with a precise jump landed on. Suddenly, a loud crack reverberated through the arena, and Riolu gasped as he felt the rock give way.

"Riolu!" Pikachu shouted, covering his head with his tail as a few pebbles rained down on them. Mid-free-fall, Riolu twisted in the air, his eyes focusing on the stadium light just a few meters away. Calming himself, he called upon his aura powers and propelled himself forward with what control he did have. The electric mouse pokemon watched on in amazement as his friend barely managed to grab onto the edge of one of the lights and pull himself up. "Riolu! Are you alright?!"

"Yeah..." Riolu called down after catching his breath, suddenly tired from the use of his budding aura powers. They were still really hard to continually use, despite his precision with them. His body wasn't yet ready to handle it apparently. "Almost there..." he muttered to himself as he saw Ralts who was sleeping on one of the lights without a care in the world.

Collecting himself, he rebalanced his stance and made a running leap for the next light, landing on it with a loud, metallic thud which shook the entire structure back and forth in the air, the metal groaning uncertainly underneath him.

"Be careful Riolu!" Pikachu called out from down below, "We don't know how stable these stadium lights are! If you move them too much, they may collapse!" Riolu nodded down to his fellow pokemon in understanding, scanning the next light for any signs of structural damage. He frowned, noticing that his next jump to the most stable-looking light was blocked by a pillar of stalactites. He had a choice here. Either force his way through to the better looking one, or jump onto the other light which seemed to be slightly bent. Both were risky. However, he had to try for one.

"Pikachu! Take some cover! Make sure Kirlia is okay! I'm going to do something a bit risky!" he shouted down to his friends, hoping that the distance would be enough to save them from any debris. Planting his feet firmly on the metal lights, he gathered a sphere of energy in his hands, pooling his aura and finally releasing it at the stalactites. A powerful explosion blasted the stalactites apart, sending dust and rock to the ground. However, the shock wave creeped across the cave, causing a few more stalactites to fall down as well.

"Hey! I said be careful! Don't just go around blasting the ceiling apart!" Pikachu yelled, staring at one of the stalactites which had fallen about ten feet away from them. Looking up, he grimaced at their abysmal luck, finding a huge pillar of the deadly spikes above them. He really didn't feel like becoming a pokemon shish kabob...

Riolu didn't answer and simply concentrated, jumping to the next light, landing on it roughly, squashing some of the lights and causing some sparks to be hiss out from the rickety structure. A few lights were dislodged and fell to the floor in a tinkle of deadly glass. About this time, Pikachu really wished he knew how to make barriers.

Undeterred, Riolu jumped again, landing on another light successfully, only a few more jumps away now. Soon enough he found himself two lights away from the sleeping pokemon, but he frowned, noticing that the light ahead was heavily damaged at the base. If it fell, it could hit Ralts' light too, which would be disastrous.

His only choice was to somehow figure out how to jump across an entire light to where Ralts was sleeping, but how? Looking around, he came up with a crazy idea. There were two sets of stalactites across from eachother between him and Ralt's light. He was going to try to bounce off one stalactite to the other and hopefully land on the light.

However, Riolu didn't know if it would work. The rock spikes could break. He might accidentally miss. Ralts could fall off of the light because of his landing...

Looking back at Kirlia laying on the floor, helpless, solidified his decision, however. Moving as far back as he could, he ran at the edge of the light and jumped.

"So...Misty? I was wondering," May said randomly as they walked along, "When were you going to talk to Ash about how you feel?"

"WHAT!?" Misty screeched, actually tripping and landing flat on her face. However, she quickly jumped back to her feet, her face flushed in mock anger and embarrassment, "Where did you get that silly idea from May?"

"Huh? Was I wrong? I mean...you seemed so mopey for the last few days. Especially when Ash came back with Latias or when Melody was flirting with him. I just thought that you needed someone to talk to about it..." May said, her voice a bit small and unsure, hoping she hadn't overstepped her boundaries. Misty sighed and face-palmed slightly in exasperation. Of course, May would notice.

"I appreciate it May. I really do, but this is just something I need to sort out on my own," the redhead replied tiredly, trying to keep the sadness out of her voice, "Besides...I think I'm too late anyway..."

"Huh? What do you mean? Ash has a girlfriend!?" the Hoenn coordinator questioned, confused and extremely skeptical, "This is Ash we're talking about right? The guy that would rather look at Pokemon battling it out than a woman sunbathing in a bikini..."

"Yes...and I know, May. Trust me. I really do know," Misty said with an irritated scowl, remember the few times where she had dressed up, and Ash had barely looked her way beyond saying she looked "nice". He didn't seem to have a clue about all the girls that seemed to just throw themselves at him, and it annoyed her greatly. "He has a completely one-track mind...unfortunately..."

"So? You just derail it then. Tell it straight to his face. That should get his attention. Ash isn't one to really beat around the bush after all, so maybe you should try the direct approach," May suggested with a giggle, "We both know Ash doesn't really do subtle...and he can be as dense as a rock."

"Even if I try...Like I said...it's just too late..." Misty said, balling her fists, "I waited too long and kept thinking Ash would always just be there, and that I could wait...But...I just can't compete with her."

"Who?" May asked, quirking her head sideways, wondering who this mystery girl was, and Misty looked at her with a surprised glance.

"Wait...You haven't seen it? How he looks at her so fondly? How he always seemed to break out into a smile whenever she enters the room? Everything he does revolves around her..." the redhead questioned incredulously, wondering how May had seen her affections but not Latias'.

"Wait. Who? When? How did I miss this! Who's this mystery girl we keep talking about!?" May asked, waving her hands emphatically, really wanting to know. Misty stared and then face-palmed, wondering who the truly dense one was here.

"Who else could it possibly be? Latias of course!" Misty exclaimed, earning an "oh" expression from May, who blinked rapidly, chuckling sheepishly.

"But...Misty. Latias is a pokemon...Ash can't..." she reasoned but was cut off.

"Ash isn't just a human anymore though is he? She is perfect for him..." Misty asked quietly, frowning, "And now that she has a voice...she just seems more...human. That's why...Maybe it was just never meant to be..."

"I still think that you should tell him. You deserve a chance, if at least to let him know how you feel," May replied, still a bit skeptical about Latias, "At least think about it."

Misty didn't say anything else, but her mind was whirling away in indecision. Did she really want to expose her feelings to Ash? What were her chances anyway? Plus, she didn't want to lose him because of this; that would be the worst outcome of all.

"Maybe...maybe one day," she murmured, more for herself than anyone else.

"Wait! Misty! Look! There's light up ahead!" May exclaimed suddenly, running off towards the archway, hoping it was the exit. Misty quickly ran after her companion and gasped when they entered a giant arena that was lit up by lights. Scanning the area, she smiled in relief as she spotted everyone else in different doorways, and Pikachu powering the lights in the corner, Kirlia laying on the floor next to him.

"Riolu!" a sudden voice called out, a voice that could only belong to one person.

The emanation pokemon jumped, his eyes focusing on his target. He smirked for a moment as he felt his feet meet the solid pillar of rock, and a moment later, he rocketed himself towards the second pillar. He was going to make it!

Twisting in mid-air, he slammed into the stalactite, but felt horror creep into his being as he smashed through the rock, sending him into free fall. He tried to grab any remaining vestiges of solid rock, but there was nothing for him to hold on to. He closed his eyes and tried to hold back his tears as he thought about Kirlia.

"Riolu!" a very familiar voice yelled out, and all of a sudden, the emanation pokemon found himself safe in a strong grip, "What were you thinking! You could have gotten yourself killed! Are you crazy!?"

"Ash?" Riolu asked, amazed as he stared at the familiar form of Ash's Black Latios form, "Ash! Quick! We need to get out of here! Kirlia has been poisoned and injured. If we don't treat her soon, she could die!"

Ash's eyes widened in horror as he zeroed in on the fallen form of his pokemon, a pang of guilt and self-loathing striking his heart. However, he quickly shook it off.

"How do we get out of here though?" Ash asked, wondering what his pokemon was doing climbing so high.

"Ralts! He can teleport us out," Riolu explained, waving his arms rapidly. The urgency in his voice was nearly palpable as he pointed to the sleeping form of said pokemon. Eyes widening in understanding, Ash flew over to Ralts, allowing Riolu to jump onto the stadium light carefully.

"Ralts," Riolu said softly, shaking the young psychic-type awake, hoping he wouldn't be startled.

"Huh..." the feeling pokemon said groggily, yawning and rubbing his eyes underneath his hood, "Did the game end? Did I win?" Riolu couldn't help but chuckle at how innocent the question was, but would not be distracted from his goal.

"Ralts. We're all trapped underground," Riolu explained, gesturing to everyone who had gathered down below. May and Max had hugged each other tightly, glad the other was okay, and likewise, a round of hugs and relieved smiles passed through the group. "Kirlia is sick. We need you to teleport us out of here so we can treat her."

"Okay!" Ralts said enthusiastically, teleporting himself and Riolu down to the floor.

"Ralts! I was so worried!" Max exclaimed as he hugged his pokemon tightly, "Next time don't go out on your own mister! We were looking for you all over the place." Ralts frowned but nodded in understanding, hoping he hadn't caused too much trouble. "Okay Ralts! Let's get everyone out of here! Teleport everyone right back outside of these caves. Do you think you can do that?"

Ralts looked around and gulped. There were a lot of people here, but he was going to try his best. Concentrating his powerful psychic powers, he slowly enveloped everyone in a circle of glowing energy, and with a flash of light, they disappeared.

Suddenly, sunlight flooded everyone's eyes, and they all yelped as they were suddenly falling through the air, having been teleported a few feet above the ground. Everyone landed on the floor in an unceremonious thud, except for Kirlia who had been hastily caught by Riolu.

"Hurry Ash!" Riolu begged as he placed his friend in his trainers arms. Ash gasped in fear as he looked at the wound and swollen area, noticing the slight tinge of green sticking to the wound. What was worse was the fact that she had clearly lost a lot of blood, and her condition was rapidly worsening.

"Brock! I need antidote now!" Ash yelled as he transformed back into his human form, running over to Brock who had quickly whipped out his pack to look for the required medication. However, there was a problem. His pack had been torn somehow underneath the mountain, and a large amount of supplies were missing, including the essential antidote. Trying not to panic, he looked through his berries pouch and frowned as he only had one anti-poison berry, not nearly strong enough to completely alleviate the poison damage coursing through Kirlia's system at the moment.

"This...this is all I have Ash," Brock said solemnly as he showcased the one small berry, "I'll mix it as best I can...but...I don't know if..."

"No!" Ash shouted, tears streaming down his face as the terror of the entire situation sunk in, "If she...if she...It will be my fault! I can't...I won't let that happen!" Brock grimaced and quickly set to work, taking Kirlia from Ash, quickly disinfecting the wound with standard antiseptic. However, the trickle of blood was still constantly flowing, and Brock had to quickly bind the wound shut before she died of blood loss.

Brock worked quickly, mixing a natural remedy as fast as he could with the ingredients he did have left. Slowly, he tipped the concoction into Kirlia's mouth, and waited. Fifthteen minutes later, Brock hung his head grimly.

"She's not getting better," he said hoarsely, noting the paleness of Kirlia's cheeks. Her entire body was shutting down now due to the poison running its course and the lack of blood loss. "I'm...I'm sorry Ash..." She was going to go in a few minutes. Ash couldn't believe it and dropped down to his knees, placing his head in his hands as he cried for his failure. Latias quickly placed her arms around him, her own tears splashing down to the ground with him.

Riolu felt numb. Kirlia was dying, well and truly dying. He best friend was going to leave him...

"No...no!" Riolu roared as he jumped to Kirlia's side, bringing her close to his chest and crying his eyes out, "I won't. I won't let you go! I won't accept this! Never! You're my best friend! You're not going to die! I won't let you!"

"Riolu..." Pikachu said tearfully, trying to calm the emanation pokemon, but was stopped by a brilliant light enveloping Riolu. "What..."

"He's evolving..." Dawn whispered, shielding her eyes at the intense light from Riolu, and moments later, a proud Lucario appeared cradling Kirlia protectively as some strange waves of power issued forth from Lucario. Taking out his Pokedex, Brock quickly scanned the newly-evolved aura pokemon.

"Lucario. The Aura Pokemon. This steel and fighting type pokemon is renowned for it's aura sensing abilities, giving it the power to track anyone in its field. By reading Aura, it is said that Lucario is able to sense feelings, thoughts and even predict movements. A Riolu commonly evolves into a Lucario by feelings of intense friendship. Currently, this Lucario is using Heal Pulse," the mechanical voice of Brock's pokedex announced.

"Please Kirlia...Please," Lucario begged as he shut his eyes tightly, praying that his friend would be okay, "I don't want to lose you. Not now...not ever..." Everyone watched, amazed as color returned to Kirlia's cheeks, and she squinted her eyes open slowly.

"Ri..olu...?" Kirlia coughed out weekly, staring back into the familiar ruby-red orbs of her best friend, "What...what's wrong...?"

Lucario opened his eyes and stared back, his eyes brimming with happiness as he hugged his best friend closer, nearly sobbing now.

"You're okay! I thought...I thought..." Lucario choked out, unable to finish the thought, and Kirlia smiled weakly.

"I'm here...I promise..." she said softly before drifting back off into unconsciousness.

"Quickly Lucario!" Brock said, gesturing for the aura pokemon to hand over Kirlia, hope in his face, "We might have a chance now! Hurry!" Without wasting another moment, Lucario handed over his precious cargo, trusting his best friend's life to Brock.

Checking her forehead, Brock nodded in satisfaction, the temperature having drastically dropped suddenly. Her face looked immensely healthier, and her breathing was less erratic. Going to his pack, he quickly applied another potion to the cut to make sure it healed properly, and then created another natural remedy to, hopefully, encourage Kirlia's body to heal naturally.

"It seems like the worst of it is over..." Brock said with a relieved sigh, "I think your Heal Pulse amplified the small amount of antidote in her system, allowing it to purge to poison from her body. She also suddenly recovered a lot of blood, which is good."

"Is she going to be okay Brock?" Ash asked desperately, taking his place by Brock.

"Yes. Thank Arceus for it too..." he said with a stressed grunt. Ash nodded and bowed his head in shame. He turned to Lucario and couldn't look him in the eye.

"I'm sorry...I'm so sorry," he said, tears streaming down his face as he thought about what could have just happened. Kirlia could have been any one of his friends, and the reality of it all came crashing down on him, "I'm sorry...I'm so..."

"Enough," Lucario said, his voice cracking slightly as he tried to compose himself. He walked up to his trainer and stared at him, an unknown emotion flickering across his eyes. Slowly, he rose his paw, and Ash shut his eyes tightly, awaiting the blow that he rightfully deserved, but...it never came.

Instead, he found Lucario's arms wrapping around him in a shaky hug.

"Why?" Ash choked out.

"You are my trainer and friend. You are Kirlia's trainer and friend. You would never hurt her on purpose. You never meant to hurt anyone. You were just thinking about Ralts' safety. I will not blame you, and I will forgive you," he said truthfully, and Ash sobbed into his pokemon's shoulder, grateful.

"Thank you..." he said with a sniffle, wiping his eyes with his sleeve. Latias smiled in understanding, hugging her trainer as he was released, and Ash took comfort in her familiar embrace. After a few moments, he composed himself and stood up to face all of his friends.

"I'm sorry...I'm sorry everyone for being an idiot and not thinking. I put you all in danger," he said, bowing to all of his friends, squeezing his eyes shut. The others wiped their own tears and smiled.

"We forgive you," Brock said for the entire group, "We know you Ash. You're impulsive, reckless and sometimes brash. But you would never do anything to hurt your friends."

"Thank you, everyone. I promise to not do something so stupid like this again," Ash said with a teary smile, running forward to hug everyone, eventually bringing everyone into a group hug. They were safe, and everything was going to be okay.

In Pallet Town

Ash and his friends had arrived late at night, their entire group struggling through the front door of the Ketchum home, but Delia had ushered them in with a smile. Ash had immediately run off to drop Kirlia at Professor Oak's place, just to make sure his pokemon was okay. Lucario had followed closely, opting to spend the night in the lab watching over his best friend. Eventually, they all fell into a deep slumber, the stressful events of the day finally catching up with them.

Ash awoke the next morning before the sun even rose, his eyes haunted by nightmares of what could have happened, his entire form shaking.

"Ash," Latias said softly, having awoken to Ash's frantic tossing and turning, "It's okay. We're safe." He hugged her tightly, whimpering as Latias rubbed soothing circles on his back, chanting words of safety into his ear. Slowly but surely, he fell asleep once more, his arms wrapped tightly around Latias and his face buried into her hair.

That was how Delia had found them in the morning, her son's arms wrapped tightly around the girl-form of Latias. She really wanted to wake them up to embarrass them a little bit, but she stopped as she noticed the dried tear streaks on her son's face. Wisely, she quietly closed the door, smiling to herself. Her little boy was finally growing up.

And they are finally out of the cave! Next chapter will be rather important for many reasons. Ash will discuss what they found out in the cave and then actually take Latias out on an official date! More of Riolu x Kirlia will be coming around, though that relationship will be...evolving soon.


Ahh, I've finally returned, after a year almost too! Shesh. Sorry everyone for the hiatus! College life is really difficult. I've gotten more used to it luckily, but only just. There is just so little time to do what you want! This summer is a bit busy for me too as I have nine hours of summer classes. Hopefully, I won't be bogged down too much though.

I appreciate everyone who has stuck with me this far and again do apologize for the long hiatus! And you guys are crazy! 1k+ reviews and favs! I love you all!

Thank you for reading and please review!