-Saffron Stadium-

"Yeah! Go Maxy~!"

"May, the battle hasn't even started yet."

"Shut up, Dawn! I'm allowed to cheer for my little brother!"

"You could at least wait for a reason to cheer," the Sinnoh native replied, sticking her tongue out at her fellow Coordinator. "Who's Maxy fighting, anyway?"

"Umm…" May hurriedly scrolled through her Pokégear. "Some chick from Johto. Taylor Adams. Ooh! It says here she's a Trainer in Olivine City's Gym. Looks like she's basically second-in-command under Jasmine."

May's eyes narrowed at the tunnel through which Taylor would appear. "Max beat Jasmine already. He'll be fine, right?"

"Of course! Maxy's got this thing in the bag!"

In the seats adjacent to the two Coordinators, Misty and Brock sighed visibly. This was going to be a long match.

"What do you think, Misty?" Brock asked. "How'd your practice with him go?"

Misty shrugged. "The practice was pretty good. Squirtle beat Shadow, but Grace managed to take Starmie. She Psychic'd the thing into a tree. It was pretty funny, actually. Then we ran into Red."

"Really? You saw him again?"

"Yep. He and his Pokémon were 'training'" Misty made air quotes around the word 'training', "having a fight to the death, more like. Red and Athena got into this Aura swordfight thing. Oh, yeah. Red's other Pokémon is a Salamence."

Brock stared at the Gym Leader for a minute or so. "What!?"

"Yeah, a Salamence. Big, scary-looking thing. Red says it likes me, though."

"Not that! What do you mean Aura swordfight? What does that even mean?"

A new voice interrupted Misty's answer. "The term is a duel, thank you very much. Don't let Athena catch you calling it that." The four jumped yet again at Red's unexpected arrival. Pikachu muttered something under his breath as Red took the empty seat next to Dawn and Brock. "Quiet, you. There's nothing wrong with dramatic entrances."

"How in the name of Palkia do you manage to sneak up on us every single time?" Misty wondered.

Red grinned, but didn't reply. "Look," he said instead, "the match is starting soon."

"THE MATCH BETWEEN MAX MAPLE OF PETALBURG AND TAYLOR ADAMS OF OLIVINE WILL NOW BEGIN!" The referee announced.

"Told you."

"THIS MATCH WILL BE A DOUBLE BATTLE WITH NO SUBSTITUTIONS! TRAINERS, CHOOSE YOUR POKÉMON!"

The Olivine Trainer moved first, hurling two Pokéballs onto the field. "Let's do this! Skarmory, Magneton, show your steel!" The light from the spheres dimmed, revealing the Armor Bird and Magnet Pokémon.

Max threw his own Pokéball onto the field. "C'mon, Shadow!" In a burst of red light, the Dark Type appeared, snarling at its opponents. "You're up, Grace," Max said, nodding to the Embrace Pokémon floating alongside him. The Gardevoir disappeared in a flash of light, reappearing a second later near Max's Mightyena.

The referee lifted his flags. "BOTH TRAINERS AT THE READY! BEGIN!"

"Grace, Thunderbolt on Skarmory! Shadow, Flamethrower on Magneton! Let's get some damage done!" Max ordered.

His Pokémon obeyed instantly, not giving Taylor the chance to counter. Grace closed her eyes, and a bolt of electricity streaked towards the Steel/Flying Type. Shadow raced forwards and let loose a thick stream of flame.

"Skar, dodge with Agility, then counter with Dark Slash! Ton, use Flash Cannon!"

Skarmory screeched and disappeared mere instants before Grace's Thunderbolt would have struck it. It blurred towards the Psychic, wings glowing dark violet. Magneton, however, was not so lucky. The super-effective attack struck the Magnet Pokémon, but Steel Types as a rule do not give up so easily. Bearing the fiery blow without so much as flinching, the six magnets lining the Pokémon's body zeroed in on the Dark Type. A silver sphere charged in front of the Electric/Steel Type, glowing bright in the midday sun.

"Shadow! Intercept Skarmory! Grace, try to redirect the Cannon!"

Magneton fired. A massive beam of silver energy raced towards the Dark Type. The audience oohed and aahed at the attack.

Dawn's eyes widened. "Whoa! How is that Magneton so powerful?"

Red leaned forward in his seat. "Interesting. That Magneton must have the ability Analytic. If the user moves after the target Pokémon, the base attack power of the user's moves is increased dramatically. Ms. Adams must have done some serious training with her Magneton to bring out that ability. Only certain evolutionary groups have access to it."

"Well put, Mr. Red. It is Red, correct?"

The group spun around – or, as well as one could while seated in stadium chairs – and felt their jaws collectively drop. Standing before them was none other than Lance himself, clad in his trademark cape. Behind him stood Pryce, eyeing Red with suspicion.

"Just Red, if you don't mind," Red said after a moment or two. "You must be Lance."

The Kanto Champion nodded. "Interesting match, isn't it?" he said, nodding towards the battlefield.

Red's eyes narrowed. "It sure is. Max has his work cut out for him today."

"You know him?"

Red shrugged. "We met a few days ago. He's a very spirited Trainer. I predict he'll go far in the Tournament."

Lance studied the hooded Trainer. "May we speak to you in private, Mr. Red?"

Red glanced down at the battle, then back up to Lance. "I'm kind of in the middle of something. I'm watching my friend battle."

"Please come with us." Lance's voice left nothing up for discussion.

Misty finally spoke up. "Lance, what's this all about?"

Lance paused, eyeing the Cerulean Gym Leader. "I would advise you to stay out of this, Ms. Waterflower. It is none of your concern."

"Red is my friend! That kind of makes it my concern!"

"It's all right, Misty," Red said, standing. "They just want to talk. C'mon, Pikachu." He turned to Lance, eyebrows raised. "Lead the way, Dragon Master."

Lance glared at Red a second longer and turned wordlessly on his heel, cape sweeping dramatically out behind him. Pryce followed behind the Champion, and Red behind him. Lance led them up a few flights of stairs towards the mezzanine that housed the Gym Leaders' box. The roar of the audience faded to a distant buzz.

Lance stopped. He spun around and faced Red. "I suppose you're wondering why we're here." He paused, but if he was expecting a reaction he was disappointed.

Red reached up and scratched Pikachu between the ears. "An explanation would be nice, yeah."

Pryce glanced at Red's belt, noting the lack of Pokéballs attached to it. "Where's your Lucario?" He asked suddenly.

"Probably back at camp. She didn't feel like coming today."

Lance nodded. "About your Lucario – Athena, wasn't it? Might I ask where you captured her? She's certainly a powerful Pokémon."

Red and Pikachu shared a look. "So that's what this is about. I assume Misty told you about my, ahem, endeavors in Mahogany?" He grinned at Pryce. "That's a lovely town you have, Pryce. Ever had a Rage Candy Bar? Absolutely delicious."

Pryce's eyes narrowed. "Why, you-!" The Ice Type Gym Leader stepped forward.

Lance cut him off with an outstretched arm. "Calm yourself, Pryce." The Kanto Champion crossed his arms. "So you know why we're here, then. We have it on good authority that you were at the Underground Gym before Pryce and the local police department raided the place."

"That I was."

"What were your motives for being there?"

"Ms. Waterflower, I expect, has already told you this. I was conducting a raid on a known Underground Gym – one, I might add, the local Gym Leader had no knowledge of."

"That's where you're wrong," Pryce interjected. "The local Officer Jenny was tipped off about the Underground that afternoon!"

Red smiled. "And who do you think called the tip in?"

Lance ran a hand through his crimson hair. "Forgive me if I'm having trouble believing you. You claim to have discovered an Underground Gym, but instead of standing by and letting the League handle it, you decided to take matters into your own hands and raid them yourself?"

"That is correct."

"And how, pray tell, did one man and his Pokémon manage to take on – and incapacitate – over two dozen Underground Trainers and their Pokémon, who, as you know, are trained to kill?"

Red smiled knowingly at the Champion. "Are you saying you couldn't do something similar?"

"Of course not. But that's beside the point. How did you?"

"Well, for starters, my Pokémon are not your ordinary fighters." He nodded to Pikachu – or, rather, where Pikachu was. Lance suddenly became aware of the fact that there was a yellow mouse perched on his shoulder, cheeks sparking with electricity. Red smiled, nodding again to the Electric Mouse, who blurred and reappeared on his shoulder. "Secondly, I'm not your ordinary fighter, either." He held up a hand. A blue sphere swirled into existence, compacting itself to the size of about a baseball. Red let the Aura Sphere float for a minute longer before dispelling the energy, letting it fade into invisibility once again.

Pryce gaped, looking strikingly similar to a Goldeen out of water. Lance, however, nodded to himself and put a hand to his chin. "Well, that explains that. I apologize for my, ah, frosty behavior, as does Pryce." The Dragon Master extended a hand. "No hard feelings, right, Aura Guardian? You understand that the Pokémon League takes the Underground very seriously."

Red grinned, accepting the Champion's hand and shaking it. "Of course. Apology accepted, Dragon Tamer. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to get back to the match." Nodding to Pryce, Red spun on his heel just as Lance had not minutes before and walked away. The two League members looked at each other.

"I still don't trust him," said Pryce.

"You don't trust anyone, old man," Lance replied, watching the Aura User walk away, "but you're right. An Aura Guardian appearing out of nowhere is more than a little suspicious. We'll have to keep an eye on him." The Dragon Master turned to leave. "Let Cynthia know I'll be gone for a day or two."

"Where are you going?"

"To talk to an old friend."

"So what'd I miss?" Red slid back into his seat, eyebrows raised at Brock.

"Hmm? Oh. Max's doing okay. This Taylor girl is tough… she is fairly pretty, though."

Red rolled his eyes and focused on the battlefield.

"Shadow! Dark Pulse! Grace! Try another Thunderbolt!"

A bruised and battered Shadow growled, summoning a spiral of Dark energy and firing it towards Magneton.

"Dodge with Magnet Rise! Skar, Metal Sound!"

The Magnet Pokémon shot upwards, narrowly avoiding the black-and-purple beam of energy that sped towards it. It hovered a good ten feet above the ground, awaiting its next command.

Grace's eyes flashed yellow, and her body crackled with electricity. Holding her hands close to her chest, she let out a mental cry and flung her arms outward, sending a bright yellow bolt of energy towards the Armor Bird.

The attack clipped the Steel/Flying Type on the wing. Skarmory cried out as the doubly super-effective attack rendered its left wing all but useless. As the bird began to fall, it brought its wings together and scratched them across each other. Silvery soundwaves spread throughout the arena, and soon the entire stadium was filled with the metallic, grating sound of the two wings being scraped together. Grace clapped her hands to her ears, Shadow began to whine and cover his ears, and even the crowds winced as the sound reverberated throughout the battlefield.

Max cupped his hands over his mouth. "Grace!" he shouted. "Shadow! Can you hear me?"

The Embrace Pokémon stumbled, turning around slowly, dazed. She could hear nothing. All that registered was a high, steady ringing in her ears. She saw Max's mouth move, but no sound came from it. Can't… hear… Her eyes closed, and she tried to focus on the Psychic energy, but could sense nothing, hear nothing, save the Arceus-damned noise.

Max grit his teeth. They were so close to winning! Stealing a glance at Magneton, his suspicions were confirmed. The Magnet Pokémon was tiring, and the Skarmory was all but unconscious. But his Pokémon couldn't hear him! "Thunder Fang!" He screamed. "Psychic!"

Taylor grinned. "That's why I love Steel Types," she said, tossing a Pokéball up and down. "Come on, Magneton! Let's finish this! Tri Attack!"

Slowly, deliberately, the outermost screws on the Magneton's body swiveled, glowing a brilliant white. Lines of silver energy connected the screws, forming a perfect triangle. The magnets on the Electric Type began to glow a pale blue, tendrils of electricity shooting off in all directions as the attack charged.

"No! Grace! Get out of there!" Max cried. "Get out! Dodge it!" he closed his eyes, not wanting to see the destruction that was sure to follow the Tri Attack. Come on! he screamed within his mind. Dodge! A single tear ran down his cheek.

Taylor smiled coldly. "Fire."

Grace!

The Embrace Pokémon's eyes widened, and she reacted instantly, teleporting to Max's side. The Tri Attack struck a millisecond later, kicking up a cloud of dust.

M-max? Grace thought.

Grace?

I… I can hear you… You're… you're in my head..?

Realization struck the two like a Swift attack to the chest. Max was telepathic! Just as Psychic Types could project their own thoughts into others, Max could to Grace. I… I guess Red was right about me being a Psychic Type.

Come on, Max! We can think about this later! Now we need to finish this match!

Max resisted the urge to slap himself. Okay. Here's what we'll do. I can't see past that dust cloud, but neither can she. You need to get in there and find Magneton and take it out before they have the chance to attack again.

Grace nodded, disappearing in a flash of light.

The crowd fell silent as they waited for the dust to settle. A referee made to send out his Pidgeot to clear the field, but stopped after a gesture from the officials. Time crept on at a glacial pace. The dust slowly, leisurely, began to die down.

I found it!

Blow away the dust and finish this thing! Max ordered, flinging out his arm. "Psyshock!"

For a moment, nothing happened. Suddenly, the cloud exploded outwards, revealing Grace, who stood in the exact center of the arena, arms outstretched. "Gar de VOIR!" she cried, arcing her body. Hundreds of spheres formed in midair, masses of blue, purple, pink energy that sped towards Magneton in a barrage of Psychic power.

The first volley of energy forced the Magnet Pokémon to the ground. The second knocked him back fifteen feet. The third sent him flying into the wall of the stadium, where the fallen Pokémon twitched once and lie still.

The referee raised his flag. "MAGNETON AND SKARMORY ARE UNABLE TO BATTLE! THE WINNER OF THIS MATCH IS MAX MAPLE OF PETALBURG!"

The audience erupted into cheers and applause. Max took a deep breath and smiled, recalling Shadow and nodding once to Taylor, who returned the gesture gracefully. Grace slowly floated over to her Trainer, who grabbed her in a warm embrace. Lifting his fists to the crowd, Max let out a shout of triumph and made his way to the arena exit, searching the crowds for his friends, eager to share in both his victory and his newfound ability.

"That match was pretty intense, wasn't it?"

"Totally! I thought Maxy was doomed near the end!"

"It was a passionate match," Red agreed as the group made their way through the sea of Trainers and spectators swamping the exits, "though I did miss most of it."

"So what did Lance want?" Misty asked, elbowing her way past a large Trainer and his Machoke.

"Oh, you know, he accused me of being an Underground League Trainer; I had to have Pikachu rush him and prove I was an Aura User to get him off my back. Normal stuff." Red shrugged, taking a half-step to the right to avoid tripping over a younger girl and her Diglett – how had it gotten in the Stadium, anyways?

"He what!?" Dawn glanced at Red and collided with a Kadabra. She would have hit the concrete if May hadn't caught her friend and helped her to her feet.

"It's understandable. I was at the Gym, I did get Athena there. It's feasible that I just managed to escape the raid somehow."

"Feasible? Red, that's Tauros-crap. You're no more an Underground Trainer than I am."

"Chill, Misty. We know Red's not in the Underground. Try to think about this from Lance's perspective. If some guy appeared out of nowhere with a Lucario he claims to have rescued from an Underground Gym, well, wouldn't you be the least bit suspicious?"

"Well, yeah, but –"

Hey guys!

The group paused, making their way to a section of the Stadium that wasn't as crowded. "Was that..?" Brock wondered aloud.

Max approached, a delighted smile on his face. So did you see our battle? He and Grace laughed at the group's confused expression. Red was right! I'm Psychic!

Red was the first to react, grinning and applauding the Young Trainer. "Well done, Max. That didn't take as long as I expected at all."

"You knew this would happen?" Max asked, speaking aloud this time.

"Max, you're talking to a guy that can use Aura. Of course I knew this would happen. Why else would I tell you you're Psychic? Though I must admit you learned a lot faster than I'd thought you would. You must be closer to Grace than I thought." Red clapped Max on the back.

"So, what do we do now?"

Red shrugged. "You have a few different options. If you want to be a Psychic, like Sabrina or the Mossdeep twins, I would suggest talking to them. They no doubt have ways to bring out your potential that I don't know about. Alternatively, if you wanted to learn to use Aura, I could maybe teach a few things. Athena already showed Grace how to better detect Aura, back when we were at camp. I could do something like that, or we could-"

"Will someone please explain what is going on?" Dawn interrupted. "First Max is talking like a Pokémon, now you can use Ore or whatever, and you're talking about Psychics and Uxie-knows-what!"

Max facepalmed. Red rubbed the back of his head, abashed. "Sorry. How about we all go to lunch, and I'll explain?"


-Later-

Red paused to take a bite of food. "…any questions?"

Silence. Dawn, May, and Brock stared. Somewhere, a Kricketot chirped.

Rolling his eyes, Red pushed back from the table and leaned back in his seat. "So what didn't you understand? It's a lot to take in, I know…"

Brock put a hand to his chin. "That's the thing, though," he began, taking a small sip of water before continuing, "Everything you said actually makes sense to me. I'm a Pokémon Doctor, do I deal with Pokémon every day. What you said explains a lot of the weird stuff I've seen."

Red nodded. "May? Dawn?"

The Coordinators glanced at each other and nodded. May's hand went to her belt, where she toyed with the Pokéballs attached there. "So… how do you figure out what Type you are?"

Red shrugged. "With people who don't specialize in a single type of Pokémon, it's difficult to say. Brock, for example, is a Rock or Ground Type. Misty's Water, and so on. But for the two of you…" he trailed off. "Well," he said after a moment, "a person's Type isn't set in stone. Dawn, if you started spending a lot of time with, say, Fire Types, you'd slowly become stained to that type. That's not to say you'd be exclusively Fire, no, just that you're more attuned to that type of energy. Get it?"

"Sort of…"

Red scratched the back of his head. "Sorry, I'm not the best at explaining this type of thing. I guess it depends on you, and your Pokémon. There's no set way of knowing."

Misty glanced at her Pokégear and stood. "Sorry, guys, but I've got to get ready for my match. It starts in an hour." Sliding the phone into her back pocket, she glanced at Red. "You'll be there, right?"

Red smiled. "Wouldn't dream of missing it."

Misty beamed. "Awesome. See you all in an hour."


-Indigo Bay-

Misty stood at the bow of the ferry, looking out over the placid waters of the Indigo Bay. The captain of the ferry, a fat, happy man that had requested he call her Kapp'n, had just informed her that they would soon be arriving at their destination. Misty's eyes were set on the horizon, and she let out a quiet gasp when their journey's end came into view.

Aquarius Stadium.

A veritable Ecruteak for Water-Type Trainers, Aquarius Stadium was constructed using state-of-the-art technologies combined with old-fashioned Pokémon power. The entirety of the stadium floated unsupported in the center of Indigo Bay, only accessible by ferry, Water-, or Flying-Type Pokémon. Throughout the fiercest storms, the Stadium remained unmoved, and if one knew the terrain, it was one of the best battle sites this side of the Battle Zone.

And few knew the art of naval combat better than Cerulean City's Misty Waterflower.

The ferry slowly pulled into the stadium's docks. Nodding her thanks to Kapp'n, Misty stepped smoothly onto the wooden berth, her hand drifting to the pouch on her thigh. Inside, three Pokéballs twitched with excitement, their charges barely able to contain themselves with the prospect of battling here, at Aquarius Stadium.


-Aquarius Stadium-

"WELCOME, ONE AND ALL! THE NEXT MATCH IN THE POKÉMON WORLD TOURNAMENT IS ABOUT TO BEGIN! IT IS MY PLEASURE TO INTRODUCE TO YOU A TRAINER ALL THE WAY FROM THE UNOVA REGION, THE SURFER FROM UNDELLA BAY, KEEEEEEEELLLYYYYYYY SLATERRRR!"

The crowd cheered as the blond Trainer strolled confidently into the stadium. Taking his spot on the platform, Kelly raised a hand to the audience, a relaxed grin on his face. "Technically, it's the Isshu region, dude, but whatever," he said, mainly to himself.

"AND FACING HIM, THE WATER MASTER HERSELF, THE MERMAID OF CERULEAN COVE, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, I GIVE YOU MMMIISSSTTYYY WATERFLOWERRRRR!"

Misty, too, took her place on her platform, offering a nod to the Isshu native. Kelly grinned and nodded back, unclipping a Pokéball and looking to the referee. "C'mon, brah, let's get this thing started! Me'n the sis are waitin' on you to line it up!"

The official stared at the surfer for a second. "What?"

Kelly rolled his eyes. "Bro. Start the match."

"Oh! Right." The referee cleared his throat. "THE MATCH WILL BE A THREE-ON-THREE SINGLE BATTLE! TRAINERS, CHOOSE YOUR POKÉMON!"

Kelly let out a whoop. "Stellar! Go aggro, Tails!" He cried, tossing the Pokéball into the air. When the light faded, the sleek orange body of a Buizel waited in the waters.

"Take him on, Starmie!" Misty called, releasing the Star Pokémon. The Water/Psychic Type hovered above the waves, slowly spinning as it awaited Misty's commands.

"BOTH TRAINERS READY! BEGIN!"

"Starmie, Hydro Pump!"

"Chill 'em out, Tails! Icy Wind!"

"Starmie!" Starmie cried as its core flashed a deep blue. Spinning, the Star Pokémon aimed one of its limbs at the Buizel, and a huge torrent of water shot out of the Water/Psychic Type.

Tails sucked in a breath of air and dove down to avoid Starmie's attack. Using its tails to propel itself, the Sea Weasel burst out of the waves, a sphere of pale blue energy charging on its lips. Hovering in midair, Tails finished charging the attack and cried his name, blowing a stream of frozen air directly towards Starmie. The attack struck head-on, freezing the water around the Star Pokémon.

"Starmie!" Misty called. Her eyes narrowed, and she cracked her neck. "Alright. Two can play at that game. Ice Beam!"

Starmie's core glowed a light blue as the attack charged. The jewel flashed brightly, and, like before, a torrent of water spewed forth towards the Sea Weasel Pokémon. This time, however, the deluge of water crackled, freezing itself solid as it flew towards its enemy.

Kelly grinned. "I don't think so. SonicBoom!"

Tails leapt out of the water, his twin tails glowing silver. Flipping in midair, the Buizel lashed out, sending metallic crescents to intercept the attack. The shining arcs hit the icy beam dead on, shattering it entirely. Fragments of ice flew in all directions as the beam was obliterated by the powerful attack. There was a deafening crack, as though the air itself had exploded, as the SonicBoom attack broke the sound barrier – and kept going, slicing through the air and striking Starmie dead-center. The Star Pokémon let out a pained cry and fell into the waters, its ruby core flashing a crimson red.

"Starmie!" Misty cried. "Are you okay?"

"Star," The Water/Psychic Type replied stubbornly, rising up from the waves.

Misty grinned. "Let's make 'em regret that. Power Gem!"

"Get in close, brah!"

Starmie pinwheeled, its crystal core shining violet. All around the Star Pokémon, the sunlight bent, forming rock-shaped disks of light that sparkled as though made of precious stones. Meanwhile, Tails dove into the water, claws extending from his orange paws and glowing yellow. The Sea Weasel sped towards Starmie, who, rising higher into the air, attacked, firing the gem-like orbs of light at Tails.

"Dodge!" Kelly yelled.

The first of the gems struck the water, missing the orange weasel by mere inches. Dozens more followed, honing in on Tails. Despite the Buizel's attempts to dodge, several of the glowing stones collided with the Pokémon.

When the last of the gems had fallen, Misty grinned and nodded. "Now."

The water surrounding Tails exploded in a fury of ocean froth, sending the Sea Weasel tumbling through the air.

It was Kelly's turn to grin. "Fury Cutter!"

Tails grinned, flashing his teeth and spinning in midair. His twin tails began to spin, faster, faster, slowing his fall until the Buizel was hovering in midair, just alongside Starmie. "Bui ZEL!" He cried, slashing the Star Pokémon, once, twice, thrice, four times in a brutal display of speed and power. Tails paused the onslaught, holding up a claw, which shone a brilliant gold, and made a final cut, slashing directly into Starmie's central core.

A sickening crack resonated throughout the stadium. Starmie didn't even have time to cry out before it fell, knocked cold by the cracking of its life jewel.

A hush fell over the crowd as the Sea Star fell into the waters, its core glowing dully with the crimson color of blood.

"Starmie!" Misty's pained cry split the deafening silence in two. Her backpack slid off her shoulders and hit the ground as the Gym Leader dove headfirst into the waters, sprinting towards the fallen Pokémon. The referee blew a whistle, pausing the match, and released a Lapras to help Misty.

Up in the stands, Red turned to Max. "Max. I need Grace."

"What?"

Red gestured to the arena, where Misty had just reached her Pokémon. "Starmie's core just cracked. Brock, you're a Pokémon Doctor. What happens when a Starmie or Staryu's core shatters?"

Brock paled. "Th…they die."

"Exactly. I can help Starmie, but I have to get there now. I need Grace to teleport me and Athena down there."

The olive-haired Trainer's eyes widened. "O-okay," he replied, shakily unclipping Grace's Pokéball and releasing the Embrace Pokémon. "Grace, do what Red says."

What's going on?

"You're going to help me save a life. I need you to Teleport me and Athena to Misty's platform."

O-okay… Grace nodded, closing her eyes. Red placed a hand on Athena's shoulder, and suddenly the Aura Users were atop the tiny stage.

Misty jumped at their sudden appearance, standing from where she'd been kneeling over Starmie. "What the hell are you doing here?"

Saving Starmie's life, Athena snapped, taking the Gym Leader's spot next to the Star Pokémon. The Aura Pokémon closed her eyes, and the black appendages atop her head splayed outward. It's bad, she reported, placing a hand over the broken core, Starmie is very nearly gone.

"Try Heal Pulse," Red suggested, cracking his knuckles anxiously.

Athena nodded, her hand flaring pink and purple and pressing down against the crimson jewel. It's not working. I can't heal her when her core is cracked like this.

"Then seal the crack!" Red joined Athena at Starmie's side. Pushing up his sleeves, his hands burned with blue flame. "On three?"

One… Athena's hands began to glow violet, and amethyst flames arose from her paws.

"Two…"

"Three!" Human and Pokémon shouted together, pushing down on the Star Pokémon's core. Blue and violet fire raced along the fissure, spreading and enveloping the Water Type's fractured center. A starburst of light erupted from Red and Athena's hands, engulfing the three in indigo light.

The light faded, slowly revealing Red and Athena, still kneeling over Starmie's prone body. For a terrible moment, nothing happened. Then, Starmie's core flashed, the flawless gem sparkling a deep blue before fading once again.

Red stood, sighing in relief. Wiping a bead of sweat from his forehead, he turned to Misty, nodding to himself. "Starmie's going to be okay. We managed to seal the crack in her core, but she is still very badly wounded. You need to get her to a Pokémon Center as soon as possible."

Misty stared, looking up at the stranger who had just saved her Pokémon's life. "Th-thank you, Red," she finally managed to say.

A small smile spread across Red's face. "Of course."

Athena coughed. Master…

"Hmm? Oh. Right." Red blushed. "Well, we'd better go. Good luck with the rest of your match, Misty." He nodded to Grace, who rolled her eyes before Teleporting back to Max and the others.

Misty waited for a second longer before recalling Starmie into her Pokéball. Reminding herself to find the nearest PokéCenter as soon as the match had ended, she took a deep breath to clear her head and nodded to the referee.

The ref blew on his whistle once again. "THE BATTLE WILL NOW CONTINUE! MISTY, SELECT YOUR NEXT POKÉMON!"

Red sighed, taking his seat next to Max. "Thank you."

Brock stared at the Aura User. "How did you do that? Starmie should be dead now, and you know it."

"I know, but I couldn't let that happen. No one deserves to lose a Pokémon."

"That's why I became a Doctor, but, medically speaking, what you did is nearly impossible. There are, like, two known cases where a Starmie or Staryu with a broken core survived the ordeal, let alone were ever able to fight again."

Red shrugged. "Aura is a powerful thing."

Down in the arena, Misty's eyes narrowed at Kelly. "Right. Now it's personal." Selecting a Pokéball, she expanded it and hurled it onto the field. "Gyarados! Let's do this!"

The huge beast appeared midair, roaring as it crashed down into the arena, sending ocean spray up to even the highest stadium seats.

Kelly stared up at the mammoth serpent. The Atrocious Pokémon towered over the Unova Trainer and his Pokémon, who both sweatdropped at their enormous opponent.

Misty grinned at Kelly's slack-jawed expression. "Now you'll pay! Gyarados, Dragon Rage!"

"Gyar!" Bellowing its name for all to hear, Gyarados unleashed a swirling cyclone of blue fire that spun towards the Sea Weasel.

"Tails, get out of there!"

Too late. The vortex of azure fire struck the Buizel, encircling the small Water Type. Gyarados's Rage spun into a compact ball of energy before exploding, sending Tails skidding over the water. The orange Pokémon floated, unconscious after the single blow.

"BUIZEL IS UNABLE TO CONTINUE! KELLY, CHOOSE YOUR NEXT POKÉMON!"

Awestruck, Kelly returned Tails and unclipped another Pokéball. "Guess we deserved that," he began, expanding the ball to full size.

"Well, you nearly killed my starter, so yeah, I'd say you did," Misty replied.

Kelly grinned. "Alright, wahine, I'll concede to that."

"We're waiting, Slater. Unless you want to give up now," Misty taunted. A deep rumble that might have been a laugh emanated from Gyarados's throat, and the Atrocious Pokémon grinned viciously at the Undella surfer.

"Not on your life. C'mon out, Clay!"

There was a flash of light, and a violet, spiky Pokémon appeared in the water. The Bivalve Pokémon grinned devilishly at Gyarados, unfazed by the Sea Serpent.

"Alright, Clay, Aurora Beam! Let's get some damage done!"

"Gyarados, Dragon Pulse!"

The Cloyster grinned, firing a multicolored beam of energy towards the giant snake. The rainbow beam struck the Atrocious Pokémon, and the air around the beast dropped nearly twenty degrees. A massive shudder ran up and down Gyarados's spine as the spectral attack took effect.

Shaking its head, Gyarados reared up, towering over the Bivalve Pokémon. A green ball of energy charged inside his gaping mouth. With a roar, the Sea Serpent fired.

"Withdraw!"

Instantly, the Cloyster pulled in on itself, clamping its purple shell tightly shut. Not an instant later, the viridian attack struck Clay's hardened skin. The force of the blow drove the Bivalve Pokémon back a good ten feet, blackening the parts of the shell that had taken the brunt of the blow.

"You alright, Clay?"

"Ster Cloyster," the Sea Shell Pokémon growled.

"Alright! Ice Beam!"

Cloyster smirked, forming a sphere of frozen energy in front of its horn. The ball of ice, painted a pale blue that seemed to radiate cold, floated in front of Clay for a second longer before exploding outwards towards Gyarados, beams of the pale light streaking towards the Atrocious Pokémon.

"Melt it with Flamethrower!"

"What!?" Kelly shouted as Gyarados roared, flames billowing from the Serpent's mouth. A wall of fire burst into existence, turning the frozen attacks instantly into steam. The subliming beams of ice created a dense cloud of fog that spread throughout the stadium.

"Now finish it with Thunder!" Misty commanded.

"Gyaaaar!" Deep blue electricity coursed along Gyarados's body, running up and down the Serpent before releasing itself into the air. A huge current, perhaps a foot thick at the least, raced towards the Bivalve Pokémon. The Sea Shell, still partially blinded by the steam, saw the attack and attempted to withdraw once again into its shell.

The super-effective attack struck, the sound of electricity filling the arena. The steam faded, and Clay floated unconscious in the water.

"CLOYSTER IS UNABLE TO BATTLE! KELLY, SELECT YOUR FINAL POKÉMON!"

The Surfer licked his lips, recalling the fallen Bivalve Pokémon. He eyed Misty from across the battlefield. "Hey, forget everything that's happened today. Let's finish this, yeah?"

The Gym Leader nodded. "Once and for all," she replied.

"Done and done, shea." Kelly unclipped his final Pokéball, running a hand over the metallic red. "Let's do this, sister," he said softly, tapping the release button and expanding the sphere. "Ride the waves, Mizu!"

The Pokéball burst overhead, blue light pouring from the small machine. A light blue Pokémon formed, splashing down into the sea. Diving down, it leapt out of the waters, a ball of ice forming in its jaws. The Dewott fired a beam of ice at the water below her, conjuring an oblong oval of ice beneath him. The Discipline Pokémon flipped once and landed perfectly on the frozen platform, sizing up the monstrous Sea Serpent before it.

"Gyarados, Aqua Tail!"

The Atrocious Pokémon snarled, unimpressed by the Dewott's appearance. Turning faster than most would think possible for a beast of its size, Gyarados lashed out with its tail. A spiraling stream of water shot from the tip of his tail, streaking towards the Isshu Pokémon.

"Swords Dance!"

Mizu smirked as the torrent of water struck the Discipline Pokémon square in the chest, propelling it and the frozen platform it stood on back several feet. Unaffected by the attack, the Dewott reached down, grasping the two shells on either hip. Slowly, almost reverently, Mizu drew the scalchops, holding them out in front of her. The shells began to glow violet, ethereal blades extending to their full length. The Discipline Pokémon swung the blades in sharp, concise patterns, leaving behind violet streaks that lingered in the scalchops' wake.

"Hydro Pump!"

"Air Slash!"

Gyarados thundered, blasting a powerful torrent of water towards Mizu, who narrowed her eyes and tightened her grip on the scalchops. At the last moment, the Dewott shifted its weight to the left, dodging the jet by mere centimeters. The Hydro Pump struck the water where she had been not an instant before, forming a huge wave that pushed the Discipline Pokémon away.

Lowering one of the shells into the water, Mizu rode along the crest of the wave, using the blade as an impromptu rudder to steer itself towards the Atrocious Pokémon.

"Gyarados, Dragon Tail!"

The Sea Serpent growled at his opponent, coiling up like an Arbok before a strike. His tail shone dark purple, and he released, swinging his body full circle, his tail sweeping low towards the Discipline Pokémon.

"Now!"

Mizu let out a war cry as the massive tail came racing towards her. She took a single step and leapt high into the air, flipping over the Dragon's attack. The Dewott slashed out with her scalchops, creating an x-shaped crescent of silver energy that flew towards Gyarados.

The attack slashed into the Atrocious Pokémon's face, cutting an 'x' into the blue crests on the Serpent's head. Gyarados thrashed in pain as blood seeped out of the wound and into its eyes, blinding it.

"Now, Mizu, Return!" Kelly yelled.

The Discipline Pokémon smiled, tightening her grip on the shells. Flipping once more in midair, she lashed out with both her legs, a savage kick striking the Atrocious Pokémon squarely on the jaw.

Gyarados crumpled, falling into the ocean without so much as a cry of defeat. Throwing up another wave of ocean spray, the Sea Serpent floated, unconscious, on the waves of Indigo Bay. Mizu landed gracefully on her frozen surfboard, bowing to her fallen opponent.

"GYARADOS IS UNABLE TO BATTLE! MISTY, SELECT YOUR FINAL POKÉMON!"

Dawn gasped. "Oh, no! Misty only has one Pokémon left!"

"Chill out, Dawn," said May. "Misty's gonna be fine."

"Ha! Says the girl that was practically chewing her fingers off during Max's battle!"

"Shut up! That's different! He's my brother; I'm supposed to be look out for him." Max snorted at that, but the Hoenn Coordinator ignored it.

"So, Brock," Red said, turning to the former Gym Leader, "Who do you think Misty will choose?"

The Pokémon Doctor stroked his chin. "I'm not sure, Red. Golduck would be her best bet, seeing as how he's her strongest Pokémon, but I wouldn't be surprised if she picked Squirtle or Aria."

"Aria?" Red asked.

"Her Lapras. She used to belong to an old friend of ours, but our friend released her so she could stay with her herd. A few years back, Misty came across Aria while she was searching for our friend."

Red raised his eyebrows. "Really?" They had been looking for him?

"Yup. Aria wanted to help Misty find our friend, so she decided to join her team. That was about four years ago, now."

Red nodded, looking down at Misty. "I see. Did she ever find your friend?" He asked, already knowing the answer.

Brock's mood darkened. "No. None of us have. The only person who knows where he is now is his mother, and she's not telling."

"Oh?"

"Yeah. According to Delia, he sends her a letter every month or so. The rest of us? Nothing. It's like he forgot about us or something. I mean, I traveled with him for three and a half years. I was with him in Kanto, Johto, Hoenn, Sinnoh – you name it, I was there with him."

"Except for the time you stayed at Professor Ivy's," Max deadpanned, grinning up at the Pewter native.

Brock froze. A shudder ran up and down his spine. "I told you to never say that name," he whispered, slowly curling up into a ball and rocking back and forth on the balls of his feet.

Athena sweatdropped. What..?

Grace shrugged. Mew if I know. Apparently, Brock once spent a few months as an intern for Professor Ivy in the Orange Islands. Something… happened.

Brock was now fully convulsing. "You said her name! Why, Max? Why!? I trusted you!"

Max shrugged, looking down at the battlefield. "Your fault for telling us."

Down in the arena, Misty expanded her last Pokéball. "Let's hope that training paid off! Squirtle! I choose you!"

The Tiny Turtle Pokémon appeared in a flash of blue light, grinning mischievously at Mizu. The evolved Isshu starter raised an eyebrowat him before smirking herself.

"Water Gun!" The two Trainers called out simultaneously.

Mizu reacted first, firing a jet of water from her mouth towards Squirtle, who responded in kind. The two attacks met head-on and clashed together, both streams fighting for dominance. Slowly, Mizu's attack began to force Squirtle's stream backwards. Further and further it pushed, until Squirtle's Water Gun ended a mere foot in front of his face. Mizu's attack made a final push, and broke through, hitting Squirtle hard in the chest. The attack knocked the air out of Squirtle's lungs and pushed him back several feet.

"Squirtle!"

The Tiny Turtle Pokémon growled. "Squirtle!" It dove underwater, reappearing near where Misty stood. Leaping out of the water as Mizu had earlier, Squirtle did the same and froze his own platform, landing on it and glaring at the Discipline Pokémon.

"Let's do this, Squirtle. Ice Beam!"

"Dodge and use Brine!"

Squirtle fell onto all fours and fired a stream of blue light from his open mouth. The frozen energy sped towards Mizu, who caught a nearby wave and surfed away, charging her own attack. The Dewott leaned forward and released, a spout of ocean water escaping her lips and striking Squirtle, knocking him off his platform.

The Kanto starter yelped as he fell into the bay, but quickly scrambled back onto his board. He glanced at Misty, shoulders half-raised in a gesture that asked What do I do now?

Misty's eyes narrowed, looking back and forth from Squirtle and Mizu. The Discipline Pokémon smirked at the Cerulean Gym Leader, as though she was mocking her. Now that Misty thought about it, she probably was. Unless she and Squirtle did something fast, they would be toast. Soggy toast, but toast nonetheless. And Mizu knew it, judging by the way she sneered.

Hold up. She. Yes, that would do quite nicely.

"Change of plans, Squirtle! Attract!"

Squirtle grinned, pulling a pair of sunglasses from… somewhere… and donning them. Still smiling, he pulled them down and winked at the Discipline Pokémon, a devilish smirk on his lips. A purple heart formed in the air above Squirtle's head, hovering there for a moment before fading away. "Squirtle squirt, Squirtle."

Mizu froze. She blushed, a deep violet coloring her cheeks. A small smile adorned her face as the Dewott slowly lowered her arms.

"Mizu! What are you doing! Aqua Jet!"

The Discipline Pokémon said nothing, dismissing her Trainer with a wave of her hand.

"Alright, Squirtle! We've got 'em right where we want 'em. Use Toxic!"

Squirtle grinned, surfing closer to the Dewott, whose blush seemed to deepen as he approached. Shrugging, the Tiny Turtle opened his mouth, exhaling a thick stream of toxic sludge that enveloped Mizu.

"Mizu!"

The Dewott did nothing to prevent the attack, and did nothing to wash off the poisonous muck. She stood there, beaming, as the poison marred her fur purple and soaked her to the bone. Her eyes flashed briefly as the venom sank in, forcing the Discipline Pokémon to her knees, but a second later she had found her feet once again, standing blissfully in Squirtle's presence.

"Squirtle, use Aqua Tail!"

"Squirt!" the Kanto starter replied, diving into the waters. Swimming towards Mizu, a spiral of water surrounded his tail, which glowed a bright blue. Leaping into the air, Squirtle spun around and slammed his tail into Mizu, sending the Discipline Pokémon flying. The Dewott landed with a splash near Kelly's platform.

"Mizu! You alright?"

Mizu gasped for breath, looking around with widened eyes. Her gaze flitted around the arena before landing on Squirtle. "Wott dew Dewott," she growled.

Misty swore under her breath. "Damn. That didn't last as long as I'd hoped. Ah well. We poisoned her, so unless Kelly whips out something like Façade really soon, we'll come out of this thing on top."

"Alright, sis! Façade!"

"Damn it!"

Mizu closed her eyes and focused. An orange aura slowly surrounded her body, feeding off of the poison in her veins. The Discipline Pokémon shone brightly with newfound power, opening her eyes and smiling evilly at Squirtle, who blanched somewhat under her stare. Mizu held the gaze for a second longer before disappearing underwater.

"Squirtle! Iron Defense!"

Nodding, the Tiny Turtle Pokémon withdrew into his shell. His body was shone briefly with a metallic glow as his shell toughened.

Not a second too soon. Mizu leapt from the waves, brandishing her scalchops and swinging them down onto Squirtle's hardened shell. The sound of metal meeting metal resonated through the arena as attack met defense.

"Squirtle! You good?"

Slowly, the battered Pokémon came out from within his shell, nodding slowly to Misty. He kept his eyes focused on Mizu, who dove back into the water and was circling around for another pass. Suddenly, the Discipline Pokémon's skin flashed purple as the poison still lingering in her body took effect. She halted, crying out in pain.

"We're not going to get another chance like this, Squirtle! Finish her off with Hydro Cannon!"

Squirtle nodded, standing up straight. His eyes closed, and he sucked in a huge breath as his body began to glow a deep, vibrant cobalt. The Tiny Turtle Pokémon opened his mouth, and a huge indigo-colored sphere formed in front of his jaws. "SQUIRTLE!" He cried, releasing the attack.

Kelly's eyes widened as the massive torrent streaked towards his Pokémon. "Mizu! Get out of there! Protect!"

Too late. The ultimate Water-Type move slammed into Mizu, sending her flying. Several tons of water crashed onto the Dewott, blasting the Discipline Pokémon backwards into her Trainer. Kelly caught the Water-Type projectile with his stomach, toppling him over as well.

There was silence as the attack subsided, revealing Mizu unconscious in her Trainer's arms, and Squirtle kneeling in the middle of the arena, head bowed to the Isshu native.

"DEWOTT IS UNABLE TO CONTINUE THE MATCH! THE WINNER OF THIS BATTLE IS MISTY WATERFLOWER OF CERULEAN CITY!"

The audience erupted into cheers. Misty sighed in relief as Squirtle slowly swam back to her and crawled up onto her shoulder. Across the battlefield, Kelly Slater's eyes locked onto Misty's. In the surfer's eyes was disappointment, yes, but also a fiery kind of pride and the faint glow of a smile. The defeated Undella Trainer nodded, breaking eye contact, and turned, cradling his Pokémon in his arms as he walked away. Reaching up to pat her Squirtle's shell, the victor turned and did the same.


-Later, Indigo Plateau Pokémon Center-

Misty smiled tiredly to the Nurse behind the counter. "Thanks," she said, accepting the three Pokéballs and sliding them into her pouch. Yawning, the Gym Leader half-ignored the Nurse's traditional bow and the ever-present 'we hope to see you again~!'that was these Centers' motto and walked away, sighing in relief for what must have been the fiftieth time that day.

"Well, you have had a rough day," a voice said to her left.

Misty didn't even turn, knowing the only one who would – and probably could – sneak up on her like that was Red. "So you can read my mind now?" she asked, stepping through the automatic doors and out into the cool of the night.

"Nah. Just your Aura. Reading your mind takes effort, and I'm tired."

Misty snorted at that. "I'll bet. Fighting one-on-one with your own Pokémon must take a lot out of you."

Red snickered. "Not as much as you might think. We've been training like that for years now. You should see us when we're actually fighting. If you can help it, never get on Athena's bad side. Ever. She doesn't pull punches when she's angry. Uh, don't tell her I said that."

"No promises, Red." Misty grinned, coming to a stop in front of the hotel she and her friends were staying at.

Red pouted. "C'mon, Waterflower. You owe me."

Misty glanced up at the hooded Aura User. "Oh, yeah," she said, feigning interest in her shoes. "About that…" she paused, unsure of what to say. "I… Thank you." Smooth, Waterflower. Thanking the guy who saved your starter's life was so original. How did she do it? "I mean… If you hadn't been there… Starmie'd be dead." Wow. Way to state the obvious. Arceus, she was bad at this sort of thing. "I… I'm really grateful. Really."

Red smiled. "There's no need for that. I just did what anyone would have done."

"Don't say that. Don't trivialize it. You saved Starmie's life. Not 'anyone'. You. So… Thank you." Then, before the rational part of her brain could convince her otherwise, Misty had stepped forward and wrapped Red in a hug.

Red tensed, eyes widening under his hood. Trying to ignore the Butterfrees in his stomach, and hoping Misty couldn't hear the rapid beating of his heart, he slowly returned the hug,

After a brief second, which felt much too short for both parties, Misty pulled away, searching the face that lay hidden underneath the dark hood. Red looked like he wanted to say something, half-opening his mouth, but instead just sighed and smiled sadly at the Gym Leader.

"You're welcome, Mist," he said, slowly turning away. His heart fluttered in his chest, and he sighed, closing his eyes as he walked away.

Misty's gaze followed the hooded Trainer's back as he made his way into the nearby forests, no doubt returning to his campsite for the night. She, too, sighed as the trees enveloped him and he disappeared from her view. Leaning against the wall, she looked up at the night sky. Slowly, she slid her backpack around her shoulder, loosening the strings and peering inside. She sighed again, sliding down the wall so she was more or less sitting, and reached inside. After a brief second, her hand grasped the rough fabric that she knew so well. Yet another sigh escaped her lips as she pulled the object from her backpack and stared with eyes that threatened to tear up.

The hat was faded and somewhat flattened, but the mere sight of it brought back so many memories, as vibrant as though she'd only just experienced them. She'd shared so many adventures with the boy who had once worn this hat. With him, she trekked across Kanto, the Orange Islands, and Johto, seeing so many new places, meeting so many new people and Pokémon. Then, her sisters had left her in charge of the family Gym, and they'd been forced to part ways.

A single tear rolled down Misty's cheek. Dammit, why did she have to be so emotional? Why did she have to feel this way? Things had been so simple out on the road, never knowing what adventure they'd have next.

Now, things were so… complicated. She didn't know what to feel. She closed her eyes and saw Red's face grinning back at her. She looked again and the image was replaced by Ash. Misty opened her eyes and looked up at the sky once again. "Where are you, Ash?" she whispered.

But there was no reply. And for all she knew, there would never be one.

Hells yeah I'm back!

…Wow. Way to ruin the mood. Thanks, brain!

Moment of silence for Misty, a cruel casualty to Love, Muse, and the cruelty of the author.

So, yeah. Been a while. I'm so sorry, everyone. Really. I was planning on updating during December, then I was going do do an end-of-the-world chapter, then it was postponed to Christmas, then to New Years', then…. Sigh. You get the idea.

But that doesn't matter, because I finally finished this chapter! Woot! Yeah.

In order to ensure that this never happens again, I will now institute a new rule for you, my lovelies. From now on, if I haven't updated this story in at least a month and a half, you have my permission to send me PMs reminding me to get off my lazy ass and do some writing. Seriously.

For right now, though, I'll settle for your reviews. Your precious, delicious reviews.

See you next chapter,

-Wolverinejoe