Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto or Pokémon. No one owns Pokémon. Pokémon owns you.

Or at least it owns your childhood.

Chapter 23: The Face of the Enemy

To say that Silver had been rubbed the wrong way by the Team Rocket goon that had tried to sell him a Slowpoke Tail was an understatement. His raw mood that had been caused by his defeat at Naruto's hands went right along with his original dislike of Team Rocket to begin with, and had only been enhanced at the slight at his training prowess that he ever needed an illegal boost to improve the training he put his Pokémon through, unintentional as said slight happened to be.

Either way, there was only one place in Johto where someone could go to run a black market operation such as selling the tails of the Pokémon Slowpoke.

Azalea Town, and the Slowpoke Well that it played host to.

Despite being called a well, the only thing that was wellish about it was that it had a large amount of stored water sitting within. After you took the ladder down the opening, it was more like a massive cavern. True to its name, Slowpoke was the breed of Pokémon that could be found swimming in the water or sitting around with a dopey expression on its face on the rocks and stone paths that filled the place.

The guard up top was completely out of his league when he tried to throw his weight around and stop Silver from entering. A single Zubat and a Koffing wouldn't have been enough to beat even a single one of his Pokémon on their worst day.

Once inside, he knew for certain that he'd chosen the right place. All sorts of Slowpokes were missing their tails all around.

It would have justified the asskicking he gave to the Team Rocket grunts stationed there to harvest tails, but Silver felt that he didn't need any justification to crack their skulls. Just the fact that they were Team Rocket was enough for him.

"Slash." Silver ordered, watching his Sneasel cut down the Team Rocket member that had thought it a good idea to take him on alone after watching all of his friends fall. His Pokémon had already been defeated, but that by itself wasn't enough for him, "…I can't believe my dad chose you weaklings over…"

No, there wasn't any need to think about that. Giovanni had still been his father, even if he'd never searched for him after he'd been spirited away. Team Rocket distracted him from finding him. That didn't mean his father hadn't missed him, it meant that he'd assumed the worst as to his son's fate.

Either way, it didn't matter. His father was dead, he knew who killed him, and he needed to prepare for just what it would take to end that person's life.

To that end, he was going to clean that well out. Other than serving the purpose of practical training, it was damn cathartic.

Watching the blood of the downed Team Rocket member stream toward the water, Silver did nothing but sneer and turn his nose. He needed more of a challenge. Sure, his Pokémon were gaining experience and strength (his Totodile in particular had come a long, long way), but Uzumaki Naruto wasn't sitting around waiting on him.

He knew that anything he'd learned of the young man was over nine months out of date. Their meeting in Cherrygrove City proved just how handily Uzumaki could dispatch him at that point in time.

'This is going way too slowly," Silver thought to himself as he returned his Sneasel to its ball, 'I need stronger Pokémon.'

"I finally found you!"

Stopping before he went to stand on the back of his Totodile to cross the water within the deep, vast well, Silver turned around to see an old friend standing, apparently having tracked him down, "Green. What in the hell are you doing here? How did you even find me?"

"Oh you know you can't outrun me," Green replied with a saucy wink before her smile turned rather strained, "Anyway… I came to ask you for a favor."

"If you want to trade back for your Snubbull that's fine," Silver told her, trying to guess what she wanted before she could say it. He had no idea why she'd seem so reluctant to ask him for something. They grew up together for goodness sake. They were like family almost. They escaped their hell of a childhood together, "I didn't evolve it while I had it. I know how you hate that."

"No, not that," Green said in a demure voice as she accepted the Poke Ball containing the aforementioned Pokémon back. It was a stark contrast from how he'd usually come to perceive her personality, "…I want you to stop going after Naruto."

Silver's face changed from one of surprise to a cold, hardened expression, "How do you even know I'm concerned about that idiot?"

Because he called him an idiot for one. That had to have meant that he knew something about Naruto. That wasn't what she said however, "Because I know that Naruto was the one that defeated Giovanni!" Very few people did know that for certain as a matter of fact.

"Defeated him? He killed him," Silver said with a dangerous tint to his voice, "He killed my father Green. Am I supposed to just let it go?"

"He was the leader of Team Rocket! He was going to take over Kanto."

Silver knew she was right, and that was what made him hesitate, but then he realized that it didn't matter, "…I don't care about that."

Why? Because as awful a human being as he was, Giovanni had still been his dad.

He didn't care that his father had been the head of an organization that had come just short of bringing an entire region to its knees? Naruto had done the right thing in that battle! It wasn't the easiest thing to think about sure, but he'd stopped Team Rocket from splitting Kanto via a weakness in the regional Gym Leader system and conquering it.

Silver never even really got to know his father, and that was part of the reason that he was so angry.

"Is it really that important to try and kill Naruto over this?" Green pleaded with her oldest friend, "Your father did bad things. Awful things. He killed lots of people and Pokémon and ruined lives. That doesn't make it right, but it doesn't make you right for trying to kill him either!"

She wished she'd never told him that she knew Naruto. Back during Naruto's time in the Safari Zone, back when she'd last met up with Silver she'd been all too eager to tell him about the adventures she'd had, the people she'd met, the things they'd accomplished.

Naruto's name came up when it had been talked about that Team Rocket had been defeated in Kanto. He was the last person seen going into Viridian City Pokémon Gym before it wound up being destroyed. If you were one of the few people who'd known that Viridian City's Gym Leader and the head of Team Rocket were one in the same, it didn't take much to put two and two together.

"I didn't say what I was doing was right. That's still not going to stop me from trying to do it," Silver said as he stepped onto the back of his Totodile and floated deeper within, "Don't follow me Green. You're not going to like what you see of me if you do. You know how he taught us to be."

Hearing him brought up gave Green instant pause. She did remember the sort of person that he wanted all of his 'children' to become. With that being the case, she and others were lucky that she only wound up being a swindler. She could have been something far worse.

And looking at the dead body floating in the red-stained water that she'd just noticed, she hoped that Silver hadn't wound up becoming that something worse.


(With Naruto – Elsewhere in Johto – Olivine City)

"We really have to thank Falkner when we see him again for letting us borrow these rides!" Janine shouted over the wind as she and Naruto rode side-by-side en route to their destination by the coast, the Pokémon Egg safely secured to her as they flew, "It would have taken us forever to get here on foot!"

"Yeah, I guess…" Naruto replied reluctantly. After what Falkner had told him before they'd left he didn't really want to thank the guy for anything, but the rides were much appreciated.

Looking over at Janine's face as she tucked some of her face into the plumage of her Pidgeot to protect her eyes from the sheer wind he could still see the beautiful, gleeful smile on her face. She was having the time of her life out there, traveling, doing things like this. He couldn't imagine how much of a chore she saw tending to the Gym as, even though she loved it more than anything else in her world.

The girl seemed to glow when she was out and enjoying herself with nothing more than life on the road. She had a touch of the wanderlust, and the mischievous spirit of a traveler. This was when she was truly in her element, Naruto had decided. Nothing else would do her justice.

Lazing about outside, napping in the shade of a leafy tree after a morning of training. Sitting by a stream or river, a Super Rod in her hands and her feet in the water, relaxing as she fished. Traipsing about searching for valuables to sell at market in dark Zubat-infested caves. These were the things Naruto thought about when he thought of her, because he'd seen her do them all with the same happiness that she took to the skies with. She wouldn't be shaking this side of herself anytime soon and he wouldn't have had her any other way whatsoever.

A grin on his face at the sight of her joy and a view of a prominent landmark on the horizon, Naruto decided to touch on another thing he knew that she loved; competition.

"Race ya to that lighthouse!" Naruto shouted at her as he directed his Pidgeot to speed up for the target goal.

Janine was quick to react and send her own Pidgeot right after him, "Oh Babyface, you cheating S.O.B.!" She laughed as she played catch-up, "Get back here!"

Naruto could stick to his Pidgeot with chakra, thus he was able to try barrel rolls and all sorts of acrobatics to keep Janine from flying in his slipstream to catchup. Still, she was daring enough to match his moves in order to stay where she needed to be to close the distance.

Pidgeot was a much smoother ride than Naruto's Aerodactyl was, sacrificing absolutely no dexterity for the speed of its flying. Naruto knew what he was doing when flying on an athletic Pokémon. Janine did not. She was simply nuts and completely willing to do what he did because she'd seen him attempt it first.

"Hey Babyface!" Janine called out over the wind.


"It's a good thing you like looking at my butt so much, because you're gonna get a really good view now!" Janine finished. Taking advantage of the shocked blush on his face, she swept underneath Naruto's Pidgeot and took the lead. Only her victorious laugh snapped him out of his shock with a growl.

There wasn't any actual annoyance or anger behind it though. He was feeling pretty playful in his own right, and if he hadn't been used to how she was by then he would have needed to have his head examined.

He managed to keep it close after losing the number one spot, but in the end, Janine's Pidgeot was the first one to reach the lighthouse and circle it, making it her victory as she landed right on the open area by Olivine City's port. Her Pidgeot had a very pleased look on its face as she jumped off of it, apparently fully aware that it had been on the better end of a race.

"Hm, we should've totally made a wager on that one eh?" Janine crowed victoriously, a thin, wry smile on lips as she watched Naruto hover just above her, "I might've been able to get you to buy me dinner or take me on another vacation."

"I totally let you pass me," Naruto drawled, landing and climbing off of his borrowed flying Pokémon, "If I beat you at everything you'd just get all huffy and stop talking to me until you got one-up on me again."

"Excuse me," Janine said with something of a snort, taking the Egg incubator out of its safety harness and back into her arms, "When do I ever get huffy?" She saw Naruto begin to silently add up separate occasions on all of the fingers on both hands before wiggling his toes as he started to count with them as well. Just fingers weren't enough, "…Nevermind."

With their jobs done and their passengers delivered, Falkner's Pidgeot pair took off once more and started on their way back to Violet City. Quite a lot of stamina those birds had. It was rather impressive.

And since Falkner's Pokemon had done their jobs in getting the ninja/kunoichi pair to Olivine City in short order, it was up to them to do their jobs in returning the Pokémon Egg to the city's Gym Leader.

"This hasn't been so bad for a job we're basically working for free,"

"It's not for free. Professor Elm gave me Chienha."

"Right. Gave you Chienha. You. I'm basically doing this for free," Janine pointed out with a wither-less glare, "If I hadn't said anything you would have made sure that we would be doing this for free."

Naruto would have cracked back with, 'Why don't you take her then?' but quickly thought better of it. He loved having that little Chikorita, as loathe to do anything active as she was, and wouldn't have wanted to plant any sort of seed anywhere that he didn't want her, even acerbically in order to win a petty argument, "Fine. I'll pay you back."

"With what?"

Good question. Naruto really hadn't done anything to gain money in a while. Jiraiya had swiped most of his Moon Stone money because he was an ass. Every time Naruto challenged him straight up for the right to leave the Safari Zone early, Jiraiya would beat him down and take his money as payment for the indiscretion. He was also fairly certain that this money was what Jiraiya had used to 'treat him' in buying him his new outfits and the Poké Gear.

Aside from that, the money that Naruto had made beforehand on the road battling with other trainers had been used to keep him and his Pokémon fed during that entire trip.

He had more than enough money to keep himself going until he found his next way to make more, but if he deviated from his budget and decided to splurge on something such as more Poke Balls than he rightfully needed to keep on his person, he'd be as broke as a joke.

Naruto shrugged his shoulders in response to Janine's query on his existing funds and rested his hands behind his neck as they walked through the bright, clean port city, "I dunno. I'll give you whatever you want. Think about it and get back to me later. You're good at making me miserable, you should be able to come up with something that'll piss me off."

Janine just stared at Naruto, the only thing keeping her mouth from hanging open being her own self-awareness at her surprise.

Naruto had basically given her a blank ticket to ask him for anything she wanted. It didn't have to be anything monetary. It didn't even have to be a possession at all. And he would remember and do his damndest to do right by his offer.

She did a little dance in her head at more or less owning Naruto on command for the foreseeable future. She would pick her spot wisely and enjoy the benefits of that particular advantage.

"So?" Naruto said expectantly, breaking Janine from her victorious reverie.

"'So' what?" She asked him in return, a bit put off at how expectant he'd sounded. Yes, they would butt heads over the smallest of things, mostly because it was fun, "Words are needed to form questions Babyface."

It was so easy to get under Naruto's skin, it was like a reflex to do by that point, "Grr, we're going to see Olivine's Gym Leader. So come on, make with the background stuff already. Who is it?"

"I don't know," Janine admitted, letting the air out of Naruto's reasoning unintentionally, "I knew Falkner. I didn't know any of the other Gym Leaders in this region before all of the bad stuff happened and I wound up becoming one in Kanto," There was a network, sure, but that network became strained when things crossed regional lines, "Your guess is as good as mine really."

Well that was no good.

Erika expressly told Naruto not to get into fights with the Gym Leaders, but what if Olivine City's Gym Leader was a jerk, or a maniac with some kind of evil plot like half of Kanto's Gym Leaders had been? Or worse, someone who was just so easy to want to put the boots to… kind of like how Falkner was. Naruto didn't think his self-control could handle running into two of those types back-to-back without slugging one of them.

It wasn't hard to locate the Gym, as they were usually the most prominent building in any town or city that had them. It was the same for Olivine, with the exception of the lighthouse. Thus, their destination was clear.


Whatever Naruto had been expecting Gym Leader-wise, what he got hadn't been it.

Olivine's Gym Leader was a very pretty young girl around his age with long light brown hair, two tufts of which were held up with a pair of rust-colored beads, and light brown eyes. She wore a light blue dress with white fringe and long white sleeves, a large rust-colored bow situated across her chest, as well as sandals with a seashell-pattered white strap across her feet.

Above all else, she did not look like one of the strongest trainers in all of Johto. Not because she was a girl, and not because she looked delicate. Her overall demeanor even at first glance was of someone too gentle to fight on that sort of level.

Upon finding her, she'd been sitting on a ledge by the ocean, staring out at the water past the lighthouse on another bluff maybe half a mile away. Resting its head on her lap was a large yellow, white-bellied Pokémon with two legs, two stubby, flipper-like arms, black stripes on its long neck, ears, and tail. On the end of its tail and on its forehead was a red bulb that seemed to flash with a dull glow that mirrored the content look on its face.

Curious, Naruto pulled out his Pokédex and looked what he could up on it.

"Ampharos, the Light Pokémon. Ampharos gives off so much light that it can be seen even from space. People in the old days used the light of this Pokémon to send signals back and forth with others far away."

It was an electric type. So did that mean that this girl trained electric Pokémon, the way Lt. Surge did. That was fine. If push came to shove, Naruto had already dealt with enough electric types willing to shock him to death. He could do it again. She didn't seem to be the type though, and neither did her Ampharos.

"Careful. If you stare at her any harder she'll melt," Janine said, arms crossed over her chest, startling the girl and waking up the Ampharos. She'd never heard them coming, and it had shown clearly when both she and the formerly slumbering Pokémon visibly jumped.

"I wasn't staring," Naruto muttered under his breath.

"Baybface, if you came with a heads-up display you would have been locked right onto her."

Okay, he was staring at her. But he had a good reason, "I was just sizing her up!"

"I'll bet you were."

"Shut up would you?"

Embarassed at being caught off-guard as a powerful Gym Leader, the girl straightened out her dress over her thighs and stood up to face her visitors, "I'm sorry, I didn't hear either of you coming. It was rude of me to not greet you."

"Don't worry about it," Naruto said, waving off her apology, "You not knowing we were here until we were right behind you just means we're that awesome, so it's a compliment."

The girl didn't know what Naruto was talking about, but he said it with good humor and a genteel smile, so she smiled right back at him, "Right. Well please allow me to introduce myself. I'm Jasmine, the Olivine City Gym Leader. It's nice to meet you both."

"Uzumaki Naruto, future Hokage, at your service!" Naruto replied, sticking his hand out for Jasmine to shake. She didn't know what a 'Hokage' was, but the boy was nice enough, and she was kind enough by nature to gently accept his gesture of greeting.

Janine noticed the smile and the downright pleasant atmosphere between Naruto and Jasmine and frowned. Something about this was off. Something bit at the back of her mind. That something being that Naruto was never this pleasant when he first met girls. Ever. Even girls who he happened to be friends with now, such as herself, or Erika.

"You weren't that nice when you met Misty, Erika, Sabrina, or me," Janine said, blinking in surprise at the stray amount of jealously(?) she found in her own tone.

Naruto paused in shaking Jasmine's hand and turned back to his kunoichi friend with a dry look on his face, "You were screwing up my guard job when we first met, I had to fight Misty right after I met her, Erika rubbed me the wrong way when we first met, and do I really have to explain why I wasn't nice to Sabrina?" That wasn't even hard to argue down, "Come on, you're smarter than that."

Point taken. Janine blushed at being verbally outsparred by Naruto of all people, "Well when you put it that way…" Extenuating circumstances did color his original reception of all of them, even if things got better over time with most of them.

Her attention now drawn to her Gym Leader contemporary, Jasmine gasped at the sight of the egg incubator in the young woman's arms, "You're the ones Professor Elm called and told me about last week. The ones bringing back the Egg my Pokémon made."

"Oh," Janine said before handing the incubator over, "We took good care of it, I promise."

"I wouldn't ever consider that you wouldn't have," Jasmine said with a bright smile, "The two of you seem like wonderful people."

Naruto rolled his eyes and snorted, "Sure, Janine is nice if you have all of your expensive stuff locked up and out of sight."

"Babyface is nice, but just don't use words with more than three syllables around him or his brain might short out."

"Hey, I'm not dumb!"

"And I don't steal random stuff anymore! I'm a Gym Leader now!"

Jasmine sighed in relief and happiness, ignoring her two arguing guests going forehead-to-forehead, "I'm so glad. My two Pokémon made this Egg in the Day Care Center I left them at, and I let the owner send it to Professor Elm to study for a short while. He said he found it wiggling around sometimes. I wanted it back in time for it to hatch you see," It was good timing too, because Jasmine could see the Egg shake every now and again inside of the incubator.

Just like that, Janine cut away from her argument with Naruto. She moved away at the thought of seeing a Pokémon hatch, inadvertently letting Naruto fall to the ground, "Aww, a baby Pokémon!" She gushed, "That's so cute! Can we stay and see it hatch?"

"Uh…" Naruto slowly picked himself up off of the ground and shook the dust off of himself, "Yeah. Why not?" Where else did they have to go? "The tournament's not for a while so it's not like we're in some rush to get to Indigo Plateau."

At the comment of a tournament at Indigo Plateau, Jasmine's ears started burning so to speak, "You two know about the tournament? But that information hasn't been released to the general public yet, either in Johto or Kanto."

-Because of course tickets were going to be sold, so it stood to reason that there were people excited about it. Travelers, other trainers, etc. It seemed too early for any of those types to be making plans as the announcement for the Gym Leader Tournament was still three and a half months away.

Both Naruto and Janine looked at each other in confusion before realization dawned on the latter, "Oh! About that, I'm Fuchsia City's Gym Leader in Kanto, and Babyface here is standing in for the vacant Vermillion City spot to round our side of things."

"Yo," Naruto said in acknowledgment of his introduction, "Lookin' forward to the tournament."

Jasmine stared at them both, processing all of this as her Ampharos wondered why she'd frozen. So she was possibly going to have to fight one of these two in a matter of months? They were amongst the best Kanto had

She had one verbalization for making new friends with the regional rivals, "…Oh my."


(With Jiraiya – Mt. Silver)

Naruto was going to be pissed. This was what Jiraiya figured as he sat with his Pokémon and Naruto's Aerodactyl by a healing spring that he'd managed to locate amid the harsh wilderness, "…Should've brought the brat here to train," He said to himself, "This place is no joke."

And he'd even managed to catch something to add to his team of helpers. A strange blue Pokémon with toad eyes and a hypnotic swirl for a belly.

…He couldn't help it. For some reason it called to his very nature, and he had to take it.

So now he had a Jynx, a Lapras, Naruto's Aerodactyl, and the toad thing that he didn't know what to call. Poli-something. Whatever. It was badass was what it was, and that was all that mattered.

With a sigh, Jiraiya dug underneath the water and picked a piece of rubble from his backside, "Fuck," Those were the breaks when someone brought down an entire cave on top of your head.

That Lance. Jiraiya was going to break his foot off in that guy's ass if he ever saw him again. And with his luck he more than likely would. People that tried to kill him once usually had a tendency to come back around to finish the job.

With that in mind, he regarded his present company with a mindful eye, "I didn't know you all could get that strong," Whatever Lance had done with whatever Pokémon he'd used, it turned the Tohjo Falls into a demolition zone after one blast, "…You guys are like carry-along summons."

Eyeing Naruto's snoozing Aerodactyl, he wondered if the brat knew just how powerful these damn things could get, even if they weren't as automatically powerful as the Zapdos, Articuno, or Moltres they'd dealt with in the past had been.

Come to think of it, it wouldn't be surprising if Pokémon came to be more powerful than that. After all, he himself was chasing something that had the power to block the Summoning Jutsu from working on that continent. The kind of power that would take obviously wasn't anything to turn one's nose up at.

Jiraiya wondered what Naruto was doing at the moment. He was surprised that the kid didn't throw more of a bitch fit when Jiraiya let on that he was borrowing his aerial ride. Whenever the big guy was up for flying he had to keep looking around for clues on the legendary that Oak told him was in Johto. The one with more power than the supposed Mew that he never saw

"Hah..." Jiraiya sighed in relief of the soothing spring, "Whenever you're up for it we've got to move big guy. I'm going to try and get a good jump on finding that Pokémon before Naruto really gets around to missing you."

Kamisori let out a quiet screech noise and rested his head back down in his wing-arms.

That was a good idea. Relaxing time was now. Getting down to business could wait until later, once they were all rested up. Another sigh from Jiraiya this time caused him to breathe out cold smoke. What the hell?

Since when was it cold on that mountain? It had been warm for the last few days and summer was nowhere near over.


A woman with red hair in a ponytail and a body-hugging black and lavender dress walked through the tundra that she and her Pokémon had turned the Mt. Silver wilderness into. It was all simply to prepare the battlefield to do battle with the only human that had ventured Mt. Silver way in quite some time.

To think, this person had managed to survive a shot from Lance's Dragonite's Hyper Beam.

Lance was busy with Bruno in Ecruteak City though, getting things in order to locate their target Pokémon that would help them with their goal. Agatha was elsewhere doing her own thing, the old woman was a mystery, and not one that others were eager to solve either.

So that left the ice master of the Elite Four to do the job for their leader while he did more important things. If Lance found this Jiraiya person dangerous enough to approach in order to kill, and he managed to survive the attack and the trap, it was more than likely for the best that he meet his end as soon as possible.

This was the worst kind of person to be allowed to roam while they did their work.

"I can't take this man lightly," The woman said to herself, seemingly unaffected by the below freezing temperatures she walked through, "It should be fun though. Fighting someone that could stand up to Lance seems interesting."


(With Naruto – Ecruteak City)

Naruto hadn't expected to see so much of Johto's countryside so quickly. First he got most of view of it from the sky on Falkner's Pidgeot, and now he was getting a good view of it from the back of Ranbouen. He was definitely traveling a lot more and at a faster pace than he had been in Kanto.

Then again, he was good with that. It was all still a lot of fun, and his company was fine. The usual suspect of Janine, along with a temporary tagalong, at least for a day or so.

"An Egg will hatch faster with more active things happening around it," Jasmine explained as she, Janine, and Naruto rode on the back of Naruto's Arcanine, "With how close it is to hatching, I think a day trip like this is just perfect for it!"

Yes, the company was aesthetically fine.

Not knowing exactly where the city was without using the map in his Poké Gear, Naruto and Janine had to rely on Jasmine's directions as she was the only local they knew that could tell them where to go. She was more than happy to show them the way firsthand.

"There it is. Do you see it?" Jasmine asked, pointing straight down the path to the city they'd been coming up on, "We head through this town to go to Goldenrod City. That's where the Egg's parents are."

For some reason, Janine's hold around Naruto's torso grew tighter, making him actually wince at how hard she was holding onto him. She'd been sort of silent and sullen since they'd left Olivine City. He didn't get why. Jasmine was a nice girl.

It hadn't been necessary, but Janine had outright asserted her place as the first to get on Ranbouen behind Naruto, pressing herself to him tighter than she'd ever done so before. Really, it had been hard to keep himself thinking somewhat cleanly when every curve on the girl's body was close enough to feel her heart hammer in her chest.

If it was any 'fraternizing with the enemy' crap, and if she brought it up later she was going to be getting a good talking to. Johto Gym Leader or not, Jasmine was a good person.

"So why are we going to this Goldenrod place?" Naruto eventually asked, speaking up loud enough for his voice to be heard over the air rushing past his head. Damn, Ranbouen was fast. It did Naruto's heart good to know that he wasn't the only one who'd gotten stronger in the Safari Zone. Ranbouen was probably the fastest land Pokémon there was.

…In Naruto's honest, humble opinion of course.

"Well that's where I left the two Pokémon who made the Egg you see," Jasmine said with a smile, "I think it's nice to send some of my Pokémon on a little vacation every once in a while for all of their hard work, and the Day Care Center is like a spa for Pokémon."

Such a sweetheart.

Naruto turned over his shoulder to look at Janine dryly, "Why can't you ever be nice like that?"

Janine's mouth hung open in an affronted manner, "I'm nice! I'm the reason you have Kamisori! The Old Amber I gave you came from me when I tried to rob Pewter City Museum!"

"Aside from the fact that you were using me as a mule so you could sell it later-," Naruto hadn't even known what he had on him until Blaine told him brought the prehistoric Pokémon to life, "-You haven't been really friendly today, and we totally met someone new!"

Jasmine was great! By now he'd have expected her and Janine to have hit it off, especially with how polite and friendly the Olivine City Gym Leader was.

Janine just averted her eyes away, allowing Naruto to focus back on the road ahead of them. She'd never seen Naruto so easily taken with anyone before. His first meetings with people were always prickly. It didn't matter who it was with or under what circumstances he met them. He never just hit it off with anyone.

Why did the first time that things went smoothly have to be with a girl as pretty as Jasmine?

Sure, Janine couldn't bring herself to try and get with Naruto, but that didn't mean she was happy with the idea of someone else having an easier time of accepting the come-and-go situation that a relationship with him would entail.

Call it jealousy, because she wasn't willing to admit to herself that it was anything else. And that was silly, being jealous of someone that she'd only met a few hours ago.

With a smile, Jasmine looked around at the classical, old-fashioned style of the road and buildings and knew they were in the middle of Ecruteak, "We can stop here for a short while if you two would like. There's no need to be in such a rush. I just want my Pokémon to see their new baby. We can take our time."

Naruto drew Ranbouen to a stop and allowed the girls to climb off of the massive beast before Naruto grinned and hugged him around the back of the neck, "We really appreciate it buddy. Rest your legs 'cuz we might need you to take us the rest of the way down to Goldenrod City," Ranbouen let out a loud series of barks and shot a jet of fire high into the air in acceptance of Naruto's gratitude.

Chuckling at his exuberant Pokémon, Naruto couldn't help but still see Ranbouen the way that he did when he was a Growlithe.

As he returned his first capture to his Poké Ball, he felt a tap on his shoulder and turned around to face Jasmine, "You really seem to care about your Pokémon. There are a lot of people out there that see them as pets, or soldiers, or tools."

Naruto shook his head, still grinning, "I could never see any of 'em like that. They trained right next to me for months," In that hell that Jiraiya put him through they made sure he knew he wasn't in it alone, "They saved my life and I saved theirs. They're my comrades."

"Comrades," Jasmine said, as if testing the idea of the word instead of friends, "…I like that. Maybe there's a chance that I could be a comrade one day too?"

"Well she is," Naruto said, indicating Janine who'd been making strangling motions in Jasmine's direction until right when they'd turned to her. At that point she put her hands behind her back and smiled brightly, the other two none the wiser, "And we used to fight all of the time at first."

"Oh, well that sounds difficult actually," Jasmine said, frowning at the thought of friends fighting. They seemed so close too.

"Nah," Naruto grabbed Janine in a shoulder hug that surprised the girl. Instead of the act to be happy that she'd been putting on, she actually did blush at the gesture, "I don't think trying to get along with anyone else would have been half as much fun," His face lit up slightly as well, but he was better able to hide it behind a big grin.

It helped that the two had been doing everything they could to avoid making eye contact with each other.

…So sightseeing?


(Azalea Town)

Silver was exhausted.

His feet couldn't carry him to a Pokémon Center fast enough for his tastes, and the way his steps slogged down the road, in reality his speed hadn't actually been that fast at all.

He'd destroyed every member of Team Rocket he could find inside of that base. It was pathetic. In the end, when they realized that their numbers failed, they begged off, saying that he would be an incredible member of Team Rocket, guaranteeing him high status, and that the executives would be impressed and move him into their ranks quickly.

When he cut down those types, it gave him the most satisfaction. Being a weakling was one thing, but acting strong and then falling apart in such a manner when everything failed you? There wasn't anything forgivable about that.

He cared nothing about how quaint and quiet the town was, the heavily forested settlement connecting directly into the vast nearby Ilex Forest. He ignored the sounds of the village citizens realizing slowly all over that their beloved Slowpokes were returning from the well that they'd been captured and taken to. He couldn't have cared less about that either.

He and his Pokémon were making strides. It was an exhausting effort sweeping the place of enemies however, and he needed rest. Even a taskmaster like him would acknowledge that his Pokémon did as well.

Emerging from the trees that flanked the lone road he walked down on both sides, three dark colored dogs with orange muzzles and bellies surrounded him on three sides. With spade-tipped tails and curved grey horns on their heads they resembled hellhounds more than Pokémon. Silver knew what they were however.

"Houndoom," He spat, knowing that these were more than likely Team Rocket Pokémon. He'd dealt with enough of the pre-evolved forms of this creature to make that educated a guess.

"Not bad."

The only way that hadn't been covered by a Houndoom was behind Silver, and that place had been filled by a man with short, slick black hair wearing a suave magenta suit. Yes, this was definitely Team Rocket.

"So I'm guessing that you're the guy who was in charge of this operation," Silver said, smirking in a smug manner despite his circumstances, "Sorry about tearing the whole thing down. But you see… I just saw that guy standing like a guard dog out front, and when I saw that 'R' on his clothes, well you know what they say about a Tauros and the color red? The same thing applies here."

The man just laughed, running his hand through his hair. Silver looked down at his own hands for a split-second. He was unprotected. He could call out his Pokémon to deal with the Houndoom around him while he attacked this person directly himself. At the very least he could get as close as possible before calling out Sneasel who would definitely be fast enough to kill him in one strike.

"I don't care what you do to those grunts," The man said, calming down from his laughs, just as Silver made his move. Unfortunately, he hadn't anticipated a member of Team Rocket that had been physically capable enough to rely on their own strength instead of just their Pokémon's.

When Silver moved forward to make his move, hands reaching for his Poké Balls, the man was already in his face. Silver's fingertips brushed the Poké Balls before he found himself knocked to the ground, staring down the fiery maw of a Houndoom with the man's foot planted on his chest.

"You're saying that you don't remember me Silver?" The man said, "You don't remember your old senior Carl? I know it's been six years since I finished training and began work for the master, but hearing that you forgot me makes me sad."

Silver shook, remembering his awful childhood with that horrible person in the mask, the person who originally took him from his deceased father before everything fell apart, "What do you want?"

"For you to inherit what's yours. Your father used to lead Team Rocket, didn't he?" Carl's smile only grew as he saw several mounting shifts of shock on Silver's face, "Mask of Ice always knew what became of your father after he took you. It's a shame Giovanni lost his aim to find you and focused on taking over Kanto. If he hadn't run into that kid, he might have actually lasted long enough to screw with master's plans. So why not use the resources that your father built up in this country, get as strong as you can, and destroy Uzumaki?"

"And what's to stop me from trying to kill you if you let me up?" Silver asked rhetorically.

"Well aside from me not letting you up to begin with-," Carl said, a burst of fire coming from one of his Houndoom as a visual threat, "-You've got to prioritize here. Who do you want to kill more, me or Uzumaki?"

That was what truly gave Silver pause. Even if he hadn't heard it in passing from Green when she'd been going on happily months ago about the people she'd met and the things she'd done, he would have been able to pick up on it from anyone who knew of Naruto. He wasn't around for the long term. He would be leaving. Whether he'd be leaving in three days, three months, or three years, no one really knew.

All he knew was that one day Naruto would be gone. He'd have come, seen, killed, and gotten away scot-free. Most people would never know that he'd done anything because of the nature of the Viridian Gym battle, and of the few who did most would see him as a hero for killing Giovanni and stopping Team Rocket.

Silver would miss his chance for some closure, and he would not get another one. There would be an entire vast ocean between Naruto's continent and his.

His window was small, and it could close at any time. The more resources he had to get the job done, the sooner he could get stronger.

"…Fine. Have it your way," Silver eventually said, accepting the 'offer', "But if you think for a second that this means you can turn your back on me, that I won't kill you just for being associated with that masked bastard for as long as you were, I guess you'd deserve to die."

Carl backed away, allowing Silver up, his confidence never waning despite the redhead's threat, "You're going to do just fine."


(With Naruto – Ecruteak City – Burned Tower)

Standing in the middle of a depleted wreck of what used to be a tall, proud tower, Naruto could only wonder how in the hell he'd consented to going to a place that was called 'Burned Tower', 'Ugh… what was I thinking? This is so boring!' "Uuuuuuugggh!"

Naruto's loud groan, intentionally done to garner the attention of one or both of his companions, did actually receive attention from both Jasmine and Janine, the latter of whom had been gleefully searching what was left of the grounds, her Golbat helping her reach the higher rafters of the single story tower that were too dangerous to try and stand on, "What's eating you Babyface?"

"Why did we come here?" Naruto asked before turning his attention to Jasmine, who'd remained on the ground, "We were going to Goldenrod City right? Isn't that place supposed to be huge?"

Jasmine frowned before explaining the reasoning that led Janine to accepting a trip there, "Naruto, this is a cultural landmark. A piece of Johto history. 150 years ago, this was called the Brass Tower, and along with the Tin Tower that's also in this town, two great and legendary Pokémon that the towers were built by humans to praise lived inside of them. But the Brass Tower burned down in a horrible fire, and this is all that's left now."

Naruto had seen the Tin Tower. Even without getting anywhere near it, it was so tall that he could see it from the opposite end of the town, "So why didn't we go to the tower that's still standing? There's a chance we could run into that Pokémon, right?"

Wishful thinking? Yes, but at least that underlying thought would have made attending that damned tower more fun than hanging out in a roofless, destroyed building. There was no way that dwelling in the Burned Tower was safe. Not that he really cared about that sort of thing.

So yeah, cultural landmark, blah-blah-blah. Piece of history, blah-blah-blah. Ecruteak City, hamlet of Johto's oldest preserved traditions and cultures, blah!

Sometimes Naruto barely respected his own culture. The chief reason he was respecting theirs as much as he was doing at the moment despite being bored out of his mind was precisely because it wasn't his. It seemed to be important to the people of Johto, these stories and legends, at least if what he'd seen in the classical town of Ecruteak and Jasmine's reverence for them despite not living there was anything to go off of.

Of course, Janine was just there to treasure hunt. She had her Itemfinder out the second they'd walked inside. So her motivation for going was obvious. Jasmine apparently just wanted to teach him some things after hearing that he wasn't just not from Johto, he wasn't from their continent at all.

Jasmine just wanted Naruto to learn something about her region while they were in Ecruteak City. That was sweet of her. Misplaced perhaps, but she hadn't yet found out that he had the attention span of a rabid mongoose, so it was with the best of intentions that she wanted to do this, figuring that he'd find it fun or interesting.

Honestly, he'd mostly checked out of the story as it was originally explained after the legendary Pokémon part.

…Don't you judge him.

Resigning himself to the grand Johto tour, Naruto plopped down forcefully on the wood floor, hearing the old planks creak in distress under the sudden pressure. Not his wisest move, as they quickly gave out and dropped him down below, "Craaaap!"

A quick fall coupled with a sudden stop. As far as falls went those were Naruto's favorite, because anything other than that had the propensity to end in either catastrophic injury or death. As far as this fall went it just hurt like hell and rattled his brain.

"Babyface/Naruto are you alright!?"

Prompted by Janine and Jasmine's questioning of his well-being, Naruto shifted around on the dirt ground and stared up at the light coming through the hole that his body had created in the clearly rotten wood floor, "Yeah. I'm just… ugh. Is there a way back up that you guys can see? There's no wall around me."

"I can't see one. Can you move around? I'll just have Ariados drop you a line."

"Uh-huh. Alright," Naruto said, sitting up and dusting himself off. Something felt odd though. Reaching into his pack he pulled out a light and used it to check around, eyes going wide when he realized what dwelled below the Burned Tower, "….Ooooohh… hell."

Apparently Unown didn't need light to float around and be creepy. They'd done it once before at those ruins outside of Violet City, and Naruto had hoped he'd seen the last of them, but they were right there in front of him, simply meandering aimlessly around the vast cavern underneath the tower as if they were waiting on something.

Well they hadn't attacked him and tried to massacre him yet the way that they had after being stirred from their apparent slumber in Ruins of Alph, so that was something at least. He took his hands out of the seal for forming his clones and picked up his light, "Oi, 'Nina, I think you should be checking down here if you want to find something cool!"

"Don't call me that. But really? Why?"

"I don't think anyone's been down here except the Unown."

Janine had not forgotten how spontaneously violent those particular Pokémon could be, "What? There are Unown down there? Get back up here then!"

Naruto ignored her. He didn't know why, but he did. The young ninja walked his way through the cavern until he found three old statues. Three large four-legged, magnificent-looking beasts. They were even bigger than Ranbouen, which was impressive and daunting all by itself.

Upon getting close enough to them, the dozens of Unown began to glow red and all shot beams of red energy at the three statues. Naruto stood at the ready for trouble, but he wasn't their focus. It was just the statues.

By then he'd been joined by his two female companions who were in awe at what they were seeing, "Babyface, did you do something?"

"I didn't do anything," Naruto didn't even have it in him to feel offended that Janine assumed he'd somehow created this incident. He was mesmerized by the sight, same as the other two. The statues seemed to be gaining color and actual life to them, "…What the hell?"

One was tiger-like. Yellow in color with black markings on its sides and legs, it possessed a thin lightning bolt kind of tail and a long purple mane that rolled together like clouds. It had a black faceplate on its forehead and its muzzle had a blue x-shaped pattern over it, two long fangs hanging down from its mouth.

The second was bigger and broader than the others, with thicker brown fur, a gray smoky mane, and gray plates on both sides of its back. It had four black rings around each of its legs, a red star-shaped faceplate, a yellow three-pointed crest on its forehead, and a gray plate over its muzzle that resembled a mustache.

The third of the three was slim in comparison to the other two. Blue with diamond-shaped spots, it had two white streamer-like tails, red eyes, a white muzzle, a hexagon crest on its head with two prongs at the bottom, and a flowing purple mane that seemed to shine in different colors when the light hit it.

The yellow beast roared with the force of crashing thunder, followed by the brown one, its voice booming like an explosion.

The third one just regarded the three humans warily, suspicion in its narrowed eyes.

Jasmine's mouth opened ever so slightly, remembering another portion of the Burned Tower's past legend, "…150 years ago the Brass Tower was struck by a bolt of lightning, caught ablaze, and was finally put out by a sudden downpour," She said, reciting it all from memory, "The inescapable fire caused three unnamed Pokémon to vanish in the fire and caused Johto's revered guardian of the seas to find a new place to roost."

"So ah…" Naruto said, squinting his eyes as a bead of sweat ran down his face. His initial track record with legendaries wasn't exactly spotless, "…Those three Pokémon that didn't have names. Were they friendly?"

Jasmine never got the chance to answer as a massive earthquake rocked the cavern and almost immediately caused a cave-in.

The three Pokémon before them and all of the Unown were not amused.

Because… you know, otherwise everything would have been too smooth and easy.


(Meanwhile – Center of Ecruteak City)

Sitting in a lotus position on the ground and ignoring the panicking townspeople as they fled for somewhere safe from the devastation of the earthquake, a tall heavily muscled man with long spiky black hair in a ponytail simply let it all happen around him.

After all, the mayhem was of his design to begin with.

"This should give Lance all of the time he needs to find what he was looking for," The man said to himself, slowly rising from the ground, never compromising his balance for a moment despite the constant rumbling of the ground, "I'm surprised the Gym Leader hasn't found me yet though."

Then again, he had released a few dozen Machops to trash the older portion of the city. That would be the first place that would garner protection from those with influence. Morty and the Kimono Girls would protect that place before they would try to look for the source of the Earthquake attack.

Lance was nowhere near there however, and his actions would for the most part be disguised.

Bruno's steps on the street suddenly stopped and he turned to stare a short distance away at a particular portion of the ground that burst open, an Arcanine emerging with three people riding on its back, 'That's interesting,' He thought to himself.

"Nice moves Babyface," Janine said to Naruto, holding her head, bleeding slightly from a small gash she received due to falling debris, "If the earthquake wouldn't have killed us, those three giant Pokémon would have."

Naruto was the first to make it off of Ranbouen's back, breathing heavily out of relief that they'd made it out of there in one piece, "What just happened!?"

Jasmine shook her head, "That was a Pokémon's attack. There's no fault line anywhere near here and real earthquakes don't last nearly as long as that one did," Getting a chance to look around at the ruined architecture of the city, she covered her mouth in shock, "Oh God."

Bruno simply stared at the younger trainers and noted the identities of all three of them, 'The Gym Leaders of Olivine City and Fuchsia City. And from that boy's appearance, I'm guessing he would be the Naruto boy.'

Naruto returned Ranbouen to his Poké Ball before noticing that they weren't alone, "Hey! Is this because of you!?"

His suspicion wasn't randomly placed. The calmest person in a situation like this tended to be the one causing the trouble. That aside, the guy looked the part. If the bouts with Team Rocket had taught Naruto anything, it was that one person could definitely do things like this by themselves.

Janine's head was still rather cloudy from the blow she'd taken to her head, but she was quickly able to put two-and-two together, 'Spiky black hair in a ponytail. Tan and muscular. Tattered gi pants,' She'd heard of a person going by this description before. He was a rather legendary figure in both Johto and Kanto alike, "T-That's… there's no way. That's Bruno!"

What was this!? Why was Bruno there, attacking Ecruteak City? One of the strongest people on the continent, what business did he have doing such a thing?

Naruto turned his head toward her and tilted it in confusion, "Who the hell is Bruno?" Was he supposed to know who that was or something?

"One of the Elite Four! The strongest fighting Pokémon trainer in the world!"

Naruto turned back to Bruno, but to his surprise he was already on the attack. Naruto back handsprung out of the way of a punch that crushed the ground underneath him. The guy was as fast and as strong as he looked. Looking at the crater in the ground, he already wasn't looking forward to testing his taijutsu on Bruno.

"You're quick on your feet," Bruno said, pulling his fist out of the ground, Naruto noticed two iron bangles he wore on his wrists. He could still punch that fast with those on his arms. They would only make him hit that much harder if anything landed, "But you can't win."

As if prompted by his declaration, the ground underneath Bruno burst and the largest Onix any of them had ever seen emerged from the ground, carrying its trainer on its head.

Naruto grit his teeth as the rock snake let out a bellowing roar, "Sazakumoru!" With that call, Naruto let go of a Poké Ball that released a brown bipedal Pokémon with a solid white head and a bone in its hand, "Let's go!"

"A Marowak," Bruno pointed out from his extremely elevated position, "Well at least you know enough about type advantage if nothing else."


Sazakumoru hurled her bone up at Bruno, knowing that he was who her master intended to take aim at. Bruno didn't panic for a moment, instead taking a deep breath in a defensive stance, timing his movements perfectly as he blocked the bone with the bangles on his wrists.

The chance that a blow like that would land on Bruno so easily; not likely.

As he blocked however, Naruto managed to him, Rasengan in hand. He'd been quick enough in movement to surprise not only Bruno, but the Onix whose body he had to run up the length of to reach Bruno. It quickly realized, feeling the rapid steps up its body that its trainer was in danger and violently shook its head, throwing Naruto off into the air before he could end things just as quickly as they began.

Naruto found himself caught out of the air by Janine's Golbat who quickly lowered him back to the ground, "Okay, well that didn't work," Fortune favored the bold though, so it had been worth a shot.

"We can't beat someone like this one-on-one. Even Gym Leaders can't hold a candle to them alone," Janine said, a grave expression etched on her face, "The Elite Four are the absolute best. The Pokémon they train are monsters, they're so strong. Just look at that thing. It's the size of a regular Onix and a half!"

Jasmine pulled out a Poké Ball and closed her eyes, "I don't have many Pokémon that could even hope to stand up to Bruno's Onix, but I do have one. Steelix!"

Her chosen battler was a gargantuan iron snake with spines on its sections of body that seemed to spin and rotate, chunking up the ground as it did. A shiver went down Janine's spine at the thought of finding a way for her poison Pokémon team to defeat such a creature.

Even so, Bruno's Onix was larger, and he didn't seem shaken in the slightest at having to take on the evolved form of the Pokémon he'd chosen as his main for the day.

That didn't make Jasmine's training of one any less impressive. These were some remarkable children. He could admit that much. The girl with the Golbat wasn't afraid to take him on. The girl on the Steelix had managed to accomplish the task of training an Onix into its evolved state. The boy had attacked him with no regard for the consequences that would come with taking on a fighting master like himself head-on. He'd even come close to striking a crippling if not killing blow.

This would be a great battle. It made Bruno's blood boil in anticipation.

Jasmine stood on the head of her Steelix, unafraid of the height and the conflict at hand despite her docile nature. A Gym Leader that was afraid of fighting was no real trainer at all.

"I train steel-type Pokémon," She said to her new friends before addressing Bruno with a heartfelt avowal, "I am Jasmine, the leader of the Olivine City Pokémon Gym. You've desecrated this town and hurt the people that live here. I won't forgive you for that. I will be your opponent."

"Janine of Fuchsia City Pokémon Gym," Janine said, allowing her Golbat to lift her off of the ground by Ariados' String Shot attached to the two of them, "You almost got three really powerful Pokémon to tear us apart because of your stupid Earthquake, and you almost killed us with it yourself. So now I'm taking it out of your fat head."

Naruto flipped a kunai in his hand before pointing it at Bruno as Sazakumoru hid behind him tugging on his pant leg. Some things just didn't change. Even after being strong enough to evolve, she was something of a baby at heart, "I'm Uzumaki Naruto, and all you need to know about me is that I'm gonna kick your ass!"

Short and sweet. He could gloat over Bruno's beaten body when and if they got that far.

Bruno didn't say anything at first, instead simply reaching into the back of his gi pants to retrieve a set of nunchucks with Poké Balls on the ends, "Determined children, perfect for a battle of this nature. I hope you're all aware that you'll be getting no mercy from me. Removing two Gym Leaders from the equation would only make things go smoother for us in the long run."

"Blah-blah-blah," Naruto taunted, miming yappily with his hand, tired of the whole dog and pony show, "If you want some, come and get some already!"

"Fair enough boy!" Bruno said, kneeling down and patting his gargantuan Onix on the head, prompting it to charge forward with a roar.


(Meanwhile – Just Outside of Ecruteak City – Tin Tower)

"Tch. Nothing," Lance said, tossing the last of the Pokémon training monks to the ground after a crushing victory over them. He hadn't even needed to bring out his Dragonite to get the job done. Its lesser evolution was enough to put them all down, "I doubt the guardian of the seas would take kindly to weaklings like you protecting it, or the guardian of the sky for that matter."

His Dragonair continued to search the several stories of the tower for any remaining resistance to stamp out while Lance looked over at Ecruteak City through an open window. All of Bruno's efforts and not only was there no Lugia or Ho-Oh inside of the Tin Tower as the Johto legends said one of them would be, there was no sign of anything at all that would lead him to the next clue of their whereabouts.

'If I only had that power on my side, humanity would pay for the injustices done to Pokémon,' He thought to himself. Bruno had done a grand job occupying the city's powerhouses. The first person he'd expected to try and stop him was Ecruteak City's Gym Leader Morty, but apparently he'd slipped into the tower under enough cover of panic that Morty wouldn't be aware that he'd been there until long after he'd gone from that place.

Not that Morty would have been able to stop him in the slightest, but it still would have been inconvenient.

As he observed what he could from the uppermost story of the tower, something particular caught his eye.

Three quick moving streaks taking off in three different directions away from Ecruteak City. One red, one yellow, one blue.

A smile spread across his face and slowly morphed into a grin at the magnificent sight.

"I guess I can consider the trail hot again."

Okay, so watching Seattle drop a double-deuce asswhooping on Denver last week made me really glad that I was at work the whole time instead of at home. Otherwise I would have been bored out of my mind for four hours during the Super Bowl.

Hooray for gainful employment! Those dark, dark days of retail are far behind me!

By like a month.

Anyway, next chapter Bruno takes on three of the good guys at once. And yes, Bruno is that strong. Bruno from Pokémon Red/Blue/Yellow would absolutely wreck Jasmine and Janine both. Easily. Back-to-back with no healing in between.

So Silver's doin' stuff, Legendaries are out and about…

And Jiraiya gets himself a piece of the Elite Four. 'Nuff said.

Kenchi out.