My life has always been predictable. Ridiculously predictable. Well, with some notable exceptions. I didn't expect to meet Alex, nor did I expect for things with him to turn out how they did. I didn't expect for Cyrus and his crew to break out of jail, and then team up with Ghetsis and Team Plasma. I didn't really expect to end up in Unova. I didn't expect to end up as an Elite Four member of Hoenn either.

But still, even in the unpredictability, there was routine. There was the traveling from city to city, there was the camping, the Pokemon Centers, the friends. There was Dax back in Sinnoh, Sawyer in Unova. Even in Johto, there was the consistency of my room in the Pokemon Center of Ecruteak, the occasional training of my pokemon in the mountain nearby (well, when I could convince myself to leave the room), but mostly, the silence.

However, if you had told me that this week, I would witness the beginning of the resurgence of Team Magma, freak out at an Elite Four meeting, be humiliated at a Nascence meeting and also be pretty harshly insulted by a couple gym leaders, I don't think I would've believed you. It's been an... interesting week, to say the least.

Chapter 09: Six Days at the Bottom of the Ocean

Evening had given way to night by the time Sawyer landed in Lilycove City. Busby had brought him to the front doors of the Pokemon Center and he gave her his thanks before he went inside to the reception area and asked for Delaney Caldwell's room. The nurse on duty, a middle-aged woman who looked more than slightly bored with her job, informed him that there was nobody at the Lilycove Pokemon Center by that name, meaning Delaney had just gone straight to the gym. After asking for directions, that's where Sawyer was headed as well, and he arrived in about five minutes.

The "gym", if you could really call it that, was clearly a house that had been abandoned after the storms by the previous owner. It was not even a luxurious house (well, not compared to some of the more exquisite structures that Sawyer had seen as he flew above the city), a two-story pile of brick and cement with an "official Pokemon gym" sign stuck in front of it, with the name Dr. Atticus Gregory prominently displayed. To Sawyer, it looked more like a library than a gym, and as he stepped inside, this was only reaffirmed.

The first floor was mainly one large room, with the door to either a bathroom or closet nearly hidden off to one side. A kitchenette was carelessly set-up in a corner, though it looked like it had rarely been used. The main attraction of this "gym" was the piles and piles of books and paper all over, making the place appear that some sort of knowledge hurricane had ravaged it. It was behind one particularly large stack of books that Sawyer found a desk that was occupied by a man in his thirties with sable hair and green eyes hidden by square-framed glasses who was gesturing to something on his desk. Standing over him was, of course, Delaney, who seemed to be immersed in what he was saying. Sawyer was waiting for them to finish their discussion before he made his presence known, but alas, the pile of books he knocked into did not seem to have the same idea and they fell to the floor with a crash.

Delaney and the man she was talking to, who Sawyer assumed to be Dr. Atticus Gregory as stated by the sign, looked up with a wide-eyed, startled look, though when Delaney noticed who had made the noise, her face gave way to a smile. "Sawyer!" she chirped happily. She turned to the man at the desk. "Dr. Gregory, this is the friend I was talking about. This is Sawyer Hale. Sawyer, this is Dr. Gregory."

Dr. Gregory chuckled. "Delaney, I do insist you call me Atticus," he said, shaking his head. He got up from the desk and met Sawyer where he stood by the pile of fallen books.

"I'm sorry," was all Sawyer could think to say.

"Don't worry about it!" he said. "They're everywhere; it's inevitable. Nice to meet you, Sawyer. Delaney has had only wonderful things to say about you."

"Thanks," Sawyer said, mildly surprised at the friendliness of the man. "Nice to meet you too."

"Dr. Grego- I mean, Atticus, has been telling me all about his research on psychic pokemon," Delaney said. "He's been studying their intelligence quotients. His alakazam has an IQ of 5,000!"

"They never forget anything," Atticus said with a nod. "When a kadabra evolves into an alakazam, their muscles grow considerably weaker and even shrink some, but their brain grows."

"I wonder what Synapse's IQ is…" Delaney wondered out loud.

"I've never had the chance to study any of the psychic pokemon native to the Unova region," Atticus said thoughtfully. "Perhaps when I'm back in my lab in Kanto, you'll come see me and allow me to study your reuniclus… If your schedule allows it, that is."

"That would be awesome!" Delaney said with a bright grin. Sawyer couldn't help but notice how much more cheerful her entire demeanor was, a far cry from the girl who he had seen in tears several times over the last week. "I think Sawyer and I should get going, but thanks for showing me some of your research!"

"Of course, Delaney, glad to be of help to you. I'm sure we'll be in contact again," he said, briskly shaking her hand. "Good to meet you, Sawyer."

"You as well, sir," Sawyer said as he followed Delaney out of the small "gym". Atticus just seemed like a sir.

The air just seemed that much fresher outside as Delaney and Sawyer stepped onto the sidewalk of the main street. "That was interesting. We barely had anything to talk about as far as Lilycove goes, but I was waiting for you before I went back to the Pokemon Center and he brought up his research and it was awesome. He's a very intelligent man." Delaney was rambling, and she knew it, but she was so much more cheerful than she had been in a very long time and Sawyer didn't want to stop her. "Sawyer?"

"Yeah, Del?" he asked wearily.

"I just wanted to say thank you… For going to the meeting with me, I mean. I know it was kind of chaotic, but I'm really glad you gave it a shot. It meant a lot to me." A soft smile came across her face and even in the glow of the streetlights, Sawyer could see a bit of moisture gathering in her violet eyes. "You know-"

"Delaney!" a male voice called. Sawyer didn't recognize it right away and prayed to Arceus that it was not Nick.

It wasn't. The man that approached was slightly older than the two of them, with dark hair and dark eyes, perhaps in his early to mid-twenties. He stood in front of them in a very fancy blue suit and hat. Sawyer knew that he did not know this man, as he would remember making a sarcastic comment about his hat, but Delaney seemed to be familiar with him. "Hi!" she said, clearly surprised at his presence. She turned to Sawyer. "Sawyer, this is Riley, another member of the Elite Four. He's in charge of security. Riley, this is my best friend, Sawyer."

They both nodded at each other as a hello, but it was clear that Riley had more important things to discuss. Delaney was a bit too chatty to let him begin though. The hint of tears was gone from her eyes, but the sparkle was not. "What are you doing here? I thought you've been in Dewford."

"I have, but there was an emergency here that needed my attention," he said.

Emergency? Sawyer looked around the main street, but all seemed calm. "What's going on?" Delaney asked.

"The former base of Team Aqua at the foot of the city has been ransacked. It was clear some things were taken, but we're not sure what. Somebody reported a person in red running away from the base, though," Riley said with a frown.

"Red?" Delaney said, the smile wiping off of her face as well.

"Red," Riley confirmed. "And seeing as how Team Aqua's greatest nemesis also had an affinity for red, there's really only one thing we can say."

"Team Magma," Delaney said dully.

Riley only nodded. "We're not getting much further in Dewford either, but Brawley seems to think you being there can only help, so expect a call from me within the next couple days."

"Brawley thinks I can help?" Delaney said, surprised.

"It's not that I didn't think you could help, but I didn't want you to," Riley told her. "It's looking more and more that I don't have a choice though, and you're a great trainer, Delaney. I think you might be able to accomplish something. I'm just sorry I have to ask."

"Stop apologizing, Riley," Delaney said with a sigh. "I'll help if you need me to, just say the word."

"I just don't want to upset you again," he said. The look on his face clearly signified he was uncomfortable.

"About that… I'm sorry," Delaney cringed. "I'm just kind of sensitive about… that subject and I blew up. It was wrong of me. I'm sorry."

"You have every right to be… Sensitive, I mean," Riley told her. "I'm just glad we're back on good terms. Expect a call from me soon, Delaney. I have to get back to Dewford."

"Of course. Take care, Riley," she said, waving at him as he headed off. She began walking in the direction of the Pokemon Center once more. "You're really quiet tonight, Sawyer. Did something happen after I left the meeting?"

She caught him off guard. "Oh… No. Just thinking, I guess." In truth, he had been trying to focus on the scene in front of him between Riley and Delaney and not think- specifically, he was trying not to think about the conversation he had heard outside The Nascence's base that was about Delaney. It was easier to just focus on everything else around him than to think about how he was going to tell Delaney that there was something that was very much not right about the Nascence without sounding like he was just dismissing them as a cult again.

Plus, he just hated to even bring it up. That soft smile, the sparkle in her eye- they hadn't been present since before The Dragonspiral Incident. They were signs of the old Delaney and even if they were born of ignorant bliss, they were still there, and it made him smile to see her so… happy. "Today has been kind of a crazy day… Lots to think about," she said with a nod. "So anyways, Sawyer, I have kind of a crazy idea for the next couple days until Riley calls for us to go to Dewford. I mean, you heard him, he'll call me when he's ready for me to go. Aside from Dewford, we're done with progress checks and whatnot so… I was thinking maybe we could talk to Nick and maybe work on getting some donations or something… You know, helping with The Nascence? I know Malonie told me to get underwear and socks and whatnot and I'll get some tomorrow but there's got to be something else we can do… Maybe you can talk Ren into showing me the plans she's been working on? Do you think she'd let me see them?" she asked, her violet eyes wide.

"Del, you're rambling."

"Sawyerrrrrr," she whined. She was giving him massive puppy-growlithe eyes, batting her long lashes and sticking out her lower lip slightly in a pout. Sawyer sighed and purposefully tried to keep his eyes away from Delaney's face. "I thought… I mean, you seemed to be on board with The Nascence."

"It wasn't bad… I…" He was definitely stumbling. How did he even start this conversation? "Listen, Del, don't you think you're doing too much too soon? I mean, there has to be something else you can do to help Steven because, um, isn't your job to be an Elite Four member?"

By the look on Delaney's face, you would think that he had slapped her with those words. Her brows furrowed and the delicate features of her face were overwhelmed by hurt, confusion and a bit of anger. "I-" she began, but she seemed utterly flustered and unsure of her words. Delaney Caldwell was speechless. That was certainly a new one. "All I've been hearing since I've got here, Sawyer, is that I should have done more, that I shouldn't be here because I should be in Unova. I want to do more. I want to help. Now that I have both time and opportunity, shouldn't I that be my job?"

"I'm not saying you shouldn't help, Del," he said, trying to gain back some ground. He hated to admit it, but he himself was getting flustered. There was a powderkeg of tension in the air around them, and all it took to set it off was one little spark. "I'm just saying… Well, how much do you really even know about The Nascence? Or about Nick?"

The narrowing of Delaney's eyes told him right there that he had not stumbled upon the right words. "Is that what this is about, Sawyer? Because I told you, my involvement in The Nascence isn't about Nick."

"I didn't say it was, Del," he said quickly, trying to minimize the damage from his fumble. "I'm sorry, I spoke too soon… I'm sorry if that's what you thought I meant. I just… I don't want to see you get hurt, Del."

"So you're still not convinced, then," she said dully. "Though, in all honesty, I don't have to convince you of anything. Sawyer, you're my best friend and I love you, but I'm not going to stay away from The Nascence because you don't like them." The sparkle in her eyes was gone, as was the soft smile from earlier. Her lips were now pursed, and there was a defiant spark in her eyes.

A spark.

"I'm not telling you to stay away," Sawyer said, not liking this newfound defiance in Delaney. It was dangerous, that's what it was. "I'm not telling you anything. I just really, really want you to be careful. You just met those people. You don't know anything about them. I just think-"

"You're making what you think pretty clear, Sawyer," Delaney said. She crossed her arms in front of her.

"I'm not saying The Nascence is bad per say," Sawyer said, still faltering. He had never been what you could call eloquent, nor had he ever possessed the amount of verbal prowess that Delaney seemed capable of. Their friendship had been pretty smooth sailing, but whenever she and Sawyer came to a disagreement, she had made it pretty clear that when it came to arguments, Sawyer was way out of his league. "Del, this is coming out all wrong. I don't want to fight with you. I'm sorry. Please, can we forget about this?" He was downright pleading now.

"Our families are there, Sawyer," she said softly, his pleas falling upon deaf ears. "Arceus knows what Galactic and Plasma have done to Lydia or my father just for being unfortunate enough to be related to me."

Somehow, within the span of five minutes, Delaney had gone from joyful to positively fuming to now absolutely melancholy and now Sawyer was at a loss for words. "I haven't forgotten, Del, but there's nothing you can do about that right now. There's nothing anybody can do."

"It must be nice to not have to have that burden of responsibility on your shoulders," she said, a hint of bitterness in her voice. "That's why you don't get it, Sawyer. You aren't the one that people blame. I bet if you were, you'd damn sure be in a bigger hurry to help."

The tone of her voice was slowly but surely becoming tinged with anger and Sawyer was worried about the implications of that. Somehow they had gotten into the same old song and dance, but this argument was going nowhere and he hadn't even told her about what he had heard after the meeting. "I have my own feelings of responsibility," Sawyer said softly. If she wanted to talk about it, then they would. "I wish there was more I could've done… To help you… To help Alex…"

"Stop it," she snapped, her lips tightly pursed together. A couple of tears fell down her cheeks that she couldn't withhold.

"But what happened to him, it came out of nowhere. I couldn't have stopped Cyrus. You couldn't have stopped Cyrus. It's horrible, but-"

"Sawyer, stop." Her effort to stop more stray tears was in vain and they streamed down her flushed cheeks. Sawyer honestly couldn't tell if she was now sad or angry, but regardless, Sawyer had struck a nerve.

"I'm sorry," Sawyer said. "But please, just listen to me. I'm not trying to hurt you. I'm not trying to change your mind or stop you from doing anything… But there's just something not right about The Nascence," Sawyer blurted out.

"Sawyer, forget it," she said, brushing away the tears from her face. "Just stop."

"No, please, please listen," he begged. "We got really off-topic from what I wanted to tell you, and I'm sorry I brought up Alex, I know you're not ready to discuss that, but please listen, Del. I heard Nick and Malonie talking and-"

"So this is about Nick?" she interrupted.

"No," he said exasperatedly. "Okay listen, there was fighting and yelling and Malonie really doesn't like you-"

"That's news," the brunette said dryly. Now that she had wiped the tears away from her face, her arms were crossed in front of her again.

"And the whole conversation was really sketchy and I think Nick might be using you, but I don't want to say that for sure because I don't want to make you mad," Sawyer said, rushing his words so that Delaney couldn't interrupt him again.

He expected anger. Fever outbursts were kind of her staple these days. He did not expect the blank look on her face, or the exasperated sigh. "This conversation is over," Delaney said dully. "Goodbye Sawyer." And with that, she called out her altaria and flew off, presumably towards The Nascence's base, as Sawyer stood in the middle of Lilycove's main street with a dumbstruck look on his face. How had the conversation even spun out of control like that?

Arceus, women.

Grace had just gotten outside of Lilycove when Delaney told her to land so she could make a call. The altaria landed right outside the border of Lilycove and Delaney immediately hopped off and grabbed her Crosstransceiver out of her bag, keeping Grace out so she could immediately hop back on after the call. She scrolled through her contact list hurriedly until she found the person she was looking for and pressed the call button.

It rang once… twice… three times before his face filled the screen. "Hey, I didn't expect to hear from you so soon," Nick said, genuine surprise filling his gray eyes.

"Where are you right now?" Delaney asked. It was a horrible idea, she knew. She knew the responsible thing to do would be to head right back to Lilycove, apologize to Sawyer for once again being overly sensitive and argumentative and prepare to head for Evergrande.

"I'm just leaving Mauville. I was going to stay in the Pokemon Center overnight, but all the rooms are full so I thought I'd go stay the night at the base," he told her. "Is everything okay?"

"I just… I need to see you." The words tumbled out before Delaney could decide upon the responsible thing. "Is it okay if I meet you there?"

His mouth curled up into a smile. "Of course it is. I'll see you soon."

Delaney hung up the call and put her Crosstransceiver back in her bag. "Grace, let's head towards Route 118," Delaney turned her and with a joyful trill, the magnificent clouded bird began to head west.

Brenna was about to lock the door to the main lobby when Sawyer landed right in front of the main doors. He recalled Busby and grabbed the handle. A surprised Brenna pushed the door open for him to get through. "Hi Sawyer!" she said, her soft blue eyes flickering with joy. "I didn't expect you and Delaney to be back so late. Is she right behind you?"

"It's just me," Sawyer said in a gruff manner that was very much not Sawyer-like. "Thank you for not locking me out, Brenna."

And that was all he said before he strode off in the direction of the rooms so that he could go to his suite and ponder what in the hell had happened that evening as he took a very long and well-deserved rest.

Maybe tomorrow he would go see Fluffy.

Delaney landed as Nick strode up to the base entrance in the same burgundy polo shirt and jeans that he had worn earlier that day, though he had changed out of his white tennis shoes that had probably been ruined with mud into a pair of gray slip-on canvas shoes. She forced a smile for Grace and thanked her for flying her and then recalled the majestic bird.

Nick was wide-eyed at her sharp mannerisms. "Delaney, is everyt-"

"Please don't ask that again," she said as she walked past him and into the Nascence base.

It certainly seemed like a different place without the swarming bodies of The Nascence all around. Without people, it just looked like a lonely room with a table made of small gray logs and little chairs to match. The unoccupied armchair hung about like a heavy shadow. She went to sit down, but Nick grabbed her arm. "I have no idea what is going on and I would really appreciate it if you filled me in because I have no idea what I did to upset you."

"It's not you," she sighed. "It's really not." Nick, too, sighed and shook his head as he enveloped Delaney in a hug, wrapping his arms around her waist. The brunette was quiet for a moment as she just reveled in the comfort of the embrace and then Nick heard a sniffle.

"Del, I'm starting to really worry. Will you pl-"

"I think I'm going crazy," Delaney cut him off. "I got in a really big fight with Sawyer and I don't even know what started it, but I'm pretty sure he hates me now and I just want to do something to help so that maybe I can stop feeling like shit for not being able to stop Cyrus and I know I've had three years to get used to the idea but I can't and-"

"Woah, Del, slow down," he said, moving his right hand to her shoulder. "One thing at a time before you really overwhelm yourself. You had a fight with Sawyer?"

"He seemed like he was fine with this whole Nascence thing. I mean, he stayed for hours after I left and he was talking to Percy and Cam and Ren, but he said there's something not right about it and he said he heard you and Malonie talking about something…" Delaney paused, realizing that she hadn't even given Sawyer the chance to say what he had heard them saying.

"I think I know what he heard," Nick said with a sigh. "Look, to put this in the most delicate way possible, Malonie… isn't fond of the idea of you being in The Nascence. She's afraid that your involvement will alert Plasma or Galactic to the fact that there happens to be a group fighting against them… One that involves you. She thinks that may cause them to take action against us."

Delaney looked up at Nick, wide-eyed. "I never even thought of that. Arceus, Nick, I'm sorry."

Nick shook his head. "No, no, Del. Look, there's always been a risk that someone will find out about a resistance group and that they'll take action against us. Personally, I think you being involved will maybe give us more public awareness around here and maybe convince others in Hoenn to help us out. I think you being here is a great thing, for Hoenn, for yourself, for The Nascence and I guess, selfishly, for me. Malonie and I got in an argument about it earlier… That's what Sawyer must have heard."

"Nick, I'm sorry," she said, frowning.

"No, I wish I had known that he had been nearby, so I could've explained to him the circumstances," Nick said, rubbing her shoulder. "I'm really sorry that you guys got in a fight over this."

"No, it's… I guess I just kind of… I don't know, I just get sensitive and then I don't listen and I just cut him off and walked away. I've been doing that lately. It's horrible of me," the brunette said with a sigh.

"You've been under a lot of stress," Nick said, moving his hand down to her arm and taking his other hand off of her waist. "You're doing the best you can. Sometimes you make mistakes- everybody does. This will all blow over."

"I'm sorry, Nick," she muttered.

"Why are you apologizing now?" he asked with a sigh.

"I'm sorry that I just randomly came out here and unloaded all of this crap on you," she said ruefully. "You must be pretty sick of me bitching all the time."

"Absolutely not," he said firmly. "But stop apologizing for everything. Delaney, I think you're a great person. I don't mind you venting to me because I care, and if venting makes you feel better, I want you to feel free to do it without feeling like you need to apologize for it. If I minded, I wouldn't even bother to answer my phone."

"Well… Thank you," she said. "I would apologize for apologizing all the time, but it seems really counter-productive, so I'll just say that I'm really grateful that you let me hang out with you here."

"Of course," he said with a grin. "You know, you could stay here with me tonight… You don't have to, of course. I just thought since you and Sawyer are fighting and it sounds like you haven't had the best day, maybe you didn't want to be alone tonight."

"I want to…" she said, but her voice was hesitant. "But they're probably expecting me in Evergrande."

"Do you have a meeting or something?" Nick asked, sounding genuinely curious.

"No, I finished most of my work today and I'm on a delay for my next project but… I guess the responsible thing to do would just be to head there and wait for the call," she said, staring at the ground.

"So you don't need to be there?" Nick asked, moving behind her and putting his hands to her shoulders and rubbing lightly.

"Well, technically… No, but-"

Nick cut her off before she could finish. "There's always a but with you, Delaney," he said softly, directly in her ear. "Do you ever do what you want, or do you always stick to what's expected of you?"

"I'm part of the Elite Four," she said weakly. It was almost the exact reverse of the argument that she had just had with Sawyer. "I should-"

"You should take a break, Del," he purred in her ear. "You're stressed, you've had a really hard week and I'd like to make it better. They can live without you for one night. You can start back up in the morning."

"Well… I don't have any of my camping stuff with me. It's been a couple years since I carried any of that with me," she said with a sigh. It was maybe quite possible that her resolve was starting to break down just a little bit.

"We keep a couple sleeping bags on hand just in case," Nick said. "Or you know, you could share with me." Delaney looked up at him, eyes wide, her face turning even redder, if that was even possible. "Relax, Del, I'm kidding."

Delaney's mouth curled up in a small smile, though her face was still flushed. "I'd like to. Stay here, I mean."

"I would too," he said, brushing a light kiss on her temple. "I'd like that a lot."

Sawyer was pacing.

Mind you, he didn't like pacing. It took way too much energy that could otherwise be spent doing something much more interesting. However, he had been calling Delaney for the last twenty minutes, and she wasn't answering and he was officially anxious and worried, which he also didn't like. He really wasn't much of a worrier… Unless it had to do with Delaney. That girl seriously had the worst luck and got herself into the worst situations. It was hard to not worry when it came to Delaney Caldwell, especially when she didn't answer her phone.

He was pretty sure that she was with Nick because calling him when she was upset sounded like a remarkably Delaney thing to do… However, what the two of them were doing was beyond him. There was something dangerous about the way that Nick and Malonie had argued, so it was possible that Delaney was hurt. It was also possibly that the two of them were canoodling, or doing something more than canoodling, and if they were, Sawyer really didn't want to know.

There were just too many if's, and Sawyer didn't know what to do.

Finally, Sawyer took a deep breath and hit the buzzer by the door. This had been his very first idea, but he had begun to pace when the idea crossed his mind that maybe this was a bit too much like tattling and it was stupid to bring it to this level. But… The part of Sawyer that was really worried that Delaney would end up hurt in someone (and really, that was a large part) won out and he pressed the damn buzzer.

It took a moment before someone answered him. "Hello?" he asked, sounding very confused. Of course he was confused. It was close to nine at night and it was an odd occurrence for anyone to come calling when he hadn't asked for them. "Can I help you?"

"Hello, uh, Champion Steven sir?" Sawyer asked hesitantly. "This is Sawyer Hale. I need to talk with you about what could potentially be a problem."

For a moment, Sawyer wondered if he was insane, calling upon the Champion of Hoenn at nine at night. He wouldn't have been surprised if the man told him to come back at a decent hour of the day. However, the door opened and standing in front of him, looking just as powerful and professional as he did during normal business hours, was Steven Stone, looking very quizzically at him. "Is everything okay?"

"I… Do you mind if I come in?" And with that, Sawyer was led into the plush office that belonged to Steven Stone. Several gems in display cases were displayed throughout the room and a large, luxurious oak desk. Steven took his place in a plush leather chair on one side, and gestured to a comfortable-looking armchair on the other side of the desk. Sawyer sat down and took a deep breath. "Have you ever heard of The Nascence?"

So Sawyer told him everything, from finding Delaney in Ecruteak City, a total mess but unwilling to admit it, to the two of them coming to Hoenn and everything that had happened since. He even mentioned the troubles Delaney had encountered with Hudson and Jackson (he was pretty sure that Delaney would kill him for that one). And then… The Nascence- from Nick chatting Delaney up in Mauville, to the meetings and finally, to the argument he had heard outside. And through it all, Steven sat in his plush desk chair, looking pensive.

After Sawyer finished rambling, Steven sat in silence for a moment, clearly trying to process the large amount of chatter that had just taken place in his office. "I'm going to call Riley in the morning," he said finally. "I want him to look into The Nascence, and I definitely want him to look into the leaders- Nick and Malonie, right?" Sawyer nodded. "My first instinct is that their purpose in inviting Delaney into their group is that they want to use her status and position for some reason. It's better to be safe than sorry when it comes to any sort of group. Teams Aqua and Magma started off as groups of well-meaning environmentalists. They believed in their causes so strongly that they almost destroyed everything. The last thing we need is for another group of fanatics dedicated to a cause to spin out of control."

Sawyer nodded again. "Do you think she's in danger?"

Steven paused. "I wish I could give you a clear answer, but I think we need to find out more about this Nascence before I can determine that. I'm not upset with her for allying herself with these people- I understand why, even. There's a chance that we're worrying over nothing- that she's just helping aid Unova and Sinnoh, and they do desperately need help… But there is the potential that she just got herself in way over her head…" He sighed. "Thank you for telling me, Sawyer. I'll definitely be checking into this."

"I didn't want to worry you, sir," Sawyer said. Steven was definitely a sir. "I know you've already got plenty to worry about."

"Don't worry about that, Sawyer," Steven said with a chuckle. "It's my job to worry. You should get to bed."

Sawyer got up, even though the armchair was really comfortable and he kind of didn't want to. "Thank you for hearing me out, even though it's kind of late."

"Any time, Sawyer." The auburn-haired boy left Steven's office and began to head back down to his own room. He grabbed his Crosstransceiver one last time and pressed call.

It rang one… two… three times. She didn't answer.

Author's Note (11/23/12): So I made some major edits to this, so I felt it right to take down the old one and repost this bad boy.

I don't particularly feel like regurgitating my previous author's note, so I hope you understand that I had a lot of responsibilities to tend to over the last few weeks, both academic and personal. Thank goodness this semester is almost over.

A massive thank you, as always, to the fabulous Noteleks, my beta and friend. Also a big thank you this go-around to Maddiepink05, who has been an awesome reader and reviewer and whose suggestions helped me revise this chapter pretty significantly.

Though of course, a lot of you have been readers and/or reviewers for quite some time as well, and I am so grateful to all of you who take the time to read this story. I'm also very grateful to those of you who take the time to offer up some constructive criticism, or even simply, a few kind words. I'm out of Diet Pepsi, so I'm pretty much running solely on kind words at the moment.

Also, a massive thanks for being patient with me. I know my schedule is out-of-whack and I wish I could promise that it will get less hectic but... Well, that would just be a straight up lie. So I really appreciate that you guys tolerate my brief hiatuses and don't bludgeon me for taking so long. (:

See you next week, all. I'm aiming to finish up chapter 10 this weekend because, well, I'm STOKED for this particular chapter and also, this may be my last bit of free time for awhile.