"Neither of them are there, my king." The Shadow Triad said calmly as they bowed in front of Ghetsis. His eyes narrowed and he tapped his fingers together at a rhythmically fast pace, but there was no other sign of the possible rage he must have had for their failure.

"Neither of them, hmm? That's very troubling news." Ghetsis rose from his ornate chair and began his usual round across the room. Beneath the calm figure before them, they could feel the torrent of anger and frustration pounding against their senses like a fierce hurricane. Visibly, they flinched as one, but otherwise, they remained where they were with their heads bowed.

"Someone had to have followed us." It was an obvious statement, one that Ghetsis didn't want to hear and he stepped in front of the leader and kneeled in front of the three. Hesitantly, they raised their heads to gaze into the fierce crimson eyes of their king. They could see the unbridled rage flickering through his gaze like a contained fire and they knew that they could only afford to fail so many times before they were punished for it.

"It must have been that ebony haired child."

"Cheren? Of course."

"There's no way it could have been the blonde." Ghetsis cleared his throat to give them direction from their verbal inquiry back to getting both Touko and N back here and contained in a better manor than before.

"If Cheren has her, then Touko must be back in Kanoko Town." The Shadow Triad nodded to themselves in agreement and Ghetsis rolled his eyes. If it wasn't for the fact that the three were skilled in the ninja arts, he doubted he'd have let their minds continue to slip in and out of the now.

"If that is the case, then why are you still here?" Ghetsis watched as the three jerked their heads to look up at him and bowed once they realized that a command had been given.

"Leave Touko be." The Shadow Triad vanished and instantly reappeared around N, restraining him at the neck, arms and ankles. N ignored their hold on him as though he expected them to halt his movements and stared intently at Ghetsis. "There are other ways to get what you need."

"Bargaining your life for hers is a bad idea. I already have everything I need from you and Touko doesn't seem like she's going to come rushing to your aide as gallantly as you did for her."

"She has to come on her own. You can't force her here."

"Oh? And why is that, my boy?" Ghetsis turned to his side, growing annoyed with the constant setbacks he found himself caught in. He was a patient man, but he'd spent decades striving for the current events to occur and the time for the ending was long overdue.

"It's her choice. If she comes, it means she's finally allowed herself to love me. And if she doesn't…then the dragons were not to merge in this age and they'll go into slumber again until heroes are needed."

"Fine. I'll play your little game for a bit. But I shall have my rule over this region and then I'll work on broadening even that rule. The Shadow Triad will lead you to your new accommodations. I believe that you've grown out of that playroom of yours."

. . .

Touko had felt on edge and fidgety for pretty much the entire day. Maybe it was the fact that the cold always made her more keen on moving and back in her hometown, the first signs of autumn were beginning to change the colors of the leaves on the surrounding trees. She tried to let their beauty affect her in their usual way but it was broken the minute she heard footsteps behind her.

"What are you up to Touko?" Her eyes narrowed at the sound of Cheren's deceptively honest and curious voice. She hated to admit that he was the one causing her so much distress, but ever since he had helped her out of the sand pits, he'd been watching her like a Braviary as if he expected her to rush off to N the minute she was left alone.

"Watching the leaves." That answer seemed to be fitting for Cheren and he stepped beside her to scan the trees with her. She wanted to beat him in the head with a Stunfisk.

"Hard to believe it's already fall, huh Touko. Soon, it'll be winter and the snow'll fall."

"Don't you have to go do stuff with Bianca?" Cheren shook his head no and Touko's eyes narrowed. Was he literally the only one who didn't see how much his hovering was getting on her nerves? She had to assume so because Bianca had gotten so mad about it that her feelings for Cheren had literally exploded out of her mouth and ended in a sloppy kiss. Touko was glad that finally Bianca had gotten that mess out of the way, but she wished he'd leave her alone.

"Probably, but she's never been on time. I have a few more minutes of watching the leaves with you."

"Why do you hate N so much?" Touko's arms folded across her chest as she voiced the only question that had been weighing her down. The calm he'd been displaying out of respect for his friend cracked against her voice and he narrowed his eyes.

"Why don't you?" Touko wished she had something in her hands to strangle in his place at how difficult he was being, but maybe if they finally got this subject out of the way, he'd finally let her breathe.

"He's not as evil as you think he is and he hasn't been breathing down my neck for the past few days. Which is more than I can say for you." Cheren's face softened at her stern voice but he didn't let her accusations go completely unchallenged.

"Okay, maybe I have been a little overbearing…but did you forget the part where N almost took over the entire region just to release Pokemon? He's dangerous and I don't want to see you get hurt." His arms folded across her chest and Touko stepped closer, her finger poking into his chest as she glared at him in a somewhat friendly way.

"N was just doing what he believed in. Taking over the region was Ghetsis's plan, not his, and he's been trying to resolve that for as long as we've been Champions." Touko blushed as she thought back on just how non-threatening he could be but fought it back just as heat burst through her body. "Besides…he's never hurt me or anyone else for that matter."

"You don't have to keep defending him…" Cheren thought he'd be able to get away with saying more, but Touko had had enough of listening to him constantly badgering N and herself and had begun to stomp off. Cheren followed her a few steps behind and she turned on him, jabbing her finger into his chest yet again.

"Seriously, you can stop following me Cheren."

"I'll stop if you finally give me the truth this time. The whole truth. How do you really feel about N?" Touko stumbled a little, shock clear on her face as she blinked rapidly.

"I thought we had already gone through this at Relic Castle."

"You told me what you needed to to get N out of the pit, but that wasn't all of it. I know it isn't. You're still hiding something." Cheren moved closer to her and she suddenly began to feel trapped. His question was surrounding her and choking her with its importance and she started to fell like she'd drown under the answer.

"I care about him."

"No, it's more than that. You can't fool me anymore."

"What do you want out of me?!"

"The truth." Touko froze as the impact of his final words hit her like a hammer. They reverberated through her being and paralyzed her as she stared at Cheren like a Deerling in the headlights. The truth was something she couldn't consider more than an idea because it was too difficult to accept...but Zekrom had told her that Ideals could become Truths and it was Ideas made real.

Could she say it out loud though and make her thoughts truth? And did she really want them to be words Cheren heard first? Somewhere a bell rang and Cheren asked her for the truth yet again. This time, she faltered and lowered her head as color rushed to her face.

"I defend him because…" Touko raised her head, looking Cheren in the eyes while her face turned a bright red with the burn of her revealing her feelings. "Because I love N." Cheren smiled and stepped back a bit as a heavy wind picked up behind her.

"Then you should go to him. He needs you." Cheren shimmered and rushed off as he blended back into the form of the ebony fox Zoroark. She reached out toward it to call it back to her even though it was speeding off into the distance just before another gust knocker her onto the ground…

. . .

Touko squirmed and fought in the oppressive sweaty blankets as her heart raced and she rose her head, breaking violently from yet another dream sleep. She would relish the day when they stopped completely, but she had other things to attend to. Even though the sun was still fighting to make its light pass the trees, Touko felt revived and refreshed as she dressed about as fast as she could. She crept down the stairs and past her mother before breaking into the early dawn's crisp air.

Touko burst into a full sprint toward Karakusa and felt completely free. Her body still buzzed as she panted her way to the Pokemon Center's PC to free Zekrom and gain his aid. Outside, she tossed the ball into the air and smiled as the red light released its large and powerful form.

"We have to go get N and I need your help." Her voice was breathy and barely restrained her excitement. Zekrom blinked and lowered its head to peer into her face with a large red eye.

'Oh? Why is that Trainer?' Touko heard Zekrom's powerful voice in her head and she grinned at it, color dusting her face pink.

"N's in trouble and I love him." Zekrom's chest rumbled in some kind of a purr at her words and nodded once.

'We shall waste no time in saving the Other.'


AN/ Another long gap between chapters and I apologize for that but I'm so close to finishing up this story that I'm powering through it as best as I can. Touko finally proclaimed her love and it's about time XD Other than that, I think when I'm done, I'll miss the crap out of writing Touko's dream dust experiences...Also, a revisit to both Kanoko Town and Karakusa aka Nuvema Town and Accumula Town.