Chapter Sixteen

Minutes slowly turned into hours, days eventually passed the week mark. Touko could walk again, and she could train with her Pokémon. Not many strong trainers came through Striaton, but when they did, Touko made sure to challenge them.

She was allowed to leave after nine days, which was sixteen days too long. The week she had spent unconscious and the time she had spent immobile was nothing but a waste of time she couldn't afford. Even though N had send Zoroark, disguised as a grunt, to check on the P2 Lab—which was still there, and still contained the Pokémon—more than once, Touko knew Ghetsis was using her recovery time to his advantage to map out their next course of action.

Touko sat by the pond on Route 3, just east of Nacrene, and dipped her feet in the water. She had run there all the way from Striaton without N's knowledge, and as she breathed heavily she felt the sharp pain on her left lung—made worse from her hard breathing. Trying to slow herself down, she let Oshawott and Samurott out beside her.

"You two can go play in the water if you'd like," she told them. "Maybe you can teach Oshawott some new moves."

Oshawott let out a joyous howl and leapt into the water. Samurott shook his head fondly; though he wouldn't let on, Touko knew he adored the little water Pokémon.

"Have fun," Touko laughed at him as he followed Oshawott under the water.

The pond was clear enough for Touko to see them. Oshawott would swim after the Goldeen and Basculin, chasing them around the pond, before a Seaking came out and Samurott had to step in to drive it off.

"I thought we agreed no strenuous exercise," she heard a voice behind her say, and Touko looked back and smiled as N sat down beside her.

"You were busy. I didn't think you saw."

N laughed. "No, I saw. I'm just surprised you made it all the way here." Brows knitted with concern, he scooted a little closer. "Are you feeling okay?"

Touko laughed and gave him a push. "Stop worrying about me." She tried to level her breath to hide the effect her injuries did in fact still have on her.

N rolled his eyes and let himself fall on his back, his arms spread. "I wonder what's going to happen next."

Frowning, Touko fell back beside him, resting her head on his arm. "We can't do this alone. I know that for sure."

"Unova wasn't the only region to be attacked by an evil organization," N told her. "Kanto and Johto had Team Rocket, Hoenn had Team Magma and Aqua, and Sinnoh had Team Galactic. And since each one was disbanded before Ghetsis brought them back, in means that someone stood up to them and won."

"Maybe they would know," Touko wondered.

N nodded. "If we travelled to Johto and Sinnoh, then we could ask them for their help."

Touko pursed her lips. "That's so far away…"

"We don't have much of a choice."

Sighing, Touko closed her eyes and pressed her face against N's shirt. "You're right." She rubbed her eyes, trying to calm herself down.

She felt N shift, and he kissed her on the head. "Don't worry. We'll take Reshiram and Zekrom, and with luck we could reach Sinnoh in a few hours. Johto is nearly a quarter of that distance, so that won't be a problem either."

A grin on her face, Touko opened her eyes again and pretended to glare at him. "You're making this seem like it's going to take no time at all."

"Maybe it won't," he suggested optimistically.

Touko was about to respond when there was a loud splash, and Oshawott propelled himself into the air. He was surrounded by water, flying up into the air, when he came down and crashed to the ground.

"Oshawott, you learned Aqua Jet!" Touko exclaimed.

Samurott appeared beside them then, a wide grin on his face. As Oshawott launched himself into Aqua Jet once more, he sat down and watched him go.

"Did you teach him that?" Touko asked her Pokémon. "He seems a little…young to know it so early."

Samurott's eyes twinkled, but he didn't let anything on.

"Oshawott's got some power," N remarked. Touko nodded her agreement.

They watched the two water Pokémon train and play for some time in silence. Finally Touko took a breath.

"We leave tomorrow at dawn."

The sun had not yet broken the horizon by the time that Touko woke for the last time that night from another fitful sleep. Drenched in sweat and gripping the bedsheets so hard her knuckles were white, she swore her heart would break through her ribs and shoot out of her chest at any moment it was beating so hard.

A rustle to her left broke her trance, and she turned to see N still asleep beside her. Her nightmare was so fresh in her mind she was still having trouble deciphering reality from delusion, but seeing N alive and well brought her fearful adrenaline down to a reasonable amount. She was in one of the rooms in the Pokémon center, and she, N and their Pokémon were safe. Her initial panic was calmed as she remembered the past few days' events.

Careful not to wake him, she crawled out of the bed and walked to the bathroom. She turned the water as hot as it would go, and after locking the door behind her she stripped and stepped in. The initial shock of the scalding water caused her to grit her teeth in pain, but she fought it and let it soak her to the bone. It made her unsteady on her feet, so she sat down on the floor of the shower instead.

Touko didn't know how long she sat there, letting the hot water run over her skin. Finally she stood up, washed her hair and skin, and stepped back out.

After dressing and pulling her hair back into a ponytail, she walked over to the window and looked out once again. It was still dark, the stars still visible in the sky.

"Of course," she murmured quietly to herself. "It's only four in the morning."

She grabbed her bag and silently slipped out. The Pokémon Center was deserted at this time in the morning, save for the night shift of nurses.

One of them cleaning the floors waved to Touko as she came down the stairs. She politely waved back, and then pushed open the front door leading outside.

She was greeted with cold air. Autumn's here, she thought to herself. Soon the ground would be hidden in white, and the summer Pokémon would go into hibernation.

She shivered, and brought Arcanine out beside her. The fire Pokémon practically leapt out of his Pokéball, excited to be outside once more.

"C'mere, you big loaf," Touko laughed, grabbing Arcanine's head and holding onto his neck. He growled playfully and tried to fit his whole body under her arm.

"You're up early," someone said, and Touko nearly jumped out of her skin. She whipped around to see a Team Plasma grunt standing behind her. "I was going to wait here, but I guess I don't have to anymore."

"What do you want?" Touko growled coldly, suspicion gnawing at her in high alert.

The grunt raised her hands and scowled. "Take it easy. I'm not here to cause any harm." She sighed, and fingered the Pokéballs at her waist. "I'm sick and tired of what Ghetsis is doing too. One would think that one defeat would be enough, but that asshole just seems to have lost his power to reason."

Touko recognized her from when she had first entered N's Castle, after it had risen around the Pokémon league. She was the grunt that had grown attached to her Pokémon, and had considered quitting.

"I want you to know that Ghetsis plans to use some freaky device thing that I never quite wrapped my head around to force those Legendary Pokémon under his control. It's not done yet, and probably won't be for another week or so. They tried it with Rayquaza, but that was just the prototype. This one's gonna cause some scary shit, let me tell you."

She used to have two Pokémon. Touko remembered that much. Now, only one was attached to her belt. Could that describe the cold look on her face, or her desire to bring Ghetsis down?

Touko lost her train of thought as the grunt grabbed her arm. Arcanine growled at her, but she merely threw him a sour look. "Oh shove it, you overgrown lapdog. I'm trying to help." She turned back to Touko. "I know you just endured some pretty bad shit, but you need to do something. Fast. You can't let him go through with this. If this…thing works, then think about what he could do if he made it global."

"Why do you care?" Touko asked her flatly.

She caught a quick glimpse of something like pain flash through the grunt's face, but it was replaced so quickly by anger that Touko almost thought she had imagined it. "Ghetsis doesn't care about Pokémon. He only cares about himself." She unhitched her Pokéball from her waist, and brought out the Pokémon within it. "See for yourself."

A Stoutland was brought out, but not like any Stoutlands that Touko had ever seen. This one looked bigger, meaner, and had its teeth filed into points. Its ears seemed to be clipped shorter, and it had a large scar running down the side of its face. Yet something about it seemed gentle, and almost broken.

"One of the lab experiments I got out of there before it was too late. She's such a gentle creature, yet Ghetsis thought that he could make her into something else. Something dangerous." The Stoutland rumbled in content as the grunt stroked the side of her face, and looked at her with raw love and thanks in her eyes. "I don't want to think about what would have happened to her if I hadn't stepped in."

"What about your other Pokémon?" Touko asked her. "You had two Pokémon back in N's Castle."

The grunt didn't flinch. "They're dead. Rayquaza went nuts after Ghetsis tried to control it the first time—which is why they're modifying that machine—and went batshit crazy. A lot of our Pokémon were killed. And what did Ghetsis say? 'Just go get more, they're pretty common anyways.'"

They both turned when they saw a light come on in one of the nearby houses. "I have to go," the grunt told Touko. "I can't be seen out in the open. Bad things could happen." She turned to leave, but paused. She came back, and stuck out her hand. "Give me your Xtransceiver."

Touko reluctantly obliged, surprised the grunt even had one.

"I'll give you a call if anything else pops up," the grunt told her. A surprisingly soft look came over her face as she looke at Touko once more. "I want him gone as much as you do. And if this whole thing turns into one big clusterfuck, I won't hesitate to choose which side I'm on."

Touko smiled; relieved she had one more ally. "Thank you."

The grunt gave her a sort of salute, and ran off in the direction of Route 2.

Arcanine huffed as he sat down beside his trainer. "I know," Touko told him, scratching his shoulder. "This thing for sure is going to turn into a big mess before it's over."

Arcanine looked down at her and growled.

"Yes, and we'll fight until our last breaths."

To the Pokémon in the ocean, Zekrom and Reshiram were nothing but tiny silhouettes against the sky. Touko and N were mounted atop their Pokémon, almost done their journey to Johto. The large island was clearly visible to where they currently were.

"We're nearly there," N shouted to Touko over the sound of the wind. Touko nodded enthusiastically.

Another few minutes and they had landed in the forest near a small town. They returned Reshiram and Zekrom to their Pokéballs, and stepped out onto a wide path.

"'Route 29,'" N read from a sign. "That small town should be New Bark Town."

"Let's go check it out," Touko suggested.

A mouse-like Pokémon scurried out in front of them. Touko recognized it as a Rattata—she had seem them, along with their larger Raticate partners, in the basement of the Dreamyard.

"We're not going to know a lot of the Pokémon here," Touko remarked.

N opened his mouth to speak, but before he could Touko was knocked off her feet by a blue blur. She looked up to see a blue and white Pokémon with long ears lying a few feet from her.

"Are you okay?" N asked her, and helped her up.

"Azumarill!" A voice cried. Suddenly a girl, slightly older than them, appeared and scopped up the Pokémon. "What are you doing? You need to watch where you're going, or you're going to hurt someone!" She looked up from her Pokémon to Touko. "I'm so sorry about that. Are you okay?"

Touko shrugged and smiled. "I'm fine, thanks."

The girl sighed. "Thank goodness. Azumarill's been this way since he was little. Back when he was still a Marill, he used to run into Ethan all the time."

"Wait a second," N interrupted. "You know Ethan?"

The girl looked a little confused. "Yeah, why?"

"We need to see him," Touko told her.

She laughed. "Good luck. Even I can't really see him anymore. He's got all this Champion business, and ever since he beat Red and fought off Team Rocket for a second time with Ho-Oh he's been off doing this mountain training stuff. Him and Silver." She thought for a second, and then continued. "I supposed I could convice him to come and pay a visit. It's been a while anyways."

She stepped away from them, taking out an odd machine that slightly resembled the Xtransceiver, and flipped it on. She pressed a few buttons and then held it up to her ear.

"Do you think she's calling Ethan?" Touko asked N quietly.

N shrugged. "Probably."

After a couple minutes of talking, the girl hung up and walked over to them with a big smile on her face. "Boy are you guys lucky. He's in the neighborhood; he's just a couple of towns over. As soon as he and Silver finish up what they're doing, they'll come here. Can you believe those two once hated each other? It's kind of weird."

She sure does like to talk, Touko thought to herself as the girl droned on.

"Oh, I never introduced myself. Sorry, I'm Lyra. And you two would be?" she asked.

"I'm Touko, and this is N," Touko told her.

"Let's go back to my house while we wait. He could be a while.

The two Unova trainers followed Lyra into New Bark Town, and into a small house. Azumarill was up and bouncing once again, and it disappeared as soon as it entered the house. Lyra went to work making some tea as Touko and N explained their situation.

"So there are Team Rocket people all the way in Unova?" Lyra asked incredulously. "That's crazy! Why are they helping Team Plasma?"

Touko shrugged. "Power and wealth?"

Lyra scratched her chin. "That's one possibility."

"Whatever the case, we need Ethan's help bringing the whole organization down," N explained to her.

"Oh, if you get Ethan's help, I'm sure Silver will help too. He's got Lugia, see. When Mewtwo threatened Kanto and Johto with Team Rocket once more, the two of them teamed up with those two powerful Pokémon to bring them down. And I guess they got attached or something, as I gather you two did with your Legendary Pokémon."

Touko stared at her in shock.

Laughing, Lyra handed them their tea. "See, I may come off a little strong, but I'm no idiot. I saw you two landing in, and I also know that you two would have to have some sort of a really strong Pokémon to have accomplished all that you already have."

"I…don't know what to say," Touko told her with a chuckle.

Lyra leaned down on the table with a smile. "Show me them."

N shrugged. "Why not."

The three walked back outside, and once they were sure they were out of the way of prying eyes Touko and N let their dragons out. The two towered above the trainers, and Lyra's eyes shone with amazement.

"Wow," she breathed. "I'd seen pictures of Dialga and Palkia from Sinnoh, but it doesn't compare to seeing these two up close." She looked back at the two Pokémon. "What are their names?"

"Zekrom and Reshiram," Touko told her.

Lyra stared at them a little bit longer, and then turned back to the two trainers. "Thanks for showing me," she said with a smile. Looking at her watch, she ushered them back. "Ethan shouldn't be much longer."

Zekrom and Reshiram were returned to their Pokéballs, and the trio walked back to Lyra's house.

"We're finally going to do it," Touko whispered to N. "We're finally going to bring down Ghetsis."

First off, a thousand apologies for the sheer tardiness of the update. I know I promised no more crappy, long waits, and I intended to keep that promise, but we were on a short vacation and there was an accident and I had to go in for some surgery. I couldn't write for a while, but now I'm back and I sincerely hope that there won't be another delay like that again.

And yes, I know it's not canon that Ethan gets Ho-Oh and it's just plain absurd Silver gets Lugia, but I have to be able to work with something. And this is just what I came up with. Anyways, another hopefully better chapter coming within the next week.