Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto or Pokémon. I met this Russian guy that could do the damn Poké Rap. All of them. It was the greatest two minutes of my 2013, including getting my Bachelor's Degree. Fucking incredible. Sometimes it's the simple things in life, you know?

Chapter 22: Fear of the Unown


Falkner would have the bird Pokémon ready for their departure tomorrow. That was what he said. Janine had been pleasantly surprised. It had been relatively painless for her to get her request out, and he had accepted just like that. Maybe they were growing up after all?

Someone might not have however, and while she wasn't pointing any fingers, she was fairly certain that the multitude of beaten-up Violet Gym trainers and bird Pokémon that had been strewn haphazardly throughout the facility had been the work of her traveling partner.

There had been scorch marks all over the place, so chances were he'd liberally borrowed the fire-spitting abilities of Ranbouen to get the job done.

Naruto hadn't said anything about it, but carried himself with a very pleased air about him.

"Did you have fun?" Janine wound up asking him cheekily as they departed the Gym, "I thought Erika said that we couldn't fight?"

"She said we couldn't fight Gym Leaders," Naruto answered in return, having called Erika before stepping up to the challenge of the Gym members, "She said we still had to train after all, and they didn't think I was strong enough to fight in a tournament of Leaders, so I had to prove I was a good enough trainer didn't I?"

They claimed that one Gym Leader's Pokémon could be enough to beat most of them and their Pokémon. How about all of them and their Pokémon then? Ranbouen was simply too fast for them. Flying-type Pokémon as his enemy or not, he was still an Arcanine, and Pokémon rarely got much faster than an Arcanine, especially a well-trained one.

In hindsight, after hearing that Falkner needed time to prepare the Pokémon he was going to use to help them get to Olivine City, Janine figured that the time might be delayed a few hours more due to Naruto beating the daylights out of all of his help.

Either way, that left the rest of the day for Janine and Naruto with nothing else to do. They had already gone to Sprout Tower, and after the events of the day before they were both certain that they would not be welcome in that place again anytime soon. The inhabitants were monks, but not of the forgiving type; more of the warrior variety.

There were more things to do though, and as loathe as she was to act like a tourist there was one place nearby that she definitely wanted to visit with an almost childlike desire about her. It was enough to even get Naruto excited enough to follow her out to just a few miles west of the city for a quaint, fun little day trip.

At least until he learned where they were going at least. He then promptly deflated.

"Ruins?" Naruto questioned as they walked along the sunny Route 36. It was a beautiful day, and he could see several better ways to spend it than hanging out at a dusty old place like that, "Aw, come on really? Why?"

"I've always wanted to check out the Ruins of Alph," Janine happily admitted, a serious spring in her step, "Can you imagine what kinds of things you can find there? We could be famous! Or rich! Or famous and rich! That'd be the best!"

Naruto neglected to mention that she was already famous by virtue of being a Gym Leader, but was more concerned with how they were going to find anything. Ruins were just that; ruined. He didn't feel like making clones to dig through rubble all day.

He could, make no mistake about it. That didn't mean that he wanted to. As far as he was concerned that was 100% D-rank work. He was on an S-rank assignment at the moment damn it!

"This will be the instrument of our success!" Janine declared to the skies as she held up a pair of strange bent rods that didn't seem to be the slightest bit special other than the little box attached to one of them.

"So… are those metal detectors or something?" Naruto asked. He thought they looked like bent coat hangers or something along those lines.

"They're parts to an Itemfinder," Janine said, holding the pieces of equipment up, "I mean, it does find metal, but it can search for any kind of object really."

"…How?"

"What?"

"Like, what does it check for?" Naruto elaborated with a squint to his eyes, "There's no radar or anything, so how does it even let you know that it found anything? And where'd you even get 'em?"

They looked kind of like the rods that people would use to search for water in dry places. Those stupid divining rods that people got ripped off for back home. Naruto's skepticism was all over his face as he did absolutely nothing to hide it.

Janine blushed slightly at the deadpan expression from him making her feel like an idiot, especially since she almost showed out in regards to her excitement over visiting the Ruins of Alph, "D-Don't worry about it Babyface. You'll see how it works when we get there."

Gah! She had been one step short of gushing like a little girl about to head to an amusement park. There must have been some sort of deity on her side that Naruto hadn't called her out to razz her a bit on that one. Either that or kicking some butt earlier must have dampened his need to pick fun at her for the time being.

Still, Janine stood by her opinion. This was going to be fun. Naruto could be all negative about it if he wanted to. She'd wager that by sundown he'd be grinning and chatting with her about what he did that day that had been so cool. It was part of what made them click. It was just so difficult to keep him down, and they tended to feed off of the other's mood regardless.

Thus they made their way to the heart of the world-famous Ruins of Alph.

A narrow valley pass several miles long and surrounded by forested cliffs served as a host to extremely weathered, aged yellow-stoned buildings built into the walls on both sides. There were slight signs of stone placed into the ground, serving as ancient roads in their heyday, but now simply serving as reminders now of what had once been.

Up, down, and all around. That was where Naruto and Janine searched, following those damn Itemfinders that couldn't bring up a strong signal to save their lives.

They were ninjas, not treasure hunters. Janine simply adored finding rare and valuable things however, and she had for as long as he had known her. At least she was doing it legally now, and at least it was making her happy. Even when she groused over their lack of locating anything valuable, it was obvious that she was enjoying herself.

For that, it was worth moving a bunch of musty rocks around and digging up dirt all afternoon long.

Sitting on a pile of rubble, Naruto unscrewed a container of water that he'd packed in his supplies while Janine continued to hunt, sifting through the bottom of the heap he sat at the top of, "Are we done looking yet?"

"Not a chance," Janine said, doing her level best to keep the portion of the pile she'd excavated into from falling down on top of her, "Just listen to this thing!"

*DING! DING! DING!*

"It's going crazy here!" The girl insisted, "We're totally going to find something here in this spot. Come down and help me if you want to get out of here faster. Call out Ranbouen if you want it to go even faster," Though she didn't know what else he expected to do in the meantime after they left. They couldn't rightfully leave until the next morning at the earliest.

Sighing to himself, Naruto took in a mouthful of water before jumping down and landing behind his closest Kanto-based friend. Turning back around to giver Janine some assistance, Naruto went wide-eyed and spat all over the ground.

One or both of them apparently forgot that she was wearing a short-skirt, either that or Janine had not expected Naruto to jump down right behind her. Luckily for him she was too engrossed in her searching for plunder to notice that her friend had perhaps the best upskirt view of her that he'd probably ever get.

Naruto had a Poke Ball in his hand but refrained from acting, instead staring for more than a fair share of seconds. That girl was so grown up now. And of course she'd wear fuchsia somewhere wouldn't she? Why it was on the thinnest fabric that she could possibly possess, covering the most private of all places on her body was beyond him.

Damn it, he up and disappeared for nine months and then he came back to a very fine young Gym Leader friend. He really needed to stop staring, he knew that he did, but Jiraiya's influence ran deep. One didn't get away mentally unscathed with nine months of having ideas for Icha-Icha bounced off of him.

"Babyface? What's the matter? Call out Ranbouen so he can-," When Naruto didn't speak or move, Janine turned around and saw him red-facedly ogling her. Wondering what the big deal was, she suddenly remembered what she was wearing and spoke up in disbelief, "…Really?"

Pervert.

Without saying anything else she simply turned her position over and sat cross-legged on the ground, patiently waiting for Naruto to snap out of the outright distraction that she had been the one to cause him. It was kind of flattering, but it was enough to outrage her as well. Digging for treasure had been forgotten.

Eventually, Naruto's eyes refocused on reality and he realized that he'd been found out upon being faced with Janine's straightforward look. Naruto was not the type to own up to what he'd done the way Jiraiya would, but he also wasn't one for outright lying and saying that he didn't get as full a shot of her backside as he could with her clothes remaining on.

"Well?" Janine asked expectantly.

Naruto blinked and looked around at nothing before shrugging his shoulders, "Well what?"

"You were staring for an awfully long time," Teasing Naruto proved to be more effective than confronting him directly. He'd fight back normally, but this way he'd fluster himself into a complete mess. It was more fulfilling watching him break his own brain than trying to hit him, "…So I was just wondering, is it good?"

"Huh? Is what good?"

"My butt," The purple-clad kunoichi said, her face completely unflinching, which made the query all the more ludicrous coming from her, "You were staring pretty hard."

Naruto tried his best. Really, he had. However, being bluntly presented with such a question, blood didn't merely trickle from his nose, it shot out as if a faucet had been quickly turned on and off. He maintained an upright position despite this.

"What are we talking about your ass for!?" Naruto shouted in return as he rubbed his nose and upper lip clear of blood.

Janine gave him a dry look in return, getting up on her knees to give her own backside a hearty slap, "I'm just saying, you seemed interested. Now call out your Arcanine would you? Or else I could have you gauge where you think my butt ranks on a scale of one-to-te-."

"Ranbouen!" Naruto called out, summoning his first Pokémon from his orb of captivity, "Dig! And be careful buddy, take it slow!"

Janine moved aside with a smirk on her face as she watched Ranbouen barrel into the pile of rubble, clawing through it with his sizeable paws as he did what Naruto asked of him. Between herself and Naruto, the only sound was of Ranbouen growling and chunking up pieces of rock with his crushing paws and claws, hurling it back out of the hole he was creating.

'I'd rather have her try to hit me,' Naruto thought to himself after a few moments of being allowed to think about Janine's reaction. Now she knew that he thought she was pretty nice to look at she would be damn near merciless with that kind of information.

Ugh, it didn't matter. All that mattered at the moment was that he had to stop thinking about her backside! And all of the things he'd do to it… damn Jiraiya and his freaking book straight to the depths of hell. If Naruto could see a cave get dropped on that pervert's head for how he'd affected his idle thoughts over the last nine months it'd probably make his day.

The awkward (on Naruto's side) silence ended when they both heard some scuttle coming through the surrounding bushes and trees. It could have either been a Pokémon or a person. Either way, if it was going to get uppity or aggressive it was going to catch a beatdown.

"Well hello there treasure hunters extraordinaire!"

It was a person. A girl person. A girl person that they knew from the sound of her voice, and from the sight of her once she worked her way into their small clearing area, using her hands to brush leaves off of her black dress.

…What was Green doing there?

It took her a moment to look up from the attention she'd been putting on her lovely attire to notice who she had stumbled upon, but when she did she did a double-take between them, "J-Janine? Naruto? What the hell?" One was a new Gym Leader, and the other had been M.I.A. for most of a year, "Huh, you guys are a long way from home."

"I was a long way from home to start with," Naruto said before taking this opportunity to change the opportunity, "Why are you in Johto?"

"Hah, Kanto's totally played out," Green said, waving everything off. She didn't need to drop the real reason that she'd come to Johto. It had a little something to do with her past, in more ways than one, and it partially involved Naruto anyway. Speaking of whom, she actually took a moment to drink him in. A long moment, "…Wow. Nobody said you got so-."

"'-Got so' what exactly?" Janine interjected, still having a bit of distaste for Green despite having fought alongside her against Team Rocket. Sure, they were both something of thieves, but their thieving habits were completely different.

Green realized that she'd gotten close enough to Naruto as to where he'd felt the need to lean back away from her for personal space, "Oh, nothing. Anyway, since you're here and since ninja-girl is who she is, I assume you're treasure hunting."

"Yeah?"

That was what she wanted to hear, as she reached into the bag she had with her and pulled out two bent metal rods with a small electronic box attached to one, "Well you'll need an Itemfinder won't you? It's just pure luck that I've got some to spare for sale."

Janine smiled and held up the two pieces of the one that she'd been using the entire time, "Sorry, we've got one already. It works like a charm too, since it got us this far and Babyface is using his Arcanine to get us the rest of the way in."

Ooh, right before she could really get into her whole saleswoman spiel. Maybe there was still something to salvage though, "…Matching his-and-hers sets then?"

Naruto took the Itemfinder out of Green's hands before she could even try to stop him. After a second he squinted at her with a frown, "These are fakes. The other ones actually had some weight to 'em," Finding a bell on the back of the electric box, Naruto hit it, causing it to ding with every touch and mimic the sound of a real Itemfinder locating something, "How many of these did you sell?"

"Hey, it's tough out there!" Green said, taking her shoddy merchandise back with an affronted look, "I've got to take care of myself somehow, and battling on the roads for cash isn't my thing at all."

"So you sell fake Itemfinders?"

"Real ones are expensive! Even the off-brand ones!"

And besides, that was just one side hustle. Fake Itemfinders were so cheap to make, and after making her sales she could get out of dodge before the mark she sold her false wares to could realize that they'd been had. It was a great way to make money in a place like the Ruins of Alph.

Of course, the last time she'd been running a scam or some sort of underhanded moneymaking venture in the presence of the ninja pair, they'd left her quite thoroughly defeated. Friends or not, allies in the struggle against Team Rocket in Kanto or not, they didn't seem to have a lot of patience for her cons.

This one wasn't directed at them though, so they didn't really care.

"Anyway," Green said with a distracting cough, trying to redirect the conversation, "What are you two doing here of all places?"

"Training trip/Janine's taking a vacation," Were the respective answers from Janine and Naruto who then glared at each other for their conflicting answers. Naruto's entire excursion to the continent was a training trip, so his answer had to be understandably more precise. Janine didn't like it however because it made her look lazy.

It didn't matter that she was treating it something like a vacation. It didn't have to be labeled as such.

Without saying a word in argument, their glares at one another became intense enough to prompt a stubborn clashing of foreheads pushing against one another. Really, over something so small and inconspicuous. Who fought over something that miniscule? And they didn't even have to scream at each other or hurl insults back and forth to have a tiff.

According to dramas and whatnot, the only people who did anything like that were usually…

"That's so adorable!" Green gushed at the sight of the two of them butting heads, shocking them out of their silent conflict. She had quite the whimsical blush going as her mind worked in overdrive, "Oh God, Naruto I didn't know you were so… so… romantic!"

Naruto could only squint his eyes at the auburn-haired swindler in return, "Eh?"

It was the only answer he had in the chamber, set to fire.

He could play dumb all he wanted to though, and Janine could look as befuddled as she liked to. Green had read enough romance novels and seen enough shows on TV to know better, "Think about it. An old friend disappears off of the face of the planet for the better part of a year, only to come back around when life has settled down for everyone who'd known him."

"Old friend?" Janine repeated with a raised brow, "We knew him for a few months. He took off for longer than he was actually around."

"Oi!"

"I'm just saying Babyface."

"Both of you shut up, I'm not done," Green snapped before returning to her daydream of real life, "Anyway, right after he returns, he whisks away the woman closest to him, and despite her responsibilities they run away together to a faraway place. It doesn't matter though, as long as they have each other!"

Both Naruto and Janine's faces were frozen in silent, screaming, red-faced horror. Between the upskirt view and now this, compounded on Janine's side with her private discussion with Falkner, both of them had been effectively broken.

Green clicked her tongue and shook her head, calming herself down in the end, "Still, you could have taken her somewhere sexier than the Ruins of Alph for a romantic getaway. Ick. What's wrong with you?"

Janine pointed a shaky, armguard-clad finger in Green's direction, "I-! You-! He-! You've gotta be-!" She stammered hopelessly through her mortification, "…Romantic getaway!? We're looking for artifacts to sell!"

"-Which is your favorite hobby in the world, and someone in love with you would know that," Green added on with a smirk as if this all just proved her point, "Where else would you rather be taken? I dare you to name five places."

-Diving for underwater treasures off of the coast of Lilycove City in Hoenn.
-Somehow getting into gorgeous Tin Tower to snoop around and take in the architecture.
-An actual island getaway just off the coast of Cianwood City.

…Damn it she couldn't think of anymore that she'd put ahead of the ruins!

The Ruins of Alph were definitely near the top of the list though, make no mistake about it whatsoever! She liked the legend of the place and she liked the chance of finding something that would make her rich.

"This isn't a getaway!" Naruto disputed frantically, as if something were at stake, "Trust me! It's training and survival! Between Ero-sennin taking Kamisori, getting the Egg we've got to Olivine City, and jerks like Silver and the lady in the mask ducking around the corner to take another shot at us this isn't for fun!"

That didn't change the fact that for the most part it was fun, but that would only have served to kill his point had he admitted such.

Something in Naruto's tirade had made Green go pale, and it was only right that she did. Yeah, his little diatribe had gotten to her. Good. For once yelling at someone actually worked on them. It was a banner day to be Uzumaki Naruto.

It wasn't the way that Naruto had said anything, it was what he'd said in particular. It was one small, overlooked facet; a throwaway portion of his rant, that stabbed into Green's head and heart. She had been taken aback, and she felt the need to press forward with it.

The conversation on her part wasn't fun needling any longer.

Before she could open her mouth to begin traipsing down the rabbit hole of her intended topic, Ranbouen rushed out of the hole he'd been digging in the pile of rubble and butted his canine snout against Naruto's shoulder to get his attention. A happy rubbing of fur and some spirited words of gratitude were the rewards for the large Arcanine.

Janine peeked inside of the freshly dug hole and let out a whistle. It had taken a few minutes of careful work, but Ranbouen had done a top-notch job. In the low light coming in from the hole she could see clear through to where things opened up into some sort of hallway with old-timey brick comprising the walls.

Embarrassment long gone, Janine grinned and quickly snagged Naruto's wrist to pull him along with her inside, "Come on, we've gotta see what we can find while there's still light."

Naruto tried digging in his heels, but unless he felt like sticking to the ground with chakra his feet simply dragged along the freshly loosened dirt of the tunnel floor, "…Ninja princess," Naruto stage-muttered under his breath as he returned Ranbouen to his Poke Ball.

Janine's eyes widened slightly, but in the almost nonexistent light she was able to initially play it off as if she hadn't quite picked up what he'd said, "Eh? D'ya say something Babyface?"

No way. She wasn't going to pull a Kakashi and ignore him. She didn't have the tenure with him to be allowed for that to slide, "You heard me."

"I don't even know how to respond to that, you're so off-base."

"Pfft, whatever!" If she wanted reasons for it, Naruto was more than happy to present them for her, "You're a big, important Gym Leader and you were always going to be one after your dad was, plus you live in a huge mansion, and you've got dozens of people that are supposed to listen to everything you say, and you like shiny things-."

"-Everybody likes shiny things! That doesn't make me some touchy princess-type."

Green simply watched the two argue their way into the uncovered ruin site and bit her lip before following along. Her friends had come across something she'd felt was important enough to get some more information on, and she wouldn't feel right until she found out just what had transpired during one of Naruto's Johto encounters.

'Silver… please tell me you didn't look for Naruto because of that,' She thought to herself as she headed inside. Dusty old ruins weren't exactly her ideal place for a grilling session, but if that was where she had to be to find out if Naruto had really seen Silver, Green would follow.

XxX

(Elsewhere in the Ruins of Alph)

"This is really the first step to the master's life's work," Karen said, leaning against a weathered statue vaguely resembling some sort of distorted letter, "…It's pretty boring honestly."

"That's because it hasn't been activated yet," Her compatriot was a strangely attired purple-haired young man wearing formal magenta clothes and a black dress vest, along with a ruffled collar and a white, grinning porcelain theater mask, "Maybe if our friends here worked a little bit faster… but then again, the Ruins of Alph have held their secret for centuries. You can't expect 'the help' to be the ones destined to do so."

The Team Rocket underlings that were busy scouring every inch of the known ruin temples bristled upon hearing such a slight, but knew better than to say anything at all. Power was absolute when it came to Team Rocket, and after Giovanni's death and the power vacuum in Johto that followed they were ripe for those with strength to take full control.

The masked pair and their two allies that ran the day-to-day workings of Team Rocket in Johto were simply too strong to fight back against. Making money wasn't their goal. None of Team Rocket knew quite what their goal was, but they were the strongest, and they were extremely dangerous.

They were still being paid, and even if they didn't get what the new leadership's endgame was, they would do as they were told. Money was money after all.

Karen let out a laugh and threw her hair back as she covered her face with her own white mask, "You have to admit, it's so much better being in charge of so many now though instead of working with just the four of us and the master. I hate grunt work. I see myself as more of-."

"-An executive?"

"No, no, let's leave that title to Sham and Carl. I think we're a bit above that station."

"The Master Ball though," Will said, getting their conversation back on track, "We still need to procure it to get what we need. I didn't think a new Gym Leader and her friend would be able to fight you off."

Karen shrugged, not offended at all at the unsaid undertone, "They were rather creative in how they chose to deal with my trap. Even if she is relatively new at it, Janine is a Gym Leader, and Uzumaki was enough to destroy the main Kanto branch of Team Rocket."

They had to thank him and the other Pokédex holders for that however, because were it not for Giovanni's death they wouldn't have received such an easy source of manpower.

They would leave a 'thank you' note on Naruto's or Janine's corpse and pin it to their collar after the children were relieved of the Master Ball.

XxX

(Moments Earlier – With Naruto)

The excavated hallway led to a dead-end of a room with an odd, large, ornate pedestal… and not much else. Much to Janine's disappointment there were no temple treasures to be found. The most valuable thing she'd found was an old, weathered Everstone, which wasn't nearly enough to satisfy her.

Green simply stood back and watched her search around with a flashlight while Naruto's focus was situated on the pedestal, and the activity on it that had so thoroughly attracted his attention. She still didn't know quite how to smoothly bring up the topic of Silver, so sitting back and waiting was her best bet. She could show patience, and besides, it was almost cute to watch Naruto grumble and move the pedestal plates around.

"Not that I don't love watching you get outsmarted by ruins," Janine said with a frown as she tossed a useless rock away following her investigation of it, "But I thought we came here to do some real treasure hunting."

"Just keep looking on your own then. You're fine," Naruto said, waving one hand to shoo her away as he continued sliding the plates on the pedestal, "…I can't stop. It's like this crusty old thing is laughing at me 'cuz I can't get it."

The plates all had some sort of design on them, they all moved, and they all seemed like they were meant to be arranged in some sort of pattern, to make something. It was almost like some kind of puzzle. Almost exactly like some kind of puzzle.

"Babyface, that was probably some game that little kids that came to pay respects at the temple played."

"I know, that's why it's pissing me off so much. Doesn't this thing know it's messing with the next Hokage here?"

He couldn't tell why, but there was some sort of… energy to the puzzle. He didn't know what it was, or if he was really even feeling anything at all, but it felt important if nothing else.

"Yeah, still no idea what a Hokage is or why it matters," Janine admitted, her voice echoing as she continued to try a different avenue of searching, "Green? Want to help and go halfsies on anything we find?"

Any help would be good, and a woman driven by money the way Green usually was happened to be a person after her own heart, at least when her drive for money didn't put them at odds with one another. She didn't seem to be paying any attention though, deep in her own thoughts.

Great. So not only had Green basically crashed Janine's date with Naruto, Janine had to keep searching the premises on her own for something good.

…Err, not that this had been intended to be a date anyway, because it wasn't, and she wouldn't give Green the satisfaction of even admitting that it could have been seen as such! Who went on dates in crumbly old ruins? Not her! It was just a day outing, nothing more! And if anyone said otherwise they would be 'politely' told to mind their own business.

Still, thinking of people minding their own business, her thoughts drifted back to Green. She was strangely introspective, which ran at odds as to what one could normally expect. Normally when she was caught thinking deeply it was in the process of finding a method to get over on those around her, but this time she honestly seemed to be reaching inward in contemplation.

It was strange.

Seemingly finally having decided on something, probably her course of action, Green walked over to the closest of her friends in Naruto and tried to speak to him. Maybe the puzzle on the platform occupying his attention would be enough to keep him from clamming up for some reason.

"So, you're up to your old tricks I see," Green started to say, "You've only been in Johto for a little while and you're already starting fights all over the place."

"Hey, we got attacked both times," Naruto explained, tongue sticking out in focus as he moved the plates in front of him. Huh, those few looked like wings when he put them together, "Last night this crazy lady in a mask came at us because of something Janine stole-."

"It was a souvenir!"

She was thoroughly ignored as Naruto continued, "-And the other time, this guy with red hair jumped us out of nowhere for whatever reason," Silver. Naruto was willing to admit that the guy was dangerous, even if he still felt he'd flatten him in a fight. He stole a Totodile from Professor Elm, and he was actually pretty good with it. He couldn't have had it for any longer than a few hours.

A few hours to plan a fight against an opponent that he had to know was stronger than him, an opponent with backup to boot, and he still fought as well as he did.

That kind of grit was respectable. Silver was still an ass in the mind of the Konoha-born ninja, but at least he had Naruto's respect for being tough.

Meanwhile with Green, she shook her head in the near dark, '…I didn't tell Silver about Naruto so that he'd attack him,' She might have known Silver for far longer due to the ordeal both of them had grown up through, but Naruto was still a good person and a good friend, 'I'll find him when we're done here and I'll set all of this straight.'

She wouldn't have her oldest friend trying to kill one of her newest ones for circumstances beyond his control. It was too dangerous a circumstance to leave up in the air. Silver had a knack for Pokémon, and he always had, so a next fight after he knew how strong Naruto was would be extremely perilous.

CLICK!

Green flinched at the echoing sound that had originated from the platform Naruto had been working with, and then covered her ears at his triumphant shout, "Yeah! I did it! I knew I could do it! It was totally easy after I found out I was looking at a wing!"

'A wing?' Green moved forward and looked at the finished product of Naruto's puzzle, only to have her breath hitch in her throat at the sight of it. It was a puzzle of a bird Pokémon, but not just any bird Pokémon. It looked just like a primitive rendering of the bird Pokémon that had changed her life forever.

The one that had kidnapped her from her home years ago.

To Naruto's surprise she sank to her knees and held her head in her hands, "Hey! Hey, Green what's the matter?" She didn't answer, instead she shook, gritting her teeth as hard as she could as she seemed to be fighting off a mental breakdown and losing.

Seeing someone lose it so suddenly was a scary sight. Both Naruto and Janine did their best to console her and calm her down, with Naruto remembering belatedly that Green was afraid of bird Pokémon. It had only come up once against Zapdos, so he'd forgotten about it.

What a rough thing to be afraid of, to the extent that it paralyzed you in place. Bird Pokémon were some of the most abundant kinds in the world. You couldn't go anywhere without running into one of some sort.

Opening his mouth to say something comforting, Naruto found another thing occurring that was wrong.

The floor around the platform he'd been puzzle-solving on simply collapsed away, sending them all falling into the dark abyss below.

Stupid ruins with its stupid weak floors and its stupid bird puzzle that scared Green half to death.

Way to rain on his victory parade universe. Kudos.

XxX

(Johto/Kanto Border – Mt. Silver)

"Ugh, so I guess this is karma for tricking the kid into leaving Konoha for training to begin with," Jiraiya said to no one, "…If Tsunade-hime didn't get the equivalent of a waterfall cave dropped on her head I'm saying that the fates must be sexist."

Jiraiya swore to himself that Lance would be the absolutely last unknown person that he would ever allow to share a campfire with him. So much for being a gracious person and a good host. It nearly got him killed. On the plus side it snapped Kamisori out of whatever had sent the Aerodactyl flying into a blood rage.

"Worst. Vacation. Ever," Jiraiya muttered to himself, dragging himself through a wilderness that rivaled the Safari Zone in severity, only with even more of a touch of danger behind it. Humans still did maintenance and took care of the Safari Zone, but no one did any of the sort here. It was completely untamed, and he could sense why without even trying to.

He could feel all sorts of powerful Pokémon all around, and they were watching him. The only thing that kept them from attacking was the mutual understanding of strength. Due to his longstanding connection with nature, they knew as well that he wasn't one to be trifled with, nor did he seek any sort of conflict.

In turn, Jiraiya knew that he could more than likely hand half of Mt. Silver its ass, but after the trip he'd taken to leave Tohjo Falls without revealing to his attacker that he'd survived, he really didn't feel like fighting the local super-powered fauna.

Aside from that, Naruto's Aerodactyl and the rest of Jiraiya's own Pokémon team were hurt. They needed to rest and heal. None of that would occur if he kept getting into combat situations.

'Sorry brat,' Jiraiya thought to himself as he finally came to a stop underneath a random tree on the grizzled mountain terrain. Pulling the large scroll from his lower back, he set it down on the ground and sat, turning his head up to the quickly darkening sky as dusk drifted into true night, 'My little search for these legendaries keeps on pulling up trouble.'

He didn't want Naruto tangled up in dealing with anyone like that Lance person. Naruto had performed admirably against Team Rocket. Honestly, Jiraiya couldn't have expected a jounin to handle that any better than Naruto had, but one Hyper Beam from a Pokémon of Lance's had obliterated a cave large enough to fully accommodate a running river and a waterfall within it.

…If Jiraiya hadn't been so damned tough… yeesh.

Going still, he shut his eyes to try and grab a quick power nap before finding more secure digs for the night, Jiraiya's eyes snapped open and he quickly raced through the trees to a cliff-side facing west, in the direction of Johto.

He couldn't see anything, but his instincts, just more primal versions of his highly developed Sage Mode senses never lied, especially when he was sitting as still as stone the way he had been just moments before. He couldn't have been more in-tune with the energies flowing through this continent if he'd been buried underground.

There was a massive release of primordial power, miles and miles away.

Something had just happened, far, far away. He had felt it. All of the Pokémon had felt it.

XxX

(Kanto – Saffron City – Saffron City Pokémon Gym)

Life had gone back to its normal monotonous grind for Sabrina after Team Rocket's main power had been obliterated in Kanto. Koga was dead, Lt. Surge was dead, Giovanni was dead. She would miss the freedom of doing whatever she wanted to, but cutting her losses and accepting punishment from Kanto's Gym Leaders in exchange for keeping control of her own Gym had been the only smart move to make.

So it was back to beating upstart challengers, training the budding psychics that came to her to learn from the best, and yadda-yadda-yadda.

Which was why she hadn't been prepared to feel such a release of ancient energy that it brought her to her knees on the spot.

The headache that came with the release of such a sensitive energy for someone like her was almost unbearable. She hadn't felt pain of this sort inside of her mind in her entire life. Whatever was causing her own psychic power to lash out at her had to have been an omen. A horrible, horrible omen.

XxX

(Johto – Ruins of Alph – Underground Level)

A cold snap washed over Karen to the point that her teeth ground together involuntarily. She was no psychic, but she knew full well that something was… off.

With as many years as she had spent in the 'employ' of her master, executing her missions for him to get his plans into position to finally begin, the dark Pokémon user had by then been accustomed to knowing when the freaky events they instigated started getting a bit too hot to stay around any longer

Echoing quietly through the deep confines of the underground temple, yells of terror and cries of pain sounded out through the premises. Yes, something was very off. Screams of Team Rocket members telling something to 'get away', and claiming that there were 'too many of them' was simply the most obvious and glaring sign of this.

Still, what had set things into motion? None of the idiot Rocket grunts were ballsy enough to poke around anywhere unsafe enough to hide the secret of the ruins, and they weren't smart or intrepid enough to really try and search outside of what they could already see.

When she turned to Will to try and get some insight on what was happening, she froze and gawked.

"What the-? Will, you're bleeding!" Karen exclaimed upon seeing the red liquid ooze from underneath the white mask of her partner.

Despite this, Will stood tall and removed his white mask, revealing a black masquerade mask covering his eyes and blood dripping from his nose. A large grin on his face despite the obvious psychic discomfort he felt, "If whoever triggered the awakening of the Unown manages to survive… I think we should send them a 'thank you' card, don't you?"

Karen's eyes went wide before a smirk formed on her face, "Well, they reawakened the heralds of the Three Beasts. I think even if they don't survive we can owe them a posthumous thanks."

Oh, their master was going to be very, very pleased by the events of their missions in Violet City. Even if Karen had failed to retrieve the Master Ball from those kids, her inability to get the job done would be overlooked when he learned that very soon the ancient secrets of Johto would be theirs.

XxX

(With Naruto – Elsewhere in the Ruins of Alph)

"Owwwww…" Janine moaned, holding her back as she sat up and winced, "Is everyone alright?" She asked, watching Naruto and Green begin to get up as well. They had all taken quite the fall. And here she'd been thinking that the ancients built these sorts of temples to last, "The Egg is alright at least," She said, holding on tightly to the incubator with a relived sigh.

"No more ruins," Naruto stated for future emphasis, standing up and readjusting his headband on his head, "I'm never going to another graveyard at night, or weird cultural ruins, or anything like that! Bad stuff always happens whenever we go anywhere like that!"

"It could have been worse really," Janine reasoned, shaking her sore wrists out, smarting from the impact of the fall, "All we did was fall down. It's dark in here though," Fumbling around in the dark, she smiled as she managed to find her flashlight. It hadn't broken, and neither had Naruto's, so that was good.

Apparently, Green was infinitely warier of bird Pokémon than the dark, because she quickly recovered after getting her bearings in the dark corridor. It didn't seem to bother her at all that the only light she had in a creepy underground portion of the Ruins of Alph were two flashlights being held by her friends.

"Oh," The auburn-haired trainer said as she followed the trail of light from the flashlights and saw the strange script carved into the walls, "We're in the main chambers in the base of the valley walls."

"You mean the part that everybody already had access to?" Janine asked, scrunching up her face in confusion. She'd avoided that mundane portion of the ruins because they were the parts that anyone could find and see. There wouldn't be any treasure there, so she'd avoided it, "Well why are the lights all out then? And where is everyone?"

This was the most frequented part of the ruins, and yet it was like a ghost town.

Flicking his flashlight around, a sharp stream of red on the floor caught Naruto's eye. Following the trail that it was weaving along the ground, he eventually turned his light onto the dead bodies of Team Rocket members, two men and a woman. Their Poke Balls clutched in their hands, having never been expanded or thrown.

They had never seen the attack that killed them coming. The grim sight of blood pooling around their bodies caused Naruto to clear his throat. Perhaps this was more serious than just faulty, aged temple construction.

It didn't take too long for his female companions to see the corpses as well and react with varying degrees of surprise on their own. Green had seen some things, but she'd never seen anyone dead before. Janine had seen more than her fair share of it and was able to school her facial reaction, "…We really need to get out of here."

A dark chuckle came from inside of Naruto's mind. Apparently his tenant found something amusing in Janine's dread over the situation, "I thought she was supposed to be tough. That's what you thought about her all the time during your little camping trip with the toad man. That amongst other things about her," Naruto's face went red at the 'subtle' remark, "…Heh, you're so weak you can't even admit to yourself what you think about her."

…Maybe if he fell from another serious height, he could get the Kyuubi to shut back up again? It had been talkative at moments ever since some random point during the Safari Zone excursion. It was odd. One day, silence, the next day it started randomly chiming in whenever it felt like it, which was still few and far between, but it happened now and at inopportune moments.

Probably because the biju found these moments interesting.

"You're going to like this next part."

Just like that, the hair on the back of Naruto's neck stood up, a harsh grit coming to his teeth as the walls and floors began to vibrate, the noise and feeling intensity increasing every moment as if something were coming closer to them.

Turning in the opposite direction from where he was feeling his growing sense of dread originate from, Naruto grabbed both girls' hands and took off running without saying a word. How could he? He didn't know what was coming their way, but it was guaranteed to leave them in the same condition as the Team Rocket members they'd stumbled across.

Janine had her own share of trouble keeping up, but physically she was in shape, in peak condition for a human on the Pokémon Continent. Green's legs however simply weren't prepared to move as fast as a sprint with her hand in Naruto's grasp would require her to comfortably go.

Therefore, she tripped and fell.

Luckily it was just as they had managed to reach the entrance of the temple, but she wound up unbalancing Janine and Naruto, sending all of them to the ground.

This was a benefit, as hundreds if not thousands of floating creatures, shaped in all sorts of strange characters, flew up into the sky, shooting wild red bursts of energy from their single eyes. They flew up into the sky like bats, like a flock of crows.

Amazement gave way to curiosity, and Naruto had the presence of mind to hurl a single Poke Ball into the air, hitting one of the random Pokémon and trapping it inside of the orb. This could have been taken as an incredibly foolish, as something of this nature could have ended with the odd Pokémon turning their full wrath onto him and his company.

With the panic from being newly awakened and with their purpose needing to be fulfilled, the Unown simply continued flying up into the air and out into the night, momentarily blocking out the view of the moon entirely with their sheer numbers.

And this was coming from a person who had made a thousand clones at one time in the past. To impress Naruto with nothing more than sheer numbers was a feat in of itself.

"What…" Naruto started to say as his gaze drifted back down to the dusty road outside of the temple and the lone Poke Ball that sat on the ground nearby, "…What just happened?"

Licking his suddenly dry lips, Naruto remembered how his instincts went haywire inside of the temple. This wasn't good, whatever this was. And those things were out in the world to do, who knew what. They had already killed dozens inside of the temple, and they traveled in huge swarms.

It wasn't safe. For anyone. And he felt like it was his fault.

Janine pushed herself up and crawled over to the Poke Ball, picking it up and placing it into Naruto's hands, wrapping her hands around his own as she made him hold onto it. She didn't say anything, instead just shaking her head as she continued to hold his hands, both of them resting on their knees in the road.

The sight of her soft gaze in the moonlight attracted Naruto's attention, along with the comforting look on her face. It was as if she were saying, 'We'll figure it out. Don't worry,' and it made his heart jump that she supported him that much. They were each other's extra strength. He couldn't tell exactly when it had happened, but she really had become one of his precious people.

Still, all the positive reinforcement in the world didn't mean much when the fact of the matter was that with everything staring them in the face, none of this added up in the slightest to them.

There had to be someone around smarter than them that could actually piece this together. All of this stumbling through the dark would get them killed… no pun intended.

XxX

(The Next Day – Violet City Pokémon Gym – Rooftop)

Green hadn't even joined Naruto and Janine on the way back to Violet City for the night. She'd been in a complete rush to move along to the next town, and it was odd to see her with that sort of urgency about her. Still, she'd bid them farewell with a saucy grin and requested that they not break open any more of Johto's lost, dangerous secrets if they could help it.

Maybe it was because in the morning they'd be taking themselves to a place noted for nothing but bird Pokémon.

She'd seemed to be past her little silent period and her bird-induced episode though, in much brighter spirits. That counted for a lot, and they were grateful that she'd bounced back so handily.

Either way, it had been good for them to see her again for better or for worse, and Naruto had been looking forward to seeing Red and Blue again if and when he got the chance to.

Which brought them to the following morning. Even with the weirdness at the Ruins of Alph, that had to wait for a roundabout trip, or at least until they'd finished their Egg delivering business at Olivine City.

Even though they'd been assured transport, they didn't think they'd be getting the top-of-the-line, holy shit rides to get there though.

"Oh wow, you're lending us these?" Janine asked at the sight of two of Falkner's Pidgeots, "Really, you didn't have to do all of this just to get us to where we need to go."

She wasn't a bird Pokémon expert, but she knew full well that they weren't going to get a faster aerial transport than a Pidgeot. Those weren't the kinds of Pokémon you lent out to someone lightly. It was pretty damned impressive.

Falkner shook his head and held up a hand as if to reason against her, "No, it's not a problem. Consider it an apology for… well, everything. Not just the day before yesterday," He had to avert his eyes away from Janine's face when his words drew a sweet, grateful smile from her, "So ah, don't worry about a thing. These two are some of my absolute fastest. Just hold on tight and they'll get you there."

As Janine went and got acquainted to a degree with the two large, regal-looking birds, rubbing their broadly feathered chests and making nice with them, Naruto grinned at the sight of seeing her so bright and happy, even after the events at the Ruins of Alph. She was usually fun, but it was different to see her outside of her usual element of playful snark and sarcasm.

Not that he hated that about her. He liked the kind of girl she was. It made things interesting. But when she was as she was then, earnestly smiling and enjoying herself, she was pretty. It was nice to see her like that.

A sharp whistle meant to get Naruto's attention came from Falkner, and once Naruto looked over at him the blue-haired Gym Leader jerked his head to the side, indicating that he wanted to speak to Naruto alone for a bit.

Naruto sucked his teeth before silently nodding and heading off to do so.

After walking a short distance away, Falkner set a hand on Naruto's shoulder, much to the latter's confusion. Naruto was still rather cross with Falkner from the way he'd treated Janine the first day they'd come to Violet City, but he'd apologized and she seemed to be fine with him now, so he had no reason to be hostile to him.

Also, he'd kicked the crap out of most of his underlings the day before, so he was able to vent quite a bit on the upstarts that didn't think he was worth much.

"Listen," Falkner began to say, noting that there was a rather intense look in Naruto's eye. Good. He'd have felt bad if the guy he was about to swell up to lacked any sort of spine, "I'm only going to say this once, and then you and I aren't ever going to talk about this again."

Naruto didn't say anything, he simply nodded stiffly once more, tensing and un-tensing his muscles as if preparing for a conflict.

Falkner saw this and let out a sigh before whipping his head to the side to throw his bangs from in front of his eye, "Look, I don't want to fight… yet. You're someone I have to prepare for," He admitted with a smirk, "I just wanted to say, that you'd better enjoy every second that you get with her. Every time she looks at you with those eyes. Every little bit of contact she gives you or lets you give her."

"Huh?" Naruto said, his face slowly turning red, "Oi, don't you… are you… what do you think I'm…?"

Great, he had him all flustered. It was time to go for the kill and make his point.

"You're really lucky you know. I'd give anything to be with her the way you are right now," Falkner said, with a wistful look over the city that he represented and protected, "I'm saying all of this because it's not in my nature to give up without a fight. If you want her - and I mean really want her - you're going to have to put your best foot forward, because I certainly will."

Until one or both of them officially admitted that there was something between them, there was no reason that Falkner couldn't keep trying to win Janine over. The mending of bridges between them was just a start now that he'd gotten over childish displays of reverse-psychological affection and she'd forgiven him.

Suddenly backing away, Falkner moved to the ledge of his Gym roof with his arms extended wide, "Just some friendly advice," He said before making sure Janine was looking at him as he blew her a kiss, "Good luck in Olivine City!"

With that, he dove off and used the built-in glider in his clothes to glide down to a lower lying rooftop safely.

Showoff. Naruto hated it. Not because he was humble and despised people like that. No, it was mostly because he would have had to use about five different tools to do the same thing and land safely the way that Falkner had, and it wouldn't have looked as cool.

Kicking at nonexistent dirt underneath his feet, Naruto ambled back over to Janine and their Pidgeot rides, regarding her closely as he got closer.

'Put my best foot forward? Eh? That guy is nuts,' Naruto thought to himself with a pronounced frown, 'What was he talking about, how she looks at me? She doesn't look at me like anything. Just a friend maybe. She knows-.' He stopped when he actually got close enough to pay attention to the kunoichi Gym Leader's face as she mounted the back of her lent Pidgeot.

There was a gentle tint to her soft eyes, and a content, peaceful acceptance of the person she was looking at as she gazed at Naruto.

Maybe Falkner really did have a point. She definitely didn't look at him like that when they'd first started travelling together. He hadn't even noticed when she'd started looking to him so fondly. It made his heart jump, but a hard gulp kept the harshly beating organ in line.

He did not have feelings for her. He couldn't. It wasn't fair. Not to him or to her. Both of them knew the drill.

Eventually Naruto's time on the Pokémon Continent would come to an end, and he would have to return home; to the Elemental Nations and to Konoha, to fulfil promises made years past and become Hokage.

Janine had her own responsibilities, to carry on the legacy of Pokémon-based ninjutsu and restore the honor to the Fuchsia City Pokémon Gym that had been lost due to the criminal/terrorist actions of her father Koga. She loved her town, and loved her Gym. She wouldn't abandon something that important for a short-term boyfriend. It would have been the same thing in her mind as him abdicating the seat of Hokage for a girl.

They were from places too far apart for any feelings between them to be anything other than a temporary fling. Naruto didn't know anything about normal relationships, let alone ones with distance, but from the way Jiraiya's book themes kept bringing up 'forbidden romance' and from how many of the damn things Naruto had been forced to read back to him, he knew enough to know that this wasn't doable. Not under their circumstances.

It took forever to sail from the Elemental Nations to the Pokémon Continent, and took far too many resources to be a regular journey for even the most hardened sailors to take. He'd seen it firsthand. That open ocean voyage was no joke whatsoever.

"Come on Babyface, let's fly. The sooner we drop this Egg off, the sooner we can keep doing our own thing."

It was just for the best to not think about it. With that in mind, Naruto climbed up onto the docile Pidgeot that he had been meant to ride to Olivine City, "Our thing? You mean fighting with each other and messing up Johto?"

"Aw, it's fun," Janine commented with a smile, reaching out to gently nudge Naruto's cheek with her knuckle, "I wouldn't rather be anywhere else just so you know."

Despite himself and the lurching feeling in his stomach at the thought of keeping his thoughts for her under wraps, Naruto smiled.

Naruto had been given something special, he knew that much. That was what made him fret so much harder over this. It would drive him mad if he dwelled on it past what he knew he couldn't do, but it was something so sweet, that was just out of his reach. Something he figured he could take, but just couldn't… because it was wrong. How was that fair?

The fates, or Kami his/herself had bestowed the kind of potential affection upon him that he'd always wanted in the form of a pretty foreign girl. But the divine conditions were set that neither of them could rightfully act on how they felt. They couldn't touch each other, and they both knew why.

He couldn't hold it. He couldn't touch it. He couldn't touch it once in a while, or take a nibble because he was curious. He couldn't think about touching it. He couldn't write about touching it. He couldn't write about thinking about touching it. He simply couldn't touch it!

…Because sooner rather than later he would have to leave 'it' behind.


And that's the chapter everybody. I hope you all enjoyed it. There was no heavy combat this time, but you can't always go 'jackhammer'.

The Unown are out and about as the first sign of something heavy coming the way of the Johto region. Heavier than Kanto, I can assure you, but you all know how these things work. First they start as relatively small incidents, then they snowball into complete anarchy.

Jiraiya has beef with the Elite Four, and Will and Karen have set their sights on working with others to start doing… something involving legendaries that are better off being left alone.

Green's looking for Silver to talk him down, as the two share some sort of past that you more than likely know about if you've read the Pokémon Adventures manga that this universe is mostly based off of.

Also, feelings! Oooooooooh~!

Okay all, last of all, I NEED to give public thanks to two people for doing amazing things for me.

First and foremost, Shisora, for being a man of his word and paying up on that nifty PS4 he bet me back at the tail end of August during my week of whirlwind story updates. If it had never shown up, I would have understood because that's a big chunk of change to drop for some guy writing fanfiction stories, but lo and behold he did exactly what he said he would do, and it blew my mind. That was a stand-up move man, and it has been thoroughly enjoyed since I received it on Wednesday. I can almost taste the colors on my TV when I play games.

Second, to Gaming Ikari, for sending me Assassin's Creed: Black Flag. I've been reveling in pirate-assassin goodness since Thursday when I haven't been at work or working on this. He did this for nothing. No bet or anything at all. He did it for nothing more than me just writing these stories. I do this for free, but to know that someone's willing to send me a $60 PS4 game because they enjoy what I do that much, it's really humbling.

As I've said repeatedly, I'm going to do this and write these stories regardless, but when people show that kind of love, I don't know what to say sometimes.

And I don't mean just the people I mentioned because they sent me stuff (although they are the tops). Some people have simply sent me some PMs about how reading these stories have helped them through some tough times that really makes you stop and think to appreciate things. That by itself is enough to make me keep trying to put my best foot forward, keep getting better, and keep on writing.

And when I finally complete my full-length original novel, it will become a best-seller, and I'll be rich as hell.

This AN is dragging so I'll just end it here.

Shisora, Gaming Ikari, you both rule. Kenchi out.